DAY 383: TO EAT THE CHEESE OR NOT EAT THE CHEESE?
I’m staring over the cliff of veganism. But I’m unable to jump.
I use this metaphor wisely because – to me at least – the shift from vegetarianism to veganism seems like a vast step change.
Those that are already vegan will be unsympathetic – it’s easy! you get used to it! don’t be so weak! Put your mouth where your, er, mouth is! – but those who understand that the distance from carnism to veganism is traversed not by logic but by slow emotional acceptabce might understand my hesitation.
I am torn more that I want to admit to you. I’m ending this year, I’ve seen the misery, isn’t the obvious next step veganism. Clearly I should end this journey in tears of rage eating a tofu burger.
So why the uncertainty?
On the one hand the case for veganism is painfully clear.
Every cow bred for milk, whether on an organic or intensive farm, is ultimately disposable. After a few milking cycles they are waste products, their life used for the aesthetic pleasure of a splash of milk that is ultimately is no more necessary to our functioning than a fur coat.
It was only recently that I understood – that I bothered to understand – that every male calf born to a dairy mother is essentially unwanted. Oh yeh…I suppose it is! And lets not talk about laying hens… To eat dairy is to promote an industry that necessitates a huge amount of slaughter.
When I asked my undercover guide to the pig farms which practice he thought worse, eating meat or dairy, he said:
‘The pain in meat is more obvious. You are eating a slaughtered animal. But in some ways the pain in dairy is worse. I was undercover in a dairy farm and watched as a calf was taken away from it’s mother at one day old. The mother locked her head around the calf to keep it. She was screaming. For five hours after its child was taken away she screamed. They came back to hit her head but she continued to scream. I saw her eyes’
There is that connection with the eyes again.
Only connect, only connect.
Cheese, cooking and relationships
On the other hand veganism is one hell of a major life shift. Probably not as much as a shift as losing your mother at day 1 but indulge my weakness for a moment.
It’s no small matter that I don’t – or can’t – eat wheat. Of the last five restaurants I have been to (yes, we do go out) only one had a single dish on it that I could have eaten as a vegan. Pasta is out, couscous out, sandwiches out, an impulsive meal with friends is out.
It is also a serious challenge for Ann and more than a little strain on our relationship.
Rightly or wrongly she makes the food in our house. She is a wonderful cook and although more than sympathetic to my year long project (she puts up with my travelling nobly) she is not by choice a vegetarian she is by choice her own person. So for me to banish the dairy from my life has a vast impact because she is committed to cooking for us. She is a painter of flavours. I have already seriously depleted her palette by removing the white of wheat, the red of meat and if now the yellow of dairy then she is hampered in what she loves to do.
Veganism, then, would be my choice but her burden. And it has never been my attitude to force my views on anyone.
I don’t like telling all this to you but I feel I need to be honest. I hate the fact that veganism is still a huge challenge but perhaps if I can understand my own resistance in the face of seeing so much suffering I can understand why so many other compassionate people don’t engage at all in issues of animal rights.
The process of shedding our cultural habits is a slow one. Even when one knows the arguments, sees the pain, understands the moral position, it takes time for the truth to percolate down to our guts.
This worries me.
Next – I am back on the trail of the pigs. This time I follow live export trucks from Spain all the way to Italy.
How bad is the journey? Are drivers obeying EU law? And what about the pigs?