Who do we think we are?// Nicole Vander Helm


“If we were to one day encounter a form of life more powerful and intelligent than our own, and it regarded us as we regard fish, what would be our argument against being eaten?”(Foer 121)

Over the course of 20 weeks, I never would have thought a core requirement class could possibly affect my life like Critical Thinking & Writing 1 & 2 both have. My attitude towards this class was that I was going to go, participate a little bit, hand in all the assignments, and be done with it and never speak of it again. However, it was the complete opposite. I never would have thought that I would find myself re-watching videos, re-reading books that Professor Leither showed and discussed with us in class. When I first received my schedule and saw that the topic for this class was going to be food, I was very confused. How could a class that is 20 weeks long, three hours and twenty minutes twice a week, possibly be devoted to the subject of food? Over the twenty weeks, Professor Leither has shown me that food is so much more than eating three meals a day, healthy vs. unhealthy food, and the different types of food that exist. One major takeaway from this class will definitely be our many discussions about factory farming and the truth behind it. 

I grew up in a household where my diet revolved around the consumption of meat. Being Italian, a huge tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation is having various cold-cut meat’s after dinner. In particular, my Nono, which is Italian for grandpa, would always let have salami and mortadella, two very delicious and popular meats in Italy on the table to eat. It was almost frowned upon to not have any meat after dinner. Also, my mom who does all the cooking in my household, always made meals that had some type of meat in it. They always consisted of a source of protein which was always chicken, steak, or salmon, some type of vegetable, and a carb of some sort. Vegetarian options were unspoken of when growing up, it just wasn’t what had been passed down from generation to generation.One of the first things we discussed in CTW 1 was factory farming and the truth behind it. We watched various documentaries and videos such as Meet your Meat and Cowspiracy,  both which discussed the truth behind how animals are really treated

batthens10_300_1Photo taken from”Farm Sanctuary.” Farm Sanctuary. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2016. <http://www.farmsanctuary.org/&gt;

behind closed doors. Watching Meet your Meat was a very emotional experience. I think what triggered my emotions was how oblivious I was to what was going on. Honestly, before this class, I never even considered or thought about where my meat came from. From watching these two films and reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, I learned that these animals are drugged, tortured, and then killed sometimes before any of them have even seen the daylight. They are crammed into cages so small that they cant even turn around, move, or breathe. What saddened me the most about being informed about this was how people, knowing what the truth behind the production of meat, still did not change they’re eating habits.

   In a collaborative essay assignment that was done in groups, we interviewed many people ranging from vegans to vegetarians to carnivores, and got their perspective on factory farming and meat consumption in general. When we asked the carnivore, who was a first year Santa Clara University student, whether she would change her eating habits and became a vegetarian now knowing the inhumane conditions that chickens, cows, and pigs go through, she said most likely not. We asked her why? How could she possibly eat meat knowing that these animals are viewed as objects, nothing more than source of protein, and are slaughtered inhumanly just because, ” Meat is very tasty and I love it …. can’t live without it!”.

     Seeing her answer that question in that way really opened my eyes, because that’s exactly how I felt about eating meat; that it was something I could not live without not only because I grew up with a meat rich diet just because the taste of meat is “delicious and incomparable”. Isn’t it just crazy how we have let out tastebuds drive us to the point that we are treating animals in such a treacherous way and whats even worse is that we as a nation have become completely numb to this issue. It has become a social normality that we treat animals as objects.

“We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?”( Foer 159)

       Abusive behaviour towards animals, particularly farm animals, is essentially rooted from the idea of human supremacy. Human supremacy has given human’s comfort in eating meat because if we are ever questioned if we feel bad for abusing animals, we can simply say “Well they are just animals” or “Well we’re human, it’s our right!”. This is our escape from having any remorse towards animals and what is done to them in family farms. A horrible excuse.

     Like I said earlier, learning about factory farms and the truth behind it has drastically changed my eating lifestyle. I decided to only eat meat once a week instead of 7 days a week which is how often I ate meat prior to taking this class. Was it hard? Yes, it was a huge different. The first month or so was very challenging, however after a month, I slowly lost the craving for meat and it became tolerable. Surprisingly, I actually feel a lot healthier. I do not at all regret making this change or miss eating meat every single day because I feel like I am positively contributing to solving this issue.

     In changing my dietary lifestyle, I learned how important the concept of awareness really is. Before watching various films and reading various books in Professor Leither’s class, I did not have a clue about what factory farming really was and the truth. Another video we watched in CTW 1 that was called This Is Water opened my eyes to how important awareness is. Awareness is always the first step in attempting to conquer an issue. I honestly believe that in order for a difference to be made, it is not necessary for everyone to become vegetarian. Of course it would be nice if that were the case, but that is not reality. I think that slowly cutting meat out of each and every one of our live’s is the first step in putting an end to this issue.

       Like in the video This Is Water by David Foster Wallace, we see how important awareness is and how crucial it is. This video is all about being aware, which leads to understanding, and in this scenario; patience with one another.

Wallace shows us somewhere we have all been; at the grocery store during shopping rush hour. He depicts how important being aware that we are all human and we are all struggling really is. For example, we see how some customers are very frustrated at how slow the cashier is taking care of each customer, however we know nothing more than that she is working a low income job, potentially struggling financially and possibly mentally.

This video most definitely affected my day to day life more than I thought it would. I used to be one of those people who easily got frustrated with workers whether it be at Benson(school cafeteria) or at Safeway. I used to roll my eyes and be quite rude if I had to wait in line for a long time. Now, when I am in Safeway and there is a big line, I take in what is around me and can understand that I am not the only one feeling impatient. Also, I now realize and understand that there is definitely someone in that line that is struggling way more than I am. Being aware of this has helped me in every aspect of my life whether it be relationships with family and friends, or looking at a situation with a different perspective. I am now able to see the bigger picture and that helps me get through times of frustration. I have learned self-awareness in that I am not the only person in this world, and that everyone has their own struggles; we are all in this together.

Awareness was the ultimately the foundation of all the topics we discussed in class whether it be factory farming or the Columbine massacre. Reading Columbine was definitely quite the emotional roller coaster. Was I supposed to hate Dylan Kelbold and Eric Harris? Who was to blame? Do we point the finger at their parents who should have seen and acted on the many warning signs in their childhood?

These were just some of the questions that came to mind when discussing columbine. This was definitely the most enjoyable part of CTW. Something that really stood out to me was the idea of human supremacy and I was so passionate about this that I based my entire final essay off of this idea.

I came to the conclusion that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were two kids that were sick of being bullied and social outcasts in high school and wanted to prove to the rest of the student body that they were not nobodies. They felt that the only way they could get their point across was to do something that would leave a long lasting legacy. The two boys were lacking feeling superior and they both struggled to fit in. It’s sad how the only way these two boys could get their message across was to conduct a school shooting massacre, one that will haunt columbine, the victims families, and the whole nation. When they had guns in their hands and saw the fear in the school’s faces, they felt a sense of accomplishment and like they were finally in control. It’s really hard to point the finger at just one individual. Also, its hard whether or not to sympathize for Eric and Dylan or to develop a strong hatred for them. However, the idea of human supremacy was why Columbine happened.

Just like humans feeling superior over animals, humans also feel superior over other humans because they believe that their lives are much more important and of value then someone else’s. Reading this book and researching about human supremacy, I have become much more aware and this has really benefited me. It has really taught me that most of the time, I know people’s names, a little bit about them, but no where near their whole life story. Columbine has inspired me to really focus on being a better person because you never know people’s situation outside the classroom, and you may be way better off then them. Going out of your way to interact with someone who might be considered a social outcast may end up giving them a taste of fitting in and potentially saving their lives and other innocent lives down the road. You really never know.

So as you can see, I gained so much from taking this class and being taught by Nick. He really challenged me to think above and beyond and to ask questions that I normally would never even think of. I learned so many life lessons, and have a whole new dietary lifestyle because of this class in which I could not be happier about. Looking at the bigger picture, this class really revealed to me how precious each one of our lives are. Whether you are looking at it through the Columbine massacre lens or the factory farming lens, life is so valuable and can be taken away from us at any given moment.

As a human being, being superior intellectually should not be used to exploit animals, however I think we should use this for the common good. We need to stop being selfish and we need to start looking at these animals as a treasured life rather then an object. Although this is close to being inevitable, through CTW 1 & 2, I learned that even though rising above an issue seems impossible, the concept of awareness at least gives it a chance to be successful. Without awareness, the chances of for example everyone consuming less meat or even becoming a vegetarian become very slim because if people aren’t aware of the facts, then why would they potentially make a change.  All in all, this class was such an enjoyment and I took away so many things that have and will continue to directly affect my life for the good.






Works Cited:

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.

Jermsmit1. “This Is Water – David Foster Wallace.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 06 June 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?

v=pfw2Qf1VfJo>.Vitalitylifestyle. “Meet Your Meat.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 June 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32IDVdgmzKA&gt;.








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