To me it's fitting that it also falls on the day after I attended Melanie Joy's presentation to discuss her book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows, which has had me reflecting on my own journey towards a plant-based diet ever since.
Almost four years ago, I gave up meat and most dairy (kicking dairy completely was a more gradual process) in pursuit of better health. But along the way, my eyes were finally opened to the moral and ethical issues associated with consuming animal products that I'd been blind to for so long. Looking back, it's hard to believe that there was ever a time when I didn't see meat for what it was (dead animals).
How is that possible? How could my animal-loving self have spent hours caring for my horses, cats and dogs - each of whom had such a distinct and fun personality - and never wonder about the personalities or lives of the animals that ended up on my plate? Why was it okay to eat a cow or a chicken or a pig when I would be physically ill at the thought of ever eating one of my pets? Why were some animals friends while others were food?
Dr. Joy spoke last night about the gap that exists in our culture that perpetuates what she calls carnism, the ideology in which people choose to eat animals. From the time we are young, we are taught to categorize a small number as animals as being acceptable to eat. Over time, we become desensitized and detached, seeing beef as something that comes in a package at Publix rather than the sentient being called a cow that it actually is. Disconnecting us from the source of our "food" is the only way to perpetuate the myth that eating meat is normal, natural and necessary.
Myself with Jill of Vegan in the Kitchen, Dr. Melanie Joy, Regina of Motherhood University and Gretchen of What a Health Family Eats.
To me, what started out as a quest for better health has resulted in so much more. Moving towards a way of life that inflicts less harm on animals and our environment has has allowed me improve more than just my physical health but my emotional and spiritual wellness as well.
My biggest challenge in this process has been understanding that not everyone has seen what I see - yet. The more I learn, the more I have trouble keeping my mouth shut about it, and struggle to find the fine line between advocacy and pain-in-the-ass. I know that I can't change anyone's mind - that's something only they have the power to do. I just hope I can play a small role in helping people realize they need to reclaim that power, do their own research and decide for themselves what feels right for their hearts (and bodies).
Many thanks to Dr. Joy for a thought-provoking evening. For more details on the content of last night's presentation, be sure to check out the great post at Vegan in the Kitchen.