You know, if it weren’t for those pesky vegans, I bet I would have done this a long time ago. Done what? Gone plant-based. Plant what? What the fuck are you talking about? Let me back track a bit…
I have often felt guilt about eating animals. Like most of us, I was aware of where the food on my plate was coming from and had a vague notion of the processes involved in it reaching that plate. However, growing up in the 70s on the heels of post-war post-austerity, I entered the world during the largest meat-eating buffet it had ever seen.
Clearly, this was how us humans ate and I was just going to have to bloody well get a stiff upper lip about the poor, ickle animals and chow them down.
To be honest, I probably forgot about it for most of my teenage years. We are nearly all Selfish Bastards at that age so, frankly, the animals probably deserved it. It was their punishment for being dumber and lower down the food chain than us. Aside from the odd little clue – like me randomly handing out leaflets against the catching of sharks for their fins – no-one would have suspected me to be a herbivore-in-waiting.
Then I met Vikki. She was vegetarian. What strange a creature this was! Truly, the first one I had encountered up close. She tolerated my meat eating and I eyed her plates of “food” with bemusement.
Still, I continued to eat meat. Mostly chicken, turkey and tuna. Since age 19, I have been on a health kick and regularly exercise with weights. Pick up any bodybuilding magazine and they pretty much all insist that the only way to get big and lean is through eating chicken, turkey and tuna.
Bubbling away under the surface, however, was this nagging guilt. It wouldn’t go away. What right did I have to put a sentient creature through any kind of suffering just to tickle my tastebuds? Slowly, the ego and selfishness of youth was making way for a more compassionate, thoughtful version of myself.
There was a sticking point: the aforementioned Vikki. Compassion and thoughtfulness be damned: if I turned veggie – or worse – she would have WON. Everyone that knows me would see me as some kind of weak minded fool, wooed into lettuce-munching submission by this evil temptress. Well, we can’t be having that, so I stuck with it for a bit longer.
After our move up north in 2014, I was confronted on a regular occasion with some of the realities of my meat eating. For a start, with the house came a small flock of chickens. Not food chickens but real chickens. The kind that just like poking around stuff, pecking at food until, one day, they chick no more and you find them upside down floating in the pond. Next up, there were sheep, lambs and cows all over the place. Not just in the immediate fields adjacent to the house, but dotted all around the very green, northern landscape. Finally, there was the transportation. I don’t know how things are where you live but, in my previous life as a namby-pamby Southerner, I very rarely saw live animals being transported to their deaths. I have since found out that it is because this is mostly done under the cover of night. However, all journeys have a beginning and an awful lot of those are at the less densely populated north of our fine country.
February 2016, I went vegequarian. Out went mammalian meat, I would only eat the fishes. Having the constant reminders all around me meant that I could no longer keep thoughts and feelings conveniently tucked away, so I took the plunge.
For almost a whole year, I stuck to my vegequarian diet. At the same time I turned, Vikki went vegan. I watched her STILL not die from malnutrition and realised, just as I had done observing her as a veggie, that humans can survive quite merrily on plants alone.
The end of 2016 was a tough one for me. As a sufferer of depressive illnesses, I was almost beaten into total submission by it. When 2017 emerged, I decided to treat myself a bit better and take some weight off. No longer would I work 24/7 so I re-claimed the night for us to watch a bit of telly. Not regular telly, mind, but documentaries. I cannot abide reckless watching nothing for the sake of it (same with reading), so I always want to be learning, fulling my brain full of stuff.
Anyway, that lead to us watching several documentaries about plant-based nutrition. “Forks Over Knives” was the first, closely followed by “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”, it’s sequel and then a whole host of other diet and health related films.
Ninety minutes was all it took for me to decide to go plant-based. “Forks Over Knives” deftly avoided the word “vegan”, choosing instead the term “whole food plant-based”. This sat with me much better. I could cut out all meat and dairy; remove myself from the carnivorous food chain; observe a more mindful way of life; avoid where possible any and all cruelty; do my bit for the planet; do my bit for me; all without the nagging finger of hardcore veganists and their continual battle for one-upmanship and derision.
Of course, I am painting with broad brush strokes my vision of vegans – and I wholeheartedly apologise to any vegans that do not fit in to this stereotype. But most stereotypes become stereotypes because they are Mostly True. I don’t want to be looked down upon because Vikki and I keep animals. For a start, they are all rescues or animals that needed homes. Secondly, two of them simply wouldn’t survive without our intervention due to their disabilities. Thirdly, I know that we look after them and treat them with respect, ensuring that their lives are as easy, simple and happy as possible. When training is necessary – such as in the case of a large animal like a horse – it is done ethically using positive reinforcement. As a result, the horses don’t need to be encouraged to come and see us or hang out with us: they actively seek it.
I have seen too many internet debates where hardcore vegans are berating a fellow vegan, or a vegetarian, for something they aren’t doing right. It seems that, rather than encouraging those that are in, or close to the fold, they would rather admonish them to try and keep them away. It’s like they don’t want to see their favourite band get big because it won’t be “theirs” any more.
That is why I don’t want to be called vegan. I am part of a new revolution of those that choose to eat plant-based. We do this because:
- We want to be healthy. Veganism is about avoiding all animal products or derivatives, not necessarily eating healthily. Our diet seeks to remove as many preservatives and additives as possible; to eat in the most natural way available. There is much scientific evidence to back up the claim that the healthiest diet is a whole food, plant-based one.
- We want the industrialisation of and cruelty toward animals to stop. It is barbaric and senseless. It also feeds the guilt and ennui of an increasingly disinterested population.
- We want the land currently used for grazing, or for the production of feed for animals, to be returned to the humans. Meat production is among the very highest form of pollution on the planet. The cost to produce one pound of meat is astronomical in comparison to a pound of any plant. The land lost to the current process is almost beyond measure. If we carry on as we are – with the population increasing as it is – the future will see more starvation, conflict and greed. Environmentally, we are currently heading for a disaster.
See, we’re not so strange after all. This particular blog will discuss everything featured in this opening salvo in more detail, and a whole lot more. It will also document my own experience in going completely plant based (since Jan 2017, btw).
I am a Plant Based Mother Fucker. Are you?