How did I get to vegan??

Friday, April 27, 2012

So, what is MY story? What made me decide to eschew meat and instead maintain a plant based diet? Well, it's recent and at the same time, it started long ago. On a basic level, I've always loved animals. What child doesn't, I suppose? They're in our stories, they're on our television programs, cartoons, and we're taught to treat our pets with love and respect.

When I was 10, our family moved to the country. My parents bought a small farm, and we had chickens, ducks, cows, and had inherited an ancient sheep from the previous owners. We had 30 acres on which to enjoy these animals, and my responsibility, one of my chores, was to feed and water the chickens, and collect their eggs. They were free range, and I remember going to get the first lot of chickens we kept from a battery farm. My parents saved them from their cages, and we took them home to a lovely big yard, and paddocks beyond that they could roam during the day. I recall them not really knowing how to walk. After being crammed in cages likely since birth, they didn't know how to use their legs. They lifted them and took a long time to set them down again, unsure what process to take to walk. I guess it was one of the first moments I had that I truly felt and thought about farming practices?

I also recall that any time I found a chicken dead - almost always just a result of old age or the elements,  would scream a blood curdling cry as though I were being murdered. I remember getting told off for scaring my poor mum with such cries, but I would be devastated and cry and cry for the poor chickens end. Interestingly, I don't really remember when 'Lady' the sheep died. She was so old and so stubborn but quite lovely. Hand fed and happy to be petted she was a funny old thing. Very much the pet.

You can see how farm life, and pet life sort of intermingled for me. It was never strict farming, yet they were never complete pets either. I recall our neighbour, very much the farmer, coming to show my dad how to cut the heads off chickens. I remember how the chickens ran around without their heads. I remember, for some reason I can't recall, handling severed ducks feet. Just the feet. I remember watching them castrate the calves - how they'd just throw them down, slice open their testicles, and then pour disinfectant straight on and send them running again, blood running down their legs. I remember the mother cows, bellowing for calves sent to market. Separated. I never handled these things well. I always got TOO upset. Almost to the point of frustrating and upsetting my folks for being overly dramatic. I never accepted it. I still ate meat, it was our way of life. We always had and it never crossed my mind not to, until the day they slaughtered one of our cows, and filled our freezer. I remember them serving it up, that slightly different smell that fresh meat has as compared to the supermarket processed variety. And I remember saying.. "you want us to eat Molly??" And refusing. I remember the frustration of my parents. They didn't force me to, but I don't think they were too impressed that I refused my meal, either.

Still, I never tried being vegetarian. Once off the farm it was a case of out of sight out of mind to a degree. And habit. So I ate meat. And cheese. And milk. And eggs. All of it. And often.

I would say it has only been in the last two years that this has become the focus of my life again. I credit that to my friend, Christie, from America. We struck up a friendship, and she is a strict vegan, and a creative foodie, so often our conversations turned to food, and her reasons for eating vegan and I learned more about vegan cooking and she inspired me to try some recipes. Christie, her boyfriend Brent, and their friend Melissa, run one of my favorite vegan food blogs, Turning Veganese. I love seeing what they come up with, cursing it when I can't find the ingredients in Australia, cheering loudly when I replicate their success.

She got me thinking, and mid way through last year, I decided to cut meat from my diet entirely. I couldn't bring myself to remove cheese and dairy, however, but I ate vegetarian. I felt great, I lost weight, and it was really something that felt true to who I am, at the core of my being. I still couldn't imagine life without chocolate, though, despite a dear friend, Vik, sending me vegan chocolate to try (and my enjoyment of it!) I then had gastric sleeve surgery, because I felt that despite the 6kg I lost eating vegetarian, I was still dangerously overweight and years of trying to lose the weight had not found success. This operation would. Post op, I slowly reintroduced foods through liquids, mushies, and eventually solids and a normal diet. Because protein was so important in recovery, and because my knowledge of easily accessible protein was meat meat meat, dairy dairy dairy, I resumed eating those foods again. It was the lazy way to ensure I met my protein requirements with a new smaller stomach.

A month or so ago, I began to look into veganism with renewed interest. I spoke at length with my friend, Vik, who is vegan and who directed me to endless fantastic resources, films, articles, information... The more I read, the more it made sense to me. For animals, for the environment, and for my health. Vik made some suggestions for replacement cheeses (I do so love cheese, it is the thing most difficult for me) and I decided to try some new recipes. Vegan recipes. Soon after, I began my 2 week vegan challenge. I am a n00bie vegan, for sure. I am still feeling my way. I am still finding my resources and informing myself. I am having a lovely time with cooking and creativity and new foods in the kitchen. I feel happier and more settled in life in general. This is right for me. This is true to me.

My son, who is 8, often remarks that he doesn't want to eat animals, and that he wants to be vegetarian, but that he loves the taste of meat. I explained that it's okay. It took me 34 years to be ready, and he would come to it in his own time if it is right for him. At the same time, I offer meat alternatives every day, and allow him to take them up as he wants to. Sometimes he does. We had a great discussion about how vegan is different to vegetarianism. He wondered why I don't eat dairy, if it isn't killing the cows. I explained about mothers and babies being separated. I saw the light of identification and empathy in his eyes and the sadness on his face. I like being able to give him information to make informed choices. Maybe some day... :)

So that's my lot. I feel like all the pieces of a life long puzzle are snapping into place and that this is being cemented. I feel committed to this now. It's my truth.


Leila Howell said...

Kel this such a great post! I've toyed back and forth with being vegan for years. I always go back to a non-vegan lifestyle yet something draws me back. Now I'm living on my own I'm ready to try this again and figure out once and for all if this is who I am. I move in next week to my own apartment and will start the two week challenge then. Thanks for helping to re-light that fire over this topic :)

FeistyKel said...

Leila, how exciting!! That's what I did too. Back and forth etc.. But now I think that was all placing pieces of the puzzle down and now it's all clicked together. I feel so good!

Jackie said...

Thank you so much for the link to the movie Earthlings, I have just watched it, it made me ill and the tears whelmed up in my eyes..... I had been talking about going vegetarian for a while now, well after watching this, there is no way I will ever touch meat again, or support purchasing leather goods etc.... Thank you for the link, I have placed it on my facebook and am hoping others will see it.

FeistyKel said...

Jackie that's fantastic. It's hard to face something that confronting and challenge yourself, but it's also empowering. Keep spreading the word!

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