Tuesday, June 19, 2012

13 Months Vegan!

While this post is longer than most posts I've written, I would appreciate you reading it the whole way though.

It's been 13 months that I'm vegan and I'm very delighted about it. I'm very happy, greatly enjoying my food and feel very healthy. In this post I'll describe both my reasons to change my diet and also the way I believe it can easily be done by others. Keys are: reduce animal suffering and don't be fanatic. I would welcome your comments to this post.

My Non-Vegan Past

Before the month of May 2011, I haven't even considered becoming a vegetarian. More than 30 years of my life I was enjoying animal products and had no intention of changing that. Two times in my life I've eaten a whole kilo of steak in a single meal. I used to eat meat everyday. Animal suffering? Oh well, it's part of nature! Health issues? Meat is healthy and milk is good for calcium! Environmental damage of the meat farming industries? Barely knew it existed.

So what happened that I suddenly became vegan? To some people it may seem extreme as vegans refrain from any animal products, not only their flesh. The truth is that it's not extreme at all once you understand some things and it's not even such a big effort.

Tipping Point

My tipping point was a famous lecture by Gary Yurofsky, known on YouTube as "The Best Lecture You Will Ever Hear" that I highly recommend you seeing. Dana introduced me to this lecture and, as I've received a lot of vegan materials before, I wasn't too interested in seeing it. Ausrine used to often send me vegan "propaganda" and, while I found it interesting, never thought it should have anything to do with me. In retrospect, however, it probably was building up. Although not too interested, I didn't have anything else I wanted to watch that day so I went on with the lecture.

The lecture didn't introduce anything new to me. Gary didn't tell me anything I didn't know before. What did happen was that, perhaps like a last straw effect, the abundance of materials I was aware of made me re-think my own behavior. There's so much animal suffering caused by the industry that we're all enjoying. Is it really a must? Do I wish to continue to be a person contributing to this suffering? The easy choice is yes since most people are a part of it and don't really care. That's the way I've been brought up and have lived most of my life. I never felt guilty as I wasn't committing any of the torture myself. We all know that treating a chicken like a product from birth to slaughter is horrible yet we intentionally block the fact that this tasty chicken breast used to be the flesh of that animal that has been horribly treated since birth just so I can enjoy the dish. You can see more about the psychology of meat eating on this video. My empathy started working, feeling horrible about the enormous amounts of terrible things we humans keep doing to animals.

Personal Change?

Okay, so what's the personal price for me if I decide not to be a part of it? Initially, even the thought of it scared me. I don't want to commit to being a vegetarian or vegan, that's crazy! I did, however, start thinking about my current diet and what I would have to change and my surprise realized that it won't be as enormous a change as I imagined before.
When I visited India during 2006-2007, I didn't eat meat for a few months. It wasn't an ethical decision but rather the result of seeing how disgusting the meat in the markets is. India isn't easy on a foreigner's stomach and meat is a big risk in many places so I simply gave up on it for most of my time there. When I got back to Israel, I ate meat again, but not everyday as I used to. I actually stopped buying meat for my house but did eat meat outside, probably 2-4 times a week.
Unlike earlier years, I was very happy to make my own food. Making your own food always tastes better :) I was already making myself very tasty and healthy Hummus and Tahini and pastas with fantastic sauces that were all vegan, more by chance than by planning. In the mornings I ate granola with yogurt so I can change that to soy or rice milk. Many evenings I used to eat Malawach with eggs and cottage cheese but I could eat it with fresh tomatoes and spices.
My thought process led me to understand that my personal sacrifice wouldn't be all that great. I wouldn't have to feel bad about not eating meat, dairy and egg products as I already had abundant choices. At the time I wasn't aware that becoming vegan actually ADDS MANY new options to one's menu. When you start asking around, you find yourself eating a lot of delicious foods you've never tried before.

First Steps

Even so, I didn't want to declare myself vegan to the world. What if I would change my mind later? What if I'd really want a juicy steak? I mean, screw that cow, it's already dead and I didn't kill it. Right? My decision was to try and see. I will try eating vegan and if I feel like non-vegan, I'd go for it. I won't deprive myself of life's joys. To others I said I was considering becoming vegan and I'll see how that works out.
After a few days, I gave away all the non-vegan food I had it my house. After about two weeks, I realized it's not really that hard and I started saying I'm vegan.  
 A key to my decision was not to be fanatic. It's very bad when one feels he or she is holding back on life's pleasures for moral reasons. If there would be a dish I'd really want to try, I will. If there will be any food I crave, I'd have it. It's much about quantities. Each piece of meat you get is directly translated to a specific animal's suffering. If I convince others to eat less meat, it would have a much bigger effect than if I "sin" with a few bites here and there. I still feel that way.
Please understand that not becoming fanatic is not all that simple as the emotional process that a person passes in becoming vegan isn't an easy one. Once you remove the previous psychological block and allow yourself to feel the animal suffering, it's really hard not to feel bad whenever you see how lightly and gladly most other people participate in these disgusting practices. People make jokes about the flesh on their plate and completely block all their knowledge of how it got there. If people would have to individually grow and kill their animals, I'm certain there would be a lot less meat consumed anywhere.

How Has It Been?

To date, I've eaten meat only once since becoming vegan. Sitting with friends in a good Thai restaurant in Berlin, one of the friends ordered chicken and didn't finish. Nobody else wanted it so it would go to the trash. Being a few months vegan, I considered it a good opportunity to see if I miss the taste. Although my own vegan dish at that restaurant tasted great, that chicken dish wasn't really good to me. Seemingly our sense of taste changes as we change our diet. If this seems weird to any of you, do consider how many children think coffee is horrible and how many adults drink it. So called "acquired taste" is a known phenomenon. Eating vegan changes your taste preferences. I much more enjoy fresh and raw vegetables and fruits nowadays.

Traveling around the world, I often dine at restaurants and it's almost always quite easy to find good vegan dishes. It has happened quite a few times that I've been served dishes with dairy products although I tried my best to verify no dairy products would be included. In those cases, I just ate what I got. Bits of milk I consume will not make the difference in the world. Changing people's minds to understand that vegan is the right moral decision is.

If you've read so far I thank you. I'll probably do another post later on about common questions and annoyances I get from people who try to proudly defend their immoral decision to eat meat. Truth is that it's usually not a real decision as the person never opened up to the possibility of being vegan. I know I never did before I actually did. You don't want to consider it and you do whatever it takes to ignore and ridicule it. That is, unfortunately, natural. At the end of the day, it's whether you allow yourself to open your heart and feel empathy towards other living creatures. Being vegan is about a simple paradigm shift: animals are sentient being on their own accord and we do not own them. Simple shift that would make the world a better place if only people would follow it. A better place to humans as once you let empathy in, you try to do better to other humans and once you block empathy for certain creatures, you'll more easily block it in other cases.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to hear the few things that really bother people about veganism (suprisingly or not - not moral or practical issues that often come up in disscussions but not in people's hearts, minds and daily lives) - being simply put, simply explained, as the simple but perssisting issues they are. The reluctance to accept that you yourself should or could change anything in your own life, and the reluctance to accept that you already partipate and have been participating in this issue for your whole life by... eating.