Some say food is love; food is happiness; food is nurture and comfort and security. My mom, a chef, is one such someone.
Me, not so much.
I like food. I’d even use the word love. I love an oozy, char-marked grilled cheese sandwich; I love creamy, swirling soft serve under a smattering of rainbow sprinkles; I love spicy lentils and sauteed chard atop a spread of tangy injera.
It’s tough to overestimate the importance of food. It fuels our bodies. It powers our minds. It serves as the very basis for human survival. Without food, we wouldn’t exist.
So food issues matter to me. I think one of the greatest tragedies of modern life is our complete disconnection from the origins of our edibles. We put stuff in our mouths and haven’t the slightest idea where it originated from — what happened to it along the way — hell, what it’s made of.
We’re a society that is obsessed with health and wellness, yet people put pink slime in their bodies. We’re a society that loves animals, yet we allow for their systematic abuse in factory farms. We’re a society that cares about the environment, yet animal agriculture create more greenhouse gas emissions than anything else.
There’s a collective values disconnect at work. And there used to be one at work within me, too.
I started foregoing meat at age 14. First, I gave up beef/lamb/pork. Next, I abandoned all things poultry. Later, I said so long to seafood. And finally, starting in January this year, I abandoned animal products altogether. I embraced the v word — veganism.
The only regret I have is, why did it take me so long?
Vegan is a term that elicits reactions across the spectrum. It’s a label, and a very specific one at that. Lots of people associate veganism with sanctimonious attitudes, extreme activism and, well, self-righteous rhetoric. I try not to associate with any of those things.
(If you’re not a vegan and you’ve made it this far in the article, I’m impressed. Stay with me.)
Personally, I dislike labels, and I’m not a fan of all-or-nothing attitudes of any kind. I only use the word vegan because it’s necessary — it’s the quickest, easiest way to let people know what I can and cannot eat.
For me, veganism is about one thing: ethics. Animals are sentient, complex beings with emotional lives as significant as our own. There is absolutely no justification (IMO), for torturing or killing them, particularly when we live in a first world country, where there are infinite options for what we can eat.
Pigs can be optimistic; cows experience extreme emotional distress when separated from their babies; chickens show signs of empathy. With all the science behind it, to suggest that farm animals don’t experience complex emotions is denial, plain and simple. Not to mention, what goes in our our country’s farming industry is so horrific, I won’t dare ruin your day by discussing it here (this is a happiness blog, after all(.
These are all the reasons why I choose to take the leap into veganism. And as it turns out, foregoing animal products is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. I always thought it would be SO HARD to give up eggs and cheese. It wasn’t. Like anything, the anticipation was more onerous than the actual transition.
Vegan products and meat substitutes are getting more sophisticated by the day. At this point, it’s hardly a sacrifice — almost any recipe can be re-created at home. And thanks to bio-hackers, we’re months away from reproducing meat and dairy down to the last molecule — without any need for animal involvement.
There’s no reason that I need to eat anything that had eyes or a brain or a beating heart.
So why am I delving into the origins of my vegan journey on a blog that’s all about happiness? Simple. Veganism has contributed to my happiness. Without a doubt.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
I think there’s some meat (pun intended) to that assertion. Talking about how much I loved animals, while simultaneously contributing to their demise, wasn’t exactly a harmonious way of life.
There are other benefits stemming from veganism that also contribute to happiness, of course. Lower risk of chronic disease, no consumption of hormones or antibiotics via meat, more energy, etc. etc. #justsaying
Really though, this post isn’t meant to impose my ethical norms on anyone else. Instead, it’s a reminder for you to follow YOUR values. The ethical compass points in different directions for every human, and all that counts is that we stay true to the deepest truths of our own hearts. I would argue that doing so is a huge part of happiness. Staying silent, following the crowd or behaving in ways that violate your personal beliefs, on the other hand, is a recipe for discontent.
So that, my friends, is how veganism helped me get happier. (Oh, and I have some killer recipes to share, should you be interested.) 😉