It was 1997 when, during a short period of time, we had Mad Cow Disease (BSE), then Swine Flu (swine influenza virus or SIV) and on top of that Bird Pest (aviary influenza). When the horrible images of the panic and destruction of thousands of birds and poultry in China reached me, I had enough. First I thought eating biological fattened animals would be an improvement, but after two 30 minute bicycle rides in the pouring rain (there was only one place in Eindhoven where you could buy ‘bio meat’) I decided to stop eating meat all together. For a while I still ate fish outside of home, because being vegetarian at that time meant omelet or salad when eating out. I stopped that after seeing images of dolphins being clubbed to death. It made me realize I didn’t want to eat ANY animals, be it from the water, land or sky. The internet wasn’t what it is now, so for information you talked with each other, read books and articles. Meat substitutes didn’t exist. For tofu or tempe you had to go to this one specialized Asian shop we had. Basically, you tried to get as much protein form non-meat sources as possible: pulses and beans, nuts and dairy products. B12 came from dairy and eggs. Eggs are considered unclean by yoga standards (chicken menstruation, think about it…) so I quit that during the teacher training.
A couple of years ago I stopped eating dairy because of heath reasons. It changed my digestive system for the positive in weeks. That made me almost completely vegan (I do eat eggs form my friends chicken every now and then).
There’s a lot written about eating meat since. Especially on the internet, it’s very difficult to know where the source (the finance behind it) is. The meat industry is very powerful. The people that are opposed to change are very tenacious. Some people link veganism to left wing politics (as if that’s a bad thing), especially in the US…
Arguments that worked for me:
- Many vegan/vegetarian societies are very healthy.
- In other animals, the meat processing digestive tracts are significantly different than ours (shorter), ours looks more like vegetable based digestive tracts.
- Going plant-based will put less strain on the planet and leaves more food for everyone (a lot of land goes into soy production to feed the animals we then eat (very on-economic).
- Popeye eats spinach, not sausages.
- The animals that are fattened for meat consumption are pumped full of medicine like anti-biotics and you’ll eat that too.
It takes several years for your body and your mind to transfer from meat-processing to non-meat-processing system. So physically and mentally you need to change. The longer you keep meat, however little, in your diet, the longer this process takes. I recommend stop eating meat as of now and keep a close tab on your health. Keep in mind to take enough proteins, add some B12 on a regular basis (multi-vitamin for vegans can also be an option), eat as diverse as you can and explore the cuisine of natural vegan/vegetarian societies, like India, Thailand, Vietnam, Buddhist Temple food etc. Buy cookbooks, go to markets, cook for friends. First do it, then deal with whatever problems arise (if they arise at all). Everyone reacts differently, so no use to get all worked up in advance.
When I stopped eating meat, I also stopped drinking coffee around the same time (different story). Deciding to stop doing something and actually acting on it made me feel very powerful. The absence of meat made me feel lighter and more in tune with my surroundings. Better concentration, more free. Also, I felt less aggressive, had less anger, less frustration. The absence of coffee made me feel more relaxed, less in a hurry all the time, more in the moment. It made me able to rest deeper.
Just one more thing: If it gets difficult, and it will, there will always be people cheering you on to make the exception, to eat a bit of meat or cheese. Those are the weak ones. The ones who don’t want you to succeed, to excel nor to become a better you. They want to pull you back down to their level, so they don’t have to get up. Don’t listen to them. Practice loving kindness, but do not get pulled down.