There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. – Elie Weisel, Nobel laureate
As with majority of humans on this planet, I was born and raised a meat-eater. With my mother’s side being Ilocano, living in a meat-obsessed country (The Philippines), and my penchant for eating and cooking, I enjoyed my fair share of longganisa, lechon, and lamb.
In 2007, I was experimenting with different diets and exercise in the hopes of becoming healthier. I was curious about food’s journey from farm to plate and wanted to be a more conscientious consumer. Reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Diet for a New America, listening to the Food for Thought podcast, and watching videos such as Meet your Meat and From Farm to Fridge nagged my conscience. I discovered that eating meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs was ecologically wasteful, nutritionally unnecessary, and appallingly cruel (watch the linked videos above). I was paying someone to waste water and abuse animals, and I damn well enjoyed it.
When you think about environmentalism, mindfulness, and a sustainable lifestyle, you usually think about:
- Petitions to save endangered species, stop mining, or support GMO food labelling
- Avoiding plastic bags in favour of reusable cloth shopping bags
- Purchasing products that provide livelihood to underprivileged communities
What if there’s something we’ve failed to include in our efforts to tread more gently on this earth? What if:
- Livestock industries produce 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions (which is 300x more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide), leading to draught, rising sea levels, and rising humidity thereby making it a serious environmental social justice issue
- We could feed everyone on the planet if we stop breeding farmed animals and grow crops to feed humans instead
- Animals are sentient and can feel joy, sadness, pain, terror and love, just as we do
- There is no difference between the dog / cat we love, the dolphin we’re trying to save, and the pig, chicken, cow, and fish on our plates
It felt like I was living a lie and I woke up from a horrible nightmare. The mozzarella I adored was a direct product of the rape of female cows, eating tuna contributed to overfishing and negatively impacted the marine ecosystem, and male chicks were being ground up alive because they can’t produce eggs.
I was left with a choice:
- Do I shrug my shoulders and continue on, because “I’m just one person – how much of an impact will my food choices make, anyway?”
- Or do I strive for a life that’s consistent with my values by not supporting industries that are the driving force behind the madness?
And here we are 7 years later – that logical step to go vegan was the best thing I did for the planet, animals, my conscience, and my health. I ran a vegan baking business for 2 years while I held a desk job (because if I wanted cake, I had to make it myself!), quit said job and earned a holistic culinary degree, and currently live out and teach my advocacy and passion full time.
Going veg in 2007 was a shock to my omnivore family and they – together with the rest of society – couldn’t comprehend my decision. Why did I care so much? Why am I turning my back on how I was raised and my culture? Why did I become such a difficult person?
But my vegetarianism went beyond diet and extended to my moral compass. Practicing compassion and non-violence to both human and non human animals were values I hold dear and trumped eating a steak, wearing leather shoes, or being entertained by caged animals in zoos. Eating animals wasn’t a matter of survival but a matter of taste, period. It was ruining the planet and was completely avoidable.
So, dear readers, I ask you to ponder these:
- Do you have the courage to choose the lifestyle road less traveled if it was morally and ecologically sound, despite it being unpopular, slightly inconvenient, and the majority telling you how ludicrous it is?
- Why would beating up a dog horrify you but beating up a pig for your bacon be okay? Why separate ‘pet animals’ from ‘food animals’, ‘clothing animals’, and ‘animals for entertainment’?
- Should we leave it up to the government and large organizations to solve climate change, world hunger, and find a cure for lifestyle diseases, or do we take matter into our own hands and be the change we want to see in the world?
All photos were taken by the author.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Meet the author at her booth at MUNI Market Day v2.0 on October 25 and November 8, 2014 at Capitol Commons, and join us at the forum on “Food for Health & Wellness” on October 25, 10:30am-11:30am at the Information Center of Capitol Commons!]
Marie Gonzalez is the chief vegetable whisperer behind Kitchen Revolution, a company specializing in holistic, plant-based and alternative cooking. She has a regular column in Yummy Magazine and her work and advocacy has been featured in various local publications and TV shows. Her passions include hugging cows, eating avocados, fermenting nut cheese, traversing mountains, and exploring the world.