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I’m going vegan!… say what?

No one is more shocked than I am. Eating meat and dairy has always been a part of the way life is here in South Africa as I’m sure it is in many other countries. I have only ever met one vegan before this and I thought he was crazy to be so restrictive with his food. I have met a few vegetarians over the years and always thought, that’s awesome, but I like the way cows taste too much to stop eating them. I will also admit that I love cheese! I stopped buying it because I would eat it with every meal if I could and even as an in-between snack. Let’s just say if I was forced to eat only one type of food for the rest of my life, I would have chosen pizza. I won’t even get started on cream.

So, what brought about this admittedly very radical change? Well, one night I came home from Bible study with some raisin bran muffins sprinkled with cheese for my honey bunch and he refused them and made me watch a documentary called “What the health?”. This is where it started. I was very skeptical and thought, none of that can be true for in South Africa right?

I really thought about this a lot and researched veganism and especially the claims about milk being full of hormones. After many documentaries, blog posts, Youtube videos, scientific reports I did some introspection to see what it is that I care about and what I feel is right or wrong. I got confirmation from my Mom in law about farming practices (she is a dairy scientist and still an omnivore). She and my Dad in law were in Cape Town for a visit and they were shocked by our decision too :p In the end, I decided to become vegan for these three reasons and in this order:

The environment

It’s clear that the earth is in trouble. I had no idea that farming animals on such a huge scale is a problem, I never even thought about it before. From gases (yes, I laughed too, but cow farts are causing a huge amount of bad gas that is contributing to global warming. Apparently methane gas was more serious than I realised), to the waste produced, to running out of land to farm on and cutting down the rain forests for farmland to try and solve that issue.

I don’t think that my husband and I suddenly making this change is going to fix the problem. Not at all, but more and more people are becoming vegan, vegetarian or cutting down on their meat intake. Hopefully one day we will all make a difference together. The earth is precious, and even if we won’t see all of the catastrophic results in our lifetime, we should be leaving behind a better earth (and a better world) for our children.

My health

I used to be terrified of getting breast cancer. The fear over the years has lessened quite a bit because I knew that I was living healthily enough not to push up my risk too badly. My Gran and her sister both had breast cancer. I believe they were both in their sixties at the time, and I know that my Gran overcame it. She had the cancerous lump removed. I’m not sure what her sister passed away from, I’m not sure if it was cancer.

I was too scared to take the pill. I constantly checked my breasts. I made sure that I didn’t drink too much alcohol or pick up too much weight. It was once so serious (and silly, Dr. Google isn’t always the best place for medical diagnosis) that I phoned my Ouma in tears telling her that I didn’t want to worry my Mom, but I have breast cancer.

I explained about my (TMI is about to be mentioned, skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read further) one inverted nipple. She then said, “But you’ve always had it, that’s just the way your body is. Don’t you think you would have picked up on any serious issues years ago already if it was cancerous”? I also happened to be 21 years old at the time.

I have calmed down. A lot. I exercise, I eat healthily most of the time, examine my boobs once a month, and try to stay within the recommended alcohol intake range. Finding out that milk puts people at risk for reproductive cancers scared me all over again! Not the same fear as before, but I definitely thought I could do with cutting down drastically.

I also have a bit of a struggle with my cholesterol levels staying within the healthy range. This was even though I tried to cut out trans fat (mostly from baked goods and margarine) and eat saturated fat (from animal products) in moderation and by that I mean mostly cheese and cream. Whenever I went on a bit of a binge for a few weeks and just ate all the not so healthy things that I wanted, all the good things that I ate too were never enough to counteract it. My cholesterol would be high.

In the end, I figured, well, might as well make a good proper go of it. I still think the problem is that people eat too much of those things and not that the problem is eating animal products period. A few meat free days would really help in my opinion. But given the environmental impact, going all out was the right thing for me. I do believe that my health will really benefit from the vegan diet too. Time will tell.

Cruelty towards animals and disgusting farming and butchering practices

I always joked and said I don’t care about chickens because I got chased by one when I was about 7 years old and it was really scary. But truthfully I never liked the idea that we raise animals just to kill and eat them and make other products from what was left, even the chickens. But it is the way things are. Also, when you shop in the meat section you see fillets and strips, etc. You don’t see pigs, chickens, sheep or cows. It’s easy to ignore that beef was once a cow and pork was once a pig. Sometimes you see a carcass, but I would turn away and would never buy them (partly due to laziness as well).

I never bought the whole fish and I didn’t like prawns when their heads were still attached. Crayfish are cooked alive and that is just plain cruel, plus they look scary. So I never ever ate them. One thing is for sure though even before becoming vegan, if I ever ended up in Survivor or something I would go vegetarian, I can’t kill animals and I am completely against hunting unless it’s for food. I also can’t watch anyone else doing it no matter how humane. The reality of it all is really sad.

The way animals are farmed is often disgusting. The cost of meat, eggs, and milk from animals who are allowed to roam free in pastures are expensive and not as widely available. For those of us who can’t afford or find the free range animal products, our meat and dairy come from farms where there is barely room to move, where the animals live in dirty conditions and often get sick and develop sores and the like.

It’s not only cruel but gross too. The other animals often see the others getting killed while they wait in line and they get scared. It seems to me that these animals do understand what is happening around them. Is it possible that they don’t like their living conditions? I used to think that perhaps they just don’t know any better, but we know better don’t we? If the killing and farming practices could be more humane that would be a good start at least.

I was also disgusted to see all the puss and sores that the butchers often don’t care about and horrified to find out that the way they butcher the animals is so negligent and rushed that the meat is often full of fecal matter. Yip. Poop. Lovely. The cows’ udders looked really sore and milk also contains puss.

Now, I don’t know how bad it is really, because it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth, and while I believe that many farms are probably like this, there are some that are probably not like this. So while we finished off our meat and dairy products I clung to the hope that ours came from farms that were better than this and that our meat was poop and puss free.

So…

If you read this far, thanks 🙂 I usually never let my posts get this long because I can go on and on about things forever. But this post just turned into one of those. Also, from all the research I have done over the last two weeks or so I have found that there are a lot of vegan haters out there. I’ll do my best not to become an annoying vegan. I am still a chegan (a vegan who cheats deliberately) because I have some leftover fish oil and cholesterol-lowering supplement soft gel tablets that I need to finish over the next few months.

Getting to grips with milk alternatives has been an experience too I tell you, but overall I think we’re doing okay.  There are a surprising number of restaurants nowadays that are vegan-friendly and you can make it work at some of the places that aren’t. A few slips here and there. Oops, there was an egg in that? Pesto has cheese in it! Crappa-doodles! But we’re learning as we go.

Have any of you become vegan? Any tips for a newbie like me?

 

 

 

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