Nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. — Albert Einstein
Dominion: The idea that one group or entity exercises control, power, or authority over another, under the belief that they have the right to do so.
This heartbreaking documentary is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to watch. Through the use of hidden cameras, it exposes (illegally, of course) how all farmed animals are treated from birth to slaughter. The compilation of videos shows the ruthless confinement, torture, rape, entrapment, plucking, and murder of countless sentient beings rendered voiceless and faceless units of production in the name of human superiority.
Before I go on, I must clarify my intention with this blog post. What I hope to accomplish here is to openly and honestly discuss my reaction to this documentary. In doing so, I will not go into the gruesome details of what I experienced during the viewing (surely you can take time and view it yourself, if you dare), but instead I will discuss what my body experienced, the thoughts that came to mind, and the feelings that pursued. I will discuss the lasting impacts of this experience and the evolving story of my evolution to veganism and my most authentic Self.
From the moment the movie begins, my heart begins to race. The first few shots are only of the spaces that these animals are forcibly confined to and the tools we use to subdue and murder them. The thought that came to mind was that of a torture chamber of a madman; as though I was about to watch a horror movie where torture and murder would be inflicted for absolute pure pleasure (aka meat tastes good, and makes few powerful people $$$).
This was exactly what I witnessed.
The part that I struggled with the most, quite early on in the documentary, was when two fully-conscious, terrified pigs were kicked and shoved and pushed into a rotating gas chamber they fought hard to escape where they took their final agonizing breaths then eventually died by slow and dreadful suffocation. As this is showing, the narrator explains: “Lower concentrations of carbon dioxide would cause less pain and stress, but would take much longer to render the pigs unconscious, making it economically unviable.” Emphasis all mine. Economically Unviable. This is the world we live in. An “aha” moment of confirmation happens that my body has a difficult time processing. The dogma of economics prevails again. The suffering of this conscious individual is irrelevant. All that matters is the bottom line, and the bacon.
An overwhelming anxiety took over my body. I had to leave the room in absolute terror and disbelief of the cruelty that my very own species, myself included, is capable of inflicting.
After a conversation with one of the counsellors they had during the showing of the movie, I made a conscious decision not to look away from the suffering directly caused by my daily decisions, but instead to be courageous and face head-on the relentless Truth of my otherwise deliberately protected and glamourized Lie. The Big Lie that is masked so well by the plastic packaging encountered at the very end of the production line.
The Power of Dogma:
In our idiosyncratic beliefs, perpetuated and sustained by worldviews, values, and attitudes such as the ruthless bottom line and outdated family traditions, we believe that using animal products to our benefit is the natural order of things; that it is in the interest of our health to consume their milk and their flesh and their fur; that the animals we produce and consume live natural lives, in their natural environments, raising their babies, feeling loved and adored and respected. We accept that they are different from us, somehow less worthy. We assume the natural order of things: we feed these animals and in return they freely and willingly give their lives to us, and, when the time has to inevitably come, we humanely slaughter them.
This, my friend, is what we call living in delusion.
No farm animal in industrialized countries lives a full or natural life, regardless of what the feel-good labels on the plastic packaging suggests. “Their entire lives, from birth to death, are controlled by industries who care only for profit. An empire, of suffering and blood.” – Dominion
Because, “truth is, there is no humane way to kill someone who wants to live.” – Dominion
Indeed, that is the Truth, and this is the thought process it triggered in me: Presumably, you want to live. Suppose you have lived the fullest of lives you could, in the most natural conditions you can perceive of. Suppose, too, the time has inevitably come for you. What would you say is the most humane way for someone to slaughter you? Even in your own ideal way of being humanely slaughtered, would you willingly walk to your demise, specifically for the purposes of feeding the survival of some species?
I believe I can safely assume that your answer that absurd question is an imperious “Fuck, no!”.
Similarly, “no animal at a slaughterhouse walks willingly to their death” – Dominion.
So, why do we, humans, force certain animals we have deemed to be food or useful for fur or eggs or milk to live unnatural lives in confined spaces, tortured, and beaten until we ruthlessly slaughter them?
The answer here, I believe, is dogma. Otherwise known as cultural conditioning, or ideology.
“Long before we can shape our world, the world has firmly shaped us.” – Deb Ozarko
When we are born we are shaped by the ideologies and foundational assumptions of the society and culture we are born into. The beliefs, values, and attitudes we hold so dear are engrained in us via dogma before we are even born. It is from culture, systems, and institutions such as family, friends, schools, media, churches, politics, health care systems, legal institutions, corporations, and economics that we learn the collectively agreed upon story which becomes the “truth” by which we become “normal” citizens within the larger sphere of our civilized culture. Do not be fooled–these worldviews are so deeply and firmly entrenched and established that we perceive them as Truth our entire lives. We are taught not to question or dispute them or their intent, or else. The power dynamics at play become concealed by the countless methods employed to sustain the status-quo.
It is this type of groupthink that allows us to sustain and perpetuate outdated ideas, beliefs and values without question. How often have you wondered, why, for instance, we eat certain animals but not others, or why we bother eating animals at all?
A bit about me:
As a young girl living in the small cities of Albania, I was frequently exposed to the slaughter of animals in our yard or bathroom floors. I’ve witnessed the murder of birds, chickens, turkeys, and occasionally larger animals such as goats and sheep, and once, a cow. Every single time I would witness this, I would not be able to eat the animal that was cleaned and cooked and presented to me on my plate. I simply could not.
My family, indoctrinated by their family, culture, institutions, and dogma, persisted on persuading me to eat, because, this is what food looks like. Still, I had no interest in eating an animal that I witnessed alive just a few hours ago.
However, because of the persistent message that this is what food looks like coming at me from all sides, as soon as I did not witness the slaughter, I willfully ignored the fact that this animal on my plate or supermarket has also been slaughtered. I made a distinction between the animals my family slaughtered versus the ones that came pre-packaged in neatly wrapped plastic based on purely selfish reasons. Ignorance, they say, is bliss.
Remaining ignorant allows us to ignore much of the suffering that we pay to perpetuate in the world. We do not question our assumptions, and we live life as we’ve been told. As a child, I intrinsically knew that I did not want to participate in the murder of animals for my food; however, this line of thinking was readily defeated by the all-powerful, all-knowing culture I was growing up in.
There is one particular story that I can never forget. We had purchased a little lamb to be slaughtered for Ramadan. It is a given that as a small child, probably around 7 or 8, I became friends with this cute animal, and when the day came to slaughter it, I could not bear it dying. I was crying in my grandmother’s bed for hours, and I wouldn’t tell anyone why (because I knew what their reaction would be). Eventually, my grandmother that I was so close to came and started talking to me lovingly, to tell her why I was crying. So I did. Her reaction? “Don’t be silly! This is just food! We celebrate tonight!” My feelings toward the animal, or as my family saw it toward the food, were ridiculed, reduced, and dismissed.
This is how I learned to react to my gut instincts: ignore, disregard, minimize.
Hunger for More – the Choice Point:
Mata Yogananda Mahasaya Dharma once said, “You can walk about on this earth planet for years, working, eating and playing without any true realization that you are hungry for something else.” Indeed. I spent years captive to self-loathing, addiction, suffering. Separation was my learned identity — separation from my feelings, my thoughts, my circadian rhythm, nourishing food, soulful connections, the Earth, humanity, love, my Self. I felt alienated, denied, powerless, entitled, apathetic, indifferent, desperate, arrogant, ignorant… fearful. I felt disconnected and discontent. Years later, I have realized that, I along with everyone, have been conned, dumbed down, used…all in the name of sustaining the status quo.
“As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” – Pythagoras
I, for one, no longer want blood on my hands.
I carried on eating meat for many years, before realizing (over and over and over again): I have choice. Enter my long-standing vegetarian husband. This is when I began eating mostly vegetarian, healthy, home-cooked meals. Another “aha” moment — vegetarians are real, their food is healthy and delicious, and I can do this too! Well, after a particularly unpleasant incident involving the consumption of ribs making me quite ill, I decided to stop eating all red meat and chicken that day, and never looked back since. This is how I became a pescatarian for 4 years.
What I was able to put together is this: I do not have to eat animals to survive, it is not a survival necessity, therefore, it is a personal choice. It can be an informed, free choice, or it can be an indoctrinated, unconscious choice. Either way, though, it is a choice.
For me, this is a huge realization, because without awareness, there is no free choice. Where there is no free choice, there is no consciousness, no freedom. In an act of Soul liberation, I accept the Truth I’ve always inherently known: I am neither superior nor inferior to the creatures planed on this planet as I was. This worldview is allowing me to no longer buy into the line of thinking that kept me enslaved to my superiority complex, to my ego. So I became vegetarian.
Following some non-linear similar lines of thinking, once I experienced Dominion, it became crystal-clear to me that the rape, torture, and psychological warfare imposed on milking cows was simply not worth it. I confirmed with myself that I am not capable of inflicting that kind of pain and suffering on a nurturing, caring mother, because I want cheese.
“Choosing from the Soul is the ultimate act of revolution in our collapsing, dying world” – Deb Ozarko
Today, I am closer to living in alignment with my Soul than I have ever previously been. Slowly in my evolution I realized that I have to evolve beyond my cultural conditioning in order to experience life as my most authentic Self. Part of who I am meant to be is an unapologetically plant-based soulful goddess.
For many years what stunted my evolution is the limiting beliefs that I am but one person and my actions change nothing. Today I know better. To be clear, I know the world will not change because of my actions, and in any case, this is not my intent. My intent is to live in harmony with authenticity, with my Soul, simply for it’s own sake. This is what allows me distance myself from the beliefs, values, and attitudes that I deeply devalue, and instead to live a more connected, spiritual life.
It is imperative for me to live a spiritual lifestyle that advances social justice, fights climate change, and nurtures the Earth. Living kindly has become my mantra. Living in authenticity is the only lifestyle I consider spiritual. And it is the only lifestyle that will allow me to continue consciously choosing the right choices in order to manifest and live as the most authentic version of my Self, a self that is intimately and intricately connected to my Soul, my essence, my Sat Nam.
Without this, I will fall back to the default alienation that plagues our civilization.
Instead, I chose love. Love for myself, for my family, for all living beings, for the Earth, for spirituality, for consciousness. I choose kindness. I choose to make mindful personal choices and to consciously participate in healing. This is my small act of rebellion. It is the way to transform my fire into an energy that allows me to grow and mature and become the woman I am meant to be, the Soulful goddess that resides within me. The most powerful creature on this entire planet. The one who loves and lives in Truth and authenticity and chooses this path over and over, regardless of cultural conditioning and dogma. The fierce fiery force that I have always been–only this time, I don’t give it away, I don’t spread it too thin, I know where it lives, and I know how to channel it.
I know how to properly nourish it.