For me, eating meat is just one more in a long list of mainstream behaviors I’ve chosen to question. After marrying my husband, who’d been vegetarian for years, I dropped meat in order to simplify our meals as a couple. I’d never really felt attached to meat; I ate it merely because I’d been taught, growing up, that it was the most important part of any meal. Years later, after reading Your Health Your Choice by Dr. Ted Morter (now published under the title Fell’s Your Health and Wellness), I was inspired to begin my new life as one who questions mainstream philosophies. It was exhilarating to find a book containing truths about the ills of protein-based diets not publicized on television, not accepted by traditional Western medicine, or shared by the majority of Americans, yet so undeniably valid that they resonated with my soul.
I began, from that point on, to base my lifestyle decisions on reading and research that “felt right” and rang true in my heart and mind, regardless of the objection or approval of the mainstream. I happened upon books like The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff and literature from the La Leche League when I was pregnant with my first child, and I determined that attachment parenting (including not spanking and breastfeeding beyond the first and even second birthday) felt right to me. Despite howls from my parents and in-laws, we breastfed until the kids were nearly four years old, and we chose not to practice corporal punishment. Twelve years later, we have the most well-behaved, emotionally secure, intuitive children you’d ever want to meet.
During my first pregnancy, I questioned the chemicals I’d used all my life to straighten my kinky hair. I decided—again, against a backdrop of family howling—to dreadlock my hair and my children’s hair.
My husband and I read alternative spiritual writings found in the occult section of bookstores and, finding answers to our questions about faith, relinquished our practice of organized religion and are now more spiritually free and empowered than ever before (much to the dismay of my father-in-law, who is a Baptist pastor).
As my kids neared school age, I read about homeschooling (prompted by my daughter, who rejected the entire concept of school after three weeks of preschool). I knew by the tingly waves of joy undulating through my body that homeschooling was the right choice for our family. Beyond that, I read further about coercive/passive learning versus interest-led/active learning and decided to unschool my children (life-based learning led by child and family interests instead of curricula and textbooks) rather than practice school-at-home.
Raising my children as vegans from birth caused some concern among the in-laws, but I didn’t care. I listened to my instincts, read and researched what I felt was appropriate for my children’s health and education, and trusted that what made sense to me was what was right.
People have often asked, “What does your doctor say about it?” I look at them quizzically and reply, “Who is my doctor to tell me how to live my life and raise my children?” I also inform them that, first of all, we rarely see doctors, because we’re rarely sick. In fact, we are visibly thriving. Second, I add, “If I ever I consulted with a doctor who believed a vegan diet was unhealthy, I’d simply choose another who reads and knows better.”
For the past three or four years, I’ve practiced vegan raw foodism, which is another subject I came across through reading and research. Though my family is not completely raw, I am, because it makes me feel energized and healthy. Also, I look younger every year, without working at it.
Veganism is about questioning the status quo, bucking tradition, and choosing to live in accordance with your own values—trusting your own mind and spirit over the beliefs of the larger culture, your ethnic culture, your family, and your friends. Veganism is just one more way that I’ve taken ownership of how I define myself. I took back my hair from hairdressers. I took back my spirituality from ministers. I took back my children from institutions. I took back my health from doctors.
People feel safer with the status quo. Some have argued that it is an evolutionary instinct to stay with the herd. There is safety in numbers. Standing alone, one risks attacks by wolves, wildcats, gossips, and other predators. We are also taught not to question authority or tradition by those who wish to retain control over us. Ministers need us to depend upon their understanding. Doctors need us to value their advice. Pharmaceutical companies beg us to ask our doctors to prescribe their drugs. If we think for ourselves, these people lose their income base.
However, when the paths the masses are following lead us to destruction—when our schools educate us just enough to trail the rest of the world in math and science; when our diets lead us all to cancer, obesity, depression, disease, and pharmaceutical dependency; when our churches don’t help us break the cycle of oppression, depression, and suppression—then the wisest, most species-saving, survivalist track is to strike out from the herd. Question all assumptions. Do something different.
Choosing veganism (or homeschooling), means choosing to trust yourself over the teaching of men, doctors, ministers… Because it is such a countercultural choice, veganism means living life in accordance with your deeply pondered, deeply held values—whether you choose it for health reasons or animal-rights reasons. It is one step on a path to an authentic life.