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I want you to know that your podcast has helped transform my life.

I have always been a health nut, and in January of 2008, I was directed to John Robbins’ Healthy at 100, which documents how cultures subsisting on plant-based diets tend to live longer. Robbins’ book, along with Skinny Bitch, convinced me to try veganism. I experienced health benefits almost immediately. Until then, I was an asthmatic who used a steroid inhaler and a rescue inhaler to control attacks. Soon after I went vegan, I gave up both inhalers for good and haven’t experienced any shortness of breath since.

However, although I was vegan, I didn’t want to become one of those “animal rights freaks.” I told all my friends that I was giving up animal products for my health, because I was afraid I would lose friends if I changed my life for the animals. But I soon discovered your podcast on Itunes. At first, I only listened to the episodes on nutrition and avoided the ones that discussed animals. I thought it would be just too painful to listen. But even when you discuss nutrition or your favorite foods, your love for animals shines through. I eventually became brave enough to try other episodes and was shocked by the episode on “what’s wrong with eating eggs.” Finally, one of your podcasts led me to Gail Eisnitz’s Slaughterhouse. And then I opened my eyes. I have never been what I consider a big “animal lover,” because I don’t have pets. But I certainly don’t believe that animals should suffer the abuse of factory farms, and I certainly don’t believe animals should have to die for me to eat.

Now, I speak plainly and openly about animal rights and I tell people we do not need to eat animals to survive. To my surprise, even though I speak up for the animals, I haven’t lost any friends. Your podcasts have helped me find my voice and engage in open and honest dialogues. Before your podcast, I was hesitant to even call myself vegan. I would instead say “I don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs.” Now, I proudly say I’m vegan and even have a bumper sticker on my car that proclaims it. I’m in the process of starting a vegetarian student organization at the university where I work, and I hope that we will soon pass out literature on animal rights.

Of course, I experience difficulties with being vegan. My sister for instance, doesn’t want to give up the “tradition” of cooking a turkey when she hosts Thanksgiving this year. But without your podcast, I never would have had the wisdom or courage to ask her to leave turkey off the table. And I’m confident that my family will enjoy the stuffed acorn squashes I make (from your recipe!) much more than the turkey. Maybe next year we can have a truly peaceful Thanksgiving.

In short, your work has helped me find a diet that fully reflects all of my values – good health, environmental sustainability, and compassion for animals. I hope you are tremendously proud of your efforts, because you give people like me so much sustenance and hope.

~Megan in Mississippi

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I had never really been a particularly healthy person growing up. I guess I ate mostly what everyone else, my family, friends and the rest of New Zealand society ate. Meat and two veg for dinner, plenty of fruit, cereals and grains, a lot of dairy. It was the simple things I remember eating – meals of baked beans on toast, mince & mash or sausages in bread with tomato sauce or cheese and vegemite sandwiches.

As I grew older I was inclined to pay more attention to eating habits and health in general, although seldom was any of my newfound knowledge put into practice. I did however know that there was nothing wrong with lean red meat and dairy in a well balanced diet. In fact, I was quite sure that my iron levels were lower than average and thanks to persistent advertising, more than aware of the vital role of probiotics from dairy in promoting healthy gut flora. I made my own yoghurt, drank plenty of milk, made sure I bought, cooked and ate enough red meat and fish (omega 3!) and sophisticatedly indulged in eating cheese of varying varieties while drinking red wine. Little did I know I was flooding my body with cholesterol and fats and probably a not-so-healthy dose of antibiotics and hormones too!

The plight of animals never really crossed my mind. Sure, they were killed for our consumption. Of course they were; that’s what they were raised for. And anyway, if I didn’t pick up that chicken breast at the supermarket, someone else would, or it would be wasted. The damage had already been done and all I was doing was making good use of the product of an industry, not letting it go to waste. In a land full of farmers you seldom encountered opposing views. In short, you ate what you were given and were thankful.

After graduating, travel led me to all sorts of places and introduced me to a range of cuisines. Seeking desperately to avoid the ‘fussy’ label I had earned as a child I ate all manner of delicacies served for my consumption, including sea snake, puffer fish, raw horse meat, raw chicken, liver and cartilage. Somehow, this made me and my companions feel good. As if we had conquered the dead and lifeless meat in front of us and as if this was cause to congratulate ourselves and boast. None of this bothered me at the time. It is only now, when I look back on myself at those moments that I am saddened.

I have been vegan for a year and a half, vegetarian before that for a good six months or so. It has changed my life completely and continues to do so. I can’t really say that there was a definitive moment in my life that led me to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle, or that I woke up one morning and it all fell into place like the pieces of some terribly sadistic puzzle. But rather, things happened gradually. I was aware of issues surrounding the consumption of animal products in almost a peripheral sense, as if they were always there but I had never chosen to focus on them. It really is amazing what our minds and hearts will ignore in order to maintain the status quo and avoid change.

Most of the peripheral information I was aware of came via my partner, who had a colleague at work recently ‘convert’ to vegetarianism. He would come home with tales of conversations he’d had with his colleague, Matt, while sharing a beer during their lunch break or after work. I didn’t know Matt particularly well at the time, but one thing he was known for was his penchant for logic. He is a very rational and reasonable guy, not to mention patient and tolerant of others’ opinions. And here he was, giving up meat!

Somehow it didn’t quite compute. The stereotypes I had of vegans and vegetarians in my head did not look like Matt. But, hey, we were living in the 2000s and was willing to listen to his theories on a cruelty-free life second-hand anyway. I found my ears pricking up whenever my partner mentioned he’d had a conversation with Matt recently and low and behold I began to realise that I was actually interested. Could I be one of those people who ‘goes vego’, who opts for pizza without cheese..? The more I thought about it and researched things, the more sympathy I had for vegetarianism and the more I came to realise that there was nothing inherently ‘weird’ or ‘anti-social’ about these people. They were simply normal people; normal people who wanted to try and make the world a slightly better place to be in by not eating animal flesh. In just the same way that I recycled my plastic bottles and newspapers, reused my own bags at the supermarket or shared a smile with a stranger in a busy street, they were out to see if their actions couldn’t make life better for all of us.

It seems like a lofty idea and you could be forgiven for thinking I’m naïve and idealistic. But, in truth, I have never seen anything wrong with either of these qualities and much prefer them to pessimism and cynicism. Sure, opting for a salad over a hamburger is not going to instantly transform the world into some heavenly utopia, but it does make a difference. Less demand for meat means less demand for farmed animals who live pitifully short lives of suffering, less slaughterhouse workers who leave for home every night with blood on their white overalls and aprons, less trees and forests cut down to provide pasture for grazing, less habitats lost, less grain fed to animals, less people fretting about the price of food, less starvation, less high-cholesterol, less heart disease, less obesity, less taxes for health care, less resources wasted. Less suffering and death.

I suppose you could say that once I had made these connections there was no going back. Something had changed in the way that I viewed the world and my place in it. I had become so much more aware of how my actions, simple, small and everyday things, could have much greater implications elsewhere and create a knock-on effect. Soon I had decided to stop eating dairy, eggs and then processed foods that contained animal products. I was reading labels, thinking about ingredients and then thinking about them again. I had expected this to happen. But one thing I hadn’t expected was the influence this way of thinking had on the rest of my life. I began to find myself questioning if I really needed to buy another magazine or book or T shirt and wondering where and how and for what purpose these things had been produced. Who was I helping with my money besides myself? Was I making a difference in the world? Was this a positive action or a negative one..?

‘Awakening’ implies that you had to have been asleep beforehand, but I know that I wasn’t; I was fully conscious and considered myself a good human being. However, I chose to blind myself to many of these issues because to acknowledge them made me slightly uncomfortable. Many issues in the world still do. But veganism is not a journey that ends once you’ve completely rid your life of animal products and cruelty, cleared out your cupboards and given your leather boots away to the Salvation Army. It is an ongoing journey and one that you will be able to travel with throughout your life, like a good companion. Veganism is the voice that asks you to reconsider, asks you to live your life in accordance with your beliefs and to aspire to be better.

Even now I am continuing to learn and change and improve the way I tread on the planet’s surface. Do I tiptoe? Do I thud? Do I run? Flit? What sort of footprint do I leave?

Our diets have a far greater effect on the planet than many of us realise. ‘What’s one banana?’ you might ask. But realise you are fundamentally similar to the majority of the population of the earth, with similar needs, wants, desires and the question soon becomes ‘what’s six billion bananas?’. Thinking big is the only way to assess our true impact on the earth and it can only be done when we are able to recognise that our choices matter as much as the next person’s. The earth is our dwelling place and we have a responsibility to be in it and of it and to care for it. It is not up to politicians, governments, or other people in other countries to organise the way we live and the way we treat the world. It is up to ourselves.

In the same way, if one person avoids eating animal products, it really does make a difference. We may feel as though it doesn’t when compared to the large numbers of meat eaters out there, but the world consists of people just like us and surely if we can change, others can too. It really is as simple as supply and demand. No one buys animal products, animal products go out of business. No one supports industries testing on animals, industries look for alternatives. Every circus needs an audience, for without one there is no circus. This is truly exciting and it’s what prompts me to respond with patience and sincerity every time I’m asked about living a cruelty free life.

The only reason I ever even considered ‘cutting out meat’ in the first place was because I knew someone who had adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. Not a family member, or a close friend, just an acquaintance. And one who was particularly rational, patient and open to others’ viewpoints. Just knowing Matt existed and was thinking about these things led me to do a little research of my own. I firmly believe that if he had been judgemental of others or the type prone to proselytising, my curiosity antennae would have curled in on themselves and I never would have found out how much I agreed with his views. It pays to remember this when airing your beliefs in the company of those who still eat animal products. Be open, be humble, be kind and let their antennae roam.

~ Sarah, London UK

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I’d like to take a minute and sincerely thank you for all you do. I became vegetarian only about a month ago (hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?). Currently, I am well on my way to turning vegan.

It all started after reading “skinny bitch” for me. My roommate told me “this book sounds like you wrote it.” She said this because I am surrounded by heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my family and have watched my parents go down the same road as their parents did without making any changes to improve their health. They make almost no effort even though they are well aware of what faces them. This is very frustrating to me. I am 21 years old and a senior in college and I am already making changes to prevent this, why can’t they?

But yes, that is the book that started it for me. It is very hard to ignore what they are saying. I was one of those people who ate mostly organic food, produce, dairy products, and meat and somehow made myself believe that I was doing the right thing because at least they treated their animals ethically, right? After hearing many of your podcasts, I realize now that I believed that because that is what I wanted to believe. This is one of the reasons I am turning completely vegan.

After reading that book, I’ll be honest, I struggled with the idea of becoming vegan for about 2 weeks. I wanted to, I knew it was the right thing, and it coincided with all of my values and beliefs, but I just kept thinking “I’m really never going to eat meat again?” Well after trying to wrap my head around that for a week or two I visited my brother in the D.C. area and that was the turning point. I promised myself that I would only eat organic meat from then on out (to “ease” my guilty conscience), and since that wasn’t possible when dining in a restaurant I ate vegetarian that whole weekend. After that, after seeing how easy it really was, I kept with it. It stuck.

It was about this time that I started to discover your podcast. I feel it has been you’re inspiring words and truth telling that has kept me motivated. I do feel I could have done it on your own but it is very comforting to know I can just flip on my i-pod and hear words of reassurance and that I am doing the right thing. It has also been your podcast that has educated me on many issues that are crucial to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, such as health and animal rights. I have always been an animal lover and the harsh reality of what they face is heart-wrenching. But as you say, I am glad to know it, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I do feel much closer to my pets and even just the animals that surround us in life. I can look at pictures of these beautiful beings and no longer feel guilty. With the help of this podcast I have learned so much about my health, my eating habits, and my morals as well as the health and well-being of the non-human animals that surround us. Thank you for all your work, it is truly awe-inspiring.

~ Sarah

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It all started when I was a young boy, growing up in Miami. My parents did their best to try to find us events and programmes that would let us kids feel like we have a community to belong to. Having immigrated from India, finding such a community was difficult enough, but being (lacto) vegetarian made us feel more alienated still. The norms of the  American culture confused and bothered us. We didn’t understand how people who could keep petted and pampered animals (dogs and cats) could turn around and senselessly, viciously savage and slaughter other beautiful, intelligent
animals, like cows, pigs, and chickens.

In the pursuit of community that would be open and accepting of my family, my mother found a vegan meet up. Because most of the food of South India is vegan already, she had a very easy time throwing together delicious dishes that would get raves from all the vegans at the meetups. For whatever reason, their truth didn’t penetrate my dense skull at the time. They were vegan, and I was vegetarian. In my brain, there was no difference.

In eighth grade, my social studies teacher required each of her students to present what she called a “tracer” in the USA. A tracer, in this case, was a topic of human interest, that could be traced back to  culture in the US. The first one that I chose, of course, was being vegetarian.

A dear family friend of mine was working for Earth Save at the time. She loaned me a book called The Healthy School Lunch Programme Action Guide, which was a pilot programme being run by Earth Save to try to get more vegan options into public school cafeterias. It had statistics, figures, guides on cooking in bulk, and the stories of the animals, and what they suffer. As I stood in front of the class, describing the atrocities that cows are forced to endure, the unnatural ways that their bodies are crammed together, my brain continued to ignore the clear conclusions that the book was saying: GO
VEGAN.

It’s funny how no matter how clear the message, if you’re not ready for it, you will not hear it. On went my senseless exploitation of the animals for my pleasure. On went the consumption of dairy and eggs. I shudder to think of the hundreds of thousands of deaths I’m responsible for with my cavalier attitude towards the suffering of others.

In college, I co-founded a vegan club. Still, nothing sunk in. I cooked for friends in their homes, and at my home. Nothing still. Finally, I stumbled upon Bob and Jenna Torres’s podcast, “Vegan Freak Radio.” They urged their listeners to try to go vegan for three weeks to see how they like it. To see if they could do it. It was a challenge, and I was willing to step up to the plate, and face it. I tried the three week pilot vegan programme.

Boom.

I was vegan.

I began posting recipes on their forums, and Bob approached me to write a book. I was floored. Someone wanted me to write down my recipes? Someone wanted to hear my voice, and share it with others? But I’m such a new vegan! What do I know?

He refused to be swayed by my lousy excuses, just like he refused to be swayed by excuses against going vegan. “Just try it,” he said. So try it I did. I poured my heart into that book, telling the stories of each recipe, describing in detail the whys and the hows of the food. I explained what the recipes meant to me, and how they came into my life. I fondly recalled the
formation of the foods, and loved sharing that part of myself.

And now I’m cooking at a vegan restaurant.

Who knew that in the course of two years, I could find my vegan husband, write my vegan book, and cook in a vegan  restaurant. What a lot of power just a few people’s voices have. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the message before; it was that I wasn’t ready to hear it, or that the messenger wasn’t speaking in terms that I understood. You and people like you are the strongest advocates for the animals (aside from the animals themselves). If you don’t let your voice be heard, you deny the animals their voices, which is what everyone else in this slave-centred society does. Tell your stories loudly and proudly. Proclaim your truths. Be vegan.

~Dino in New York

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I have been vegetarian for two years now.  I originally cut meat out of my diet for health purposes (to lower my blood pressure, to lose weight, etc.), but I found that before long, I was rediscovering compassion buried deep within me, compassion that I had suppressed for so long because this is what our culture teaches us to do.

Now, two years into my new lifestyle, I can’t imagine ever returning to my meat-eating ways, and in fact I have been thinking more and more seriously about going entirely vegan.  Having listened to every one of your podcasts available on iTunes, I feel I am finally ready to do it.  I had never fully considered how my consumption of cheese and eggs was contributing to cruelty in much the same way a meat eater’s habits contribute to cruelty, but as you say, if we are going to purchase and consume such products, we have a responsibility to know the origins of those products. Thank you again for your wonderful work.

To quote you, I feel every day that I am living my truth.  While I have yet to become involved in activism, I still feel that veganism is itself a small form of activism, and I remind myself regularly that my choice to eat a vegan diet is saving a small number of animals (small in comparison to the total number slaughtered annually).  I feel that the connection I have with my own animal companions is stronger than ever before.  I literally feel as though my eyes are open after a long period of sleepwalking. 

It saddens (but also motivates me) to witness others’ ignorance of or indifference to animal suffering.  I try to educate (without preaching to) my family and friends, and I’m happy to tell you that both of my parents (previously staunch omnivores) have changed their eating habits because of me, and they continue to do so. While they are certainly not vegans (or even vegetarians), they have begun incorporating more plant-based foods (including items that they use to replace animal foods) into their diets, and I constantly encourage them both to continue making these changes. It makes me hopeful to see two older adults make changes like this!

Again, I love your podcast.  It is by far the best of its kind.  You are so articulate and thoughtful.  Beyond the information you convey, the way in which you convey it, in my opinion, is a major step toward shattering stereotypes about vegans. Please keep up the excellent work. 

~Peter in New York

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