Like most people, I grew up not really thinking about what I ate: If it tasted good, I ate it. Why think more about it? I have found that most people approach eating that way.
But about five years ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube video that convinced me to stop eating animals. I had met vegetarians and was somewhat aware of what food animals go through, but up to that point I thought that their suffering was just part how the world was supposed to be.
That video made me consider that I am responsible for the choices I make, that by choosing to eat meat I had been participating in terrible cruelty, and that I was collecting negative karma, which I would have to answer for. Initially, my decision to stop eating meat was motivated by fear of spiritual consequences, but right away I found that not eating meat made me feel good about myself. It increased my self-esteem, which I found so rewarding, I wanted to do more.
I began to look for new ways to cut cruelty out of my lifestyle. I stopped wearing leather, eating fish and eggs, and once I bought my first carton of almond milk, I had become a vegan. I never really thought of it as a sacrifice I was making, rather, it was more like a game I was playing to see how good I could feel about myself. At first, I thought I was just helping animals, I didn't realize that I was actually doing something healthy for myself. I didn't know that I was dramatically reducing my chances of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many other health problems.
Almost as soon as I went vegan, people started telling me that my skin looked great, and that I appeared younger, slimmer, and healthier. I'm convinced that of all the changes I've made to my lifestyle, it's the adoption of a vegan diet that has been best for me -- physically, mentally, and certainly spiritually. It's benefited every area of my life.
That's why I narrated a new video called "What Came Before" for Farm Sanctuary, a great organization that promotes compassion for farm animals. I love the idea that by getting people to consider what these animals are going through, that many of them are likely to choose a more compassionate diet, which will improve their lives in so many ways.
"What Came Before" introduces you to three animals you will never forget -- Nikki the pig, Symphony the chicken, and Fanny the cow. It points out that farm animals are emotional individuals who deserve our compassion just as much as cats and dogs. There really is no ethical difference between eating a cat or a chicken, a dog or a pig. As Dr. Jane Goodall points out:
Farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear, and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined... they are individuals in their own right.
They are, to quote a great Farm Sanctuary campaign, "someone, not something."
The video also talks about all the horrible things that happen to farm animals on modern farms, pointing out that the legal protections we grant to dogs and cats don't apply to chickens, pigs, fish, and the other animals we eat -- for no good reason.
I hope you'll watch the video (below) and let me know what you think; you can find it at www.WhatCameBefore.com and then you can tell me what you think on Twitter, @SteveO. If you think it's as important as I do, I hope you'll also post this article on your Facebook, tweet it, and email it to friends.
There's a lot of violence in the world, but here's an area where all of us can make a positive difference, first in our own lives, and then in the lives of others. Together, we can spread compassion far and wide.
Watch Steve-O's new Farm Sanctuary video: