Does My Veganism Offend?

            “Why are you doing this to me?”

Recently, I decided to make a big change in my life by converting to veganism. After going vegetarian about four months ago, veganism is a lifestyle I’d been heavily contemplating until I finally decided to make the jump.

But let’s take it back four months when I announced to my family I was a vegetarian. “Why are you doing this to me?” And responses of the like were what I received from my family members. I drew back in shock, why am I doing this to you??  I was appalled by the reaction; I wasn’t doing this to my family, I was changing for me.

I went back to my place that night and thought about what had happened. Food is a big part of my family’s culture. For as long as I can remember my immediate family has gotten together every Sunday night for dinner. You can consider Sunday Dinner my family’s equivalent to church; we always attend. Especially when it comes to my grandma, food is how she brings our family together, it’s what keeps us connected. She prides herself on her ability to do this for us, as she should, not to mention she is the best cook I know.

My choice had offended the routine, causing a sudden disturbance in the dynamics, and the people I cared about the most didn’t know how to handle it.

“Why the hell are you doing that to yourself?" Another one of the classic responses I receive, even from the fam. So why am I doing it? That’s the question in all of this.

As an environmental sustainability major the condition of the earth today and the role mankind has played in shaping that condition weighs heavily on my conscience every day. I recycle, walk where I can, and I avoid producing paper and plastic waste at all costs. Still I often feel guilty as I have my own car, commute a 35 minute drive to work, and I love long, hot showers. How could I do more in my situation? The solution I found; cut out the animal products.

From an environmental stand point, the animal industry is the number one cause of deforestation, water allotment, and production of greenhouse gases.

 

We are producing enough grain to feed 10 billion people every single day. Do you understand the significance of this? We have the power to completely eradicate starvation around the world. So where is all that food going? To feed the cows, chickens, pigs, and all other animals we consume.  And yet these animal processing plants are destroying our environment every single day. How counterintuitive is this? We produce enough food to feed the planet, then instead feed it to the animals and further enable the total destruction of our planet. No matter how hard I try I can find absolutely no logic in this. So I became a vegetarian.

I attended an open dialogue event called Meet Your Meat held by the University of Utah’s Bennion Service House. With four qualified panelists, we had a deep discussion about animal rights within the food industry. I walked out of that house a vegan.

When we picture animal agriculture, we still picture rolling green fields with a red barn, happy cows walking around freely. This scene no longer exists. We’ve all seen the horrifying footage of baby chicks being thrown around carelessly in factories, chickens being inhumanely slaughtered and cows and pigs packed into cages so tight they can’t even turn around. The videos cause our stomachs to tighten and turn, force our eyes to look away. It’s painful to watch and almost impossible to accept as reality. So we ignore it. Convince ourselves there’s nothing we can do to change it, put our blinders on, and continue consuming. I won’t go any further into the horrifying truths of animal agriculture, that’s not the point of this article. All you need to know is that there is not enough land on this entire earth to feed the United States’ population alone meat that has been cultivated humanely. Key word there: HUMANE.

We live in a world that has been taught to accept our lifestyle without questioning how it’s attained. When I was younger, I never went to the grocery store and wondered where the meat I was purchasing came from. It’s because today a disconnect exists between humans and our food. No more than one hundred years ago did the majority of Americans raise and produce their own meat and other animal products.  Humans developed a connection with their food. They worked for their food, cared for the animals and ate food they could take pride in. Today we simply walk to the grocery store and pick up one of the countless prepackaged animal products. It’s impersonal and enables our ignorance.

Well, I’ve become fed up with leading a blind life. I know the truth about the food industry. I’ve seen Food Inc., Cowspiracy, Racing Extinction (all films I HIGHLY recommend) and the fact was I knew the reality of the situation and was still doing nothing about it. So now I’m finally doing something.

“I mean, they’re going to produce meat anyway, what’s even the point?”

To my friends and acquaintances who have asked me this, every person helps. I go to sleep each night knowing I made a conscience effort to make a difference, as small as that difference might be in the big picture.

Finally, let me tell you this: veganism is not easy. It’s an extreme commitment and there are endless opportunities throughout the day to slip up. A commitment like this requires self-support. You have to be doing it because you fully believe it’s the only thing to do, because it’s the right thing. However, having the support of the people you love, the people whose opinion matters to you, really does make it that much easier.

“I might not agree with what you’re doing, but I support your decision to do what you believe in.” This response came from one of my best friends, and it was perfect. She’ll never understand how important I consider her support. This support is really all I ask for.

Thankfully, I have recently been introduced into Salt Lake City’s own vegan community which overflows with support and ideas. From sharing recipes, places to shop, restaurants to eat and events to make connections, SLC has a loving vegan community.  And heads up, this community is not small, and make no mistake, it is growing.

So, when I tell you I’m vegan I’m not begging you to adopt veganism yourself, I’m not attacking you or your lifestyle, I’m not deeming you a bad person and I’m not, I’M NOT judging you.

            When I tell you I’m vegan I’m not saying it so you will think I’m cool, to fulfill a persona or to gain any personal satisfaction.

            When I tell you I’m vegan I’m telling you for one of the following reasons.

           1. So you know why I’m not eating the food you’ve offered me.  

           2. It applies to what we were discussing.

           3. You asked.

The fact of the matter is I’m still afraid to tell my family I’ve switched from vegetarianism to veganism as I’m not sure I will be able to handle the interrogation that is sure to follow. But to you, my reader, I make you this promise: I will tell them, I will tell you, and just as I hope for your support, I’ll support you in any decision to do what you believe is right.

   So, does my veganism still offend?