As published in Eternity Watch Magazine Winter 2017 edition
It’s always best to start at the beginning. I was raised in rural Ontario in farm country. I remember days in the hot sun helping my uncle bring in hay on his dairy farm. I remember eating so many roasts and steaks I was sick of them. I remember hide and seek in the corn fields, and flying home on my bike when the street lights came on. And I remember always feeling connected to nature and animals. I loved the wonder of fireflies, playing in the rain, hugging my pup, and climbing trees; but never once thinking that farm animals weren’t somehow just food.
I haven’t had much in the way of epiphanies in my life. I’ve always kind of joked that I’ve been a jack-of-all-trades in my career. I can’t remember the exact day I decided I was a Christian. I’m not sure exactly how I ended up deciding to move to Newmarket last year. I don’t know when I stopped trusting the government. I seem to ease into things gradually and then suddenly realize I’m there. But I have always had passion, loyalty and tenacity. And my two biggest passions seem to be at odds. I love people: babies, grumpy old men, the underdog, a good hug; I can see something good in everyone. And I love nature: rainstorms, fresh cut grass, the ocean, a starry sky, the first snowflake; just listing these things lowers my heart rate. So, how did I end up with this observation that they are at odds?
Things really started to shift in my life about ten years ago (note the slow progress as per my lack of epiphanies noted above). I started researching vegetarian and vegan eating because of my daughter’s interest in the health benefits. I do remember a few key changes from this research over the period of a few years. The first was I started buying meat from local farmers after I read ‘Eating Animals’ by Johnathan Safran Foer. I liked his approach because it was factual. He wasn’t emotional, or radical, or in-your-face – just some hard truth. I wanted my meat to be ‘happy’. The second change was I switched to organic produce wherever possible due to the lack of nutrients and toxins in most produce. And the third change was that I stopped eating dairy after watching the film Forks Over Knives. It left me quite certain we could do without dairy in our house. I still feel shocked that I could have been so ignorant to the fact that cows had to be kept constantly pregnant to produce milk. How could I not have known that? And how would I like to be kept constantly pregnant? (Okay, maybe a little epiphany here.)
Now the story goes a bit upside-down. I started a business with a vegan, botanical skincare company, Arbonne International, four years ago. Admittedly I didn’t know what vegan skincare was. Again, my blissful ignorance was shattered when I learned about animal rendering products used in skincare, and petroleum products, and a host of other toxic ingredients. So now I had my skincare covered, I was eating mostly organic produce, and I had my ‘happy’ meat. There was no thought to remove meat from my diet. Animal by-products used in skincare were unregulated, but my meat was healthy, so I was good.
I wanted to be a good ambassador for Arbonne because of our health and wellness focus, so I started back to a gym, and I took a 30 Day Challenge with the company using vegan supplements and a clean eating meal plan. It was very successful, so I followed it a few more times. I even did one month on the challenge with the vegan meal plan option as a challenge from a vegan friend. I quite enjoyed the food, and probably only had a few small cheats in the month. I remember thinking, ‘I could eat like this once or twice a week. It’s pretty tasty and probably good for me, but how could anyone give up the taste of meat?’
January 29, 2016 (take note this could be an epiphanic date) something encouraged me to attend a local vegan potluck and movie event (AARA). I was met by friendly people, and such delicious food! The atmosphere was one of education, not shame. It was delightful. I knew I would attend again, happy to keep on this path of learning. Then we sat down to watch Cowspiracy. I thought this would just be more information on the questionable health benefits of dairy; a little refresher for me. What happened over the next hour left me feeling like the air was sucked out of my chest. I heard that it takes 660 gallons of water to make one ¼ pound hamburger and our fresh water supply is in such jeopardy we will feel the effects within twenty years. And if the world grain production used to feed livestock was fed to people it would solve world hunger. And more, like greenhouse gas, eroding soil, fish decline and pollution in the oceans… all from a meat diet. My poor earth was in trouble. My people were doing it. And worse, no one was talking about it.
I announced to my household upon arrival home that afternoon that I was now a vegan. I still want to cry. I still feel ashamed. I lived most of my life with my head in the sand. The oceans, the sky, and the soil are all being poisoned because of what we eat. I can recycle, and not water my lawn, and drive an energy efficient car, but if I want to bring harmony to the people and the planet I must model the best way to reverse these detrimental effects. I will not eat meat. I will do my best to educate. My facts may not be unerring, but my heart is.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy