As I approach a tipping point where I will soon be vegan for more of my life than I haven’t, I think back to my days as a non-vegan/non-vegetarian/unconcerned human who once accepted that animals were made to be eaten or used for human exploitative purposes. I try to remember how I got to this point of being a vegan animal rights activist, and I know that I always had a voice telling me that exploiting animals was wrong. A few moments jump out as I look at my journey…
When I was in the fifth grade, my class dissected frogs. The cool kids put the eyes of the frogs in balloons, blew them up and ran around swirling the eyes around the balloons as a game. The next time I encountered dissecting frogs in tenth grade, I abstained on moral grounds with one other student, but still remember the stench of formaldehyde permeating the room and the pinned down dead frogs used for experimentation by students who were probably never pursuing science beyond high school.
The next school year, this shit ACTUALLY happened: I signed up for internships once a week as part of a cool program that got us out of school each Wednesday. Since I filled out a questionnaire indicating that I love animals, they sent me and a whole group of fellow animal-lovers to a research lab at an off-site arm of Ohio State University. We fell for it. We played with the beagle puppies who were “de-barked” and fed bananas to the terrified, caged rabbits who had wounds and scars. I’m disgusted that my sixteen-year old self “helped” in this lab. How did I know not to dissect a frog at fifteen yet “play” with animals in a lab at sixteen?
I saw a poster on their lab wall that I haven’t forgotten: It was a toddler reaching for dangerous chemicals under the kitchen sink with a message suggesting that if we don’t test on animals and gain knowledge through those gruesome means, we will kill kids. At the time I considered their point as potentially valid. Now I clearly see it as senseless propaganda, because, A. don’t keep shit around the house that’s going to kill your kids, or if you feel you must, lock it up! And, B. animal testing is disgusting and unnecessary.
FURTHER READING: Your Daily Vegan’s Commercial Street
Six years after my internship at the lab, I joined a group of protesters to form a body barrier in the middle of the night so a truck full of macaques couldn’t get out, as they were not being taken to the promised sanctuary. I didn’t realize until I got there that it was the same lab from my junior year. By this time, I had become fully vegan.
At eighteen I had my last chicken finger, ending my relationship with meat, permanently. A few years after giving up all meat, I had a random meat-eater tell me that I was a hypocrite for eating dairy if I disagreed with meat, and although she meant it to scoff at my vegetarianism, I decided she was right and went vegan by twenty. So even mean people can move you along!
My vegan transformation included so many more moments of realizing the sentience of animals. Some brave older kids promoted vegetarianism on the school bus. I got to know some animals better. I had a college class about speciesism. Becoming an activist has helped me maintain the lifestyle!
What about your journey? What do you remember from your childhood that attempted to keep you exploiting animals?
Photo credit: Understanding Animal Research via Flickr