MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

I’m sure I’m not the only Nosey Nancy among us. You know what I mean. It’s just another day at the grocery store, and as you pass people in the aisles you catch yourself rubbernecking to see what they have in their cart. THEN come the judgements… “That soda isn’t even DIET soda… Those crackers are so full of crap!… White bread!? WHO still eats plain WHITE BREAD?!…”

Today I was running all over the grocery store and found that this is something I do without thinking about it. And I began to feel really guilty.

When you are living your life in a way you deem “moral” – whether its by pushing extra hard at work, you incorporate spirituality into all you do, or you eat a plant-based diet especially on the grounds of animal welfare and rights, it can become all too easy to cast judgement on others who don’t do the same.

I wasn’t born with the knowledge I have about factory farming. In fact, I am embarrassed and hesitant to admit that one of the first articles I ever wrote and self-published was titled “Why I Believe in the Vegetarians Cause and Why I’m Not One”. (I know, right!?) When it comes to our diets or lifestyle choices, we could stand to be reminded that for most of us, this was a choice that came about after an “awakening” of sorts.

Maybe you saw a gruesome slaughterhouse video, or adopted a pet and made the connection between that pet and all animals. For me, it was when my Dad died when I was seventeen. Suddenly all animal-foods appeared to me as “someone’s dead father”, and when I was suffering so deeply how I could I do that to another being, human or nonhuman?

We have these stories, and it does us good to recall them from time to time to have more compassion for people that live differently than we do. The meat and dairy industries do all they can to keep consumers in the dark about what is going on. That’s why, for many people, once they see a video of the inside of a slaughterhouse, they become vegetarians. It IS gross. It IS horrible. It DOES affect people. But many folks, myself included when I ate meat, don’t make the connection between their grilled chicken sandwich and the pain and horror of what chickens endure. I’m certain no one wants to promote pain and suffering, but when it is so veiled and secretive, people don’t see any reason to change.

Another point is the fact that, for many people, it costs a lot more money to eat healthy, whole foods. I can argue that if you know where to shop and how to cook well, you can eat a vegan diet even on a strict budget. But that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to educate myself and have the time to prepare meals. Even then, sometimes I spent $50 at a grocery store and look into my cart think, “Really? That’s it?” It’s limited thinking to believe that just because we are able to maintain a lifestyle it’s something easily, or instantly, achievable for most.

If we start to live our lives in a way that we feel so self-righteous as to be “better than” another, we have missed the whole point. Vegetarianism and veganism, for most, is about compassion and kindness. Let us all strive to live with open minds and hearts, and find comfort that while we hope to inspire and inform, we can only be responsible for our own choices and actions.

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