Being Vegan Is My Religion.

I’d like to talk about beliefs. I’ve always been an opinionated person, and I’ve had many strong beliefs over the years, although some of them have changed.

I’ve never been a religious person. I truly mean never; when I was a small child, I tried to feel what everyone else around me seemed to be feeling at church, and I tried to pray, but I never had the sense that it was connected to anything. I never had any sort of experience that gave me a reason to believe. I don’t have that kind of faith.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have any faith at all, however. I have a code of ethics. I have a sense of right and wrong. I’ve come to certain conclusions through years of trial and error, research and observation.

I have faith that it is wrong to hurt another person unless it is in self-defense. I have faith that every person has self-ownership and deserves complete freedom — as long as their choices don’t cause harm to others.

I have faith that the same principle of self-ownership and right to life applies to animals. I believe this deeply, strongly, unquestioningly.

 

by Brian Snelson via Wikimedia Commons

 

I haven’t always felt this way. I have always loved animals in the general sense, in the way most people mean it when they say it. I had favorites, just like everyone. My favorite animals have always been whales and cows, with cats coming in at a close third place.

For some reason, I didn’t see anything wrong with loving cows and yet eating them.

I do now. I now believe those two things are fundamentally incompatible. You can’t love a thing and still expect it to die for your pleasure.

I see now that I didn’t truly love cows, I only loved what they looked like, how they acted, and how it made me feel to see them. That’s not the same as loving the cow for itself.

 

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Mark Peters Photography via Flickr

 

My vegan lifestyle came on slowly, as a religious conversion does for other people. Bits and pieces began to fall into place one at a time, and then with increasing frequency. I began to seek out more information to help me make some hard decisions.

I watched some documentaries, which were upsetting. I watched some videos of animal slaughter, and animal abuse, and I cried and cried.

It hurt me deeply to watch those videos, but I continued to do so, because I intended to make my decision in full awareness of all the facts and the bigger picture. If I chose to keep eating meat, I would do so knowing exactly what it cost.

 

by Ethelred via Wikimedia Commons

 

I know that there are people who won’t watch those videos when confronted with them, let alone seek them out. I have very little respect for that. I think if you’re going to do a thing, you should know exactly what the repercussions are, and be willing to face them with open eyes.

Being unwilling to watch something that you know will make you uncomfortable means you’re denying something to yourself, denying a quiet little suggestion of a feeling deep within yourself, out of convenience.

If you are afraid to see something because you think it will make you unhappy to see it, I would think that would make you wonder why exactly you think it would make you unhappy. I wondered that about myself, and then I pushed my own boundaries and went outside my comfort zone. It changed my life.

I think people are afraid of that. I’m proud that I overcame my own fear.

Over the course of approximately two years, I went from decreased meat consumption to full-on, no honey, no wool, never-step-on-a-bug veganism. My heart opened up to the animals, and there was no going back.

 

by Thomas Quine via Wikimedia Commons

 

My veganism is my faith, it is my religion. That’s how strongly I believe that what I am doing is right. I feel it in every part of me, and I experienced a lightening of my spirit as soon as I made the decision. It has made me feel like a better person. It has relieved my conscience.

It gave me a joy that I had never experienced before, being a part of something that made a concrete difference in the world, having a direct impact, saving lives with my decision.

As you might expect, I get hassled a bit about my unconventional, minority lifestyle. I get all sorts of questions and suggestions, not all friendly or well-meaning.

Sometimes people make jokes to me about having a burger or a steak or a piece of bacon just this one time, or ask me if there isn’t something I like eating so much that it trumps my desire to not eat animal products, or try to taunt me with how delicious their slice of cheesecake is.

To me, it’s as though they’re suggesting to me that I forget about my marriage vows when they aren’t convenient, that I go ahead and sleep with someone who isn’t my husband just because it would be fun.

Isn’t there someone you want to be with badly enough that it trumps your belief in monogamy? No?

 

my husband's and my hands at our wedding

my husband’s and my hands at our wedding

 

Do you think it isn’t the same? If so, maybe you’re assuming that my belief in animal rights is not as important as your beliefs, that it isn’t as strong and unbending.

That seems inconsiderate and disrespectful. My faith runs just as deep. It guides my behavior and shapes my thoughts and feelings about the world.

Becoming a vegan has greatly increased the amount of compassion in my heart. I have always had a sometimes uncomfortable degree of empathy, which has often made it difficult to separate others’ emotions from my own, difficult to avoid being affected by others’ feelings.

Becoming vegan was, to me, an inevitable extension of that. I expanded my empathy to include animals, who I now see as people — just different kinds of people, non-human people.

 

from Wellcome Library, London, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Sometimes I think they are better people than we are.

Is it possible that a vegan diet is not the healthiest way to eat? Of course. Do I care? No, I do not.

Unless it were unequivocally killing me to abstain from animal products, there is no way I would ever go back to eating them, any more than I would become a cannibal. It means that much to me.

Believing that there are health benefits to the dietary portion of my lifestyle is an added bonus to what already feels right to me. I try to talk to people about veganism from all different angles, dietary, compassionate, environmental, and whatever else I can come up with, because people care about different things.

Ultimately, though, at least for me, it’s about the animals.

That’s my faith, my dogma, my doctrine. It’s a matter of love, it’s a conviction, and I won’t ever betray it to satisfy a fleeting urge or to make things a little easier on myself at a party or a restaurant.

I won’t ever stop advocating for the animals, because I won’t ever believe that they belong to anyone but themselves.

 

from forum http://www.concoursvaches.fr via Wikimedia Commons

by Ronnie Macdonald via Wikimedia Commons


Another trip around the sun sounds like a good idea.

I appreciate the cyclical nature of our time here on Earth. I like the idea of starting fresh with a new journey around the sun. I know that picking a starting point is rather arbitrary, but I’m fine with January 1st.

It’s a good thing to celebrate. Time is linear, or at least that’s how I think of it, but we all make a big circle in space each year and come back to where we started from, over and over.

Our lives are constructed of all the experiences we’ve had up until now, sure, but it’s nice to break things up into 365-day chunks and think, maybe I’ll do this one better. Maybe this will be an easier year.

2014 wasn’t my best year. I wasn’t 2013’s biggest fan, either, but I have gone through a lot of change and emotional upheaval over the past 12 months. I’m learning more about myself, and I’m learning how to fit myself into the world. Now that I’ve got a little bit better of a handle on that, I’d like to spend 2015 shaping the world as much as possible.

I don’t mean that in a grandiose way. I simply feel that I have been going along for the ride for quite some time now, and I would like to make some changes and have some influence on things.

One way I hope to do that is to finish my book and get it published. It may not be feasible to have it actually published within a year, but my goal is to have a polished final draft completed by the end of 2015, and ideally have submitted it to an agent or even a publisher through an agent. I would like the publishing ball to get rolling at some point in this upcoming year.

That’s really my main New Year’s resolution this time around. I also want to do more writing. After I’ve finished my final draft of my first novel, I want to jump right back into some other projects that I have hanging in the balance.

This year is also going to be about taking good care of myself, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. That means being open about who I am, and unapologetic for the way I am and the things I believe. It means standing up for myself, and being more vocal about the things that are important to me.

I may use this blog as an outlet for those things. I hope to, at least. I’m attempting to set a trend by writing on the first day of the new year — it may inspire me to continue writing and blogging on a regular basis.

So, here are some of the things that are very important to me, which you might see more posts about in the future:

– ethical veganism/animal rights

– literature and literacy

– personal freedom

– women’s rights and issues/women’s liberation

– physical health/dietary veganism

– mental health and mental illness

– LGBTQ rights and issues

Some of those shouldn’t come as a surprise, but others might not be so obvious, because I can be rather quiet about my opinions sometimes, when I don’t want to stir the pot.

This year, while attempting to remain reasonable and respectful (as well as respectable), I intend to do a little pot-stirring.

Happy 2015!


Winter Market Bounty

It’s 11:45, I’ve got a nice hot cup of tea with soy milk, and I’m ready to do a little blogging.

One of the things I like to do when I write about things is include photos I’ve taken of whatever the thing is. Sometimes I’ll find a picture online, but I prefer to use my own.

Unfortunately, the battery in my little Canon Elph camera has completely lost its will to live. No amount of charging will get the battery to power up the camera. This leaves me with no working camera except for the one on my iPad. I think we all know that iPad cameras, especially those of the second generation, are not known for their quality results.

This is a sad situation, because I have vegetables from the indoor winter farmers’ market last Saturday, and I wanted to take nice pictures of them to share here. I did take photos, but they’re not up to my standards.

Winter vegetables are basically my favorite vegetables, so I get very excited about the winter markets. Some of them are in greenhouses, which are rather chilly, but the one nearest us is held inside a high school, so it’s very comfortable to meander through the crowd and ogle the goodies.

My husband, Chris, told me on Saturday that he wanted to get “twenty pounds of potatoes.” He really has developed a taste for them. He likes it when I boil whole fingerling potatoes in salty water, and then he smashes them on his plate with the back of his fork and covers them with Earth Balance buttery spread. That’s apparently his favorite way to eat potatoes.

As for myself, I like them cut into chunks and oven roasted with olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and rosemary. (I got the basic formula for that from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.)

Anyway, I told him it was unlikely that we’d be bringing home twenty pounds, but that if he insisted, he could be the one to carry them.

We didn’t get twenty pounds, but we got a substantial haul.

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Those are gold potatoes, which are my favorite, since they have a melt-in-your-mouth creaminess when cooked.

My selection of potatoes included these bad boys:

IMG_1872I got them for the sake of challenge, and because they amused me. I do love a large, oddly-shaped vegetable. A couple of years ago I found the largest rutabaga I’ve ever seen, before or since.

The farmer’s market netted us some mouthwateringly sour rye bread, some adorable savoy cabbages, a bag of pea shoots for Chris’s salads and wraps, and some onions, as well as assorted root veggies.

This year we tried daikon radishes for the first time. Well, I should say that he tried them. I’m not a radish-lover. I gave them a sniff, and decided they smelled too hot for me. They’re supposed to mild, I believe, but I haven’t been brave enough to try them yet.

We also picked up some more reasonably sized rutabagas, as well as some parsnips.

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That photo didn’t turn out too badly for an iPad photo. It’s all about lighting.

I don’t have photos of the savoy cabbages, but I did roast them up in wedges according to a recipe I found online. I should really have taken the extra step and made the vinaigrette to go on the cabbage quarters, but they were lovely and tender even without the dressing.

My next plan for these tubers is to make a creamy (vegan) root veggie soup with the rutabagas, parsnips, potatoes, and some carrots. I’ll be using my new copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible to help me decide which herbs and spices I’ll use.

Just thinking about it is making me hungry. It’s also lunchtime, so that makes sense. I think I’ll wrap things up here and go rustle up some grub.