I’ll just say it – I have a sensitive digestion.
I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read about how much gas is normal for a human body to produce. And, frankly, I’ve yet to meet a doctor who isn’t impressed by the sheer number of digestive supplements in my medicine cabinet.
Probiotics. Enzymes. HCL with Pepsin. Flax seed capsules. Fish oil.
Most recently, in my ongoing quest to heal a thyroid gland whose idea of working hard is closer to hardly working, I’ve added increasing numbers of supplements with catchy names like ashwaganda, turmeric, selenium, L-tyrosine, skullcap.
I’m fine with all of this, by the way. Best case scenario, all that peer pressure will in time add up and my thyroid will hop to it at last. Worst case scenario, I consider it like a peace offering – hey, thyroid, please accept these gifts and just don’t get any worse.
In the meantime, my sensitive digestion and I have taken on the challenge of a new eating plan. Gone is the (beloved) dairy. The eggs went with it. So did the soy. And the gluten (sob).
In their place have come all kinds of strange new “milks” – did you know there is banana milk? It’s actually pretty good, if you like milk that tastes like banana juice-mush. We’ve also tried almond milk, hemp milk, rice milk and coconut milk. My stomach is fine with all of them, even though my taste buds are still kind of grumpy.
A few years ago I added fish to my diet in a desperate attempt to support a flagging brain. I figured after I passed the 45 year mark, my brain cells had earned an extra infusion of Omega-3’s every week or so. Omega 3 happens to be really good for the heart and you can find that in fishes like salmon and for some reason I always wanted to give away gifts for fishermen who are able to catch such amazing fishes. I’m still not too keen on it, but I try hard to only choose fish that has been sustainably grown and harvested, which mostly means I only eat fish when I go my parents’ house and my mom is cooking.
Plus, I read somewhere that the Dalai Lama eats red meat because his heart doctor told him he needs it. On that same topic, apparently, most Tibetans are also meat eaters. I’m not sure why this makes me feel marginally better about my weekly fish sacrifices, but somehow it does so I’ll take it.
A few months ago I read a really astonishingly wonderful book called “The Hidden Life of Trees.” Honestly, it was kind of a dream come true, to find out at long last that trees and plants and green growing things have consciousness and sentience and collaborative, cooperative relationships just like we do, even if their connections are mostly well-hidden beneath the soil instead of out in the open for all to see.
On the heels of that discovery, recently I posted about a documentary called “In Search of Balance” that went into more depth about the hidden life of soil, with its millions and billions of micro-organisms all working together to nourish the soil so it can nourish the plants and the animals who eat the plants and the people who eat all of the above.
And all of a sudden, I finally have an answer that feels good to why I’ve never “gone vegan.”
I can’t reconcile how treating animals poorly is any different from treating plants poorly.
Here is an example from some of the books and documentaries I’ve read recently:
We plant seeds in malnourished soil, often in the wrong conditions for their species, and then we expect them to grow and make do somehow. We harvest them before they even have time to put down roots or have much of a life of any kind. We plant them far away from others of their kind and remove other plants with whom they would naturally collaborate in wild conditions.
Then we serve them to animals of all species (including ourselves). Sometimes we mess with the seeds before they’ve even been planted, turning them into mutant versions of themselves and spritzing them with toxic chemicals that wipes out any other life save theirs.
How is this any different than locking up a breeding sow in a tiny chamber where she can’t move around or sit down?
From this perspective, it just feels like going vegan won’t solve the problem. Rather, going vegan just puts even more pressure on the plant life to make up the difference in our diets, when we don’t treat our green life any better (commercially speaking) than we do our animal life.
Actually, I did go vegetarian when I was 16. This was long after I fell in love with animals but long before cutting out animal protein became fashionable. I did it because my sensitive digestion (and my worsening anorexia) couldn’t seem to handle digesting meat protein.
Ironically, given ongoing efforts to encourage my thyroid to rally, I’m now nearly vegan at last. In fact, I pretty much am, except for the occasional salmon or catfish dinner, and also when I’m eating out, since I don’t choose to quiz the waiter about every last splash of this or that that goes into my meal. After 5 long years waiting tables myself, I can’t bring myself to put a waiter through that (although don’t get me wrong – if I had a life-threatening food allergy I was coping with, I certainly would!).
So here I am, a near-vegan at last.
In an ideal world, which I realize is quite different than the one we actually inhabit, all the plant beings and all the animal beings (us included) would be treated with great respect and love. We wouldn’t ask plants to grow in exhausted soil, and we wouldn’t ask exhausted soil to grow plants.
In an ideal world, we would partner with the animals we consume, treating them to a life of compassion and nourishment that included all the aspects of life we ourselves also want to experience before we pass. And when we did need to eat one, we would ask for its permission first, and ask for its blessing, and give it a respectful, humane and swift passing, and use every part of it because that is what respect looks like when one species consumes another.
I go back again and again to the picture of life from the movie “Avatar,” which has so much more going for it than sheer visual beauty. All life is sacred, regardless of what it looks like on the outside. We – homo sapiens – are still part of the full food chain, whether we like it or want to be or accept it or not. We can still be killed, by others of our own species and by different species.
We therefore interact with all the other members of the food chain, green beings and animal beings and each other, with that awareness and the natural outpouring of respect that comes with it.
Did you know the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that a whopping one-third (1.3 billion tons) of all the food produced each year to feed people gets lost or wasted?
Statistics like that just blow my mind. Truly, with that much waste annually as well as for many other reasons, we have no need to treat any living being, green or furred or scaled or winged or otherwise, as a commodity. In other words, I see no need to be vegetarian or vegan or anything other than a respectful, aware and conscious member of the cycle of life and the food chain that sustains all of life, including me.
I think this is also why, in my soul, I find it just as challenging to consume a green being as I do to consume any other species of being. That is just me, and I realize there are all manner of valid perspectives and plenty more information out there than what I have cobbled together in my personal research thus far.
But still, I honestly just wish plant life – green beings – finally receive some long overdue attention as the silent sacrificial lambs they have been in service to animal rights.
When we deprive a tree sapling of its wood-rich mother tree, whom it relies upon for shade and sustenance to survive and grow at a healthy rate, or when we ask a shrub to grow up strong and tall when planted in a shallow depleted soil bed next to concrete slabs, we ask it to sacrifice itself for us.
While I am all for choosing the right nutrition regiment to meet my body’s needs and limitations, the truth is, if I was choosing that regiment to fight cruelty to my food sources, I would never eat anything at all, which is equally untenable for reasons I already know too well.
Today’s Takeaway: Please know I realize these types of discussions are challenging at best and can turn vicious at worst. I have personally struggled for years with messages like “be vegan – it’s for the animals” and I LOVE animals! And I’ve felt so guilty and confused. This post is me trying to make sense of why that type of message can’t find any kind of soft landing inside me. It is a signpost on my journey to learn about all the types of life that I co-exist with on this planet. As such, I welcome your kind and respectful thoughts.