My Moral Epiphany

Posted in: Activism

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It’s October, 2009. Leaves flutter past scurrying students. I’m turning 21 soon and my thoughts usually dance in circles around myself. I am rushing, overwhelmed; a man interrupts my mission to nowhere with a humble smile. He asks if I would like a pamphlet, and hands one to me politely. I accept it because I can tell he is kind, as though I am doing him a favor. My eyes focus outward; the same pamphlets litter the grounds. I rush to the trolley heading for the other campus. I take my seat, deep breathly and glance down at the pamphlet in my hand. I stop myself from gasping at the horrific image staring back at me. PETA sponsored, but I can’t dismiss it. Pigs, half alive are literally in pieces, surrounded by blood. Animals are contorted into cages smaller than their bodies. And in my naive horror they seem to accuse me of something, but I am too naive to dwell on what. Meet your meat, it says. Is this real? I ask my boyfriend at the time, a hunter and a native of West Virginia. “They’re lying,” he says. I shrug it off for a long time, ignoring my reservations. That is until reality decides to interrupt my inner ramblings, slapping me out of my slumber.

January 2011. I am a senior and getting ready to take the notorious “rat lab” for my psychology major. We are learning how reinforcement schedules work by testing on rats. Our lab class professor explains their justification for almost starving lab rats in preparation for our learning, and why all of them must be killed after the class ends. My conscience vibrates in my ear, reverberating like the angel of death’s resurrection. You’re wrong, I wanted to say, but did not yet have such courage. You’re wrong and I am an abdominal hypocrite. I named our rat Oscar, after my literary soulmate, Oscar Wilde because I decided the rat’s murder was unjustified just as Wilde’s was. This time, reality does not escape me. Instead I seek it out. I look for every justification to continue consuming the flesh and byproducts of living, feeling, creatures. The lecture class professor, a Ph.D student, tells us casually different ways researchers kill animals once they have completed their use as research toys. Press a pencil against its head and yank its legs down. It’ll break their neck! The lucky ones are electrocuted. Others are drowned for testing the efficacy of anxiety medication. I am left empty, disgusted, alone. Why hasn’t anyone else reacted as I have to these revelations? I wonder.

It’s July of 2011 and I buy ham for the last time. You know better, my conscience informs me. You will never buy this again. I leave the grocery store with a half-pound of ham, and a whole lot of shame. Fast forward to August. I’m a vegan. It’s not a choice but a moral necessity. My (vegetarian) father tells me to make sure I eat lots of nuts, lest I avoid the notorious yet elusive protein deficiency. He also warns me to avoid letting my head fill with so much self-righteousness it bursts into prideful flames of fury. Yet how could it? I am the only vegan I know in real life for almost three years, a bittersweet loneliness. But soon after meeting a few, I meet many more. My spirit is strengthened in resilience by our collective passion.

To my fellow vegans and questioners: You are not alone. Please reach out to us!


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