Since switching, I've met a variety of vegans from various backgrounds. The amount of people that switched to veganism at some point in their lives vastly outnumbers those that were raised to respect animals. I frequently ask the vegans in the former category if they can recall any indicators that foreshadowed their eventual switch. Most can find various experiences in their past that set them on the path to a vegan lifestyle. The following is one such instance from my past.
When I was around ten years old, my family joined a group of people heading to Wisconsin for a vacation. I can only remember bits and pieces of the trip without the aid of pictures, but our trip to a buffalo ranch has never left my memory. With all of the tourist spots in Wisconsin, I'm still not sure why a buffalo ranch visit was added to the itinerary. After being welcomed to the ranch, we were given a brief tour before being introduced to the buffalo.
The other children and I were stoked to see the animals. Our tour guide stood nearby, giving information about the buffalo, but we were more focused on watching them move and feeding them. They walked around a bit -- much slower and calmer than I expected. I still remember marveling at how such a large, seemingly powerful creature could be so gentle. They calmly ate the corn cobs we offered and wagged their tails with joy. I remember watching one of the closer ones poop. In typical ten-year old fashion, I giggled and nudged my cousin to point it out. Once we had passed out the last of the corn cobs, we were led into a dining hall.
After sitting through what seemed more like a sermon than a prayer, I finally grabbed the hot dog I had been eyeing. While waiting for the ketchup, I overheard the tour guide say that the hot dogs and burgers were made from buffalo. I waited for a "just kidding" and when it didn't come, I dropped the hot dog. With a face full of shock, I turned to my cousin, who had also dropped his. We didn't say much, if anything, but neither of us touched our plates. I remember being amazed that the massive, benevolent animals I had seen only minutes earlier had been reduced to...a hot dog. I'd hand fed these creatures and now they were being fed to us?! Judging from their actions, no one else around the table had the same thoughts.
Eventually hunger overpowered my cousin's abhorrence and he slowly began to eat. My memory is fuzzy but we may have been told that there were no alternatives and that if we didn't eat what (*WHO*) we were given, we would have to wait until dinner. I waited until later -- when I probably ate some other, more familiar creature. Unfortunately, it took more than a decade before I was able to fully make the connection between the animals on my plate and their living relatives that I would never have the courage to kill and eat. I can't help but wonder how much sooner I would've shifted had someone been around to discuss the deep dissonance that I was dealing with.
The experience did highlight what I believe to be true: most children look at animals with deep love and profound wonder, They have no desire to shove a knife into an animal's throat for a burger. Most people don't have that desire. It's just not worth it. It isn't fair to children to teach them to love one animal and to use another. Such tangled thinking certainly doesn't do the animals any favor. The peace of mind that comes with knowing no one needed to die for your sustenance is priceless.