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Vegging out

They're not all happy

I’ve always been an uncomfortable meat eater. I hated handling it, hated that it came from a living being, and hated how factory farms were run.

Sure, I loved the taste of a juicy burger from Five Guys, or tilapia in my tacos. I was raised eating meat. There was rarely a night that went by that my dad didn’t grill chicken, fish, or steak. It was just part of life.

But I would look at my dog and wonder what made those animals any different from her. If anything, pigs and cows are smarter than she is. Why is it okay to eat them?

And then in recent years I started learning more. Knowledge is powerful and dangerous. It forces you to either rethink everything and make changes, or go back to hiding your head in the sand while your newfound awareness slowly eats away at you.

That’s probably the reason most of us don’t want to know.

Despite my distaste for the business of killing animals—which recently prompted our boys to go vegan—it was the health benefits of a plant-based diet that finally convinced me and my husband to make the change. After losing my mother to cancer five years ago, when she was only 58, finding out that a vegan diet was the best way to prevent that from happening to me or my loved ones sealed the deal.

I’ve been eating vegan since November, and I’m surprised how little I miss my old ways. Even my beloved cheese. Oh, and eggs for breakfast. And hard salami in my deli sandwich. 😉

If I were just changing my habits for vanity, if it were all about getting thin, I’d never stick to it. But having a solid set of reasons beyond the number on a scale or a smaller clothing size has made it easy to be an herbivore.

And, bonus, thanks to a few good cookbooks and online recipe sites, I’m discovering all sorts of yummy foods that weren’t on my radar before.

I went into this for the health benefits—significantly reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and Alzheimer’s—but I’m loving my slimmer carbon footprint, and that animals no longer die, or live miserable lives, to feed me.

Our diet is a personal choice, much like our religion or political beliefs, and I’m not trying to force mine on you. But often, we’re not so much choosing as going with the flow, busy telling ourselves all the reasons why we could never make such a big change even if we wanted to.

A few years ago, my sister-in-law went vegan. When I asked her why, she said, “health reasons,” and left it at that. I thought maybe she had a food sensitivity or something. Why would anyone need to go vegan for health?

I now understand why she didn’t offer more. The looks I get, and the immediate defensive wall that goes up, when I start answering “why?” makes me feel like a religious zealot knocking on the door with pamphlets.

But I wish now that I’d asked her for more information.

So if you want to know more, or if you’re at all curious why on Earth anyone would go vegan—whether you think such a lifestyle is for you or not—I highly recommend the book Veganist by Kathy Freston. Or, if movies are more your thing, add Forks Over Knives to your Netflix list.

For more on health benefits, check out this article at The New York Times, or the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website.

Curious about the meat industry’s effect on global warming and the environment? BBC News has a good article. So does Scientific American.

Want to know what goes on in a slaughterhouse or factory farm? Compassion Over Killing is dedicated to making life better for all animals.

There’s no harm in learning. At least then if you choose to eat animal products, it will be a choice and not a default action.

Feel free to ask me any questions. I’m happy to share without pushing. 🙂

Photo credit: CUTE COW © Caroline Henri | Dreamstime.com

0 Comments

  1. Reply

    Congratulations! Hope you are feeling the benefits of your positive choices! I still get looks and defensive attitudes too, usually I find it is people who have a little guilt niggling at them and aren’t sure why.

    Any recipes to share?

    • Reply

      Thanks, Natalie, I am, both physically and mentally.

      I’ve had good luck finding recipes in Veganomicon. We try to avoid using a lot of meat and dairy substitutes, but tacos with Trader Joe’s soy chorizo are pretty yummy!

  2. Christi Legawiec

    Reply

    I love your sentence about making it an informed choice vs. the default. But I hate that it is sometimes so difficult to determine who is giving factual information and who has an agenda.

    We are aspiring vegans. Making the transition slowly. I have found that I am losing my taste for meat. Just last night we made homemade pizza and I made a delicious veggie pizza but put 4 slices of pepperoni on because I remember it being so yummy. One bite of the meat made me regret it. I took the remaining pieces off. Baby steps, but getting there.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Christi. I’ve been sliding toward vegetarian for over a decade, so even though my switch to vegan seems quick to outsiders, it was a long time in coming.

      Baby steps are good. And I found that once I quit eating meat and cheese and such, my taste for them waned. Quite surprising for a self-proclaimed cheese addict! Good luck with your journey!

  3. Reply

    Gwen, I admire you! I never liked meat but I eat it because I am lazy and it takes less work (washign/drying) then verggies….
    Living here and seeing how they slaughter the cheap in front of the houses, makes me want to become vegertarian… but I wil lnever give up cheese… Sorry:(

    • Reply

      Thanks, Mirella. I think we all have to find what makes us comfortable.

      I never thought I could give up cheese either, but I really am surprised how easy it was once I had a reason. And since it’s an addictive food, the cravings declined a lot after a few weeks of not eating it.

      And the substitutes these days are pretty good! But again, it’s a personal choice. It only took me a couple of decades to make mine. 😉

  4. Reply

    I’ve tried going vegetarian, I even liked it, but my husband just won’t do it. And he gets really annoyed if I don’t cook meat at home. I think I was able to last for a month before it was clear that wasn’t going to be a viable choice for my family.

    I don’t mind the idea of an animal dying to feed me, plenty of animals die to feed other animals. I do mind the idea that they led miserable lives and weren’t treated well. I’ve started trying to buy all local, organic, family-raised meat from the farmer’s market. Maybe that wasn’t the happiest cow to walk the planet, but I’m comfortable knowing it wasn’t part of a mass herd that lived in mud and only ate corn.

    • Reply

      That’s hard, Kali. I used to have the same struggle with my husband (and kids). It wasn’t until he started watching movies like Food Inc that we got serious about humanely raised, organic, and local. And it was Forks Over Knives that convinced us both to go vegan.

      A year ago I would have laughed if you’d told me I’d be vegan now. I might have been able to see vegetarian, but vegan wasn’t even on my radar. Ever.

      I totally hear you about the animals, and buying that way is great. We all have to do what works for us. Thanks for checking in! I hope you’re doing well.

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