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
(Thankfully most MLB parks now sell vegan hot dogs! -->)?
How would I celebrate with family at our gatherings now? These were real concerns for me.
I remember being so sad and confused.
I couldn’t believe they took him to the butcher! I knew the day was coming,
but I just assumed they would change their minds because I felt like he became part of our family. I remember that his mother cried for him for a few weeks and paced back and forth in the pasture with nervous energy.
Being that I still lived at home, I didn’t feel as though I had a choice or say in what I ate. So I ate my friend. I felt guilty each time I opened the freezer door or cooked a meal using him. Guilt is a funny thing though. I found ways and excuses to justify what I was doing and who I was eating. I did that for many years later. In a way, I think that moment and that memory is what made me start thinking about my food not as it, but as who. I don’t call my cats now or the dogs that I grew up with an “it,” so I started to question why I called every other animal an “it” or labeled them as poultry or beef. When we label a being as an “it,” we give ourselves permission to disconnect their souls and turn them into a product for our use. As a little girl, I honestly didn’t know where my food came from. It was a shock to learn my chicken nuggets were from a feathery little bird and my bacon was a from a pig. By the time I saw Nike cut up and packaged in our freezer, I was old enough to know who I was eating. But I thought that was normal, and animals were meant for us to eat. That is what I grew up learning, and that is what I believed.
I don’t think I met a vegetarian until I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church in Hagerstown, Maryland in 2008. We participated in a potluck hosted by a few members of the church, and so many of the dishes that people brought were vegetarian. I kept thinking to myself that I am not going to like any of this. It was just weird. Then I saw a flyer for a vegan potluck group that met at the church. My first thought, what the hell is a vegan and how do these people survive? These questions continued to percolate once we moved away from Maryland and were living in Boston, Massachusetts. It wouldn’t be until 2012 that I became a vegetarian, mainly because of previously stated concerns and realization of who I was eating. During those years I started hearing tidbits about why people stopped eating animals, and I began seeking out information about animal farming. Then the dam burst and I couldn’t unlearn or unsee the facts. I couldn’t stop the nagging feeling in my gut that I wasn’t living the life that aligned with my new values. My values, morals, and opinions did change over those first years, and honestly, they still change every day.
Did you know that 9+ billion farmed land animals are killed annually, just in the US alone? And that number reaches 70 billion worldwide. This number does not take into account the trillions of sea life that killed annually as well. So in the time that it took you to read this post, approximately 1.2 million animals will have been slaughtered for food.
I have mentioned several times about what I have learned and why those facts made me go vegetarian and then vegan. I don’t like to be a negative person, so sometimes I find it challenging to regurgitate everything I know. The information isn’t pleasant by any means, but everyone should know and understand what is going on. If only to make a more informed decision about their life and what they put in their body. I am not the vegan that shouts at you to go vegan or that you are a murderer. For me, writing is my activism. Over the next few posts, I will give tips on eliminating animal products from your diet, facts about labels used by the agriculture system, information about factory farming, and even some delicious vegan recipes for you to try! I will also start to link non-human animals to the environment, humans, and our cultural values. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test on the connections at the end of the book (even though that is a good idea!), but you will start to see the connections develop more and more as we go along. Tips 1 - 5 will be posted in 2 days, so stay tuned!