“Question everything generally thought to be obvious.” – Dieter Rams
As a child, I absolutely LOVED meat. I still love meat, but not in the way I used to. Every dinner up to my senior year in high school consisted of either steak, meat, or pork. I would throw fits when meat was absent from our dinner table. My father was a big reason why I ate so much meat. He would always say, “Eat all of your meat otherwise you will be weak and soft.” I would eat and eat until every bit of meat was gone and I never questioned if this was good for me or not. I never knew the harm I was causing or the process behind eating meat. To top it off, I thought all people who didn’t eat meat were soft, dope-smoking hippies which included vegetarians and vegans. Looking back now, my ignorance was horrendously uneducated and embarrassing. My parents and grandparents refer to vegetarians and vegans as hippies, so I guess I just picked it up along the way. Never questioning the thought process behind calling a certain group hippies based off of their dining preference. I was not aware of how mentally strong and devoted people need to be to abstain from meat totally. This ignorant phase of my life would continue up until half-way through my first quarter at Santa Clara University.
Before heading off to college my grandpa and dad sat me down, and said, “You need to stay strong and stick to the family beliefs. Don’t let any hippie professor change your mind!” And on first Monday of school at 5:45 pm, the Professor comes into class late with a syllabus reading “Food Porn” and my conservative alarm went off in my brain. After he reads the book requirement and a summary of what we were learning, all I could think was, “this was the hippie professor my dad and grandpa were talking about, and he is going to try to turn me into a vegetarian hippie!” After the first couple of class meetings late in the afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays, I really started to open up and listen to what Professor Leither had to say even though most of it went against my prior ideology instilled into me through my family and upbringing. Undoubtably it was hard for me to participate because what Professor Leither and my classmates would say would really infuriate me, but overtime I started to really listen and buy into what he was saying. This class not only changed my views, it truly transformed who I was as a person and a citizen of society.
“I thought all people who didn’t eat meat were soft, dope-smoking hippies which included vegetarians and vegans.”
After my ignorance and close-mindedness faded away, I realized that the world is not what it seems. The seemingly utopian view of society was rattled to the core and the truth was exposed during the hours of 5:25-7:10pm every Monday and Wednesday. The content that was being discussed by Professor Leither truly enlightened me and made me think for my self. The process of thinking for myself and forming my own opinions was a process unknown to me. All past bias and prejudices were hammered into me by my very closed-minded family. Although I felt enlightened, I felt very betrayed and emotional. I would always think, “Why didn’t my parents tell me or why didn’t the government disclose any of this important information to the public. It was very hard to deal with at the time. We discussed the topics of food industries/sustainability and violence in the modern world which helped form the foundation for the start of my academic career here at Santa Clara University. Through the research and analysis of the dilemmas in the food industries and the horrible acts of violence that occurs in society, I have learned to be more aware of everything around me and to question everything.
“To find yourself, think for yourself.” Socrates
I play for the Men’s Soccer Team at Santa Clara University and my nutrition is something that is very vital to me. Training everyday, sometimes twice a day with games on the week takes a lot out of the body. Especially with extra fitness and weights after practice, the body needs to be replenished with the proper nutrients so it can recover and perform the next day. Not mention, any extra weight or fat on my body as a midfielder would make me slower and would prevent me from playing to my full potential. Besides meat, I was completely addicted to orange juice. I would hydrate with orange juice instead of water after every practice or game. Little did I know that this was actually hurting me and preventing me from playing at 100%. Professor Leither put on a documentary called FED UP , narrated by Katie Couric, which showed how the Government is lying and poisoning or food and drinks with excess amounts of sugar that is causing obesity in America. The film shows government paid scientists saying that Coca Cola is in fact good, healthy drink for Americans. During this film I was in shock and mad, I was thinking how could the government let this happen and how could I be so stupid? I should have more aware of this. Ever since the video, I have stopped drinking orange juice entirely and I have been noticing the difference ever since. Excess fat through my body has been shed off and my endurance has tripled because I am drinking water instead of orange juice. Without the documentary, I would not have progressed as much as I have done today. I also learned that I need to be more aware of what is going into my body and to question what the Government “says” is good for me.
The next two documentaries shown in class in close proximity to each other conveys a powerful message about the atrocities that happen within Factory Farms and the effects of animal agriculture on the world.
After getting a taste of the class and realizing that it wasn’t just the old vegetarian guilt program, we were shown the PETA-made Meet Your Meat video narrated by Alec Baldwin about the gruesome reality of animal cruelty in factory farms. The video started off with workers tossing turkeys around and beating them with metal poles to a man ripping a piglet’s penis off with his bare hand. I was completely unaware that millions of animals each day are subjected to this torture and suffering just so we could have meat on the table. This documentary was a totally new concept for me and I have never believed that this was happening. I am an avid animal lover who absolutely loves chickens and I was completely shocked. My overall reaction was pissed off! First, at the fact that factory farms just abuse and slaughter so many animals and that I never knew about this. I felt betrayed by the higher ups in society who knew about this and never said a word about this. To be honest, it didn’t effect my meat consumption but the film made me think.
The next film was not nearly as gruesome, but even more shocking in my opinion. Cowspiracy is about Kip Andersen’s journey to find out what is really going on with climate change and other worldwide issues. Kip demonstrates through various interviews that the Government and various “green” groups have been lying to us about water usage and green house gas emissions, while the problem is not us, but animal agriculture. One of the shocking facts is that it takes 660 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. Something else that amazed me is that people can and will get sued by these major corporations to maintain their brutal regulations if they start asking questions. If the government and corporations are lying about this stuff, what else could they possibly lie about??
Our book assignment was Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer which is a book about the cruelty committed all over the world on many species of animals. Foer does massive amounts of research on the subject and he starts out with the oath farmers have with animals which says”I will give you a good comfortable life, but in the end I will kill and eat you. Foer describes how the oath slowly faded away because of the corporations and how it has effected species we consume and even some we don’t. He shed light on the brutality that few of us are aware of. He makes his readers aware of what is truly going on in the world of animal agriculture.
The essay assignments challenged me to come out of my conservative, stubborn shell and ask questions about commonly held ideas. On my first essay, I wrote about the problems of overfishing and after hours of research I learned more than I did in the first eighteen years of my life. I found out that millions of fish and other sea creatures get killed by fisherman and are just thrown back into the ocean. Also the lack of fish in the ocean has forced predators such as sharks to come closer to shore. My next essay is about how milk is not a necessity and it is doing more harm than good unlike I previously thought. I found out through the documentaries and more research that milk is made in the farms here the cows are held stationary for their entire lives. Not to mention, milk actually has a very negative effect on the body. I have learned so much about CTW 1 even though it was extremely hard for me to open up. I really started to push out of my prior beliefs and started thinking for myself to form my own opinions and ideas. Professor Leither challenged me to think about the ideas he was presenting and then form my own opinion.
CTW 2 started off with a group project for us was about the abuse and misunderstanding of chickens. For this project, I did more of the busy work and had the follower role. I set up various interviews with chicken owners and spent lots of time on research. This role was new to me because I usually assume a leadership role but it was a great experience at the other side of the totem pole. I am came into CTW 2 with a slightly better attitude than before but still I was having trouble listening to what was being said.
Our next reading assignment was Columbine by Dave Cullen who does a great job recreating the actual events based off of interviews and detailed eyewitness accounts. The book is about two seemingly normal high schoolers who shot up their school. The book the goes into accounts of the boy and the people involved in the massacre. When I started reading this book, I was confused. I thought this class was about veganism and animal cruelty and how bad corporations are! This book seemed to be extremely out of place. The book and the event made me critically think about what truly happened and whether or not it was inevitable. I came up with the conclusion that yes, both these boys were mentally ill, but that does not excuse the fact that they still did the act with little resistance. I said that the community of Columbine was not aware of the plot because they were not observant and didn’t think critically. I thought this book was a lesson this class was based on, we need to think critically about everything and we need to ask questions when things seem out of place. The parents of Dylan and Eric did not think critically and totally ignored the warning signs which lead to the massacre.
“I really started to push out of my prior beliefs and started thinking for myself to form my own opinions and ideas.”
Currently, I am still a closed-minded conservative piece of shit, but I have made many strides to think for my self and question what I don’t understand. Although Professor Leither is a vegetarian, I don’t consider him a dope-smoking hippie. I have the utmost respect for the guy because he has expanded my horizons and made me question my prior beliefs. This class has really changed who I am and will make my college career much more worthwhile. I was at the store with my parents the other day and they wanted to buy me steak for dinner and I can’t refuse steak. I went over to the Open Nature section and picked out a steak. And my dad said,”What are you a p*ssy not? Go get a T-Bone!” I refused. This is one of the many example of how far I have come. This class has taught me to question every part of my life and make a change. I have learned to think for myself which is something I was never able to do.
Cowspiracy. Dir. Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. Netflix. Leonardo DiCaprio, 25 Sept. 2015. Web. 26 May 2016.
Cullen, David. Columbine. New York; Boston: Twelve, 2009. Print.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
Meet Your Meat. Dir. Bruce Friedrich and Cem Akin. Perf. Alec Baldwin.YouTube. PETA, 2002. Web. 2 June 2016.