For a couple of years now, the concept of going vegan has been bouncing around in my head. There are many aspects that have always drawn me to the lifestyle. But it always seemed like too much. It was too big, too daunting, too restrictive, too expensive, too time-consuming… and on the list went. Could I live with never eating yogurt again? Could I turn down the plate of turkey at Christmas? I didn’t think so. So I kept putting it off. But over the last few months, every time my vegetarian roommate cooked dinner I thought… “well that looks easy!” And in her warm and inspiring way she would tell me about some of the documentaries she has watched and what she’s learned and things in my head started to shift. I took out books from the library. I looked up facts and recipes on the internet. As I learned about what animals endure to fill the needs of human beings — how cruel the methods are, how wasteful, how unnecessary. I was saddened. I was deeply, deeply saddened to know how much of a role I had played in their suffering. And I felt foolish at having pushed away my concerns or questions about what they go through simply because I didn’t think I could handle the truth. And with that new knowledge, making a change started to seem more doable. And most importantly, more necessary.
But it wasn’t until I came across the book The 30-Day Vegan Challenge that everything clicked. There was suddenly a resource that made it all seem within my grasp. Really, what can’t you do for 30 days? Especially when it’s something you believe in and want to commit to? I’ve commited to countless things for well over 30 days that I’ve had absolutely no interest in simply because I “had” to. So why wouldn’t I commit to something that I’m passionate about? And clearly there is no good answer to that question because I am now on day four of the 30-day challenge!
But despite how excited I am and how easy and fun and invigorating it has been so far, there is still something that has been nagging at me just as it used to over a year ago: what if I can’t stick with it forever? What if I desperately want to enjoy the Christmas dinner I’m used to? What if the dish at a restaurant that I really, really want has cheese, or eggs, or salmon? How will I feel about giving in? Now that I know all that I know about the industry such products come from? Seeing as I have 26 days to go, I can’t answer that question yet. I don’t know how I’ll feel. Maybe 30 days without animal products will make me lose interest in them all together. But it also may be the case that there are certain products I don’t think I can live without. And it may also be the threat of always feeling I am inconveniencing others when I go to their place and can’t eat any of the foods they offer. I truly don’t know what I would do in such a situation because hurting their feelings or inconveniencing them would greatly upset me.
As I’ve been reading The 30-Day Vegan Challenge I have been bouncing these worries around in my head to no end. And then finally, when I reached the very last chapter I was presented with a notion that changed it all:
“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.”
Attempting to diminish my footprint on the world doesn’t have to be all or nothing. No one is perfect. No one can do everything. Someone may not eat meat but they may buy grains that have been cultivated by a worker who was paid next to nothing for the task. Another might bike to work rather than drive but buy running shoes that have been made by child workers. I might not be able to live a 100% vegan lifestyle forever, but have I done any harm by trying?
In just four days I have learned many new things that I feel will contribute to diminishing my impact on animal suffering for the rest of my life. For example, ground cashews can add the creaminess of Parmesan cheese to a pasta dish. And gravy can taste equally divine when made with vegetable broth as with beef or chicken. And tofu, when done right, can taste every bit as savory and decadent as the best cut of meat. And as the days move forward I hope to discover some other great alternatives such as coconut milk based ice cream and soy yogurt. If nothing else, living without animal products for 30 days will open my eyes to all the alternatives that are out there in order to help me reduce my negative impact on the lives of animals. I may never be the perfect vegan. Or the perfect person. But who is? All I can do is open my eyes to what is going around me, absorb the knowledge and do my best to live my life as open-mindedly and compassionately as possible.
Cheers to day four!