We have been making some really big changes in our lives, and I've had a lot of thoughts in my head (let's imagine the hamsters on the wheel going super super fast! Extra hamsters coming in to carry the load. Extra wheels. A whole fairground of scampering, whizzing thoughts. It's crazy in here right now)
but I haven't known how to write about them.
Because our changes are making people say, "Why?" and sometimes, "Really?" or, "That's hard to hear." I think perhaps I'm making others feel uncomfortable.
So I've gotten blocked when it comes to writing here. I've worried that maybe writing about our changes might make people feel sad or irked or lectured to. It might seem I'm saying, "This way of living is the only way." Or, "What you're doing is wrong."
But then I think, I need to talk about it. And let other people make of it what they will. All I can do is write who I am and my own truth.
Isn't that the point of all this, after all?
Anyway, here's the thing:
we've decided to go almost-all-the-way vegan.
Other than the eggs our sweet chickens provide for us during the day while they roam our garden, we won't be eating any other animal products. When we're home or when we're out.
We've already been vegetarian for a year and a half, but now we're cutting out the other stuff. Which means we are now
eggs (other than from our chooks) free
dairy freeand because of our tummies,
wheat free too.
It's the combination of all these limits and things-we-can't-eat that have made some people say:
"But how will you survive?" and
"Oh! No icecream! No lasagne! No ricotta pancakes!"
And everyone has asked,
So, after saying, "Actually, we've been eating well!" and
"Actually, we can eat all those things, just without the dairy":),
I have said Why.
And it's tough going.
Because our Why comes from some recent hard learning,
not just by me, but by my husband too,
and then shared (very carefully) with our children.
Really hard learning about factory farming
(also called "industrial farm animal production").
About the impact intensive farming has,
not just on animals, but on our health too,
and on the environment.
It's big stuff, and if you throw in watching video footage of animals in factory farms, it's devastating.
After you've learned about it, it's hard to think about anything else. And it's big enough stuff that independent research groups, the UN, non-vegetarians, journalists and non-activists, are getting in on it, saying:
"Hey! This isn't working! Not just for animals, but for humans too—for the whole planet, in fact. This is not sustainable, this is not ethical, and this is not healthy."
I've never, ever, pushed our vegetarianism before. Even though our choice was based on ethics, it was deeply personal. I didn't talk about it. Almost no-one questioned it.
But now, just like when we started homeschooling, we're being asked, "Why?"
I get that. People want to know. They are curious.
And I suppose just like when we started homeschooling, I could say, "It's a personal choice. We think it's best for us," or somesuch. After all, when we started homeschooling I mostly said, "My daughter was unhappy at school. We pulled her out. She got happy. My son asked to join us. Now we are all very happy."
I never said, "We're homeschooling because the education system doesn't work for everyone. Because teachers are underfunded and overworked, because schools work to a formula that can't cater to the individual, because there's barely any room for creative learning and independent thinking, because it's a broken model that can limit and damage children's sense of worth, desire to learn, and future life."
Yeah, I kept that all to myself. :) I simply mostly said, "This way fits us better."
So I could be saying that about this choice too.
Why aren't I? Why, when I open my mouth to reply to the questions,
do these measured words come out, words people find hard and don't necessarily want to hear?
Because once you take your perfectly content vegetarian self to a lecture
that makes the argument against eating animals bigger than you ever imagined,
and you then look up factory farming (and "industrial farm animal production") ,
and spend days and days researching it (the cons and the pros),
and you find overwhelming evidence to say This Isn't Working,
you see the scale of suffering animals go through
to mass produce and feed people something they don't need to eat so much of (or at all),
you just can't say, "Oh, it doesn't fit us."
You (or at least I) say, This is Why.
This week I've discovered that learning can hurt your heart.
Some learning carries Hard on its back.
And if you talk about what you've learned, you have to be careful. You want to avoid becoming so bent on your own mission, so fixed on the answer that fits you, that you can't see the myriad options in between All and Nothing. I don't want to ever do that. And I never want to make people feel bad for the choices they make.
But there are things I believe, and hold dear.
For one, I believe you should live your life like you mean it. Don't hold back just because something is hard.
Two. I believe you should live your truth. Seek it, follow your heart and your gut.
Three. I believe you shouldn't beat people about the head with your life or your truth, but (especially if people ask), you should be free to speak it.
Four. You should remember to speak that truth with kindness, with compassion, with as much knowledge as you can gather, and most importantly, with the understanding that everyone has a different path, a different way of seeing, their own learning to do and choices to make.
Five. I believe in treating all living things with respect and with compassion.
Oh, I believe that last one so big. Bigger and brighter than ever before.
So. This is my truth. Our journey. Shared here—with love and hope!—in this space.
I know once we get used to this new path, the nerves will settle.
That we'll feel joy and steadiness,
the calm that comes from knowing we are doing something that truly fits.
We're eating really well, you might like to know! Really yummy stews and soups and thai food and pasta. Oat milk is delicious in pear porridge! Not only that, I realised we were eating cheese with almost every lunch and dinner—now we're not. I'm sure that's better for us. My husband, this very minute, is working on a cheese-less pizza. We've tried batch one, and now he's working on idea #2. He's gorgeous, pottering about in the kitchen :)
Here are some more links, if you feel like checking them out…
Interview with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals)
Report by Pew Charitable Trusts "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America"