I’m almost into my 3rd week of eating Vegan now.  These are the things I’m finding hard.

Eggs

The only thing I’m really missing is eggs.  Eggs, scrambled or boiled, were my favourite breakfast food, which I used to have a couple of times per week.  I also used to enjoy the occasional omelette as a simple supper.  I am starting to really miss these now.  Sitting down to breakfast this week with Dan and his little boy, as they tucked into their boiled eggs and toast soldiers, left me feeling a bit miserable.  I’m trying to vary my breakfasts, but they are generally cereal or toast based due to speed and convenience.  I’ve had toast with either p-nut butter or beans, and museli/granola with a variety of toppings, always trying to get some kind of protein and extra nutrients into the meal.  I’m beginning to tire of these breakfasts however.  I need to experiment with some new breakfast ideas, but it’s hard to find the time, and I don’t have a blender, which seems to be a kitchen staple of many Vegan cooks.

In just over a week’s time I’ll be going to visit an aunt at the weekend.  She keeps chickens, who are ex-battery hens that have been rescued and re-homed.  She has about 5 of them.  They are essentially pets, but when they’re laying, she eats the eggs.  I know that the chickens have a good home with this woman, whose Dad was a vet.  Are we really contributing to their suffering by taking their eggs away?  I would so much like to eat those eggs!

Yes, I would so much like to eat those eggs, which happen to be the potential for another creature’s child.  Doesn’t sound quite so good put like that.

I would like to eat them, but I’m choosing not to, because I’ve chosen to be Vegan, which means not treating another species as if it exists for my use.

In relation to the mainstream supply of eggs, I am appalled that we still have caged farms in this country, and agree that so-called ‘Free-Range’ or ‘Organic’ egg production can be still be highly industrialized and doesn’t look like a good experience for the birds involved.  I wonder, if I kept my own chickens, would that be such a bad thing?  Here are links to a couple of articles which show what Gentle World have to say about eggs:-

http://gentleworld.org/a-chickens-relationship-with-her-eggs/

http://gentleworld.org/whats-wrong-with-backyard-eggs/

When I was little I had a grandpa who had made his living from rearing free-range chickens, and I used to enjoy spending time with him, helping him to feed the birds and clean out the hen houses.  As a child it never occurred to me to ask what happened to the little boy chicks, or the hens once they stopped laying, and although I remember spending a lot of time around the hens and collecting eggs, I don’t remember noticing a hen looking distressed and looking for her egg after it had been taken away, but, I realise now, that’s because it never occurred to me to look.  I took the egg and moved on, I didn’t stay to see what happened next.

So, I’m struggling with a desire for eggs, but I understand the arguments for not eating them, so I’m persevering.

Nutrition

I’ve been feeling a bit tired this week.  It could be the helping-to-care-for-5-year-old-boy factor, but I’m aware that I don’t really know whether I’m nourishing myself ok at the moment.  To be fair, I didn’t know this when I was an omnivore either, and most of the time I didn’t care (and have suffered a few health problems, namely obesity, as a result).  I’m been very aware this week, however, that I’ve not managed to get much variety into my diet, which is one of the key aspects of eating Vegan.  For example, I’ve not had as many leafy greens as I think I need, and my protein sources have been a bit limited.

Last night I had my regular Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture appointment and my Acupuncturist told me that my tongue suggested that I am currently a bit “blood deficient”.  One of the main foods for balancing this is meat.  Others are dark beans, dark greens, prunes, seaweeds, and some grains.

So, I’ll be off to the nearest wholefood shop tonight for a long-overdue visit to stock up on some nourishing items and a couple of supplements in order to be on the safe side.

It’s also time to get to grips with tofu, which is something I’ve been avoiding, because previous cooking experiences with it have resulted in a soggy mush.  I need to get over my fears and learn how to cook tofu in a palatable way.  I know when I’ve had it in restaurants, firm and well-flavoured, it can be fantastic.  How do you re-create this in your own kitchen?

Conscience

I started to watch ‘Earthlings’ last week.  It’s a documentary feature film made by, among others, Joaquin Phoenix and Moby, who are practicing Vegans.   It’s Vegan propaganda, if you will.  Using hidden cameras to look at the myriad ways humans use animals, it is uncompromising and distressing viewing.  I didn’t get very far, and switched off not too far into the film.  I know all this stuff, right?  I know we kill animals to make our lives easier.  I know we violate their bodies in painful ways to further our own ends.  I know this, and I don’t want to have it shoved in my face.  And that’s just it.  I don’t want to face up to the reality of what it means to be a human and at the top of the food chain.  If I did, I would have to do something about it, accept responsibility for my actions, grow up, stop being a child in the great cosmic laboratory and realise that what I do has consequences.  It seems like a heavy burden to take on.  A large part of me would like to keep my mind’s eye closed.

If you’d like to watch the film, it’s freely available on the internet.  It is an unflinching look at sickening, real violence.  www.earthlings.com

If you search through internet forums and discussion groups about the ethics of eating or not eating animals, you’ll find plenty of ranters on both sides, and one of the most common rants in favour of eating meat is that we’ve earned our position at the top of the food chain by virtue of our intelligence, and opposable thumbs, and shouldn’t have any qualms about this.  I don’t really buy this argument.  The way I see it, humanity is in a constant state of evolution.  That’s not a positive or negative term, it simply means things keep changing.  We’ve gone from struggling to survive and having to gather and hunt our own food, to becoming a fantastically successful species who have evolved to such a level that many (although certainly not all) humans have the luxury of choice about how to live their lives.  This leisure has been achieved through us using our ingenuity to invent things to do work for us.  We are now at a stage where we have knowledge, technology, and the capacity to industrialize almost any aspect of life.  That doesn’t mean that it is healthy to apply this indiscriminately.   I am just as horrified and upset by what I see of the way humans behave towards other humans.  It doesn’t surprise me that we have the capacity to be so unaffected by animal suffering when we are capable turning a blind eye to so much that happens to other members of our own species.  I regularly chat with people who think it’s great to get clothes really cheaply, and don’t seem to care what may have happened to make the clothes so cheap.  I wouldn’t be without my mobile phone (despite the fact that I’m of the pre-mobile generation and was in my mid-twenties before mobile phone use became common). The last time I renewed my contract and got a new phone, I ignored the knowledge I’d acquired from watching an arts performance by some asylum seekers in Manchester, that my handy little communications device uses rare minerals, the mining of which is one of the root causes of the brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where people are raped, mutilated and murdered every day.

One of the things I want most is to belong.  I want to exist, without too much bother, in the group of humans I happen to have been born into.  It is an inconvenience to me to have to spend my time, thinking, reflecting, choosing, and acting a certain way, if it goes against the grain of what the majority of those around me are doing.  Yet, the conscience-voice is there.  Part of our humanity is this: our capacity to reflect and to choose, which suggests to me that what we do after reflecting is significant, our actions matter as one of the ingredients of the universe.  That is why we have this faculty.  That is what morality is.  If some people hadn’t ‘gone against the grain’ in various societies throughout history, we’d still kill humans for entertainment like the Ancient Romans did, and still use humans as slaves.  Oh, but we still do that, even though we think we’ve stopped.  It’s an on-going task to bring about change, and it boils down to the will of the human heart.

I think being non-violent is the hardest thing to be.  It doesn’t come easily.  Eating Vegan isn’t turning me into someone who is can joyfully and positively choose not to use animals, it all feels a bit overwhelming, and a bit of an effort.  Watching films like ‘Earthlings’ makes me feel despairing about the nature of the human, and plenty of people would say it is counter-intuitive to not accept your own nature.

A question I’ve been asked regularly is, “What would we do with all the animals if we didn’t farm them?  Would you like a countryside that looked very different?”  I don’t have a clear answer for that.  I wouldn’t like a countryside full of fields of vegetables if their mass-production resulted in poor working conditions for humans and degradation of the natural environment.  I’d miss seeing cows and pigs around in the fields.  I don’t know that it would be such a bad change, however.  Like many things, if it could be managed sustainably, then it could be great.  I’m very much in favour of the use of scientific knowledge for sustainable development.  Just because I can’t quite imagine how the ‘brave new world’ might be, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth exploring.

Sometimes in my life I’ve met people who have filled me with optimism and a buzz of creative joy, the idea that you can live counter-culturally and contribute to your society.  The doom-sayers and cynics haven’t stayed with me, but I’m bit pessimistic myself.  I think what I need right now if to live in the (Vegan) moment and not worry too much about the ‘big picture’.  I need an injection of positivity and can-do inspiration.

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