I participated in the inaugural Cherry City Vegfest in Salem, Oregon, this past weekend! And wow, what an incredible turnout by the community! This being the first (of hopefully many!) Vegfest in Salem, no one knew what to expect. The event started at 10:00 AM, and there was a busy and steady flow of folks all day! I also had the opportunity to help Deb Kay with her cooking demo!
There are many different reasons why people go vegan - for the sake of the animals, to help stop and reverse the damage done to our planet by animal agriculture and factory farming, to prevent or cure a disease, to improve their athletic performance, or just because people are following a trend. I’ve always believed that any path that led to veganism was an excellent path to embrace and support. But, now I am starting to feel that all of the different reasons are starting to muddy the waters about the real reason behind being vegan.
There are many promises, especially about the health benefits, that people make to encourage others to go vegan. Some people experience positive benefits after going vegan. I felt better physically and mentally, I didn’t have the stomach issues as I did while I was eating animals and animal products, and I did have a little more energy. But, my health was not a deciding factor in my transition to becoming a vegan. Those positive effects I experience were just side effects. And everyone experiences different effects or none at all. Veganism isn’t about restoring your blood pressure to normal levels or shredding weight. It isn’t about having a holistic health plan in which to turn to, or the cure for all ailments. It isn’t a diet. It is a way of life.
Often, when people cite their reasons for making the switch to a vegan lifestyle they cite one of three reasons: their health, the environment, or animal rights. When people cite reasons for not making the switch, they suggest that they can’t give up their favorite food (usually cheese or bacon), they don’t have the time or energy to focus on such a drastic lifestyle shift, and that they don’t have the budget for a vegan diet.
But this is a huge misconception. Budgeting for a vegan lifestyle should be one of the main reasons people choose the go vegan - not the other way around. Believe it or not, there are many economic benefits to going vegan, both for the individual and the country.
The night of September 11, 2015, is still as vivid as if it were yesterday. Steve and I ate dinner and watched TV as we usually did. We played with the cats and all of our foster guinea pigs. I, for one, had a particularly fun playtime session tickling Sunshine that evening. That was our thing.
He played hide and seek with Steve, and would try to make Steve feel like he picked a good hiding spot even though Sunshine easily found him each time. But with me, he would get my attention and then run around before throwing himself on the floor and rolling over on his back. That was the signal that he wanted me to tickle him. I would say, “I’m going to get you, I’m going to get you Sunshine,” while pinching my fingers together above him. He would squirm around on the floor and then squawk like a little duck when I finally tickled him.
He would then bounce up like a tightly wound spring uncoiling, run around, and then throw himself on the floor again. It was our special time together, and my fondest memory of Sunshine. You see, he and I had a rocky start. He was living the good life with Steve until I decided to move in with George and Layla in tow. Not only did he now have to share his Dad, but he also had to share his litter box, his bed, and his food! There were many nights I would wake up to find Sunshine sitting on my chest staring at me. I knew he was asking me what the hell I thought I was doing in his spot and when I was leaving and taking the other two fur balls with me. It took a few months, but he finally came around to the idea of us all living together. We became best buds, but Steve was always the twinkle in his eye.
The subject of food and eating animals, even though emotionally difficult to discuss sometimes, is an easier topic for me to cover. You can observe personalities, habits, and see connections by interacting with different types of animals. It is from those observations that someone might take a different perspective on how they look at and understand animals. But how do you do that with the environment? Our planet provides and sustains life to all living beings. It provides water, air, and the resources that create almost everything we see, touch, taste, and hear. But humans have tipped the balance of our environment into a downward spiral. We are using and depleting the earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed. Growing pollution, swelling waste, mounds of trash in the ocean, and stripping of earth’s natural resources can only go on for so long before a breaking point is reached. It is just like, how long can humans go without food, water, or sleep before we have to recharge and replenish to keep going. We can agree there are more environmentally friendly ways to live.
Have you seen this article?
I recently saw this article in my local newspaper, the Columbian. The article talks about Josiah Zayner, founder of The Odin company, and his use of green tree frogs in genetics-altering experiments. He uses tree frogs to see if he can genetically alter their genes, and to grow additional tissue and muscle mass. But that is not the unsettling part for me; it is that his company is selling kits in hopes of teaching kids, families, schools, or anyone about gene-editing. Each kit contains six tree frogs, two cages, and all of the paraphernalia to alter the frogs genetically.
I blogged a book about conscious living a few months ago, and this is one of the most popular posts from the book! The book is no longer online, but I am hoping the book will be published soon. In the meantime, I still want to share some of the ideas from book with you!
Food has always been a defining part of my life.
I grew up in a big family, and we frequently had large gatherings, which of course centered around food. There was always a feast whether it was for a holiday, birthday, or impromptu BBQ. My mother made the best BBQ brisket and potato salad in North Texas! As an early teen, my brother and I had a competition each Christmas to see who could make the best looking and tasting dessert. I went to pastry school after graduating high school and even had my own baking business for a while. Not unexpectedly, it came as a shock to my family when I told them I was giving up meat in 2012. I am a born and raised Texan with burgers, brisket, and steak running through my veins. I had concerns about giving up meat. I was never concerned about where I would find protein or vitamins, but more about the feelings I associated with food. I mean, how did I expect to go to a Major League Baseball game and not eat a hot dog? How would I celebrate with family at our gatherings now? These were real concerns for me.
Are we innately selfish, or do we usually have the best intentions at heart when thinking of others? I’ve been thinking a lot about selfishness and compassion lately. I grew up being taught, and trying to live by the saying - treat others the way you want to be treated. On the surface, it is a noble thought. No one wants to be treated poorly. Do you want to be cut off in traffic, or be pushed aside by someone at the grocery store, be discriminated against, be abused, be yelled at..you get my point. Of course not!
But think about it, going by that belief we are only treating others fairly because it is the way we would want to be treated. We, I, become the driving force of that thought and action. Does that mean we only treat others well because we believe it will come back to us? Then what happens when we are cut off in traffic or treated poorly? Does that mean we have the right to retaliate or to pass that hatred on to others?
My husband and I were discussing something similar to this, and what he said has stuck with me for a while. He said, “Why not treat others as they would want to be treated.” That statement stopped me in tracks. Of course! That put others as the center focus of our intentions and actions. Is that where true compassion lives? I often wonder if we all are just following unwritten rules to be kind, and how many of us truly believe and feel being kind is a way of life. Do we have enough compassion inside us to want to be kind to others?
What is compassion? American Heritage Dictionary defines compassion as, ”The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual's emotional state.”
We also live in a society that encourages the survival of the fittest. Not meaning most athletic (but sometimes could mean that), but one where we always need to be better in order to make more money, to buy a bigger house, a fancier car, or the latest technology. I don’t believe true compassion can thrive or survive in that type of society. How could it? We are always trying to outdo or beat the other person to be the best at whatever it is. What about the people who don’t have the same opportunities as I do, or as you do? I know I hold an absolute privilege being a white, middle-class, childless American (even though I am a woman). If I subscribed to the thinking of the survival of the fittest, then I would use every privilege I have to gain the upper hand, no matter the consequences. I have heard many people say they want to make it to a certain point in their life financially and then they will be able to give back. What about all of the chances to help others along the way? Does the desire to take care of ourselves first, and then give when we can make us selfish? I mean, you board an airplane and are instructed to put on your oxygen mask first and then to help others (or course this brings up the question about compassion fatigue and care for yourself, in order to be able to carry on compassion). Can compassion and empathy live in that kind of environment? I don’t know.
Why are you kind or compassionate towards others? Does that extend to every one and to non-human animals? I would love to hear your thoughts! This is something I am going to continue to think about and explore.
It’s that time of the year when every commercial is lined with glitter, snow, mittens, and warmth. All of which are wrapped up in the latest fancy tech product, a shiny piece of jewelry, or the hottest toy to hit the market. Sale! Sale! Sale! The holiday frenzy has begun!
It is so hard not to get wrapped up in the twinkle of giving holiday gifts to our family, friends, coworkers, bosses, neighbors, book club members…and the list goes on. But when you step back, are those gifts needed, making a difference, or enhancing their lives? Are they appreciated or would that person prefer to have a handmade gift or even to spend quality time with you instead?
As with many people, this is my favorite time of the year. Decorating, cooking & baking, and family gatherings have provided many wonderful memories over the years. I have a large family, so every gathering seemed like a family reunion. This time of the year can bring a lot of stress – planning, preparing, and creating the perfect day can bring about many anxieties in even the most Zen-like person.