than 30 minutes in I was sobbing and calling my mother, blubbering, “Did you know what they do to cute baby pigs? I’ll never eat bacon again!” Her immediate response was, “Turn it off.” So I did, but it only takes a spark to light a fire, right?
Even though I only saw a small part of Vegucated it raised a lot of questions, so I set to work on doing some research. I always thought veganism was a newer, even trendy, concept, but boy, was I wrong. The word “vegan” was first coined in the early 20th century, and it meant practically the same then as it does now. Further research led to some jarring facts: factory farms bribe the government with millions of dollars a year to keep the animals we eat (cows, pigs, chickens) from being protected by law and treated more humanely; the most toxic form of the poison arsenic is used in chicken feed to promote faster growth; and the average American consumes about half a ton of cheese in their lifetime (America!). Now, I had to take everything with a grain of salt because of course documentaries like Vegucated and other vegan-promoting resources were only going to tell me the benefits of eating vegan and the horrible things that can happen if you don’t. It’s on the same line as sex education classes when we were younger: abstinence or STD. Eat vegan or get cancer.
It’s not all so black and white. As with any lifestyle different from the “American norm”, there seems to be a ton of controversy revolving around veganism. Why is there so much judgment and misunderstanding spawning from what we’re choosing to put in our mouths? This question led me to Jonathan Fields’ blog post "Belief Without Compassion". In a nutshell, the post is a response to a notable figure in the health and vegan world choosing to return to an omnivorous diet. Her choice to step out of the vegan closet was met with an explosion of reactions, positive and negative alike, but Fields’ point is that what a lot of us are missing is compassion.
I’ll admit that it’s extremely hard not to be judgmental when you encounter a belief different from your own. I especially have a lot of opinions when it comes to food. It’s difficult for me to immediately find compassion when people won't try new things, or refuse to look at the dessert menu, or order a small salad inside the greatest burger joint west of the Mississippi. When someone would tell me they were vegan, I would always think, "Why?" Not because I was interested in their choice, but because I didn't understand why anyone would want to limit themselves so extremely, which is how I've always thought about veganism: limiting oneself.
|"Gourmet, Meatless, and Delicious!"|
So now I want to “vegucate” myself and partake in a 30-day vegan challenge. I want to see if it’s as limiting as I’ve always perceived it, if and how others find compassion in my choice, and if I notice any health benefits in the short time frame. I’ve researched the healthy way to make the change and have been slowly transitioning for the past six weeks, but now I’m going cold turkey, or cold “Tofurky”, to be more vegan-friendly. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little apprehensive, especially since I just brought up turkey, which coincidentally goes great with a slice of cheese, some bacon, and mayonnaise (is it bad that I’m already hungry?), but I think this is going to be a great learning experience!