I just spent two weeks visiting my aunt in San Francisco (one week in February on my way to Australia, and one week in May on my way back home to Canada). Since I was born, she has always lived across the continent from the rest of our family, so I didn’t get a chance to develop a close relationship with her until about 3 years ago when my mother and I made the trip down to see her and my uncle.
This visit turned out to be a very helpful and eye-opening experience. I’ve discovered that we actually have a lot in common, including our love for the color purple, our love of animals, and our general outlook and feelings on life in general. She really helped me to reflect on myself and my current situation, to help figure out what I want/need to do at this time in my life in order to be happy. Through our late night conversations, I now feel more confident in my desire and choice to move to Australia to be with my boyfriend to try to keep our relationship going.
Visiting with my aunt also brought me to seriously consider becoming vegan. Due to my upbringing, I have always been semi-vegetarian, eating poultry, fish/seafood, and dairy, but not eating red meat or pork. My father has been a vegetarian since before I was born, and my mother changed her eating habits in solidarity with him, but kept chicken and fish in her and my diet for the protein. In the past few years, my aunt transitioned from being a carnivore to fully vegan, she has very strong beliefs against animal cruelty and has been acting as an animal advocate for some time now.
Before I left for my travels, I watched the movie “Vegucated” which is very educational and talks about several aspects of veganism, from the animal cruelty of factory farming and slaughter houses, to the environmental implications associated with livestock farming, and the health implications of eating animal protein. The movie was incredibly convincing for me on all points, and I already started to consider becoming vegan. I just felt that it would be difficult to completely eliminate dairy (I love cheese!) and eggs, since they are used in so much food. Although I love the taste of it, I feel like I can give up chicken since I feel very guilty about the horrible treatment that chickens receive (they are probably the most mistreated farm animal in the world). I also never realised the cruelty involved in the dairy industry. My previous point of view was that I wasn’t consuming the cow’s flesh and the cow wasn’t dying so that I could drink milk or eat cheese, so eating and drinking dairy products was ok. I never realised the suffering that dairy cows can go through in order to produce milk (they are kept in a constant pregnant state for years and never allowed to bond with their offspring who are either killed or condemned to the same fate). Finding this out and discussing it with my aunt pushed me closer to my decision to become vegan. I also recently watched the movie “Forks over knives” which focused on the health aspect of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet as opposed to eating animal protein. There was even more convincing evidence of the many health benefits to having a vegan diet.
A pleasant surprise for me was the availability and variety of good, yummy vegan foods (especially in California, where so many people are conscious of what they eat). My Aunt is actually a great cook, and she has made it her goal to be able to veganize any meal and make it delicious. She had vegan versions of everything that you would need for cooking including imitation meats that were so close to the real thing you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, vegan cheese, almond and soy milk, vegan mayonnaise, etc. During the two weeks that I spent with her, she cooked several delicious meals that were completely satisfying, and some of them you would never guess did not contain meat. She used several imitation meat products, since her husband who has a meat-eating german heritage, became vegan along with her. She wanted to make sure that he enjoyed his meals and didn’t even miss meat. This was a great revelation to me (that it is possible to cook delicious vegan meals that even a meat eater would love), since my boyfriend is a true meat lover. He has always been accepting of my particular eating choices, he is resistant of veganism and would have a difficult time giving up meat (not that I would force him to do so, but it would be great if he enjoyed things that I cook that don’t contain meat).
My only problem right now is that I’m not a great cook, I haven’t had much practice and there are a lot of techniques that I don’t know. On the other hand, I’m unemployed at the moment, so I have free time, and I have decided that I will use some of that time to learn and practice cooking.
I am also considering making a gradual transition to veganism, and maybe even remain as a pescatarian for a while (eating fish), to see how I go. I think that even if you don’t completely eliminate animal products from your diet, making a conscious effort to reduce them can make a difference.