They say it takes 3 weeks to form a habit. As I enter my fourth week of being vegan, I definitely see this happening. Eating vegan has become so automatic that I often grab a snack without thinking about the ingredients. This worries me a bit, as I fear that I will accidentally eat something that contains animal products!
I think society has prescribed a very militant and extreme reputation to vegans, scaring many people away from this lifestyle. Unlike most pursuits, being vegan is much easier in practice than in prospect. If you are vegan for the right reasons, sticking to a plant based diet is actually very easy. Succeeding lies in taking it day by day and regarding it as a lifestyle based upon minimizing the suffering you are responsible for, not a lifelong diet.
This week, I have been developing my understanding of the concept that all lives are equal. It is a very simple idea, but trapped in a human body, mind, and society, it the most difficult concept for a person to grasp. The main reason why animals are exploited for food, clothes, experimentation, and entertainment is because human lives are valued above animal lives. So if a human is benefiting from an animal’s suffering and death, the sacrifice is viewed as worthwhile. Separating myself from my human identity, I have come to see that a human’s life is not any more innately valuable and worth preserving than that of a cow, pig, bird, fish, or even insect.
That can truly be difficult to grasp. Surely, killing an insect is not comparable to killing a human, right? Look at it this way. Which death would a cow view as worse, that of her calf or of a human? Undoubtedly, her calf. Similarly, a fish surely values the lives of the members of its school above human lives. Who would a bee rather see perish, a fellow member of its hive or a human? As you can see, the human-centric world does not reflect reality. All species value their own species-members above the others, so there is no way to prove that human lives are truly the most valuable. Remove yourself from your biases as a member of human society and it is clear that there is no way to determine that one life is more important than another.
Some may say that humans’ ability to use tools and progress in their technologies over time makes us the most exclusive, intelligent, and dominant species. This is undoubtedly an amazing characteristic, but other animals have incredible capabilities, too. Each species is gifted with its own unique intelligence, senses, defense mechanisms, and physical abilities. We cannot judge other animals by human standards. Their gifts lie elsewhere; that’s what makes them different species. Assessing their intelligence and abilities by comparing them to our own is like evaluating a historian’s intelligence using a calculus test.
It is saddening that people must be told that an animal can think, socialize, and feel pain and emotion “just like a human.” We view ourselves as superior to all other species in our abilities, when in fact this is not the case. As the graphic above displays, this planet does not belong to us any more than it belongs to every other species. We have to topple the pedestal we built to elevate ourselves, tear down the walls we erected to separate ourselves, and view the world clearly. All animal species are innately similar, interconnected, and valuable. All creatures have equal right to live their lives to the fullest. This Earth and its species are not property for human use. All in all, there is no way to justify enslaving, torturing, and killing members of another species for human benefit.