"Sorry I can't go vegan, I love my cheese too much."
My standard response to any person who tried to influence me away from my 9 year lacto-ovo vegetarian eating habits and towards eating a vegan diet.
There's nothing quite like cheese. I especially enjoy eating it when at a picnic, layering a slice of brie or blue vein cheese on a cracker along with tzatziki dip, cherry tomato and a black olive. The vegan 'cheese' I've tried have all tasted awful and I think are a disgrace to the word cheese.
That's NOT cheese. I don't know what THAT is.
Yesterday however, I decided to adopt a 100% whole food plant-based diet as my New Year's Resolution in 2017. So it's good bye to real cheese and a reserved nod to vegan cheese. Gulp.
How did it come to this?
I tend to eat mostly vegan anyway but two recent incidents prompted me to seriously consider a whole food, plant-based diet:
- discussions about the vegan diet with my nephew Jackson who recently embraced this animal-product-free diet (who intelligently advocates the cause with facts rather than stooping to the usual hipster food shaming tactics which I abhor), and
- watching the award-winning documentary "Food Choices" on Netflix which I felt successfully sorted food fact from fiction and helped me to understand the benefits of removing animals products from my meals.
These incidents are what gently nudged me towards making veganism my 2017 new year's resolution, but my decision was grounded in reason. The four key factors that contributed to the vegan decision:
1. Cow milk is created to satisfy calves, not humans.
"Cow milk is for calves, not humans. Don't you think it's weird that people drink it?"
With that one statement-slash-question, my vegan girlfriend - whom shall remain nameless - exposed an inconvenient truth that made me feel sick to my stomach. We're going back about four years ago when she said this. It's been reverberating in my mind since then.
As a highly imaginative critical thinker, once my mind lands on an idea, it unleashes a flurry of thoughts. In this instance, these were the questions swirling around in my mind:
- How did we get to this point where we think farming dairy cows for their milk is a culturally acceptable practice?
- Adult humans consider drinking milk expressed from a woman's teat as a disgusting act but how is that any different from drinking cow's milk?
- Isn't it morally wrong to ensure a cow falls pregnant just so she can produce milk for human consumption as is happening in the commercial dairy industry?
- I wasn't raised on dairy food or cow milk given my Asian background, so is it the Western food philosophy - predominantly corporate controlled - that is influencing my food choices?
2. Chicken period.
Now on to eggs. What I am about to say isn't pleasant, but it IS reality.
An egg is the result of a chicken's menstruation cycle. Yup. Gross.
Ben was the first to tell me (many years ago actually) that an egg is the result of a chicken having her period. I conveniently chose not to believe him and I chose not to 'Google' it. Like a woman who learns that her fast fashion purchases are impacting the planet and people in a negative way, I didn't want to know that chickens had periods that result in eggs. I wanted to ignore this fact so I could keep enjoying my Eggs Florentine in peace.
But then this year after yet another conversation about veganism with Ben, I decided to do some shallow online research and discovered a link to a PETA article titled "Would You Eat a Chicken's Period?" A drawing of a woman's stained underwear depicting her menstruation was included for added effect. The chickens can keep their eggs, I thought. I couldn't ignore the egg-is-chicken-period reality any longer.
I started to reduce my egg consumption after this discovery.
An egg belongs to a chicken. It may not be the start of a chicken yet given that it is unfertilised by a rooster, but whether it is or it isn't, to me it is still a chicken.
3. The commodification of animals.
My partner Ben and I disagree with the philosophy of raising an animal for consumption and treating them as property for our own uses. Our disagreements usually sound like this:
Ben: I understand why people are vegetarian. But I don't understand veganism. It's not like you're outright killing an animal. You're just using what they produce. They would have produced milk or eggs anyway.
Me: Yeh I know what you mean. I'm vegetarian. But I think vegans have a valid argument about animal products. When it comes to animal agriculture, animals are treated like commodities which is awful. Their life only matters because of the value they provide to humans. But they're sentient beings. They have a right to an existence. They have a right to life.
Ben: So you think humans and animals are on the same level?
Me: On what kind of level? We're not the same of course, humans have consciousness, but it's been proven that animals have memory and feelings.
Ben: I mean, if you were in a situation where you had to kill an animal or human to save a human life, you're saying you value them both equally and wouldn't know who to choose?
Me: What kind of sick hypothetical situation is this? I would never be in this situation and that's not the point. I never said that we were on the same level as animals, just that they have a right to life as us humans do...
You get the gist of it. Ben and I disagree on animals being treated as commodities.
So why do I have such strong feelings about the commodification of animals?
Because I am a feminist and the way we treat animals bares similar resemblance to how women have been treated throughout history - as property.
In fact, to this day, some women continue to be treated like second class citizens, treated as a husband's or father's property to do with and treat as he pleases. It's as though women exist for no other purpose than to cook, clean and bear a man's children, just as some people treat animals as though they only exist for human purposes.
I have the same strong feelings when it comes to the issues of child labour, human trafficking, sex slavery and exploitation. We still treat each other - and animals - as though they are beneath us and by doing so, we continue to carry out acts of oppression.
We inflict pain, suffering, brutality, cruelty and savagery on a daily basis and then wonder why we still haven't achieved peace on earth?
4. It's considered the most sustainable way to eat.
According to Cowspiracy, a 100% plant-based diet free from animals and animal products is the most eco-friendly way to eat because animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of modern environmental issues. Growing plants requires less water, land mass and fossil fuels than raising animals - plus there's less methane in the air because animals aren't flatulating. As a serious environmentalist, choosing a whole food, plant-based diet makes complete sense.
I will need all the assistance I can get as this is by far the biggest challenge I've set for myself. So if you're vegan, I'd love to hear from you:
- What websites do you trawl for delicious vegan recipes?
- What have been some of your challenges as a vegan?
- What's the one thing you wish you'd known before becoming a vegan?
- Do you have any other tips as I transition from vegetarianism to veganism?
Thanks in advance to all who leave a comment!