In the past few years, I had heard of some negative press in regards to farmed animals. These included the cruelty of battery hens, hormone injections and antibiotics in animal feed. However, I was not aware of the full extent of the problem and remained unaffected. It was first brought to my attention earlier this year (2007) upon stumbling across 2 podcasts – “Vegan Food For Thought Podcast” and “Deconstructing Dinner.”It was eye-opening and a rude shock. How could I have lived my past 20-so years without being aware of these issues? I dug a little deeper, read more, looked at a few websites, listened to a few more podcasts. As an animal lover and someone with strong moral values, I knew I had to change. Becoming vegan was my goal. However, the obstacles are many and large. How was I supposed to conquer them?
The main obstacle was not so much dietary, but the social aspect. My parents would be the most difficult to convince. Of all the people we interact with, undoubtedly parents have the strongest desire for one’s wellbeing. I’m particularly close to my mother. My wellbeing is of utmost importance to her, beyond anything else. To many people, a diet without meat is unsustaining and ‘unhealthy’. I was prepared, and started small. I told them of the cruelty and the suffering that animals have to endure in order to provide for us. Gone are the days of free-roaming livestock and poultry. The huge human population is putting the world’s resources under strain. Profit always seems to rule, disregarding basic animal rights of being able to have the space to move, be free from pain and stress. Animals are treated as commodities, without feelings or rights. I chose veganism because I could no longer stomach animal products without feeling I’ve contributed to such injustice.
Being fairly slim already, announcing my change to veganism shocked and worried my parents. My 1st obstacle, which still remains my biggest, is mother’s outrage and concern. Despite my talks (that vegan is a healthy, sustainable way to live), she was strongly opposed to it. She believes I’ve been brainwashed by the things I’ve read, and is stuck in my one-sided way of thinking. I could not convince her to listen because, to her, I’ve taken on a mentality which she could not talk any sense into. What frustrates me most is that, she refuse to listen, despite deep-down, she knows there is truth behind my words.
There are many people who, like me, knew some aspects of the horrors in raising animals to provide for us. The problem is that they turn a blind eye so they can carry on living the life they’re used to living.
To me, learning is life-long. I’m always listening, reading, researching various topics and issues. Keeping an open mind doesn’t entail believing everything I’m told. On the contrary, we should be gathering information to be able to form opinions and making decisions.
It pained me to have the dispute with mum. I could no longer look up to her as a role model. I needed someone who is open-minded and cared enough to want to contribute and make a difference to society. She cared for me, and it clouded her judgement. She did not want me to become malnourished. “Why be a minority? Eat like the majority of us. What difference can you make by not eating meat?” was her view. It was painful to hear. Just because I cannot change the world, does that mean I should do nothing at all? Just because everyone else does something, does it make it right?
Dad was slightly more accepting, though he also worried about my health. He is more open-minded, and through introducing him to some podcasts, I hope in time he’ll understand and support my decision.
Mum’s extreme agitation and stress forced me to agree that I would resume eating “normally” – i.e. not vegan. This is an easy enough lie, since I don’t live with her any more. I do not wish to keep living a lie, but am hoping to change her with time.
Friends have been more accepting, though I have not had the chance to tell many of them yet. I’m confident in my decision, and know that the information I’ve learned is not biased. How could I have gone so long without knowing, all these years? It is not just the vegans and animal activists, but wide-spread knowledge of the torture, molesting, that goes on.
Eating as a vegan is most enjoyable. It’s an easy transition, since I’ve never been too attached to animal products. In fact, it was a relief to learn that I do not need dairy for calcium (I’m Asian and lactose-intolerant – no wonder! Asians typically did not have diary in their diet). However, to avoid every trace of animal product in the food I consume as well as the product I use, is proving to be more challenging. Today, where are more processed foods than ever – many containing long ingredient lists, tainted with all sorts of additives and preservatives. Preparing my own meals from unprocessed foods (fruit, vegetables and grains, etc) is the easiest solution – something that I’ve been doing any way.
I see many flaws and vices in our society today. We consume too much – nutritionally-poor, energy-rich foods, products to satisfy the urge to spend, with terrible wastage as a result. I’m relieved to have discovered veganism and its moral principles. Vegans are generally kind-hearted, strong-willed (for being able to stand up for what they believe in!), and conscientious. Veganism is about embracing a compassionate mentality, a way of life for a better future for all.