As you all know, regular or casual followers of this site, I am very concerned about health and diet issues(see list below) that I personally face and some that our society and cultures in general face. So today, after a serious, but fun conversation with my old friend, June Axlerad, we are going to dive in a little more on the subject of vegetarianism and the vegan lifestyle. June is “almost” a vegan and because she is so passionate about vegan-ism, I asked her if she would like to write today’s article. Being a vegan is no passing fancy for June. For as long as I can remember she has been a vegetarian (I think that’s what it was called 40 years ago) a fact that I must have overlooked even as I have had to change a lot of my eating habits. I bet she has some great tips for me as I try to include more vegetables in my meal plans. I now consume about 60 percent less meat than I use to eat. No, it’s probably not where I need to be but I am getting there. Several of my friends are starting to have meatless meal days and what started out as just one day a week has grown to a few, so there must be something going on other than fanaticism.
June is just as passionate about gardening and has taken an interest in supporting the gardening program, Project Sweet Tomato and its two schools, Nolan Elementary-Middle School and John R. King Performing Arts Academy.
This article is simply about motivation. What motivated June, and I am sure many others, to embrace a life program that goes way beyond individual sustenance. Vegan-ism is also about the environment. It’s about protecting and valuing what makes this world worth living in. I learned that from my conversation with June, so let’s read on!
If you have ever considered giving up or cutting down on meat, or have belittled or mocked someone who does not partake of animals, this article may be for you. You may find some of it disturbing or offensive but I must speak what I know. Vegetarianism for me is not a restriction or a deprivation. It is so intrinsically a part of me that I have actually had nightmares about biting into meat.
I have not [except by accident or deceit] let animal flesh or any forms thereof, i.e. broth, pass my lips for 14 years. Prior to that I had numerous ’stints’ as a vegetarian. It was much harder to be vegetarian in my younger years, restaurants didn’t offer choices and there were few substitutes available. I can tell you that even as a child, I would see road kill and think “that is what I’m eating.” It was not a pleasant thought.
So why, might you ask, do I not eat meat? I might turn that around and ask “Why do you not eat your dogs and cats?” I do not see a distinction between pets and farm animals. They are all sentient beings, in other words they feel affection, they feel pain, and they feel fear. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs. They are loving and will roll on their backs to have their bellies rubbed. Chickens love to climb on your lap. I suggest reading “The Good, Good Pig” by Sy Montgomery or “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon”by Jeffrey Masson. For an almost unbearable description of what happens in slaughterhouses you might read a chapter in “Skinny Bitch”, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin which describes not only the horror the animals endure, but how traumatized the workers become. There are anecdotes of workers purposely inflicting pain, and of terrorized pigs running to and nuzzling the slaughterers for comfort. I can most assuredly say that if you eat pig, you are eating terror in all its manifestations. Pigs know what is happening to them and release large amounts of cortisol in their terrified state. Essentially you are eating fear and the toxins associated with fear. Can you really justify such cruelty with “I have to have my bacon”? There are many bacon substitutes and if you allow yourself some compassion you will get used to them, and dare I say, start to like them.
Many people feel they are doing well by only eating chicken. I must respond by saying that chickens endure more cruelty in their short, painful lives than probably any other “food” animal. I highly recommend Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, “Eating Animals” in which he depicts the horrors he uncovered via secret forays into chicken factories [by no means can they be called farms.] He also dedicates one of the pages of the book to delineating the actual living space of a chicken. These wretched creatures cannot spread their wings nor turn around. They never see sunlight. Their beaks are lopped off as chicks sans any pain killer so they do not peck at and damage the meat .Sometimes their claws grow around the mesh cages and their waste products drop on the poor creature below them Conditions are appallingly unsanitary. “Free-range” is a myth, unless you are buying from a private individual who actually lets their chickens roam, but again, the end result is slaughter. Again, this is what you are putting in your mouths. What I find most disturbing is the “specials” i.e. 12 chicken wings for $2.00. Six chickens suffering untold pain and horror all to garner a few cents profit?
I could mention the health benefits which are numerous, and the environmental benefits, also of great extent. Perhaps that is for another day. I will end with a short story about the anger vegetarians seem to invoke just by choosing not to encounter meat. I was with my daughter and her friend at a deli. My daughter had not yet made the decision to forgo eating animals. I watched as the young woman used the same knife and gloves to make the sandwiches. I was hungry and could have ordered a veggie selection but decided I didn’t feel up to explaining why I didn’t want her to use the gloves which had just handled meat, nor the knife which had just sliced through flesh. I finally decided to venture forth and ask that clean gloves and a clean knife be used. She yelled loudly to her coworker “She’s being fussy!” I wonder if I would have evoked the same reaction had I said I kept Kosher, was Muslim, or had allergies. So if you are not inspired to give up eating animals, please think twice before telling your vegetarian friends to “just pick off” the pepperoni on a pizza.
For anybody that thinks that June is being a little extreme when she describes what goes on at our slaughterhouses or the chicken farms, I suggest that you go online to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website archives and check out some of the documentaries they have aired about our food preparation system. It is absolutely shocking and disturbing seeing what they do to the animals we eat and the environmental problems they create and do not take responsibility for. Watching those films have had an effect on my diet and I am definitely more selective about what I eat, where it comes from and how it is prepared. Not just from the cruelty to animals aspect but from what they put into or onto the food we are supposed to eat. That is why my garden is so important to me. Probably just as important as it was to our forefathers that farmed this land decades ago. Grow your own and you know what’s in it.
Thank you June for a nice, but too brief, look into the world of a vegan. I hope you write a few more articles for me and my readers, and perhaps share a few recipes with us too. I think it would be a blast to learn more about being a vegan and stripping away the fear of a very positive lifestyle program.
Food, Health & Nutrition Articles:
Going Rogue…With A Raw Food Diet! (6/15/12
Happiness Is A Warm Gun…Yes It Is!!! (1/17/12)
Cravings……….What Do You Reach For? (9/15/11)
Am I Getting Enough? (7/29/11)
- Top Vegan Cookbooks of 2012 (wholesomeone.com)
- Top 10 Vegan Trends and Events of 2012 (ecorazzi.com)
- The Lacto-Ovo-Pescatarian-Social-Meat-Eater (visforvegetables.wordpress.com)
- To Be or Not to Be Vegan (oneikasyogalife.com)
- Project Vegan (farmingamerica.org)
- Divinely Inspired Vegan Recipes For A Healthy New Year from Hallelujah… (prweb.com)
- Veganism: So Much More Than a Diet (atlantablackstar.com)
- Letter To A Vegan, From A Meat Eater. (elephantjournal.com)
- To Eat or Not to Eat… (gigismeanderings.com)