MEAT FREE MONDAY | Becoming My Own Version of Vegan Part 1


by Emma H.

I started life an animal activist. I was at one time an active member of BEAK, an impassioned animal rights group, and genius acronym of my and three of my primary school friend’s names. I was inspired by my maternal grandparents who despite retirement were patrons and active supporters of countless charities many of which focussed on animals. One year after a two-day stint as a vegetarian - secretly broken by the mouth-watering aroma of freshly cooked pork crackling - while asking my Ganga about donating to WWF, she snapped, “you care so much about all the bloody animals, but what about the people!?”.   It was a big statement for my 9 year old self to take in but it resonated deeply. I didn’t stop caring about animals but I definitely refocused and stopped thinking about their welfare so intensely.   
My adult path to vegetarianism was as sudden as it was lengthy. On a flight from the UK to Guyana in 2007, after seriously flunking an interview for a Masters in Psychology, Fast Food Nation was showing on the plane. I’d heard of the book during my undergrad, but watching the reality of the US cattle industry right before my eyes, albeit with the additions of Hollywood, changed everything about the way I eat and ultimately how I live my life.  I felt a conviction that I had never really felt, and thought that if I knew the impact of large scale animal farming and wasn’t prepared to make a change then who around me would be.  I gave up meat in stages over two years; I stopped eating beef with immediate effect, lamb followed, then pork, chicken, and some seafood, and I have never looked back. I had LOVED meat and believed I was a true carnivore, I relished in devouring every last piece, down to cartilage and marrow, but weirdly, giving it up didn’t seem like a chore.

In brief, the main reasons I gave up meat and stuck with it:
1.       The extreme cruelty and unnatural conditions animals are subjected to in the meat industry
2.       The often intolerable mistreatment and high injury rate of workers in the meat (and fish) industry
3.       The undeniable environmental impact
4.       I don’t need to eat it and can barely kill ants, how can I eat animals that have been killed purely for my enjoyment?
5.       I can’t separate a dog from a pig, or a cat from a lamb – what’s the difference!?
6.       I feel healthier, I’m happy and I enjoy being vegetarian

Yes, I could have done my research and insisted upon actual free range meat (as opposed to factory farmed “free range”) but I felt that that was half assed and also incredibly difficult to explain when attending dinner parties etc – “but you do eat meat right, so what’s the difference?”.  Despite my initial premise that if I was working in a village, for example, where meat was raised freely and killed out of necessity then I would eat it, it’s become increasingly difficult for me to imagine. Being a vegetarian changed me, to a point where I just can’t eat animals full stop no matter how they are raised. I no longer see a difference between a pig and a dog, or a lamb and a kitten, they’re all the same, and I couldn’t kill one.

What started life as a simple (and probably boring) blog post explaining why I am an occasional fish eating vegetarian turned into a new journey of lifestyle changes that I really didn't expect.  I knew why I stopped eating meat, I have explained my reasons in varying degrees of detail countless times, but I never questioned why I hadn’t gone the whole hog so to speak, fully giving up fish, eggs, dairy, and particularly leather.

I watched Vegucated, the trailer of which is above, as part of my research and although it has its shortcomings (I don’t advocate eating Oreos as part of a healthy vegan diet, WTH!?) it once again ignited a fire that I can’t seem to put out. This is a very long introduction to a series of posts on the many complex reasons why I will no longer be supporting animal agriculture in any form and my journey to becoming My Own Version of Vegan. I hope you’ll follow, feedback, debate, question and encourage! Part 2 in two weeks.

PS I encourage everyone to watch the above documentary about three dedicated meat and cheese lovers from NYC who participated in a six week Vegan experiment. I was so surprised at the emotion and the outcome.  It is available through the links here. 

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