How I Became a Vegan Animal Rights Activist
Hi. I am a registered dietitian, and a vegan animal rights activitist. I hope to write many articles discussing the many angles of veganism, including the state of today's factory farms, animal suffering, nutrition, health, and environmental issues. I will begin by telling you how I became a vegan animal rights activist.
I had a pretty traditional upbringing. Meat was a normal part of dinner most nights. My favorite meats were chicken and pork chops. While attending [college], I tried ribs for the first time, and I really liked them! Smothered in all that BBQ sauce, I’m sure I was a mess. I definitely had to ask for extra napkins!!
At a campus fair, I walked up to the vegetarian club’s info table. The woman staffing the table told me how egg laying chickens are crammed 6 at a time into tiny cages where they don’t even have enough room to spread their wings. In order to prevent injury and death from their stress-induced fighting, their sensitive beaks are seared off with a hot blade. She encouraged me to avoid contributing to this cruelty by adopting a vegan diet, one that contains no meat, dairy, and eggs.
I have to say, I was skeptical and irritated. I was studying to be a dietitian at the time, and I believed that we needed at least some animal products in our diets to be healthy. I thought this woman was irresponsible for telling people to eat this way. But her message about the abuse of animals stayed with me. Over the next few years, I would sometimes think back to our conversation.
What the American Dietetic Association says
Finally, I decided to do some research of my own. I’m a dietitian, so I wanted to see what the American Dietetic Association had to say about vegan diets. I already knew that a person can be healthy without eating meat, but I was very surprised to see the ADA’s position paper on vegetarian diets say that vegan diets are healthy for any stage of life, whether old or young, infant, pregnant, or lactating!
I could no longer use the argument that we had nutritional requirements for meat, eggs, or dairy. Even the ADA, which heavily promotes dairy products, agrees we don’t actually need them.
I did some internet research, and found out that the horrendous abuses of animals in factory farms are not isolated incidents, but actually are standard practices. For example, in the dairy industry, cows are treated like machines instead of living creatures. They are artificially inseminated each year, and their babies are taken from them within 24 hours of birth. The mother cow mourns the loss of her young. If the calf is male, he goes into a tiny veal crate, in the dark, where he is unable to move and is fed an iron deficient diet which makes him anemic, so that his meat will be white and tender. I had no idea that drinking milk supports the veal industry.
After learning about the cruelty, I decided I could not support these practices, and I adopted a vegan diet. I found some great substitutes for ice cream, cheeses, and meats, plus there are many awesome vegan cookbooks and websites. I learned that being vegan can be easy and taste great!
But it wasn’t enough for me to just give up animal products. I wanted to share with people this important information about where our food comes from. I discovered an animal rights group that wasn't very active in my area, and I really liked the work that they do. I decided that I wanted to be the regional coordinator, so that I could bring some awareness of these issues to my neck of the woods. And that's how it all began.