This evening, snuggled up on the couch with Win, the wind rattling the windows outside, we watched a documentary about three people who commit to going vegan for six weeks. While I don’t think it’s the strongest film, the filmmaker did include some valuable, interesting, and at times, shocking information. I generally can’t watch movies when there are animals involved—it is just too much for my heart to take—but I forced myself to watch this time, and I was overwhelmed with grief.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched.
I was eleven, I think, when I made a conscious decision to stop eating pigs.
In my younger years, I was a collector of pigs—not live ones, of course—we were allowed dogs, cats, rabbits and fish – but not pigs. So my room was a sea of pink, with all kinds of pig stuffed animals, piggy banks, pig chatchkies—pig everything, really. The one and only time that I ever stole anything (I was caught immediately, and was forced to return the items to the store, and apologize), I had stuffed my jacket full with an array of pig-inspired stationary. I even had a tiny Miss Piggy ornament attached to the zipper of my turquoise ski jacket.
For some inexplicable reason, I loved pigs.
At some point during this love affair, it dawned on me that the crackling that my mouth watered over during the preparation of a Sunday evening dinner, the bacon I so loved at breakfast, and the ham that we shared on special occasions, were all in fact, my intelligent and beautiful friends—the pig. I was eating Babe. And I was horrified.
It took some years for other animals to follow in the footsteps of my beloved pigs. One by one, they dropped out of my diet. By the time I turned eighteen, I was completely vegetarian. I began to see the lives of animals as equal to my own. I didn’t have to watch any movies to tell me the horrors of what their lives must be like. I don’t think I knew, at the time, the suffering that they could be put through. I just knew that they were being killed, and that they didn’t have a choice in the matter.
And that alone made my heart hurt.
I did it for the animals, and I did it for me as well. My body changed; I lost weight. I started to feel good about myself. This layer of weight, both on my body and my mind, melted away. And such is how we evolve.
We shed layers of ourselves, our thoughts, our ideas, our weight, and we settle into a place where we feel comfortable, until a new thought, idea or concept enters into our universe, and it asks us to re-examine who and what we are again, and again.
I am now a vegan. I never thought I would ever be a vegan. I used to feel sorry for the vegans I would read about and meet. Giving up—that’s how I used to think about it—”giving up”—cheese and eggs and ice cream and yogurt and CHEESE mostly—was too far out there for me.
What would I eat? What about pizza and grilled cheese and picnics in the garden with Brie, Gouda, and some delightfully stinky cheese with tiny grapes and a bottle of wine?
No, I could never be a vegan.
Until, it was time for me to be. My body, my health, brought forth some new evidence, and it took time and struggle and sadness (a little—I really did love cheese) to reach this new place.
This new place where the animals can roam safe and free. I don’t consume any animals or animal by-products; I am careful and conscious in my choices of what I use to put on my body, and what I use to clean my house with.
No beings were harmed in the existence of this being.
Ahimsa, the precept of non-harming.
These are my choices. I know we are all different, and every body is different. My body functions well with a plant-based diet. Yours may not. And I respect and celebrate our differences deeply. Here is what I also believe: we are all in this together—humans, animals, plants, trees, sea, mountains—all.
It is our responsibility as human beings to be conscious and responsible in the choices we make.