I stopped eating animals in my mid 30's after a childhood and young adulthood of being a 'meat and potatoes' eater. This was due to education over time, and just a general tendency to question the status quo (on some things anyways).
I did have a defining moment in my quest towards vegetarianism, and currently heading very near veganism. I wrote a book several years ago, and I presented a fictional (but quite 'factual' to me) account of this defining moment. **It is long, so I don't blame you if you don't want to read it :) - but I did try to edit (shorten) it!!
"Jimmy hadn't had any meat for almost seven years [over 13 years for me now], since the time when he was driving out west to Arizona to visit his parents. He was driving solo, and he had taken four days to get across the Midwest from Michigan...It was a pretty ride, but very long when traveling alone.
On the early afternoon of the third day of driving, he was hit by a major storm in the flatlands of the Texas panhandle. He was amazed at how dark it got; the entire western sky was filled with clouds so low and purplish that it was like driving at midnight. The rains came with a vengeance, and after awhile he was forced to pull over to the side of 1-40 since he literally couldn't see out of his front window, even with his wipers on high. He sat there in his car, rain pounding on his roof so hard it was like being inside a drum. It was dark as night even though the luminous dial of his watch said 1:22pm, and he could feel the awe of nature in all of its raw power. After nearly 15 minutes like this, the rain slackened perceptibly, and the clouds shifted enough to let some light creep back into the day. He started his car and got back on the road, thinking how a primitive human faced with this type of natural power could easily invent the idea of a god. He drove for a few minutes in silence, letting the rain and wind be his music, and almost falling into a driving trance. Gradually he noticed an odor in the car increasing in intensity, and he felt his stomach churn.
"What the ****? That's disgusting," he said as he covered his nose with his hand. He had opened his side vents when the rain started, and he now closed them when he couldn't take the smell anymore. It didn't help. He looked around for the source of that hideous smell, but he couldn't locate it for several minutes. In the distance, he could see a sprawling farm just off of the highway coming up on his left hand side. At almost 80 miles an hour, it didn't take long to reach it. He cruised upon it, and suddenly realized he was looking at a slaughterhouse as far as the eye could see.
"I smelled that from way back there," he said with a touch of wonder, keeping his hand over his nose. The air tasted coppery, and he knew it was the taste and smell of animal blood. His stomach clenched again, but he it willed it to subside. He looked over at the slaughterhouse, seeing thousands of cows hurdled together so closely in little corrals that he couldn't see past the ones packed up to the fence nearest the highway. It was still raining quite steadily, and as he looked at the undulating mass of cow, he realized they were all standing in the rain, covered in cows***, urine and mud, and would be this way for who knows how long...
He was mesmerized by this atrocity, watching in silence as the miles clipped by and the sight remained. The smell and taste was subsiding, but Jimmy knew they were still there, he was just getting used to them. This helped to tweak his stomach again, and he took short breaths to try and stabilize himself. The miles continued zipping by, and he tried to wrap his mind around the sheer size of this slaughterhouse, and the amount of animals that must be there waiting in those inhumane conditions for their turn to be, well...slaughtered. He suddenly understood that these very animals he had been watching for miles had been standing out in that massive storm he had just been in. He felt disgusted and angered by this discovery - that pretty package of meat at the grocery store would never be the same to him.
He finally passed the slaughterhouse, looking at his watch in the increasing light. He estimated that he had been driving close to 80 miles an hour, and it had taken about 10 minutes to pass that slaughterhouse. "That f***er is about 12 or 13 miles long. Who know how f***ing deep it goes." He had made a point of looking at the end of the fence that had run the entire length of all the little corrals, and it looked just as long going back away from the highway.
His stomach flipped again. "If I never see a burger..." he said, shocked by the barbarity and inhumanity of what he had just witnessed, albeit from the outside. His imagination was able to fill in the blanks as to what was going on inside the slaughterhouse. Less than an hour later, the sky was blue and vast, and he could see the Rocky Mountains far away on the horizon. He kept his windows open, even though the wind was howling through his car. He just wanted to rid his car of that hideous smell.
The rest of his vacation was interesting, and he was glad to see his mom and dad having fun in their retirement years, but that moment never left Jimmy. He still ate meat for several months after that day, but the cognitive dissonance of the slaughterhouse and what he was putting in his mouth was enough to make him quietly become a vegetarian."
Because as long as b-12 supplements are around, I don't need to eat animals or animal products to get any type of nutrient. Given that I don't need to eat animal products for my own health or survival, it seemed to me that my best choice would be to choose to eat only plant foods. This way I don't support industrial animal agriculture, which is horrible for humans, ecosystems, and of course the animals born, confined, and killed for human food.
I have, since infancy (or so I am told) disliked meat. It was a HUGE struggle every night at dinner, as my mother tried to coerce, persuade or force me to eat meat, and I sulked, cried, refused, and sat at the table until bedtime.
At 14, she finally gave in. Family legend has it that I am the only person who ever out-stubborned my mother! ( of course, it took me well over a decade...;o)
I don't eat meat, because I have never liked the way I feel when I eat it...heavy, bloated and drained of energy for days. Of course, as I got older, the ethical reasons rang true for me as well, as do the environmental/financial reasons. Still...my main reason is it makes me feel yucky.
I actually think this is part of my incentive as well. When all is said and done, maybe some of us are simply not suited for eating meat! I hated most meats, growing up. The main exceptions were highly flavored or spicy products. That may be because our other food was so bland. I've never missed eating meat, even from day one of quitting. Learning that I could survive, even thrive, without meat was truly liberating!
Purely ethical reasons. A friend of mine showed me the "meet your meat" video and some other materials from PeTA and Vegan Outreach some years back. I just quit, cold tofurky. One minute I was full omni, then vegan. No transition. I've been vegan for five years and there's no way I'm ever going back.
It is not easy for me. I live in the deep south in a town with very few vegetarians and no veggie restaurants, and at the grocery stores options are limited.
I've seen it. I wasn't surprised. It's sad that I've become so used to expecting such abuses from the meat and egg industries. I tried showing it to omni friends but I don't think they're ready to give up eggs.
The PETA issue could be a separate thread - a bit off-topic here.
Here is the result of a web search on PETA Tyson chicken:
"Springdale, Ark. -- PETA, which owns stock in Tyson Foods, has submitted a shareholder resolution encouraging the Springdale, Ark. based meat producer to advance the welfare of chickens by phasing in a less cruel method of poultry slaughter called "controlled-atmosphere killing" (CAK). Tyson is one of the largest chicken producers in the U.S. Since purchasing beef and pork producer IBP Fresh Meats, the company has become a giant in the worldwide meat-processing industry, serving more than 90 countries.
Currently, Tyson kills chickens via a method in which the birds are dumped onto conveyors and hung upside down by their legs in metal shackles, often causing broken bones. The birds' heads are run through an electrified bath that gives them painful shocks without rendering them insensible to pain. They are still conscious when their throats are cut, and many are scalded to death in defeathering tanks.
In CAK, the oxygen that chickens and turkeys breathe is slowly replaced with inert, nonpoisonous gasses such as argon and nitrogen, putting the birds "to sleep" quickly and painlessly--and there is no live dumping, live shackling, or live scalding of birds. Studies conclude that CAK is the least cruel form of poultry slaughter and that it also improves working conditions."
While you can argue about whether or not ownership of stock in a company is the best approach to changin company practices, I don't think that the comment here gives an accurate picture. Probably worth a thread of its own.... Maybe you could start one!
My experience is a common one; I have the vegetarian gene cluster. That part of one that gets it, that doesn’t make one feel entitled as a species to arbitrarily designate other species as food or pets, (indeed sometimes both). It’s forty years for me now with not so much as a days regret.
I noticed a few people lamenting the loss of dairy. For those Vegans searching the satisfaction of cheese, I’m of the opinion that the fat content cannot be substituted satisfactorily with Soy. Rather the answer lies in the tried and tested cuisines around the world. In India, while yogurt is widespread, cheese, with the exception of paneer, is rare. (Paneer is one cheese that Tofu does make a good substitute for in some dishes as it in itself is bland and takes up the flavor of a sauce). Instead Indians use various thickening ingredients, which are rich and fatty. Coconut milk, white poppy seeds, cashew nuts, are all used in this way so despite their use of buttermilk, yogurt and ghee, one can still build a satisfying cache of vegan dishes.
I’m not much of an advocate of mimicking the omnivore cuisine; I think it can stifle Vegetarian/Vegan ingenuity. I am a vegetarian, but if anyone needs advice or wants to impart some wisdom that would be most welcome as I have a skeptic slanted vegan cookbook coming out next year.