Continuing a series on Christians and veganism (please see our motivation for sharing more about this possible option for eating compassionately) with an honest and thought-provoking post from a good friend, Valerie McGowan of Black. Female. Christian. Vegan. ...
So, there's something you should know about me. I hate confrontation. I mean really. In fact, I avoid it like the plague. It’s so much easier to have nice, non-threatening conversations that never become tense or uncomfortable. But I still manage to have plenty of disagreements and debates, only they take place in my head and always hours or days after my human companions have left the scene.
One topic that seems to always be at the heart of these discussions (ok, arguments) is the treatment and consumption of animals. Among my friends (both inside and outside the Church) and family, I’m a minority in terms of my diet and lifestyle, which is primarily vegan.
When it comes up, I’m often met with comments such as “wow, that must be so hard, I could never do that.” Or, “sounds great for you, but I could never give up meat and/or cheese.” And of course, my personal favorite, the classic: “but where do you get your protein (or iron, calcium, fill in the blank)?" It always amazes me when those who probably never gave much thought to dietary theories before, suddenly become nutritional experts when they encounter someone who chooses not to consume animals or their secretions (i.e. dairy products and eggs). But I digress.
I became inspired to write this post after years of conversations with those I care about that always seemed to fall flat when certain words appeared in the same sentence. You know, words like animals, suffering, torture, death. But it was one recent conversation in particular that especially touched my heart.
I have a dear friend, a fellow Christian, who passionately opposes hunting. I believe like she does that these poor animals are God's creatures, and we have no business taking their lives without good reason (such as self-defense).
But during one of our discussions on this issue, I casually mentioned that animals in the factory farm system suffer a great deal more before their deaths than those that live in the wild. At least the latter get to live a life of freedom until they meet the end of a hunters bullet. That went over well ... Then, when my friend talked of her love of cheese, I gently commented that the dairy industry in fact fuels the veal industry, and is a cruel system throughout.
That bit of information was too much for her to handle, and she responded with, "Can we just change the subject?" I admit I was frustrated. Here was someone that clearly has a love for animals and yet was not ready to acknowledge that her appetite may be contributing to more animal cruelty and suffering than the hunters she so righteously condemned. But as I mentioned earlier, this was not the only time a friend of mine who shares my faith appeared to be sticking virtual fingers in their ears when faced with the ugly realities of industrial farming.
But I'm not judging. I was a vegetarian for 17 years before I allowed myself to see and hear the truth of what the agricultural industry wanted (with good reason) to keep hidden from public view.
It's a hard pill to swallow. And lets face it. Cheese and meat taste good (from what I remember). And they have, dare I say it, an addictive quality to them. So I can understand my good friends' discomfort with what I was trying to get across to her, in what I thought was a gentle, non-threatening way. I guess when a person is in such a state of denial, any information that bursts the happy bubble they've created in their minds to better deal with the reality they'd rather not see, comes across as simply too much to handle, and therefore an affront to what they hold dear.
See why I hate confrontation? It's no fun and it can make people feel bad. People I love. But the truth is the truth, and even though it's difficult to face, I feel compelled to share it however I can. Usually, it's when I'm asked a direct question about the reasons I eat the way that I do. I will often preface my answer with, "Do you really want to know? Then when I receive the ok, I tell them why. But I find that I still soften the blow quite a bit. Remember my friend's reaction above?
I think most of us would rather not know all the gory details of how many of our personal choices and appetites are really not so personal after all.