• DAY 383: TO EAT THE CHEESE OR NOT EAT THE CHEESE?

    Oct 12th
    The case for veganism is clear but why do I find it so hard to make the leap?

    The case for veganism is clear but why do I find it so hard to make the leap?

    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?



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    10 Responses to “DAY 383: TO EAT THE CHEESE OR NOT EAT THE CHEESE?”

    1. If you’re buying household or cosmetic products (washing powder, shampoo, suncream) from companies that use animal testing, taking any pharmaceuticals, travelling by road or on aeroplanes (especially Air France, which transports thousands of monkeys for vivisection as a bonus) using aluminium, plastic (which we can hardly avoid) or anything containing palm oil, palm kernels (almost certainly in the dogfood you buy for M and B and in lots else you buy, unless you’ve chosen carefully) then you’re not only hurting and killing animals, but helping to extinguish whole species and their habitats and displacing and ruining whole peoples, so the cheese question is less important by comparison.

    2. Boy do I relate to your problem! Would your wife cook two meals, one with meat and/or cheese, and one without—or would she cook vegan meals? It seems simple–you do what your heart and compassion for animals says to do. But you have compassion for her too, perhaps we all must make this connection in our own time and space. It’s not just an intellectual revelation, there is an emotional involvement with the connection. Maybe it can’t be pushed onto someone else, they have to come to the revelation on their own. It certainly would be nice if husbands and wives had the epiphany at the same time.

    3. Hi Cindy! Nice point. Simultaneous matrimonial epiphanies! Where can we buy those?

      Yes, the real world is never as neat as one might hope. Compassion and pragmatism combined….compragmatism?? I was in the supermarket the other day looking at the ingredients on all the wheat free bread I buy ….and there at the very bottom of the list was a sprinkling of egg white. Would I cut this out of my diet if I was vegan? Would that make sense?

    4. Cost is a big issue too. Eating healthily a healthy diet which is also animal welfare friendly whilst also being on a budget must be nigh on impossible. I’m not vegan (not even veggie I’m afraid) but I imagine getting the range of vitamins and minerals you need while following this diet would be tough as well as being expensive.

    5. Hey Vicky, I think that is a little true but not an awful lot I’m afraid. But I only say this because I totally sympathise with the way you think. I’m sure someone with more time and will power than me could easily prove you could live a healthy and relatively low-cost life being vegan. The issue is…it would be a bloody pain in the backside. But isn’t that the point? We live in a carnist society so to go against the norm requires effort. But probably not as much effort as being a dairy cow. Furthermore a lot of people who don’t have huge amounts to spend manage to buy fags, drink pints – the question is probably how much effort are we prepared to make? Probably as much effort as we feel compassion…and its the compassion we need to work on….And I say this as much in critique of myself as anyone else.

    6. You’re newly married – eat a bit of cheese when it’s her cooking, but not cheese separately. As I said, you’re killing animals anyway and she deserves consideration. After 40 years of carnivorousness, it’d be rather precious to insist on vegan cooking in your home, I think.

    7. Hm … great article. I am vegetarian since 10 years, but some milk products i would really miss … we are just trying different products (soy milk, for example) and are on the way … but maybe it will take some time. But i believe: Every drop of milk that is not produced is a good drop. A step is a step, thousand steps are a mile 🙂 keep on going and lets change the world slowly … have a good time and thanks for your great project

      kind regards
      tom

    8. Thanks for your comment, Tom. It does take time and is not a black and white process.

    9. No, it’s not more expensive – it’s a lot cheaper – and it’s just as easy to have all the nutrients one needs. The thing is, when people are changing over, they try to eat in a similar way but substituting vegetarian or vegan for meat and that doesn’t work – you need a whole new approach, which takes time. Until recently, I drank tea with milk, but then I realised I didn’t even like it, with or without milk, and certainly don’t need it, so now I’m vegan. (I already was, except for the tea.) I eat fruit, veg, nuts, seeds (lots of seeds) and herbs and spices and olive oil and apple cider vinegar and sea salt. I don’t buy any processed food at all. When I still could, I ate a lot of wild food, but most people can’t do that.
      Go easy with the soy, Martin – it’s not good for you in large quantities and not at all for children. Almond milk is nice – rice milk is watery and tasteless. Look at vegan websites for ideas about how to eat and look at all the different seeds there are – seeds are full of life. Mustardseed has a massive energy field.

    10. I struggle with veganism. How ethical is it for 1000’s of acres of rainforest to be destroyed to plant soya and then the air miles along with it? Same with all the kidney, butter beans and chickpeas etc. It’s so hard to be ethical.

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