Around noon on April 22, I walked out of White Hall and came across the verdant Arts Quad, which was adorned with the blooming yield of an unfinished spring. I waited on a quiet Friday afternoon on the lawn, studying while enjoying the April breeze and the sonorous melody of the chimes. What I encountered instead was a surprise. The quad, usually a bucolic expanse of grass crisscrossed by sidewalks and riddled with trees, was adorned with various gazebos, traveling students, plumes of grill smoke and a huge inflatable cow next to the Olin Library. From my vantage point, I could barely glean the words displayed on one of the booths: Cornell University Livestock Show.
My vegan philosophy has always been an incendiary subject, evoking many questionable responses and mocking looks. Although several members of my family are also vegetarians/vegans, they always implore me to “tone it down a bit” on the rare occasions when the subject arises. Long story short, my beliefs make people angry and annoyed. After all, no one likes radical, antagonistic vegans who impose their values on others, do they? But, I might ask, which is more unreasonable – a consumerist culture that perpetuates the suffering and death of over 70 billion animals a year, or those that seek to mitigate the pervasive damage it promotes, from animal cruelty to unequivocal environmental ramifications? If the animals condemned to the slaughterhouse were cats and dogs, would this activism be similarly derided by the masses?
With quivering indignation, I strolled through the fair, appraising the “Pro-Dairy” and “Dairy Goes Green” booths and the adorable sheep walled in a little wooden pen, adored by the cooing onlookers. A range of succulents was for sale, accompanied by paintings announcing agricultural development. After a while, I couldn’t suppress my irritation anymore. After the sheep pen volunteer explained her livestock research, I emphatically (but respectfully) voiced my concerns about animal cruelty. At the Livestock Show stand, I inquired about the purpose of these shows and questioned the volunteer’s assurance that the animals on parade, already destined for the slaughterhouse, were treated “humanely”. During a conversation at the Dairy Goes Green stand, I said there was very little environmental awareness in the dairy industry, an industry desperate to stay relevant and lucrative. Two of the three volunteers I spoke with offered evasive answers or none, so I thanked them and continued to explore the fair. The third challenged my assertion that non-dairy milks are a healthier, cruelty-free option, and a brief discussion ensued in which we basically agreed to disagree. Meat companies love to tout their oxymoron “sustainable agriculture” and “humane slaughter practices,” which are nothing more than deceptive greenwashing to assuage our consciences. This heavily subsidized industry is slowly floundering and they know it, spreading propaganda to keep consumers complicit.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to enumerate the intricacies of this incredibly nuanced and multifaceted subject in this short article. I just wish people would observe the hypocrisy and speciesism when ‘animal lovers’ castigate the cat and dog meat trade, but regard livestock as inanimate entities, despite the fact that they are beings sensitive capable of pain and visceral feelings. In the slaughterhouses, the cows are bogged down in their own excreta, the putrid ground strewn with the corpses of infants; chicks are thrown into meat grinders as a by-product of the egg industry; the mother cows bleat desperately as their calves are snatched away so we can extract her milk which was meant for the baby. Slaughterhouse workers are blatantly exploited, often suffering physical mutilation and PTSD. The 2018 documentary Domination divulges these graphic practices employed by slaughterhouses, an implacable chronicle of the cruelty inflicted by man to satisfy our taste buds. Not to mention that going vegan is the most effective action we can take as individuals to mitigate climate change, with animal agriculture being responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Throughout my exploits at this fair, I nearly balked at the incredulous stares, eye rolls and sudden changes in demeanor I observed, their faces full of exasperation. My hands were sweaty, my heart rate was racing; despite the fact that the interactions were quite cordial, my social anxiety threatened my advocacy. I am opposed to confrontation, but it is imperative to stand up for what you believe in, no matter how unpopular. I, too, loved burgers and decadent ice cream, being an oblivious consumer before I was enlightened to the delicious plant-based alternatives proliferating in supermarkets and restaurants.
Having this epiphany is not always easy. This requires a radical shift in mindset, a paradigm shift whereby we begin to see all animals as worthy of respect and life, not just cats and dogs. People invariably get outraged, angry, and spout a lot of anti-vegan invective, especially online. Eventually, you begin to think of hot dogs not as a tasty cut of meat, but rather as the corpse of a pig, an animal proven to have greater intelligence than dogs and human children. of three years. You can start thinking of fairs like Cornell’s (Earth Day, no less) not as jolly, innocuous community events, but as insidious paloozas of animal cruelty endorsed by the meat and produce industries. dairy. At Cornell, an institution considered a bastion of critical thinking with a tradition of students mobilizing to effect change, it is our duty as young adults to raise our voices with emphasis, but with respect, when campus events such as the one mentioned here and to call for challenging the status quo. I hope that with the growing presence of vegan activism, our generation can be the one to tackle animal agriculture and raise awareness of its contribution to both animal cruelty and climate change. All it takes is an open mind, a willingness to make people uncomfortable with hard truths, and a little research.
Isabella DiLizia is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]