I’ve spoken about my very slow transition away from meat over the past year. Although many of my friends and family members have been vegan or vegetarian for years, I was pretty stubborn about it. Noah was a vegetarian for three years before I was. As I became exposed to more conversations about this lifestyle, my defiance started to break down a bit. I didn’t grow up on a farm and I had misconstrued views on how animals live and are raised in meat factories. Wholesome pictures of farmers and free range, happy chickens appear on most packaging in the grocery aisles. Jamie Oliver’s clips on meat manufacturing went viral, showing that ingredients found in household cleaning products and bleaches go in to beloved processed chicken patties and viennas. They say that everyone has their own moment of realisation. You can watch all the documentaries you like, but if something doesn’t resonate with you personally then you won’t be likely to make any switches. I mean why would you? You grew up on meat, eggs, milk and ice cream like every other kid did, and you’re totally fine. I get it.
I’m not a salesman. I’m not going to try bend or force your views and to be honest, I pretty much don’t care what you eat. I don’t know everything or even enough to educate you on anything vegetarian related. I can only really share what it’s been like for me, and how it’s changed the way that I live and feel. I’ve eaten the odd burger or lamb chop over the past year. I ate a slither of meat last weekend. Right now, I’m eager to eliminate dairy from my diet but I wouldn’t push the kids to do the same. I’m sure I’ll still eat the odd food item that contains milk, but I’m going to try.
I’ve become quite interested – no, passionate about nutrition lately. It’s always interested me and I’d really like to take some kind of course on food education. I want to know what (exactly) a carrot does to my body. Which organs does it feed? What happens if you eat strawberries and is orange juice really too acidic for us? I want to know why people are lactose intolerant, or what gluten does to some. Why do some people become addicted to sugar? What does it do to your brain, exactly? I want to know everything there is to know about food – it interests me like nothing else does.
Since cutting out, let’s say 99% of meat from my diet – I’ve definitely felt a switch. Cutting meat was mostly a health decision for me, but the ethical side obviously plays a role. The digestive system is something that really interests me, to be honest. I started reading books on it from varsity. My late brother had celiac disease as a young boy, so his digestive system completely shut down and he briefly malnourished until they figured it out. A boyfriend of mine had the same thing. We all have friends and family who have been affected by diet-specific illnesses such as heart disease or some cancers. We’re all suffering in one way or another under the greed of the food industry. Things do need to change, and we need to take care of and protect ourselves from corporations who don’t have our best interests at the forefront.
For me, the most frustrating reality is that so many (even highly educated) people believe that humans need to eat meat and other animal parts to survive, live and even to thrive. To succeed. Another misconception is that being a vegetarian or vegan is expensive. If you do tell people that actual science has proved over and over again that we do not need to eat animal products, then people get defensive. Mostly, they get defensive because you have just told them that they are eating flesh, harming animals, supporting conglomerates, and potentially jeopardising their own health for well, no reason at all. That they’ve been doing this voluntarily. That’s a hard piece of information to erm, chew on.
Now stop. I don’t think that eating the odd animal product is wrong. While I might eventually chat to the boys about dairy farms, I won’t (ever) ban them from cheese or yoghurt. I won’t deny them birthday cake at a kids party or the odd milkshake because this is a lifestyle that they can commit to personally, if they so choose. You need to give your child the opportunity to learn and discover things on their own count, I think. I still offer Noah meat all the time. I still believe that meat has a place in this world, but I feel it needs to be ethically sourced and enjoyed as a now-and-then and not a daily staple. While we don’t technically need to eat meat, we most definitely do not need to eat it every single day or at every meal. There’s also a sense of gratitude that needs to be incorporated. In some cultures, meat is prayed upon. The animal’s life is celebrated and considered. We’ve become so desensitised in our consumption rate that a cow is now just a whacky wednesday or something to mindlessly throw on a sandwich.
More than this, an animal has not given or sacrificed his life to you. It has been taken by force after it has lived (in most cases) a really awful life. These farmed animals are submissive and afraid. Might is not right. Just because you are able to overpower and kill an animal, does not mean that you have the right to do so. I support dozens of local butcheries and suppliers who go to great lengths to supply ethically sourced meat and seafood. Meat and meat eaters do not repulse or upset me. I’m learning about new things and I really enjoy sharing my feelings about all of this.
And it’s not just meat you guys. It’s GMO foods, pesticides and chemicals used in fresh produce too. I’m looking at the entire food system right now and trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.
I’ll probably always still eat the odd meat item every few months. Maybe I’ll make it a once-a-year tradition, I don’t know. I could never call myself a vegetarian or a vegan or even 100% a pescetarian. I don’t want to ‘disappoint’ myself or make myself vulnerable to being criticised. Most of us are so hard on ourselves every day, and I don’t think I could ever handle the pressure of a label.
What I am going to do, is be open minded. Learn. Educate myself on the food industry. I want to learn from others and keep this an open conversation. I went to the aquarium the other day and for the first time in my life, opened my mind to information about red and green lists on seafood. I’ve let people lecture and inform me without feeling defensive or raising any walls. It’s humbling. I’m inherently stubborn and I’m enjoying this more relaxed, or even mature acceptance of the information that’s so readily available to me.
I’d previously dismissed all documentaries or even communication about the dairy industry. My love for yoghurt, cheese and milk knew no exceptions. It was all fine, and as long as I ignored it; it would not affect me. Then this tiny video clip started playing automatically in my feed last week and goddammit it’s changed me. I made myself watch it again and again. I’ve always avoided the “Cowspiracy” documentary and hell I may as well watch it now.
I think that people feel that vegans are smug. Or mean. Forceful. Crazy, even. Remember that vegan and vegetarian people were exactly like you probably even months ago. Burger-loving, ice-cream eating regular consumers just exactly like you are. There’s a feeling of empowerment that comes with being educated about these things, like you know something that nobody else does. You know what’s really going on. It makes you feel aware. Enlightened. Worldly, even. And like any other good or powerful experience, you want to share that with others. They want you to experience what they are, and people share information in different ways.
I (well obviously) don’t like seeing clips of animals being slaughtered in my timeline. It ruins my entire day. Last week there was this video about a rabbit screaming while his fur was being plucked and I can still hear that godawful sound. I don’t need (or even deserve, if I may) to see that, you know. So I won’t do that to you. Sometimes I see something particularly interesting or articulated in a way that I’m not able to express and I might share that. This (really short and punchy) video clip I saw about the dairy industry is pretty safe, and tame. You should know where your food or milk comes from, and this is it. It’s a summary and narrated by a girl so cool that I went and watched all her other clips too. Here it is: Dairy is Fucking Scary