My Current Relationship with Veganism
Hi! I’m Holly, the new outreach and editorial intern at Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Being connected to CAS is a gift that I will hold close to my heart and cherish for years to come. When, on my first day, I pulled up to the sanctuary to meet my new colleagues and the first creature in sight was a jolly goat meandering around the icy lot, I knew I was in the right place. I’ve loved animals my whole life and CAS was the perfect place to translate that love into meaningful work that will change the plight of farm animals.
When I learned that the mission of this sanctuary was not only to rescue abused and neglected farm animals, but also, to educate the public on how to make compassionate choices, I naturally started to reflect on my own habits and lifestyle. I made the decision to give up meat the day after Thanksgiving of 2013 in reaction to a pamphlet handed to me at school. The pamphlet was filled with heartbreaking pictures of chickens’ beaks being cut, a pile of baby pigs, and just-born calves being torn away from their mothers. By the time I closed the booklet, I had a complete change of heart and knew I wanted to stop supporting this torture. Well, at this time, Thanksgiving was right around the corner and none of my immediate family was vegetarian — meaning, the turkey was already bought. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t eaten turkey that Thanksgiving, but I’m happy with where I’m at now. I have not touched any meat since that day and finally let my morals guide in making choices.
I remember, in the months following my decision, my dad was preaching about protein and I found it funny because when I went vegetarian, my diet was almost identical to what it was when I was an omnivore. Neither I, nor my family, had ever been heavy meat-eaters so it didn’t feel like such a big transition. The most significant changes were related to my ethics and identity, which helped to achieve some inner peace … for a while anyway.
PETA posted a video on Facebook of a calf being separated from his mother to be sold for veal right after birth. I apprehensively hit play and my heart broke all over again. This was a symptom of the dairy industry. Before then, I didn’t make the connection between the dairy and veal industries (male cows born on dairy farms are sold into the veal industry) or consider how cows were forced into a constant cycle of pregnancy and birth in order to produce milk. It’s difficult to convey the sorrowful and panicked cries that sprang from the mother, but I can say that they were more than enough motivation to consider a vegan lifestyle.
Since this shift in thought and awareness, I have begun to phase out eggs and dairy. Interestingly, my decreased intake of dairy has also been accompanied by less phlegm, an issue I had been dealing with for a long time, and I realized that I probably had overlooked a dairy sensitivity all of these years. I’m happy to say that I feel a profound improvement in both body and mind since I started on the path toward veganism.
As comfortable as I am with my choices, I still hit little bumps in the road when it comes to family getting acclimated. My dad still mindlessly offers me cheese on a cracker at happy hour and tells me I have to try this, it’s delicious. Mind you, I understand the reaction of families could be much more adversarial than just forgetting that I don’t want to eat cheese. In fact, I’m really lucky. My boyfriend, a vegetarian who has also started to limit the amount of dairy in his diet, and my mom, who is almost a vegetarian and stays abreast on animal issues, have both been a nice support system. Luckily, my dad is completely aware and accustomed to my not eating meat. Dairy will just be another bridge to cross and another food he will have to remember I don’t eat.
I just always keep in mind that a change in lifestyle requires that not only I make adaptions, but that those I live with and spend the most time with adjust a bit as well. Not everyone will understand or agree, but at the end of the day, respect of my beliefs and choices is really all that I ask. And so far (fingers crossed), I haven’t had any issues with that. No one has tried to sway me from the path I’ve chosen. If they do, I will simply explain the cause for my decision and hope to change a few hearts in the process.
Here are some of my favorite websites and products since I started my journey to veganism.
Compassionate Cuisine (Catskill Animal Sanctuary)
I only learned of this blog recently but love the vast array of belly-warming recipes that Chef Linda offers, including recipes from her cooking classes taught in the teaching kitchen of The Homestead, the Sanctuary’s guest house.
This is a vegetarian and vegan food blog created by Jeanine of Austin,Texas. I discovered Love & Lemons after I stopped eating meat and was drawn in by the colorful photography and recipes for even the most discriminating epicurean.
This is an all vegan blog created by a married couple in Portland, Oregon who have created lots of fun comforting vegan recipes for every palate including vegan queso dip. You’re welcome!
Andrea Gliddon of Oh She Glows has her own vegan cookbook and has created recipes and tips on her blog for every occasion. I love her vegan bowl recipes—they’re easy and provide inspiration for my own creations.
Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast
This is my new favorite condiment. I have used it to make vegan cheez sauce, sprinkle on pasta, chili, and soups, and mix into salad dressing. It has a cheesy flavor reminiscent of crushed Cheez-its and it is addictive! What’s more is it provides super important B12 to anything you put it on.
This isn’t a specific brand. I buy raw organic cashews from Whole Foods. But you can buy any raw cashews and use them to make all sorts of creamy sauces by soaking them (if you don’t have a high-speed blender) and blending them with water and flavorings. I Google anything I want (mayo, sour cream, ranch dressing, lime sriracha crema, whatever) and insert the word “cashew” in front of it. I can always find a great recipe.
Amy’s Sonoma Veggie Burger
I like these because they taste great and are gluten, dairy, and soy free. Perfect for a quick dinner.
This is vegan sesame sprouted whole grain bread. It contains 4 grams of protein per slice and has a nice sesame flavor. I like to make avocado toast with this bread by toasting one slice, drizzling it with olive oil, mashing ¼ an avocado on the bread with a fork, squeezing a bit of lemon on top, and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Voila!
I like to be prepared for situations where I’ll be eating with other people and have an idea of what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it if questions about my diet do come up. This is a good guide from PETA, but there are many, many more online. The Compassionate Cuisine blog also offers help and support when eating out.