An Open Letter to My Partner
Posted in: Vegan Living
You did not sign up for my veganism.
Like most people on Earth, or at least in the United States, I always considered myself an animal lover. You’d see me quickly mute the ASPCA’s television commercials, lest I start weeping for all of the cats and dogs abandoned in the cold. You’d also see that I wasn’t always fast enough!
When did I realize I was a lover of animals, but living only as a lover of “pets”? I have been trying to reconstruct my exact vegan journey to write this letter, but it is a little vague. My actual “veganniversary”, for instance, is a date unknown. I suppose it had been percolating somewhere in my mind that something wasn’t quite right about eating animals, but if I didn’t think too much about it, the feeling would go away.
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
– from The Vegan Society
Cory, as “my person”, I asked you if you remembered when I first began discussing veganism with you. You said you weren’t sure exactly, and we left it at that. Then several days later, out of the blue, you said that my earliest reference to veganism had been back in July 2015 when I suggested we try out a new plant-based meal kit subscription.
This is one of the many things I love about you – you let things sink in, you think about them and figure out the solution or work out a response. You have an inner life of the mind that intrigues me and makes me happy.
So let’s say that it is around three years ago that I became a vegan for sure, because as you know, the first time I “went” vegan I was pregnant with our first child (summer 2015!) and it was a bit short lived. I started “cold turkey”, all in, super committed, feeling perfect. I don’t always let things sink in. I was starting to eat a healthy, plant-based diet, trying new recipes, enjoying these new foods and BAM! Morning sickness knocked me on my culinary butt. You know it’s true when I say that the phrase “plant-based food” made me wretch in the worst way. So the first week of morning sickness, I ate a relatively healthy breakfast, then when I got into work I grabbed, what I knew to be an unhealthy second breakfast, a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich. I am not proud of that, now, nor was I at the time. Nor was it lost on me how easily I was able to stuff down my feelings and emotions over eating animals by telling myself that, well,…what, exactly? Actually, I didn’t tell myself anything. I just forced myself not to think about it. Perhaps this resonates with you and others.
I remember pretty clearly one day standing in a New York City bodega and noticing a half gallon of milk. As I looked around at all of the other half gallons, and gallons of that milk – which kind, I don’t remember so let’s say whole milk – I noticed the same half gallon and gallon sizes in two percent and one percent milk, maybe there was even some skim milk hanging around. There was a lot of milk. Then I wondered how many cows it took to make that much. Then I thought how this was just one bodega on one corner of one block in one city – there is one on nearly every corner in some areas of the City – that is a lot of milk in a lot of bodegas. That is a lot of cows. Then I thought about the little grocery stores in the City, and the larger grocery stores in the City, then I thought of the other cities in the United States and all of our Walmarts, Targets, other superstore grocers, and all of the gas stations that sell milk. Then I thought of the world, and while I know that not every part of the world is like this, much of it is. That is a lot of cows making a lot of milk. And that is just thinking about milk, not any other ubiquitous dairy products like cheese, half and half and cream.
I thought about those cows and I thought about what happens to them after they can no longer produce milk. I hadn’t even thought about why they were producing all that milk, which is a whole other nightmare! Intuitively, I knew they didn’t get to live out their lives in a lovely, green pasture. I knew they would be sent to slaughter. At the time, the sheer enormity of the number of cows required made me to question consuming dairy.
And so, after the morning sickness waned I began to transition to veganism.
You didn’t sign up for this. You aren’t a vegan, and you’re not a jerk about it. When you cook bacon, however, you may not know that the smell only makes me think of the piglets that were taken from their mothers who, most likely, laid in a cage their whole lives; or that all I hear is the sound that resistant hooves make scratching against a floor being pushed onto a kill floor.
Veganism isn’t a lifestyle choice for me. It’s an ethical stance.
I have asked you a couple of times to watch some of the films (ones that I cannot watch myself!), but I haven’t pressed you. I am afraid to press you – what if you watch them and still eat animals?
We’ve talked about slaughter. You said once – again, out of the blue – that you thought the best that you could do was eat humane meat. We talked about how animals can be humanely, or better, raised. And I pointed out that there’s no humane slaughter, though, because no one wants to die. You seemed to agree, but we didn’t continue that conversation because, for me, I worry that your final answer will turn out to be that you just don’t care enough. I’ve learned that I have to always balance my present person with my past person and weigh the two differently and try to be kind to the person I was even though I think she was wrong. And so I need to do the same with you, and others. We are all on a path – hopefully the same one! – but we’re at different places along it.
My therapist says people don’t change, which obviously is a little ironic, and if she really means it, it’s also cynical but my life is proof that people do change.
The lives of nearly every vegan on the planet is proof that people change.
Plato wrote, through Socrates, that we do better when we know better. My deepest hope is that I can help you and others learn more about veganism, and hopefully to do better for the animals, our children, ourselves, and the Earth.
To all of you who didn’t sign up for my vegan journey, thank you for being kind to me. I hope that you will explore the possibility of joining me on this wonderful path to becoming vegan.
The animals are counting on us.