Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Welcome to My Journey!

Hi and welcome.

I'll start with a short introduction; I'm a graduate student at the CUNY Graduate Center, researching animal studies in the Liberal Studies Department. I've been a solid vegetarian for the past two years or so, eating eggs and dairy, but no forms of meat/flesh or fish of any kind. This semester I'm taking a class titled "The Animal Estate," which I thought would be right down my alley in terms of animal studies. I was always originally interested in 19th Century Women Writers (Eliot, Austen, the Brontes, Sand, etc.) in my studies, but drawn to animals in life outside academia (I worked at a boarding facility for 2 years or so), until via my mentor I found this niche. As soon as I discovered that such a topic existed in academia, I jumped right in and am neck deep in amazing discourses on animal ethics. For this class, our first read was Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation." For those of you who have not read his work, it's really a must-read. Though it's a bit dated, it's poignant like no other. Singer has an amazing capacity to distance himself emotionally from his work and display the plight of animals in our society in a fashion that is not dogmatic and is easily palatable by even, I believe, the harshest critics of the Animal Rights Movement. Singer uses the ability to suffer/feel pain as a foundation for the ethical framework which he uses to build his argument surrounding the moral status of animals. Interestingly, for me, last semester while I was an Undergraduate at Hunter college, I wrote a paper for a Medical Ethics class on the same premise, never having read Singer before, so his argument rang true and deep with me.

Singer goes on to demonstrate absolutely horrendous truths regarding laboratory animals in the U.S. The brilliant aspect of Singer's argument is that he uses information from the published journals of the scientists doing the studies. None of his examples include his own first-hand, biased accounts. I don't want to get into a nuanced explanation of his argument, you can read it for yourself, but needless to say, already having been on the animal rights end of the spectrum and generally conscious of what I buy, what I wear, where my money goes, who I support, and, of course, what I eat, my entire world view shifted just a little bit more. When my boyfriend wanted to put Boric Acid down to take care of our roach problem, and I researched it (we have two dogs and I was worried about the possible harmful effects of it laying around the house), I found links to a Federal web page that described, in detail, the effects of Boric Acid on laboratory animals in tests. I, personally, have an issue buying a product that is only now on the market after scientists tortured (hundreds? thousands?) animals to "ensure" the "safety" of the human population.

Moving away from that, Singer also went on to describe the conditions of factory farms and the lives of the animals condemned to that fate. Again, his sources were solely the magazines and journals of the factory farming community, those one would imagine would be quite generous towards the conditions. Again, the harm done to sentient, social beings is difficult to comprehend. Singer outlined the lives of chickens in battery cages raised for their meat and their eggs, dairy cows being used for utmost milk production, pigs in pens too small to move around in, anemic calves raised for veal, and the luckiest of the bunch, steer cattle raised for beef. Each one has it's horrific points, and I'm not sure that it's my place here to innumerate them, again, please read his book. I will say, however, that he convinced me sufficiently enough to want to make an even more drastic change in my life and move from vegetarianism towards veganism.

And so I finally come to the point of this blog and why I've decided to write publicly. Thinking back on my move to vegetarianism, I don't remember having much of a problem, the change wasn't too difficult, I've always loved cheese and I still had this great part of my palate. My current move towards veganism, however, is a quite different kind of change. Without dairy and eggs as a part of my diet, I really need to be more aware of what and how I eat. Though I've always been pretty aware, I do have a history of slacking on the veggies and fruits and opting for carbs; they taste good, they're easy to get, and they're familiar. Now I cannot do that. Now I am checking labels more than I ever have before. Contains milk or dairy? Sorry, not for me. The scope of what I can eat has drastically diminished, but it's also a kind of challenge. I've always been very fond of eating at home, it's much cheaper, I think the food tastes better, and though there are dishes and time spent cooking, it's satisfying. I've acquired a taste for soy milk, which I used to dislike, but Trader Joe's has Almond Milk, and even Quinoa Milk, which I'm interested in trying next time I stop by. I've also realized that I might very well consider eating eggs that are free-range or pasture-raised. I'm on the fence about simply cage-free. If I can find pasture-raised dairy cow-milk I would consider buying it, but I'm also lactose intolerant, and used to drink only Lactaid, and I doubt the small-scale farmers have the equipment to de-lactose their own milk. And like I said, I've grown accustomed to soy milk, so it's not so much of an issue. And really, when I really think about it, when I eat at home, my food intake is not so much of a problem. The true problem arises when I go out to eat. Will I be absolutely anal and scrutinize the ingredient list at a restaurant? Probably. Will I bombard the waiter with questions regarding the cooking of something in butter vs. oil? Maybe not. I think the point I'm trying to make, is that veganism and the ideology behind it should be something that does not create considerable distress in your life. I vow to try my utmost to eat cruelty-free. It does not mean that I won't slip up, and I don't expect myself not to. I think it will be a very bumpy journey as I figure out who I am as a vegan. I am still slowly fazing out dairy from my life. I am no longer buying any new dairy products, but have some cheese spreads leftover that I am slowly finishing so as not to throw them out (too wasteful for my tastes). So this is where I leave you tonight, my first night as a blogger and my first night as a public vegan: eat well, eat smart, eat consciously.

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