Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Vegan?

   Hello, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to browse my new blog. My name is Michele Zader, and this blog is about education and inspiration. I've been vegan for almost three years now, and over the course of those three years I have been met with intense inquiry, occasional admiration, and even some harsh opposition. In response to all these things and more, I have decided to express myself in an informative, educational, and inspirational blog. Why vegan, you ask? Let's find out why!

   I would not necessarily consider myself an animal person. Growing up, my sister was always considered the "animal lover". We always had dogs, usually big ones, but they were more of an annoyance to me. I did have a cat (my soulmate in feline form) and at one time I had aquired a goldfish from a class I took at Cosi. My family and I ate dinner together every night, sometimes talking about where our food came from, but mostly not. We did have spurts of vegetarian years interjected throughout my childhood, but mostly we did eat meat, and it was delicious for me.
  When I went away to college I struggled with the typical body image and skin problems that teenage girls deal with. My senior year in college I went to visit my sister in Colorado and she introduced me to Skinny Bitch, a book that changed my life. I went home only half-determined to stick with veganism. I was doing it for the sole reason of losing weight and clearing up my acne. In my opinion, and my opinion only, diets and quick fixes do not work, they instead set yourself up for failure and dissapointment. I was looking for a quick fix, and when I didn't find it, I quickly fell off the wagon and went back to eating animals. I mindlessly ate meat, dairy, and I bought leather, not only because I wasn't aware of the devastation I was contributing to, but because I had a poor self-image and low self esteem. I did not think that what I did mattered, and I was sure that even if I did stop eating meat, the suffering still went on regardless.
  After I graduated and was living on my own I decided to give veganism another try. I re-read Skinny Bitch and started to be vegan again, this time for the sole reason that I wanted to be healthy. As a nurse I took care of people dying from mass obesity, heart attacks, colon cancer, etc, and to prevent that in my own life I stopped eating animals and animal products. When people asked me why I was vegan, I would reassuredly tell them "it's just to be healthy, don't worry, I'm not one of those PETA freaks!" and we would all have a good laugh. I cared not about the animals or what my contribution to this earth was, I cared only about myself and my health. I cared not about anyone else's happiness, be it a human or animal, I cared only about my own happiness. Looking at dead animals or seeing other people eat dead animals provoked no emotion in me whatsoever. I thought "live and let live" and I even occasionally craved a cheeseburger or milkshake.
  Years later I viewed the film Earthlings, which is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and has all music by Moby. Those two hours and thirty minutes of film changed my life like no other single incident ever has. The film exposed the cruel, exploitive, and inhumane way that we humans treat animals. It was divided into sections and explored the way we use animals (from toys to pets), for food, entertainment, clothing, and research. I literally could not peel my eyes away from it, even when I was moved to tears.  Even with a lump in my throat and my stomach in knots, I knew it was something I had to make myself watch. I cried for the kittens, the elephants, the screaming piglets. I cried when I thought of all the animals I'd hurt in my past and I was angry at my ignorance and the ignorance of my species. The movie forced me to radically rethink my life: if I wasn't contributing to stopping the insanity that I saw in the movie, what was the point in being vegan? I vowed that I would find a way to help stop the suffering I saw in the movie. But how? Thus the birth of this blog, because talking can sometimes provoke emotional arguments and like I said before, intense opposition. Therefor I will express myself in a blog and it will be up the reader to decide if they want to read or not. Whereas before I was afraid of being viewed as an "animal rights freak", now I view myself as an activist, and that's not something I'm afraid of. Activists are people who want to stimulate a change in the world. We all know that pointing fingers and accusing others is an endless job, and our efforts usually end in frustration. In the past, I had felt helpless; Now I see that if I want to change what I don't like in the world, I must change it in myself. This is an action I can handle and one which will actually succeed.
   So as I sit here trying to decide what topic my first post on this new blog should be, I realize I have so many questions I want to answer. Since being patient isn't one of my finely tuned personality traits, I find myself wanting to de-bunk and set straight all the myths and accusations about being vegan all at the same time, in one long-winded blog. However, if I take a deep breath and a step backwards I see I should probably start at the beginning, and with the very basics. That way, those of us who are already vegan can maybe be refreshed about why we started in the first place, and those of us who aren't vegan can get a lesson in why some of us choose this lifestyle.
   Kindness. I think it all starts, continues, and comes back around to this simple word. Unfortunately, this "simple" word is so hard to embody. Why do you suppose that is? Life provides us with opportunities to be kind, yet we pass on them so many times each day. Kindness leads to compassion, compassion to understanding. We can choose to be kind, compassionate and non-judgmental, yet so often we choose to be negative and judgemental before we even know anything about a person or a situation. I especially see this in nursing, both with how the nurses treat other nurses and the way we treat the situations we find ourselves in. Every day, three times a day, when you sit down to eat your meals, you can choose to be kind and compassionate by looking no further than the end of your fork!
   No true or lasting happiness can come from depriving others of happiness.  That's a hard concept to really grasp, since we're taught since we are young that "revenge is sweet" and we look forward to people "getting what they have coming",  especially if we have felt that they have done us wrong in the past. We have been conditioned to think in terms of violence, slavery, and denial. We are told that we do not really matter, and we have no responsibility for anything we do. We are taught that our actions don't matter in the whole scheme of things. Actually they do matter. If you're wondering how this concept applies to being vegan, well it's at the very core of it. If I am eating meat or drinking dairy, I'm depriving that animal from living freely and I am purchasing it's death sentence. Therefore I am responsible, and my actions are important and powerful. You might think that one person's decision to be vegan doesn't really matter, or that the animal is already dead, so you might as well buy it off the rack. After all, if you don't buy it, it will just get thrown away. To that, I remember what was once said to me about "voting": that whenever I make a choice, (what to buy, what to wear, what to eat) I am in essence casting my vote to the world. It is my chance to make it known what I support. Each day, you can choose to vote vegan, or you can choose to not. The choice is yours, but believe that you DO make a difference. Imagine if we all woke up tomorrow and voted vegan. Would the slaughterhouses go out of business? You better believe they would. Never underestimate the power of a small, dedicated group of people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead

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