♪ If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. ♪ – Freewill (Rush)
Long before I became a vegetarian I decided to no longer wear silk. My friends would tease me, saying they’d make me a shirt that said “Save the Worms”, I thought it was a great slogan. 🙂 Because even though they were saying it to make fun of me, that is actually what my intention was, I didn’t like the idea of those little silk-worms having to die in order for me to wear silk. I was making a choice back then, but to those who made fun of me it looked like a sacrifice. I seemed weird, “save the worms, how ludicrous”.
Sometimes as vegetarians and vegans we seem so far from ‘normal’ that I think we scare the masses. I believe that if my ‘way of life’ seems hard, sacrificial, and possibly even zealot, then I will not change anyone’s mind. I believe that there is a time to mention the horrors that occur in our food industry, but sometimes the information is so disturbing that it seems “unbelievable” and “surely, that’s an anomaly”, that the masses find it easier to ignore me and my message.
So even though I am a vegetarian (now a vegan), I started for health reasons, I stayed for both health reasons and for ethical reasons, my ‘way of life’ was a path of choices not sacrifices. I was a very sickly child, I practically lived at the hospital, my life before college is mostly a haze, because I was usually medicated and felt like crap. I made the choice to go vegetarian, and I have never felt healthier. I haven’t had any of the ailments that plagued me in my youth, and the occasional cold or flu goes away quicker than before. For me, it’s an easy choice, meat made me feel like crap, vegetarian living makes me feel good. When I decided to make another choice and remove dairy and eggs from my diet as well, I lost 3 lbs without trying, and I had much more energy. There is no sacrifice. The choice is easy. The great thing about consciously making these choices is that I can feel good about them mentally as well.
It’s funny, vegetarianism and especially veganism seems like a limiting lifestyle to the masses, but really it is very liberating. I always thought I *hated* red apples, for some unknown reason I didn’t realize there were so many types of apples out there. But one day, early in my vegetarian transition days, I was in a Whole Foods and saw a huge variety of apples, so I went on a quest to taste every kind of apple I could find. I soon found out that I *love* cameo apples and my second favorite is braeburn, both ‘red’ apples. 🙂 It was a fun adventure. It has been much like this throughout my journey of vegetarianism/veganism. I *hated* beans, said the word like it was a curse word, but now I love beans and have them all the time. I *hated* soup, now I crave soup. I even crave broccoli! 🙂 Why the change? More variety, more flavor, I eat fresh or frozen produce and not canned, I eat less fat so now I can actually taste my food, on and on… just better eating.
I’m not ashamed to admit that the first time I cooked for my ‘taste-tester’ I was a horrible cook, I had made chicken and dumpling soup, which some how had no flavor whatsoever, the chicken actually tasted like water. But when I became vegetarian, I decided to not replace the meat with fake meat, but to actually learn to cook differently. (Except for the occasional Whole Foods general tso, I don’t eat fake meat.) I try to ‘eat a rainbow’… I make sure that there is lots of color in my meals, and the whole spectrum if possible, to ensure a greater variety of nutrients. You won’t find a plate of food full of browns and whites (meat and potatoes) in my house. I learned so much and we actually prefer my cooking to most restaurants! As you can see from my little blog here, I’m not afraid to try new recipes, cuisines, produce, etc., I love to experiment. I have been liberated, not limited. And now that I’m cooking seasonally, there is even more experimentation.
The way I see it, a ‘diet’ is something one looks at as a sacrifice for a short amount of time fully intending upon returning to the previous way of doing things. If you were to embark on life-choices the way you do a diet, then yes, your life would be full of sacrifices, heartache, and misery. But that is not the spirit of vegetarianism/veganism. The point of it all is to reduce and hopefully end the suffering of other living beings.
“Whoa, that’s a lot of pressure, I can’t make a difference, I’m only one person.” That’s not true! Statistics have shown that even eating only one vegetarian meal a week makes a significant impact. It’s easy to fall into thinking that way though, “How can I possibly remove every bit of everything that hurts other living beings?” You are missing the point, it’s not about sacrifice. It’s about drawing a line and making a choice. Making choices in life are usually very difficult, sometimes you are merely choosing the lesser evil.
For example, I am ready to make another choice… switching beauty products to ones that are cruelty-free. At first I felt overwhelmed. It felt sacrificial, then I started to do some research, it turns out that there is an abundance of cruelty-free products out there, they are not all vegan, but they state that they do not test on animals. So here’s my choice… I can continue to use a product I know tests on animals, or I can switch to a product that does NOT test on animals (cruelty-free), but is not vegan…. I choose cruelty-free… I’ll hopefully find a vegan one in the future. But in the meantime, choosing the cruelty-free one sends a message… capitalism is supply and demand, I no longer have the demand for the cruel product, so the supply will go down. Choices. I have not sacrificed anything, I still shave my legs, I wear deoderant, I wash and style my hair, I wear nailpolish, and make-up. I’m just going to use different products now.
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of it all and loose sight of the bigger picture, it’s about the reduction of suffering, every little bit helps. So what if I can’t be perfectly vegan, that doesn’t mean I should give up, it means I just need to make the best choices that I can. Think about it… it had to be much harder in the ’70s to be a vegetarian… but today there are so many choices… those people back then started it with little bits here and there, we too can make the choices that will affect the future.
I was thinking about it, how did I decide which toothpaste to use? At some point in my life I switched toothpastes, I used to use a red gel one, but then I went to a more greenish-blue paste one. Commercials? Word-of-mouth? Taste? Who knows, but a decision was made at some point, probably arbitrarily, to choose product A over product B and to not even consider products C-Z. So my current state is, which of these cruelty-free products should I try, which ones will fulfill my needs? How do I make the first choice? I’m going to start with word-of-mouth and go from there.
Months ago, I switched to Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and mouthwash, because it does not have saccharin (like the greenish-blue toothpaste of my past does), it is also cruelty-free and vegan. I am very happy with this product, I prefer the lemon-lime mouthwash but am recently having trouble finding it, I may have to order it from amazon.
I recently emailed a fellow vegan blogger for some recommendations of vegan beauty products, so I’d have a starting place. She made some suggestions, and pondered writing a post about it. She suggested several products, some were Urban Decay, Nature’s Gate and OPI. So, I bought some Urban Decay, I had some eyeshadow from before and really liked it, but this weekend I picked up foundation, eyeliner, and mascara… I’m really pleased with these products… I also picked up some OPI nail polish in some really cool dark *goth* colors. I’m trying out some shampoo and conditioner from Nature’s Gate, I’m pleased with this product as well. I will continue giving my word-of-mouth commentary on the products I try out, it’ll probably end up in my weekly wrap-up posts.
Wow, this has been a long and heavy post, but I think the band Rush said it best in their song Freewill, ♪ “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” ♪
I’ll end this post with a question… If you use cruelty-free products, which ones do you recommend?