Call me an extremist. Say that I'm a hippy, vegan, vegetarian, fanatical, idealist. Tell me that these views are unrealistic and going to destroy the lives of countless farmers. Tell me this is just crazy. Make a joke about it.
It's hard to talk about eating animals without getting defensive, angry, sad and judgmental. I feel it. You feel it. So let's all, you and me both, take a step back, take a deep breath and look at what is really going on here.
Fact: Livestock production is destroying the earth.
If you need a reason to change your diet that's more than the unbearable torturing of animals, then here it is: 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production. Compare that to the 13 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide that come from transport. Holy shit, right?
To produce animal products, up to 10 times more land is needed than to produce vegetable products. It takes about six to seven kilograms of feed to create just one kilogram of meat. How inefficient is this? Land is being ploughed down and destroyed just to create space to grow grains to feed animals. Did you know this?
Fact: Animals are being tortured so that you can eat steak, drink milk, have bacon and eat cheese.
Piglets are castrated after birth and have their tails cropped without anesthetic. Egg producing hens have their sensitive beaks clipped and are moved around on factory belts like playthings. Chickens and turkeys often become crippled under their own weight, selectively bred to grow fatter than is naturally possible.
Dairy cows are stripped of their newborns, forced to give milk even when they have infected, sore udders. Even the organic, free-range proclamations are so often a tragic myth. In many cases, the only difference between factory farmed organic meat and dairy is the lack of hormones and antibiotics. It's not all green pastures and happy living for most. How does this make you feel?
Fact: Cats, dogs, pigs, goats, chickens -- they're all animals and they're all sentient beings.
Why is there so much uproar when domestic animal abuse is uncovered but barely any attention is paid to the horror that is breeding sows, kept in cages too small to turn around or even greet their new babies?
Dare I say it: eating a pork chop is the same as eating your cat. All animals' lives matter and when someone says, "I love animals" while eating a hamburger, there's just too much disassociation there for me to bear.
Deep breath. Non-judgment.
Fact: You don't need meat and dairy to be strong and healthy.
What you've grown up believing is a myth. In fact, a plant-based diet can give you everything you need and more. The important thing to note is that it's not simply about taking away the steak and eating what's left.
Being vegetarian or vegan means learning about food. It's a chance to get creative, to try new things and to make empowered decisions about what you choose to consume. With a plant-based diet, you'll be reducing your risk of obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, colon cancer and a slew of other health-related problems. You'll poop more often and I'm willing to wager life will be sweeter.
Fact: It might be hard to change but you can do it.
You're capable of so much and if you choose, you can change the way you consume food. You're boundlessly compassionate and empathetic and you're not interested in being a part of a torture chain/ planet destruction scheme. I believe this about you.
I know life is hard enough. There's so much to think about and manage and so many things we work hard for and feel like we deserve. But what happens when getting what you want comes with a great big bad toll? Is it worth it then to turn a blind eye?
Follow Lacey Haynes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thelaceyhaynes