29 June, 2007, 1212 am
Filed under: My Experience with Existence

My biggest mistake thus far has been attempting the “cold turkey” (ironic) approach to veganism. Just dropping everything right away. Although this works for some people, I know that I’ll have to take the same approach as I did to vegetarianism–gradual but permanent, and no steps backward.

Let me share a story with you. Coming into high school as a fourteen-year-old freshman, I’d just lost twenty pounds because my doctor told me that I ought to. I remember going in for my annual check-up that January, and they weighed me and I came in at 123 pounds and only thirteen years old, whereas most skinny girls my age weighed in at under a hundred. I wore glasses (but my teeth were perfect), and I had thick eyebrows and a low self-esteem. This isn’t a pity story. My doctor asked me if I felt comfortable with my weight, and I told him, “No.” And he asked my mother questions about my eating habits, and about my physical activity, and although at first I was depressed, I agreed to lose the weight. When I was feeling particularly moody, my mom used to tempt me with baby tees at Aero. I lost the weight, I got contacts, and I let my mother pluck my eyebrows. I was still the same naive, insecure girl I used to be, but I was prettier now. I’d struggled a little.

English had always been my favourite academic pursuit, seeing as the teachers were normally pussies and understood my plight and my writing and my ugly, AWFUL poetry. But this year was different. For my freshman year of high school, my teacher was a young man–and he was vegan. And he intimidated the fuck out of me. He wasn’t mean. I was just scared of him because he seemed like the most legitimate adult I’d ever come into contact with. No bullshit grownup shelter stuff. He treated us like his equals, even though we were some of the most immature little shits ever. While we wrote our journals, he’d play some fantastic music from his iPod that I didn’t know the name of, and he assigned us some Jawbreaker lyrics as one of our journals, and he let us watch Pootie Tang while studying The Odyssey. Looking back, he was the best teacher I’ve ever had in my whole gradeschool career, but by the end, I was still terrified of him (and granted, part of that was social phobia). I just now looked up to him for it.

And when I reread the journal entries I wrote, all whiny and complainy about middle school and shit that doesn’t matter in the long run, I also feel awful that he ever had to read them. And he wrote that he appreciated my honesty, which, I feel his pain. If I’d been him, I would have kicked me in the face. In addition, I also liked Avril Lavigne and shit fake punk rock that’s really pop, and fake emo, and I wore these ugly leather DC shoes that were FUCKING ugly, and, well…he’s vegan, and I kind of wish he’d badgered me for it. I swear, I tossed those shoes out before I even committed to vegetarianism.

Okay. So animal rights. At the end of the school year, this new girl, Meghan, entered my science class. She was (and still is) vegetarian and the coolest person I’d ever met, and why hadn’t I met her earlier?! She opened my eyes to new music (which was far better than what I listened to at the time, but still not what I like today), new kinds of people, and, of course, animal rights. She invited me over to her apartment once and we sat and shadebathed and swam in the pool and ate Boca chili and talked about PETA and animal rights and rock and roll.

Meghan’s ideas spread like wildfire, and soon, there was talk amongst a bunch of us non-vegetarian freshman girls of a vegetarian week. We would organize a week where we’d abstain from eating meat. And that’s where it all began. Meghan mentioned it to our English teacher, and he set us up with PETA stencils and stickers and posters, but told us to keep it on the hush-hush, since if the school found a trillion PETA stickers around campus, he was the obvious first person they’d confront. We spray-painted our tee shirts and went to school to advertise, and the rest is history. For the next six months, I’d eat meat on and off, claiming vegetarianism one week and going back to eating meat the next. And then on January 12th, 2006 after watching a multitude of PETA videos, I decided I never wanted to eat meat again, so on January 13th, 2006, I stopped altogether after a six-month trial period. I ordered the PETA vegetarian starter kit and got a bunch of stickers and eventually even got a new email address. And whenever the time comes, I vote for the sexiest vegetarian.

I’m not sure as to the validity of PETA; I’ve only heard vague bullshit, but if you’d like to expand or kill rumours in the comments, that’s fine. Because I’ve been looking for answers about PETA for two years now, and most are distorted or indirect.

So veganism, for now, I need baby steps. I need to stop drinking milk (which I did a long time ago). I need to not put creamer or half & half in my coffee. I need to stop drinking YooHoo. And that’s one baby step. Then I need to focus on something else big, like gelatin, and completely abandon that. And honey. We had Chipotle for dinner today, and instead of getting sour cream which I admittedly occasionally do, I opted out and got a vegan burrito. I need to add layer upon layer until I can handle it all at the same time, and then I’ll be vegan. It might take a while, but I’m taking charge.

Oh, and I saw Fast Food Nation today. If you told me that Gigli (yes, starring the first Bennifer) had Paul Dano in it as an extra, I’d probably go out now at 2146 and rent it from whatever movie renting place is open. I love Paul Dano. As an actor. So naturally, I had to see FFN, but I also wanted to see it because it was criticizing something so prominent in today’s culture–the fast food industry. It’s now one of my favourite movies because of how exposing it is (despite the fact that yes, Avril Lavigne is in it). It has real film from the slaughter, which is graphic and gruesome, but its all-star cast will tempt the innocent and many eyes will be opened. Upon later reflection on the film, it reminded me a lot of Sinclair’s The Jungle. Today’s meat industry isn’t any better than it was when it was first created. They’re still killing animals just as brutally, the living conditions are still just as awful, the meat’s still just as unsanitary, and the workers are still immigrants (though they’re no longer my Lithuanian descendants, but instead Mexican border-hoppers) and they’re still mistreated. Like Sylvia is forced to have sex with her superior just like Una is. They’re both young, beautiful married women in a strange new country, and they’re naive. Their husbands ultimately become injured, and their families fall apart–though Sylvia’s family is somewhat repaired, and Una actually dies. You should watch it when you get a chance, and tell other people to watch it too. Included in the Special Features are the Meatrix, the Meatrix II, and the Meatrix II 1/2. Available to normal people.

One last matter I’d like to discuss before signing out. Every day at lunchtime, I have a phone conversation with Derek, who is in Illinois until Sunday. I feel nauseous thinking about that. The first thing he had to say to me about his day was that a girl percussionist had asked him earlier hypothetically, “What if I gave you a hug?” He responded, “I’d wonder why,” and left the room. I laughed awkwardly and said something like, “Oooookay.” He’s an extreeeeemely attractive teenage guy, and this sort of thing will happen all the time after I move, and he won’t be under as much pressure to jet out of the room. That it’s happening before I’m even gone makes me feel like I was hit in the stomach with a gigantic Tupperware container.

Not only does it make me realize how awfully possessive and unreasonably jealous I can get, but it also makes me realize how much I care about him, and possibly how much he cares about me. First of all, that he told me about something this seemingly trivial in the first place only gives me reason to trust him, and that means he cares. Not that I don’t or didn’t or won’t trust him, but it calms me down. The mind strays from reality, especially with social phobia, which makes it a long and hard process for me to trust anyone. This sort of thing happens to me occasionally, where I’ll find that someone is attracted to me, but I normally brush it off, or I don’t mention it because I’ll sound catty or coy, like I’m trying to make him possessive or jealous to make myself feel “secure”. And I do have several guy friends, or enough to make any normal guy a little uneasy, but they’re nothing to worry about at all. This is only the first or second time it’s happened to him, I guess, unless he just brushes it off like I do when we’re both at home, but he must have been feeling particularly nostalgic or something to tell me about the incident. Or guilty?! I think only I would feel that way in such a situation. There’s nothing to feel guilty about; he did nothing wrong. And I think that even if he had hugged that girl, I wouldn’t have been any more riled up than I am now. I’m so completely passive that he probably could have pecked her on the cheek or received a peck on the cheek from her, and I wouldn’t have said anything for fear of aggravating him. Not that he’s irritable at all.

And what if he considers it? I mean, this is not at all a judge on his character, but mere blowing things way out of proportion, as anxiety will do. Suppose she’s more beautiful than I am, or far thinner so that he’d be able to carry her for a few steps without his back hurting? What if she’s more outgoing, and he learns he prefers that? What if she has blue eyes or even green eyes and he thinks they’re really pretty, as opposed to my muddy hazel ones? What if she’s got darker hair than I do, or lighter hair, or longer hair, or more eyelashes? What if he likes that she’s so much more straightforward than I am from the beginning? I never was straightforward, and I’m still not quite. It’s not my game. UGH.

What I’m saying is that he’s in my current position a lot because I have a ton of interaction with guys my age. I’m taking a walk in his shoes now, and it makes me realize how careless and mindless I can be sometimes even when I don’t mean to be. I feel nervous and worried that he’ll find some week-long band camp replacement for me maybe a Canadian girl who’s more fluent in French, and that he’ll love her more than he does me, or that if I show him how much this trivial thing riled me up (and it SHOULDN’T; it’s wrong of me), that he’ll think I’m some possessive control freak, and he won’t tell me about anything like this ever again.

For clarification, he’s the most loyal guy I’ve ever met, the most steadfast friend, and I’m blowing everything WAY out of proportion because I’m tired and anxious and I miss him. And I’m trippin’ ballsz because I’m listening to of Montreal. Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

As a closer/mood lifter, I’d just like to mention that I went to the library by myself yesterday and checked out six books, and I actually read Anthem by Ayn Rand, and I’ve already started Chocolat by Joanne Harris, and I’m currently halfway through Painfully Shy by Barbara Markway, Ph.D. and her husband Gregory (also a Ph.D.) and the end of Chapter 6 helped me a little bit. I also checked out The Vegetarian Handbook by Gary Null (I didn’t know that legume was an English word, too!); Social Phobia by John R. Marshall, M.D; and this book called Targeted: The Anatomy of an Animal Rights Attack, which I’d initially thought was pro-animal rights, but turns out to be all for lab testing and gives advice on standing strong against the movement, but it’ll give me some perspective on the animal rights groups out there like PETA and ALF and such. Especially PETA.


6 Comments so far
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I have a tendency to imagine the worst when it comes to friends as well. The best advice I was given was to stop thinking of people as generic, and think of the specific individual – what would they, specifically, do? It relieves a lot of my particular anxieties.

Regarding PETA…I’m not sure exactly what kind of information you’re looking for, or what rumors you’ve heard. The general complaints are that they’re sexist (“I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign being a prime example), they are sensationalist (hard to argue against that one, and I don’t think PETA would even try to argue against that one), and more specifically in the animal rights community, that their philosophy (promoting “welfare reforms” in the thought that incrimental changes, such as bigger cages, etc, will eventually lead to animal rights) is misguided.

You have to come to your own conclusion on that.

I’d recommend finding a copy of Lee Hall’s “Capers in the Churchyard” for a pretty decent analysis of some of the ALF and typical fur protests tactics, and iirc, she does a pretty good job of presenting animal rights theory in a way that isn’t bogged down. It isn’t a huge book. You’d appreciate that if you’d slogged through some of the other animal rights books. Gary Francione (Rain Without Thunder, as one) has some excellent and exhaustively thorough books on animal rights as well. A slightly different perspective of the ALF tactics can be found in the collection of essays called “Terrorists or Freedom Fighters”, if you’re so inclined to learn more about ALF. If you’re looking for some good websites, I think friends of animals is pretty good, and for blogs, Mary’s is a great one for looking at things popping in the news and “deconstructing” the language.

There are things going around about how some PETA employees were found with a bunch of dead animals in the back of their van. As far as I know, this is more or less true – they were euthanizing animals that couldn’t be saved, in a sort of mobile euthanasia clinic, and their mistake was in “disposing” of the animals someplace they weren’t supposed to.

One of my biggest problems with Ingrid Newkirk is her support of specific breed legislation (anti pit bull) and her vocal support for San Francisco’s policy to automatically euthanise any pit bull that comes in, regardless of whether it has an “owner”. I tracked down letters attributed to her, and finally found the info on peta’s own site, if I’m remembering correctly. It was a site I was as completely certain as I could be was a legit ingrid site.

I can’t remember all the rumors – bring them up, we’ll tell you what we know of them.

(in general, peta is far from my favorite organization, despite how many people have been educated by their sites!)

You are right that some people can go cold tofu (haha) into veganism. I was one of those people, it is just how my mind works. If I tried to do it in steps, as I had planned, I am not sure I would have gotten there. Or, even if I’d tried to do it in bits, I would have just jumped ahead and skipped all the steps. It was very natural for me to do it all at once, so I did. There are lots of people who do it incrimentally. Whatever works for you, the important thing is to keep making progress.

The milk in the coffee thing is pretty easy to get past, since there are many milks that are plant derived (and some creamers too). Soy, almond, oatmeal, rice, hemp…you’re bound to find one you like, though I’m betting that getting your mom to buy it for you is the bigger problem.

I think some of the soy milks are about the same price now as the cow milks, but honestly, I have no idea on prices of cow milks, so I could be wrong on that. If you can get your mom to buy it, soy milk works really well in coffee, and you can even get vanilla, chocolate, in addition to plain, and you can get lite versions of those as well. My favorite brand, currently, is westsoy, which you can find at health food stores if you can’t find it at a regular grocery. Otherwise, Silk is everywhere, and it is pretty good too. Start with the vanilla, as it has less soy taste.

oh, 8th generation soy milk is not actually vegan, thanks to the Vitamin D they use. fyi.

You’ll learn, as you go through the process of becoming vegan, that there is very little we have to give up. It is just a matter of finding the right subsitutes, and making adjustments. One thing I noticed when I stopped using sour cream in chili and on burritos is that I could actually taste the veggies and beans and everything that made the burrito or chili what it was. So that was cool. I was using the sour cream out of habit, that’s all. You’ll notice things like that. Subbing soy milk for cow milk in the coffee is easy enough. Try chocolate soy milk for the yoohoos (that is a chocolate milk drink, right?).

You need to progress at your own rate, but definitely bring up what you’re working on and we’ll be able to give you some tips on it. Hopefully we won’t completely bombard you!

The story about your vegan teacher was awesome, btw. One of my best friends is a vegan teacher in NYC, and I’m going to have him read this! :)

Comment by Deb

oh i remember when meghan got here and we did all that! dear god, i love her.
i’m sry abt the anxiety over moving and derek and ppl and stuff.
and baby steps are good, i figured that out last summer but it’s taking me a while to do it.

Comment by divya

here’s some inspiration!

personally, i love the “NO DEAD CHICKS” tshirt.

Comment by adam

the main rumour i’d heard about peta was that some workers there were found to have euthanized animals, so thanks for clarifying. thanks for the book recommendations and the links…my bookmarks section has expanded tenfold in the past few days! it’s awesome.

mainly, i personally don’t like peta because they’ve got so many diehard zombie followers. like the word of peta is the final word on everything. i don’t always like the way they approach changing people’s minds. and they’re a tad immature (not that i’m not, haha)–i know michael moore’s kind of an ass (although his movies are pretty good, like bowling for columbine), but recently ingrid newkirk stooped to his level and wrote him a letter saying he could afford to lose a few pounds by converting to the vegetarian diet. i’ve thought for a while that ingrid newkirk’s getting a little too old, a little too senile, but that’s just me (and a few other people i know…hehe). and that pit bull information shocks me. the article i read about it on this morning was a load of bullshit about how it’ll be “better” for them. how is exterminating them better?! and that’s exactly what made me wary of peta in the first place, because the way they write their articles isn’t always straightforward, and it’ll always be slanted enough to convince their gullible army. and it’s also hard to get around peta to find other organizations, just i guess because of their ridiculousness and the way they work with the stars and the mainstream.

i’m eternally grateful to you for your tips on veganism, too, and the milk. and i got a breakthrough from my mother–if i put together a list and if i can get it at a local grocery store and cook it myself, i can have it (regarding vegan food). i’m looking up recipes right now. i think one of the easiest things for me is that i’m not a picky eater, except that i don’t like mushrooms all too much. i love ethnic foods as much as i do earthy foods, and i also love tofu.

and i like the phrase cold tofu :-), and maybe at some point, i’ll be able to jump in cold tofu after dipping my feet in for a little first.

we’ll take baby steps together.

that reminds me of the “no fat chicks” shirts, which, in turn, reminds me of the show family guy. ha. i might just buy one of those with my birthday check.

Comment by leindiemeister

Personally, I went cold-tofu vegan. My logic being that I had decided within myself that I was going to go vegan – that my previous practices were no longer acceptable – so why should I continue doing what I know to be wrong? That is, how could I continue to enact that which violates my principles? Veganism is an evolution of thought that I had identified and aligned myself with so I thought delaying it to be naught but hypocritical. I guess I just weighed up tradition, convenience and my taste buds to the horrific suffering that those luxuries entailed, and under such scrutiny and in such perspective, cold tofu veganism one out very easily.

However, as Deb says, whatever works for you. Whatever will get you to where you want to be. If incrementally “taking charge” (as you put it) and progressively loosening the grip that these products have over you is the approach you want to take then hold fast to it. And it looks like you are excelling at it :) .

In hindsight, although I didn’t think then, and still don’t think now, that I could have taken any other approach – it didn’t even occur to me at the time – there are probably a string of benefits to going incremental. In some ways, going cold-tofu is like plunging straight into the deep-end with your eyes shut, or maybe that was just the case with me because my transformation was an epiphany and I stripped everything I could that very day. Let’s just say I didn’t eat all that well for the first week or so… Looking back, I was, to a degree, a bit stupid.

PeTA. I’m going to take the easier approach and let people who are lot more intelligent and articulate then me explain the numerous problematic aspects of PeTA. That, and I guess I’m just lazy. Most of the issues I have with PeTA derive from the fact that they are welfarist and I am abolitionist, and thus, the criticisms of welfarism are central to any critique of PeTA.

In addition to those recommended by Deb, depending on how much time you have on your hands you can wade through these:

Abolition of Animal Exploitation: The Journey Will Not Begin While We Are Walking Backwards. (a systematic and compelling analysis of welfarism as opposed to abolitionism)

The Animal Rights Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Nonhuman Suffering. (a extremely solid critique of how organisations like PeTA perpetuate, and profit from, the suffering of non-human animals)

The State of the Movement. (another critique of PeTA)

Veganism: The Fundamental Principle of the Abolitionist Movement. (a look at how organisations such as PeTA fail to promote veganism which should form the baseline.)

The above links were all essays, the following three are episodes of VeganFreak Radio (a podcast) where Professor Gary Francione was largely interviewed on issues such as these.

Interview #1
Interview #2, Part 1
Interview #2, Part 2

I realise, and I apologise for it, that the above is almost certainly an overload of information and resources, but I believe that each contains vital information that is not necessarily contained in any one article. They are not strictly and exclusively focused upon PeTA – which, I know, is what you initially discussed – but instead explore the bigger issues in the so-called animal rights movement that PeTA are, in my opinion, unfortunately, a part of.

Btw, it’s so unfair that your library kicks ass and stocks such great books. Mine blows ass.

Comment by surplusvalue

the more resources, the better. i’ll be sure to check those essays and interviews out today. many thanks.

also, i’ve never really thought about animal rights as, you know, abolitionist or welfarist. now that those terms have been expressed, though, it actually reminds me a lot of the civil rights movement here in america that took place from i suppose the mid-1800s until the late 1900s. i’ve compared the gay rights movement to that, but it’s cool to think of the animal rights movement–or any rights movement, for that matter–in the same way. if all goes the same, and if we recruit more people, i expect we’ll start seeing more change in no time.

and as for my library, i have five or so to choose from, and one more is opening in july (maybe in the next week) right next to my high school. AND IT IS GOING TO HAVE A CAFE. i’m stoked. i’ll be there like opening day, just like i probably will be with the harry potter movie (order of the phoenix!) and the harry potter book (i forget what it’s called, but it sounds pretentious!). yes. the diagnosis has been made…i am…a potterhead.

Comment by leindiemeister

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