The transitioning vegan

2014-06-25 10:00

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Recently I went to a breakfast for a charitable cause. The table spread was elaborate: bacon, sausage, steak, bacon quiche, eggs, cheese, yogurt, bacon-wrapped sausage.

It was all there.

Depending on your outlook, it was either a carnivorous wet dream or a speciesist nightmare.

Blame it on the internet or food trends, but I saw it as the latter, and the irony of getting together to stop the suffering of others while feasting on the suffering of other beings was not lost on me.

Eventually the hostess caught me out and I had to tell her that I wasn’t indulging because I had decided to give up all animal products, to which she responded with the usual: “Oh my, what do you eat?”

That particular question always requires a lot of patience.

What I really want to say is: “WTF are you on about? Have you seen how many different varieties of plants and grains there are on this planet?”

But to be fair, meat and dairy has played the leading role on our plates for so long that veggies are seen only as supporting actors.

It hasn’t always been this way. My paternal grandmother, who raised a lot of pigs and chickens but had no refrigerator, only served meat once a week at the most. The same went for my maternal granny.

Can we please stop acting like meat is a daily necessity?

“Where do you get your protein/iron/calcium?”

That’s another question that makes me want to give people a Michelle Obama-style side-eye-and-eye-roll combo. Like, please, just stop. Google something. All of this stuff is available from plants, in great quality too. While you’re at it, do a bit of research on how the meat gets to your plate.

Generally, it’s not quite the pastoral fantasy illustrated in ads and packaging. Never mind that the production of meat is one of the greatest contributors to global warming, more than transport or industry.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure – not that I’m a terribly honest person, but because it wouldn’t be fair to other vegans – I must make it clear that I cannot call myself a vegan just yet. I’d rather describe myself as “transitioning to veganism”.

See, over the past couple of years I’ve been on and off meat, dairy and eggs at different times.

I’m certainly in no position to be some food-elitist, self-righteous, judgemental Judy with my nose up in the air.

This year started off with two vegan months, followed by two carnivorous months, and – until yesterday – I was well on my way to another two vegan months.

But I went to a friend’s birthday braai ill-prepared and I succumbed to a fish situation, and a not-so-vegan slice of cake situation. But I am a persistent little shit with a soft spot for animals, so today I start again, until I make the plant situation permanent.

Initially, I didn’t attempt veganism out of concern for the animals, and the understanding of speciesism – defined as the oppression and enslavement of non-human animals by human animals – came later, after a bit of research into the realities of animal agriculture.

My reasoning was more nutritional. I always overindulged when it came to eating animal products. You know, the bacon and the eggs for breakfast; the lunch sandwich – anything from a chicken mayo to roast beef and gherkins or even a burger.

Then there was dinner, typically incomplete without meat. There were also the snacks throughout the day, which in one way or another contained bits of animal, whether it was biltong, dairy, eggs or gelatin.

Basically, it all took up valuable veg time in my diet.

I’ve tried different ways to cut down over the years, from eating meat only on weekends to not cooking any at home but allowing myself some when at restaurants. I’ve even tried not eating any animal products except when I’m a guest at someone’s house because I don’t want to be “that” guest.

But for me, none of it worked. I always ended up a full-time carnivore.

If there is anything I have learnt about myself in my 35-plus years of life, it’s that I lack moderation, whether it is booze or meat.

Learning that life without meat is not only an option, but kinder to my health and to the planet, has been one of the best things to happen to me.

I’ve made peace with having to answer certain questions.

Now I just need to come prepared for those braais and dinners.

By the way, I’ve also had to give up the drink. Now that shit right there is a real challenge. But that’s another topic for another day.

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