I used to think that vegans were crazy, dirty, tree-hugging weirdos. And that’s true for some people (I mean, look at Jess!). Growing up in the country, my knowledge of the world was that animals should be respected, but animals should also be eaten.
My childhood consisted of rolling around in the goat pen; watching in admiration as family and friends fought over the hairy pig ears during backyard pig roasts; laying moldy bread to dry in the sun on top of the chicken coop roof on Saturday mornings; shooting homemade targets with my dad’s paintball and potato guns; and picking worms out of the garden to drown (watching air bubbles float to the top was pure entertainment).
Although I attribute most of my social awkwardness and erratic behaviour to growing up isolated in the country, I’m thankful because that was the place where I developed a love for the natural world and for animals. Our backyard was the forest, my friends were my pet goats, and my hobbies involved playing outside. I learned to respect wild and stray animals that would wander into our yard, and treat our farm “pets” as family members. Each rabbit, goat, chicken, sheep, duck and cat had a name, and each of them was dear to me.
Until my beloved pet lamb Elmo was secretly fed to me for Easter dinner.
My cousin jokingly uttered, “Mmmm, Elmo” while the lamb was being served, and my mother and grandmother retorted with, “Shhhhh!!” It’s amazing I didn’t become vegetarian on the spot, but that’s really where it all began.
I, like most people, grew up thinking meat was protein, meat was expensive, and meat was what had to be eaten off your plate first if you couldn’t finish everything on it. Goats and cats and dogs were lovable, but cows and pigs and chickens were not to be invested in – they were lovable beings too, but as humans, we needed to eat them for our survival. And even if I were to question that mentality, my religious family would counter back with, “God created animals for humans to eat!” So that was that.
It wasn’t until I moved into my first apartment did I realize that eating meat was actually a choice. I used to buy packs of frozen chicken breasts when they were on sale, and shove them into the freezer, because buying chicken breasts was a form of adulting. Did I know how to cook chicken? No. Did I particularly want to eat it? Meh. Did I feel like purchasing these items was important and necessary? Yes. This is why I would “invite” my mom over for dinner and make her cook the meat that I was so disgusted to look at or touch.
The older I got, the more questions I had – and the more all the pieces started falling into place — the pieces that had already started collecting when I was a redneck country child.
Cue inner dialogue:
Do you like pigs? Yes.
Are they smart and sentient beings? That’s what people say.
Is global warming a problem? Yes.
Is meat production the number contributor of climate change? Apparently.
BUT THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY.
Do you support factory farming? No.
Do you like tofu? Yes.
BUT LOTS OF PEOPLE THINK TOFU IS GROSS.
Could you happily eat tofu bacon if it meant saving an animal’s life? Yes.
PEOPLE WILL MAKE FUN OF YOU FOR EATING TOFU BACON.
Will you feel like you’re making the world a better place if you just change a few items in your diet? YES.
F*CK THOSE BACON PEOPLE.
At the end of the day, what you choose to put into your mouth is your own personal choice (cue dirty joke). But the more I’m learning about veganism, the more eating animal products seems selfish to me. The more I hang out with Jess, the less tolerance I have for people who exploit and consume animals. It’s strange to think that I used to mock what I thought were vegans, and now I’ve become one of them – holding up banners and marching with protests, speaking up for factory-farmed animals and trying to prevent the horror that is shark finning. I probably shower more than the typical vegan does (joking!), but it’s amazing that I’ve met so many compassionate and interesting people since I went vegan three years ago.
Who do I have to thank for all of this? My pets. Thank you mom and dad and grandma and grandpa for lifting the lid on your car trunk when I was six years old and gifting us with Norman, our first pygmy goat. Thank you for feeding me Elmo the lamb at Easter. Thank you, Dad, for decapitating chickens on the weekends by the campfire. Although it’s hard to tell upon first glance, you’ve successfully turned me into a crazy, dirty, tree-hugging weirdo. I’ll never be able to thank you enough.