Hot on the heels of me saying I can’t be bothered to blog, I’m blogging three times in one day.
I need the chiming in of vegans and non-vegans alike. Seriously, some feedback/discussion would be greatly appreciated.
One of my dear lady friends owns chickens. She owns them because it seems like everyone in Portland wants to own some chickens these days. God knows why. I grew up with chickens and they smell terrible and wouldn’t stop getting eaten by raccoons.
She also owns four dogs. The chickens, to her, are more like pets. Her boyfriend is in love with them. He built them a temperature adjustable coop and fenced off a large portion of the yard for them. Though a fair amount of the time they’re out running free with the dogs. One chicken (found wandering the streets of their neighborhood and unclaimed by anyone) is now convinced that she IS a dog, preferring the company of canines rather than the her own kind.
At several points my friend has offered me eggs because her family can’t eat all that the chickens produce. She doesn’t want to waste them by throwing them away. She knows that I attempt to maintain a vegan diet.
Her question to me was this: if the idea behind my personal veganism is that I don’t want to hurt animals then what’s the problem with eating eggs from chickens who are simply pets in a loving home?
I had no good answer.
(Keeping this strictly ethical. I know all about the health aspects and general grossness of eggs. I’m asking this in a strictly moral way because that’s why I want to be vegan. Healthy is great but I’m mostly in it so that I’m not hurting anything.)
I posed her question to several vegan friends. An answer given several times is that animals should not be pets. That just owning the chickens is going against vegan ideals.
You know where I’m going with this….
Where do you draw the line? Dogs and cats are acceptable pets but chickens are not? If my dog happened to shit vegan cupcakes every day that I happened to eat (ew, I know) then would my dog be a “slave”? Would it then be unethical for me to own my dog after saving him from a shelter and giving him a better life?
Another one: I know a girl who lives in Canada on a ton of acres with her family and a bunch of animals. Included are a small herd of goats. The goats are treasured family members, the kids adore them. They’re given names, documented in numerous photos and given a good life. Occasionally, when a goat becomes pregnant, this girl takes some of the mother’s milk and makes goat cheese.
(Pausing here to say I also grew up with goats and I adore them even though one of them used to kick the shit out of me on the daily. Their milk is disgusting though. I find goat cheese to be repulsive because it tastes exactly like goats smell. Perhaps I associate it’s flavor with getting my ass handed to me by a goat but either way, I never liked the stuff.)
My problem with milk and dairy products is the way that we get the milk. Keeping animals in a constant state of milk production is horrifying. Everything we do to cattle is horrifying.
So then, if she’s making cheese from goats who are naturally producing milk for a short period of time, goats who are well treated and loved, who prance about on acres and acres of gorgeous farm land, why am I supposed to be upset?
I’m not asking to be an asshole. I might be genuinely blind to a terrible truth. Please enlighten me.
Before I decided to give vegan life a go, I questioned the boyfriend about vegan ethics. I asked would it be okay to get cheese from small, local farms where the animals weren’t being mistreated. Due to his massive irritation at answering stupid questions like that for the last 7 years, his answer was not as detailed as I would have liked. Suffice to say, in his opinion, it was still wrong.
I understand that is naive to think that just because I buy local cheese at a farmer’s market from a kindly looking gentleman, does not mean that his animals are well treated. It’s like the Portlandia episode where they drive all the way to a farm to see where their chicken dinner has been raised to make sure he’s had a good life. I want to do that sometimes.
All this is not because I’m trying to justify eating dairy. It’s because I want answers that aren’t ridiculous.
Because of veganism I will never go horseback riding again because it’s apparently horse slavery (no matter if you love and cherish that horse and treat it like a queen), I feel guilty for wanting to have goats someday because god damn it I really like goats because then I’m keeping goats captive. If someday I get to run my sanctuary farm, will I be an asshole for loving and feeding cows and pigs and sheep? Should I rescue them and then send them off into the big world with a knapsack full of grass and a love note?
Okay, I’m getting ridiculous.
Sometimes I want to make my own rules. I want to decide what’s right and wrong morally for me as far as veganism goes. But there’s no wiggle room. There’s judgement and snark and elitism. If I were single and had no vegan friends I would feel free to adjust my life according to what I felt was important.
Like enjoy your chickens and love your goats. You’re not evil.
Now tell me why I’m a raging asshole.
I’m going to let you in a secret.
I’m a shitty vegan.
I would say that 85% of the time I’m really good about it. Maybe even 90%. Then I go on vacation. Or I’m cranky. It’s not like I slip up and eat a steak topped with bacon. I haven’t had meat in a damn long time and don’t miss it at all. But yeah, on vacation I ate cheese and other random dairy items. I felt guilty about it. But I also really enjoyed what I was eating.
Normally when I get to this point in frustration with veganism (lack of convenience, lack of options while out to eat, questioning myself) I sit down and watch a documentary about food and how we treat animals and I feel reinvigorated and motivated to make it work.
Trouble is, I’ve always been an emotional eater. I’ve never eaten for health or to fuel my body. Even into my 30’s I’ve been lucky enough that no matter how much crap I shove into my gaping maw, I don’t get fat. Chub comes and goes but exercise brings it down. I realize though, that eating for pleasure is not going to keep me alive and spring chickeny.
So making the transition to veganism plus trying to teach myself how to eat properly is enough to make me tear my hair out. My body feels terrible lately, even when eating strictly vegan, because I’m not eating the right things. I can read all the cookbooks in the world that tell me how to make squash and quinoa dinners but my heart and my stomach give the middle finger to such food.
That. Is. Terrible. And wrong, I know.
My body is addicted to bad food. Even if it’s vegan bad food (vegan frozen yogurt, mac and cheez and bbq pulled “pork”), it’s still horrible for me. I have no will power when it comes to food and a complete lack of knowledge on how to prepare anything other than enchiladas and cupcakes.
So what do I do to break this cycle, fellow vegans? How do I learn to eat for fuel and not simply for pleasure? Do you have tips or advice from when you transitioned?
I know I can still enjoy food. Healthy can be tasty. But I’m at a loss and my motivation is shrinking.
Help a bitch out.