Kindness and compassion are the true measures of a man. Could going vegan get you there?
At 62, I assumed that all those life-altering moments had been signed, sealed and delivered. You know, when the invisible fist raps you on the brainpan and a voice that’s not yours screams, “WAKE THE HELL UP!”I had already done marriage (33 years and counting), had two sons, a couple of grandkids, and an invigorating new job. No complaints from me. No more life-altering moments. Kill the lights on your way out. Thanks.
… So much for assumptions.
Not long ago, I watched—made myself watch—a documentary called Earthlings. I cringed (and I don’t cringe easily). When I almost cried, I tried turning away. Remember Alex in A Clockwork Orange, straitjacketed into his seat while footage of man victimizing man played in a cruel loop?
In Earthlings, animals are the victims. Using hidden cameras and grim footage shot in slaughterhouses and circuses, puppy mills and test labs, writer/director Shaun Monson, a Los Angeles–based filmmaker and activist, lays bare the atrocities humans commit for the sake of … everything.
- Animals are exploited for food. A pig writhes in agony on the floor of a crowded, filthy pen while others are shot in the head with a bolt gun.
- Animals are exploited for fashion. At a fur farm, a skinned … fox (?), glistening with blood and exposed muscle, painfully looks up and blinks.
- Animals are exploited for science. A baboon, whose head is cemented into a metal helmet, is strapped down for a skull-pounding experiment on head injuries.
- Animals are exploited for entertainment. A profanity-spewing elephant trainer shows a new employee how to dig and twist a bullhook into an elephant’s flesh to make her obey.
It’s not pretty, not even close. But the film, which is narrated by actor Joaquin Phoenix, is important. After 95 minutes, I was a changed man, again. The clarity was cleansing.
True confession: I’d been a quasi-vegetarian since my boys were sprouts, and I’d fallen off the bandwagon more than a few times. Hey, I was trying. What harm is a piece of salmon? A cheese omelet? Ice cream? Besides, I love my dogs. My cats, too.
But after watching Earthlings, trying wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
I was ashamed. I also finished it a true-blue vegan. The transition was easy. The meals—quick-to-the-table stuff like veggie franks and beans, a fancier stir-fry with tofu and faux chicken—are tasty and the recipes are a snap.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently dealt a gut punch to bacon lovers by announcing that processed meats—bacon, sausages, ham, hot dogs, jerky, you name it— are carcinogenic, as potentially lethal as tobacco, asbestos and sun lamps. Snap into a Slim Jim? I’ll pass. Red meats are in the same league. The WHO listed them as probable cancer hazards.
I’ve got a pretty good guess what you’re thinking right now—something along the lines of, “What the (fill in blank) does this (fill in blank) know?” It’s a fair question. You don’t know me from squat. So let me trot out a few guys you might know who also don’t buy into the myth that it’s the size of the bacon cheeseburger that makes the man.
David Carter To keep himself in primo quarterback-feasting shape, the NFL lineman sticks to a strict vegan diet. The 300 Pound Vegan also is a dedicated animal-rights activist. Score!
Patrick Baboumian The strongman has won enough bench, squat and other lifting titles to fill a book. After years as a vegetarian, he went vegan in 2011 and is still going, ahem, strong.
Georges Laraque The tough guy patrolled NHL ice for four teams and went vegan in 2009, his final season. What convinced him to switch? He watched Earthlings. Imagine that.
Jim Morris You just think bodybuilding and vegan eating don’t mix. The former Mr. New York, Mr. California, Mr. America, Mr. Universe made the change at 65. At 80, he’s still buff.
Pat Neshek The veteran right-hander helped the Astros reach the MLB postseason this year. “It’s pretty neat to know you don’t have to use animal products and can still function,” he says,
OK, that’s more than a few, but you get the idea. No? Fine, race car drivers Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly, former NBA mainstay John Salley and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey are on board, too.
I’ve got one more argument. There’s no question that eating vegan-style is way kinder to animals, who live miserably and die horribly to fill someone’s plate.
And by my accounting, kindness and compassion are the true measures of a man.
Yeah, yeah. There he goes again.
But, if you’re like me and don’t think twice about sticking it to The Man, the vegan way just might put some swagger in your step. Look, I don’t need some Madison Avenue pencil-pusher’s idea of an Aussie or a recycled Kentucky colonel telling me I’ve got to eat steak or greasy fried chicken. I call my own shots. Don’t like it? See that line?
My wife’s noticed the new me, if you get my drift. Even my dogs, Turk and Max—two of the best friends any guy could ever have—are into their alpha’s new attitude. They don’t let me out of their sight. I’m thinking about renaming them The Attachments.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling better. I’m sleeping better, too. A clear conscience does that.
Go vegan. You’ll be a better man for it!
Photo credit: Getty Images