Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How I Became a Vegan

Some conversions come like lightening out of the blue and others take a little longer.  As far as being a vegan goes, I am sad to say it took me a long time to come around to seeing the hidden evils of dairy products and eggs, in fact I was a vegetarian who thought that veganism was a little extreme.  How can not eating eggs or dairy be considered extreme when judged against the actions that bring dairy products and eggs to the table?  The dairy industry is cruel - that's extreme.  The egg industry is cruel - that's extreme, too.

I was already a vegetarian long before I became a vegan, and had been since my child was about eight years old.  One day at school, he had learned that meat was nothing more than the bodies of slaughtered animals.  Prior to that he had thought that meat was an item that was purchased at the store and he was unaware that it was the flesh of animals.  Always a very sensitive child, my son's horror at his discovery was palpable.  He was inconsolable about the harm that he had contributed to, and this made me stop and think.   I took our already-made chicken dinner to an elderly neighbour, and we became vegetarians on the spot.

It took me much longer to understand the cruelty inherent in the dairy and egg industry, and therefore it took several years before I became a vegan.  This is the story of how it happened. One morning, before work, I was reading the paper.  There was an article in the Toronto Star about a woman who had a farm sanctuary for rescued hens.  I was drawn to the article because the photo that accompanied it showed a hen wearing a little sweater.  The article explained that that hen, and the others that were rescued, needed sweaters because they lost their feathers due to being jammed together in the too-small crates that are routinely used in egg-laying facilities. It was October and the hens were cold, plus winter was coming and their feathers would not have been re-grown by the time the really cold weather started.  I was aghast at the implications of this.  I looked up the woman's farm on-line, sponsored a chicken for the year.  I could not get the picture of the sweater-wearing, featherless chickens out of my head. Those images followed me around.

About two weeks later I was sitting in church one morning and during the announcements, our priest was talking about the church Christmas luncheon and was telling us that for that dinner we had our choice of turkey, roast beef or salmon.  That bothered me because I was a vegetarian (but that's a topic for another post). And then that image of the chicken in her little sweater popped into my head, and in that moment, at church, I knew that the answer was veganism.  From that moment on I never knowingly ate animal products again.  I became an avid label-reader.  I no longer wear leather or wool or feathers.  I gave my woolen yarn stash to some women at my church who knit scarves and mitts for a shelter in Toronto, and donated my woolen clothes to charity.

It is hard to explain to non-vegetarians or non-vegans how right this decision was for me and for animals.  Some people think there is no moral aspect to the food we choose, but they are wrong, totally wrong.  When a being must die for a person to eat, when that person has options that are just as healthy that don't involve killing or cruelty, that's morally wrong.   Of course I have been offered the "what if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat but animals, then would you kill and eat them?" question.  The answer is:  I'm living in Toronto.  There are no desert islands around here.  When I travel, I travel to the United States and Europe.  There are no desert islands there.  The odds are definitely against me finding myself on a desert island any time soon, but should I find myself there, I would look first to see the plants that the animals on that island were eating.

I am saddened by the specious arguments that non-vegans use to justify their meat eating, and this is everything from "we have canine teeth" to "it just tastes so good."   Our canine teeth are not canine teeth in the same sense as my dog or cats' canine teeth are.  Our canines are more vestigial and ornamental than practical canine teeth.  And of course meat tastes good: I used to love a good steak, but I'm no longer prepared to participate in the cruelty inherent in getting a steak to the table, and I am angered by people who don't care.  I am totally put off by people who say "Mmm, bacon!" when I am eating a vegan meal.  These people I ignore.

This is a link to the article that started me thinking seriously about the egg and dairy industry, and which helped move me into veganism, and which helped me begin to truly live my values of kindness and compassion.


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