Becoming Vegan- thoughts almost a year later.

Becoming Vegan- thoughts almost a year later.

Around this time last year, late July 2014, I was starting to think about veganism more.  I was in increasingly frequent dialogue with a vegan friend of mine and learning a lot from her knowledge which often then led me down my own paths of research and awareness.  A lot of the information I came upon was new to me and very disturbing.

I had already been eating a predominantly vegetarian diet for years. I stopped eating pig in my early twenties and occasionally ate cow, turkey or chicken. I preferred eating sea animals for years when I did decide to include some form of meat on my plate.

August 2014 is when everything started to change. I clearly remember trying to avoid a lot of the information at my hands, crying when I faced it and being continuously horrified and devastated to learn of the vast and myriad ways our species uses and abuses animals, for food consumption as well as for fashion, entertainment, supplies and  so many things for which viable non-animal based products exist or for which we could really just do away without and give the animals the right to life.

I never once thought about where the milk in my dairy products really came from.  Becoming a mother & nursing my child provided that connect for me, that up until then I never considered.  I gave birth & had milk to provide for my son.  All this dairy I consume comes from a mother. Who are her young?  Where are her young? Why are we consuming her milk?  I was shocked, even ashamed, that I had not made this connection earlier and acted on it. I did stop drinking cow’s milk in my youth as I didn’t like the taste and instinctively found it strange, but continued to consumer multiple other forms of dairy over the years. With various eggs and various meats, I had been accustomed to looking for labels like free range & organic and humane, without even really thinking about what that meant or how that looked.

I was unable to ignore or avoid learning the truth any longer. Curiosity mixed with a need to know led to a lot of very painful moments.  It is easy to get caught up in your own choked tears and moments of pure shock and sadness when you begin to really look into the realities that we often accept as standard practice and the norm. I remember early on reading a sentiment that “we must bear with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies” and it resonated as absolutely true for me. To look away because it inconvenienced my appetite was no longer an option.

I am crazy about magazines, regularly reading ones about food, fashion, travel, architecture and design.  I remember clearly when I picked up a popular women’s style magazine (that I sometimes liked reading) last Summer. As I flipped through it, I felt like I was looking at it with new eyes.  Nearly every page had some product based on the skin of an animal, some of them based on the skins of baby animals.  I never really gave leather a second thought in terms of thinking of that product as formerly part of an animal with a will to live. I might have seen the words ‘calfskin bag’ in one of the ads but never thought of it as a young animal who was taken from his or her mother, destined to an abbreviated life and to have it’s skin used as someone’s purse. This “stylish” magazine now seemed completely barbaric and frivolous.  I couldn’t turn the pages without seeing the pain of millions and millions of animals who from birth are treated like an object and then turned into product.

Coming across  Laika magazine sometime later fulfilled my interest for a great print publication as well as one that covers an impressive range of vegan issues, including fashion, always with beautiful photography, soulful stories and moving text. I later went on to begin publishing my own articles in magazines and find refuge and great happiness in covering a range of vegan issues and learning more about the vegan community through my own pieces. 

There is a tremendous amount of compassion in the vegan community but ultimately, going vegan for me had nothing to do with making other people feel comfortable or uncomfortable.  I am unabashedly very public about my veganism and have encountered a range of responses, from quite positive and interested to skeptical or even belittling.

My way of life is not rooted in challenging carnivorism or omnivorism.  My commitment to vegan lifestyle has nothing to do with pointing fingers at meat eaters or taking pleasure in a heated debate for the sake of verbal sparring.

I am present and eager to encourage and inspire anyone in their interest to move towards a vegan lifestyle. Becoming a vegan has been one of the most profound decisions of my life and I feel only joy when people (whether close to me or not) express the desire to learn more about veganism and also integrate it into their own life.

Often these issues require a quiet mind as well as continuous research and personal reflection.  My compassion is challenged when the focus becomes on people’s disbelief of veganism as a profound, powerful and necessary response and movement on this planet. Ethical veganism is not about being cool or different. This path can begin with (and continue with) a great deal of suffering as, everywhere you look, you begin to see the tremendous unjust treatment of animals that pervades our societies. But you cannot go back because it is now a part of you, deep in your heart, complete conviction. And your own trauma of now realizing how commonplace the abuse is is really a non-matter in light of the actual suffering of the billions of animals with no rights or just treatment.

While I believe in veganism as an intensely personal, even spiritual, philosophy and way of life, it is important to remember that common vegan mantra that it is not about us, it’s about them. Veganism is all about the respect of other creatures and the animal kingdom, in actually focusing on the kind in humankind when it comes to treatment of animals.

There is often pushback because the way we eat and consume is deeply cultural and an aspect of the society and communities we grew up in.  To challenge the practices we have known all our life is to challenge ourselves, our communities, our very society. It may seem easier to some to simply not take the time to look into things, because they know, at some level, that they will then be compelled to change and it seems difficult.  This was a bit of my mindset for awhile.  I am so happy I finally ditched this mindset last Summer. If I could change only one thing it would be to have ditched it much earlier.

I share a great deal of photos of the vegan cooking I do and the vegan food I eat when I am out and about and traveling.  The culinary aspect of veganism thrills me and I love sharing that. However, veganism is much more than a diet. It is a philosophy, a way of life and a world view, akin to a faith.

ABC_4919

Prayer flags at Wood Valley Temple photographed on a trip to the Big Island in August 2014

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” -Leonardo Da Vinci
“Violence begins with the fork.”~ Mahatma Gandhi
We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear.”~ Robert Louis Stevenson
“I became a vegan the day I watched a video of a calf being born on a factory farm. The baby was dragged away from his mother before he hit the ground. The helpless calf strained its head backwards to find his mother. The mother bolted after her son and exploded into a rage when the rancher slammed the gate on her. She wailed the saddest noise I’d ever heard an animal make, and then thrashed and …dug into the ground, burying her face in the muddy placenta. I had no idea what was happening respecting brain chemistry, animal instinct, or whatever. I just knew that this was deeply wrong. I just knew that such suffering could never be worth the taste of milk and veal. I empathized with the cow and the calf and, in so doing, my life changed.”~ James McWilliams
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” ~Paul McCartney
“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory– disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”~ Jonathan Safran
“In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people”~ Ruth Harrison
“150 years ago, they would have thought you were absurd if you advocated for the end of slavery. 100 years ago, they would have laughed at you for suggesting that women should have the right to vote. 50 years ago, they would object to the idea of African Americans receiving equal rights under the law. 25 years ago they would have called you a pervert if you advocated for gay rights. They laugh at us now for suggesting that animal slavery be ended. Some day they won’t be laughing.”~ Gary Smith
“Personal purity isn’t the real issue.  Not supporting animal abuse- and persuading others not to support it- is.” ~Peter Singer
“People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing to the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times”~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
“How can people spend this Christmas season talking of ‘peace on earth’ and ‘love’ and then sit down to devour someone who never knew love or peace?”~ Judy Stephens Snook
“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.”~Henry David Thoreau
“There is something about veganism that is not easy, but the difficulty is not inherent in veganism, but in our culture.”~ Will Tuttle
“I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man”~ Mohandas Gandhi
“Human beings have capitalized on the silence of animals, just as certain human beings have historically imposed silence on certain other human beings by denying slaves the right to literacy, denying women the right to own property, and denying both the right to vote.”~ Gary Steiner
“Don’t wait for a better world. Start now to create a world of harmony and peace. It is up to you, and it always has been. You may even find the solution at the end of your fork.”~ Sharon Gannon