Every year at about this time the words, or at least the words I know, of a certain song run through my mind.
“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done, another year over and a new one” something something.
And so this is Christmas. Well it was yesterday. And what have I done with the past year? I broke my ankle and I am still waiting for it to get completely back to normal. There is still some swelling and discomfort however slight so it isn’t 100 percent back to what it was before I broke it but I am hoping time will fix that.
2009 will always be, for me, “The year I broke my ankle” but there has been another change recently or I think there has.
A few days ago I saw a television programme where an animal rescue group went to try and save some foals who were victims of the racing industry. I discovered they breed racing mares then take the foals away to be raised by ordinary mares. They breed the ordinary mares so they will have milk to feed the thoroughbred foals and then the offspring of the nursing mares are shipped off to be slaughtered.
Soon after that graphic image entered my mind an email was sent around at work pointing people to a website offering vegetarian products and I went to the website and browsed around its links.
Turns out the same thing happens with cows only they are not bred to get milk for some other cows offspring. They are bred to get milk for us. They are bred two or three times a year to keep them lactating and their newborn infants are snatched away from them and packed into trucks, often without food or water, and shipped off to be slaughtered.
There was more. Pigs kept in cages with no room to move just like battery hens and all the torture various animals go through before they land on our dinner plates.
For an idea of the cruelty involved in food farming click the video below but be warned. The contents are incredibly distressing.
It was more than I could bear. It wasn’t the first time I have been confronted with this sort of information and nor was it the first time I have considered giving up meat but this is the first time I have actually decided to try becoming a vegetarian.
I’ve always thought I was born to be one. My mother used to say it was a waste of money buying meat for me because I wouldn’t eat it and I didn’t like it.
I still remember the trauma of Mum trying to make me eat steak and kidney pie when I was young. The taste and texture of the kidney pieces kept making me dry retch every time I bit into them but Mum kept trying to make me swallow them until my grandmother, the person who had cooked the pie, told her it was OK for me to leave the kidney pieces on my plate.
Over the years I learned to like the taste of sausages and mince meat dishes but it was my ex who completed my conversion to meat eating. He liked meat and three veg meals and he was not content with just mince and sausages so I learned to accept the taste of steak provided it was well done.
To this day, however, I don’t like most meat. I don’t like wings, drumsticks, parsons nose or the skin of chickens for instance. I don’t eat the fatty part of any meat, not even bacon, or meat that is attached to bone and even the thought of kidney, liver, brains, tripe etc makes me want to vomit.
For years I have eaten meat and cooked it for myself or my family but, for every one of those years, the smell of meat cooking has made me feel sick. I really do believe I am just a vegetarian who has been trained to eat meat.
I have considered giving up meat a million times in the past but it always seemed to be too hard. I am lazy and living on vegetables requires a certain amount of effort in terms of shopping and cooking or preparing them. I’ve always said I’d happily give up meat if only I had a personal chef to do the shopping and then do all the peeling, chopping, cooking and then clean up afterwards.
This time I had a website filled with no cruelty products and it reminded me of all the vegetarian items that have made their way onto the supermarket shelves these days and I thought becoming vegetarian might actually be possible for me now.
I made a decision to give it a try but I didn’t put any pressure on myself to succeed.
Take away food is a major part of my diet and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stop buying burgers and chicken. I didn’t even include fish, eggs or dairy in my resolve as I do love cheese and seafood is the only animal flesh I actually do like.
The day after I decided to try being a vegetarian I went to the fridge. I was hungry and had decided to have a cheese and tomato sandwich but, as I reached for the butter and cheese, the face of a calf appeared in my imagination. I thought of all the newborn calves who suffer and die so their mothers milk can be stolen from them and turned into the butter and cheese I was looking at.
I couldn’t do it. I left the butter and cheese in the fridge for my kids to eat and I had a tomato sandwich with no butter instead.
It has been a few days since I decided to try becoming a vegetarian and my inclination to give up eating meat altogether has always faded away after a few hours before but not this time.
I’m still unsure if it will be a permanent change and, if it is, how much of a vegetarian I will end up being. I have eaten milk products over the past few days despite that first reaction to them but not milk or cheese. Ice cream and chocolate could prove a little harder to stop eating than milk or cheese I think.
I have also eaten seafood in spite of having read a lot of good reasons to quit eating that too.
I cooked meat yesterday for the kids for Christmas dinner but I didn’t eat any. I had some vegetarian sausages in gravy instead. I don’t know if the gravy had any milk or egg in it but I do know the veggie sausages were actually quite nice. Even the kids said they tasted all right!
The supermarket had some weight watchers butter which contained no milk or egg so I bought some and it actually tastes better than my usual margarine! I have also tried some vegetarian cheese which was quite nice too although it was softer and more like a cream cheese than the cheese I usually eat.
There have been some failures too. The vegetarian lunch meat roll I bought was nasty stuff. It was dry and strong tasting even after I smothered it in tomato sauce!
What really amazes me is just how many products for vegetarians the supermarket had on its shelves. It wasn’t that long ago you would not have found anything at all and now there are literally dozens of choices. It will make it so much easier to stay on this path if there are easily available meat substitute products in the supermarkets!
I bought some vegetarian “mince meat” so the next dish I am going to try is vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise hehehe
Will 2009 be “The year I became vegetarian”? I can’t say for certain but it sure looks likely. It isn’t a new years resolution kind of change though. I’m not having a big fight with myself to change my ways.
It is simply me giving in to my true nature. I’m convinced I was born to be vegetarian and society has finally changed enough to make it easy for me to become what I was always meant to be.
To all those vegetarians and vegans who have struggled to do the right thing by all the animals despite enormous pressure from society to be meat eaters I want to say thank you!
Your demands for cruelty free products have resulted in an increase in the supply of such products. That has made it possible for less committed individuals, like me, to come on board and now we can add to those demands.
In time, and together, we might be able to stamp out the worst of the cruelties. Even meat eaters don’t approve of the cruelty involved in meat production. I’m sure most of them would prefer to eat meat that has lived a life free of cruelty prior to coming to their dinner plates.
The vegan movement grew strong enough to bring me on board so there is still hope it will reach a point where even committed meat eaters will decide to help stamp out the worst practises of animal farming.
In the meantime – I would like to send a very heartfelt thank you to all vegetarians and vegans wherever you may be. I salute your strength and determination. If 2009 does turn out to be “The year I became a vegetarian” all credit for the change will belong to you for making society change enough to allow me to change!