Being vegan – What motivates/drives you to do the right thing

November 6, 2013

This is a bit of a self-indulgent post.

Very often, I read about some person that has given up being vegan because the lifestyle was just too hard to maintain; or I have to grin-and-bear it when someone tells me all the reasons why it is so hard to be vegan.  I struggle to understand their reasoning, since it seems to be very easy for me to make the compassionate and conscious decision.  I was sadly not born vegan or even vegetarian, I was blissfully unaware of what I was contributing to, for a very long time before I started asking questions about what I was eating and what cruelty and misery I was contributing to.  I thought I would share what inspires and motivates me to always try to do the right thing (even when it seems to be hard).

I thought I’d break some of it down into different compartments (as I have them in my head).

To start with, here is some information about my darling furry babies.

Here are some pictures of my two furry babies.  They are Cocker Spaniels and they are litter mates.

They are very chatty ones and they often tell me when I am too slow when preparing their dinner, getting ready for walks or if I am forgetting to give them their “save-the-rainforest-snack”.   Their names are Emma and Jake, however, over the years the list of their names has expanded, based on their characteristics.  They know most of them and respond to them, which just shows you how clever they are J

Collectively, they are referred to as:

Sp-angels / Cocky Spaniels (because it is a by far more apt description than “cocker” spaniels) / the Noonoos / babies… and many, many more.

  Emma and Jake

Emma is a very clever little girl.  She is a very typical A-type over-achiever type of personality.  Even her hair is naturally always perfect…

She is also known as Emilem (her rapper-gangster-street name) / Girlie-whirl / Hunny-Bunny (or just Bunny) / Rhidwan (her “Indian” name, since she is “the red one”).

She is left-handed.  We realised this after playing many games with her and she definitely uses her left paw more, when she has to do things that requires only one paw at a time…. Like when she pokes us continuously to continue tickling her.

Emma

Jake is a bit of a blonde bimbo.  He is really handsome, so he does not need to be clever, he can just rely on his dashing good looks.  Jacob (when he is super-silly) / Boykie / Moonpie (he gets a bit silly when it is full moon), Fatsquatch (he has lost his hearing and we are battling to keep his weight down since his primary activities now consist of sleeping (about 20 hours a day), eating and going for very slow walks – he cannot hear us, so we are not hurting his feelings with such an insensitive name).  One of his favourite activities is to stare at the bark of the tree (as in the picture) to see the lizzards running up and down the tree… we think it is like watching his favourite TV channel for hours.

SR - Jake

So now for the inspiration and motivation.

I try to be the person that my dogs think I am…

Eating animals

I cannot imagine eating another animal that can possibly be as intelligent, cute and just plain wonderful as Emma and Jake.  I fortunately do not have the blurred line between animals I love (to hug and kiss) and animals I am willing to eat.  It took a long time for me to acknowledge that meat is murder.  No animal willingly goes to their death, not even the animals from the supposedly humane meat industry.  All animals (human and non-human) fear death, and understand what is happening to them.

The fact that I have also read and seen too many reports/undercover investigations about what happens at factory farms and slaughterhouses will always override any of my taste preferences, choices of convenience and discomfort for fellow diners (I always think it is a guilty conscience that makes them feel uncomfortable eating flesh when a veggie is present).  Always!

Cheese and all other dairy products

This was probably my biggest fear of becoming vegan (after being vegetarian for a couple of years) was giving up cheese.  I used to looove cheese.

I do not have children (out of choice, no need to feel sorry for me) but most of my friends have children.  I am always amazed to see how my friends change after they have had their kids.  The love they have for their babies is no different to how other mammals feel about their babies.  Just because they cannot express themselves in the same language as we understand, does not mean that they bond and emotions are not as strong.

I think about the lovely and gentle cows (and all the other gentle animals that we exploit for their milk) and the trauma that they go through when their calves are taken away from them, less than 24 hours after they have been born.

I think about those tiny little male calves that are then confined to tiny little spaces where they can hardly stand up, the fact that they are so desperate to suckle that they will even suck the fingers of the people that handle them so aggressively and cruelly when these little innocent babies are confused and scared.

Again, I would not inflict this kind of trauma in Emma or Jake.  Why would it be different for other animals?

Wool

Mulesing is a procedure performed on sheep where they slice the skin from the buttocks of lambs without anaesthetic to produce a scar free of wool to avoid some forms of infection.  This is just horrible and so unnecessary.  To ensure that I avoid contributing to it, it is very easy to avoid.  There are so many interesting alternatives available

Restaurants

Whenever possible, I will always go to vegetarian/vegan restaurants.  I do believe we should support the places that are making our lives easier and also exposing more people to the fantastic plant-based foods available.  I do still go to mainstream restaurants (I do not want to call them “normal” restaurants because there is nothing “normal” about making your money out of selling dead, slowly decaying flesh of animals), but if a restaurant has any of the following items on their menu, I will not support them:

Foie gras

Veal

Goat

Fish that are on the endangered list

Also, if the restaurant does not have at least a couple vegetarian dishes on their menu, I am not supporting them, no matter how accommodating they may be once I am there.  You clearly do not care about catering for vegetarians, you are just doing it to shut me up and take my money… no thank you!

Companies that test on animals

It is not just about what you eat, it is also where you spend your money.  If I buy “vegan” products from companies that test their products on animals, I am still handing over my hard earned money over to the same people that create immense misery by unnecessarily testing their products on animals.

I would not want the cruel experiments performed on my Noonies, why would I allow it to happen to any other animals?

E.g. if Nestle launch a new dairy free dark chocolate (they may have already…), I will not buy it.  They support child slavery by exploiting the very poor communities where the cacao beans are grown and harvested (some info on this).  They own L’oreal and we all know that L’oreal test their products on animals.  I’d rather not have chocolate or stick to the fantastic range of fair trade dairy-free chocolates available on the market.

No minty fresh toothpaste from the Unilever range, since innocent bunnies have been exposed to all kinds of cruelty to test the products, in case some fool gets some toothpaste in their eyes.

All the other benefits

Plant-based whole-food is delicious.  The healthier the food is that you eat, the more you crave it and want to eat this way.  It may be a slight adjustment at first, but once you have a couple of favourite dishes; it just gets easier and easier.

There is a growing body of evidence that it is the healthiest way to eat.  It helps prevent and in some cases reverse disease.  It is much kinder on the environment and it is also more affordable.

You often have the choice of selecting the restaurant when you go out with friends.  That is really great.  Who would not always want to have things done their way?  ;D

It is not always super easy…

I do sometimes miss the convenience of just walking into a shop, selecting an item off the shelf (based on price/packaging) and just buying it, without reading the ingredient list, determining who produced it, scanning it into the Buycott app, etc.

I do sometimes just have a cup of tea when I go out with my friends because there is nothing acceptable to eat at the restaurant and you do not know whether the wine is vegan… It is a personal choice I made, so it is not really an issue.

Just have your reminders/triggers

I just think we all have our reasons for being vegan.  When there is a situation where you may have to compromise or use it as an excuse it always helps to remind yourself why you are doing it.  After that, it is actually really easy to make the most compassionate choice.  Once you have decided what your reasons are for doing it, it is really easy to be vegan.  You just need to find your reminders/motivation.

What do you use to remind/motivate you when you are in potentially compromising situations?

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Chocolate – the good and the bad

April 9, 2012

I found a new brand of chocolate that is dairy free and delicious.  What I also liked about it is that it is a fair trade product and the product is also produced in the country of origin.  (Link)

I was so excited about it that I decided to take some to work with me so that I can expose some of my colleagues to really good quality chocolate that is dairy free and not the cheap and nasty commercial “chocolate-like” product that most people consume by the bucket load, without ever considering the impact of supporting the chocolate industry.

They liked it, however, they made statements, like “but how much did it cost”.  That made me realise that most people don’t really want to know what their money is contributing to in the world.  When I briefly mentioned how the chocolate industry is linked to child slavery and general exploitation of people, animals and natural resources, they seem to shrug and disregard that they are part of the problem.

When you purchase cheap, commercial chocolate, you are contributing to the issues as documented below:

CNN documentary

John Robbins – Slavery in chocolate

International Labor Rights Forum

The dark side of the chocolate industry

There are many more sites with information linked to this issue, you just need to look for it (ask the questions).

Quick facts (full details and references included in the above links):

  • children as young as 7 years start working as harvesters on the cacao farms
  • most of the children working on the farms never get to taste the end product – chocolate
  • child labor, trafficking and slavery are rife in the chocolate industry that produces some of the world’s best-known brands
  • these children are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again

If everyone only supported companies that were ethical and responsible, it will make a difference.  It all starts with you.