Why Vegetarian Poem

Submitted by Cleo Mees

For me becoming vegetarian has been part of a bigger process of becoming aware of the animals in my world.

I don’t know whether it’s just a part of growing up, or whether it’s happening because I made some close friends who care about animals, but for the past two years I have been on a journey of gradually becoming more and more aware that animals think and feel, and that they have the capacity for loving relationships.

When my family dog died last year it affected me much more than I expected. An image entered my head, and it is the same image that undergirds my decision not to eat meat. It is the image of a birth: the first perception of air and of light, the warmth of mothers milk; the satisfaction of a full belly. And with those first sensations, the awakening of that universal drive: to live, and live fully.

my dog is looking for a place to die.
he never liked the rain but this morning
they found his cubby empty
and him, sitting in the downpour
barely visible between the trees.
overlooking his estate.

ten years ago a day began.
two eyes opened and beheld it.
it was the first day.
there was air and light,
a tall sky.
a consciousness was born
and with that consciousness
a will to live.

there was mistreatment
a dark infancy we never knew much about,
a birthday wish, and then
the arrival at the wide house on the edge of the bush
where people yelled — but not at him,
only to hear each other down the hallway.
a new beginning.

he would spend winter afternoons lying on the landing,
looking out the window.

we weep on the phone, mum and I
I leak at yoga
I sob in the street

how do you tell a dog you love him?
the throbbing realisation of how much he means
and how easily a teenager took a soul for granted.

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The Flaxseed, The Soybean & The Holy Goat

By Grace

Soybean, Flaxseed & Holy Goat

Last November I met a goat by the name of Rusty. We didn’t hit it off – he was somewhat taciturn and domineering in nature – but he was possessed of such gravitas as to ensure a lasting impression on me.

I was visiting Rusty at his home at Edgar’s Mission, a couple of hours north of Melbourne, so as to give him and his horned, feathered and hoofed companions a meal and help out with cleaning.

Rusty was the first of many rescued farm animals I met that day who struck me with their distinctive personalities, emotional depth and intelligence. Of course I had met many a dog and cat with more character than a Dickensian villain, but – urban-dweller that I am – I did not expect a chicken to stare me down with a penetrating gaze, nor a pig to sidle up to me with a coy pout soliciting a pat.

As I stood in a field doling out Wheat Bix to gaily bleating sheep with tails intact (yes, sheep do have tails) I realised that “farm animal” is a human categorisation, and was somewhat abashed to acknowledge that I, a lifelong vegetarian and animal lover, had allowed this categorisation to shape my perception of certain animals as more valuable/interesting/affectionate/lovable/intelligent than others.

I spent the day attending to abused and neglected farm animals who, despite having been treated with unspeakable cruelty, have largely recovered and learned to trust humans. Even Rusty, who had been taught by his former owners to ram everyone and everything, agreed to a truce with me.

There was something profound about seeing these animals taken out of a traditional “use and consume” farm context, for at Edgar’s Mission it’s the human volunteers who labour while pig, cow, goat, sheep, chicken, horse, duck and donkey simply live out their lives giving homo-sapiens nothing but the pleasure of their company.

Although I lived with a vegan activist for two years who spent her evenings liberating all manner of creatures from farms, factories, houses and laboratories – one morning I awoke to discover 100 house guests of the fluffy tailed, long-eared variety in her bedroom – I had never truly considered her dietary choice and the reasons behind it.

A vegetarian since birth, I was nonetheless guilty of seeing vegans as extreme, unhealthy, intolerant and self-righteous. Of course many are, but so are many vegetarians, meat-eaters, Christians, Muslims, Jews, conservatives, liberals, environmentalists, et cetera.

There at Edgar’s Mission I was forced to confront the implications of my fondness for all things dairy. The unpalatable truth, I was made to understand, is that cows do not simply share their over-abundant milk.

The dairy industry keeps them in an almost constant state of pregnancy so as to produce a continuous supply of milk. Calves are separated from their mothers within hours of birth and either slaughtered or given milk replacer.

Photo by pennstatenews CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo by pennstatenews CC BY-NC 2.0

For further harrowing detail, I subjected myself to an afternoon of googling the dairy industry and was shocked by the suffering it took to deliver me a tub of yoghurt. As if the guilt of supporting an industry perpetuating animal cruelty wasn’t enough, it would seem I was also supporting an industry massively contributing to environmental degradation and climate change.

Bob Brown, photo by Kate Ausburn, used under CC BY 2.0  2

Bob Brown, photo by Kate Ausburn, used under CC BY 2.0 2

For someone who obsessively turns off power points and light switches, who cycles doggedly through smog, rain and road-rage, and who would gladly swap democracy for a Bob Brown led dictatorship, this was simply too much to bear.

I’ve now been vegan for 9 months. I have honestly not found it difficult and if anything, I’m healthier and I eat more interesting food – although it certainly helps that I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. Living in the Inner-West of Sydney also helps, in that I have plenty of vegan friendly options for eating out and places to buy supplies of the soy/mock variety.

Certain foodstuffs and kitchen appliances have been instrumental in making the transition to veganism, namely:

  • Soy products (tofu, tempeh, cheese) and mock meat
  • Non dairy milk – rice, almond, coconut, quinoa, soy
  • Flaxseed meal (the ultimate egg replacer in baking)
  • Beans of every description emotionally, psychologically and sensorially fill the gaping hole left in my diet by the absence of cheese
  • Food processor – there is much diversity and deliciousness to be had in dips, nut butter and soup
  • Ice cream machine – for me a world without ice cream is not a world worth living in, and it’s so easy to make amazing vegan ice cream

The irony of being drawn to veganism by a tempestuous goat with a penchant for ramming people is palpable. Everyone has different catalysts. I’m glad I didn’t have to write about visiting an abattoir to explain mine.

processorbeans

Why Vegan Story

Submitted by Michael 

My journey to veganism was a long one beginning nearly twenty years ago when I accompanied a Muslim friend, his brother and their father to the abattoir. For them it was a normal occurrence and a necessary one due to the scarcity of Halal foods in a country town in the early 1990s.

My girlfriend at the time was already heading toward adopting a vegetarian diet and my experience led me down the same path. We were vegetarians for a number of years until one day we were not. I don’t know exactly what happened. Perhaps the distance from the events at the abattoir was sufficient for me to forget and perhaps complacency had crept in.

I then spent the next ten years as a meat eater. My next girlfriend was raised on a farm (dairy) and meat and three veg was standard fair. I learnt a lot about the dairy industry but chose to ignore the fact that cows are kept in a state of perpetual pregnancy and that any bulls that are born are sent off to be slaughtered. My girlfriends mother, however, did end up hand rearing a number of bulls, which she ensured had their own paddock when they got older.

CC BY NC 20.2 By L214 Images

CC BY NC 20.2 By L214 Images

A few years ago I met my current girlfriend who was raised a vegetarian and who has since become a vegan. I must admit that I was resistant at first to becoming vegetarian, again feeling as though I was expected to become a vegetarian because she was.

At first I felt as though it was being imposed upon me and so I resisted until one day I realised I’d pretty much been living as a vegetarian for the best part of two years and that I may as well accept the fact, that I was a vegetarian and I was happy to be so. (I think that imposed may be too strong a word. I think it was more a wanting to share with me and have me understand how she felt about being vegetarian and the significance of such a lifestyle.)

Veganism had not been something I had considered, even though I knew people who were vegan, and had listened to them speaking about the dairy industry and the environmental impacts of raising livestock.

In the end my shift to veganism occurred relatively quickly after I had stopped resisting. I was able to see the good in my dietary choices and that I could – with what has been very little effort – remove the remaining animal products from my diet.

CC BY-NC by Wendy Brolga

CC BY-NC by Wendy Brolga

The first step was a coffee, made with half soy milk and half milk. I wasn’t a fan of soy milk and wanted to ease myself into it. I really missed cheese for a while and on occasion I get a craving for eggs, but for the most part it’s been easy.

Of course there is some adjusting needed and it can be difficult on occasion to go out to dinner. Yes, people seem to want to constantly question my dietary choices – strange that I should be the one to justify a diet that doesn’t require the taking of an animal’s life. But these things are insignificant in comparison to the benefits of a vegan diet.

A Vegetarian Journey

Submitted by Laurie

Born in Melbourne during the 1950s to a working class family, lamb chops, overcooked cheap cuts of steak, rabbit stew or roast chicken with plenty of boiled vegetables & mashed potatoes were staples. One of my own father’s favourites was dripping (congealed animal fat) slathered on bread. We always shared our lives with dogs and cats, and were encouraged to be compassionate towards our fellow creatures, even though we ate some of them on a daily basis.

In those days vegetarianism was unheard of in our circles and only hippies would be weird enough to forgo the consumption of meat. Surely these creatures were incapable of rational thought, emotions like joy or pain, loss or anguish? Even goldfish were so vapid & devoid of memory, they could happily live all their lives in a small glass bowl. Their actions were purely driven by instinct alone, or so we were led to believe. I have since seen so many instances of play in birds for example, as well as intelligence and emotion in all sorts of higher organisms, that it defies belief that any thinking person could still adopt these outmoded viewpoints.

In my teens I was apprenticed as a commercial cook and spent the next 12 years in this vocation. During this time I butchered, cooked and ate many birds, animals and fish, with barely a thought for what they may have gone through during their lives and just prior to their slaughter.

As the years went by it slowly dawned on me that what I was doing was intrinsically wrong and I became more uncomfortable with the concept of animal husbandry and meat consumption. By the time my daughter was born I had given up eating birds and animals but was still consuming fish and other marine life occasionally. My daughter’s immediate family were leading a vegetarian life style, which influenced my decision to take the next step.

In 1998 I was visiting friends in Victoria, staying on their property in a rural district. One evening we attended a family get together where fish was consumed. That was the last time I ever willingly ate fish again. I had questioned for some time why I avoided eating one higher organism but still chose to eat another. The time had come to stop questioning and to act, especially being aware of the over-harvesting of marine creatures on this planet.

Reading books like “The Pig who sang to the Moon” and “Committed” for example have also helped to reinforce my resolve. For many years I had nightmares dreaming that I was eating meat. I always woke with such relief that it was only a nightmare, as the core feeling was one of overwhelming guilt. It has been some time now since I dreamt those dreams thank goodness.

On a family skiing holiday in New Zealand a few years back we stayed with friends on a dairy farm during the calving season. We were appalled to discover that of the 1250 calves taken from their mothers soon after birth approximately 1000 were trucked off to be slaughtered for pet food at around 3 days of age. Their mothers have been selectively bred to produce more milk than they would normally and their enlarged udders cause a host of other physical problems for them. Similarly some breeds of European beef cattle have very restricted movement after centuries of selective breeding aimed at muscle mass and weight. These are just two examples – there are many more. We have much to answer to.

CC BY USDAgov

CC BY USDAgov

A conflict that I share with others is the keeping of carnivores, such as dogs and cats as traditional animal companions. These animals are biologically pre-disposed to consume meat. By keeping them in such high numbers we are dooming many other creatures such as horses, cattle, sheep, kangaroos and poultry to often short, exploited lives and/or a sad ending. Some people choose to feed their “pets” a vegetarian diet as well but I’m not convinced that this is fair to them. Perhaps we should give more thought to selecting herbivores or omnivores as our animal companions? What about a pig, goat, duck or turkey?

I cannot call myself vegan yet but have substantially reduced dairy products and eggs in my diet. I have the greatest admiration for vegans, as I do for anyone who either chooses to avoid eating a particular creature or minimise their consumption of higher organisms, dairy foods, eggs or the wearing of leather and other animal products.

Every small step can make a difference.

Why meat eaters don’t like me, and vegetarians more so

Submitted by Josh

The first bit is pretty boring. Maybe just read the final thoughts.

About three years ago I watched this video of John Safran Foer speaking at The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (www.rsa.org) about his book ‘Eating Animals’.  Foer set out the reasons to be a vegetarian, relying not solely on one argument, instead making holistic case: the suffering, the impact on the earth, health benefits.  He also countered some common arguments – including the one I used to justify eating meat: ‘I would rather live than to die, than never live at all’.  Actually – says Foer – if it was the life most farmed animals live, kill me.  The next day I stopped eating meat.  That my better half was a vego made it a lot easier than it otherwise would have been.

These days I am not a vegetarian.  Today, for example, I was out with the Rural Fire Service and breakfast was catered for.  I asked one of the lovely folks making breakfast what happened to leftovers – they threw ‘em out.  Usually in this situation I would try to doggy bag leftovers and offer them to someone (like a homeless person, or impoverished inner-city university student).  Today though we were 300km north of Timbuktu and it was 5am.  So I waited for everyone to eat.  I waited for everyone to have seconds.  I enjoyed some bacon.  I did not enjoy a sausage.  I eat meat in this way a handful of times a year.

More recently I started eating Oysters and Mussels, having done a bit of research and decided it was probably OK.  With little or probably no suffering, minimal environmental impact.  I would eat oysters or mussels a few times a year.

Occasionally I’ll take a bite of a friends meal, and a couple of times I have just decided to eat some meat because I am not as strong as I should be (this is also the reason I eat more mass produced dairy than I should).

Final Thoughts

  1. People that think of things as absolutes are always wrong.
  2. Whenever you think you really want meat, you’re just hungry.  Eat anything and that feeling fades away.
  3. This same learning can be applied to monogamous relationships.
  4. Listen to this song, it. is. beautiful.

Why Vegetarian Story

Submitted by Zoë

I became a vegetarian when I was nine years old. I remember the day well because it was my brother’s sixteenth birthday and he’d decided that day to give up eating meat.

My mum and my sister were already vegetarians, so I definitely didn’t want to be left out! It’s now been a dozen years and I can’t imagine ever eating meat again.

Sometimes meat eaters tell me that they could never give it up because of family traditions like the Christmas roast, but my family has made new traditions like finding great vegetarian recipes and substitutes for each other to try.

I actually think I’d feel disconnected from my family in some way if I started eating meat again!

Why Vegetarian Story

Submitted by Louise

Sitting around the family dinner table when I was eight, enjoying some roast chicken for dinner, I noticed that my mum wasn’t eating any. I was quite surprised as there wasn’t any reason that I could think of, why she would be denying herself such a tasty dinner.

I paused for a split second from rudely wolfing down my plate of food to ask: “Mama, why aren’t you eating any chicken?”

Although I don’t remember the exact way that she phrased her obviously persuasive and inspiring response to my question, she did enlighten me about where meat came from, explaining that farm animals like chickens, cows and pigs were animals just like the family dog, Gypsy the German Shepherd.

CC BY-NC by Drama_

CC BY-NC by Drama_

I think that I’d never truly made the connection between a living animal and a lump of meat on my plate. I also remember thinking that if my mum thought that not eating meat was the right thing to do, then it was the right thing to do! At eight, my mum’s word was gospel so I decided to give up meat forever and be a vegetarian.

16 years later I guess I’m pretty much a ‘lifer’ and I have long lived without the desire to consume animal flesh! I can’t even remember the last time I even considered meat as a food and I’ve developed a sixth sense for detecting meat hidden in a dish!

Like all vegetarians and vegans I frequently get asked why I am a vegetarian, and that’s easy. There’s no reason not to be one. I think there are an endless list of pros and almost no cons, from protecting the environment, to food security and availability, to animal welfare and ethics. Like any lifestyle change, removing meat from your diet is an adjustment but it can be a very easy one, considering the abundance of delicious alternatives.

Would I recommend vegetarianism to everyone? Definitely, yes.

Why Vegetarian Story

Submitted by Rebecca

I’ve been vegetarian for just under three years now and, since I began, I have literally never considering going back to eating meat. I don’t ever miss it, and I’ve all but forgotten how it tastes.

When I started out being vegetarian, it was mainly difficult because few of my friends were vegetarians, and at dinner parties or eating out with shared meals I often felt awkward. However, I’m very used to it now, and many of my friends have since adopted vegetarian diets, so it’s much easier to cater for everyone.

Being vegetarian has also made me a better and more creative cook. I am a keen experimenter with different vegetables and other ingredients. I love nothing more than being told “I didn’t even realise this didn’t have meat in it!” by my carnivorous housemates.

I’ve tried going vegan a couple of times but always ended up going back to dairy. However, I’ve just started my third attempt at veganism— maybe this will be the one that lasts!

Why Vegan Story

Submitted by Calyce

Being a vegetarian has always made sense to me, but being a vegan? Why not eat an animals produce, it doesn’t hurt the animal, nothing died, what’s the problem?

This was my thought process until last year when I spent some time on a farm and discovered just how ignorant I had been. I was shocked to discover the truth behind the milk industry, the almost constant state of pregnancy for the cows and the sad fate for most of the calves.

After going dairy free for a few months, I plucked up the courage to look into the egg industry and what defined ‘free range’- with shocking overcrowding, debeaking and a limited 18 month life span. Needless to say, eggs just didn’t taste the same.

Being vegan to me is about compassion and recognising the problems in farming and the inhumane treatment of animals. Whilst there is an awfully long road ahead, I feel with sites like these and other passionate individuals, there is definitely change in the air.