|A beautiful image of a mother and her baby.|
Today, one day after World Vegan Day, I am celebrating my second "vegeversary". I have now been a vegan for two full years. :) This also marks four and a half years of being a vegetarian.
So I thought that today would be an excellent day to not only reminisce on what brought me to this lifestyle, but also talk about how I've stayed veg all this time (although people who are in the same lifestyle I am sure will agree, it would be much harder to eat meat knowing what we know and feeling how we do).
Anyway. Way back in ye olde 2008 I was working in the northern middle of nowhere, and living with a guy who turned out to be a real jerkface. Now, when jerkface and I broke up, I took the opportunity as my life was changing to make the lifestyle changes I had been wanting to make for a long time, but was too intimidated by jerkface to make them. It is amazing how complacent and accepting of the status quo I had been until we broke up. Getting out from under his control was like snapping out of a daze. I was suddenly, vibrantly, alive. At that point I feel like I finally grew up as well, and started taking responsibility for my actions. I took responsibility for my physical health, and also took responsibility for the lives that I was taking on a daily basis by choosing to consume meat. I made the decision to no longer hide from the facts and nod along with the rest of society. And along with this I realized that it is not possible to actually love animals if one is taking their lives.
The last meat I ever intentionally consumed (we've all been slipped meat broth by accident at one point or another I'm sure) was the salami on a sandwich on the first of July, 2008. After that there was no going back. I knew that I didn't want to be a person who caused a baby calf to be torn from it's mom to spend a short, miserable life in a veal crate. I didn't want to be a person who sanctioned the cruelty of factory farms, and the terror of animals at slaughter. I began to look at the freezer case at the grocery store much differently. Instead of a mouthwatering steak, I saw only the decaying corpse of an animal, stripped of it's identity into something unidentifiable. I'm sure a human processed in the same way would look very much the same. But these shopping trips also made me realize that I had very little in the way of culinary skills. My entire adult life to that point I had been cooking by slapping frozen processed foods onto a baking tray, or making instant foods. I was a complete cooking newbie despite having been on my own for several years. Naturally, the result of no more frozen chicken fingers was that I finally learned how to cook. I learned the delicate spicing of Indian chickpea and lentil dishes. I learned the secret to creating faux meats from TVP, tofu and vital wheat gluten. I expanded by cooking repertoire to include foods I had never even heard of prior to going vegetarian. And slowly but surely, weight started to melt off. It was so gradual I barely noticed it, but after eight months of vegetarian meals and occasional moderate exercise, I lost 20 pounds and achieved my ideal weight. And I've been there ever since.
The change from vegetarian to vegan came in much the same way as my initial adoption of vegetarianism had. I educated myself, and I took responsibility for my actions. I realized that I was not ok with the suffering of a mutilated, battery caged hen, who never sets foot outdoors, or feels the warmth of the sun. I could no longer condone through my choices the miserable lives of perpetually pregnant dairy cows. It was no longer just about not killing and eating animals. It was about compassion. It was realizing that farm animals do not suffer only in death, but that their whole lives are suffering. And through demanding these products, I asked for them to suffer.
I know that there is no undoing the suffering I caused as an omnivore. But that is why I do my best to make sure that the lives of these individuals who have died, and continue to die in genocidal quantities, are valued and respected. In 2010, I had the red lotus of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, tattooed on my shoulder. I see it and I remember that the primary tenet of my life is compassion. I live my life now with the promise that I shall do no further harm to anyone, be they human or animal. That all sentient individuals shall know no harm from me. They will never fear me.
And I do the most I can for them in a world which unnecessarily murders them in the name of tradition. As my vegan friends know, when sometimes we feel the injustice more deeply, it is so hard not to proselytize. I try not to. I feed my friends and family delicious homemade vegan meals. I give out copies of my favorite recipes. I invite people to join causes which support animals and look to end their suffering. And I lead by example, the example of compassion for all, the great and small. Sometimes it makes no difference. But other times they ask to know more, and I know that there is always hope.
So today, to mark my "vegeversary" I made a donation to a local farm animal rescue society. And promised to myself and the universe that I will not forget, or shirk the responsibility that comes with being human. One person makes a difference (average of 400+ animals saved each year per person!). Vegans, we are mavericks. Don't give up.