Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is There Life After Dairy?

In September of 2005 I watched the documentary Peaceable Kingdom, which follows the efforts of the people at Farm Sanctuary to rescue farm animals from an otherwise horrific existence and death.  After shedding more than a few tears, I vowed to give up meat and became a vegetarian.  And I can say quite honestly that since that point I've never looked back.  The only question that ever entered my mind on the subject was why I hadn't done it earlier.  I'd been raised to love animals, always had companion animals in my home (cats and dogs), and was even used to (and comfortable) eating non-meat proteins like tofu.  But there is no point in regrets, so I moved forward happily with my vegetarian life.  Fortunately, my boyfriend quickly followed suit.  And now seven-and-a-half years later, neither of us have missed even a morsel of meat. 
Over three-quarters of a decade meat-free, however, I have only ever briefly toyed with the idea of becoming vegan.  While my boyfriend and I both agree that it's a better, healthier, and more moral lifestyle, neither of us ever felt it was the kind of choice you could realistically make unless you lived the life of an ascetic monk.  Several brief stints of veganism, which were agreed before the start to be temporary in nature, left us eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for weeks.  It didn't seem possible to have a social life, eat out, or even eat with any pleasure if you were denied eggs and dairy.  Even when we met real life vegans in person, we assumed their life was lacking and it just wouldn't be possible for people like us - no matter how much we applauded their resolve. 
And then several weeks ago, it was as though a light went on for me.  Or perhaps a light went off.  Whatever made it so difficult for me to see what a vegan life might be like disappeared.  I realized I was making the same excuses I find so pathetic amongst meat eaters when confronted with a vegetarian lifestyle.  I couldn't be vegan because I wasn't used to it.  I couldn't be vegan because it would be inconvenient.  I couldn't be vegan because it seemed like it would be hard.  Suddenly I realized that nothing could be as hard for me as the life of a dairy cow is for the cow.  Or the life of a laying hen.  Whatever the inconvenience for me, it would be worth it. 
So now that I've developed a deeper conviction for an ideal I'd had for years, am I really ready to put it into practice?  The concept of being "vegan" is complex, and extends beyond food to clothing, toiletries, and other products.  It goes beyond dairy and eggs, to honey, whey, gelatin, and beyond.  Each person must draw their own lines if they plan to live in modern society.  I'm still trying to figure out where my lines will fall.  And I'm sure they will continue to shift over time.  I'm starting this blog both as a way to keep myself accountable and maybe one day to help someone else ease their own transition to a vegan way of life.  Because whatever my apprehensions about giving up life as I knew it, I believe there is indeed life after dairy. 

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