I Grew Up on a Farm, and I am Vegan
One of my latest pet peeves is when people find out I’m vegan and because I went to a liberal-hippy college in a metropolitan area and now live in that same city, they assume that I’ve always been that way – and that I’ve never even set foot on a farm. It is both one of my pet peeves and something that brings me great joy, actually, because that’s when I get to say: “HEY, I GREW UP ON A DAMN FARM, so maybe you should stop assuming things about me when you have no idea what my story is.”
It drives me nuts on the one hand because people like to think that only rich kids who grew up in “the big city” would choose such a “silly diet”. I can just hear them saying, “Ah, it’s sad that they don’t respect our farmers, that they don’t know how much work it is, how much we do to feed those ungrateful brats!” Guess what? I DO know how difficult farm life is, and I love my father for what he did, and how hard he worked and made us work. My upbringing is something I will always cherish. But, I still choose veganism. To me, this doesn’t negate any of the respect I have for those who work hard to feed people (I’d just like them to feed people with different food – that’s all.)
This post is the result of an annoying argument I somehow got myself into over this post on HumaneWatch.org (egads). I don’t even know why I bothered to post, but I did, and boy has it brought out the…well, the uninformed. The most recent post that really rubbed me the wrong way was posted by Stephanie B, who wrote this:
While I am not trying to start a fight with you on this, it shows you have never lived or worked on a farm. While I’m sure you think all the corn in the US can be eaten by humans only 22% of the corn grown in the United States in 2005 was edible. The rest is dent corn grown to sustain livestock, produce ethanol, and used as starter seed for next years crop.
I understand you saying that your vegan diet is your choice, but studies show that people who eat only veggie can suffer from the same problems people who meat. Also people who are vegan are more likely to be extremely under weight and anemic.
My last point is that my farm animals are enjoyed just like the dogs and cats. We eat them, because they outlive there usefulness. While Smokey and Libby can’t become glue, our horses can become more useful products to help people in the future.
I hope you can see this from a farm girl’s point of view.
Yes, Stephanie is upset with me because her horses can become glue, and I am not appreciating that! She is also upset with me because CLEARLY I have never lived on a farm, nor do I know that most of what the US produces these days is produced not for human consumption but for “livestock” consumption. These are things you could know without ever having set foot on a farm, but let’s not dwell on that. Lastly, Stephanie is also quite concerned about Americans becoming underweight and anemic – which is clearly turning out to be a real problem in the US.*
Anyway, I wanted to share with you some of my response to Stephanie, which I’d like more “farm girls” (and guys) to read – to show that not all of us vegans are rich-hippy-city kids or something (I’m ok with rich-hippy-city kids being vegan too, obviously – but that just wasn’t my experience, and I get tired of the stereo-types).
I am well aware of how farms work, because I worked on my family’s farm from the time I was 9. We had 2,000 acres of soybeans, corn, sunflowers, wheat and barley. I plowed the fields in the spring, combined each harvest, and drove grain trucks to the elevators. Most of what we grew was grown for livestock consumption (imagine how many more humans we could feed if that land were used for human-grade crops!). I spent many hours on my friends’ cattle farms. I watched calves being born, I watched them grow, and I watched them get shipped off to slaughter. My boyfriend’s family were pig farmers, and I saw how they had 1,000 hogs in one big barn (“small family farmers”, mind you), each in small gestation crates or other pens that were too small for them. I heard how he and his dad would slam the runt piglets into the ground until they died if they knew they were too weak to survive. I didn’t question it then because it was all I knew. I didn’t know how unnatural it is to keep such curious, intelligent, wonderful animals cooped up like that (and yes, I know all farms are not like that). My point is that you shouldn’t assume I know nothing about farms – I know more than most people ever will. And yes, I still choose to be vegan – isn’t that crazy!!!??
You say that your animals “outlive their usefulness”. My fundamental belief is that no animal should have a “use” for humans, and therefore cannot “outlive their usefulness”. You and I disagree, which is fine, but don’t assume I’ve chosen veganism blindly, and that I know nothing of farming.
The bottom line is that we all have our reasons for choosing veganism, and making that big of a lifestyle change isn’t something that most of us do blindly or without researching quite a bit. All the vegans I know (and I would bet I know more than Stephanie does) are far more informed about nutrition than 99.9% of the meat-eaters I know. We kind of have to know about veganism because we get questioned about it ALL THE TIME. And while I don’t purport to eat all healthy food all the time, I sure as hell can talk circles around most of my omnivore friends about what is and isn’t healthy. And I most certainly can defend against pretty much any “why you shouldn’t be vegan” statement with actual facts. I don’t struggle with obesity, and I don’t struggle with being underweight or anemic. I am healthy, active, and for the record: I enjoy the food I eat now more than I ever have before – largely due to the fact that I know that my diet is better for humans, better for the planet, and better for animals. It gives me a peace I never had when I was eating animals, and I couldn’t be happier.