As I have pushed forward in my effort to reduce my carbon footprint, as well as better my health and animals’ lives, becoming a vegan was an easy choice for me. However, I didn’t start out as a vegan and, as I look back, I wish I had made the jump to being vegan without the preliminary step of becoming vegetarian first. Ignorance is the reason for this — my simple ignorance.
Back in 2012 I watched the documentary Food, Inc. It helped educate me on the horrors of eating meat and what I was doing to the planet and the animals when I ate meat. My response was immediate. I made the conscious choice to stop eating meat because I did not want to support anything that abuses and tortures animals. However, being a meat eater at the time, I thought that perhaps I would seek out grass fed animals that lived in spacious pastures and had caring farmers that gave them a good life. In the town where I was living I could have made the choice to buy and consume “ethical” meat, but I realized that I didn’t miss meat enough to do that. And at the time I didn’t truly realize that even ethical meat has a victim. The cow/pig/chicken still has to be killed. A life still had to be taken in order for me to eat it. I’m glad I didn’t make that choice and decided to stick with being meat free. However, I still consumed dairy.
I went from 2012-2016 calling myself a vegetarian — no dead animals on my plate. Because I still ate dairy, I could not call myself a vegan. I felt content with my decision. After all, I was helping the animals and the planet, right? I was doing my part to reduce my carbon footprint. But I was still living in ignorance. At that time, I really didn’t know much about the dairy industry. I wasn’t killing cows by eating cheese, yogurt, and milk so everything was good, right? No, no, no.
I don’t recall when I first learned about the dairy industry, but at the time I was taking classes through Wellness Forum Health and was learning to be a Food Over Medicine instructor. It was in these classes that I started to learn about the ill effects dairy has on the body. I decided to make some simple changes such as taking applesauce in my lunch instead of yogurt. As I became more and more interested in healthy eating, I attended lectures and watched videos and it was there, I believe, that I FINALLY learned about the horrors of the dairy industry. I learned how cows are artificially inseminated and impregnated. Like any other mammal, it only produces milk after it gives birth. Then when the cow gives birth, the calf is immediately taken away leaving both mother and calf devastated. I can hear it now, “It’s just a cow. Who cares?” Well, I don’t feel that it is my right to torture other animals. Period. I wish the horror ended there but it doesn’t. The calves are then confined to small crates where they become veal, or they are simply killed because they aren’t needed. The female calves will become milking cows like their mothers. Confined to milking machines, forced to give more milk in their lifetime than they were ever meant to, pumped full of antibiotics and hormones so that the cow can give even more milk. After about 2 years the cows, most of which can barely stand, are labeled “downer cows” and are taken to the feedlot to be slaughtered. So, when you think about it, dairy cows live lives with twice the horror as a beef cow. I know that many people don’t have a clue about the dairy industry. They eat cheese, yogurt, and milk mindlessly. They think good old smiling Elsa the Cow was happy to give the milk because that’s the way the dairy industry portrays things in their ads. Lies — all lies.
I did some research and many people become vegetarians for health, the planet, and the animals. But I think that many, like I was, are uninformed about the truth. Dairy is one of the worst things for your health, the planet, and the animals. If that is truly your passion and you became vegetarian for those reasons, you are not doing it right. Becoming vegan NOT vegetarian is the way to go. I almost wish that the word vegetarian was gone from our vocabulary. If you are a vegetarian, you are still part of the problem. You are still harming your body, contributing to environmental degradation, and you are definitely harming animals.