Tomorrow is World Vegetarian Day, a celebration founded by the North American Vegetarian Society back in 1977 as a way to raise awareness about the benefits of vegetarianism. I spend every World Vegetarian Day thinking back to when I first became a vegetarian..and reminding myself why.
More than 20 years ago I adopted two kittens from the ASPCA in New York and thus began sliding down the slippery slope towards the hardcode vegan I am today. I donated money when adopting and got on the ASPCA mailing list. Yes, snail mail, I'm just that old. From there it's clear that the ASPCA shared their list because I started getting snail mail from various other animal welfare and animal rights organizations, and I started opening those envelopes and reading about things I might have preferred not to know! The next slide was into subscribing to a magazine called The Animal's Voice. Unlike the pamphlets and newsletters most organizations sent, this was a glossy magazine. Every month this magazine was full of stories and investigative reports and news items that made me cringe and made me cry. I've had animals all my life...I know they feel pain; I know they are sentient; I know they may not feel emotions exactly like humans do...but they certainly feel.
I began to think often that I should become a vegetarian to simply stop my own participation in industries that seemed inherently based on cruelty. but also as a means of economic vote: To withhold my hard-earned cash from such industries, and to hopefully join with others doing the same to drive change.
At the time, though, I was a steadfast Weight Watchers member, training to be a Weight Watchers leader, and I sighed heavily at the thought of adding one more layer to the thought processes that went into planning my meals. It would be too tough, I thought.
One Saturday morning I was walking in my Astoria, Queens neighborhood and seemed to encounter more butcher shops than normal. I'm sure they'd always been there, but all of a sudden I was seeing the whole, dead animals hanging in the window in an entirely different light. I even came upon one shop that was unloading a delivery for the day, and they were literally hosing the blood off the sidewalk as I tried to walk around it.
That, as they say, was that. It was almost like a sign, even though I don't believe in signs. I thought to myself: I have to try. If it's too hard, then at least I will have tried, but it's incredibly wimpy to avoid it because of imagined, anticipated difficulty. I thought: I'll try it today, and see how it goes.
Well, 19 years later I guess I'd have to assess the situation and say it's been going pretty well, and wasn't nearly as hard as I was telling myself it would be. Two years ago I finally even made the long-considered, oft-attempted switch to veganism. I was tired of being vegan outside my body (no leather, wool, silk, suede, etc. etc.) but not inside my body, even though I believed it to be the right thing to do. So, you see, an old vegetarian dog could learn new vegan tricks, even at the age of 42.
What are my guiding principles?
1. Any step is better than no step
No one is a 100% perfectly humane human. Perfectionism is an easy excuse to keep you from even trying to do one thing...you may ask "What's the point of only swearing off veal?" I say that it all matters it all helps, and you should do what you can do...until you can do better.
2. I am veg*n because I can be and there is no compelling reason not to be. Can't you be? Why shouldn't you be? And couldn't you start small and work up? What have you actually got to lose? Conversely: what might you gain?
3. Yes, veg*nism can be better for your health, and yes, it can better for the planet's health. (It can also not be those things...it all depends on how you do it.) I am not a religious person. I'm not even particularly a spiritual person. But I deeply believe that this is the most beneficial spiritual practice I follow. I believe it promotes both my personal well-being and promotes peace in the wider world. I know I have been a catalyst for others to head down the veg*n path, and is is not because I harangue or vilify or preach. I simply encourage people to be informed, and think about it and make conscious choices. And to do whatever they feel they can manage to do right then. That's all.
4. Yes, I vote absolutely religiously, but how I spend money is also a vote, of sorts, every single day. I do believe economic "encouragement" drove many cosmetics companies to drop animal testing, for example, and that's a good thing. We all consume, but we can do it consciously.
That's my testimony in honor of World Vegetarian Day. What will you do to mark the day? Make veggie meals? Patronize a veggie restaurant? Study up, so you can Vote Yes on Prop 2 (if you're a California resident, of course)?
Tell me all about it!
Here's what some other bloggers have to say:
Marisa from SlashFood is an omnivore who has a shaky start talking about how not eating meat makes her shaky (I think she needs to check out her overall nutritional approach if that's the case) but turns out she will be cooking some vegetarian meals for her household to eat throughout the month...and she reminds us that in this economy, our budgets may thank us.
The World is My Oyster lists the many reasons to go veg, and implores us all to give it a chance.
Thanks to Denise for asking me to do this post, because of it I discovered EtsyVeg, "a group of talented artists, working in many different styles and mediums, who are Etsy sellers and either vegan or vegetarian." I sense a new addiction coming on!
And if you are interested in what a ton of veg*ns have to say, why not follow VeganMoFo? It's the Vegan Month of Food, a take-off on NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo for those who'd rather talk recipes and food than write a novel :)
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