Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all family album on you. Anyone who’s read more than one of these blogs knows I’m not like that. However, I will just note that despite the caustic tone I generally bestow upon most human beings, I do have some humans in my life for whom I care very deeply, and my sister is one of them.
She’s my younger sister, and the older we get, the more I realize that in so many ways we fall into the dynamics typical of older and younger siblings: namely, I’m controlling and she’s nice enough to humor my constant attempts to micro-manage her life. We have a closeness that’s lasted despite (or, in some ways, possibly because of) certain traumatic experiences we endured while growing up, and the older I get, the more I appreciate, and count upon, our bond (although of course I’m pretty inept when it comes to actually expressing this in our interactions).
I’m telling you a bit about her because, just like her ten-year-old daughter, she decided to adopt a plant-based diet this past New Year’s Eve after many years as a vegetarian-verging-on-vegan. She did this despite having possibly her worst year ever as an adult: she changed jobs and in the process lost quite a bit of income; her marriage of 20 years ended; and she moved from a neighborhood she adored to another one that she also loves, but that isn’t Manhattan. For those who embrace the “big three” of life (job, partner, and home), changing all three at once can be incredibly disorienting, even for people who’ve never faced the emotional challenges that childhood trauma can entrench in a person; and for someone who has lived through such experiences – well, I’ll just say that it was an extremely hard year indeed for my sister.
Yet she didn’t go vegan because she wanted to feel better about herself, to be more healthy, or any of those things (although she will, in fact, be healthier as a result). Instead, she went vegan because she knew it was the right thing to do. She knew, in her bones, that consuming eggs, milk, and other non-flesh animal products was the ethical equivalent of eating flesh, despite what myths the “happy milk” people want to sell – I mean tell – themselves. I’ll say it again: She knew it was the right thing to do. It’s as simple as that.
Yes, she loves cow cheese. She adores cow’s milk in her coffee. She loves the pretty baked goods sold in coffee shops on every corner on New York. (Me, I put so much sugar in my coffee that those things put my teeth on edge just to think about.) But loving those items is no longer, in her mind, a valid reason for her to consume them, given the enormous harm they cause. And so she made the decision, and she’s continuing to make the decision.
I’m not telling you these things just so everyone can say hey, way to go Miriam’s sister. I’m also not suggesting that vegans can simply educate everyone in our lives so word will spread and the world will change; if that was the case, the world would have already changed. (Although of course we do want to educate those in our lives who don’t already know the truth.)
What I am doing, however, is saying look, it’s possible. It’s possible to make the choice to be a more compassionate person, despite whatever crap is going on in your personal life. In fact, if we really think about it, it’s the crappy experiences that should make us more empathic toward others, not less as it so often goes. On a personal level, I’m really proud of my sister and happy she made this choice. On a less-personal level, I’m interested, as usual, in why so many people refuse to make this choice. It’s a no-brainer, so excruciatingly obvious I practically choke on the words: Eat a plant-based diet and you help yourself, the planet, and the animals whose bodies begin in torment and end in pain. It’s that simple.
So, no more excuses. A vegan diet is no more expensive than an animal-based diet. It’s been proven to be healthier in a million studies conducted all over the world. It will help to alleviate the consequences of global climate change, the single largest planetary disaster humans have ever had to confront. And of course, a plant-based diet minimizes the amount of actual pain and suffering that humans cause.
It all comes down to what kind of person you want to be: the ethical person will always choose the path that causes the least amount of harm to others, or the person who couldn’t care less. To all those like my sister, who have made the ethical choice to be vegan, I say thank you – not for me, as your choice means nothing to me personally, but on behalf of the animals whose lives you are saving. And to all those who continue to act like what you consume is your own damn business, I suggest you look a cow in her eyes while her throat is cut and she struggles to get off the hook she’s hanging on. No? Can’t do it? Then you shouldn’t be able to eat her flesh either.