People that know me are not surprised when they hear I am now eating straight up vegan. This is a little backstory on becoming vegan and Part 2 will focus on how we’re doing it, including victories and challenges alike. Its one thing to choose to be vegan, its an entirely different matter for a whole family to make the journey without failing miserably. This is a sketch of how we got this far.
When people find out I’m now vegan they are sometimes excited for me, sometimes amused, sometimes secretly annoyed and occasionally inspired and curious. I get a lot of questions about why, how and do I intend to keep it up. The mindset for me is not about keeping it up, it’s about intentionally choosing a lifestyle. Talking openly about it and sharing with you is a fantastic way to explore it and sort out these things for myself on a deep level. I don’t have all the answers. I do however have some very strong thoughts and feelings about it, so know that if you choose to read on or chat with me about it. In today’s world I believe you have to be ready for a social challenge when you choose to quit eating animals and consuming animal products. This is at least partly due to us being bombarded with marketing to support large scale animal agriculture which leads back to the complex issue of money and politics. I’ve continued to be perplexed by all the conflicting information as I’ve pursued healthier choices. I was also intrigued to discover that it is not just about health and wellness. It is also about how animals are treated, the massive environmental impact including nearly inconceivable levels of resources to produce animals and animal-based products for human consumption. I’ve had to process this internally and now I am there with my decision. You should process this at your own pace so you can ultimately make a sustainable choice.
I spent two years as a vegetarian many moons ago in a time and place that it was completely counter-culture and difficult at best. It was in a small town in the south where the fixed mindset had a powerful grip. I survived just fine, but sadly went back to my omnivorous ways. Just under two years ago our youngest announced that she was going to be a vegetarian. We didn’t see it coming and assumed it had something to do with the chicken egg hatching experiment her teacher led them through. We convinced her to keep eating fish, mostly salmon, and eggs. We still thought she needed animal protein. She agreed to be a pescatarian and we laughed about how it would not last a month, haha! Six months later she was staging a full blown campaign recruiting the family to join her “pescatarian club”. She is very intuitive and insightful. Clearly, I was the low-hanging fruit and she kept reaching out to me. She finally went for the close. “Daddy? Do you care about animals? Do you like them and maybe even love them? Do you care about how they are treated? Do you think they deserve to live? I know you do, so why do you eat them?” Sold. I became her first active club member and still thought it would fade away. Next thing I knew we ramped-up the campaign to go after the other half of the fam. That was about a year and a half ago. Brooke and our oldest became mostly pescatarian, but still ate some beef and bacon occasionally. I quickly developed vegan tendencies early in the experiment, but failed pitifully on my first couple attempts to make the switch. Brooke was not ready to focus her kitchen kung-fu on vegan, yet. I didn’t understand it well enough and wasn’t quite ready to flip that switch either. Fast forward to today. I am happily vegan and love exploring new options. Brooke is all in, and that is the key for us. One of the cool things we’re discovering is different ways to make so many of the things we thought we would have to give up. An example is the vegan whipped cream to go on the vegan pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. It was delicious! It feels really healthy to eat this way and very empowering to say I choose to.
Before you get the idea I’m a tree-hugging granola eating hippie that is part of an offbeat subset of society at-large or that I grew up in suburban sprawl and just have a desire to be different, let me fill you in a little. I know the true meaning of “running around like a chicken with it’s head cutoff”. Not for the reason you might be thinking, but because I saw it when I was a kid. I’ve seen most every kind of animal I’ve eaten killed, and in some cases killed them myself. I’ve helped raise animals to be eaten and I’ve hunted and killed animals to eat. I was taught that this is how it is and how it is meant to be. I always tried to hide the fact that I thought it was repulsive and made me feel disgusting on many levels. I never once had to do it to live. I don’t think I ever threw up after pulling the trigger, releasing the arrow, swinging the hatchet or slicing with a sharp knife, at least not where anyone would see it happen. I tried to hide my feelings because the culture I was growing up with was not always kind to the weak. Being unable or unwilling to kill an animal to eat was not a sign of weakness, it was weakness itself. I had a will to survive, so I learned like others to kill and tear the meat from the bone. This happens on a massive global scale today to feed people and we use the innocuous term “harvesting” to make it less real. I also worked extremely hard in gardens and on farms. Why didn’t we just focus on the gardening and harvesting of plant-based foods? I know the resources required to produce animals for human consumption are far greater than required for plants. I now need a fraction of the plants, water and land necessary for the needless consumption of animals. That feels as right as rain to me.
We ate a lot of fresh whole food and farm raised beef, chicken and pork. We ate some of the typical animals hunted in the south like deer, we fished and even gigged and shot frogs for frog legs. We also went through times of eating a lot prepackaged food that was taking our society by storm. It made it easy to spend less time producing and preparing food, so my family could work more. Because apparently we needed to spend more time working. Before I was old enough to be on my own my family relationships with one another fractured in all directions. We had no foundation and I suppose the years ahead finding my way is how I ended up questioning everything I learned early in life, even how I was taught to eat. I believe the world could be a better place if we pursue experiential living over convenience, balance over power, health and happiness over money, love over war, feeding the hungry over gluttony and natural beauty over control.
I’ve had a bit of a fascination with endurance, possibly because I felt like I had to have it to survive some difficult personal challenges and threats I faced throughout my early life. As I grew older, I started running just because I wanted to. Then I got a nice touring bicycle from my uncle and learned to ride for miles. My latest endurance endeavors are typically on a paddleboard. This has me putting the nutritional aspects of veganism to the test as I push to be as strong and healthy as I can without being a fully dedicated athlete. I also happen to be genetically predisposed to Type II Diabetes. So if there are problems with sustaining a full immersion into veganism I assure you I will uncover them on a relentless pursuit to live a lifestyle of health, wellness, love and peace.
A few of recent inspirations and resources:
The Rich Roll Podcast – “With over 7 million downloads, one of the world’s most highly acclaimed podcasts.”
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau – “My mission is to inspire people to live according to their own values of compassion and wellness, to change how we regard and treat animals, & to debunk myths about vegan eating, nutrition, and health.”
Cowspiracy – “The film that environmental organizations don’t want you to see!”