While reading the beautifully written article, When You Look at an Animal What Do You See, by Justin Van Kleeck of the Sustainablog, I felt compelled to take a closer look at my own views on animal welfare, veganism and the human superiority complex.
According to some, you’re either vegan or you’re the devil. You’re a hypocrite if you claim to value life while consuming meat and using animal products. I respect everyone’s opinion, but I think there’s something special about a person who can present their opinion without judging those who have a different set of beliefs.
Here’s a brief quote from Justin’s heartfelt explanation of his point of view:
“I see the magic of a living being going about its essential task of living, of being what it is by nature. I see something so precious that for me to make it suffer, or even worse to take its life (directly or indirectly), would be the highest act of selfishness.”
Since I’ve been approached countless times about the ethics of eating meat, it wasn’t the subject that caught my attention. It was the tenderly straightforward and nonjudgmental approach Justin used to express his point of view.
Without any intentions to persuade others to eat meat or to stop eating meat, I’d like to openly share my viewpoint with all of you and find out your different perspectives on the subject.
For starters, I’m not vegan, vegetarian or anything close to it. I am, however, a person who loves, values and respects the miracle of life. What I see when I look at an animal is a being that, like myself, embodies life in all its magnificence. I see a being that not only embodies life, but reproduces life and sustains other life forms.
Not only do I refuse to look at myself as a superior life form to other animals, I refuse to look at myself and animals as superior to other living things. My belief is that all life is valuable beyond measure.
Life is all around us and I take none of it for granted—from the single cell microorganism to the largest beast. From the smallest bacteria to humans like you and me, I see life as a miraculous reflection of All-That-Is. Every tree, flower, and plant; every bee, spider and amoeba—another marvelous reflection of what it means to coexist, to live and to play a part in the expansion of our Universe.
I see the need to respect and appreciate the complexities of the Universe, including death and the various ways each living thing contributes to another.
To really grasp the extent of our relationship with everything around us, let’s take a look at this on a different level. When antibiotics kill off too many of the bacteria in your gut, what happens? You get sick. You lose some of the ability to fight off other illness because you’ve thrown off the delicate balance of living bacteria in your body. In essence, you need bacteria and bacteria need you. What a strange yet poignant reminder of the significance of ALL life!
I see myself as one with everything, not as a superior being privileged to take life from all others. Every cow is just as valuable as the human who has a steak dinner; and every blade of grass is just as valuable as the cow who eats it. Bacteria, parasites, mosquitoes, animals, bees, trees—we are all in this together. So, how can I NOT choose veganism with such a love for life?
Life sustains life—period. That includes the lives of both vegans and people like me. I eat meat from animals. I use wood from trees in my fireplace. I cut fresh flowers from the garden. I eat a variety of plants, roots, herbs, fruits and legumes. All of these life forms are valuable to me and I consume them with immense appreciation and love for their role in sustaining my life and the lives of other life forms.
I see veganism as an honorable path to follow if it feels right to you. However, I don’t believe it is the one path for everyone. My personal choice is to lovingly consume but never abuse. I give thanks for everything about the cycle of life; including the physical life that ends so that I may have eggs for breakfast or fish for dinner. The same is true for the plant life that sustains my being. The fact that fruit and vegetables don’t communicate in a way that I can hear with my physical ears doesn’t make their lives less meaningful. I honor all living things one in the same. That is what feels right to me.
Life isn’t as black and white as we so often want to see it. There are more gray areas than we will ever unravel, yet the cycle of life continues in a state of perfection that we humans can’t quite comprehend. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter so much if you’re vegan, vegetarian or neither. It doesn’t matter so much if you stepped on a bug or killed the bacteria on your hands before having a meal.
If you will let your heart be your guide and make each choice with love, your life will add value to everyone and everything in the Universe.