Finding Empathy I Thought I Had

Today's Blog Post comes from A Pepperdine student, Nina Hind. Nina recently switched to a vegan lifestyle and has started a blog of her own to discuss her journey. To learn more about Nina and how her Vegan lifestyle has changed her life for the better, follow her on Instagram @Nina_Hind and keep up with her blog https://ninahind.wixsite.com/mysite.

As a young girl growing up in Nebraska, the land of beef and dairy, I never gave my consumption of animal products any thought. Eventually, I discovered that I, like so many, am extremely allergic to dairy. Rather than cutting it out of my diet, I continued to consume: ice cream, cheese, and yoghurt. I was constantly bloated and was uncomfortable with stomach pain but the custom of eating dairy products was so engrained into my culture and way of life. The idea of completely eliminating it didn’t even seem like a viable option.

For as much of my childhood as I can remember, every night one of my parents cooked dinner and we ate as a family. Each meal consisted of some form of protein, vegetables, a starch, and some bread. This time spent together was cherished as we talked about our days and enjoyed being present while connecting over a meal. Never was our consumption of animals discussed. The flesh on our plates was food and nourishment, nothing more. We took fieldtrips in the summer to local dairy farms and had neighbors with chickens. Raising animals and killing them for food was normal and at the time, to my knowledge, there was no other option for food. I never met anyone who was vegan until I moved to California. As cliché as it sounds, the land of hippies, artists and, pop stars, provided me with the opportunity to become educated about the dominance humans have over the animals we consume as well as the imprint we have left and will continue to leave on our planet if we do not change the way we consume. As I slowly began surrounding myself with people who followed a vegan diet, I began to realize that the lifestyle wasn’t as difficult as the media made it seem.

As most 20 somethings do, I took to YouTube and binge watched vegan bloggers every day, learning about what they ate in a day and the changes they saw in their bodies following going vegan. Much of the information I was finding was focused primarily around the health benefits of going plant based. As I began becoming more intrigued by the lifestyle, I was encouraged to watch films such as What the Health and Dominion.Initially, I was very against watching these films. I would respond saying “Oh I don’t want to watch because I really just don’t want to know about what goes on” and “If I see these films I won’t be able to eat the food I enjoy”. Eventually, I overcame my own resistance, and watched the documentaries that expose the world of “humane farming”. Two minutes into my first movie, I texted a friend and said “that’s it, I’m vegan”. The pain I felt while watching these films is a level of fear and sadness I have never experienced. The images that filled my screen haunted me and flooded me with a sense of guilt for contributing to an industry that so clearly exploits the animals we so regularly consume.

I always thought of myself as a very empathetic person. I care deeply about those around me, loved my pets, and cherished all forms of life… or so I thought. Well known activists, The Vegan Couple, often ask people “Is there a humane way to kill someone?”. The answer to this question is always, no. As I have become more aware of the supposed humane industry practices, I have in turn become more convinced that, despite our dominating position, it is not our place to practice acts of violence for our own enjoyment and satisfaction. No matter the method or how well treated the animal is, the experience of death is violent, painful, and bloody.

Personally, the most difficult obstacle I have encountered on my journey with veganism, has been internal. As children, we are taught to, “treat others the way we wish to be treated”. No human is perfect. We all experience breaks in character and make mistakes, however, I truly thought I was practicing what had been preached to me. I think this is what holds most people back from becoming educated and taking the step towards eliminating animal products from our lives. We attribute our consumption to culture, social norms, and simplicity. While these reasons seem to be understandable, our actions do not align with the expectations we set for ourselves. No culture encourages violence towards another for the satisfaction and enjoyment of a more dominant individual. No social norms set expectations of cruelty and abuse.

When we view consumerism from an angle of empathy and grace, it is clear that we are not following the life lessons that were so drilled into our heads as children. Since I made the choice to align my actions with my morals and beliefs, I have been flooded with a level of emotion and compassion that I have never experienced before. I never believed animal abuse was ethical, however I turned a blind eye to the practices that put food on my table. The suppression of another serves no value other than supposed satisfaction. The idea of finding pleasure at the expense of another is not, and has never been a mentality I desire to support.

People often ask me if going vegan has been difficult. Simply, my answer is always “no”. The choice to fuel my body with pure and nutritious food just makes sense. I walk away from meals satisfied, full, and guilt free. Initially, I thought I would just test out this lifestyle and see if it worked for me. I can now say with confidence, that my change of habits and consumption are one for life. The subject can be quite scary. Admitting to yourself that the way you act has many negative consequences. Many people often say that it is too late to change. Humans are powerful. We have the power to suppress and dominate. Imagine what we could do if we turned all of that negative energy towards promoting healthy and violence free lifestyles.