February 10, 2015

The Term "Vegan" and Living With Compassion

"To have compassion means to have passion for all things, not just between two people, but for all human beings, for all things of the Earth, the animals, the trees, everything the Earth contains..."
- Jiddu Krishnamurti

Our Meat-Eating, to Vegetarian to Vegan Story

In 2006 I became really interested in PETA. I watched a ton of those gory animal abuse videos to convince myself that I couldn't possibly eat animals or use their bodies. I was the one kid in class that refused to dissect animals, the one that did the speech on Vegetarianism and it's advantages... I was that odd hippie kid with way too much time on their hands.

But that's where it started for me. Matthew and I had already been together almost a year by the time I became a Vegetarian. My Veg-i-versary is Autumn 2006. For the following year and a half, I was super passionate about my Vegetarianism and what it meant to me... And that included not kissing Matthew after he ate meat. I'd make him brush his teeth first; so if we were somewhere other than his parents' home, he didn't end up eating meat anyway. In Spring 2008 Matthew (finally) quit eating meat. (Not because I didn't want his meaty-kisses, haha.) I remember sitting in Applebees with him that day... He never ate meat again. I don't remember what he ordered but I remember that I was trying to be a Vegan and I ordered a plain salad... and it came with cheese on top. So I gave up on trying to be a Vegan and just ate the salad... I remember Matthew being Vegetarian for a couple of weeks and saying "I can't believe it took me this long... I love animals but you never would have known..."

Fast-forward to February 3rd, 2010; Lennon is born and I was a Vegetarian throughout the pregnancy. He turned five recently and has never eaten meat. His entire life, we've had people strongly suggest that we give him meat... that we give him the option to eat meat. "Why would you make him eat like you do?" is the most popular question. What cracks me up about that is that 1. that's what parents do; they raise their kids doing what they think is best; and often times it looks like how they live their own lives. and 2. Why do *you* make your kid eat meat without explaining to them what it means, where it came from, what happened to get it onto their plate and so on?

Fast-forward again to April 2013; Cheese had always been our downfall. Every time we "tried" to be Vegan, we ended up getting a hankering for (and giving into) cheese. Cheese and I were best friends. Basically, if I could have had cheese, baked in cheese, covered in cheese, dipped in cheese with cheese sprinkled on top, I would have been all over that. So in an effort to break that cycle (I'm not kidding; we'd stop eating animal products for two weeks at a time and then go back and do it all over...) I finally researched how cheese was made. Without going into too much detail, it grossed me out so much we haven't eaten it since.

Fast-forward yet again to Summer 2014; We tried and got pregnant immediately. With Lennon, we were so unhealthy and thought it was just a beautiful gift that we ended up getting pregnant. So getting pregnant so quickly when we wanted to was... so amazing. It really confirmed to us how good for us our lifestyle is.

Is Lennon a Vegan? Will Rowan be a Vegan, too? Yes. But that's the thing; under our roof they will be Vegan. But if they grow up, do their research and decide to not stay Vegan that's fine. As long as they are well-informed and still eat healthfully. Lennon at 4 totally understood why we were Vegan. He has always been so passionate about it and really, truly gets it. Better than most adults.

Why Are We Vegan?

Well cheese ended up being what did it for us, just like those gory videos did it for me back in the day... And while I definitely don't think that those videos would help everyone (there's a reason I don't share them...) they were exactly what I needed, right when I needed them.

Matthew became a Vegetarian mostly for the animals. I became a Vegetarian mostly because after a certain point, I was so grossed out by the idea of eating something that had been alive; had family, had pooped, had sex... that I couldn't possibly eat it. Something we got asked a lot was if we ate chicken or fish... Because a lot of people don't consider either (especially fish) "meat." Meat, to me, is a dead animal that some people eat. One of the first animals you learn to recognize are fish. How do they stop being animals when it comes to the dinner table?...

After researching and discussing how other animal products were made, we decided that those weren't something we could eat either. Animal milk is for that specific animal's baby. I was never a milk-lover anyway (actually, I hated it;) Matthew was never the biggest fan of eggs and basically the biggest thing that left was cheese and... we just stopped eating it.

Living With Compassion

Even while Vegetarian we didn't use animal products; leather, suede, silk, wool, found-skulls, etc... We saw all of these as non-touchables because where would the line be drawn? Only within the past couple of months have we decided that the use of wool, found-skulls, honey are okay. (We still will never use leather, suede, silk, etc...) After a long talk together and with a good friend, Matthew and I realized that we wanted to be in harmony with other animals. Instead of wasting what they don't need, we can find practical uses for them that are better for Mama Nature than highly processed crap like plastic. We still consider our lifestyle Vegan because we still don't use anything from an animal that would possibly require harm to them.

This brings up some interesting questions that we get a lot; would we eat meat if it were humanely killed? No. Never. "Humanely" doesn't mean anything. The animal was still killed the animal for pleasure. What if it weren't killed for pleasure? Nope. No way would we eat meat. Period. Would we eat other animal products if they were humanely gotten? What if we had a chicken who laid eggs? What if we had a cow that overproduced milk after having a baby? No. We would still not use these things. Because our reasoning isn't so much the "oh poor animal" thing, but the "that is so nasty..." thing.

Our stance is really complicated, but that's just it; it's ours. And no one else's. Everyone has their reasons (hopefully) for doing what they do. And all you can hope for is some research and compassion.

The Term "Vegan"

I'm not really one to go by terms... But in some cases, it's necessary. For one, we always are excited to see "Vegan" because we know it's something we can have. Do I think that really encompasses our lifestyle now that we've changed? No. But "Vegan that eats honey and doesn't mind using wool" is a bit confusing. And requires a lot more of an explanation that we just don't really always feel like giving. As passionate as we are, we're passive; I realize that I pushed a lot of people away as an OMG STOP EATING MEAT Vegetarian back in the day. And in being passive, I've helped a ton of people. I've made the change in my personal life instead of smothering them with unwanted information. People have seen the change and realize "wow... maybe there is something to their lifestyle..." That's really all I could ask for. But regardless to whether we help any other people or not, we're helping our small family and some animals. And that makes me so happy.

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