Like so many of you, I was raised in a meat and potatoes family. Breakfast was often eggs with bacon or sausage. Lunch was a sandwich: ham and cheese, turkey, tuna, chicken salad, and meat was the centerpiece of every dinner Mom prepared. I think it’s accurate to say, in fact, that my mother never made a vegetarian meal in her life. Even her cherished “vegetable” soup contained chunks of beef.
So when I became a vegetarian in my thirties, my family thought I’d lost my marbles. My Dad—in particular—was apoplectic. He Just. Didn’t. Get It. He assumed I was going to die of malnutrition from eating “nuts and grass” or “sticks and leaves.”
But my choice was both healthy and right: by leaving cows, pigs, chickens, lambs, and fish off my plate, I was honoring those who wanted their lives as much as I wanted mine.
Or so I thought.
Fast forward a few years to 2001, when I opened Catskill Animal Sanctuary with Jesse, my partner at the time, I was an egg-eating, cheese-loving vegetarian. I did not understand what egg-laying hens, dairy cows, and their children endured. But some months later, PETA and actor Alec Baldwin produced the groundbreaking 12-minute documentary Meet Your Meat, and by the end of it, having seen the horrors inflicted on hens and on dairy cows and their offspring, I was vegan. Not a perfect vegan…but the decision, and the commitment, had been made.
As it was for me, vegetarianism is an important step in so many people’s journey towards greater compassion. I hadn’t realized it wasn’t the final destination until a powerful documentary proved to me that I still had farther to travel. When I saw hens jammed into wire crates stacked in fetid warehouses, when I saw their beaks seared off without anesthesia, when I learned that we’ve engineered them to produce exponentially more eggs than they do naturally, and that the costs of this burden are crippling bone fractures and life spans of no more than two years…I was the apoplectic one! Dairy cows, too, lead lives that no compassionate person would wish for another living being: forced impregnation, the heartache of having their newborns stolen, the use of hormones illegal in most of the world to increase milk production, which in turn causes mastitis, brief lives of confinement as their bodies are used up, and, when no longer productive, thrown away. Here, too, our thanks to these mama cows for their service, for the theft of their children to use as veal or to put back into the system, is slaughter.
It’s very likely your compassionate heart that led you to vegetarianism.
As someone who knows chickens and cows as well as you know your beloved companion animal, I promise you this: in the ways that truly matter, we are all the same. Each chicken is delightfully individual. Each one experiences all the emotions that you see in your dogs and cats…or even in your kids. Each one wants the same privileges that the lucky among us humans take for granted. And not a single one wants to experience the suffering, confinement, or gruesome ending endured by chickens born to the egg industry. The same is true of cows, of course. Just because we live in a world that discourages us from seeing these obvious truths doesn’t make them untrue.
We are so deeply grateful to you for realizing that, as a vegetarian, your work is not yet done.
Taking Petunia’s Pledge is an important step in further aligning your actions with your values, which, in a world that’s off its axis, seems more important than ever. So, no matter whether you need tips or recipes, product lists or inspiring virtual tours…we are here to help! Please connect with us!
On behalf of the lucky ones who call CAS home and the billions less lucky than they, thank you.