Well readers, I have a horrible confession to make. While I hold the ethics of veganism dear to my heart, life has gotten so busy over the last couple of weeks that I have not gotten to a grocery store and in the business of life and the lack of vegan food in this city, I have had to make some exceptions. Sigh – yes, I have eaten (gulp) cheese.
First of all, I would like to explain why cheese is so evil to me. I first became a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) when I was 15. I was never really a person that enjoyed the taste of meat, and I seem to recall both watching ‘Animal Farm’ and the episode of the ‘Simpsons’ when Lisa learns about the evils of factory farming and becoming convinced that meat was evil. It tasted of death to me, and so I happily gave it up. Really, being a lacto-ovo vegetarian is not very difficult, and I was very partial to cheese as I didn’t know what was so bad about it.
What I did not know at the time was that being a vegetarian for ethical reasons (and then health and environmental later on) was somewhat hypocritical. Cheese is still a product of factory farming (I know, I’m sorry). It actually took me years to learn this. When I was younger I thought that vegans were ridiculous people and had a particular hate-on for PETA (I still hate PETA though). I couldn’t understand why they would want to give up havarti and gouda and brie (oh brie, how I miss thee).
Well, last year I started doing some more research into how to be a better vegetarian, instead of a lazy fried-cheese vegetarian and I was shocked to find out some hard to swallow truths about my beloved cheese. Cheese is tied into the veal industry. How on earth could I not eat meat, and yet be supporting the most evil kind of meat there was? Yes, when farmers want dairy they forcefully impregnate the cows (cow-rape = awful) then take the young away so that the cows will be in a constant state of lactation to produce milk. These cows are also forced to stand all day long, kept in stalls their whole lives and often die of wounds that get infected and never treated. It’s a pretty sad thought. The young that are taken away, if female, are raised for the same slavery and usually have a life expectancy of about four years (as opposed to the normal life expectancy of a cow which is somewhere around 30 years) and the males are used for veal (usually they have their heads chopped off as babies with no sedation). When I learned this sickening truth, I could no longer eat cheese.
But wait, you say – what about “organic/free-range” farms? Unless I can see them first hand, I cannot trust the validity of their claims. There is no legislation to dictate what “free-range” means, so many of these farms merely have a place for cows to go outside.
There is also the issue of something called ‘casein.’ It’s an opiate-like substance found in milk that keeps the babies drinking it, and it’s what makes cheese addictive to people. So, now that I’ve shamefully given into the temptation of eating cheese, I have to go through the cheese detox all over again.
Now, I want to help vegans understand the disastrous effects of consuming animal products – but I don’t believe in shaming people that have a tough time with the transition. We can’t just change the way the world views animals overnight. Veganism is not abstinence – it’s a lifestyle, and sometimes you have to make-do in a non-vegan world. The point is not to give up, for the sake of the animals.