Happy new year friends! I am grateful to be a part of Adirondack Animal Rights and the fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Working with dedicated and compassionate activists has shaped a large portion of my perspective and inspired me to share my experience of being vegan. More posts forthcoming! Questions & feedback are welcome!
first published 1/1/11 & x-posted to veganicorn.
2011 nears and a nearby citrus & cilantro candle rekindles the very specific memory of my first and last taste of ceviche, my first meal of 2010. Unavailable in the climes of upstate New York raw fish marinated in citrus seemed a novel culinary exploit that suited the confines of my voluntary dietary restrictions.
Before deciding to go vegan I followed what I called “pesceveganism.” Such classification permitted (on the side of a “mostly” plant pased diet) lox bagels with capers and onions with my BFF after an art school all-nighter. I could grab endless plates from the sushi-go-round with my family on Christmas. I nonchalantly snacked on octopus, recalling the time my dad tricked me into trying calamari and me secretly enjoying it… not even fried. I was into fish tacos before they were “relevant.” I could load up on coconut shrimp at an awkward super bowl party, and because that was my final instance of animal consumption I will stop there.
“Pescevegan” seemed the most convenient description for a diet abstaining from animal consumption with the exception of seafood. Vegans might abhor the blasphemous inclusion of “vegan” in my terminology, in that true veganism transcends diet. I now understand veganism to be a lifestyle rooted in compassion that seeks to exclude the use of nonhuman animals for any purpose, and a rejection of speciesism and all forms of oppression. Even strict adherence to a vegan diet solely for health reasons is not livingvegan: diet is only one manifestation of lifestyle. Continuing to eat animals dispite ongoing awareness of nonhuman animal suffering would foster more guilt than I could have imagined. When anyone questioned my convoluted habits I would preface, “it’s not about animal rights” or “it’s not an ethical choice,” thereby ignoring my own inner hypocrisy, while parrying any criticism—at least I wasn’t going around claiming to love animals, right? Of course, I would choose wild caught fish when available, to reduce suffering… not that fish really even suffer, right? That “health-based” choices spared some possible suffering was just a bonus. My underexamined attitudes could have been described as welfarist at best.
While going vegan is the most meaningful decision I have made all year (and perhaps ever), sometimes I forget that it didn’t happen overnight or without hesitance. Seasoned friends who challenge me, and nonhuman friends who give and forgive and ask nothing in return, make vegan living feel natural. However, most vegans do not have a vegan job, vegan potlucks, a vegan living arrangement, and going entire days without speaking to a non-vegan at their fingertips. For some well-intentioned people who lack the nutritional resources and support network that facilitates transition, maintaining this lifestyle might feel sacrificial or compromising. The lurid details of what I have specifically abandoned are not intended to fetishise something for which I feel deprived. Instead, remembering the reasons I continued to eat animals for so long might be necessary to empathise with others in transition. Aren’t we all in transition anyway? Constantly learning, improving, and humbled?
Omnivores have heard this & vegans preach it: it’s not meat we crave, it’s the preparation and seasoning. Citrus & cilantro evokes the memory of hugging my best fried at midnight, sheltered from freezing rain, amidst warmth of glitter and people. Between prosperous spoonfuls of black eyed peas and cathartic sips of champagne, relief for closure overshadowed whatever goals had been loosely considered for the coming year—becoming vegan was barely within my purview. New years morn, sundrenched cobblestones bore the most poignant quiet I have ever felt in New York. The amount of learning, unlearning, and earning forgiveness that would take place in the following year, the fact that I would abandon suffering and disordered eating & enjoy diversity of food as never before, the powerful friendships I would form with nonhuman animals—perhaps the peace I felt that morning foreshadowed these changes. The scented candle beside me rekindles not guilt: only light.