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Archive for the ‘resensitizing children’ Category

As a child, I adored animals. I loved going to petting zoos, small farms, and anywhere I could touch the baby animals and feed them and coo over them. I live in a metropolitan area, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I encountered vegetarianism, and as a sensitive and thoughtful child, each of those instances has remained nearly burned into my mind.

My aunt and uncle, bird fanatics, raise and own geese and ducks as pets in downtown Richmond, VA. When I was little, my uncle half-jokingly made me promise not to eat either kind of bird. I took it very seriously and have not consumed them since. It was a natural decision; after all, I couldn’t imagine eating Peanut or his friends no matter how mean they were to me once I had seen them alive.

At a summer camp I met a “habit” vegetarian who had been instructed by her doctor to go off meat for a while after contracting food poisoning. On the metro, a young man reading a copy of the PETA’s vegetarian starter kit saw me looking over his shoulder and offered it to me; I still have it. Perhaps my most vivid memory is that of sitting at the kitchen counter and looking down at the dead animal on my plate and feeling horrible about it. At this exact point in time I realized that I did not want to eat animals, that I did not believe in it. I loved animals – how could I continue eating them? Yet I still thought that I couldn’t give up eating them. I liked meat too much, I told myself.

Fast-forward a few years. I’m sitting the back of my Animal Science summer class at the Career Center. One of the kittens paws the bag of a girl in the front. She picks it up; it’s her lunch bag. The teacher’s assistant asks what’s in it. She replies that there’s fake ham. It turns out she’s a vegetarian. A discussion follows over her reasons why and PETA’s “agenda” and so forth.

The conversation moved on, but I was still stuck on the fake ham. Inspired, I visited PETA’s website and one of its branch sites, PETA2. Horrified by the violence and cruelty suffered by animals in slaughterhouses, I vowed myself off meat. Though I still consumed marine animals, I erroneously considered myself a vegetarian, but this was still a huge step in a positive direction. Two years ago, I entered high school eschewing public school lunches, birds and mammals as food.

Fast-forward again to last May, when I discovered Colleen’s podcast. It was perfect timing: I had ten weeks of summer ahead of me to listen, and did I listen! I ran several marathons of episodes and developed the habit of listening to her podcast in the morning as I ate breakfast and during lunch when no one else was around, and soon her combination of hard facts, literary works, dietary support, compassion and joyfulness began to work its magic on me. In late July, attending a summer flute institute, I realized how easy it would be to cut out seafood from my diet in a dining hall system, so I did. The next week I began avoiding eggs and dairy, to my parents’ dismay – and (ineffective) “orders” to continue eating them. I understood their concerns were for my health and printed out the ADA’s “Fact vs. Fiction” page about vegetarianism and continue to take calcium supplements to assuage their fears. One of my former au pair’s friends who came over for lunch told me that I would “disappear” if I didn’t eat “anything.” (They are both Brazilians, and if there’s one thing Brazilians love, it’s their meat, followed in a close second by their salt – a bad combination with disastrous effects on their bones and arteries: upper-class Brazilians are acquiring the same SAD-related diseases as Americans.)

Now, I am nearly vegan, or, if one takes Donald Watson’s definition, I already am. The realization just blows my mind away. A few years ago, if you had told me I would be vegan, I wouldn’t have believed you because, really, it sounds so much more difficult, and radical, and strange than it really is. It is so simple and obvious that I can hardly believe it took me two whole years from the moment I decided not to eat land animals to only a few weeks ago when I finally decided that I could give up eggs and dairy just as I had given up meat. In reality, I am far more informed and healthy than I have ever been, except, perhaps, for when I was still a baby.

Oftentimes I am reminded rather painfully of the likely path of my little brother’s eating habits. He is almost three and an absolute sweetie. He loves animals, like all children, but hasn’t yet connected these same animals to the foods he eats. I know I am a very influential part of his life, even though I will be leaving for college when he enters kindergarten, but it breaks my heart to think of all the unknowing harm he will do, and the desensitization that he will undergo as part of a “normal” growing-up experience in this country, because I know there is very little I can do for him right now.

As I move forward and on to my own life as an independent adult, I know I will encounter far more hostility than I have so far, but for now I relish knowing half a dozen vegetarian friends and teachers within my sphere just by happenstance. I have decided to promote veganism within this sphere by improving my baking skills. So far, I have made brownies, blondies, and biscuits, and all have received positive appraisals.

My best encounter so far was a comment from an acquaintance that rides my bus. A few days after I handed out my remaining blondies on the bus ride home, she asked me if I was a vegetarian, and I said yes. She explained her supposition, saying, “There’s something about them,” some aura we have in common that she felt I had, and she admired us for it. Perhaps it is our inner peace, our joy, our connection with animals and all living things? This is what I myself feel, and it is worth a thousand times over any mere satisfaction gained by consuming those who should be our companions and friends on this planet. Truly! I now see the beauty of the world 😀

~Alison

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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

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I’ve recently made the decision to become vegan. It’s been a few months now, and I already know it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel healthier, I’ve lost some unwanted weight, but those things are really just a bonus and not the reason I made this choice.

I originally made the choice to go veggie because I finally woke up to the unbelievable suffering going on so that humans can eat meat. And I was a big meat eater.  The day I first saw some of the undercover videos shot in factory farms was the day I made the decision, and I haven’t looked back. After watching the videos, I looked at our dog, and suddenly had a completely different emotional response to her. Suddenly I feel more connected to her and other animals and the environment.

I have two daughters ages 8 and 11, who have been brought up eating meat, and when I first became vegan, I felt so guilty that I had spent the last 10 years teaching my daughters to ignore their natural impulse to feel sympathy for animals. 

A couple years ago, when my younger daughter was 6, we were at a seafood restaurant, the wait person brought out a plate of crab legs for my wife. My daughter just stared at it with her mouth hanging open. Finally she said, “They are so mean to crabs here.” And of course, my wife and I thought that was sweet and cute, but ultimately we managed to desensitize both daughters so that they no longer react to meat with that kind of natural compassion and feeling. Until I became vegan.

It’s been 7 months now since I made the switch, and while I haven’t gotten the whole family to go vegan, meat is completely gone from our menu. My youngest daughter has even stopped drinking cow’s milk and reminds me when it’s time to buy more rice milk.  My older daughter voluntarily gave a speech to her 6th grade class about reasons to be vegetarian and my younger daughter boos the TV when any restaurant commercial comes on showing meat. 🙂 My mother-in-law has even asked for some of my recipes!

Your podcast has been wonderful and educational, and I can’t wait for the next one. Thank you so much for providing such a great resource.

~Chris in Illinois

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