After Years of Living as a Proud Vegetarian, Why I Became a Vegan
Speciesism – a word first coined by an animal rights activist Richard Ryder and later popularised by Peter Singer in his groundbreaking book, Animal Liberation in 1975 – literally means to discriminate between sentient beings on the basis of the species they belong to.
According to Singer, humans show speciesism when they give less weight to the interests of non-human animals than they give to the similar interests of human beings.
Why is it Not Okay ?
Although many argue that humans have not yet eradicated existing discrimination amongst themselves, like racism, sexism – it is imperative to note, that these social evils are at least largely viewed as wrong and socially unacceptable.
However, the story with speciesism is miserable. This discrimination remains largely unrecognised. The idea that one animal is protected on the basis of its physical appearance and another can be killed has no moral justification whatsoever. Yet, the issue remains buried under years of conditioning that animals are “required” or “necessary” for human survival.
A lot many people argue that, humans have evolved to be superior and that animals are in a position of vulnerability, and hence it is justified for humans to overpower. How does one morally justify oppression on the basis of the vulnerability of the victims ?
It has been already established by science that vegetarianism and veganism are, in fact, healthy alternatives to carnism. Millions of people that have left eating and using animals have perfectly survived. Hence, survival of the human species is not in question. Then, how in the world is carnism on the basis of speciesism justified ?
Where Did It All Begin?
The first kind of discrimination a child learns is the differentiation between an animal and a human being, even before one learns about gender differences. This implies that a human starts his journey of a discriminator as a speciesist. In every land, all across the seven seas, vocabulary, slangs, references, demeaning phrases about animals are deeply embedded into our languages and our cultures.
Speciesism shares its main idea with a lot of other social justice movements.
The start of the the animal liberation movement – that fights the idea of speciesism – when closely looked upon, shadows the feminist movement in its initial years. It also shares many similarities with the fight against slavery. Slavery was once legal, based on the idea that Africans were “sub persons” and that they were “incapable of planning their own lives”. This is exactly how people try to justify speciesism and ridicule the animal liberation movement.
If you think you’re a part of the problem and want to bring change, here’s an easy guide –
- Animal liberation is something every single consumer holds in his/her hands by making wise choices.
- Since there’s demand for leather, animals are being mercilessly skinned alive. One can easily choose to wear leather-free clothing.
- Rabbits are alive while their hair is pulled off the skin for fur. One can deny fur based fashion.
- The easiest is to turn your diet into a meat-free one. Excluding sea animals, over 56 billion animals are killed for food each year. These animals are forcefully bred in darkness only to be consumed by humans. There is nothing at all natural about it.
Approximately 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed. And the vast majority of that land – that is 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface – is used NOT to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat.
The highest total of livestock-related greenhouse-gas emissions comes from the developing world, which accounts for 75% of the global emissions from cattle and other ruminants and 56% of the global emissions from poultry and pigs.
There are severe environmental impacts too and these can be brought down.
Why I Decided to be a Vegan
Last year, I, as a consumer decided to take matters into my own hands. Until last year, I was very proud of being a vegetarian while I wore a leather shoe (for which some entity had been skinned alive). Years of conditioning had also made me believe that milk was integral and “natural”.
Several thoughts kept overpowering my intent to become a vegan but I gradually embraced it.
Veganism literally means to absolve oneself from the use of any animal product as far as practically plausible. I adopted a vegan lifestyle to support the animal liberation movement.
This year, mock meat has been introduced in India for the very first time. Vegan cheese has started popping up in market shelves (but there are plenty of other ways to make it at home). There are vegan ice cream stores too! Brands have started adopting ‘Vegan Friendly’ accessory options and, well, life is pretty normal.
I, on a personal level, have achieved peace as well as physical strength.
People generally don’t want to fight the speciesist within them and question themselves for their choices. We are generally too rigid to question our culture, our food, our choices for what they really are.
(Medhavi Mishra is a young animal rights activist and advocates veganism on the basis on inter-species feminism. She is co-author of the book “Keep Your Dog Vegetarian” with Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Chairperson, People For Animals. Medhavi is a legal studies student from Symbiosis International University and writes about animal rights laws extensively. You can tweet to her @mishramedhavi and connect with her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mismed9)