When people find out I no longer eat animals or their secretions*, they often ask if I feel better. I usually respond with something like this: "I didn't really feel bad before, because I have a hearty pitta digestive system and no significant health issues — but my soul sure feels a lot better."
The Head-in-Sand Approach (AKA Living in Denial)
This might sound a little trite, but it's accurate. For years, my consumption of animals had steadily and quietly gnawed at me. I'd flirt with vegetarianism, pescatarianism, etc., but after a period of time, I'd always lapse into my old ways. I was so stubbornly fixed in the belief that animal-based foods enriched my life in a way that I just wasn't willing to give up. Cheese of all kinds, gooey pizza, Jeni's ice cream, a cold glass of 2% milk, and brownies were some of my greatest joys. And I was a huge fan of hotdogs, bacon, hamburgers, and "seafood" (a term that now makes me nauseous as it completely invalidates that they were living animals first).
My spurts of vegetarianism were short-lived, or when they lasted a little longer, they were accompanied by plenty of self-pity and feelings of deprivation. (Woe is me, right? I know, now I am playing a tiny violin for past me.) And even when I was able to give up meat for a while, the idea of giving up dairy was never a thought in my mind. If you had told me a year ago that I would soon be living joyfully without dairy, I would have probably laughed at you and joked about how awful dairy substitutes taste (psst, they don't — you just have to find the good ones).
On top of all that, as I discuss on my About page, I am over a decade into my own eating disorder recovery, and work with therapy clients in recovery from eating disorders. I know first-hand that vegetarianism/veganism is sometimes a thinly veiled excuse to restrict (or a slippery slope into disordered eating if a person is truly not healthy enough to discern and be honest about their motivation), which gave me one more reason to justify my continued consumption of animals.
Waking Up with Metta
Then one day about five months ago, I sat down to do a loving-kindness meditation practice on the Insight Timer app. I wish I could remember which exact recording I did that day, though it's not hugely relevant since most loving-kindness meditations are pretty similar. Toward the end of the practice when the instructor guides you to visualize sending compassion to ALL beings, I'm not sure why, but I thought about all the animals. I thought about all the cows I see often on the cattle ranch next to my office. I thought about the adolescent pig I had seen a few months back, running through a field joyfully. I thought about how that pig didn't deserve to be the bacon on my breakfast sandwich.
The next day, I went to the used bookstore and bought a handful of vegetarian cookbooks, and the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Shortly thereafter, I found the Our Hen House podcast and started binge-listening. I started watching documentaries with my husband (the ones I have listed on my Resources page). Though I had vaguely known before that factory farming was pretty awful, I conveniently ignored that when ordering at restaurants, or would try to buy more "humane meat" (oxymoron much?) when that was an option.**Read More