In the words of anchorman Howard Beale, as so aptly portrayed by Peter Finch in the movie Network, I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.
What am I mad about?
I'm mad that the animal agriculture industry is perpetrating horrors the equivalent of the Holocaust on farm animals in this country every single day. Nobody seems to care, and nobody, except the tiny fraction of the population that we vegetarians and vegans represent, does anything about it. Why? Because to care would mean thinking about things that are unpleasant. To do something would require a change in lifestyle that might be inconvenient.
I'm mad at the fast-food industry for luring our children into their restaurants, and into a lifetime of horrible eating habits, with clowns, playgrounds and free toys. Even more, I'm mad at our government for allowing this to happen, particularly when armed with the knowledge that more and more of our children are becoming obese and diabetic at a younger and younger age.
My anger with the politicians doesn't stop there. Must they compound the problem by selling out our schools to the soft drink companies who install vending machines in the corridors and to the meat and dairy industries that dictate the school lunch program? Why is it that every single "food" item that receives a government subsidy is something that is bad for us (dairy, crops used as sweeteners, crops used for animal feed)? Shouldn't our government be spending its money to make our health better rather than worse?
I'm mad at meat-eating environmentalists who promote their causes while conveniently overlooking the 800-pound gorilla in the room—the animal agriculture industry. Not only is that industry our biggest (by far!) consumer and polluter of land and water, but it's all so unnecessary, and all so wasteful. I'm similarly mad at the medical professionals who promote a "healthy" diet, while always ensuring that it's based around ever-so-unhealthy meat and dairy products. I'm mad at "pacifists" who still condone the least pacifistic of all activities—the torture and killing of animals, and I'm mad at "feminists" who don't seem to have any problem continuing to consume dairy products and chickens' eggs despite the fact that they exploit the females of other species and require rape and the taking of babies from their mothers.
I'm mad at the way my fellow vegetarians and I are consistently discriminated against. We're uninvited to social events, left off of dinner invitations, made fun of, and all too often shunned by family, friends, co-workers and potential mates. What is our crime? We back up our moral convictions with our behavior. We "put our tofu where our mouth is" (to coin a phrase), and that makes other people feel uncomfortable. It's easier to avoid us than to think about the message we send by our example.
I'm mad too that none of this will change substantially in my generation's lifetime. It won't change in the lifetimes of our children or our grandchildren either, and maybe not until the earth, and the human life on it, is destroyed by our own greed and stupidity.
Most of all, though, I'm mad at the millions and millions of educated, compassionate people out there who continue to be part of the problem rather than the solution. In their brains they know the facts about animal rights, environmentalism and nutrition, but in their hearts they still don't "get it." The old saying goes that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of crisis, stand by and do nothing. Well, this is certainly a time of crisis. Where are these people? Can't they change their behavior just one little bit? Couldn't they manage to go just a meal or two without digging the graves of animals, the earth and themselves with their dinner forks? We need them on our side, and we need them now.
The other night I had a long conversation with an Episcopalian reverend. We talked a lot about my reasons for being vegan. She brought up the Biblical reference about the lion lying down with the lamb, and I finally had to ask her what her religious view was on killing animals for food. She thought about the question for a moment, and finally explained that there were different levels of morality—some moral ambitions that we can achieve within the confines of our society, and others that will have to wait for a better day and a better place. I didn't believe that for a moment, and from the look on her face I could tell she didn't either.
I personally don't want to live in a world where our morality changes to accommodate what's popular, pleasurable, and convenient. I don't want to live either in a society where the vast majority of the population is in a state of cognitive dissonance and rationalization—where their daily actions are totally inconsistent with their beliefs on the most basic concepts of what's good for them, how to treat others, and distinguishing right from wrong.
I guess I don't have a choice though. Room reservations on the other planets are awfully hard to come by right now, and around here almost everyone eats meat. I'm the odd man out.
I'm mad as hell about it.