I have a wonderful friend who very recently became Vegan. I know that she’s struggling to see now what is the world around her , and I know that it’s even harder to have this new very profound truth and know what to do with it.
I remember when I first became Vegan. First, I will clarify that I was 100% plant-based before becoming Vegan – I eliminated ALL animal products from my diet for health reasons, and then because of that started to find out about the many other reasons to become Vegan.
It started with a simple realization for me – there was a man who had been charged and sent to prison for animal abuse against his dogs. The story was sick, what he did to those dogs was sick, and in that instant I made the connection, that if I felt that it was wrong of this man to hurt and abuse those dogs, I could now understand being Vegan. An animal, be it a pet or a farm animal is a creature with feelings, they hurt, they feel torture and fear. It seemed so simple. I wasn’t even someone that anyone would consider an “animal person” but it didn’t seem to have a gray area – either a living creature felt pain or it did not, it was either being abused or it was not, it was either being murdered or it was not. I’m not sure if that man abused, tortured, killed his dogs, and then proceeded to use them for food, if people would have been less disgusted and horrified. And then I thought – what if he had someone else do the killing and the torture of these animals – would have it made it better? Of course not.
But, for YEARS I made fun of vegetarians. I thought the entire notion was absurd. I was told of course that eating animals was somehow natural and somehow I completely never made the very logical step between what I considered to be animal abuse and what I considered to be ‘food’. Was I any better than the man who abused his dogs? I paid people to hurt animals for my pleasure – the pleasure I got from consuming them. I’m not sure how that is any better.
Back to my friend though.. So I was thinking about how obvious all of this seems to me, and I was remembering those first few weeks/months of being Vegan. I wanted to yell at people who had dogs at the park with them while they ate a hotdog – didn’t they know that the food they were eating was a direct result of abuse, torture and ultimately death – something they could never even imagine wishing upon their furry friend playing Frisbee with them?
And the more I found out about the undeniable health consequences of eating animal proteins, all of a sudden I felt like I was back in the 1940′s when pregnant women were told to smoke for health reasons. It seemed so outrageous and so insane to me that we were living in this world in which so much proven study has been done, yet so many people were just ignoring it.
For a while, I had a really hard time remembering the time before I was Vegan. I just didn’t get why no one else could see the food on their plate and not understand it’s tragic origin.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how our brains work, how addiction works, and how advertising works. I’ve learned that people have to come to all of this on their own, in their own way. I can present the truth, I can make points, I can offer help and suggestions, but ultimately, like I had to do – they have to make the decision for themselves.
It’s a painful position to be in, much like I’m sure it was painful for people to see their friends still smoking and thinking it was healthy, or how it was painful to see women being oppressed as so many justified that as well.
When we are confronted with what seems like ignorance or hostility, I think the best thing we can do is to remember the time before we became vegan and practice compassion and patience to those who are still struggling with understanding.