Health, Consciousness, & Reality

(photo credit)
Last night, Big Red and I watched the highly touted documentary, Vegucated. The filmmaker, Marisa Miller Wolfson, a vegan herself, follows three NYC omnivores as they attempt the vegan lifestyle for six weeks. They visit farms, animal sanctuaries, investigate what "free range" means, and shockingly, what it doesn't. They speak with the likes of Dr. Joel Fuhrman and T. Collin Campbell, as well as visit the vegan friendly retail store, Moo Shoes, to shop.

The film is compelling, as all in this genre are (Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., etc.). After watching clips of the horrors of slaughter house practices and the inhumane treatment of livestock, I always turn my DVD player off with a knot in my stomach and the renewed resolve to live a more conscious and healthy life - one that does not involve eating animal products. At the start of 2012, I actually went vegan for several months as a way to kick off a healthier way of eating and to lose some weight. The resulting effects of omitting animal products were wonderful. I felt lighter, less fatigued, more lucid and clean from the inside out. I was educated on the health benefits of such a way of eating, and came to realize I could get all the nutrition I needed from a plant-based, whole food way of life. There is some hard evidence out there that suggests when eating a properly balanced whole food/plant-based diet, heart disease and cancer rates significantly drop. Who wouldn't want those odds?

I was very successful and in fact lost 30 lbs. But I didn't keep up the vegan lifestyle. For one, Big Red likes meat. He was willing to go along with my food scheming ways, so long as there was an occasional meat-based dish. He likes cows milk and eggs. He likes cheese, and so do I. Very much. Cooking two meals isn't feasible, not on a regular basis, and since I'm the resident chef - by choice - these are daily considerations. These are not excuses, this is my/our reality. I don't think it's right to impose my way of thinking on Big Red, that isn't fair to him. Just because I've got a bee in my bonnet about the welfare of cows and chickens and pigs and fish, doesn't mean he should as well. He's a grown man and can make his own choices, but because I do the grocery shopping and the cooking, does that mean I make his food choices for him? I don't think it works like that, or at least, it wouldn't work well.

In our debriefing of the film last night, Big Red said that while the film was provocative, going vegan wasn't going to solve the atrocities being done to animals - we are just one or two people, how could that make an impact? Further, if there were a demand for more plant-based foods, something would go awry in the farming of those products and then there would be some crazy overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, and we'd have issues there as well. He's a little skeptical if you haven't picked up on that already.

But I still feel guilty. I feel bad that there's cheese and eggs in my fridge right now. I feel bad that some poor chicken was shoved into a teeny tiny metal crate and kept contained just for its eggs. If my decision to make vegan-like choices doesn't save all animals, at the very least it would ease my guilt. Not to mention the perks of the health benefits.

Is there some kind of balance possible? What if I cut down, once again, on the purchasing of animal products, and when I do buy them, I buy them from retailers like Wild Purveyors? It's a family owned business (like) that specializes is seasonal, locally sourced raw and specialty products. Their animals are locally raised in a pasture and humanely slaughtered (like). And all products are antibiotic, GMO, and rBST free (like).

If I can't choose not to be 100% vegan, then is this an acceptable alternative? At the very least, it's on the spectrum to moving in the right direction - or at the very least, a direction in which I'm comfortable living.

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