On Going Vegan
First I have to say that my husband and I were in our courtyard last night, with wine, vegan pizza with shiitakes, portobellos and chanterelles (still working through that five-pound bag of Daiya cheese), and Diana Krall playing.
It was about 8:30 and we had seen 100+ kids in search of treats. Though the youngins had some interesting costumes, I must say that their parents easily topped them, demonstrating both creativity and a complete inability to be embarrassed. I neglected to take the camera into the courtyard in the beginning, though I did bring the hounds and their beds. Violet was spooked early on, but Charles stayed for the entire evening.
Things were winding down and it was dark out. There's a giant vine covering the courtyard so visibility from within isn't great (and picture taking was even worse).
I was singing along with Diana, sipping Chardonnay, when I looked up and saw a lone figure, motionless, at the end of the driveway . . .
How awesome is that? I asked him to come closer for a picture. He had no bag of candy. He stayed in character and walked slowly up to the house and just stood there. It was so creepy.
But today's post is about World Vegan Day, so onward . . .
When I think about my journey to veganism and my husband's journey, I am reminded that there are as many ways to go vegan as there are people. Some go vegetarian first, then vegan. Some go pescetarian, then vegan. Then there's me, going vegetarian then vegan, and then eating filet mignon and salmon for a year before going vegan again, and my husband who went vegan overnight after being an omnivore for 38 years.
Then there are the myriad entry points to thinking about how we use animals and the impact that has on the animals, the planet, our bodies and our consciences. Some people come to veganism from environmentalism, though not every vegan's diet is necessarily better for the planet. The discussion about the environment usually originates in the massive problems created by the factory farming of sentient nonhumans. Of course, as a result, "ethical meat" becomes an option unless one realizes that killing when you don't need to is killing when you don't need to, no matter if it occurs in a slaughterhouse or in a mobile slaughter operation or in a backyard.
Other people come to veganism for health reasons, though a vegan diet isn't necessarily healthier than an omnivorous diet. We all know junk-food vegans and vegans who eat "faux meat" products every day.
I don't eat much soy and I like to eat as much raw food as possible, which means that I have a meal composed of mostly fruit and one composed of mostly raw vegetables each day, and the third meal is grain-based with legumes. Here's my lunch from yesterday, a mock tuna salad (for lack of a better term) that's chickpea based . . .
Who needs to eat animals when you can have delicious, low fat, high fiber, nutritious meals that are light on carbon footprint and don't involve killing anybody?
This brings me to what I think is the most powerful reason to go vegan: Because you don't want to kill anyone unless you absolutely have to. The arguments against factory farming, which most recently were articulated by Jonathan Safran Foer (who has caused quite a stir in the mainstream), are legion. But they too lead one to accept "ethical meat" as an option because their focus is on suffering. If you want to reduce suffering, there are indeed ways to do that. But why cause suffering at all when you don't need to?
Though most people don't think about it this way, when you choose to eat animals or wear animals or use products that were tested on animals or have animal byproducts in them, you are choosing harm. You are choosing violence. You are choosing domination and enslavement and forced breeding and unnecessary slaughter. And not only that, you are exchanging your hard-earned dollars for that harm and violence and domination. You are paying someone to create a being for your use and enjoyment, and then kill that being.
No matter how nicely a farm treats the animals it creates, that farm is creating sentient nonhumans for the sole purpose of killing them for the enjoyment of others. Because their flesh and secretions taste good. Because it's a "tradition" (read: we've done it for years so we keep doing it . . . because we've done it for years).
We in the developed world, in mainstream America, do not need to use animals in order to survive or thrive or please our palates. We do it because we want to and we choose to, and we ought to think about what else we're choosing in the process, and not deny or shy away from the implications of our choices. No amount of apologizing to the carcass on your plate will change the reality that you have paid someone (if you haven't done it yourself) to kill another being who experiences pleasure, pain, boredom and frustration, when you didn't need to. And no amount of "blessing" the "food" or "thanking" the animals for their sacrifice (when there was no sacrifice, there was only slaughter) will mean anything to the animals whose lives were taken.
Veganism, to me, is about justice. It's about not fetishizing one species while making an industry of torturing others. It's about allowing individuals to live their natural lives, and not turning them into profit-making machines.