Thursday, June 4, 2009

Shift of Consciousness

I love being vegan. Being vegan makes me happy for reasons that are hard to explain. It almost feels as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. A weight has been lifted....I no longer have to carry around the guilt that comes with eating the flesh and secretions of another being. My body feels free, healthy and alive. And in fact it is more alive, being nourished by healthy plant based foods and not nourished by suffering and death.

But, being vegan means more than just dietary changes. Veganism is an entire lifestyle of rejecting anything that creates suffering to another being. It is a lifestyle of compassion. It is a lifestyle that has changed my life.

Being vegan has really brought me to a higher level of consciousness. I've suspected for quite sometime that being vegan has changed me in some way, but it was never quite evident what that way was until recently. My first "a-ha" moment was earlier this year during Kentucky Derby time. The Derby has always been an event that I have loved (not so much for the racing, but simply for the fact that it indicates the start of summer around here), and like so many others around here I loved checking out the racing form and placing my bet. Even last year, at the start of my shift to veganism, I still placed a bet on the race. This year things were different. I had absolutely no interest in the Derby, and was even able to turn down an invitation to attend the race the day before and spend time with some out of town friends. It just didn't feel right anymore. Exploiting those animals for my entertainment just felt fundamentally wrong. Granted, those horses are often treated phenomenally well, they are worth millions after all, it wasn't mistreatment that turned me off. It was the sheer fact that they were being exploited. I am sure many human beings that are exploited are treated well, but that doesn't make human exploitation right, any more than it makes animal exploitation right. My days of a Louisvillian living for Derby are over.

The Derby episode was one of the first major shifts in consciousness that I became aware of. But, what really solidified the shift was this weeks visit to the zoo. It started with an uneasy feeling that something just wasn't quite right about going to the zoo, but I convinced myself that it was fine. The kids love it, the animals are treated well, they are safe from predators and what not, and it is after all, educational. It didn't take long to realize that all of the convincing I had done was based on a lie. My first glimpse of an animal in cage brought heartbreak. I felt a piece of myself sitting behind that glass, longing to be free, longing to succumb to my instincts. I couldn't bear to look at the orangutans or the gorillas without nearly feeling sick. Why do we as humans feel that we are the superior species? What has conditioned us to believe that it is ok to imprison innocent animals so that we can drag our kids around to look at them? Why doesn't this seem wrong to anyone else???

Needless to say, I will not be renewing my zoo membership this year.


The Timid Vegan said...

I feel the same way as you do about zoos; it's heartbreaking to know how much they must long to be free. At the same time, much of my own love for animals came from visiting zoos and petting zoos and being exposed to and interacting with different types of animals. I need to figure out a good way to help instill the love of animals into my own children, yet without exploiting any animals in the process.

Chris said...

While I may not have had any experiences like you have (yet) I see what you mean. I decided to go vegan after I watched chickens being tortured on a peta2 video

Virginia said...

i know exactly how you feel! great post!

Maggie said...

I had almost the same experience with the Derby! I always went with my friends through the first 3 years of college (I went to UofL) and I just can't go anymore, and it's for the same reasons you said! I felt like it was the old days when people used to fight, and they would have to fight animals too, and everyone would watch and cheer, and people would be killed for enjoyment! so gross.

Vanessa Hernandez said...

I completely understand that shift as well as I went through it pretty recently myself. I'm not really sure what set it off (my diet is more vegetarian than vegan) but somehow all the things I used to enjoy suddenly changed for me. The zoo thing was definitely one of them. And especially the circus. I guess I can sort of understand when we're trying to save an endangered species by keeping them in a zoo (of course we're usually the reason they're endangered but I digress) but the circus? That's just straight up cruel exploitation. I too wonder what it'll take for others to realize just how wrong it is.

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