It isn’t because I was raised in cattle country.
I went to a holistic allergist a few years ago and found out not only is my body intolerant to chocolate and sugar, but also every form of dairy including goat milk.
The chocolate and sugar I could deal with, I just eat what I want and suffer the consequences—what? I’m supposed to go without another Green and Black’s Ginger bar ever again?—but the dairy made me rethink my dietary choices.
I’d already had an on-again-off-again relationship with vegetarianism, but this new information pushed me over the edge: I was going to go vegan.
I loved it, I felt light, never overstuffed and my mind was clearer than it had been since my four months of being a raw-fooder—where I still ate raw fish and unpasteurized dairy.
It was easy, too. But that was because I was living at a place where professional chefs spent all day making food for me. Though there was still the option of chicken and fish served at meal times; all I had to do was get in the right line and eat the food labelled “vegan” or “dairy-free.”
After two years I started to need more than my omega-three supplement was giving me and started including eggs and the occasional salmon salad in my diet. Then, a few months later, I went into town for a doctor’s appointment and ordered a local, grass-fed hamburger off a restaurant menu for lunch. (Yes, I also had a glass of wine. Hey, if I was treating myself I was going to treat myself.) I’d spent so long in a place where red meat wasn’t even an option and my body told me it wanted it.
I’m now responsible for procuring all of my own meals. And I eat meat.
I’ve seen Food Inc, I’ve read Michael Pollan and I believe that animals have rights. I also believe that humans, as animals, can benefit from the nourishment available by ingesting other animals. Factory farming is an ugly blemish on our society that I hope will fade quickly as more and more people realize the importance of supporting sustainable practices to feed the planet and ourselves. What’s necessary is to educate ourselves on where our food comes from.
We seem to have reached some sort of moment in our history where being disconnected from the origins of food we eat and items we use everyday has become the norm. We raise animals in terrible conditions using all sorts of unnatural everything—from feed, hormone injections and living arrangements—just like we buy cheap goods manufactured in terrible conditions because we think we need them.
A trip down a dollar store aisle—or any large department store for that matter—is likely to find a range of must-have possessions that people got on mighty fine without before the consumer goods revolution of the 1950’s.
Sometimes I’ll be standing in a store and it will suddenly hit me how preposterous it is that I am surrounded by goods wrapped in by-products from the petroleum industry.
But before this turns into a complete rant I need to qualify: I sometimes eat meat and shop at dollar stores. Here’s why.
I know when to stop.
Our society seems bent on bigger being better—except when it comes to electronics, I love my MacBook Air—and on buffering ourselves from the world around us by creating a layer of plastic between us and any potential moments of vulnerability with other beings. Like when I do the dishes and am up to my elbows practically swimming in plastic bags and leftovers containers. What’s with all these plastic vortexes we’re creating? We need to stop.
I don’t routinely buy plastic goods—or even brand-new clothes, but that’s not where I’m going with this right now—but sometimes there’s something that will wildly affect my quality of life. And so I buy it. Yes, I contribute to the oceanic plastic spiral, but I’m at a place where I’m buying something because I actually do need it and because the thrift store that I already went to didn’t have it.
Supporting alternatives creates a healthy community
It’s likely I’ll be a vegetarian or vegan again in my life, but it’s unlikely that everyone in the whole world will be. Buying food from organic farms that treat their animals humanely sets a precedence for the rest of them. It’s the same with goods made under fair working conditions. Voting with my wallet really does make a difference.
When it comes to meat, I crave it.
I know, not a well-founded argument, but I’ve got to be honest. I honor and respect the sentient beings I ingest but, in the words of my herbalist, we have molars for a reason. Not to get all scientific when I have absolutely no qualifications to do so, but I’ve tried eating for my blood type. And I like it.
And because ultimately:
Doing something with awareness creates a more compassionate life than not doing something out of anger.
But I still won’t shop at Walmart.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Courtesy of author