Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago I said goodbye to dairy completely and became vegan. I had my last pieces of cheese on New Years Eve at a party and then I never looked back after Jan 1, 2011. I am so amazingly proud of myself and my husband for our dedication to having compassionate and cruelty-free diets this past year!

After becoming vegetarian in Spring 2010, it was just a matter of time before we gave up all animal products completely. After learning about how dairy products are made, I knew I could not support such a cruel industry anymore. No piece of cheese was worth it.
As I reflect over the past year, I went back to my old posts and found some questions I had when we first became vegetarian. I laugh to myself now at how scary it was at first to give up meat and dairy. Now that I see just how EASY it was, I can't believe I ever worried or questioned it!

Some questions that I had back in the Spring 2010:

~Is it harder to cook non-meat recipes? 

I laugh at this one. It is no harder to cook veg meals than it was to cook meat-based meals. The only thing that took time for me was learning new recipes. One great thing that happened is that I learned how to cook MORE dinners than ever before. There are so many recipes online and I now own cookbooks. Also, my spice rack has never been fuller! (Actually it has overflowed - I need a new one!) I have learned how to use spices and cook more of a variety of foods. Our 'go-to dinner' for us used to be grilled chicken, salad and a vegetable because it was easy. Man, how times have changed!

~Will I also end up cutting out cheese and eggs and milk? I don't think I could do that right away, but maybe gradually once I get used to the no meat thing? What would I drink with my cereal? I've read articles about how Soy milk is bad for you too.

Yes, I would end up cutting out cheese, milk, and eggs. Especially after learning that by supporting the dairy industry, I was supporting the VEAL INDUSTRY! Noooo!!!!! And especially after allowing myself to watch videos like this:

I now drink Almond Milk and LOVE it.

I THOUGHT giving up cheese would be hard but it was super-easy for me! I don't miss it, especially when I think of the suffering that goes into it. That's what makes this all so easy for me. Even pizza - if I want pizza, I just make sure I buy soy cheese for it. Luckily there are pizza take outs in our area that offer soy cheese. Any time we go out for Italian food, I just order my dishes without cheese. Easy-peasy.

Eggs were super easy to give up once I saw how the poor chickens are treated. The only space they have to turn around is the size of a sheet of paper. And they can't even spread their wings. :( Oh, and don't get me started on what happens to the poor little male chicks who can't produce eggs - most are ground up alive since they are no use to the industry. I can never touch an egg again knowing that.

~How will we eat out?
This part was most challenging at first, but now it's a breeze. We have been able to still eat at all of our favorite restaurants, just differently. We've also discovered tons of NEW places to go that we might not have tried before. The most important lesson I have learned with eating out is - Do not be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS. We have found that at most places, the wait staff is more than happy to help you make changes to dishes to eliminate animal products. I always let the wait staff know when I am ordering that I do not eat meat or dairy. I also make sure to tell them to not use any butter (for some reason that doesn't click with some wait staff as 'dairy' - I learned the hard way at a Thai restaurant - one bite of the brown rice and I knew it had butter.) So, all you need to do is make sure to ask, ask, ask. If there is nothing on the menu, lots of times the chef can prepare something special for you, so never be afraid to ask.

~How do I deal with my parents or Craig's? They ALWAYS have meat at dinners (Xmas, etc)

This was hard on my side of the family at first. My mom said I was "nuts" and she said things such as "You need meat," "You need milk," "What the hell are you going to eat?"
I always kept my cool through any comment and used it as an opportunity to educate. After a few months, I think she started to see the connection between my love of animals and my reasons for not wanting to use them as food. Her comments switched to things like "I feel sorry for you that you can't eat all this" when I was at her house, but again...I kept my cool and calmly educated her. Now, she has moved to acceptance - to the point where she will try veggie burgers and gardein products. She still prepares and eats meat when I am there, but is respectful of my choices. 
Craig's parents have been supportive - even to the point of using vegan butter and soy milk for the Thanksgiving side dishes this year.
I have to admit, when I am at a non-veg dinner, I do feel uncomfortable seeing meat on the table, but I always remember that I was the one eating meat not so long ago too. I lead by example and educate and hope the seeds of compassion I plant start to grow for people to make changes on their own.

 ~How do I deal with living with someone who may still want to eat meat? Do I buy it FOR him but just not eat it myself?
Luckily, I never had to worry about this. I feel so thankful that Craig has always been 100% on board with having a compassionate diet. When we first started this journey, I told Craig that if he decided he did not want to join me, I would simply cook him meat-based meals and cook myself veg meals. At this point, I doubt that I would be able to do that. I am lucky that I will never have to answer this question with Craig, since he is as committed as I am!

~Will this be too hard?

I laugh at this one, too. 
No way! It was easy and fun! 
I am still learning new things every day and enjoying my journey with each new step!

Not only did I become vegan this past year, but I also became more involved in animal rights issues, which has been very rewarding. It still depresses me to dive into learning about just how bad it is for animals, but in order to educate others sadly I need to KNOW what really goes on. I am still working on how to deal with feeling sad about it all (especially animal testing -that hit me hard this year because I learned more about it.)

What did I do this year?
I attended the Animal Rights Conference in July
I volunteered for Compassion Over Killing
I passed out leaflets to people educating them about factory farming / veganism
I volunteered at Animal Acres (a farm animal rescue sanctuary)
I volunteered with the beagles rescued from animal testing
I volunteered at the greyhound rescue
I educated others about veganism
I educated others about animal testing
I educated others about fur
I called legislators to encourage them to pass legislation to help animals
I attended a foie gras protest
I wrote letters and made calls to local restaurants that serve foie gras
I attended a circus protest
I continue to teach my students about the importance of a healthy diet. I also allow them to see the connection between animals and what they are eating.
I donated to  Beagle Freedom Project,  Animal Acres/ Farm Sanctuary, Alabama wildlife Center, National Anti-Vivisection Society, Compassion Over Killing, and Mercy for Animals.
I allowed myself to learn as much as I could about the issues - even if it meant reading/watching painful things.

What's next?
In 2012, I want to volunteer even more.
I want to educate even more.
I want to plant seeds of compassion even more.
I want to learn even more - the new thing I have been learning about is the devastating effects of palm oil. It really opened my eyes to the fact that not all vegan food is animal friendly. I am sure I will blog more about it in the future, but here's more info for now:
Say No to Palm Oil
I want to do more yoga to relieve stress
I want to learn more about nutrition. Right now I am reading Kris Carr's Crazy, Sexy Diet and loving it!

So, here's to a compassionate and cruelty-free 2012!
I can't stress enough how proud I am of myself and my husband for changing our lifestyle and making choices to help reduce the amount of animals suffering. My wish is that everyone will do the same. Someday...