In 2018, I was spending a lot of my weekends at the local animal shelter. I would care for abused animals, get outraged and angry on their behalf, and then, I would order Chicken Caesar salad for lunch. After a few of those weekends spent nurturing sick, abused animals, I could no longer ignore my very hypocritical stand on the issue of animal abuse. My non-vegetarian diet started taking an emotional toll. The only thing holding me back from going vegetarian was my ‘concern’ about my own nutritional needs, or so I was pretending to myself.
One day, I came across this article that talked at length about the psyche of a chicken that is kept locked up in a cage outside a butcher shop. They watch their friends getting killed, and they know for a fact that their turn is coming, but there’s no hope for escape. They sit there waiting to die, imagine that! Hope sustains life; we humans maintain hope in the face of great odds so, I cannot imagine the mental state of any creature that’s shorn of hope entirely.
I couldn’t find the article I read, but here’s something similar that compels examination of our thoughtless stance on the subject-
Speciesism is the equivalent to patriarchy and racial segregation and was first used in the 1970s to describe the discrimination practiced against non-human animals…While selecting a living chicken outside a butcher shop to be cut up into a meal, our thoughts do not dwell on what the chicken may be thinking at that moment; whether the bird’s marble-like, glassy eyes are “seeing” us at all; what the cries, hysterical flapping of the wings indicate as the bird is pulled out from the cage held by the neck; and so on. We even fail to note that the chicken did not walk to her death in eagerness to become our meal – we did not note the blatant coercion in the act. Our sense to empathise with the chicken is completely shut as we have never been indoctrinated to perceive the chicken as a sentient being with unique mannerisms.
The article was the push I needed to either adopt a cruelty-free diet or accept that daily, through my actions, I passively condoned animal abuse. The mental image of myself as a party to callous animal abuse was so abhorrent that going vegetarian was the only acceptable option.
I have been a vegetarian for over 2 years now, and I have been surprised at how easy it has been for me. I think the fact that it was a conscious decision with clear intentions at the heart of it has helped a lot. The switch was not made on a whim; it was necessary for my wellbeing. The impact that over time became apparent was amazing. It was as if someone had released me from a massive weight. This new, compassionate approach made me feel like I was truly living my values. It brought me so much joy and boosted my sense of self.
At that point, I wondered if I was exaggerating things in my head because I was subconsciously afraid of going back to the animal diet. So, I decided to run a quick internet search and find out if anyone else has experienced this almost euphoria like emotion in the wake of the change. As it turns out, almost anyone who has made the change and sustained it for some time felt a similar improvement in their emotional wellbeing.