NOTE: This post is purely personal, and has nothing at all to do with the normal history-based topics I share here.
In late March and early April of 2010 I spent a good amount of time chatting with my friend Faith about her veganism. Unlike some I’d known, Faith was never preachy, arrogant or condescending about her choice. She was simultaneously not quiet about it; squirreling away her lifestyle like Anne Frank in an attic. Her core argument for going vegan herself was that she sat down and looked long and hard at why she continued to eat milk, and cheese, and eggs– and the conclusion she told me she’d come to was inescapable– that she did it because she liked the flavor, and the taste. She also could not rationalize, qualify, or justify that decision, solely for her gustatory benefit. As a result she decided to become vegan.
Her argument made a lot of sense to me. I’d seen a video earlier that year on YouTube about chicken farming; and the handling, mutilation, and de facto torture of just-hatched chicks– all in the interest of industrial farming, food, and profit. I couldn’t reconcile my own horror with this practice (and it is a graphic piece) with my own beliefs and ethics. Torture and death for my stomach? No. Like Faith did before me, I decided to cut out as much of that lifestyle– of that industry– from my life as I could. I became vegetarian.
I won’t spout a line of bullshit and say it was easy at first. It wasn’t. I had years of cultural acclimation and indoctrination gnawing at the edges of my mind, telling me I wasn’t eating a meal without meat. I was hungry. I had to be hungry– where was the meat? It took time, effort, exploration, and practice for me to learn otherwise; and reorient myself otherwise. I investigated foods from cultures not as immersed in carnivorism. Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, where animals being used as meat for food is scarce was a start. Indian food was a revelation. I’d tinkered with South Asian food before, but never as a cook. It always seemed too difficult. But the richness, the variety– and the fact that much of Indian culture is vegetarian made it a hand-in-glove fit; so I began to tinker. While I’m a far cry from the likes of Malvi Doshi, I can now say that a plurality of my meals are South Asian in nature, and I make them from scratch. What was initially a challenge became easy. Very easy indeed. More importantly, my conscience was clearer.
All this time, despite the nay-sayers (and many questions!), I can honestly say I haven’t missed meat once. Not a bit.
Over all this time though– and it’s been three years now– I’ve been haunted by the things I haven’t cut out. I’ve maintained ovo and lacto– despite the abuses rampant in the egg and dairy industries. It’s a deep inconsistency; and is contradictory with my intent. By continuing to eat things made of eggs and dairy, I continue to contribute to the success of those industries, and their practices; even if in lesser profile than I had.
In essence, I found myself– I find myself– at the precise same crossroads Faith was describing to me three years ago. Why do I continue to include dairy and eggs in my diet? Answer: Because I like them.
Is that good enough?
Is that sufficient reason to continue to support an industry that harms animals in, frankly, callous and vicious ways?
Like Faith before me, I find the answer really is as plain as day. I cannot. My conscience will not allow it.
In August of 2010, Faith left us by her own hand, but in her last note she asked that if anyone wanted to do something in her memory, she asked that they consider a vegan lifestyle; or if not a vegan lifestyle, then a vegan day each week.
With the third anniversary of my becoming vegetarian partially as a result of her guidance, I complete the circle.
Dairy and eggs are off the menu.
My conscience will finally be clear.
For those who are interested, I include here some videos that I’ve viewed that are relevant to the discussion. I realize that on the VegFriend site I’m largely preaching to the choir– I include this for those who will see the cross-posting at my home blog.
View at your own risk. They. Are. Graphic.
Chick Handling in the Egg/Chicken Industry:
Abuse of Dairy Cows: