I've decided to give veganism a go.
I've never been a big meat eater, even as a child. In my early 20's I fell into an ovo-pesca-tarian diet (meaning vegetarian plus fish and eggs, if such a thing exists). I've never sworn off cow or chicken products—if someone else puts it on my plate, I'll eat it. Yet cooking animal products when alone never happens without guilt (last week I uncharacteristically made meatballs—the taste did not outweigh the remorse). As an animal lover, health nut, and ecologist, I recognize the shadows in the food industry, and over the years that delicious beef taco filling became a lump of loathing in my stomach
My first food boycott was at age 8. After reading how the dolphin safe label on tuna cans was only indicative of a lose regulation impressed by American government. Dolphins died regardless, and as a mini-marine biologist growing up on the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I couldn't let a sandwich betray my ethics, small and underdeveloped as they were.
Mommy fed us well. We didn't eat all organic or cut out refined sugar, but we were required to eat our greens (me eating an inordinate amount due to my dislike of excess meat). At 21, my interest in nutrition turned sharply off the chart, after some incessant complications with ulcerative colitis and IBS. I started exercising. I cut out desert (well, nightly anyway). Soon gluten, caffeine and seafood (except wild Alaska salmon) became strict no-nos, leading into today.
But cutting out animal products all together? It was never an option. My family is omnivorous, and though I'd been in the habit of making my own meals, there were just too few vegan products in the house and too little support. My mother once accused me of being a vegetarian….. yes, accused is the right word. She loves me, and wants me to be in good health, and like most people believes that protein can only be found in meat. But now, living a few thousand miles away, buying my own groceries and living with a vegetarian, recycling roommate (really, she recycles EVERYTHING….sometimes I question who is the real ecologist!), I'm out of excuses. It's time to start a vegan trial.
So why go vegan? Why not? People usually do it for one or all of these three reasons. 1) Personal health. 2) Environmental welfare. 3) Protest animal cruelty. For me, it's all about 2 and 3. As I've said, health is a must with me. But while a steady diet of red meat will spike your body chemistry in unfriendly ways, I'm not convinced my two regulars, fish and eggs, will kill me (unless the fish is laced in mercury….. a good reason to consult Monterey Bay: [link] ).
Reason two on the other hand is huge. Thousands of my hard earned dollars (okay, my dad's hard earned dollars) are going towards stuffing my brain with ecological facts, many of which are ugly. Beef clears rainforest, lots of it. Beef increases methane output. I live on this planet. I want it preserved.
Three is also a big and one I vacillate over daily. On one hand, humans are omnivorous. I study predator prey relationships without much remorse every week. Circle of life and all that…. Humans are not exempt. Still there lies a great barrier between the life of the wild elk and that of the dairy cow. The elk is free to live until nature takes him. He lives as he was meant to, free in the world that shaped him to survive and thrive. The cow is not. She is shaped by man. Economically this was a good move (breed big animals for big meat). But it's her life that turns the nature of eating into the nature of cruelty. At birth she is dragged from her mother, pumped with hormones, milked, artificially inseminated, in time separated from her own calf, and slaughtered, usually barbarically, long before her utters run dry (amount of milk produced, which dwindles with age, dictates how long the animal is used). This is what I think about whenever I eat a piece of cheese.
The project is simple; go 30 days on a vegan diet. I'll try not to cheat (I'm spending the next week eating the meat and dairy from my fridge). Take vitamins. Keep exercising. Keep eating my greens. Just skip the gluten-free bread baked with eggs. Forgo the evening square of salmon.
I don't think it will be hard for me, frankly. I've gone days to weeks eating vegetarian. Veganism is just a small extra step. I'll miss the eggs the most, and yet, be relieved to give them up.
Maybe I'll stick with it longer. Maybe not. I've no intention of swearing off meat and dairy forever. True to my scruples, I will likely always eat these things when I'm a guest at a dinner table. But for 30 days, it's all about the ethics. Luckily, I'll be too busy with school to visit my omnivorous friends for mealtimes.
One final note: I'm not judging you. You can eat meat, and that's quite alright with me. Gandhi once said he liked the Christian religion, but didn't care for the people. In many respects, this is how I feel about veganism. I like the principles, but I don't like the extremism. I understand the passion and why vegans get so upset. But anger shouldn't drive change (I won't be throwing pig blood on people wearing fur coats). You and I have different needs. You and I have different passions. Be the change you wish to see in the world, whatever that may be, but recognize that you can't be everything at once. I'm not perfect. Neither are you. The best we can do is try in the time we have.
P.S. Les Miserables. Still. Yep. Here, have some: [link] . I insist.