My family is very religious. My parents met in kindergarten at a Catholic school and practice their religion to this day. My mom is a teacher at a Catholic elementary school and is always working on projects at the kitchen table about “how God loves you.” My dad goes to church every Sunday without fail. There is at least one priest at every family event or barbecue we have.
I vividly remember my Catholic school days: first at Maria Regina for elementary school and then Kellenberg Memorial High School on Long Island. While my neighborhood friends got to wear the latest fashion trends to class, I wore a uniform paired with black penny loafers. If I had chosen that outfit, I’d be sorely regretting it right now.
And while I wasn’t grateful for the uniforms, I am glad that compassion for others was part of my everyday learning. Looking back, I feel that my religious upbringing made it simple for me to commit to a vegan lifestyle, the embodiment of compassion toward others.
Because my schools were religious, I had to take classes where I read the Bible and other works that explored morality. I was made to look at who I was and what I could do to better protect the people around me.
Almost every time I would get in trouble for something involving another student, my teachers would bring up the golden rule. This unofficial religious teaching was plastered around school on those odd motivational posters (somehow every school has these… why?).
“Do unto others as you would have done to you.”
So when I learned about how we treated animals, I was horrified. How could I live my religious values when we so needlessly and brutally slaughtered His creatures? I remember seeing undercover investigation videos inside factory farms and thinking, “Is this what God would want me to support?”
I honestly couldn’t cope with the fact that billions of farmed animals suffer around the world and that I was a part of it. How could He allow this to happen? How did I not know I was contributing to so much suffering? Why didn’t anybody tell me? It made me feel like a hypocrite to be religious and cause so much pain.
Cows, pigs, chickens, and fish raised and killed for food are subjected to unthinkable cruelties: tiny, filthy cages; brutal mutilations; torturous transport; and violent slaughter. I had to stop eating meat.
Famously quoted, musician Moby stated:
If you don’t want to be beaten, imprisoned, mutilated, killed or tortured, then you shouldn’t condone such behavior towards anyone, be they human or not.
This is the essence of the golden rule. I wouldn’t want to be subjected to the cruelties farmed animals face daily, so why would I support industries that do these things? I honestly couldn’t.
On top of the golden rule, I would hear other religious teachings every Sunday in church, most often the Ten Commandments. These commandments are central to Catholicism and I even had school days where my class would go listen to the priest read and explain them to us. I was tested on the order of the Ten Commandments and was randomly called on to recite them all in front of the class. At my school, you had to know them top to bottom.
And one always stood out to me.
In case you don’t know, the fifth commandment states, “Thou shalt not kill.” Now, I’ve had arguments with my dad over this and he usually adds “needlessly” to the end of it when I say that not killing should extend to animals. But even adding “needlessly” to the commandment doesn’t weaken my argument.
The truth is, we don’t need to kill animals to survive—quite the opposite. Humans thrive on a plant-based diet and researchers have found that eating animal products is bad for your health.
Consider this: Health risks associated with eating red meat—both processed and unprocessed—are significant and include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, liver disease, infections, lung disease, and cancer. If the fifth commandment is not enough to stop eating meat, preventing disease is certainly a good reason.
Even though I no longer practice the religion of my upbringing, it still fundamentally affects my everyday choices. Do I buy the beef burger? No, I choose the plant-based one. Do I wear fur shawls? No, I protest companies that sell them.
I am forever grateful to my parents for teaching me their religion at such an early age, because it allowed me to open my mind to the possibility that what God wanted for me wasn’t to eat His creatures, but to fight for them.
If this speaks to you and you want to learn more about living a vegan lifestyle, go to ChooseVeg.com today.