Sunday, February 08, 2015


In former vegan Tovar Cerulli's 2012 article in The Atlantic, Hunters Are People Too, Cerulli makes the point that humans' impact on the welfare of animals isn't just about what we eat, but how we eat it. He writes: In great part, our difficulty with hunting stems from the simple fact that we are disturbed by the killing of animals. Most burger-wolfing Americans don't want to know what happens in slaughterhouses. Most yogurt-scooping vegetarians don't want to know that dairy farming depends on the constant butchering of male calves for veal. As a salad-munching vegan, I didn't want to know about the impacts of agriculture.

He describes being a vegan who gradually became aware of the full impact of industrialized food on animals (even the way birds and other wildlife that are killed by grain harvesting technology). He began prioritizing how he was engaging with the food industry, beyond what foods he chose to eat, and his decision to start hunting was motivated by his desire to disconnect from the destructive practices of agribusiness (as well as health concerns he doesn't describe).

I find Cerulli's reasoning very consistent and sound. He prioritizes the welfare of animals and found a way to not participate in the destructive practices of the meat industry. He kills only what he consumes, doesn't turn away from the slaughtering process, and prepares and eats animals with his eyes wide open. This all makes sense because his primary motivation is to minimize the harm he does to animals.

We don't all share Cerulli's motivation.

I think we can all agree that Americans are basically self-serving and whenever we find a moral contradiction, we do a great job of ignoring it. Do you want to point out the hypocrisy of loving our dogs and eating our pigs? We'll tune it out as easily as turning up the volume of our Katy Perry download. Failure to realize the granite wall of our disinterest in animal welfare is the problem of most vegans who try to convince Americans to go vegan. I'm regularly stunned by the tone-deaf pitch of vegans who think showing me photos of murdered cows and bleeding pig corpses will make me stop eating those animals.

As little as I can abide cruelty to anyone or anything (even Ann Coulter), the person who comes first in my life is me. I notice that my health is better and my energy steadier when I regularly eat animals (for the purposes of this piece, I define "animals" as poultry, red meat/ruminants, pork, fish and eggs). No amount of reading about the state of our slaughterhouses or the conditions of chicken farms is going to change my physical body so that it thrives on plants alone, so those arguments aren't going to get me to stop eating animals.

But there is an argument that would convince me to stop eating animals: show me that eating animals is more destructive to my body than not eating them. This is a hard one because I, of course, have 48 years of experiential evidence that has taught me that my body does better with animal flesh than without it. However, there is one person who has given me the evidence I needed to get me to make a big change in the way I eat animals: Dr. Emily Lindner who specializes in hormonal imbalances.

Dr. Lindner identified hormonal imbalances as the cause of my horrific menstrual cramps. Under her guidance, I've cut sugars, grains, caffeine, dairy products and alcohol and it's made a difference. My monthly cramps are still upsettingly strong and disruptive, but they aren't as bad as they were and as I continue to detoxify from all the hormone-disrupting foods, they'll get better and better.

Realizing that focusing on hormones is key to my health, I've done more reading on them and how many hormones are pumped into our meat supply. This has finally convinced me to cut back on the amount of regularly processed eggs, red meat and chicken I consume. My health is too delicate at this point for me to not take every bit of good advice I come across. Hormone and antibiotic tainted animal foods? I'm done buying them at the grocery store. (This leaves the problem of what to eat in restaurants, but one thing at a time.)

I wish I could hunt my own food like Cerulli, but I dislike the outdoors, so hunting is out for me. Instead, I've started buying only organic, antibiotic-free eggs and organic animal flesh. That stuff is expensive, so I've also cut down on how much of it I eat and now have more vegetables, beans and potatoes on my plate. I'm making these changes for my benefit, not to benefit animals or the environment or the whales. It's just for me, even though I know that sounds selfish. I realize vegans and environmentalists are more altruistic and I'll be the first to admit that they're better people than I can hope to be. But the reality is that most Americans think the way I do: we want what's good for the health of our own bodies, with animals occupying a distant second priority (or third or thirtieth).

Vegans, if you want to encourage meat eaters to consider veganism, you have to go where we live: serving the best interests of our own individual little lives. Appealing to people's higher morals is slow, slow work.


Leolin Lopez said...

It is interesting that I read this blog post today because I just had a conversation yesterday with another vegan about the best way to go about spreading the vegan message. He said talk about the health benefits I said talk about the animal rights side. The actual answer is that we are both right because people will change their actions for different reasons. Pictures of dead animals do not influence you but it was those same pictures that caused me to go vegan (my improved health was a beautiful side benefit).
You made a comment that you know that your body does well with some animal protein so I wanted to ask you have you ever spent some time eating a healthy vegan diet because there could be a possibility that you could feel so much better than you currently do. Regardless I totally agree with you that people (not just Americans) will find an excuse to do something, even if it contradicts their so called morals. This is shown in peoples anger towards people who abuse pets like Michael Vick did although farm animals are treated in the same way (if not worse) which no media uproar.
Anyone who works towards any social justice issues knows that the work we do is sometimes slow work. I have to believe though that people are not as selfish as you think they are. Otherwise why would white people help end slavery, men help to stop abuse towards women, rich help the poor, and humans help animals?

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Leolin, I'd love to see a sample menu for a healthy, energetic vegan diet that doesn't include grains, soy, sugars or processed foods such as veggie burgers and vegan cheese and stuff like that.