I began writing this post a practical explanation of how Shad and I are transitioning to a vegan diet, but I realize that the ‘why’ part must come first. It is not necessary as a justification or an excuse. Yet, while I don’t feel obligated to explain myself, I am making this choice for the second (and last time) in my life and I want to verbalize my purpose.
Beginning at age fourteen, I was vegan for a year, vegetarian for about ten years, and a pescatarian for the last few years. In every case, I was deliberately diverging from standard eating practices in my environment where most people eat lots and lots of meat and other animal products. It wasn’t the easiest route to take for a number of reasons. One, was that I was raised eating meat. I was used to it and I thought I liked it. I distinctly remember how much I was craving some Applebee’s chicken egg rolls shortly after made the leap into veganhood.
Another, is that the associations and presumptions many people make when they find out about this personal choice are remarkably annoying. You are immediately associated with a hippie on some level. That line of thought adds other connotations like bleeding-heart liberal, flaky, emotional, or unrealistic. While these associations are not necessarily verbalized or across the board, they are absolutely present on a large scale.
Now, why would I make such an uncomfortable and annoying choice? Again, there are a number of reasons, but in this list there is really only one important one.
The way we collect animal products is horribly and disgustingly cruel, inflicting astonishing torture on living, breathing, thinking creatures that feel pain and terror.
That was my original motivation for choosing a vegan diet. It was that simple and as a young, semi-idealistic teenager (I was never totally starry eyed) , I also had this inkling of belief that I could make a difference on a grander scale. Unfortunately, I think the dissipation if that inkling into the reality, that we eat eat more and more meat every year and the general treatment of animals gets anything but better, is what caused my gradual relaxation over the next decade and a half. As I got older, it became easier to say, that while I believe in kindness, practicing it is a meaningless gesture. I remain in the habit of abstaining from meat, but it’s not a political issue so I’m not really going to follow through.
But I get older and I keep thinking.
With the help of Shad making it easier for me (by choosing to change his own diet), and some good conversations, I’ve come back to the point where I don’t want to draw imaginary lines permitting myself an arbitrary level of involvement in things that I do not believe in doing. As an adult, with a relatively wiser perspective, it is still not a political issue for me. I won’t be throwing paint on fur (mostly because I believe that tactic is ineffective) and I won’t even be a jerk at your dinner table. I will, however, do what I believe is right, and on my vehicle of free speech, I will occasionally talk about it (probably in the form of great vegan recipes). I hope that I will affect one person who will affect one more person to make similar choices in their own lives, but I don’t plan on preaching. The internet is full of information for each person to decide for himself.
Finally, allow me to borrow from an ethical principle called Ahimsa. This is the idea of not causing harm to other living things. Essentially, while I live in the modern world and by existing and using modern products and services, I will indirectly cause harm, I am going to take conscientious steps to lead a life that cause the least amount of harm as possible.