A few months ago, I adopted a vegan way of eating. It was a natural progression for me, as I had been vegetarian for about a year prior to that, so eliminating all animal products from my diet as much as possible was an easier accomplishment than giving up caffeine was. Going caffeine-free was physically painful for a few weeks, whereas there were no negative effects to becoming vegan.
Except the social ones.
I did not become a vegan to judge other people’s ways of eating or living. I still feed my children animal products (although on a much lesser scale than before), for several reasons. They divide their time between my home and their father’s non-vegan home, and I need to respect that. I don’t impose my choices about food on my children, on my husband, on my friends. If I’m invited for a meal somewhere, I rarely mention that I’m a vegan; I’ll just pass on what I don’t eat, and load up on what I DO eat. If asked by my host if I’d like a piece of that pork tenderloin, I’ll just say “No, thanks”, and comment on what a great meal they’ve prepared. Having manners and being polite is about putting other people at ease, which I feel is more important than imposing my views. Unless I was allergic, I don’t feel it’s necessary to advise in advance that I’m a vegan. Of course, the topic might come up, and then I’m fine with discussing it, but other than that, you probably wouldn’t know I was a vegan unless I told you I was.
When I’m asked why I became a vegan, I usually say it’s because I want to be healthier. Which is true. My first reason is that this is about me. But it’s not the only reason. Here are reasons number 1098, 1099, and 1100:
After being vegetarian for a while, I read Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz. I’ll warn you right now, if you decide to read this book, be prepared to be emotionally affected. And probably physically ill. But knowledge is power, not the kind of power to dominate, but the kind that gives freedom for people to make this world better.
I receive email health hazard alerts, product recalls, and food-poisoning outbreaks from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/toce.shtml. As my daughter has allergies to nuts, it’s sometimes helpful to know when a food manufacturer has failed to indicate on their labels that a product does in fact contain nuts. With the recent listeriosis outbreak in Canada, I’ve been receiving on average TEN emails per day from the CFIA, with the subject heading as Listeria. Another reason I’m grateful for being a vegan. In fact, it’s this recent deadly meat crisis that has prompted me to write this post. Nine people have died so far from this. http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2008/08/29/listeria-fri.html As I’m editing this post, I’ve just read that one person has died and 87 others are infected with salmonellosis in Québec. http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2008/08/29/samomella-que.html
Being a vegan is challenging in the sense that you need to pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and finding acceptable food subsitutes can be tricky. But it’s dealing with the social aspects of being a vegan that can sometimes get on my nerves. Ok, really it’s dealing with narrow-minded nincompoops that gets on my nerves. When you tell someone who is not a vegan about your being a vegan, you will be put on the defensive, even if you’re not skating defense. You would think that you are stabbing them in the back by their surprised and dismayed reaction, as if you’ve betrayed the human race. People react to a vegan the same way they react when the topic of religion comes up. They’ll pull all they know out of their brains to counter anything positive you might say about veganism. Heck, you might’ve only uttered those three little words, “I am vegan”, without any malice or without passing any judgement on their lifestyle, just as a general non-offending comment, and they’ll immediately rip you up and down with fallacies and misguided facts on nutrition. Then they’ll smugly say something like “Ha, I bet you still eat chocolate, though? Eh? A chocolate-eating vegan! Yeah, that makes alot of sense.” This from the mouths who chow down on hormone-injected dead flesh, who suck in over 4,000 chemicals in 10 minutes on their cigarettes, who think pop is a good subsitute for water. Whoops, guess I’m passing judgement there….I never said I was perfect.
In fact, I know I’m not a perfect vegan. When my children have a blast baking up a storm in the kitchen on a rainy afternoon, and they go through great efforts to create a tea party in the dining room, AS IF I’m going to refuse to taste their gooey brownies or their chocolate toffee bars! To me, the experience of feeling close with my kids, seeing their expectant eyes as I bite into their yummy treats, and their mile-wide smiles knowing we’re sharing way more than just food, is for me as nourishing and transcendental as prayer. And as much as I’m willing to break my vegan “rules” for my children, they along with my husband are also my main reason for trying to take care of myself as best I can.