Let's start at the beginning, I grew up in a very health conscious house. My mother believed in her family eating all natural, organic, preservative-free food. We did eat meat, but it usually came from a local farm north of where we lived. Incidentally, I have etched in my brain a visit to the farm where I was hanging out with the farmers daughter in the slaughterhouse while she ate Fruit Loops and we watched cartoons on a tiny tv. Sounds like something right out of the Twilight Zone, right? Even though I didn't see any animals being killed, I will never forget the smell of the place, mixed with the smell of Fruit Loops...still gagging! Anyway as a child, I did not love meat. I demanded that my mom make for me a separate spaghetti sauce that was meat free (which she lovingly did) and I was no fan of pork chops that's for sure. At age 8? 10?, I remember asking about the source of the meat. In my head I liked to think of the animals being humanely euthanized, pain-free and willingly. I think even then I knew it wasn't true. But I asked about the ethics of eating animals & the answer I received was that this is what the animals are raised for. Which is a truthful answer without getting into right and wrong.
At age 19, I one of my BFF's was vegetarian, I worked in a restaurant with a lot of vegetarians, and I took an ethics class that talked about eating animals. This really stirred the pot for me & I decided that I was going veg. But for the uneducated 19 year old, that meant that I ate grilled cheese, mac and cheese, and french fries. Not a well balanced diet and definitely not one for the long haul. Needless to say that I was only vegetarian-ish for awhile & soon fell off the wagon. I did not have the 'a-ha' factor or moment to make the change last.
My 'A-ha' moment (sorry about going "all Oprah" on ya) happened when I got my dog when I was 20 years old. He was only 5 weeks old when I got him & I had to give him puppy formula because he was taken from his mamma to soon. It was love at first sight. It was also not so long after that I realized that he is not different from other animals...if you think so, ask yourself why? Once that connection was made, it was really difficult to separate. I definitely had my moments of backsliding, but this time they came with a heaping spoonful of guilt...and who wants that? The easiest way to alleviate this guilty feeling was to stop eating meat...change my behavior. And that's what I did.
|He was just a little bigger than my hairbrush!|
So onward we go as a vegetarian. Or pesca-vegetarian, because I still ate seafood. It was actually a carnivorous friend who got me to stop eating fish. She asked me what the difference was between land and sea creatures...why was one okay for me to eat and not the other. Now I'm not sure if she was really curious or really wanted to challenge me, but challenge me she did, and this was my reply: There is no difference, but seafood is just harder for me to give up. Shortly after she asked the question, I stopped eating fish. The guilty feeling that I was ignoring was no longer ignorable. And many other things after this just gradually faded away...eggs began to disgust me, we switched to soy milk for hubby's lactose issues, etc. Hubs and I often discussed that we knew veganism was in our future...we were totally not prepared for how soon it would arrive.
For our anniversary every year, we venture to the Fingerlakes wine country in New York. Coincidentally, right around the corner is Farm Sanctuary. We had tried to visit the farm in the past, but our timing was always off...we ran out of time, farm was closed to visitors...But in August of 2009, the stars aligned and we were able to visit the farm! It was a rainy, muddy day, and we were the only visitors (thank the saints!). I already new it was going to be an emotional day because I'm super sensitive when it comes to the mistreatment of animals. I was tearing up at the get-go, just thinking of all the wrongs in the world & I was super excited and nervous about meeting the cows. I have a soft-spot in my heart for cows (they are just big dogs!) and I just new it would be difficult and wonderful to see them. So our tour began with a video, talking about how the animals used for meat, eggs, and dairy industries are treated. More tears. Then we start up to see the cows. Our guide, my new farm BFF, was talking about a really awful story about sheep....I can't remember it now, because as soon as I got my first glimpse of a cow, I totally broke down sobbing (this is why I'm thankful we were the only ones on the tour). Farm BFF thought it was the story (it probably partly was), but it was really the cows...poor Farm BFF didn't know what to do with me. When I finally composed myself, we headed into the pasture with the "Special Needs" herd...most of whom have joint issues, are elderly, etc. This is where I met Snickers, the beautiful cow with a white heart on his front leg. As we were sitting with Snickers, Farm BFF was telling us his story. He was a veal calf and he was rescued with his mother, who's udders were so severely infected that they were dragging on the ground. This is where I learned that dairy industry = veal industry. Duh! I never really truly made this connection before. Veal was the very first meat I gave up in my teens, and unwittingly all along, I was supporting veal farming every time I bought ice cream or Gouda. That info does not sit well in a vegetarian's stomach. So we continued on with our tour, meeting all the wonderful animals and hearing their stories. We witnessed how many obstacles they've overcome and how they can even find forgiveness. Did you know that sheep comfort each other by leaning on each other, ie applying pressure? They find this comforting, and they help each other out in times of distress. The sheep did this to us...that day, when we were struggling to come to terms with our choices and the choices of the world. They came right up to us and leaned on us, we comforted each other. And during each visit to the farm, the sheep continue to do this...sometimes almost knocking us over! So needless to say, after that visit, both your BFF and her hubby were vegan.
|Me with Snickers!|
|Look at the heart on his leg! RIP Snickers...you changed my life forever!|