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I decided that I wouldn’t eat food that came from animals, unless I took full responsibility for how those animals were treated, and what happened to them in the end. For me, it was simpler to give up dairy and eggs altogether. Every couple months or so, my partner and I drive out from the city into the dark and rivery roads of the country. We go to visit the farm that he grew up on. The land there is beautiful; hilly and arid. Not suitable for growing vegetables. His mom, Bonnie, raises grass instead and feeds up to 25 organic beef cattle and 200 organic sheep off it. She tells me, “If they weren’t raised for meat, they wouldn’t get the chance to live.” In some ways, they have a very peaceful life. It is certainly the luck of the draw if you are a beef cow to be born on a farm like this. I would call it the most respectable way to raise meat. And yet... I know my own muscles. I don’t have to hold a cleaver in my hand to know I couldn’t kill an animal for its meat. I don’t even like being on the farm the day that the truck comes. This is the truck that brings them to the slaughterhouse, where workers kill animals in a routine, methodical manner. Slaughterhouse workers tend to be people who don’t have many other options, and the working conditions are often dangerous. Studies show that there is a high correlation with slaughterhouse work and post traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Workers become desensitized to violence. I don’t want to export the responsibility of killing animals onto someone else. That is much too large of a burden.


People love to hate on vegans. However, I wanted to come to veganism with the understanding that not all people are like me. There are so many levels of rationalization when it comes to our choices as consumers. There are so many ways to spin the dial, so many stories that could be told. I give credit to people who have gone down the rabbit hole of food choices, even if they ended up in a different wonderland than me. After all, food is a sensitive thing. It is a part of our collective history, our culture and our relationship to each other. We swallow proteins, starches and fats and they turn in our stomachs, slowly becoming a part of us, entering our blood stream, our bones. In the end, our food is as relatable as family. It is blood. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, vegan advocate and writer, talks about a sense of peace and calm that comes over you once you become vegan. For me, after the haggard process of deciding whether it was a commitment I could make, one that I could defend in all the complexities of our food system and culture, a wave of simplicity washed over me. I was no longer tortured with the decision of whether my dairy or eggs came from a “good” place. I didn’t have to complicate my grocery trips with never-ending rationalizations over cheese. It is a simplicity that I remember from childhood, something visceral and animal-like, evoked from choosing a path of empathy. I will miss having a community with dozens of vegetarians and vegans by my side, but if there is one thing I know for sure, my twelve-year-old self would be proud.


spring 2013  

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