September 14, 2007

Every Excuse In The Book

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:14 pm by nevavegan

Let me tell you yet another childhood story. I know I do it too often, but that’s me, talky, talky, talky…

When I was very small my older brother and I played together every single day. We were isolated in many ways, and we didn’t have a lot of other children close by. So we were really best friends and did everything together, and at some point during this we made a pact that we would spend the rest of our lives together and never be apart for even one day.

Note: we definitely did not stick to that one!

Anyway, we made various plans for how we would arrange our lives to never be apart from planning out huge family homes with courtyards where we would someday live, with me and my future husband and all our kids on one side, and him, his future wife, and all their kids on the other side. Then it was sailboats and we were going to take off and sail around the world together on a big sailboat he designed with plenty of room for family, kids, and dogs.

I bring this up because though much of this planning and dreaming relied on drawings and popsicle stick models, food was a very big part of our planning. I have this vivid memory of my brother pointing to a square on one drawing and saying “this is the big freezer where we can keep all the steaks and eat steak every night.” And I agreed that this was a very good idea. When it came to sailboat design he mentioned we’d have to go to shore periodically to buy our steaks, but we’d fish and learn to catch lobsters, and so we’d eat very well all the time.

That was our idea of eating well as children. We didn’t want plates of noodle casseroles, we wanted to eat meat every single meal, because to us that was the good life, the way wealthy, happy people lived. That’s what we wanted.

So it was a long road for me, from the little girl who believed eating meat constantly was the key to being happy to becoming an ethical vegan, because my respect for the environment and my love and empathy for animals over-rode my taste buds.

As an adult who is vegan and talks to a lot of people about veganism, I hear a lot of funny things. One thing I hear over and over is “I like meat too much to ever give it up.” I still try to engage with people who say that because honestly if you’d asked me even two months before I became a vegetarian I also would have said “I like meat too much to give it up.” Everyone thinks that, I guess. We think it’s the food we put on our plates that defines us and defines our lives, and we think if it’s not our favorite food we’ll be miserable. We think if the food we eat doesn’t convey status that this will somehow make us less. Strange but true.

Another thing I hear a lot is “I’m just not a vegan.” I’m not even sure what the means actually. People say it definitively, as if they’re saying “I’m just not four feet tall” or “I’m just not Chinese.” But those would be statements of fact, you’re either from a certain country, or you’re not. If you’re taller than four feet tall, you’re not likely to shrink back to four feet any time soon.

But I was just not a vegan until the day I was. I wasn’t born wearing a label. I always liked animals, but aside from that there was nothing particular about me that made veganism my special destiny. Nearly all my friends loved animals just as much. I’m sure every vivisector who one day said “what am I doing, this is wrong” and eventually became an ethical vegan never saw it coming while they pursued their degrees or applied for jobs where they would experiment on animals. Every ex-hunter, ex-rancher, ex-slaughterhouse worker who is now vegan would have answered in years prior “I’m just not a vegan.”

There are other excuses, thousands really, but aside from a few odd ones that I don’t even necessarily buy like “my religion requires that I eat meat exactly two hours before services, “ and “my blood type can’t be vegetarian,” pretty much every other excuse applied to me at some point in my life. Killing animals is part of my culture, it’s a family tradition. I liked eating animal products. I associated animal products with wealth and status. I didn’t want to seem like a radical. I wanted my friends and family to like me and hated that they reacted so badly when I became vegetarian and later vegan. But excuses aside, I still did it, and have done it a long time now. I’m fine, I feel great. I don’t feel deprived. I don’t feel poor. I don’t feel that I’m missing out or dishonoring my family. None of those excuses stopped me.

But I don’t say “I’m just a vegan.” When I introduce myself to people I say “Hi, I’m Neva” not “Hi, I’m vegan.”

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