Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why I'm a Vegan

Yesterday Maggie asked, "Why do vegans not eat animal products? I don't mean the meat, I mean eggs, milk,etc.."

I suspect its different for everyone but here's my take on it. Let me take you all the way back to the beginning of my vegetarian journey to explain.

Back in 1995, I was taking an anatomy and physiology class in college. Two things happened there. First, I had to dissect a cat. Aside from the overall disgust of seeing a dead animal on what looked like a large cookie sheet, this also made me miserable because I had two cats at home. I assuaged the guilt by giving the cats extra treats when I came home.

The second thing that happened was a little more subtle. One day we were reading about human muscle fiber bundles in class. That night for dinner I made steak. When I looked down at my plate there were muscle fiber bundles looking back at me. That was the beginning of my life as a vegetarian.

Now for the answer to Maggie's question. We went on happily eating eggs, milk and especially cheese for a long time. Eggs were the first to go, although not for very vegan reasons initially. At first, I was just tired of hearing about the threat of salmonella.

Then I discovered during a routine physical that my cholesterol was high. The only remaining dietary cause I could find was the amount of cheese that I ate. Since I didn't want to go on meds, I stopped eating cheese and started exercising. My cholesterol went down about 30 points.

By March of 2003 the only animal products left in our diet were some milk products. Thats when we went to a talk at our local vegetarian society given by Gary Yourofsky. Along with the talk, he showed clips from his video From Liberator to Educator. He's a little intense but he made some good points. It was the first time I had ever seen the deplorable conditions that animals raised for food live in.

I was patting myself on the back and feeling pretty good that I was vegetarian (ie. I wasn't contributing to all that suffering) when he mentioned the acceptable levels of pus in milk. Cows like humans can get mastitis and when they do, because milking machines aren't as delicate as baby cows about their milk needs, there will be pus. Some of that pus gets into the milk. I'll let you do the google search on that but I warn you, you'll never be the same. We ditched dairy and went vegan that night.

Over time we've come to feel the same way Ruthie does in this quote, "I always tell people that cows and chicken kept for their milk and eggs are treated no less deplorably than those kept for their meat... they are usually killed in the end, or die an unnaturally premature death, so it always seemed to me that if you eat eggs and milk you're contributing to animal suffering and death just as you would if you ate meat."

But in all honesty, for me a vegan lifestyle started with the pus. I hope that answers your question Maggie. Feel free to ask more questions.


Maggie said...

Thank you for you straightforward answer. Thanks also to Ruthie for her input. I respect & admire your conviction.

Ruthie said...

Yuck, Katie! But thanks. :) Now I have a little bit of leverage for those hard cases. I generally try to avoid discussing vegetarianism with agressive people, but sometimes I feel I need to at least avoid from backing down.

A side question, was when you found out your cholesterol was high when you started doing aerobics? Or did you start with a different kind of physical activity?

Rachael said...

that pus thing...i am almost off dairy products because of that, though my partner isn't so we still have milk and a little bit of cheese in the house and I can't resist sometimes. I don't want to limit what proteins she'll eat at this point since she's on chemo, but as soon as she's done, she's reading those articles. I'm hoping that because its organic, free range milk its a little better, but a lot of farms still use milking machines. ugh.

cindy said...

Unfortunately, free-range isn't much better. In today's world you have to look for organic, free-range, vegan fed, family farm cows because free-range just means that the cows, at some point in their lives, got to roam free, doesn't attest to their current living situation or how often they get to go outside. It is more of a marketing statement. Organic, of course, says nothing about the living conditions, just means hormone free. It is crazy. It if for these reasons, that I too, went vegan.

Katie said...

No problem Maggie.

Yes it was Ruthie. I needed to go to a class with other people to motivate me.

I know, its so gross. But with chemo its more important to make sure the person is eating, which can be hard enough as I'm sure you know.

Doesn't it all just make your head hurt? Sometimes I think being vegan is just easier than trying to sort the rest out.