Ignorance Really is (Hershey’s) Bliss… And a Tall Glass of Milk

Damn you, Rolling Stone magazine for publishing an article that makes me question my life and decisions (to be fair, Salon.com also deserves partial blame for making me aware of the Rolling Stone piece).
After writing my first post about my Catholic/Feminist life balance, I was looking forward to getting started on the follow-up (AKA, the really juicy stuff). Then I read it. I don’t typically throw this term around lightly, but life-altering would be a pretty accurate description. The resulting cognitive dissonance that I’ve been trying to sort through over the last few hours make my Catholic/Feminist tightrope act look like absolutely nothing at all.
What could possibly turn my world instantly upside down like this? An expose detailing the animal cruelty involved in “Big Meat.” If you haven’t checked it out for yourself yet, I strongly encourage doing so. But be warned that even the article itself isn’t for the faint of heart. I cried while I read it and I didn’t have the stomach to view the videos (http://www.rollingstone.com/feature/belly-beast-meat-factory-farms-animal-activists).
This has led me to the uncomfortable realization that I cannot continue to live and eat as I have been. The new question I find myself asking is, “How much am I willing to change my behavior?”
It just so happened that after I read the Rolling Stone article, I found a link posted on Facebook by a former classmate regarding protein sources for vegan diets. I took it as a sign. When I thanked her for posting the link, she sent me some additional information, which I stayed up to read and start to digest (no pun intended).
My initial thought after reading the Rolling Stone piece was that maybe if I just bought animal products from local farms I would be okay. Then I saw a video showing the psychological trauma that a cow suffered while waiting to be slaughtered- and let’s face it, even pasture-raised cows eventually have to be slaughtered in order for me to enjoy my occasional cheeseburger.
But humans have been eating animals and animal products for thousands of years. Even Native Americans, with their deep spiritual connection to nature, hunted and consumed animals. And if the issue was raising an animal for the sole purpose of slaughter, what about animals that are still hunted in their natural environment? Would wild caught fish or venison be acceptable?
Of course the other consideration is my own relatively picky palate. Can I learn to like tofu, or even beans? And how in the world am I going to give up dairy? There are plenty of foods I could give up without too much difficulty- red meat, eggs, even wheat/gluten. But I drink two things- water and milk. I’ve been out of milk and had cravings so bad that when I finally buy some, I drink a full quart in one sitting. Not to mention that my two ultimate comfort foods are macaroni and cheese and chicken-flavored ramen noodles. No milk, no comfort foods, what am I thinking?
If this wasn’t enough, I read a fantastically cheery piece on Salon.com today discussing climate change. Besides the obvious stand against animal cruelty, vegan diets also have a smaller carbon footprint, making it healthier for the planet. Dammit, why does doing something good for the planet and all of those cute animals have to be so hard?
I’m still not entirely sure if I’m going to transition to a vegan diet. I am lucky to live alone, so I have full control over my own diet. I also know that my family would most likely attempt to be supportive if I was visiting. But, let’s face it, I’m in therapy for a reason. I have issues to work through, and food plays into a lot of those issues, which makes any sort of extreme change in eating very difficult. Fortunately, there are a plethora of books available now on the subject of vegan cooking, and as I sit here in Barnes & Noble waiting out a snow storm, I picked out a few books to get me started.

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