I was a typical meat eater for all of my life until my early 40s. I loved how meat tasted and the texture. Although I adore animals I was raised to eat meat and didn’t question it, like most Americans. My first exposure to not eating meat came from a roommate who was a member of PETA. He was not an advocate and didn’t speak his truth though. So the only thing I learned from him was that you could make a delicious batch of beans without using ham or pork which I had thought was impossible. Once he moved out I forgot how he did it so I went back to cooking beans with ham.
Years later I read a book that did speak the truth and opened my eyes wide open: Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully. What a shock – each chapter focused on a different version of how humans are cruel and perverse to animals and the huge amount of suffering animals are experiencing every minute, every second, even now. I was able to visualize huge pens holding hogs so tightly they are unable to turn around, stressed to the point of crewing each others tails off so the tails are docked now, waiting months until they are big enough for slaughter, never walking, never going outside into the sunshine, terrified into loud squeals of fright on the rare times their building doors were opened and a human monster walked in. I learned to my horror that breeders are focusing on breeding hogs that are not easily frightened and won’t squeal with terror so they can literally be unattended by humans (their caretaking is mechanized) and when it’s time for slaughter they will meekly and quietly go to their deaths. Literally, it’s a truth that is more horrible than any scary movie. As I read that book I was stunned because I had no idea the extent of our cruelly nor of the pain caused to animals from the meat production industry. Scully’s call to vegetarianism spoke to me and I began the path of vegetarianism immediately
However, it was hard. I have never been good at putting limits on myself. I love fast food, junk food, and I have always struggled with eating too much sugar and drinking too much caffeine. I once asked for unlimited bacon as a child for my birthday because my mom had always only allowed us 2 slices and I wanted 8 or 10 slices. I love bacon. How was I now going to not eat meat? I made great progress through many efforts – I bought some good vegetarian cookbooks and attended some good veggie cooking classes and I learned to make delicious meals and so I became a part vegetarian – not perfect but I was 90% there. One of the most delightful side effects I have experienced is that a new world of food opened up to me. People think I’m crazy when I say that dropping meat from my diet has opened up more food choices but it’s true – I now am an excellent tofu cook, I make great vegetable pot pies and stews and soups and I make a fantastic veggie chili. I cook Portobello mushrooms and chard and collard greens, and they are all so delicious. Oh and eggplant – I never cooked eggplant much before and now it’s my favorite! I only cooked meat once last year – I bought a free range turkey for my meat eating father in law who came for Thanksgiving Dinner; I won’t do that again. I was dismayed at the grease that cooking meat produced (the fat of the animal) and I felt totally guilty at not following my values. I had forgotten how gross a dead animal is to manage and how hard to clean up since I hadn’t cooked meat in years. I am planning never to cook it again, not for my father in law or for guests with picky children either
Needless to say, I never spoke my truth except to my husband who is fantastic, a huge supporter, and now a vegetarian also. However I was sure I could never be a vegan since I still ate too much sugar, caffeine, and junk food and love cheese. I am sure that would have been the extent of my vegetarianism had I not found your podcast. Many of your words brings the book Dominion back to life and the horrors we humans bring upon animals, even those of us who claim to love them. I now see everything, and I mean everything, more clearly. I love your logic and your delivery, and I love your ability to be convincing in such a logical way. And you are right – not eating animals or their products is a joyful lifestyle of abundance, not one of restrictions. As I head down the path of veganism in 2008 I am excited like I have never been before. I am joyful. And I look forward to a life of abundance, while speaking my truth in a pleasant, positive way. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart – your work is the greatest
~Patty in Roswell, GA