“You are one of God’s creatures, your life has value”

Heather Hernandez & Jeff HixonBy: Heather Hernandez

At nineteen, I was performing in Die Fledermaus in Rome when I was first introduced to the idea of plant-based living. I was having lunch with a colleague, and I noticed that she didn’t eat meat or dairy. Though I didn’t say anything about it at first, I was intrigued. I watched her eat nearly every day over the course of the next two weeks before my curiosity finally got the better of me. At a rehearsal, I blurted out, “Are you a picky eater, or what? Why don’t you eat meat or cheese?” She tilted her head, and asked, “Do you know how meat, cheese, and eggs are produced?” Of course I had no idea whatsoever, and when I told her as much she recommended that I watch Food, Inc. and read about animal agriculture. I told her that I would, but I followed my promise with teasing her about her eating habits. At that point, the maestro’s son, who happened to be listening to the conversation, jumped in and defended her. In his exotic Italian accent, he said, “Look at her skin, her tiny waist. Listen to her beautiful voice – clearly she is doing something right.” I couldn’t argue with him. She was, after all, gorgeous and immensely talented. When I got back from Rome, I watched Food, Inc., Forks Over Knives, and hours of footage from factory farms and slaughterhouses. It changed my entire perspective on life.

For many months, it was difficult for me to cope with the amount of suffering that I witnessed in these films. I had nightmares from the knowledge of the system I had been a part of. It seemed unreal that such atrocious crimes against animals and the environment were happening on such a wide scale and no one seemed to know about it. Almost all of the meat produced in our country comes from factory farms. Inside of factory farms, for example, pigs are routinely kept in gestation crates. The crates are so small that the pigs literally go insane. All they can do is sit down or stand up. They can’t move about—there isn’t any room! They don’t ever get to see the light of day. This is only one example of the many cruelties that happen to animals behind closed doors. I don’t believe that this is what God had in mind when he created the beautiful creatures we share our world with. I have looked in the eyes of animals and seen their souls. They are sentient beings that think, feel, and (according to research) even dream. They want to live. It is my firm belief that we are supposed to extend our compassion to all of God’s creatures.

One day, I went home and told my husband that we were no longer going to have meat in our house. He looked at me, stunned, and asked what I meant. I told him that if he brought meat into the house, I would throw it out, and I meant it. Over the course of a year, we continued to educate ourselves about animal agriculture, animal testing, and the various industries that exploit the animal kingdom.

In addition to documentaries, I took college courses on animals in literature, read U.S. slave narratives, and studied Kantian ethics. The Word of Wisdom even took new life in the context of caring for all of God’s creatures. Now, when I read the Word of Wisdom, I interpret it to mean that we should only eat meat when absolutely necessary and that it actively pleases God when we choose not to eat meat. In verse 13 it states, “It is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” With the abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains available to me year round, why would I ever need to eat meat? With refrigeration, greenhouses, modern farming, and shipping technology, there is an abundance of fresh food year round—hardly a famine if you ask me. In verse 15, the Lord once again emphasizes that the only time we should eat beasts or fowls is “in times of famine and excess of hunger.” When I pointed out verse 13 to my husband, he was surprised he had never noticed the phrase, “It is pleasing unto me that they should not be used . . .” It’s amazing how new knowledge can influence what you notice and how you interpret familiar ideas!

I went plant-based because I could no longer bring myself to support unethical businesses. I had to remove myself from the violent cycle and the commodification of animals. The only way to do that was to become vegan, and I have never once doubted my decision. I know that by being vegan, I am greatly reducing the amount of suffering in the world. I can no longer look at a piece of meat without thinking in vivid detail about how the animal was raised and slaughtered. For me, the health benefits of a plant-based diet are a plus, but they are not my motivation. Yes, my energy levels have increased and I rarely get sick, but ultimately it comes down to looking animals in the eyes and saying, “You are one of God’s creatures, and your life has value. I do not need to harm you, and so I won’t.”

Heather Hernandez is 24 years old. She graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She holds a degree in English and works as a consultant specializing in literature marketing. She enjoys reading, writing, singing, playing the piano, being in nature, and actively spreading awareness about compassionate living. She is a part of the Big Brothers Big Sister program, and she and her little Fatima are best friends.

Heather’s husband, Jeff Hixon, works as a Principal at a smart new ad agency, Digital Performance Marketing Group. While practicing a vegan “Word of Wisdom” diet now for three years, Jeff has seen an increase in energy, a drop in weight, and an overall increase in health and well-being. Jeff and Heather live in Santa Barbara, California with their four rescued rabbits.

You can listen to a fantastic interview of Heather and Jeff on the Mormon Vegetarian podcast, “From Opera to Okra.”

 

Comments

  1. I love Heather’s story! I often wish my story was like hers, that my heart had been big enough to switch to plant-based eating for the sake of the animals. Even if a plant-based diet had no positive affect on my health (or the environment), I now know that giving up animal foods for the sake of the animals is reason enough!

  2. “With the abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains available to me year round, why would I ever need to eat meat? With refrigeration, greenhouses, modern farming, and shipping technology, there is an abundance of fresh food year round—hardly a famine if you ask me.”

    Exactly!

    Thank you…

    • I be to admit, this is the first time i have heard the refrigeration argument for a plant based diet! However, there is also the phrase, “in the season therof.” Discovering when produce is in season in your area and trying to eat according to what the earth produces during your current season is challenging and fun! And, if we’re talking ethics of animals, we should also be discussing taking care of the earth by trying to eat locally. So many facets to this revelation. 🙂

  3. What a thoughtful piece. Because of digestive issues, raw veggies tear me and hold me captive in the loo! I dream of salads and raw crisp vegetables and even when cooked they still will give me a problem. Have been juicing and then they seem to be tolerated. Thanks again and agree with her feelings about animal welfare.

  4. Heather, I was deeply touched while reading your entry! Your’s is just one of a good number of submissions to my eldest child, Jane, where people tell how they were horrified after learning what actually goes on in slaughter houses. I know now that over the years the term ” slaughter house” just meant to me something that was very necessary in the process of providing humans with a very important and vital source of protein.

    Several decades ago I all of a sudden came down with an acute case of diverticulitis and the LDS doctor treating me asked the question, Don’t you know that the Word of Wisdom in our Doctrine and Covenants tells us that we shouldn’t eat the flesh of animals! (he had just learned from me that I was an employee of LDS Family Services) I had not long before actually eaten a meal at the main restaurant at Church Headquarters in Downtown Salt Lake City! That doctor let me know for sure it was the large helping of meat I ate then that quickly made me sick enough to seek medical help.

    He was very busy treating me for the terrible pains I was suffering (which were nothing compared to the suffering animals in slaughter houses in our otherwise great country constantly go through!) Therefor I didn’t ask him to explain more, but what he told me stuck with me but not enough to change my life right then! However, a number of years later during about three hours of one afternoon my dear oldest child, Jane, taught me what I had long overlooked in D&C 89: 10-21 where the Lord’s full truth about how we should eat. is right where every active member of this Church should have learned the truth about how the Lord wants us to eat, many years before we actually do! Now, I actually have much discomfort as I eat among other active members of this very special true Church at various Church events where we eat together!

    Actually, having been a practicing LDS Family Service counselor/practitioner many years ago (I’ve now been retired many years) and also one who did counseling on the side professionally, I’m actually embarrassed now that I didn’t let those verses in Section 89 of the D.&C. change my mind about eating animals many years before my dear daughter Jane, three years taught me what I should have learned on my own many years before!

    Actually, having done much professional counseling, I should have realized long before I actually did, that I was ADDICTED! to animal products of all kinds!!

    As I have mentioned in some more of the previous submissions like I’m doing right now, that I know addictions are very common in “good people” all around us when it comes to eating animal products. I’ve heard people say that they just couldn’t get by one single day without eating a certain burger which is provided by many food serving businesses!

    You who may be reading this should confront yourselves right now about the seriousness of the food addictions you most likely have right now!

    I’ve mentioned before that I was instrumental in helping LDS Family Services’ Addiction Recovery Program get started many years ago. They have become a very effective means of helping us get rid of our addictions, which include food addictions! Your ward bishop can provide you with instructions on where to find the nearest meeting you could begin attending and benefiting from. Some of those groups actually specialize in food addictions. You’ll most likely have to ask around about which group would best meet your food addiction needs!

    Best wishes to you, Heather and your dear family members; and to all of the rest of you who may be reading this! Neil Birch

  5. Love it! “I loved what you said: “I have looked in the eyes of animals and seen their souls. They are sentient beings that think, feel, and (according to research) even dream. They want to live. It is my firm belief that we are supposed to extend our compassion to all of God’s creatures.”

    It always pleases me to see so much positive change taking place regarding animals.
    Thank you everyone! Best wishes to you.

    -Owen

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