The decision to lead a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle was a very big deal for me, considering that I grew up eating animals, like most of us. Suddenly I’d decided against something which was said my whole life to be self evident, normal and natural. Why? There were many small and big factors playing a role in this kind of decision. I can only speak for myself and I would like to tell you my personal story. This is not to give you general arguments for or against eating animals, but to explain to you what influenced me in my life to make this decision. Here we go:
Part 1 is about my prehistory: My earlier life of eating animals
When I think back I realize how hypocritical and ambivalent my relationship to eating meat was in my childhood. On one hand, I did eat meat and enjoyed it. On the other hand, I could not eat a bite while imagining that the food on my plate used to be an animal and that it is in fact a dead animal. I had to turn these thoughts off completely to be able to eat meat. For a short period, when I was about 8 years old, I was a “wannabe vegetarian”. “I don’t eat meat…only from McDonald’s or at the Chinese restaurant”, I would say. What didn’t look like meat was fine. By far, this wasn’t vegetarian.
When I was about 12 years old I made the terrific decision to eat everything that I get served. I didn’t want to be picky. The reason behind this was probably the fact that I started to go on a lot of student exchanges and trips abroad. At that time it was already important to me to adapt to foreign cultures, customs and families. When I was a guest at someone’s house, I wanted to be polite and thankful. I wanted to eat whatever was being served. No matter what – be it meat, fish (which taste I always hated) or something else that I didn’t like eating. Being inspired by Anne Frank who described in her diary how she managed to enjoy disgusting and old food using her imagination, I thought to myself: Taste is something subjective and I can control my thoughts. When it comes down to it, everything is in my head and I can decide for myself: I like the taste of everything and I will start eating everything from now on. Thereby, I finally managed to turn off every thought and association to animals. I learned to suppress that what I ate used to be a living being that can suffer and feel pain. Animals that I actually found cute and even loved in a way. All of this led to me eating animals like everyone else: every day and even multiple times a day – salami, sausages, steaks, salmon, tuna or shrimps.
I’ve never really dealt with the topic vegetarianism, because I hardly knew anybody who led this kind of lifestyle and I had kind of locked up these thoughts. Every now and then the animals crossed my mind while eating. However, I welcomed every excuse that I could find to justify eating animals – without ever really thinking about it. For example, I remember that my cousin said at a family dinner: “The animals are dead anyway. Whether we eat meat or not, the animal will not come back to life.” Logical, I thought. Today I know that this isn’t logical at all. (supply = demand –> if there is less demand, there is less supply of meat, which means less animals are getting killed. The killed animal doesn’t come back to life, of course, but another one can live – or doesn’t have to be born just to suffer.)
My image of vegetarians (I don’t think I was aware that vegans even existed at this point)? My own thought manipulation was so successful, I couldn’t identify myself with vegetarians at all. In general I didn’t meet any. If I did, this wasn’t a big deal for me, in fact, I didn’t care. “Everyone eats whatever they want”, I thought. Once at the age of 16, a vegetarian friend of mine became upset when I wanted to eat at Hungry Jacks (The Australian version of Burger King). I couldn’t understand at all. I found it unnecessary to think of something this “unimportant”. I just wanted to enjoy my life and I thought to myself: “They’re only animals and they’re for us to eat!”
Little did I know about the impact of the meat consumption!
So far about my prehistory…