Honoring My Values
In 2005, I took an opportunity from my dad to visit Alaska. He had grown up there and I was eager to see it. I was working on a novel based on his life at the time, so it seemed logical that I should go see where it all began. A friend went with me for the first week and I would stay a full month. My dad had found two places for me to stay, both at the homes of high school friends of his. At the end of the first week, I had decided I was moving, and my friend was eager to join me. She returned and orchestrated the move while I continued to stay and look for a job. The second two weeks of my vacation were spent housesitting for a couple who are vagan. Even with my history, I found it off-putting. I would go through their pantry and cabinets looking at all the unusual foods. It was not what I was used to. And I didn’t fully embrace the experience, as I should have. I took pleasure in buying fried chicken and eating it in the living room, a secret act of defiance. I’m still sad about that situation.
After a little over a year in Alaska, I was alone and starting to really reflect on the person I really wanted to be and learning how to focus on myself while I developed relationships with a newly emerging group of friends. During that first year, I was eating meat at least once a day. I didn’t feel right. I was having trouble staying happy. 2006 was coming to a close when I had the epiphany that I could no longer eat meat. I was eating lamb at the time and I could feel it in my mouth as I masticated; it was no longer food. The lamb had been alive, every bit as much as I am alive, and it certainly did not belong inside my body. It should have been allowed to mature, to be free, to become a sheep. I had been a part of that creature’s death, the demand that required it to be killed and included in my meal. I could see its little lamb face in my mind. It was adorable, to be sure, but I was more struck by the audacity of eating another creature because I wanted to, disregarding its family and community. Don’t kid yourself, sheep have communities. Cows have best friends and a matriarchal society. Chickens organize themselves into a complex hierarchy, the origin of the term “pecking order.” These animals aren’t sitting around waiting to become a meal. They are trying to live full lives, as much as they can with what we give them.
It all came down on my and I cried. I cried a lot and wanted the animal out of my body. I have not eaten meat since.
I did just a small amount of research at the time. I had been been going back and forth with vegetarianism for ten years at that point, so I felt like I had a handle on the facts enough to not dig much deeper. I had made a partial connection, but I was blind to part of the story.