I’m new to the world of all things vegan. Having been vegetarian for a little while, I have often flirted with the thought of taking the plunge and switching to veganism. Why? That is the question most often asked when I casually mention it to my friends or family. So why would anyone make the decision to go vegan?
For me, becoming a vegetarian was a result of, as Oprah would call it, an “ah ha” moment.
I have three children, two of which have Autism Spectrum Disorder. My eldest finds animals to be easier company to keep than fellow humans, so he really enjoys keeping pet mice. He is not so good with the cleaning up of said mice, so mum often gets landed with that job. One day, whilst cleaning out the cage of the breeding pair (this was an accidental pairing), I just sat down on the bed and watched them and their babies.
It was a fascinating viewing, the way that they worked as a family unit. The male mouse taking care of the new-borns, while the mother went out to eat or him bringing her food when she was stuck in the house feeding the hungry mass of squirmy pink-babies . The older babies from the last litter grooming and warming the little ones. The daddy mouse attacking any stray finger that dared to go near their house. They cared and protected their babies just like we do. This started me thinking…
I had been told by a dog trainer a few years back not to attribute human emotions onto animals. I had agreed to this at the time, but then I started to think, well, why can’t animals experience the same range of emotions and feelings that we have? Do humans have exclusive rights to being happy or sad, or the feeling of loss or grief? Can anyone explain the pure joy that your dog displays when you they greet you at the front door as anything other than love?
That lead to me realising that every piece of meat that I ate was at some stage an animal’s baby. I suddenly didn’t want to eat someone’s babies anymore. Easy as that. No more meat. Not even fish (like back when I was a ‘pretend’ vegetarian for five years in my late teens) because, contrary to popular belief, fish are not vegetables…
Saying farewell to eggs and dairy
I had discovered that I was lactose intolerant 18 months ago, on a romantic weekend away with my husband. After indulging in a cheese platter for afternoon tea, I then spent the next 2 days on the toilet. (Note to the designer of the gorgeous room in which we were staying, there is NOTHING romantic about seeing your loved-one stuck on the toilet with explosive diarrhoea in a bathroom with glass walls!) I have been avoiding or severally limiting all-dairy based products since, so that was not something I would miss becoming vegan.
Eggs were another thing… I have only purchased free-range eggs for a long time but I always had a nagging suspicion that not all free-range eggs were truly that. How could you really, honestly know unless you were buying them directly from the farmer? I would love to get to Farmer’s markets every week, but that wasn’t an option with two special needs kids in tow. Could I live without my eggs for Sunday breakfast? After I tried the brilliant scrambled tofu recipe, that answer was a resounding yes!
So, after stocking up on all the required goods from the health food store and doing tones of research on the internet, I am confident that I can stay the course.
My new vegan path
I know that dealing with negative attitudes towards being a vegan will be a challenge for me. I have had mixed reactions from others varying from complete acceptance to absolute horror. A relative had a look on her face when I mentioned it to her, quite like I had just told her I had a terminal disease… Another expressed anger at my choice, stating the “God put animals on the earth for human’s to eat!”. Hey, steady on there… even if I believed in God, I’m sure he didn’t bless us with these amazing creatures for us to just kill and eat. How sadly arrogant we are to think that we are so much different to animals. I vow to try to be understanding and patient with people and their own beliefs.
There may be bumps in the road but I am not going to dwell on them. I have vowed to not become an angry or overly preachy-vegan (come on, everyone knows one!) as I don’t believe that preaching works. People need to make their own minds up about these life-changing decisions. I do however strongly recommend that everyone sits back and watch the way animals (wild or domestic, or even insects in your garden) interact with each other. Look at how they communicate with each other and express themselves. You may be surprised at what you see.
I am lucky to be in a position to be able to be vegan; to be able to afford and have access to good, nutritious food and to have a productive backyard fruit/vegetable garden. While I can make a difference, this is what I’m going to do.