My Journey Toward Vegetarianism - by Catherine Sheehy
You may think that this is what prompted me to become a vegetarian, but it isn't. I was a meat & potatoes gal for about 12 more years before I decided to try vegetarianism. However, the image of my dad, knife poised over the glassy eyed buck, stayed with me over the years and did eventually contribute to me becoming a vegetarian today. It was not even because I was particularly grossed out by the image. Rather, it was because it made me wonder, "Where does meat come from?"
My decision to adopt a vegetarian diet was more of a transition than an event. I dabbled with vegetarianism for a period of time while I was living in London in the early 1990s, when the first known cases of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, the human version of mad cow disease, hit the news. I swore off meat, only to return stateside and take up burgers and fries once again.
After graduating from college and moving out on my own, though, I realized that meat was one of the more expensive items on my shopping list. I started to eliminate it from my diet for purely economic reasons, except for occasional restaurant outing. A girlfriend and I began in earnest to eat a vegetarian diet together for health reasons. I also learned about factory farming (see the Grace Factory Farm project at http://www.factoryfarm.org/ for more information), which is when I revisited the question of where meat comes from. I decided that I wasn't comfortable consuming the flesh of animals that quite likely had not lived happy lives. But I turned my back on my principles when I went through a bad patch and I didn't feel like thinking about my food. Meat-based meal options were simply much easier to find.
After almost of year of what I call my lapse, my skin was awful, my gut felt worse, and I had gained some weight that didn't feel right on my frame. This time, I eliminated all meat from my diet and started over. I started to eat more salads. I started taking supplements again. I exercised more, and I began to feel better.
I have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for some five years now, and I am pursuing another transition today. Now I am trying to migrate from a vegetarian diet to a vegan one. My reason for doing so has also changed. Today, my concern is less about cost and more about health and an attempt to be consistent with my values.
In terms of health, I am convinced by the evidence I have read that correlates diets rich in fruits and vegetables with longevity. Unlike some other vegans/vegetarians, however, I do not have moral issues with humans eating other animal flesh. But since I am unable to guarantee that all the animal products I might consume lived free from what I would consider an abusive system, it's just easier to eliminate all animal products from my diet, and to try to eliminate such products my life overall - that goes for clothing, cosmetics, and other products that have animal ingredients.
I am grateful to have a partner who is supporting my transition. Unlike my girlfriend of years ago, however, my husband is not going through this transition with me because he is already there - he has been a vegan for the past 25 years.
I am pretty lucky to have this kind of support: not only is my partner encouraging my decision in ways that non-vegans may not be able to do, but he is a great cook, enthusiastic gardener, and he has a wealth of knowledge about diet and nutrition. However, I know that this transition will be challenging because of the attention and commitment it requires, particularly at the beginning. I have already lapsed, in fact: I had an Entenmann's donut this weekend, with its egg yolks, nonfat milk, and that totally vegan but scary stuff, partially hydrogenated oil. But I am looking forward to the journey to better health. I also look forward to hearing from other Veggilicious folk who are eager to share their own stories about adopting healthier eating habits, whether vegans, vegetarians, or meat & potato peeps with veggies on the mind.
Catherine Sheehy, 35, is an MBA student at the Smith School at the University of Maryland. Contact Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.