When I was seventeen, I was eating a piece of chicken on the back porch when Quistis and Beula, two of the family hens, hovered begging. I indulged my pets with all fondness, and felt unsettled. How was the animal on my plate different than the pets I was sharing my meal with? Chickens were my favorite animals; I bonded with them like people bond with their dog or cats. So why was it I could eat a chicken I had never met, but the thought of doing the same to a cat turned my stomach? Identifying this discomfort was one of many catalysts that continues to shape who I am.
Animal rights was a gateway for me; it was the first theory I deliberately studied and consciously practiced. Something didnâ€™t feel rightâ€”my relationship with my pets and my foodâ€”so I read what I could find to try and learn more. Part of me was hoping to find justification to continue living the way I always had. Maybe factory farms werenâ€™t so bad? That wasnâ€™t so. I was appalled by what I learned about animal agribusiness, and animal rights theory offered a concrete actions I could take for change in my own life: ceasing activities that cause direct harm to sentient creatures with the ultimate goal of ending human exploitation of nonhumans. It seemed daunting, but Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs by Karen Davis was the deciding text that convinced me veganism was a doable option for me. Finally, somebody who cared about chickens as much as I did.
Animal rights introduced me to the concept of dominion, the cruelty in the capitalism machine, and the way the groups are arranged in oppressive hierarchies. It also taught me about change, how an entire shift in values and accepted norms was needed to move away from a world in which sensory pleasure of the elite is gained at the suffering of other sentient beings. Unlike the other social issues I was aware of as a teen, I had veganism as an avenue of agency, prompting change through my own personal actions. Veganism empowered me and gave me control over my own life as a participant in a society that relied on apathy. Veganism prepared me for feminism, and Iâ€™m still exploring the ways they coincide.
(This is a revised introduction to an academic paper adapted to a blog post.)