This blog post is kind of a follow up to my recent post about how I became vegan. I realised that becoming vegan and my feelings about animal welfare since are so entwined with sadness and grief that it is a big subject and one worthy to talk about. And maybe it will help others, I doubt any of us are ever alone with what we feel. I also wonder if non vegans struggle with beginning the conversation within themselves about the correlation of their food choices and animal farming because the reality is so abhorrent. And so by opening up a dialogue of how to cope with learning about suffering, maybe that would help some to consider where their meals have come from and make changes that would ultimately reduce suffering around the globe.
For me making changes to be vegan were not really hard from a diet point of view. There are so many vegan options, recipes, nutritional advice, vegan blogs, instagram accounts out there that I knew I would get to grips with that in time. Although it was still a learning curve after having ate animal flesh and their secretions for 30 years. For me it was more about if I made a change to my diet then I had to look at why I was making that change. So that meant having to learn about animal farming. And although initially I only looked at it in small detail, what I read and saw was so horrifying to me it has actually erupted a lot of sadness. So going vegan was not an easy move because I had to face the reality of what happens to animals in farms, transport and slaughter houses to be able to make that choice. I was so much more comfortable in my ignorance.
And once you make that choice to be vegan you are then surrounded by people who you love and care for who continue to fund the abuse. And thats hard. Because you don’t want to upset people by telling them about the reality of what animals go through to become their food, its not really a nice dinner table topic! But you feel a disservice to those animals when you don’t speak up. You feel like part of the problem because you’re keeping quiet rather than telling the truth. Which is that animals are abused in the most sickening and abhorrent ways by us. We fund it and we ingest their flesh and their secretions. And it’s unnecessary. Although veganism is becoming more mainstream, I do wonder if more of us could live healthily on a vegan diet and significantly reduce animal abuse and climate change.
I have been vegan for 2 years and as I said I have felt so much sadness around it in that time, anger that it is allowed to happen, frustration and judgement that friends and family fund it and helplessness at what can I do about it. Towards the end of last year I was feeling so much judgement towards others that I finally realised it was an opportunity for me to address how I am processing my sadness and anger in an unhealthy way. Up until then I would feel angry or sad and either take it out on my husband or child in a short tempered way or I’d distract myself with the multitude of distractions available at our fingertips. I noticed that when those feelings came up I would hop on instagram and loose myself scrolling. Or I’d watch a film I’d seen a trillion times. Comforting and the perfect way to avoid nasty thoughts. I was completely missing the chance to find a way to process my feelings so that I could move forward and actually become helpful to animals. At that stage I wanted to donate some of my sales to animal charities but couldn’t bear the feelings that would come up when I began researching organisations. Theres no avoiding images, animal abuse stories when you are looking at several animal rights websites. I wanted to speak up more for them but I knew that would also involve more research into farming practices. And I thought I wouldn’t be able to cope with it.
Around a year ago I had begun meditating. I would practise every morning, getting up early and sitting downstairs before the house woke with a cup of tea. All it involves is breathing in and out, noticing when you start thinking about something and then going back to your breathing. And repeat. The point of it being to realise that you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are just an amalgamation of what you have learnt from your care givers, your experiences and society. They are very repetitive and often unhelpful when they keep leading you down rabbitholes of sadness, anxiety and anger. Through my meditation I have slowly learnt (and continue to do so) to watch my thoughts rather than get consumed in them. So now if I feel anger for example, I try to watch the anger rather than getting caught up in it. I let it flow through me, allowing it to be part of me. And if I am able to watch it and not get consumed, then it politely leaves me. Like a cloud passing through me. And then I question why I felt that anger. And in the case of me feeling anger towards those who fund animal farming, I realise that my anger is actually coming from sadness for the animals affected rather than anger towards anyone. And then from that sadness I can decide what I can do about it.
In the same way, if I see an upsetting post about animal cruelty in farms or worse an image, instead of reaching for my distraction, I recognise I am feeling sad, I let the feeling come up. It either comes up as a strong sensation in my stomach, deep sadness or tears. And as I watch the sadness and allow it to be in my body it slowly drifts away. After practising this for a while I feel stronger and stronger to cope with upsetting things like animal abuse and other upsetting things I see and hear. Its gone from me feeling completely consumed and paralysed, to feeling that although its incredibly sad, whats really important is what I’m going to do about it. And that has empowered me to begin blogging about animal rights, making farm animal jewellery (I seriously couldn’t have even drawn a cow and her calf 6 months ago), researching animal charities and donating money to them. And as I practise dealing with my feelings healthily I feel stronger and stronger and my voice feels louder and louder.
Through processing my feelings it has also stripped away my judgements towards those who either are ignorant to many farming practises or who choose to continue to be a part of them. Although I know that this results in cruel treatment of animals and that makes me sad for those beings I also understand that suffering is part of our world as we know it. Whenever there is any wrongdoing in the world, there are always those who encourage it, those who do nothing about it, those who try to make changes and those who are victims to it. And there are a multitude of reasons behind each one of those. From privilege to be in a position to make change, poverty, ignorance, greed, habit, culture and so many more. My 30 years of consuming animals were definately due to ignorance, greed, habit and culture. Me getting caught up in anger and judgement will just waste my energy, and its uncompassionate to those who can’t for whatever reason make the changes I have made. Its also hypocritical to have any judgement of anyone because unless you are perfect yourself you have no right to judge someone else. And if someone was perfect, they would probably choose kindness over judgement anyway! Me judging is hypocritical of my 30 years of animal eating and any other way I have been selfish and unkind in my life. ‘He who cast the first stone’ is something I remind myself of daily.
Rather than spending my energy in judgement I’d rather spend it doing what I can to help. Even my small donations and little blogs will make some difference. And not consuming animal flesh, eggs and dairy for 2 years will have already saved lives. I’m a big believer that big changes come from our small actions and that even if governments will not choose compassion that there is so much power in us as individuals. If there is no one to fund these practices they won’t exist as they do now. The less people who buy animal flesh and their secretions the less animals that will live an existence of abuse. I remember seeing an instagram post years ago from my sister in law Jen who is a vegan ultrarunner. She had shared another of her delicious vegan meals and her caption read “if you want to reduce suffering in the world, start with whats on your plate”. I wasn’t vegan at the time but have never forgot the message that we can all make positive changes to the planet and its inhabitants.
At the minute some people seem to have lots of time on their hands and others seem to have less. There is no time for learning an extra language in this household. But I urge you to take some time to think about how you process your feelings around animals and their quality of lives in farms as a way to move into compassionate action towards eating less or none. It may help you leave a place of feeling paralysed and helpless to a place of confidence and power. If this virus is teaching us anything, its telling us that we *can* make significant changes to our lifestyles and even to the planet when we have to. That we are compassionate beings at our core.
Thanks for reading,
P.S My first step in learning about veganism and nutrition was via the Vegan society and I go back to it often, reminding myself of calcium, omegas, iron rich foods etc. And my favourite go to chefs are Aine Carlin , Anna Jones , Bosh , Meera Sodha , Rebel recipes and domestic gothess.