By Lisa Selvaggio on ThirdEye.ParagonEarth.com
It wasn't long before my Italian family was feasting on my vegan manicotti at holidays or I was baking vegan cakes for birthdays.
I did try to go vegetarian once but failed. I have no shame in admitting that, as I feel it further proves that even if one fails at it, s/he can always try again and make it work. I'm not sure how much time passed between my failed attempt and my successful attempt. Maybe it was just a few months, maybe closer to a year or longer. All I know is that I had been learning more and more about the cruelty inflicted upon animals on factory farms and was not able to go on knowing I was contributing to it by buying meat.
The moment it changed for me, though, was when I came across a music video (I'm not sure where on the internet I found it) by a band called Madison Park. The song, "Opus One," is about factory farms and the animals who suffer on them, and the video is full of footage taken undercover of the waste products, environmental destruction, and pollution created by the industry, as well as the animal abuse that abounds on these so-called farms, from chicks thrown out alive in garbage bags to starve, suffocate, or be crushed to death, to a calf lying on the floor unable to get up as a man whipped his side. The video had me crying, telling myself I couldn't do it anymore; I couldn't and wouldn't contribute to this suffering anymore. And that was it. That night, I decided to go vegetarian. And just like that, I eliminated all meat from my diet (to clarify, anything that has a face, including all fish).
I had not eliminated dairy or eggs from my diet, though, until I learned more about the connection between the meat and dairy industries -- how dairy cows are made pregnant to produce milk, their babies stolen and used for meat or more dairy; how male chicks are discarded because they don't produce eggs and don't grow fast enough, and the females lay eggs in tiny barren cages after their beaks are sliced until they, too, are slaughtered for meat. It wasn't long at all, maybe a couple of months, before my cow's milk turned into soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk, my whey protein shake became a rice protein shake, and my cheese became rice cheese or soy cheese. It wasn't long before my Italian family was feasting on my vegan manicotti at holidays or I was baking vegan cakes for birthdays.
Was it easy to go vegetarian? It was easy because my heart was behind it. It is so easy saying no to meat and dairy when you see the images of suffering and death in the back of your mind. It is also easy to understand the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, and the even better benefits of a vegan diet done right. It is simple to refuse a meat-containing dish, especially after some time has passed and the look and smell of raw and cooked meat becomes disturbing. And it's fun to delve into new flavors, new cultures of food, and experiment to bring new dishes into your diet to enjoy, or tweak old favorites that still satisfy.
The hardest part about being vegan is the lack of convenience when you're out and need to grab a bite to eat. It's much easier for a carnivore to stop in any restaurant and find a decent meat dish, but it's harder, sometimes impossible, to find a good vegetarian meal, never mind vegan. But if more people become vegetarian or vegan, demand will increase, and more restaurants will spring up serving veg cuisine, and already existing ones will offer more options. And sure, it may be a little more expensive to buy certain vegan products and foods as opposed to conventional, but it's worth it for the health and environmental benefits. And the money you save from not buying meat and contributing to suffering, pollution, and illness can easily be allocated toward the purchase of these alternatives. And yet again, if demand increases, maybe prices can decrease as well.
As a vegan, I don't feel I'm missing out, but instead feel that others who are still stuck in the old ways of eating and living are missing out in so many ways. It's definitely worth the ride into this lifestyle that appreciates all life, including your own. Whether you try it out for your health or for the lives of other innocents, the important part is trying, whether it's going cold turkey like I did or eliminating meat from your diet little by little. What you may realize is that it's one of the best decisions you'll make, for yourself, for the animals, and for the Earth.