So I feel like I need to give a heads up on this post: it’s a topic that makes a lot of folk defensive and even downright mean. Like all my posts for this blog, this is not a journalism article or a judgement, it is about my personal experience getting back to a simpler life that focuses on What Is Important to me. I think many of us have at some point felt like something in our life wasn’t sitting quite right ethically, but we chose to ignore the uncomfortable feeling rather than risk inconveniencing our self or loved ones and friends or going against the grain. That’s my experience here.
Over the past year, I’ve questioned whether I was really following what I believed to be right action in two areas of my life and these concerns weighed heavier on me around the time I took the Bodhisattva Vow. One was in my relationship with MF (which has been resolved, though not by my own volition) and the other was about my diet.
For the past 26 years, I have been a vegetarian … 99.99% of the time.
Making the decision in 1989 to become a vegetarian was a very big deal for me. I didn’t have family or friends who were vegetarians and it wasn’t a religious requirement—but for ethical reasons, I didn’t want to eat animals any longer. It felt like my first important personal decision—I was a people-pleaser and knew my choice might inconvenience and even challenge others.
And for the 26 years since then, I said I would never eliminate dairy and eggs and become a vegan—as a non-meat eater, I felt like I was doing enough. Even though I knew the impact on animals in egg and dairy production, I drew a line, choosing organic and free-range when I could. Over the years, I became less idealistic, ate fish occasionally, was a lousy evangelist and generally just distracted myself from what should have been the next step many years ago.
I knew that moving to a 100% whole-food, plant-based diet would be even more beneficial for my health and for the environment, but it wasn’t until thinking about my Buddhist practice and digging into what not causing harm to sentient beings meant to me that I became more and more uncomfortable having my daily fix of cheese or a cappuccino with friends.
Then, while driving in the coloUrful Nova Scotia countryside on Canadian Thanksgiving day, we went past a farm with a row of plastic calf pens close to the road—I don’t know if these were growing pens to turn male calves into “veal” or quickly turn female calves into more pregnant cows. The view as it flashed by stuck with me: a reminder of the senseless killing of all young male offspring (calves, goats and chicks) in these industries because they don’t produce milk or eggs.
I was finally ready to wean myself. I’ve been eating a 100% plant-based diet since October and am excited about the decision. The uncomfortable feeling I’ve been carrying around has lifted. Whew! Unlike in 1989, there is now a big bunch of online vegan community support. And unlike in 1989 when tasteless, gummy soy products were the only choice for cheese replacements, there is now satisfying artisanal almond and cashew fauxmage.
References and related links:
- right action: or right conduct, an element of the Buddhist eightfold path.
- The Bodhisattva Vow: formal commitment, in front of others, to aspire to be a Bodhisattva for the benefit of all sentient beings.
- MF: manfriend
- Forks Over Knives – a documentary that focuses on the health benefits of a plant-based diet in avoiding and treating degenerative diseases (available free on Netflix).
- Cowspiracy – a documentary that focuses on the environmental impact of animal agri-business and why large environmental organizations ignore it (available free on Netflix).
- Our Vegan Diet Almost Killed Us – No Really – a post by Lorelei Plotczyk with lots of edifying links in response to the mainstream media’s sensational anti-vegan stories (warning: DO NOT read the comments!).
- The Vegan RD – nutrition info.