Sunday, August 11, 2013

A confession: I am vegan for the animals

I feel bit ridiculous writing this post (and not only because I should be writing a paper right now) because the fact that I am vegan for the animals is so clear in my mind. However, I have been realizing that this may not be so clear for others in my life.

This realization finally occurred to me when I read this post by Gena Hamshaw from Choosing Raw which was posted on Our Hen House early this year. The progression Gena describes of her own veganism as one transitioning from a perspective of health to one that is so much more meaningful very much parallels mine and really spoke to me. She is one of my favorite vegan bloggers and her writing always touches me deeply. Reading her story has helped me crystallize in my own mind my relationship with food and veganism and ultimately has lead me to this post and my desire to share this with you all.

Meet my new mug, another inspiration
 for this post that I found at Goodwill 
I first began eating a vegan diet because I believed it was the healthiest diet and ultimately the cure to all of life's ailments. Gena describes her "flirtations" with the eating disorder orthorexia, or the extreme preoccupation with eating a healthy diet and avoiding foods seen as unhealthy. While I don't think I ever crossed the line into this pattern of disordered eating I certainly embodied some of these unhealthy practices. For a while I truly believed that eating a vegan diet (or really a "plant-based diet" as all the health vegan site say) was the only way to be healthy. Now, I fully recognize the problems with this view and that there can be many diets that promote a healthy lifestyle. I also have moved on from looking at foods as "good" or "bad" or restricting certain foods because I viewed them as "unhealthy." Overall, my relationship with food is one involving much fewer rules, much less stress, and much more fun and enjoyment. These are things I especially value as my diet involves enough nonnegotiable restrictions with my food allergies.

Another thing that has made me realize this shift in perspective on food is the aforementioned paper I should be writing at the moment. In this assignment, for my online nutrition class, I had to track my food intake and feelings surrounding food for four days. As I was doing this I realized that I, for the most part, eat in response to my body's signals and also eat what sounds appealing to me at that time. Most of the time the foods I actually want to eat are also the foods I think will contribute the most to my health, like a giant kale salad. However, this is not always the case. I have a blog post planned where I will share with you the delicious nachos I made this past week which, while also containing healthful ingredients, were eaten mostly because I just plain wanted a huge mess of nachos!

So where does this leave me with my veganism? Well, let me tell you, if I were only in it for my health I would likely no longer be vegan. However, I am now wholeheartedly in it for the animals.

Somewhere along my journey of eating a vegan diet I began identifying myself as "a vegan" and really opening my heart and eyes to the animal message. I have learned of so many, unimaginable, cruelties and injustices experienced by animals and of the horrible way they are treated in our society. I could go on and on about the horrors of meat, egg, and dairy production but I do not feel the need to go into that here, I have relived it too many times. However, there are countless videos and articles out there if you want to learn more about the inherent cruelties of this system.

I do not think is it right the way animals are treated and killed in our society, and all over the world. Nor I do not think that this is necessary. We can live a healthy and fulfilled life full of no deprivation without eating or using animals for our own pleasure. In addition, living a vegan lifestyle is better not only for our planet but also for the other people on this planet. This recent report came out looking at our food system and where all of the calories we grow and raise end up. They found that an extra 1.5 billion people could be fed if we all ate a vegan diet. If we were to also stop making biofuels, we could feed an extra 4 billion people. The environmental benefits of eating a vegan diet have also been well covered. Three years ago, the UN even came out saying "A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change," about which more can be found here.

So, from my perspective, and from that of many, there is no reason not to be vegan.

To be clear, my purpose for writing this is not to shame or attack those of you who do not consume a vegan diet. While yes, I will honestly admit, I would be thrilled if everyone I know became vegan, I respect the right of each of us to make our own choices and live the life we want to live, just as I expect those around me to respect my decision to be vegan.

Up until this point I have experienced incredible support from my friends and family, which I am immensely grateful for. However, for quite some time there has been a little voice gnawing away at me, telling me something isn't right. I think until this point I have been hiding behind the health argument, something that has been especially easy to do because of my experience with my very complicated food allergies. But, I think it is time that I need to be clear. While I do not choose to eat a gluten-free and corn-free diet, I 100% choose to be vegan. It is a choice I make every day and a choice I plan to make every day for the rest of my life.

As this little voice has become stronger and stronger over the last year, I have also begun to experience more despair and feelings of isolation. I realize now that a lot of those feelings have come from the fact that I have not been forthcoming about these issues. These struggles reached their peak this past weekend where I spent much of my time curled up in bed, paralyzed by grief, anger, and hopelessness. I want to use my time on this earth to make it a better place and I know I cannot do that if I am not bold enough to share my opinions and experiences. There are many things I want to do, related to animals and diet as well as other issues, and I know I cannot do these things if I spend my time replaying the horrors of our world in my head like a broken record.

I wholeheartedly believe that we have to be the change we want to see in the world. If we don't do it, then who will?

I know I still have a long way to go to truly live a life as free of animal products as possible, for I do still own and use household and clothing items made from or tested on animals that I obtained before I had this fire burning under me. However, I am fully prepared to take the steps required to reach where I want to be and view my veganism as central to my identity. As such, I know I need to share this part of myself with those around me, for if I don't I know I will never be all that I can be.

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