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Why Did You Go Vegan?
DeborahA Five Piece Puzzle
My evolution into a vegan seems to have been like putting together a 5 piece puzzle. I found my first piece when I was 7 and I had my ethical awakening. That autumn day, my father had gone hunting and shot some ducks. Because I was old enough and keen to help out, he gave them to my friend and I to pluck. I remember how beautiful they were as I sat with one of the ducks on my lap. Their feathers in shades of beige and brown, perfect prairie camouflage, were soft and smooth.
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Eventually, my friend reminded me of our job, and we pulled out some feathers. They were really attached! Those feathers just didn't want to come out, so we stopped. We decided that it was too cruel, that the ducks needed them and would be cold if we pulled them all out. My Dad was less than pleased, but he let us go off to play and I forgot about it.
Hours later, I sat down to eat dinner with my family. On my plate was the leg of one of the ducks, golden brown and smothered in a lovely orange sauce that my mother had made. I still remember the jolt of horror that went through me when I saw the bare bone sticking out, the feathers all gone, the skin naked and exposed, the shrunken roasted flesh, the limb detached from the body. It was the Moment of Recognition. I had not known what meat was or where it came from until that moment. That day, my eyes were opened and I burst into tears.
My parents were angry at my lack of appreciation for their efforts. They sighed heavily and told me to at least eat the vegetables. I looked at the peas and potatoes, lying so near the dismembered leg, and felt sick. My stomach churned with fear, anger and revulsion. I saw my parents in a new, less flattering light. Suddenly, I knew what they had done and how they had tried to make it pretty and appetizing by covering it up with a sweet, piquant sauce. It was almost more gruesome than I could comprehend.
I could eat nothing on that plate and was sent me to my room to "learn my lesson". As my passion subsided, my stomach relaxed and my hunger grew. I struggled to figure out what lesson I was supposed to be learning. Just as I thought I would explode with confusion, they called me down.
I looked up at my father towering over me, and he told me that I had to eat meat to grow strong and be healthy. It was my choice: my life or the animal's. It was an awful choice for a loving little girl to make. I wanted to grow strong and healthy, I wanted my parents to be proud of me but even so, I was often unable to eat the meat on my plate after that day.
The next piece of the puzzle came just days later when I was at the grocery store with my mother. As we were leaving, I noticed a vending machine with pistachio nuts in it. Having not seen them before, I asked my mother what they were. She reacted with a surprising amount of interest in my question, and urged me to try them. I liked them and savoured my little handful as my mother drove us home. She sighed as with the release of tension and mumbled something like "If you like those, you won't have to eat meat, and can become a vegetarian." When I asked her what she was talking about, she dismissed me with "Oh, nothing." I had a terrible feeling then, like someone had just dangled a precious treasure before me and then snatched it away when I went to reach for it.
I found out many years later that my mother had been thinking about her experience during World War II. Rationing had forced people to use nuts instead of meat, but she had been unwilling to share this fact with me lest she would end up having to make special meals just for me.
The third piece of the puzzle came 5 years later when my father died suddenly at the age of 52, his arteries packed solid with cholesterol. That was 1966 and "heart-smart" awareness was in its infancy. I found out after the autopsy that my father's doctor had warned him to cut back on the cholesterol in his diet the year previously, but my Dad had ignored him. Likewise, Mom had continued to serve him the eggs and bacon he enjoyed every morning, and some sort of meat at every other meal. Recognizing the part she had played in becoming a 47 year old widow, she berated herself for killing him, and yet continued to serve meat.
At the age of 29, I bore my daughter. Having followed the conventional rules for "good" nutrition, I consumed massive amounts of dairy products and fat during my pregnancy. As a result, I gained 60 lbs. My labour was long and complicated and I was left in a fearfully debilitated condition. By the time my daughter was 1 year old, I had made very little recovery.
In desperation, I stopped looking to my doctor for help and started seeking my own answers. I found out that consumption of dairy products could be causing some of the symptoms I was having. It seemed a very dangerous thing to me to give up milk because of the indoctrination I had received all of my life, but I was desperate enough to take the risk. I took calcium supplements and hoped for the best.
My health and energy improved a little and I lost some weight, but our diet was still loaded with sugar, "trans" fats, additives, etc. By the time my daughter was approaching 2, she was hyper active, suffered regular nightmares and sleep disturbance, and had frequent ear infections for which surgical implantation of tubes was recommended. My husband was throwing up daily. His doctors had given up trying to help him after numerous investigations and recommended "exploratory" surgery. I was seriously depressed with severe arthritis in my hips and chronic bronchitis.
I came to a realization of what serious condition we were all in on what started out as probably one of the worst days of my life. Once more desperate and with nothing left to lose, I decided to try what a woman friend had been urging me to do, give up sugar.
Sugar had been a solace in my crumbling life but by then, even it no longer helped. This turned out to be the fourth piece in the puzzle. Within hours of beginning my abstinence from sugar, I began to feel better than I had in years. By the end of the day, I knew I was onto something. My husband decided to join the bandwagon and hasn't thrown up since.
By the next day, I was flying with high energy and positive attitude. Inspired, I began to read everything I could get my hands on about nutrition. One of the first books I read was Fit for Life. From it, I found out that meat was not only NOT necessary for health, it was contra-indicated. On that day in 1985, I found the 5th piece of the puzzle, and we stopped eating meat. I felt I could finally put the duck I had been served for dinner when I seven, to rest. Within 6 weeks, all of our symptoms were gone.
Once we became vegan, we continued to explore options within that range. For 2½ years we ate 100% raw. When our daughter started school and discovered new and exciting taste experiences, we returned to eating some cooked food and began to follow the guidelines of Dr. John McDougall. Subsequently, I discovered that I am sensitive to gluten and corn, and so I avoid them. We began taking vitamin B12 about a year ago.
In the 15 years that we have been vegan, our daughter has grown into a strong, healthy, beautiful, creative, intelligent young woman. My husband and I, who had so many aches, pains and illnesses before, have rarely even had colds in all this time.
With gratitude for the benefits healthy diet has brought us and in the hopes that our experiences will be helpful to others, I have written this story. I wish all who read it good health, happiness and prosperity!
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