Why I’m Vegan, Part 2: Honoring My Values

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.

h227BB420After 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.