We’ve been vegetarian for around 12 years now. We didn’t just wake up one day and say “Let’s be vegetarians.” It was just a process that happened. It mostly started with me doing a 30-day juice fast. After that we both started eating better. At some point we cut out beef, chicken and pork. Eventually, we stopped eating fish as well.
Recently, my wife proclaimed she wanted to “go vegan”. She would have done it on her own, but I wanted to join her in that journey, as she did on mine. When we became vegetarians, it was mostly a dietary/health decision. More and more, it became an ethical/moral choice. And it is ethics and morality that are at the core of my wife’s desire to eat vegan.
I grew up on a farm. We killed and ate animals. It’s what we did. And yet, if my dad saw anyone abusing an animal, well, he’d make it very clear that that was unacceptable. If my brother or I were involved in such abuse, our backsides reaped the results.
I know. Many will say killing and eating animals is the ultimate abuse. Believe me, when you look at the meat industry, there are things much worse than death. Animals are literally tortured to provide food for the masses. It all boils down to money and greed. And, of course, it’s not just food. It applies to cosmetics and much else as well. There are many people who would rather remain ignorant. Those who will refuse to watch videos like THIS, or THIS One, because they want to live as they do without accepting the responsibility for their actions. The same principle applies to buying things made by slave labor. Buy whatever you want, but OWN your actions and acknowledge their consequences. FYI, according to US law, animals are allowed to be burned, shocked, poisoned, starved, addicted to drugs, and brain damaged without requiring the use of any painkillers.
Still, having grown up on a farm, I do believe that if you’re going to kill animals to eat them, you can still be ethical about it. Many vegans will likely disagree. That’s OK. We can do that.
However, the food industry and cosmetic industry, (with some exception) is certainly not ethical in it’s treatment of animals. That is the motivating factor behind my wife’s decision to transition into being vegan. I say transition because we decided not to throw out everything in our pantry/refrigerator/freezer. The money was spent, so since our vegan eating is not about diet, the damage was already done.
Since ethics, and not diet, is our primary concern (although being healthier is a definite benefit) at home we still eat eggs (for now) that are locally produced and ethically sourced at farms we can actually visit and see how things are done.
Some people are very concerned about labels and legalism. Yes, I get it. If we eat eggs, we’re not vegan. OK, then let’s say this: : We eat a vegan diet, except where we know that eating eggs is not a violation of our purpose in eating a vegan diet.” (The same principle applies to mild cross-contamination.)
On the PETA site (and they’re certainly the “go-to” for millions of vegetarians and vegans), they have some great advice:
Following a vegan lifestyle isn’t about purity—it’s about helping animals and doing the best that we can to reduce their suffering and avoid exploiting them while still living a normal life. [And] Don’t grill restaurant servers about micro-ingredients (e.g., a tiny bit of a dairy “product” in the bun of a veggie burger). Doing so makes being vegan seem difficult and annoying to your friends and restaurant staff, which discourages them from going vegan themselves—and really hurts animals. We don’t need the “vegan police” making it seem as if vegan living is a chore. Snapping at the waiter sends the universal message that all vegans are, well, assholes.
There’s a great little book about going green. It’s called “Do One Green Thing.” People who see all issues as “all or nothing,” often end up opting for “nothing.” If you’re still a carnivore, try joining the “Meatless Monday” movement. Do something to help the planet and the creatures who live on it.
As I started off saying, people love labels, and they love excluding those outside of those labels. Just as there is judgment in the LGBT community from the L and the G towards the B and the T, I often see judgment from vegans toward vegetarians. The kind of toxic legalism that is seen in fundamentalist religions, sadly, isn’t exclusive to religion. Would I like to see all carnivores become vegetarians or vegans? ABSOLUTELY. And we can certainly encourage others to do so. And, of course, we MUST stand against the cruelty and abuse of animals. We use our voice, our vote, our money, our signature; whatever we can to end those atrocities.
But for me, I want to do what I can to reduce animal suffering while living in the real world. I truly hate legalism. I’m wary of blanket labels. I’m definitely not big on following the law for the sake of the law*. All “laws” (including those we set up concerning vegetarians and vegans) are to provide a service. When a law does not provide the intended service, I for one have no problem disregarding that law. I want my actions to be purposeful and meaningful, and not blindly following any set of rules and laws. That almost always leads to harm or disaster.
So for now, when we eat out, or at other’s homes, or at work carry-ins, we will tell other’s we’re vegan. For in those cases, we truly are. At home (or where we can verify our ethical goals are being met) we will be “almost vegan.”
* Another example of not following the law for the sake of the law:
If I’m driving out in the country, and I come upon a 4-way stop, and I can clearly see there is no one or nothing in any other direction for miles, guess what; I’m Not Stopping! At that point, that law is providing no service to anyone. Yeah, it’s still the law. And if caught, I’m willing to pay the consequences without question. I’ll own it. But I’m still not stopping. 🙂