Tuesday, June 26, 2012

You Don't Know What You're Missing

People like to define each other. If I was to label myself, I'd say I am just a girl trying to find her way to the wild flowers. If other people were to label me, they'd call me a straight-edge vegan. It's hard for people to comprehend the no-drinking and drugs thing. Even more so when I tell them I've never been drunk. Never smoked a joint. Never even tried a cigarette. And that's fine. I get it. Mankind as a whole are all about indulging, and alcohol and marijuana cigarettes seem to be at the top of the list of awesome things to do.

To each their own.

But when it comes to being vegan, I'm often treated to an eye roll, groan and sarcastic comment. Bring vegan isn't something I've done to be cool. Yes, I understand it's all the rage with the hipsters - but I haven't eaten cheese in over twelve years. Suffice to say, this isn't a passing trend for me. This isn't a phase. Except, even when people understand that, there are still many individuals who scoff over how difficult I'm being. Like I'm screwing up all their plans. Granted, I'm not too sure how my being vegan effects anyone else but me - but it must, judging by how many people act this way.

Here's the thing, I don't preach. I never have. If someone would like to learn more about my diet or reasons behind my choice, I am more than willing to inform and share and be lovely about it. The reason I don't preach is because I don't want to be preached to. I don't want people shoving meat in my face and taunting me with it. (Yes, that does happen, more often than you might think)

In fact, people often say to me, "You don't know what you're missing."

Well, the truth is, I know exactly what I am missing. For the first seventeen years of my life, I ate meat. Every day of my life. I loved cheese and eggs and tall glasses of milk with my cookies. The reality is, I made a decision and the convenient days of eating whatever I damn well please are long over. In so many ways, life was easier. I didn't have to bring my own food to every function I attended. People didn't define me by my eating habits. I wasn't considered difficult. You see, eating meat was the way I was raised. It went with every meal. And I loved Whopper Wednesdays at Burger King.

But I also loved my dog.

Wait a second, how do those two tie together...well, let me explain.

One day, I sat down with my Great Dane cross, Patches, and had a bit of a heart-to-heart.

You see, Patches came into my life when I was born. And he grew up along side me. I can still feel the weight of his head in my lap. I can see the one random patch of brown fur on his back between his shoulder blades. I can smell the musky scent of his coat in my nose. And when I close my eyes, I hear his bark - deep and unmistakable. He was my first love. My best friend. Today I love him just as much as I did twelve years ago. He taught me unconditional love and that animals possess the full spectrum of emotions that we ourselves do. Guilt, trust, fear, happiness, grief - he felt those things, and it wasn't just a matter of anthropomorphism.

So, we were sitting out back on the steps. His head in my lap. My hands stroking his floppy ears. This was towards the end of his life, but he still had the spark in his brown eyes. That spark that said, "I love you." Loyal and honest and true, my love for him was instant from birth and as natural as taking a breath. It simply was, and I never questioned it. But as I sat there listening to him breathe, knowing he didn't have all that much time left in this world, I realized he meant more to me than most people I interacted with on a daily basis.

Now, I've always been a bit of a lone wolf. People have this innate ability to wound me. I'm sensitive. Not only to people on an individual level, but the world and mankind as a whole. And ever since I was a little girl, I've branched off from people and navigated towards animals. Find me at a family function, I'm playing with the dogs. See me at a party, I'm keeping the pets company. It's how I've always been. And how I always will be. Animals give me peace, which is a massive point when I don't actually feel like I belong here at all. Here being Earth. This world is just too harsh for me. And it was back then, when I sat on the porch with Patches and told him every secret I ever had, good and bad, and he didn't judge me.

And then I realized. Patches, the love of my life, was a dog. Sure, he was considered man's best friend, but his life meant less. Was worth less. In some countries, they'd even eat him. That thought appalled me. It shocked and horrified me, but it was the truth. He was meat. And people eat meat.

So, why was it okay for people to eat chicken, cow, and pig, but not dog and cat?

The answer was: it isn't okay. Not for me.

It felt hypocritical eating any kind of meat when I felt so strongly against someone consuming my dog. Because, in my heart, given the chance, I could love every animal on the planet. If, when I was born, I was given a piglet and I raised him, named him, loved him for years, there was no way I could eat him later on. It would break my heart. And from that moment forward, it didn't matter what sort of animal it was. It wasn't okay for me to consume it. I couldn't detach myself from it. Every animal was no longer a faceless, nameless nothing, but a pet, something I loved and respected, something who's life didn't mean less than mine. And what they produced, their milk and skin and eggs, was not mine to take, just as my skin and eggs and milk are not for anyone else to take.

People say, I don't know what I'm missing. But they are wrong. I know exactly what I'm missing - except, I'm not missing it at all. I simply made a decision. To be honest, it was the simplest one I've ever made.

Now I'm wondering how well it would go over if I started telling all the meat eaters that they don't know what they're missing.


R. B. Wood said...

What a wonderful post, Tee! Loved this. Owning a multitude of pets myself, I understand and had a tear in my eye when you 'spoke' about Patches.

Just lovely.

packrat said...

"Often treated to an eye roll" or an egg roll?



Tyson said...

@R.B Wood - You're welcome! I have never really wrote about my veganism or why I do it. Thought I could touch on it without sounding judgemental. :)

@RobRow - Spring Roll. That'd be nice. :D

Annikka Woods said...

What a lovely post, Tee. I've often wondered what makes different people make the decision to go vegan. I've got a couple friends who are vegan too. One got so sick from e. coli he swore never to eat another burger again and it sort of evolved from that. My other friend actually lived on a farm and found she just couldn't stand slaughtering season. Both are strong, healthy adults and I can never and will never understand why people think someone who's vegan is "broken and needs to be fixed".

You are awesome the way you are and people need to respect that. Or just learn to shut up.