What It’s Like to be Green-Pilled

It’s kind of cliche now, I know, to talk about being “red-pilled” Matrix-style into a new frame of thinking. It’s probably going out of style. But I haven’t had a chance to use the analogy to my liking yet, so it will have to remain cool for the next five to ten minutes.

The red pill, of course, is what Neo takes before finding out the truth in The Matrix. It enables him to see everything clearly. I don’t want to get into how “red-pilling” has been appropriated by online communities to describe one’s transition toward unsavory views about women and politics.

An acknowledgement of the plight of animals can be thought of as taking a green pill, marking the awakening that leads one toward vegetarianism and, hopefully, veganism. It’s green because veganism is friendly to the environment and often involves eating a lot of vegetables. Cute, right?

My process of becoming green-pilled occurred over several months or even a year. I hadn’t thought much about vegetarianism until senior year of high school at the very earliest. I’m pretty sure I just thought it was vaguely a cool thing to do. I remember watching the documentary Food, Inc., the content of which I cannot recall in any way, shape, or form, and becoming more conscious of the existence of vegetarians. I watched a few more documentaries, which I similarly cannot remember, and a few months into college I went vegetarian.

But I was one of those naive vegetarians, thinking that I was doing everything I could for animals while still consuming copious amounts of milk, cheese, and eggs. There were certainly other vegetarians in my first year in college, which is par for the course in Boston, I suppose.

By sophomore year of college, I had had my political beliefs challenged sufficiently enough that I was rethinking just about every belief system I had. I was never conservative growing up, but I was a more conspiracy-oriented libertarian. I shamefully admit that I listened to Alex Jones and Stefan Molyneux, countless hours that I should have spent reading books. By my second year of college, I fully renounced these frauds, embraced the leftist skew of campus culture, and was all-in on Occupy.

There I encountered numerous vegans, though they were still a minority. I watched as groups like Food Not Bombs fed hungry people vegan meals. I followed on social media many of the characters associated with Occupy Boston and Occupy Wall Street, many of whom were outspoken vegans. At some point, I watched Gary Yourofsky’s speech. You know the one. I watched documentary after documentary, featuring footage of baby cows being separated from their mothers on dairy farms within hours of birth and egg-laying hens crammed into battery cages. I watched videos of Animal Liberation Front activists breaking into fur farms and releasing thousands of animals.

I gradually transitioned from a vegetarian who believed he was doing everything he could to a vegetarian that acknowledged that his diet didn’t make much ethical sense. I went from having a distant respect for vegans, with a “I wish I could do that, too, but it looks so hard” attitude to someone who stopped making excuses and realized that it’s not as hard as people think it is. Finally, I recognized that placing the animals we eat — cows, pigs, and chickens — into a separate moral category as cats and dogs, who we would never justify killing and eating, makes absolutely no sense. Simply put, I was confronted with facts about biology and evolution that I could not ignore.

It took a long time, and it was admittedly bitter to swallow, but that’s how I was green-pilled. My only regret is swallowing only half at a time.

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