By Dan Piraro
Like most Americans, I was raised a guiltless meat-eater. Then I
visited a sanctuary for farm animals six years ago, and everything
changed-I became vegan. Prior to this, I had heard a few incomplete
anecdotes here and there about factory farming, but the facts hadn't
really sunk in. To me, it was a vague and distant idea I was able to
keep locked in the trunk of my mind while I played loud music and
enjoyed drive-through chicken sandwiches in the front seat.
I'm using a metaphor here, of course.
My mind is not actually an automobile, though it is often very
difficult to start on cold mornings. And, come to think of it, it is not
as fast or shiny as it once was and it will, from time to time, stop
working and leave me stranded with no way to get where I want to go. And
lord knows how many cute babes I've sprawled out with on the back seat
of my mind .... Okay, for the sake of argument, let's say that the day I
visited the farm animal sanctuary, my mind was a '76 Ford Bronco.
So I drove my '76 Bronco to this sanctuary for farm animals, with my
relatively new significant other. She had been an animal rights
activist, vegan and environmentalist for many years, and knew all about
the stuff I would be seeing that day. Let's say she was a brand-new
Honda Insight, the sexy little eco-friendly hybrid.
"What is an eco-friendly, vegan Honda Insight doing tooling around
with a meat eating Ford Bronco?" you may well ask. I wondered the same
thing at the time, but was content to keep my mouth shut about it and
enjoy it while it lasted. As it turned out, she saw potential in me and
felt that when presented with the right information, I would tumble to
her side of the fence. She also thought that my '76 Ford Bronco had a
certain retro charm, particularly the back seat. But let's move on.
It was her idea to take the trip up to the farm and I readily agreed.
The 8-track tape player in my dashboard having broken years ago, we
listened to her new fangled iPod. How they can cram so many songs into
something smaller than a Chiclets box, my Bronco had trouble
understanding, but again, I kept my mouth shut and counted my blessings.
I'd always considered myself a person who loves animals. I had
rescued many stray dogs and cats, hand-fed abandoned baby birds, done
all of that urban animal lover stuff. But I hadn't given much thought to
my food. Animals eat animals and humans are mammals, so eating chicken
is the natural way of things. As long as the animals live happy, healthy
lives and are killed mercifully and quickly, it's okay. Besides, how
smart can a chicken or a cow be? Any information that contradicted the
"happy life" part got locked in the trunk. (Don't write to me to say
that Broncos don't have trunks. They don't have glasses either, and a
cow is going to knock mine off in the next paragraph. Just relax and go
with the metaphor.)
When I met the animals and read the educational information at the
farm that day, I was bowled over by how wrong I had been. These animals
are smart, sweet, affectionate individuals-not identical, stupid, eating
machines as I had assumed. A cow named Arbuckle, who is completely blind
because of infections that went untreated in the food industry, followed
our voices around the pasture, licking and nudging us, demanding we pet
him. His rough tongue licking my leg nearly lifted me off the ground,
and his big, wet nose knocked my glasses to the ground. It was like
being mauled by a 1,500-pound puppy and I giggled like a little boy.
Arbuckle and other animals at the sanctuary blew the lid off my
Bronco's trunk full of inconvenient information. I became teary-eyed as
I realized the kind of suffering I had been subsidizing. I adopted a
vegan diet that day and have never looked back.
In the subsequent months, as I learned more about the health and
environmental benefits of my new lifestyle, my Bronco morphed into a
Prius. (Have I pushed this metaphor too far?) My significant other, the
sexy Honda Insight and now my wife, was right about me, thank God. I'm
much happier since my renovation.
Note: Dan Piraro is author of the Bizarro comics and serves on the
Board of Directors of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. He will perform
September 20 in a benefit for WFAS sponsored by Mid-Hudson Veg.
Dan's Veg journey originally appeared in VegNews entitled "Bronco
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