Writing Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.
Twist: Write it in three parts.
I used to eat animals. Now, I don’t. I lost something, but it wasn’t what I expected.
Never eating cheese or sushi again seemed inconceivable. I ate eggs almost every morning. “If you go vegan,” I told myself, “You will lose.”
At the time, I thought the food on my plate was about me. I still believed the ‘free-range’ myth – if nobody died or it was ‘all good days’ and ‘one bad day’ where was the harm?
So strong was my irrational fear of forever losing the taste of feta and smoked salmon that I decided to set a time limit – one year. Back then I wasn’t certain that I needed to be vegan. Who knew if this seemingly extreme and probably unnecessary lifestyle choice was right, or not? I was having difficulty thinking clearly on the subject, so I decided to do it as honestly as I could for a year and then make a decision.
And so I bid a sad farewell to smoked salmon bagels and scrambled eggs for year. I embarked on what I though would be a personal food journey.
I didn’t go vegan overnight. I had a phase out plan, starting with lunch – the only vegan place in town, Vegan Buffet, is a two minute walk from my office: cheap, delicious and convenient. I was often too lazy to bring lunch, so it made for the perfect back up plan. Plus, it was already familiar, as I ate there regularly anyway.
I started to research. Why are people vegan? Does it even make sense? What are the reasonable alternatives?
What exactly is my food? Where does it come from? What does food production really involve?
Who does it involve? Is this right?
What is this like from the point of view of the animals in the machine? What about the people? What about the animals? How does this impact the environment? What are the implications of animal agriculture?
Why are we doing this? Why do we think THIS is okay?
Why are we eating animals? Why have I been participating in this for 46 years? Why am I only now, after 46 years, starting to join up the dots?
I lost my ignorance. I lost my cognitive dissonance. I lost the entitled luxury of hiding inside my social and cultural conditioning.
Going vegan has not only been a journey of new information and behavioural change. For a while I thought I might never regain emotional equilibrium.
I have lost my ability to thoughtlessly blend in with the crowd. Most of our social situations revolve around food and the pleasure of eating and talking about eating. Yet, that pleasure comes at a cost I didn’t even know was being paid because I wasn’t being asked to pay it, yet.
The ghost chickens whose lives I paid for and bodies I broke are finally coming home to roost. As the world’s poor desperately scramble for food and water, we plunder non-renewable aquifers for animal agriculture. Confiscating what little remains of ‘natural’ land to graze cattle and grow crops to feed the farm animals we lock up in sheds and cages. We destroy the habitats wild animals need to survive or we hunt them as pests or for sport.
Would we really rather lose the only ecosystem we have; the only one that can support us than a few moments of mouth pleasure and consumer accessories? Would we really rather lose 21 000 people a day from hunger and hunger related causes than make a few minor adjustments to our lifestyle?
In a few weeks my year is up. I no longer enjoy sitting at a table watching people slice into the bodies of others and and ‘tut tut’ about the state of the world. I can not longer relax and connect with people though our entitled, self-serving, oblivious social rituals that I once happily participated in without needing to scream.
The earth will keep spinning in orbit for a few more billion years, but we will be lost.