I’m incredibly thankful for a conversation I had the other night that reminded me of the very visceral feelings I’ve experienced all of my life in relation to animal exploitation and cruelty. What a relief to know that someone else experiences that same white hot burning through the temples, boiling behind the eyes, and through every bone while seeing first hand, reading about, viewing film or even talking about animal cruelty. That threatening and shaking rage knowing there is unimaginable suffering caused by human action (or inaction). That very primal push by an invisible force to do something about it that will most likely look crazy to nine out of ten people. How else to explain why I am vegan? It is the most honest and meaningful decision I have ever made and might ever make.
I’m surprised at how personal this post turned out to be. I wasn’t planning on it. I was trying to decide if I wanted to go ahead and jump into the commercial farming of turkeys just in time for Thanksgiving OR if I wanted to go into the environmental impact of animal agriculture. I guess I felt compelled to share some of my feelings about veganism as a whole. The turkeys will get all my attention the next post.
I’m really coming to terms with the fact that I know so very little (about anything really) but specifically, veganism. Well, let me put it another way; between reading all these incredible (or incredibly eloquent even if I don’t always agree) authors and their views on veganism, agribusiness, vegetarianism, cruelty-free living, environmentalism, nutrition, animal-human symbiosis, animal exploitation, worker exploitation ETC. ETC. ETC. and talking to people who are vegan (and why) and are not (and why not) I am realizing that veganism is so multifaceted. We don’t all share an entirely collective view. We do not all have the same exact reasons we chose to be vegan. However, most who I have met and some who I have only read about, are vegan because they are against animal suffering as a whole and choose to live in a way to reduce their impact on animal suffering and exploitation through living a certain way. This includes never consuming any animal products. This leads directly to my next point: I need to really work on the eloquence of my tentative definition of veganism. On one hand, in itself, the word veganism is so simple and to the point. For animal welfare. Against animal suffering. Done aaaand done. However, I will now include a few definitions I’ve found in other books and by other authors and that damned wikipedia which is where I’m sure most people go to when they’re trying to figure out what the hell veganism means. So it matters. There are sooooo many other ways to define it but here are just a few I chose because this post is lengthy:
Brenda Davis, R.D. & Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D (authors of Becoming Vegan)
“Veganism may be defined as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing; or any other purpose. In dietary terms, it refers to the practice of dispensing with all animal produce, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, animal milks, honey, and their derivatives.”
Bob and Jenna Torres (authors of Vegan-Freak)
“Veganism isn’t a “diet.” It is a way of living that focuses on according animals their due right as fellow sentient beings.”
“Veganism is an outright rejection of the violent and hierarchical processes that condemn animals to lives of subjugation, servitude, and oppression.”
“As a lived form of protest, veganism is the expression of this desire for justice, a visceral and logical reaction to the horrors visited on others in our name.”
“As vegans, we take the anger, channel it, and live in a way that, to the greatest extent possible, affirms the intrinsic worth of animals. Veganism is us living in a world the way we want the world to be, and denying the violence done in our names.”
“To be vegan is to deny the psychological distance between the flesh in the Styrofoam tray at the supermarket and the someone – not something – who that meat came from. To be vegan is to live fully and honestly with yourself about how animals are treated, and it is about your not taking place in that exploitative system to the greatest extent possible.”
“Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle whose adherents seek to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.”
“Vegans endeavor to never consume or use any animal products of any type. The most common reasons for becoming, or remaining, vegan are health, ethical commitment, moral conviction concerning animal rights or welfare, environmental concerns, and spiritual or religious concerns.Vegans are often, but not limited to, the practices which may be involved in factory farming and animal testing, as well as the intensive use of land and other resources for farming of animals.”
“A vegan is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.”
Now, it is to be understood that I am not incredibly well-read when it comes to vegan text. There. I said it. I have done ample research of the horror on factory farms and the impact of a meat-eating diet on the environment, on the body and our health, the extent of animal testing and their cruel role in entertainment etc. I am becoming much more educated on nutrition as a whole and the advantages of a vegan diet. However, I am still trying to figure out all the ways to live as a vegan. I have not been in many social situations where there isn’t anything for me to eat. Just today, I was in a situation where I was asked what kind of pizza I would like because I was helping some people on a project and they chose to order pizza. I answered, “Well, I am vegan so I don’t eat any dairy or meat of any kind so if they can make it, I’ll have a couple slices with no cheese and instead lots of vegetables.” The pizza came back with pepperoni, sausage, cheese, black olives and green peppers. However, I REFUSE to look like the unhappy and deprived vegan. I must live by example and have confident answers to comments and questions such as, “Oh man, I could NEVER give up cheese I love it so much!” or “Wasn’t it difficult giving up all that?” Or even more interesting, there happened to be an ex-vegan in the mix. Turns out he had been vegan for three years but had to resume an omnivorous diet because he just wasn’t healthy but he admitted he ate “mostly junk food.” Which is unfortunate because he became vegan just to lose weight. Which blows my mind. He was so happy to eat a big steak and he felt great. Well, probably because he was finally getting something else in his body besides vegan treats.
Back to my point: I never feel deprived. I never feel like I’m missing out. I eat and live with so much confidence now I even surprise myself. Instead of taking a bunch out of my diet I’ve been introduced to myriad foods I didn’t even know existed. And by the way, that doesn’t include Boca Burgers or any sort of frozen meat substitute. It really is amazing that once you start reading the labels on everything, learning what all these long names for chemicals are and what words are hiding animal products, you feel sick about how most of your life you’ve been ingesting all sorts of weird shit. I’m trying to, as Michael Pollan would say, eat mostly foods that are made up of four ingredients or less and few things my great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. I’ll have another post at some point about what I’m keeping in my kitchen these days as a fledgling vegan.
Here is another good source for what the vegan diet should entail:
This quote by Jenna and Bob Torres pretty much sums up my whole entire blog:
“Unless we take the time to educate others about veganism and why we are vegan, the elegant and powerful message of veganism will remain misunderstood, and our goal of abolishing animal exploitation will be deferred.”
(as if you can’t already tell I love pigs and Farm Sanctuary is my favorite of everything ever. I highly recommend Gene Baur’s (pictured above) book!