Like most people, I grew up with a deep love of animals, but I didn't make the connection that they were sometimes the food on my plate.
When the movie “E.T.” came out, I was 7 years old. I remember thinking that if I were in a situation where I was asked to dissect frogs like Elliott, I would free them too. In high school, that scenario came about, and I told my teacher he could flunk me if needed, but I wouldn’t participate in dissecting the frogs, pigs, and sharks that were given to me. He asked me to write a paper about why I chose not to participate, and I passed the class (though I was still subjected to watching my classmates cutting the animals up).
In my last year of high school, I was at a bbq eating a hotdog. A girl came up to me, and sarcastically said to me, “Mmmm. Lips and assholes. Tasty.” I asked what she meant, and she told me about processed meats and the animal agriculture business overall. It turned my stomach, so I tossed the hotdog in the trash and swore off processed meats, pork, and beef.
Later that same summer, I was in a rural area of Mexico and watched a chicken get its head ripped off! As the blood spurted out and the chicken ran around headless, I got sick. That was the end of poultry for me. I decided seafood was out too, but I continued to eat eggs and dairy.
While I made the connection about the meat on my plate in my youth, I only realized a couple of years ago that the cows that produce milk and the chickens that produce eggs were also brutalized. Furthermore, I came to recognize that honey is food for bees that are in a dangerous population decline. The exploitation of animals deeply disturbed me. Beyond the harm to animals, I began reading about the environmental impact of raising livestock for consumption. The fact that animal agriculture is worse for the environment than all transportation put together is astounding.
I live with an omnivore, so I decided that following the “Vegan before 6:00” diet would probably work best since we usually only share dinner together in our busy lives. That helped me transition into the vegan diet and keep peace at home.
Fortunately, I found the group Veganuary that challenged me to go vegan for a month. I was certain that after the month was over, I would go back to “Vegan before 6:00,” but then I watched “Earthlings.”
In the documentary, they show the horrors behind the leather industry. While I knew that leather came from dead cows, I thought it was a by-product of the meat industry. Once I recognized that it wasn’t, and all the harm it does to the animals, the workers, and the environment, I had to purge my closet of my leather shoes, belts, and purses. I’m not a fashionista by any means, but I loved those items – that is until I really started looking at them as the flesh of innocent creatures.
Coincidentally, an all-vegan shoe store called Amour de la Terre (Love of the Earth) opened up in my area. I went there for information and, of course, new shoes. It feels good to wear eco-friendly, leather-free shoes.
I would like to veganize my whole wardrobe and eliminate wool too, but that’s been as challenge as I live in a cold climate and have found restocking my wardrobe costly. I’ll get there eventually.
I’m happy to report that an unexpected side effect of my vegan diet is that my cholesterol dropped significantly. Two years ago, my doctor was talking about possibly putting me on medication to lower my cholesterol. He thought it was genetic since both my parents, who are very fit, also have high cholesterol. He was very surprised to see that my cholesterol dropped from 245 to 186 in just three months without animal products in my diet. That was a year ago, so I’m due for another check-up and look forward to more good news.
Going vegan has taught me a lot. I reached out to Vegan Chicago, a Meet-Up group, and have met other vegans who have supported me in my journey. My fella, the omnivore, has now gone vegetarian. Our mantra, that I’ve borrowed from the Happy Herbivore, is “Progress, not perfection.”
I am so happy to be part of a compassionate community of vegans and hope others will join us.