Tag Archives: childhood

Why I Stopped Eating Animals

The first eighteen years of my life, I was not a rebellious child. I had no curfew because I couldn’t stay up past 9:30 PM. I was allowed to be unsupervised with friends because my father had witnessed the tween drama that ensued when I accidentally sipped Mike’s Hard Lemonade and subsequently thought I was dying. I was permitted to hang out one-on-one with males because my best friend growing up was a boy and, when I had my first kiss as a senior in high school, I told my parents about it.

kids and toilet paper
Here I am in the height of my rebellion as a child.

I was the spitting image of a good Catholic school girl, except that I went to public school in my later years and also made far worse fashion choices.

But I rebelled when I went to college. I cut loose from the throngs of societal propaganda. I started making my own decisions. I still went to church. I didn’t drink or do drugs. I never pulled an all-nighter.

I rebelled in a weird and unorthodox way: I stopped eating meat.

Growing up, I gravitated toward animals, forever knowing that my career path would revolve around them. I pet stray cats and lured lost dogs onto our doorstep so we could find the owner. I threw back any fish I caught in the summer, smiling as it swam away. I saved earthworms from the sidewalk on rainy days while I waited at the bus stop. I cried when we boiled crabs on family vacation because I thought the bubbling was them screaming.

kid and pony
Though these photos suggest I was an accomplished cowgirl from a young age… they lie.

But like most children, it took me all of my childhood to understand the association between the meat on my plate and my barnyard friends.

It was my dad who inadvertently gave me an inkling that hamburgers were once a living being. He always checked to make sure his burger wasn’t pink or bloody. He wanted it well done.

Blood? I thought. Why would a hamburger be bloody?

highland cows
I wouldn’t leave Scotland until I tracked down Highland cows.

When I first began connecting the dots and voicing my disgust at the meat casserole on the dinner table, I was informed that I needed protein, and that my only option was to make my own non-meat protein-filled dinner.

I was a busy child, spending my evenings and weekends in sports, after-school clubs or piano lessons. I grew up when the Internet was coming into its own, before Google was the go-to encyclopedia. I didn’t have time to make my own meal (still not sure how Mom managed it in her schedule). I didn’t yet understand that every opinion should be warranted, educated and informed.

baby goat
This is Dash. I nursed him from a baby and watched him learn to walk and then run and head butt. He made me fall in love with goats.

While I have since debunked the meat industry myth that a big fat steak is required for proper nourishment, I probably would have stuck to tater tots and ice cream if I had to make my own dinner growing up. So instead I hid pieces of hamburger pie in my napkin and naively continued eating chicken without batting an eyelash because birds are not mammals so surely there is something different going on there. Surely.

Red meat was easy to cut out because I related it so easily to animals. I became nauseous when bacon fumes wafted under my nose as I couldn’t help picturing a pig’s face. (Pigs are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.) Soon I began to recognize that chickens have feelings, too.

Then I read Temple Grandin’s Animal Behavior by candlelight lying in a monkey-poo-stained hammock in a bamboo hut while saving animals in the Amazon. And I knew I had to do this commitment thing for real.

amazon bird
I spent a summer living and working in primitive conditions at a wildlife rescue center in Ecuador.

Initially, I was a pescatarian, informed only about the inhumane treatment of the meat industry. I committed to eating meat only if I killed the animal myself. I couldn’t. I can’t. So I don’t.

When I took a marine biology class and learned that overfishing is the number one problem plaguing the oceans, I stopped consuming commercial seafood cold turkey. I said I would only eat marine life if I sustainably caught and cleaned the fish myself.

And then I couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t look a fish in the eye and say, “I need to eat you. I need you to survive.”

deer fawns
I also spent 6 months in the Texas Hill Country working in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, aka being a deer mommy and revisiting the wannabe-cowgirl phase of my youth.

I do realize that, yes, it is a privilege to be able to choose not to eat animals. And I do realize that, yes, some animals are overpopulated or invasive, and hunting them is considered a part of population control.

But until I am put in a situation in which my survival depends upon eating another living, breathing being, I am dedicated to this decision, my conscientious choice, to not eat animals.

So when you poke fun at me for not eating meat, when you wave a burger in my face and say it tastes sooo goooood, please know that I’m crying inside and secretly thanking that cow without a name who died for the pleasure of your taste buds.

_____________

Later, I cut dairy out of my diet originally to lessen the pain of post-Lyme disease that manifests itself as arthritis in my joints. Now, that decision also roots itself in morality and environmental reasonings. To read more about how changing my diet has helped me fight my battle with Lyme disease, click here.

Follow my blog to catch tomorrow’s sassy post on veganism that is sure to elicit oodles of controversy. Yay.

Advertisements

I’ll Be the Dandelion and You Can Call Me a Weed

“The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment.” –Unknown

When I was little, maybe 6 or 7, I used to ask my mom why certain flowers are called weeds.

Plucking dandelions from the lawn, I’d comment, “Aren’t weeds supposed to be ugly? Dandelions are pretty.”

My mom explained to me that a flower is called a weed when it isn’t wanted.

“People don’t want dandelions in their yard, so they’re called weeds.”

When a wildflower pops up among meticulously placed perennials in the garden bed, it’s an invader, unwelcomely disturbing precision. It is the harbinger of mischief in a petaled sea of peace. For where one weed grows, many will follow.

I spent a fair amount of time in the garden growing up, though not always digging up dirt to plant seeds. Sometimes I was looking for four-leaf clovers so my sisters and I could iron them pressed together between two squares of wax paper, preserving luck for generations. Sometimes I was building homes for earthworms and “potato” bugs, arranging pebbles and leaves as sofas and tables for the creepy crawlers of the earth.

My childhood was nurtured by nature, for it has been in the dirt and the grass and the trees and the weeds that I have learned some of life’s greatest lessons.

A small patch of flowers stood out to me on one of the mounds in my mother’s garden. I fell in love with the burgundy flower heads, rimmed with crimson quickly fading into vibrant yellow.

“One of many types of painted daisies,” my mother said. “A weed to some people but not everyone.”

I have seen painted daisies in various colors across dozens of landscapes, but I never came across that color pattern again. Until two years ago when I traipsed through a garbage dump in the Bahamas.

Rummaging through rubbish heaps is a regular pastime on Long Island, Bahamas, where one man’s trash really does become another man’s treasure. On a particularly blistering day, I found myself hopscotching over upturned car doors and broken mirrors heading toward a patch of grass by the dirt road. Empty glass bottles were pinched in my grasp, teetering on the brink of disaster as I scurried to add them to my growing collection in the truck bed.

As my ankles straddled a sullied plank, I looked down at the ground to plan my last jump toward freedom. There at the base of my right foot was a painted daisy, growing tall and wild and proud, echoing the colors I remembered so clearly from two decades ago.

A weed, I thought, that by any other name would smell so sweet.

There among forgotten and discarded man-made possessions grew a tenacious little flower, its wiry spirit disparaging the rolling piles of waste. An invader claiming back the land where once fields of its kind–wildflowers, weeds–likely thrived.

A protester, dreamer, leader, fighter, nonconformist.

Steadfast, virtuous, invincible.

Like the dandelion.

A weed.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” –William Shakespeare