I’ve been vegan now since about the end of June, 2014. It’s been a very disruptive “journey” to say the least. I really had no idea just how hard it would push me to face up to things that I had been pushing away for a while. Mostly, it has been unexpected.
The logistical and behavioural aspects of changing my diet were not nearly as challenging as I expected them to be. I thought I would miss eating cheese and eggs, but since learning what eggs and dairy really are from the perspective of the cows and chickens (even the so-called ‘free range’ ones) the thought of eating these “foods” again generally makes me feel like vomiting. The same for fish.
When I look at milk now it connects me to a living, feeling female (and her offspring) brutalised by a terrible system. A system that doesn’t see bodies and lives, but objects from which to extract a product to sell for profit. Because objects have no emotional, inner lives of their own, because objects feel no physical pain or illness, because objects can’t ‘understand’ this system has no problem using them without compassion or consideration. Now I am starting to become more fully aware of this connection between my own behaviours or desires and the direct harm done. It is difficult to find pleasure in ‘cheese’ (something I did only a few months ago) when it is the direct result of a forced pregnancy, the almost immediate separation of a child from his or her mother and the subsequent neglect, abuse and slaughter of a baby. There is no pleasure to be found in that.
The possible personal health benefits to myself in changing to a plant-based diet are an added bonus (though I made chocolate cake yesterday, so plant-based does not automatically equal healthy!). The same for the environmental footprint of animal agriculture. We as a global community and the environmental movement have to wake up fast to the reality of animal agriculture. Going vegan has allowed me to actually see this situation without the previous self-interested blindness.
What has surprised me are the social and emotional consequences of going vegan. Things like eating out are not the problem. I used to love eating out, but if there is almost nothing on the menu you want to eat, it soon loses its appeal. I do find eating with some people difficult and not enjoyable. The only way to cope with people shovelling dead flesh into their faces is to fall back on mental habits of ‘not seeing’ the animal. Trying to switch my cognitive dissonance back on. This, of course, becomes almost impossible when people want to talk to me about it. So, instead of being relaxing and fun, it’s just stressful. I don’t want to ‘switch off’ my new awareness, but neither do I want to end up hating humanity, especially those humans I love the most!
The practical logistics of going vegan are, for me anyway, child’s play compared with learning how to navigate the social world and dealing with the emotional upheaval. I’ve started to come right now, but for awhile I was an emotional whirlpool. I did my best not to let this leek out. I didn’t want to do or say anything that might damage relationships. I needed to understand myself what was happening. [I want to write about that sometime.] In many ways I feel like I am relearning how to be in the world, how to live with myself and how to live with and respond to others. But on a deeper level, I feel more connected to who I “really” am.
One writer and pod-caster I have found especially helpful is Colleen Practick – Goudreau. I brought her book the 30-day Vegan Challenge. For the next few weeks I am going to go through her book. It is supposed to be one chapter a day, but since there is so much information packed into each ‘day’, I have decided to let each day run over 2 or 3 days. I feel like this will give me the foundation I need to consolidate most of what I have already been doing on a plant-based diet in a more systematic, concentrated way – before moving on into other areas of my life.