Monday, February 22, 2010

Cruelty: It's What's For Breakfast?

Ask a vegan "why" and you could receive many potential answers. One may give you facts: For instance, most vegans ban eggs because of how they are retreived-- chickens live on farms with bad conditions, and their day and night cycles are forced unnaturally to double their production. Another might tell you it is part of their religious beliefs. You may get abstract answers about souls and 'happy food', or, my least favorite, one may answer that being vegan is a trend. But at the root of all of these reasons is a general belief that the comsumption of animal or animal byproducts is somehow unethical.

I've grown up in smalltown Harlan for most of my life. My stepfather and brother hunt every animal around and kill rabbits if they get into the garden. I am surrounded completely by friends and family who eat meat. There are deer heads and stuffed turkeys strewn about my family room. When I decided two years ago to become a vegetarian, it was a struggle; my family had no problem mentioning their distaste of it, I found it to be an inconvenience if I wasn't cooking for myself, and, to be honest, part of me still wanted the meat. For 16 years, I had eaten animal almost daily, and my body was addicted. Since that first decision, I have fluctuated many times between vegetarian, vegan, and what my little sister calls "human eating" (not to say that I eat humans but, rather, I eat as a normal human being would.) When I went on my trip to Argentina, many of my group members and my leader were from the east coast, and they noted that I was an "apologetic vegetarian," which I explained through my Iowan homelife mentioned above.

This time, though, things are different. I have been eating vegan since January 4, 2010 with thorough dedication and I do not see myself ever going back to "human eating" again. The differences? I believe in solid morals that keep me obligated, I got past the two-week want-to-eat-everything-I-crave phase, and now my tastes have changed according to what I eat.

I am asked a lot if eating vegan is difficult, but with desire, it is not! I get all of the nutrients that I need either through vitamin pills or more preferably by the food that I eat (I eat much healthier than pretty much anyone I know.) My stomach doesn't feel like it needs such large portions of food, and I only eat when I'm hungry, rather than for emotional reasons. I did lose about seven pounds during the first month, but the weight loss has stopped at a healthy number. These days, one can substitute just about any ingredient for a vegan one, and there are whole restaurants, recipe books, and grocery stores supporting the lifestyle. In the photos are a few examples of things I can't eat and their vegan replacements: milk exchanged for soy milk (rice, almond and coconut milk also available), butter for dairyless margarine, meat for a black bean burger (soy and veggie also available, as a well as a tofu version of about every type of meat), and pancake breakfast exchanged for an organic cereal with some protein I need.

Though one can make at least one order on any menu vegan, it's more enjoyable for me to go to new restaurants or grocery stores in the city. My favorites are McFoster's Kind Cafe and Whole Foods Market in Omaha, both of which specializing in organic and vegan food. It is no coincidence that these vendors and consumers are also the ones cutting down on environmentally-harming excess packaging. I enjoy giving my support to companies who are out to improve the condition of the world.

I would never press my beliefs on anyone, but I would definitely encourage anyone who is interested to try veganism. It is something you have to go into seriously to be successful, but the rewards can be incredible. Have you ever thought about becoming a vegetarian or vegan? Know someone who is? Leave your comments about the issue here!


JENNY said...

your thoughts on wearing leather?

ReNee said...

To be honest, I'm sure I own leather in my closet somewhere. Since I've been vegan, I haven't bought leather and never will again, however I haven't taken the time to dig through my clothes and shoes yet. Now that you have brought it to my attention, I will :) Leather is not vegan-friendly.

Victoria Thomas said...

I was a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years! Still against leather and animal made products, but I DO eat meat.