March 12, 2019

The Day the Neighbors Roasted a Dog: why I choose Veganism—Time & Time Again.


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It was one of those light, wind-in-the-hair spring days.

Until it was not.

It was sometime in 1975. A day of bright yellow sun, high in the blue, cirrus skies. A day perfect for hanging laundry outside. Tasha, my soft black cat, and I were living in our grandparents tiny rowhouse in Baltimore City. We took residence in the apartment on the first floor and collected the rent check from the kind woman upstairs.

I walked down to the basement, across to the back door, and bounded up the half dozen concrete steps. Unlatching the heavy, iron gate, I stepped into the small yard. I loved taking down the laundry, folding each piece and laying it in the wicker basket, returning the clothes pins to the sack. A gentle breeze alerted me to a strange, nasty, burning smell to my right.

My nose followed, then my eyes. And then I almost fainted.

Five houses down was a dog roasting on a spit! My heart felt heavy, it was in my throat, and my throat was closing, and my eyes were shedding tears—large, raindrop tears rolling down my cheeks. I left the laundry and ran, opening the gate, dashing down the steps, through the back door, up to the first floor, and swinging open the door to my apartment.

What to do? Confront them? I did not know these neighbors. Call the police, my mind urged me. Catch my breath and steady my hands, my mind willed me. I called and said, “My neighbor is roasting his dog and there are a lot of people there. They are having a party! You have to stop them, please.” Silence at the other end.

“Miss, are you sure?” Through my hyperventilated ramblings I was able to give him my address and ask him to approach from the alley. Five houses down.

The wait seemed endless—my little yellow bathroom trash can filling quickly with soaked facial tissues. Then, a rapping at the door. I hurried to answer it. There stood before me a giant, kind-faced police officer.

“Did you arrest them? Tell them what they did was horrible, unkind?”

“Miss, it wasn’t their dog—it wasn’t a dog.” I was confused. After a short delay, probably to give me time to process the good news he was delivering to me, he said, “Miss, it was a lamb.”

“A lamb?”

The police officer was gentle. I was so elated it was not a dog, not a Bingo, or Lassie, or Lady. Not a little shaggy one, not a medium, tan one with short hair, not a large, golden dog. A lamb. I looked up at his face, mine with dried tears, and said, “That is still so wrong, so very wrong.”

It’s now present day—the 21st century—and I am still appalled that people eat sentient beings. I have trouble walking past the deli section in our supermarket. Chickens on the spit, turning, turning, turning. It was just yesterday seeing them that transported me back to that beautiful spring day in 1975 that turned ugly.

Veganism is choosing not to cause suffering or death to animals. All animals are sentient beings—they feel fear, pain, unhappiness, and joy. We do not need them for our nutritional intake, to clothe our bodies, to accessorize our outfit with belts and matching pocketbooks, or billfolds for the guys. We do not need them to cover our feet, or for our luxury car seats. We do not need them to binge watch TV as we consume beer and wine preserved with fish bladders. And the cruelty to animals to test our shampoos, facial products, and makeup is unnecessary and inhumane. (In 1996, eight organizations came together to form the Coalition of Consumer Information of Cosmetics. You can check to see if your products are on the Leaping Bunny shopping list.)

The factory farming and small holding cage areas is senselessly harming these beings—ripping newborn babies from their moms, treating them in horrific manners. In addition to the unethical treatment of these creatures, producing meat is destroying the environment, overusing our precious water supply, and responsible for greenhouse emissions.

Following a vegan nutritional plan or a form of vegetarianism—one where you eliminate meat and poultry and decide on dairy, eggs, fish—is better for your personal health. Numerous studies have shown that eliminating meat, or at least limiting it to one small serving per week, has health benefits. These benefits include: reduced and reversed heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes; weight loss, reduced kidney stone reoccurrences, improved skin issues, and more energy. The American Dietetic Association mentions vegan or partial vegan as a dietary choice for good health.

I have not always been vegan. I gave up meat and poultry in my teens, but did not think about the steamed crabs we consumed, the shrimp and tuna salads. Actually, my only sight of tuna for a long time was from a can. I had a brief period returning reluctantly to some meat consumption (gaslighted in a couple disastrous relationships), but I finally found myself strong again, and removed the meat.

Over the years, I would drop the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I had let false advertising convince me were healthy. I said goodbye to all shellfish. I refused the large fish, then the eggs, then the salmon. Hardest was the cheese, but once gone, I was done. It’s been four and a half years of a plant-based vegan diet. Some days, I am not the healthiest vegan, I might decide a vegan cheese on gluten free bread and a vegan cookie make a fill-the-hole snack.

There are other numerous studies reporting that reducing meat consumption can aide in lessening the destructive effects of climate change. There are also studies showing that eating meat is associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, and cancer.

Perhaps if we can all reduce our meat consumption, and slowly transition to a complete or partial plant-based diet, we can reduce or reverse chronic medical conditions, and save billions in dollars spent on disease management.

However, let’s do it first for the sake of these sentient beings with whom we share this planet we call Earth.




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