I love being vegan. Being vegan makes me happy for reasons that are hard to explain. It almost feels as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. A weight has been lifted....I no longer have to carry around the guilt that comes with eating the flesh and secretions of another being. My body feels free, healthy and alive. And in fact it is more alive, being nourished by healthy plant based foods and not nourished by suffering and death.
But, being vegan means more than just dietary changes. Veganism is an entire lifestyle of rejecting anything that creates suffering to another being. It is a lifestyle of compassion. It is a lifestyle that has changed my life.
Being vegan has really brought me to a higher level of consciousness. I've suspected for quite sometime that being vegan has changed me in some way, but it was never quite evident what that way was until recently. My first "a-ha" moment was earlier this year during Kentucky Derby time. The Derby has always been an event that I have loved (not so much for the racing, but simply for the fact that it indicates the start of summer around here), and like so many others around here I loved checking out the racing form and placing my bet. Even last year, at the start of my shift to veganism, I still placed a bet on the race. This year things were different. I had absolutely no interest in the Derby, and was even able to turn down an invitation to attend the race the day before and spend time with some out of town friends. It just didn't feel right anymore. Exploiting those animals for my entertainment just felt fundamentally wrong. Granted, those horses are often treated phenomenally well, they are worth millions after all, it wasn't mistreatment that turned me off. It was the sheer fact that they were being exploited. I am sure many human beings that are exploited are treated well, but that doesn't make human exploitation right, any more than it makes animal exploitation right. My days of a Louisvillian living for Derby are over.
The Derby episode was one of the first major shifts in consciousness that I became aware of. But, what really solidified the shift was this weeks visit to the zoo. It started with an uneasy feeling that something just wasn't quite right about going to the zoo, but I convinced myself that it was fine. The kids love it, the animals are treated well, they are safe from predators and what not, and it is after all, educational. It didn't take long to realize that all of the convincing I had done was based on a lie. My first glimpse of an animal in cage brought heartbreak. I felt a piece of myself sitting behind that glass, longing to be free, longing to succumb to my instincts. I couldn't bear to look at the orangutans or the gorillas without nearly feeling sick. Why do we as humans feel that we are the superior species? What has conditioned us to believe that it is ok to imprison innocent animals so that we can drag our kids around to look at them? Why doesn't this seem wrong to anyone else???
Needless to say, I will not be renewing my zoo membership this year.