I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. It originally occurred me shortly after I became a vegan. One of the requirements of veganism is to become a serious label reader. Products you would never imagine contain dairy products or eggs, not to mention some of the other things that are used to add flavor/color (can you say beetle juice?).
So, I was reading the label on a box of cereal that I had been eating for a while (okay, I’ll admit it, it was TJs Maple & Brown Sugar Shredded Wheat), and discovered that not only was this cereal not vegan, it was not even vegetarian! Yes, that’s right. My favorite cereal contained gelatin (pause for gasp)! Gelatin is made from the collagen from cow’s or pig’s bones, hooves, and connective tissue. Ugh.
Now, to some, that may not be an issue. After all, you can find it in marshmallows and Jello, and many cosmetic and pharmaceutical items that we use every day also contain gelatin. It is used as a gelling agent. I, on the other hand was horrified. And it started me thinking.
As a vegetarian or vegan, at what point do you draw the line at what food you eat, what clothes you wear, what products you use? Meat eaters, too, should ask themselves questions. Where did this food come from? How were the animals treated? As I started writing this post, my response got more and more complex. Drawing the line has so many implications beyond veganism. It can certainly relate to many or most aspects of our lives. You can see why it has taken me so long to write this.
Just a note before you go on. Everything that I say is this post is my feelings and opinions. What you choose to do is based on your feelings and opinions. I won’t judge you if you won’t judge me. I do hope that you will read this and ask questions, and spend some time thinking about your choices.
When I became a vegetarian a little over four years ago, it was really pretty simple. Alan decided to make the change with me, which was a huge help. We did what many new vegetarians do, using meat substitutes in old recipes to easily switch, then gradually adding more whole foods to our diet. At that time, I continued to eat dairy, though I was determined not to be one of those vegetarians that use cheese as their main protein source. I cut out eggs, although I still ate products that contained eggs. After a year, I developed a craving for eggs, which I gave into for a few months, then cut them out again. I stopped buying anything made with leather. I have posted here about my reasons for becoming a vegetarian.
Well, being vegetarian was better, for me, than eating animals, but I felt that it wasn’t enough. If my point was to avoid hurting or killing animals, how could I ignore the fact that the dairy business is one of the cruelest factory farming industries out there and directly contributes to the veal industry. Yes, that’s right, Biology 101: For the cow to give milk, she must have babies. Once they are born, they are taken away (the milk is for us, after all). The females are raised to take their mother’s places. The males? Well, off to the veal crates, of course. And don’t get me started about the egg industry.
So, in February, 2010, I decided to eliminate all animal products from my diet. If the above paragraph isn’t enough for you, you can read about my becoming vegan here.
So, to clarify, in January, 2007 the line that I drew for myself prohibited eating dead animals or wearing their skin, but I still allowed myself to indulge in some of the products of those same animals. When I became vegan, I drew a new line. I truly believe that vegetarianism, like many things in life, is a process. We live, we learn, we make the changes that are necessary for our new reality.
After becoming a food and clothing vegan, I had to ask myself more questions. Many household cleaners and cosmetics contain animal products and/or do testing on animals. Obviously, I could not continue to consciously use those items and still call myself vegan. So I started the process, which I am still continuing, of weeding those products out of my life. This is one resource, a list of cosmetic/personal care companies that do not test on animals (those that don’t contain any animal products are marked with an asterisk). On the flip side, this list will tell you the companies that do test on animals. As for cleaning products, there are a few companies out there that do not test on animals (another up-side is that these products are better for the environment too!).
So yet another line is being drawn. Now, I understand that we all have lines that we won’t cross and gray areas, which I think of as undefined lines, where we may occasionally stray, because, well, we’re human. Yes, I’ve been changing to new, cruelty free products, but I still stubbornly cling to my old L’Oreal Haircolor (wow, that’s two admissions in one sentence!). L’Oreal does test on animals (although they are supposedly going cruelty free in 2013), and I no longer use any of their other products, but, selfish me, I’m afraid to change. So there is my gray area.
So, where do you draw the line? Like I said, I really don’t want to judge anybody. But I do want you to think. If you choose to eat meat, you should learn where your meat comes from and make a conscious decision to eat something that used to live and breathe. There seems to be a disconnect going on somewhere, like that juicy steak came from nowhere and just jumped on our plates. Most Americans agree that farm animals should be treated humanely, yet, time after time, hidden video after hidden video, after hidden video, after hidden video, it is proven that they are most definitely not. So what do we do? What should we do?
If you are eating less meat, that’s wonderful. If you are a vegetarian, that’s great. Eating less or no meat is taking a great stride forward, toward better health for you, and less death and cruelty for farm animals. Just keep reading, asking questions, educating yourself, so that you will know where to draw your line.