My Vegetarian Journey
by Judi Gelardi
I can remember when I was a young child feeling very uneasy
and uncomfortable eating meat, especially chicken, which seemed to resemble
"myself." (I guess I had quite an imagination.)
My parents finally decided it was hopeless to try to convince
me otherwise and I entered adolescence as a vegetarian. Being Italian probably
made it a little easier for me than most people. There was always plenty of
pasta, vegetables, hearty soups, bean dishes, salads and cheeses. And of course,
every Friday was "fish" day.
At that time, fish and dairy were OK to eat; I hadn't made the
connection. I thought dairy, cheese and eggs were the "natural" products of
healthy farm animals. I never knew (maybe I didn't want to know) of the
suffering endured by these animals, forced to produce unnaturally for our
Slowly, reality set in. I would never think of eating veal,
which comes from baby animals confined in crates, barely able to move and never
seeing the light of day, and yet I never gave a second thought to drinking milk
and eating cheese. I hadn't made the connection.
At a Meat-Out, the bulb finally lit: I became aware that these
animals are being treated like nothing more than disposable creatures spending
their lives purely for our sake. All of a sudden, I couldn't walk in leather
shoes, drink or eat dairy products or enjoy eggs from the supermarket.
Now my journey had changed - it had
become a journey from vegetarianism to veganism. It hasn't been easy; as much as
my family tried, it was (and still is) difficult for them to forgo cheese &
eggs. But we're working on it.
Every week we find a new soy product that helps with the
transition. We've all stopped using leather products (we never used fur) and now
I try to read all the ingredients on every label; some dairy products are not as
easy to notice as others. And 2003 was the first year we enjoyed Thanksgiving
dinner with other like-minded people.
We didn't have to sit across the table and watch as others
celebrated eating "the bird."
My journey hasn't ended; I've still got a long way to go. But
I do admit I have a much stronger sense of respect for every animal. And I don't
apologize for not eating meat and dairy any more. Most important, we all feel
healthier, physically and spiritually.