In a December 2006 blog entitled Hello, Dolly where I voiced my concerns about the FDA's decision not to disclose the sale of cloned meat, I made this statement:
I have never tried to be a vegetarian before. I know those little piggies and moo moos are cute, and I have heard the many horror stories about how they are raised, but I have decided that 1) I am not selfish about much in my life, so I can have a clear conscious about being selfish about my place on the food chain (and anyone with a problem with it can choke on a big fat carrot stick); and 2) those animals are mighty tasty! Mmmm boy!
I would like to formally retract this statement as I no longer feel this way and in fact feel ashamed to have written such a selfish and ignorant paragraph. Yes, I still believe that animals are "mighty tasty" and I am still eating them on occasion. However, I am slowly trying to adapt to a vegetarian and eventually vegan diet. I have come to realize that the price being paid for me to enjoy "tasty" animals is just too high and that health-wise I'm better off without them anyway.
Why such an attitude adjustment? Well, basically I got myself educated on the topic. Selfishly, I began to cut out animal products solely for health reasons. I read the book Skinny Bitch in Fall 2007, wherein they promote veganism as a way to lose and then maintain a healthy weight. I've encountered many readers who are turned off by this (especially since the topic gets sneaked in through the back door), but instead of being indignant about the fact that the book cover never uses the word "vegan" once, I became interested in what they were saying about the benefits of this lifestyle. Although I didn't immediately become a vegan or even a vegetarian, I began to actually think about the foods I was eating and their impact on my body as well as the world.
Since then, I have adopted more vegetarian foods into my diet and successfully had days where I only eat vegan (3 in a row so far this week). The hardest thing for me to cut out is cheese, but the rest is surprisingly easy. In general, I don't crave meat and I've found that going without dairy makes me feel so much better. When I have days where I slip and eat an ice cream cone, I usually pay the price later. It serves as a great reminder that my body doesn't need the trouble. Plus the soy or rice milk alternatives to ice cream taste amazingly good (I suggest Soy Delicious, Toffuti and Sweet Nothings Fudge Bars).
I don't want to try to guilt or sway anyone into a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, so I'm not going to talk about all the reasons why it's a good idea. I'm just trying to put right a bad-attitude I perpetuated by my earlier blog-post. And maybe plant the idea in someone's head that being vegan isn't as extreme as once believed (admittedly, by myself) or make you a dirty-hippie-tree-hugger. In the end though, it has to be each individual who makes the decision for themselves. If you have any interest in learning more about the benefits to yourself, animals and the earth that can be had by adopting vegan practices, there are hundreds of resources available. I just read Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating and highly recommend it as a good starting point. Below I've listed some other resources I've found.
www.vegan.com (maintained by the author of "Vegan")
www.peta.org (you can send away for a vegetarian starter kit, they'll also probably send you address labels and try to get you to donate.)
www.skinnybitch.net (website that accompanies the book)
www.fatfreevegan.com (good recipe resource)
www.farmsanctuary.org (rescues abused industrial farm animals and fights for animal rights)
The Complete Idiots Guide to Vegan Living (includes recipes and covers other issues beyond food)
The Vegan Sourcebook
There's also about a bazillion vegan and vegetarian cookbooks available. I'm a big fan of Borders lately, so check out their list.
Lastly, just a couple notes. The idea of veganism was seeded into my mind long before I ever read Skinny Bitch. In college, my friend Meredith was a vegan and although I never thought back then that I would ever try to adopt that lifestyle, she opened me up to the idea and even to the foods. She deserves some of the credit for my current beliefs. Oprah, however, deserves no credit. Yes, she has been doing a cleanse where she is not eating gluten or animal products for 21 days, but it just coincidentally coincides with my own vegan push. Don't get me wrong, I like Oprah, and think that having her embrace something works wonders to help spread the word about a cause or an idea. However, I think in the end changing a lifestyle just because a celebrity endorses something is not realistic for most people. You have to believe in it for it to really become your way of life.
And the next time I'm tipsy and staring down a piece of cheese pizza, I hope that belief will help me through.