12 monkeys

I’m a vegan. There, I’ve said it. Actually, I’ve only been a vegan for a little over two weeks, but I don’t foresee going back to my old meat-and-dairy days. Not unless, like the Dalai Lama, my doctor tells me I have to eat some meat or else I will die. This strange and surprising transformation of my eating habits and, by extension, my life came about unexpectedly and completely on accident.  After a wonderful week visiting my family in upstate New York, bingeing on chicken wings, pizza, and steak, I came back to Maine feeling that I had turned a corner in my dietary habits. The time I spent with my parents and my sister and her husband were great, but the food I ate while I was there was certainly not. Perhaps subconsciously I was already plotting my own personal food revolution. I started investigating vegetarian and macrobiotic diets when I came across a book written by Alicia Silverstone called The Kind Diet.  Yes, the girl from Clueless changed my life. I always knew that meat was bad not only for the human body but also for the environment, but I never thought the same way about dairy products and eggs. They seemed so benign compared to the massive amounts of  suffering and death associated with meat production. Did you know that dairy cows are kept pregnant all the time so that they will keep producing milk? Or that male calves born to dairy cows end up in the beef industry, usually as veal? Did you know that we use more farm acreage in this country to grow food for animals that we will eventually kill for food than we do for food for humans? Maybe you know all this and still want to eat meat and dairy. That’s fine. I certainly don’t want to come off as a hellfire-and-brimstone-preaching vegan.  Less than one month ago I ate a huge steak dinner and had creme brulee for dessert, and it was mighty tasty. So I’m not going to go all Brad Pitt-in-12 Monkeys on you. But I do notice strange and almost hostile reactions from some people when I mention my veganism. Most are the “That’s nice, dear” variety. But some insist that we are at the top of the food chain and that as humans we were born to eat meat. I think there is some weird karma going on here. I can’t help wondering if people’s own buried guilt at eating meat isn’t somehow manifesting itself in these reactions. I touched on this is an earlier post when I talked about Thoreau’s vegetarianism.  Thoreau once mentioned that after catching and eating a fish or some wild game, he felt that for all the slaughter and trouble, some bread or a few potatoes would have done just as well. I also notice in myself that in becoming a vegan, I almost feel as if I have joined some underground animal liberation rebellion (12 Monkeys again). I feel like an outlaw, like an eco-terrorist on the lam. And yet, did you know that raising animals for food production is one of the leading causes of global warming? I’ll get off my soapbox now and close with a few quotes from my main man. “Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals.” Or this: “One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.”

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4 comments

  1. wolfshowl

    Congrats on your decision!
    All of your points are indeed excellent. I am currently a vegetarian of 2 years. I am gradually trying to eat more vegan food, although I am finding that more difficult than becoming vegetarian. Perhaps because cheese has always been one of my favorite foods! Anyway, I applaud your ability to jump into veganism feet-first, as opposed to my own gradual approach.

  2. henry

    Thanks you for your kind words. I too love cheese and especially yogurt, but after two weeks I don’t miss it. I can’t say for sure I’ve eaten my last dairy product, but for now I am committed to my lifestyle change. We shall see. Good luck with your continued vegetarian lifestyle. I commend you. I wonder where I will be two years down the road.

  3. tinako

    Luckily I’ve never encountered hostility towards my veganism, but I can understand it. It’s not necessarily buried guilt, but just by being vegan we are making a powerful statement, and some people will find that threatening. There are also many negative stereotypes about vegans, and that can be a problem for someone who does not know you well.
    I can see from your writing that you have the strength to do what you think is right, and the thoughtfulness to find the words to say to non-vegans. You will do fine.
    The craving for cheese usually passes pretty quickly, within a month or so, and soon you may find the thought of it sort of gloppy and cloying: salty goop on your nice fresh food.
    Good luck!

  4. henry

    Thank you. I listed your blog in my links if that’s OK. I guess that’s how we bloggers roll. I think all I can do is lead by example, be humble, and cook up some really tasty food for my non-vegan friends to show them our food is not all twigs and tofu.

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