Column 'I can look an animal in the eye, knowing I'm not contributing to their suffering'

Becoming vegan has revolutionised my life as well as my thinking, writes Katie McEneaney.

AGED 9, I sat at the dinner table. Placed before me was a plate holding a paprika-coloured frankfurter sausage.

I poked and prodded at that red, shiny piece of meat and I innocently quizzed my mother on it’s origin. “Mam, what do you think it’s made of?” My mother hesitantly and reluctantly replied: “Katie, please eat your dinner”

I remember finding this answer deeply unsatisfactory but I failed to question it and I tucked in. After all, Mam knew everything.

Becoming increasingly disgusted by meat

Time passed and I found myself becoming increasingly sceptical and disgusted by the smell, taste and texture of meat. I couldn’t help but glare into the eyes of the cows housed next to us as I guiltily recalled sitting down to a steak.

At the age of 13 I received my first laptop. I spent hours performing elaborate investigations into the origins of the meat that sits on supermarket shelves as physical commodities, beside the rice and the tinned soup.

It seemed bizarre and disturbing to witness people throwing a leg of lamb into a shopping cart, without any feeling of remorse. How could such a low price be placed on the life of a once living, breathing animal?

My research had yielded some harrowing results

Spending hours watching documentaries, I witnessed animal heads being severed, male chicks being blended alive and cows getting whipped and beaten.

Cramped sheds overcrowded with hens. The evidence was gruesome, grim, nauseating and enough to reject the meat industry.

My mother had presumed vegetarianism was one of many phases that teenagers tend to go through and she didn’t pay much attention.

To her it was a source of embarrassment as I would comment in restaurants with pronounced disgust on the blood oozing from a rare steak or the stringy, pale fat rinds dangling from a rasher.

The vegan movement was taking off in 2014

Around 2014 there was increasing attention being drawn to the vegan movement, both online and in the world around me.

Powerful documentaries regarding animal abuse were aired on Netflix, buses were emblazoned with advertisements containing emotive vegan messages and a light had been shone on the ample health benefits associated with a vegan diet.

As a scientifically inclined pharmacy student, I trawled the literature in pursuit of credible evidence. Satisfied with my findings, I pulled myself off the fence and I became a passionate and committed vegan.

The benefits of a vegan life

I needed to explain rationally and clearly the benefits of cutting down on the consumption of animal products.

I made vegan meals for those around me, I explained how inexpensive vegan essentials are and the message I was most adamant to push was about the animals and about our own health as humans.

So much torture and abuse could be eliminated from this planet if we were to boycott the animal industry. Animal product consumption is one of the top modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular events and deaths could be evaded.

Since animal agribusiness is the largest source of greenhouse gases, land use and degradation, I strongly believe that veganism is the answer to preserving our limited and precious natural resources.

Food and health

Beans, lentils and grains are among the cheapest foods on the planet. The fruit and vegetable stalls on Moore Street offer produce at an incredibly low price, and the main supermarkets carry weekly offers on fruit and veg.

Breakfast consists of a bowl of porridge, topped with flaxseed and a piece of fruit. Lunch is typically soup or a salad at college.

Dinner varies, although I always incorporate my beloved sweet potato. To me, the arguments of a vegan diet being “expensive and unattainable” are redundant.

I take a daily multivitamin and get my bloods tested at 3-month intervals. No deficiencies have resulted so far on my vegan journey.

Some argue that taking a daily multivitamin is a compelling drawback, but I simply cannot comprehend this viewpoint. To me, remembering to swallow a tablet every morning bears no inconvenience.

I acknowledge the necessity of animal testing

As a future pharmacist, I acknowledge the necessity animal testing in furthering the development of novel pharmaceuticals.

From Bayer’s Aspirin in 1899 to the newest generation of anticancer drugs, preclinical trials involving animal testing are at present an inevitable and crucial aspect of the drug development process. The subject is of great contention among vegans.

Being vegan in a city such as Dublin is becoming increasingly effortless. Food outlets carrying vegan options are aplenty and restaurants are more than accommodating to my needs. Announcing to others that I am vegan generally sparks a great exchange. Most respond with positive curiosity, some with a degree of scepticism.

Becoming vegan has revolutionised not only my diet, but my life, and my way of thinking. I can now look into the eyes of an animal, knowing I am no longer a contributor to the adversity and torture they are defenselessly confronted with.

Katie McEneaney is a 21-year-old pharmacy student. She’s also a passionate and committed vegan.

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