I've written before that vegetarianism was a health choice for me, but along the line that changed. I started reading, and I became surprised by my own lack of knowledge about where my food came from.
Our food supply moves along a distribution chain. It is the only way to get products into big box stores. But what happens when that product is animals?
Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat knows that animals feel. Happiness, sadness, contentment, boredom, embarrassment...(my dog Jingles hid under the couch for three days once when my dad made fun of his haircut.) The ability to feel isn't limited to our pets. We know through studies that there is morality among animals and that many live in families and make lifetime bonds. While humans have kept livestock since the beginning of recorded time it is a fairly recent development that animals have become a commodity that moves along a global production line. A line where there is no relationship between the humans and the animals. No sheep watched over by a shepherd. No chickens scratching in a yard. Currently, what it takes to get affordable meats to our tables is often an ugly process with a lot of suffering.
Culturally, we were raised to eat meat. It is so ingrained in us that even vegan cooking often centers around veggie alternatives to the meat dishes we are familiar with. The thing is, we can change the culture. We can educate ourselves and decide what we want to support rather than just going to the store and grabbing a box of whatever was advertised the night before.
For me, veganism is about awareness and making choices that aren't simply the cultural default. I also like this quote by Gary Francione:
"Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable.”
That seems like a worthy goal.