vegetarianism, writing

Being gray: thoughts on veganism

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost three years. If you’d known me even five years ago, my sudden dietary change would most likely confuse you. it’s not that I was ever a meat lover, quite the opposite. I used to have a very narrow diet. I was fearful of meat and only ate very specific kind (mostly minced or chicken). I didn’t like vegetables and ate very few fruits. I never really liked food. I had a very neurotic relationship with food and a very unhealthy relationship with eating. Although I never liked most foods, I always had trouble with eating. My relationship with eating was a roller-coaster of bingeing and starvation, which reflected on my weight that would go up, up and then little down and up again.

In early 2014 I suddenly stopped eating meat, and by meat I mean all meat; red meat, chicken, and fish. It was a choice that I had been wanting to make for years. I didn’t want to contribute to the meat industry or over fishing, I wanted my food choices to reflect my ethical and philosophical beliefs. But until 2014 I had not been able to do so. Because I was afraid, I was afraid of narrowing my diet further and I was even more afraid of failure. If I decided to become a vegetarian then that would mean there’d be more rules to my eating and if I failed to follow those rules, I’d be a failure. Eating was already a very guilt ridden activity for me, I was afraid to give myself more ways in which I could fail with food.

Why were things suddenly different in 2014 then? Well, it actually wasn’t a sudden change at all, even if the cutting out meat happened with one single decision. The time was ripe because of combination of things. In the past few years I had started to eat better and a bigger variety of foods (thanks to some new friends who liked to cook with me and introduced me to a whole new world of delicious foods). I had begun a journey to body positivity and started healing from my unhealthy, guilt-ridden relationship with food and my body. I lived on my own for the first time and that meant I had my very own kitchen and more time & space to experiment with food. I was in a safe and secure place to begun my new, meatless journey. Being a vegetarian has really helped me further heal from my food neuroses and eating habits. It has made me more body positive, healthier and overall a happier person.

Well, if vegetarianism has had such a positive impact on my life, why haven’t I gone fully vegan?! Dairy and egg industries are just as cruel to the animals and damaging to the environment as the meat industry. How do I justify my non-veganism when I know this, and claim to not to eat meat because of these exact reasons? The answer is simple, because I’m flawed. Just like all humans are. I still have my issues with eating and food, and I don’t think I will ever get completely rid of them. I have anxiety and suffer from clinic depression, both which affect my eating habits too, and the capacity to always be able to make the ethical choice. I believe choosing what not to eat is a privilege. And I have privilege, of course, but I also have my baggage and just like everyone else, I am just trying to do the best I can.

But does the issue of cutting out animal products have to be a black and white issue? To me the issue is a spectrum, not black and white but with gray areas in between. Veganism is at the one end of that spectrum. It is definitely achievable and attainable to a lot of people, but not necessarily for all. And I don’t believe that just because someone feels like they cannot, for whatever reason, achieve veganism, that they should not try to make the small changes they can. The truth is, every change counts, every effort contributes a little less towards the suffering of animals and our planet. Furthermore, I believe that although veganism is a great form of activism, there also needs to be overall structural changes within out societies and in our world if we ever want to live in a world where us humans, don’t collectively contribute towards the suffering of animals and the destruction of our planet.

The Vegan Society defines veganism as ”a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” I do believe in this philosophy and I haven’t got stuck into my comfortable vegetarianism. Every day I try to make the most ethical choice I can when it comes to my food and other consumer habits. Sometimes it’s easy, and when it’s not, I still am just doing my very best. At the moment I am not myself buying any animal products, even if I occasionally might consume them. Who knows, maybe one day I will be fully vegan. If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be a vegetarian, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s a journey, some are able to make that journey with one jump, and others, like me, take a little more time, but I’m on my way.

But for now, I’ll be gray.

– Satu

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