I became vegan over twenty years ago after reading the books The Case for Animal Rights by Dr. Tom Regan and Diet for A New America by John Robbins, and by watching videos showing animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses. So gruesome were the images I saw, I could barely keep watching. Everything I read and saw confirmed to me that not only do animals have the capacity to suffer, they do – horribly. I decided I simply couldn’t continue to participate in something that inflicts such suffering upon poor, innocent animals.
From the time I was very young, I remember feeling sorry for the animals I saw or heard about being treated cruelly. I remember, too, when playing the voice of Fern in the animated movie “Charlotte’s Web,” how I felt reading the wonderful words of author E. B. White about animals having personalities, and experiencing fear, anxiety, and happiness. Whether it was an animal I was working with on a set or my own animals I cared for growing up, looking into their eyes, how could I deny that animals feel the same emotions we humans feel?
Although I was only 12 years old, when Fern sang her love song to Wilbur the Pig, it touched me to the core. Fern loved Wilbur, and rightly so. Pigs, like all other animals, including chickens, sheep, and cows, are smart and sensitive. Many people think of pigs as dirty, but if they would visit sites like adaptt.org and veganoutreach.org, they would learn a great deal of new, revealing information about animals that may make them rethink their own dietary and lifestyle choices. Did you know, for example, that pigs have very sensitive skin and burn easily from the sun, so, just as human animals put on protective sunscreen, pigs roll in the mud to keep cool and protect their skin? Pigs, like other animals, should be respected and not exploited or abused. Instead they are horribly abused in factory farms and slaughterhouses, their throats cut, and their still living bodies hung upside down to bleed out, to be cut up and delivered to meat packing plants.
Poor dairy cows are artificially inseminated by a machine known in the industry as a “rape rack,” and kept pregnant their whole miserable lives, pumped constantly for milk until they collapse of brittle, calcium-depleted bones, then trucked in hot boxcars to the slaughterhouse. Every time a dairy cow gives birth, her babies are taken away from her, their umbilical cord still hanging, to be shipped off to “veal farms.” There, they are chained by the neck so they can’t move and fed an anemic diet, so that their flesh is tender and white when they are slaughtered, still in infancy, to be processed as veal.
Dairy is an extremely cruel industry. Did you know “human animals” are the only animals on the planet who consume another species milk after being weaned from their mother? How bizarre is that? I drink almond or soy milk and enjoy vegan cream cheese, vegan mayonnaise, and other vegan cheeses. I could go on and on. Google vegan substitutes for ANY animal product and you will find awesome alternatives.
Finally, a word or two about Charlotte herself, played so beautifully in the film by the late Debbie Reynolds. Charlotte demonstrates that spiders are clever creatures, spinning magnificent, complex webs, something completely beyond the ability of humans. Like other animals, Charlotte the spider protects her babies with love and care. Even spiders ought to be respected!
If you really want to see a movie with heart, soul, humor, and beauty, do get a copy of the animated version of “Charlotte’s Web” starring Debbie Reynolds, Henry Gibson, Paul Lynde as a hilarious rat, Agnes Moorhead, and yours truly. Better still, watch it together with your children or grandchildren.
If you’re interested in watching some awesome documentaries about how to start the process towards veganism, see “Cowspiracy,” “Forks Over Knives,” and “What the Health.” For an even larger selection, go to nutriciously.com/best-vegan-documentaries/