When I was young, my Grandparents kept a pig in their backyard. I thought he was the most interesting “pet” anyone had ever had. I named him Stinky because “he smelled like he needed a bath” – but not enough to keep me from cuddling up with him everyday, after school, for a nap. Stinky was my friend… playful, kind, and a wonderful listener.
One Sunday morning, over breakfast, I noticed everyone watching me – anticipating. When I finally tried the bacon, there were giggles and smirks all around, as my Grandfather asked me “How does Stinky taste?”
I was devastated.
We continued on to Church, where my Grandfather proceeded to preach a sermon on how God gave us the animals to eat and to dominate – that it was our right, if not our duty. I tried to accept it, and I vowed never again to love an animal in the same way.
I was a meat eater and “that’s the way God made me.”
As the years went by, I began to question my religion and its inherent cruelty. I was angry and frustrated with a world that seemed so rooted in violence. And I found no comfort in the idea of a creator that not only allowed, but required such behavior.
So I distanced myself from all that I had known, I began to make decisions based on my own logic, to follow my own moral compass…
In search of a broader understanding of the world and my place in it, I read all sorts of things, from Taoism, to philosophy to natural health, and then I stumbled onto John Robbins book, Diet for a New America. I instantly became a vegetarian, and it stuck – for 6 years. Until one day, I did something that, to this day, drives me insane. I started eating meat again.
I’m not sure why… I think it was because I had decided to be vegetarian for health reasons and not for the animals. But I never felt quite at ease with my decision. I would cringe at certain things, and flat out not be able to eat others.
Still, through all of that, for some reason, the book stayed with me, and years later, my husband and I sat down, and in tandem, read it aloud. This time it was different – I remembered how much I had loved Stinky and how I had avoided all the animals that came after him. This time, I “got it.”
My husband and I cried and laughed and cleaned out our kitchen that weekend and have been vegetarian ever since. I’ve been a vegetarian a total of 11 years now (5 for the sake of the animals) and I’ve always felt so good about that decision. It’s allowed me to look at animals again and actually see them -To love them, to cry for them and to hold them.
My husband, however, recently became vegan and (in my mind) was pressuring me to do the same – loudly listening to podcasts, that threw around phrases like “Joyful Vegan” which just made me roll my eyes. I felt angry at him for “judging me” and accused him of not acknowledging the good choices that I DO make. I used all kinds of excuses. And I was getting pretty comfortable with my lie – telling myself I was still a good person – that most people weren’t even vegetarian, let alone vegan…
Then I listened to several of those podcasts on my own and realized that my husband was doing something not for himself, but for the animals, and certainly not TO me. So in a humbled state, I finally understood that you can’t claim “personal choice” if it affects someone else – that if given a choice the cows would choose not to be milk machines as surely as they would choose not to be killed. (And let’s not lie to ourselves and say they aren’t killed…)
I’m newly vegan now, and this lifestyle that for so long seemed too restrictive and extreme is something I’m so excited about. There’s no more guilt, no more excuses. It’s freedom. It’s amazing – the relief you feel – the calm that sits inside you – the absolute joy that sometimes overwhelms you.
I still giggle at the name of this website “The Joyful Vegan”… it just seems so appropriate.
~Michelle in Panama City, FL