This week marks the one-year anniversary of my decision to go Vegetarian. I never made a big proclamation about my decision to forgo meat because, well, honestly it was incredibly emotional and personal. The day I stopped eating meat will forever be burned into my brain. It wasn’t a decision I had been considering or debating for a long period of time, rather the decision sort of fell in my lap one day.
Let me explain.
On a rainy September morning about a year ago, I was reading through various blogs when a post on Peas and Thank You caught my eye: Making the Connection. Mama Pea wrote candidly about the documentary The Cove, a movie revealing the inhumane and inexplicable murder of thousands of innocent dolphins in Japan. Having already seen The Cove, I knew the impact this Oscar-winning documentary could have on the viewer. The footage is heartbreaking.
What struck me about Mama Peas’ post was her sincere, upfront rationale regarding her family’s lifestyle. The Pea family is meat-free and animal cruelty-free, meaning they live a vegan lifestyle. At the end of her post, Mama Pea shared a link to a video that exposes the suffering of animals for food, fashion, pets, entertainment and medical research. Being the curious person I am, I clicked on the link.
For 90 minutes I sat entranced by devastating scenes of animal cruelty that went far beyond inhumane brutality. The footage was shot at animal shelters, pet stores, puppy mills, factory farms, slaughterhouses, the leather and fur trades, sporting events, circuses, and research labs. I went through an insane amount of tissues watching the documentary. I’m actually tearing up just writing about it.
Earthlings, an award-winning documentary, forever changed my life that September morning. I wasn’t looking to become a vegetarian or a vegan or anything of the sort. But the violent images of animal cruelty left a searing impression, and just like Mama Pea, I made the connection.
For days after watching the documentary, I had nightmares about animal cruelty and frequent flashbacks to images from the movie. I was in counseling for depression at the time, and my counselor actually had to help me decompress from the documentary. Earthlings is definitely not for the faint of heart. The film is nicknamed “the Vegan maker” with good reason. But, even if I could go back in time to avoid watching the documentary, forever erasing the horrific images of animal cruelty, I wouldn’t. I appreciate being exposed to the reality of factory farms in our country. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is still ignorance. I prefer honesty and education.
Perhaps I didn’t come out with my new lifestyle choice right away because I was very emotional about it for a long time. For a while, I was subtle about not eating meat. At home, Ian knew very well why I had made the decision and why I was physically unable to go within 100 feet of meat without crying or feeling incredibly nauseous. While most people may ease into the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, I jumped in all at once because I really couldn’t handle it any other way. The images were too close to my heart.
One year later, I am able to proudly proclaim my vegetarianism and explain the reason behind my lifestyle choice without choking up. I have made a few exceptions, like eating fish, eggs, and cheese, mainly because I don’t like to eat processed foods (like tofu and tempeh), thus making it difficult for me to find substantial protein options. Someday, I hope to vanquish all animal products form my diet, but I’m not there just yet.
I do, however, adequately research and purchase products that are strictly cruelty-free. I simply cannot get on my high horse about rescuing Bene and Ava and then turn a blind eye on the cruel industry of animal testing. When Bene and Ava look at me with their big, innocent eyes, my heart melts.
And while I am an extreme animal lover and supporter, I certainly understand that not everyone feels the same way. Many of my students spend their weekends hunting. The majority of my family and friends eat meat and buy cosmetic products without a second thought. Even Ian continues to consume meat, though by default he no longer purchases products that have been tested on animals. I can, and will, get on my soapbox when called, but it is my strong belief to let people be. I lead by example rather than force. I suppose it’s the teacher in me.
Beyond the personal and emotional side of my vegetarianism, the physical and health results have been incredibly positive. The past year I have been healthier and stronger than ever before, in part because I am more aware of what I am eating and more conscious of what goes into my body. I make an effort to eat well-rounded every day. At first I was worried about feeling restricted. I’m a foodie and truly appreciate a variety of delicacies. But, surprisingly, I have never felt more in control of my diet.
Vegetarianism has been empowering and truly enlightening. I am continually thankful for the fateful day in September that forever changed my view of the world, humanity, and food.
Are you ready to make the connection?