Why I Became a Vegan by Brian Charles

I was asked by the “Neighbours for the Planet” to write an article about my journey to become a Vegan. This explains my thoughts and feelings about the moral, ethical issues related to animal welfare, the environment and my health.

In the past growing up at home, I was fed all different types of food that included red meat, pork, poultry, fish and dairy, consisting of milk, cheese etc. I was never concerned back then about how animals were treated and how they gave up their lives for human consumption. We picked up our food nicely wrapped in clear plastic wrap at the grocery store and cooked it almost every day including celebration of holidays. My dietary consumption also included fast food.

Then one day something changed in me. It began while having dinner with a friend. Somehow we got onto a discussion about what happens to pigs before they are slaughtered. She said the pigs know what is up in front of them before that final moment of death. This had a significant impact on me. I continued to learn more and read that pigs are intelligent animals, exhibit complex emotions and experience feelings of happiness and fear. After that conversation, and discovering more about pigs, I decided not to consume pork moving forward.

Years passed and during the course of my journey Facebook, YouTube and Google became popular ways to learn more about various topics. I started to receive articles from different sources. I had an interest in learning more about the environment and started to follow David Suzuki through his web site (David Suzuki Foundation). His focus is about nature and the creatures that inhabit our world. There was a shift in me when I became aware of the depletion of Ozone and then global warming. Over the years my interest in animal welfare expanded. There was a pinnacle point in my life when I realized how humans were impacting global warming through the use of animal agriculture/production. I became increasingly concerned about the carbon footprint we leave behind because of what and how we eat.

Over time articles I read included more about slaughterhouses, factory farming, wildlife markets (i.e., wet markets) and the ethical treatment of animals by humans. I was shocked at what I read and saw in videos. I became saddened by all that was occurring behind closed doors and felt ashamed that I knew what was happening and chose to ignore it. Then one day, I told my wife I want to do my part to reduce the exploitation, brutality and suffering of animals (sentient beings) of many kinds in different countries around the world. Signing petitions, donating money to Zoo Check and other animal welfare organizations, getting involved with Neighbours of the Planet and changing my lifestyle with respect to food consumption are all ways I try to respond to the issue. I continue to be concerned about the vulnerable animals on our planet. I realize that I have a spiritual connection and deep empathy for all animals and creatures that inhabit our earth. I feel an interdependence with them and I am sensitive to their suffering. I also feel it is my responsibility to take care of our earth the best way I can.

I have further researched the environmental impact (greenhouse gas emissions) of raising animals for human consumption and was shocked by the contribution and impact on global warming from changing land use and ecosystems, farming (methane production from cows), animal feed, processing, transportation, packaging, land and water consumption. I could not believe the amount of land in the Amazon being plowed and stripped of trees and vegetation to accommodate cattle production and palm oil.

I recently educated myself on the health benefits associated with my transition towards a whole foods plant-based diet. I watched the documentary The Game Changers and Cowspiracy. Following these documentaries, I began to incorporate a gradual new regime eating raw foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, nuts, seeds and lentils/soya for protein. This included the elimination of processed foods, foods made of palm oil etc. I personally noticed a dramatic change in my overall health and energy.

I read recently about the actor Joaquin Phoenix and other individuals in the entertainment industry regarding their choice to become Vegan related to the environment, animal welfare and health. I watched a speech from Joaquin Phoenix at the 2020 Oscars. Below are excerpts from his speech that resonated within me.

“I think we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world. Many of us are guilty of an egocentric worldview, and we believe that we’re the center of the universe. We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

“We fear the idea of personal change, because we think we need to sacrifice something; to give something up. But human beings at our best are so creative and inventive, and we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment.”

I believe I have a mission in life, to share my experiences and leave a positive imprint on our earth. I still have hope in humanity, to rally and make the changes before our earth will not be able to sustain humans and sentient beings. Think globally, act locally. We have only one earth to live on.