Horror. Paralyzing fear. Excruciating pain. Watching and hearing your friends suffer and perish. It is my hope that you have never experienced anything of this nature, but the emotions evoked by these words are what I feel every moment I envision eating meat or purchasing products tested on or made from animals. Extreme empathy is what I label it, though the images that conjure this empathy are something that many individuals turn a blissful, blind eye to. But at the ripe old age of ten, I began this trek, meandering down the path of animal rights, making a wish on every eyelash that they wouldn’t suffer for us and that their silent voices would be heard.
I was ten, full of infinite wisdom.
While vacationing with family, convenience was always of the utmost importance when it came to food. Thus, fast food was consistently a staple. A disturbing but somewhat hysterical memory of exiting one such restaurant with a kid’s meal box in hand pushes its way to the forefront of my mind. I had just finished hesitantly consuming the majority of a juicy hamburger – little did I know it would be my last – and was excitedly skipping through the glass double-doors, smiling at my family on the other side when a sudden rush of nausea hit. With youthful impulsivity, I upchucked straight into my kid’s meal box while walking to the car. There I watched as the remnants of a partially digested cow sloshed around with some uneaten fries and a cheap, plastic toy. The revolting sounds of such an incident had caused my family to halt in their activities and turn to me. Together, we stared with mouths gaping as the contents of my stomach worked its way through the bottom of the cheap cardboard case I was carrying and poured onto my oh-so-stylin’ saddle shoes, splattering everyone within a three-foot radius. The vomit-covered toy hit the ground with a “pop” and conveniently rolled out of sight, under a nearby car to be discovered later by an unsuspecting victim.
Right then and there I decided that my body was trying to tell me something. Heck, it was yelling at me! It was at that moment I decided to cease being, as our vegetarian forefather da Vinci referred to it, “a tomb for other creatures.”
I am now 30 years old and believe myself to be a crusader for animal rights. No, I am not a pushy, in-your-face, red-paint splattering (no offense to those who are!) animal rights activist, but I fulfill my part by living cruelty-free and hope that I lead by example. It is never my intention to torture others with imagery of suffering animals in hopes of creating more “cruelty-free fighters,” for I feel this is often a failing route. My family has played a vital role in alerting me to the fact that not everyone will take this plight seriously and that many people would rather enjoy a “tasty” meal than worry about how it lands on their plates. While I cannot say I agree with this lack of knowledge or sympathy, I know that people come into awareness at their own time; therefore, I will focus on reaching those whose compassion for our furry friends is present enough that they might be easily nudged to consider making positive, animal-friendly changes in their daily lives.
Ultimately, to have caused internal questioning, thought or perspective in meat-eating individuals is to have succeeded. That little kernel of hope exists in all of us, though the challenge lies in how we go about igniting that tiny spark.
Twenty years after my last taste of meat, I am doing my best to enjoy a cruelty-free existence and to raise my infant daughter surrounded by compassion for all living creatures. She is the future and while I cannot force her to live any certain way, I will educate her and trust that she will choose the path of animal enlightenment, to speak for those who cannot, and to perpetuate the cruelty-free legacy.