Recently I made a return to veganism. It is a slow and impure return, in truth. I think that it is okay because it is out of true necessity for lack of enough hardy plant-based food choices rich in protein and fiber at our dining facility in order to support overall physical fitness and resilience. Sometimes I have to squeeze in fish for greater sustenance due to this intensely hot middle eastern region of the world in which I am a temporary resident with its physical demands for many more months to come. In the process of revising and defining my values for why I have chosen veganism, I want to share with you that it is due in part to the research and the subsequent term and definition coined by Melanie Joy.
My return toward veganism was sparked by a combination of two films. The first is one I watched recently called Okja, directed by Bong Joon Ho (one of my favorite Korean filmmakers). It was a great film. But I did not enjoy it-- not because of its entertainment value, but because of its message. And that is what made the film great. It was released on June 18, 2017, on Netflix three months after a shocking documentary film that was similar in tone with Okja's subtle message, also released on Netflix on March 7, 2017, called What the Health.
Since having seen both these films, I purchased a book that I am presently waiting to arrive in the mail that was written by Melanie Joy, Ph.D., titled "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism." That is a pretty forward title! When I get it and work my way through it I will share my thoughts.
As a thinker, I am among the minority who have pondered the question of why we eat certain animals since having begun a series of awakenings about our world and as an American citizen. My vegan-ish-ism began roughly a decade ago during my earlier years as a music educator at an elementary school. We were singing a song called "Peanut Butter" that taught how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The question of animals came up during the lesson's discussion about where food comes from as the song also addresses the origins of the sandwich ingredients. The most remarkable thing happened while we talked and shared. (This was a lesson for kindergarteners. It was a cross-domain type of lesson of teaching procedural--algorithmic--thinking and metacognition. Who said music doesn't incorporate mathematical principles?) I asked where does the grape jelly come from and where does the peanut butter come from. The students were absolutely stumped as to where they both came from after exclaiming that they came from the store and I had told them, yes, but that is not where they originally began.
Long story short, the conversation evolved into questions of other foods because the kids were astounded to learn that peanuts grow in the ground and that grape jelly comes from grapes (assuming what is sold in stores are natural preserves). Ever so excitedly they asked for more reveals. They asked about hamburgers and I said we are eating cows. They asked about hot dogs and I said we could be eating cow, pig, or a combination of the two. They asked about chicken, but then I teased them about that one because it was obvious. We all got a laugh. But it wasn't until later that I encountered this same conversation in 2013 with my first-grade class, that it hit me. Why do we eat certain animals and not others? What is so different between the pig and the dog in terms of the value of life? Or what is the difference between the horse and the cow and their essence, value, and experience with pain? Why aren't hamsters an American delicacy? (I don't want them to be.) Why aren't plants an American delicacy? Is there any scientific necessity as to why we slaughter and eat such a narrow group of animals? I too believe it is belief and not based on necessity at all for why so many people of the world consume meat.
I think it is worth noting, however, that anti-carnism doesn't logically follow from eating animals. To the contrary, I see a more immediate step for the consumption of other animal species because of and beyond the arbitrary few we do consume, and then none at all. Yet this claim is probably a step to the right on the spectrum that could be one vestigial bias within myself towards a carnistic culture rearing its head? What's more is that even the idea of eating a wider range of animals raises even more absurdity.
To be clear, I do not advocate we eat more animals beyond the main staples of American life. As it is, I am not pleased with the inhumane treatment of the animals we already eat and would implore we all move away from it whenever and wherever possible. Did the animals die in fear and terror? Are they healthy before slaughter? What are we actually consuming? How do we so easily suspend our suspicion and skepticism about food in general?
Also, while I most certainly have 30-plus years of cultural programming to crave animal food products at the mere scent with a ravenous ferocity, I want to live a fuller life that avoids the carcinogenic side effects from the consumption of animals.
As a final thought, I will never seek to shame others for their choice to enjoy Whataburger, Steak n' Shake, Chick-fil-a, or a nice home-cooked beef stew. Nor do I aim to shame one who at least wants to enjoy a nice egg-filled breakfast. After all, the argument is that this is about ideology. Therefore, far be it from me to force my beliefs onto the plate of my fellow man and woman?