I’ve been a vegetarian for somewhere around 17 years now. People look at me funny when I tell them that, half-admiring and half, “wow you’re crazy” but too polite to actually say that. I was never a big meat eater, not that I recall anyhow, so it didn’t feel like a big switch to me. I was a pastaterian for many years where I lived mostly on dried goods like pasta, ramen noodles, et al, and barely noticed the lack of meat. Of course, I was seriously poor for most of that period, too, and couldn’t have afforded much in the way of “good” meat so it was probably safer, if not very healthy.
I’ve always said that people who ate meat didn’t bother me. That I could “man the grill” (and had) at parties and that even hunting was fine, so long as people used what they killed; i.e. no trophy hunting. Most of the time, I didn’t even think much about being an ovo-lacto vegetarian (someone who eats dairy/eggs) and really, I should have officially been considered a pescatarian (someone who eats fish) all that time, because I ate sushi and fish, too.
All of that time, I claimed I was a vegetarian for “health reasons,” because saying otherwise made me uncomfortable and I already had so many labels (fat, queer, female, single, agnostic) that to deal with one more was just too much to deal with. But I remember the reason I switched in the first place and it had nothing to do with my health. I was still living in MA at the time and worked near this family run farm that had a deli with the most awesome sandwiches around. Then Thanksgiving came around and I went there for lunch one day only to be shocked by a few smallish cages out front with live turkeys. You could pay to pick your turkey and have it slaughtered for Thanksgiving. I was horrified. I came face to face with the notion that yes, my food at one point was a living creature and guess what? It was killed so I could eat a sandwich or have a feast with my family. Horrified became sickened and I turned around and went to the grocery store and got some pasta for lunch.
You would think that with that kind of wake-up call, I’d’ve become a vegan right off the bat, but I didn’t. There was a disconnect in my brain that said, “no! don’t! too radical!” and I went to the middle ground of claiming to be a vegetarian instead. I remember my mother being really irritated at the time. “You couldn’t wait until after the new year to do this?” she demanded at thanksgiving dinner and I insisted I couldn’t.
All these (many, many) years later and I can’t even tell you what finally turned that switch back on in my brain. I have no idea why, a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly wondered, “hey wait, the cheese and eggs I’m eating… that’s from where now?” And so I watched some truly horrifying and revolting documentaries that are available right on netflix.com. These aren’t even “radical” or “undercover” videos. These are documentaries on health and the casual violence inflicted on animals in every industry. Yes, even the “cage free” and “grass fed” industries have such sorrow and suffering-filled practices that I dare you to watch them and not be disgusted.
Now, lest you think I’m going to become this militant vegan, don’t worry. Like me, I know that everyone has to come to this realization on their own. I’m reading this book right now, “Vegan Freak in a Non-Vegan World,” that has a really good point (it has many, imo) and I’m sure they’re not the first or only ones to state this, but just because something is tradition, or convenient, or “the way it’s always been done” is no reason to continue doing something that has such inherent brutality. And there’s no need for it, either, not with how easy it is to change to a vegan way of life.
I have no answers, just questions. And I have no diatribes, but I will occasionally post about my journey of being a vegan here. I’ll also share my successes and failures in the kitchen because I think the failures will probably be pretty spectacular and funny and like to mock myself. Not that I don’t get enough of that from my friends. ;o)
I’m left with the memory of a birthday party some 5 years ago. I met this woman at the party and we started talking about food and she said I wasn’t a real vegetarian because I ate fish and dairy/eggs. I was offended and insulted, but she was right. I just really wish that I’d taken it a step further at the time and not wasted five more years in the limbo of denial. But then, we all come to things in our own time and I guess I wasn’t ready back then to own my choices like I am today. I choose not to participate in the wholesale suffering of living beings. I choose to educate myself on these issues and will pass the information on to others in the hopes of inspiring more to do the same. Basically, I choose life and respect and hope others will, too.
(for now :o) )