Like many people, Covid has drastically changed both my internal and external world. I was only about a month and a half into my last semester of college at Hofstra University when the virus first hit. In an instant, my college career seemed to be ending, giving me no time to get the closure I needed to say goodbye to this momentous chapter in my life. In all the panic, I was also unable to see many of my friends before moving back home. It was devastating. I quite literally went through the five stages of grief.
After an initial period of immense denial, I became extremely angry. As it goes with anger, it needed to be directed at something specific, so naturally, the coronavirus itself and its origins plagued my consciousness. Although the source of the virus was unclear at the time, it continues to be clear that the exploitation of animals played a significant role in the spread of Covid, as is the case with many infectious diseases.
I was furious that these cruel acts—which I have been fighting against for many years as an animal rights activist—were a key factor in the outbreak which caused this devastating global crisis. It dawned on me, more than ever before in my life: our actions have consequences that impact all life on Earth—human beings across the world, the animals in our homes and those in the natural world, the rainforests, and bumble bees. Thus, our “personal” choices are really not so personal. This is an unavoidable fact. These ideas may seem obvious to most, but they have never been more obvious now, in this moment in time, as we face catastrophic global issues like infectious diseases and climate change. This epidemic, in particular, is giving us the insight, we need to expand our awareness so that we can fully reflect on our actions and be truly accountable forthem.
Covid is a particularly powerful messenger of these ideas, because this virus is affecting us in very personal, immediate, and tangible ways; it threatens both our own safety and the safety of our loved ones and we can clearly see countless people dying every day. Thus, it is important that we face these difficult realities and let them motivate us into taking preventive action so that we are not faced with yet another epidemic in the future.
Even though the source of Covid is not completely clear, through witnessing similar phenomena we can clearly see that infectious diseases easily form and spread when animals are treated as mere objects. In the United States, diseases such as bird flu, swine flu, and mad cow disease were all born from animal agriculture. In addition to creating infectious diseases, animal agriculture is the leading cause of habitat destruction, species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and climate change. This powerful information personally compelled me to go vegan three and a half years ago. I realized, by purchasing animal products, I was inherently aiding in the destruction of the planet as I was “voting with my dollar,” thus creating a demand for these products and in turn, requesting that these destructive and unjust acts continue. I realized that if I wanted to continue living on Earth and in harmony with all life, for the many years to come, I needed to make choices that would ensure our collective survival.
Through these observations, it is ultimately quite apparent that consuming animal products and purchasing products tested on animals is not only unsafe, but a true threat to our own health and well-being as well as destructive to the environment. Although these reflections are rather uncomfortable and inconvenient to acknowledge, they are the truth. The truth that we must contemplate and comprehend. And we must be open to change, and choose to change for the greater good so we can live in peace with one another and in harmony with the Earth.
I spent this Thanksgiving at the Agape Community, where we celebrated with a delicious vegan meal. I am so thankful that I can enjoy all of my favorite foods and no animals have to suffer because of my choices. I think of their suffering every day.
Katya Freitas has been interning at Agape since October and has contributed immeasurably to all aspects of community life. If you have questions or would like to learn more, you can email Katya: firstname.lastname@example.org