Today is my 3 year anniversary of becoming vegan. It has been 1095 days since I consumed any animal products and 1312 days since I gave up eating animal flesh. Supposedly, I have saved over 300 animals although given the way I used to eat, that number might easily be doubled. I have lost 116 lbs. and gotten off a dozen medications. Meanwhile, I have gained 1,299 Facebook friends and 885 followers of The “V” Word’s Facebook page. To date, I have written 162 blog posts and The “V” Word is fast on its way to 100,000 hits. Currently, I am working on my 1st cookbook.
Obviously I have a thing for numbers but these numbers I’ve listed are all about me. And veganism is NOT about me; it’s about the animals. It seems strange but sometimes in this fight, in this mission that is FOR the animals and THEIR lives, our own lives, my life can take center stage. The waters of altruism can get muddled with ego, pride, personal interests, judgment, anger, frustration and all sorts of human foibles.
I can go on and on about what being vegan has done for me and how it has improved my life. Of course I’m happy that my health has improved but personally, I know that I could never be vegan for my health alone. Like every other diet I’ve ever been on, I know I would cheat when the cravings would strike. But I’ve never “cheated” on veganism because it’s NOT about me. It’s about the animals and there is NO craving in this world that could EVER make me think it’s acceptable for an animal to be exploited, suffer or die.
Learning to cook and sharing recipes has been wonderful. There are so many foods I’ve come to love and the idea of writing a cookbook is exciting. But that’s not where my motivation lies either. Yes, I love food and I would even say (I have said) that I have a food addiction and often use food for emotional comfort/sabotage. But when I was in the hospital and they didn’t know how to feed me vegan food, I got by on lettuce and chickpeas for days. When I’ve been at events with no vegan options, I’ve eaten pickles or simply waited until I got home to eat. Because it’s NOT about me and my hunger; it’s about the animals.
I love that I’ve met so many wonderful people – activists, friends, authors, chefs – those who share my love for veganism but they are another bonus. I’m not vegan so I can make friends, gather fans or be part of some exclusive club. It’s NOT about my social life; it’s about the animals.
Yes, I have a thing for numbers. But the numbers that really matter are not the ones I listed at the beginning of this essay. The numbers that do matter are NOT about me, they are about the animals.
MORE THAN 150 BILLION ANIMALS ARE SLAUGHTERED EVERY YEAR JUST FOR FOOD.
According to ADAPTT, this is “the number of animals killed worldwide by the meat, egg, and dairy industries. These numbers do NOT include the many MILLIONS of animals killed each year in vivisection laboratories. They do NOT include the MILLIONS of dogs and cats killed in animal shelters every year. They do NOT include the animals who died while held captive in the animal-slavery enterprises of circuses, rodeos, zoos, and marine parks. They do NOT include the animals killed while pressed into such blood sports as bullfighting, cockfighting, dogfighting, and bear-baiting, nor do they include horses and greyhounds who were exterminated after they were no longer deemed suitable for racing.”
This data is based on worldwide animal slaughter statistics culled from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for the year 2003. It is now likely that in many of the categories noted, the current kill rates in 2012 are as much as 10% higher than what is indicated here.
Of the more than 200 countries researched, the top three—the United States, China, and Brazil—consume a staggering 46% of these animals as food. The United States alone consumes roughly 20% of all animals slaughtered for food even though it contains less than 5% of the world’s population.
An estimated 90 BILLION marine animals are killed worldwide each year. Too many people don’t believe that fish and other marine animals can feel pain. Maybe it’s because they can’t scream although their struggle to live is obvious.
Each year over 40 MILLION animals are killed for their fur including dogs and cats. MILLIONS more die for leather, wool, down, silk and other items of clothing, accessories and furnishings.
These are the numbers that truly matter. And another number that matters is ONE. When speaking in terms of millions and billions, it can be easy to forget that EACH animal is an individual being who feels fear, pain, loss, terror and who COULD feel happiness, comfort, belonging, safety and love if given a chance to live his or her life. EACH animal has his or her ONE life, ONE chance at that life, just as EACH of us has our ONE life. How can that life be discounted for merely a few bites of food or a pair of shoes?
So on my 3rd year anniversary of being vegan, I don’t want to celebrate me or my “accomplishments.” I don’t want to look back and ask what veganism has done for me. I want to celebrate the animals, compassion, love and life and ask what have I done for veganism, what have I done for the animals, and what more can I do? Because it’s NOT about me. It’s about the animals.
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.