It is rare that a student in my class makes me pause and reflect on my ways. But when it happens, it is a very powerful feeling I can not shake off easily.
See there was this girl, or rather woman, standing in front of class in her sweatshirt and long blonde hair, a bit jittery due to her nervousness I think.
Yet when she started speaking about why she is a vegan and explaining why “we“ eat meat, that was gone. She spoke with a passion that made the rest of class listen attentively. Moreover, she demonstrated a clarity of thoughts and values that I find you rarely see in young adults these days. That I was impressed is an understatement.
Her message was clear. In our society, we have come to accept that we eat the meat of certain animals but not the meat of others, that we consider as beautiful or friends or pets. Nobody would eat a Golden retriever stew or a swan wing. This acceptance has made us desensitize ourselves; the fact that all animals have feelings and a life they can enjoy is not present in our minds anymore. She further stated that all of us grow up with this acceptance of “normal“ = eat meat, and “other“= vegetarian or vegan; yet that normal does not mean it is the only way, or the right one. (She then showed a video of the meat industry that broke my heart in more than one way…)
When discussing this in front of class, she managed to be clear on where she stands, yet totally unaccusing. Her message was nothing new to me, to be honest; the facts I had. It was her way of conveying this message that stirred something up in me. Her empathy mostly, I think.
I came home yesterday to pet my cats and was deeply disturbed by the ham in my fridge.
My sister is a vegetarian, as his her boyfriend. I have colleagues and friends that refuse to eat meat, for various reasons. None of them have ever made me question my ways for one second and consider to stop eating meat myself. My student has.
P.S.: Only one of the reasons I love my job.