People are often dumbfounded when I explain to them that I do not eat any animal products of any kind.
“But you still eat eggs right?”
“Nope no eggs.”
“Oh, but you eat fish though.”
“You don’t eat dairy, meat, eggs or fish? So what do you eat?!”
This is a typical conversation I have on a daily basis. Animal products have become the foundation of the American diet; therefore, it is very difficult for people to comprehend what it means to be on a vegan diet.
So what do I eat? My mom can vouch for the fact that I eat, and I eat a LOT. She calls me a human vacuum because I eat everything in the house. I eat every kind of fruit, vegetable, potato, nut, seed, bean, and grain. I love making vegan pesto pasta, pizza, tacos, nachos, burritos, fries, smoothies, salads, toast, burgers, mashed potatoes, mac + cheese, cookies and even ice cream. I am often asked if I crave animal products or if I miss anything that I have given up. In all honesty, no, I do not. I love being vegan (if you couldn’t already tell). I still enjoy the most delicious and healthy food, while knowing that another living being was not harmed in the production of my food.
We are easily tricked into thinking the products we are buying did not cause harm to our animal friends. “Cage-free,” “humanely raised,” and “grass-fed,” are just some of the marketing buzz words we are subjected to. The meat, egg, and dairy industries are filled with multi-billion dollar companies that have one objective and that is to make a profit. Animals are looked at as commodities instead of living, breathing beings with feelings. If someone were to treat a dog or a cat the same way farm animals are treated, they would be charged with animal abuse. Why do we love some animals and eat others?
My vegan lifestyle is often labeled as being extreme. You know what I think is extreme? The mass murder of billions of animals every year due to our selfishness, ignorance, and willingness to turn a blind eye to the horror and cruelty of animal agriculture. Our society has been brainwashed into believing it is normal to eat animals and their by-products. People are eating dead bodies but think I’m the weird one for eating fruits and vegetables.
My mom always taught me to show kindness to the world and to everyone around me. I believe it is my job to be a voice for those who do not have one, whether that means standing up for someone being bullied, or for the animals. There is no difference to me. The animals were not given a choice. We are made to believe that animals are here for us to eat. Animals share the world with us and it is time we stopped believing we are above them. We are so lucky to live in a time where we have access to all kinds of food and we do not have to kill animals to survive.
This summer I am working at a summer camp as a counselor. We recently had a traveling petting farm come to camp and the kids had the opportunity to play with the farm animals, including a five-week old baby calf. I had some time to talk with the farmer. He informed me that the calf was forcibly separated from his mother (on a dairy farm) and was then given to the petting farm. Just like human babies receive their nutrients and energy from their mother’s breast milk, calves also require their mother’s milk in order to grow properly. He explained to me that they feed him two bottles of soy milk a day. YES, SOY MILK. I honestly thought he was joking. I instantly became outraged, and upset. I tried my best not to express my anger towards the farmer but the rest of the day I could not stop thinking about what he had told me.
Could this situation get anymore twisted? Why is this newborn calf drinking soy milk while us humans are drinking cow’s milk? This calf doesn’t even get to drink its own mother’s milk because its going on our pizzas and being made into ice cream. It is cruel, unfair, and completely hypocritical. I am vegan because I refuse to be apart of this cruelty. I often hear people say they would never be able to give up cheese or they could not imagine life without steak. It is important to ask yourself if taste takes precedence over the murder of an innocent animal.
As a Jew, I believe God would be ashamed of the way we treat animals. And as a Jew, we are taught to treat others the way we would want to be treated, and for me this includes animals. As animal rights activist Gary Yourofksy said, “In America, it took 400 years to convince white people not to own black people. So you can understand why this is taking so long, teaching a human being to be compassionate to a chicken or a cow a pig is twice as hard, but it is possible.” I am hopeful that one day we will live in a vegan world.
Even if you start with meatless Mondays or simply swapping almond milk for dairy milk, you will be making a difference. If you are thinking about trying the vegan/plant-based lifestyle here are some resources to help you out:
Best Speech Ever (this is an absolute must see)
Documentaries to Watch:
Forks Over Knives
photo source: http://www.azindia.com/TopStories/0_cows111.jpg