Health reasons weren't what got me off on this path in the first place. It was empathy.
As a child, I was acutely aware of the fact that I had empathy. I also knew that I had too much of it. My sensitivity to others was at times so overwhelming I used to wish I could be the complete opposite: heartless and indifferent, just so that I could have a break. I hope this doesn't sound conceited, but it's true. I used to stress about the ants I was inadvertently killing any time I walked outside. I was sensitive to a fault. So when I finally stopped the disconnect and realised I could no longer participate in animal slaughter, the floodgates opened, and becoming vegan was in hindsight a logical transition.
I've mentioned that the big moment for me was when I chose not to watch animal slaughter. This was nothing new or surprising, it was just that I'd never been presented with an opportunity before. When I found out about Earthlings through an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, researched it, and, of course, talked about it with my partner, there was no doubt in my mind that this was something I didn't want to see. I remember looking it up on IMDb for the content advisory: the film was basically non-stop slaughter. For those that haven't seen it, the film started out as a project led by director Shaun Monson who wanted to do an expose on the pet industry in America: puppy mills, unwanted animals and the like. But the final result is so much more. It focuses on how humans use animals for profit in five areas: pets, food, clothing, entertainment and science.
My partner ordered the DVD from the US, and there was a quote on the package that made me realise I was being selfish. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: "We must not refuse with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies." So I sat down on the couch, legs tucked in, heart racing in nervous anticipation, peeking out from behind a cushion. I later had to drop the cushion because I needed my hands to hold tissues instead. I cried during this film, I cried the entire way through. I had to really fight to keep it together enough that I could continue watching, because every instinct in me was telling me to curl up on the floor in a ball, shut my eyes tight and bawl my heart out.
Earthlings has been nicknamed "the vegan maker" for good reason. I was already vegan, but Bryce Dallas Howard summed it up really well when she said, "Watching Earthlings is the greatest gift I have ever received. I cannot believe how ignorant I have been in the past."
This film is a miracle, it really is. It's insane the degree to which we humans live in total ignorance, happily consuming, consuming, consuming without even a second thought as to where our steak, our eggs, our jacket, our furniture or our pets come from, or what is behind our makeup, our soap, our zoos and our circuses. It's frightening, disgusting, but above all absolutely heartbreaking. To echo Bryce Dallas Howard, I am truly so glad I know what I do so that I can choose not to be a part of it.