I’m always delighted to receive guest blogs here on an aspect of veganism. Today, Satya Robyn, below, writes on her shift from lacto-vegetarianism to veganism.
Despite being vegatarian since I was 13, I avoided becoming vegan for more than 25 years because I love food. Eating well has always been an important part of my life, and I just couldn’t bear the idea of feeling denied a full range of delicious meals (and I’ve got quite a sweet tooth as well!).
Myself and my husband went on a trip to rural France where they didn’t really ‘do’ vegetarianism. After a solid week of cheese we came home and felt our bodies might appreciate having a week off dairy. I’d often noticed in the past that lots of dairy made me feel mucousy, and as the week went on I did feel lighter.
As the days ticked on I started to realise something that shocked me. I was still enjoying my food, and not less, but more. This was partly the new effort we put in to trying new recipes, and maybe partly that my body was relieved to have a break. The biggest thing, though, was that I wasn’t having to repress the guilt I’d felt about eating dairy. I felt more ‘clean’ and was more fully able to enjoy the deliciousness of what I was eating.
As time went on I started reading up on how to do veganism – where would I shop? What would I cook? How would I eat out? What would I do when I went round to friends’ houses? What would I tell my parents? All of these difficulties dissolved one by one as it became more ‘normal’ to eat the things I was eating.
It was only then that I could watch those horror videos of suffering animals from a perspective of no longer personally contributing to their pain. I felt terrible regret at leaving my leap-to-veganism for so many years, and for no ‘good’ reason, now I could see from the other side how easy it had been.
But that’s how it is for all of us. And I’m still contributing to suffering in a myriad of ways. There are no simple ‘black and whites’ when it comes to ethics. I still use matches which contain animal products*, and sit on a secondhand leather sofa. I contribute to airmiles and kill worms when I garden.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t move as far as we can in the direction of love. For some people this might be having a day off meat a week. This is great! We start from where we are, and guilting people into changing just doesn’t work. My advice to vegans would be to keep enjoying your food and your life, set a great example, and don’t rub people’s face into their guilt when they’re not ready to look at it. You’ll put them off and maybe even give veganism a bad name. These things take time! Be encouraging, be positive, and trust that we’re moving in the right direction.
I am now a very happy vegan. I enjoy all kinds of foods and sometimes eat healthily and sometimes not. My body feels happy. I wish you the same, however long it takes. Enjoy!
* aargh! I didn’t know that [Ed.]
Satya Robyn is a Buddhist Priest, psychotherapist, writer & artist. She runs a Buddhist temple in Malvern with her husband Kaspa.