When people ask me, “Why did you become vegetarian?” I usually reply with the unusual yet truthful response of “vanity.”
In university, some people struggle with simple health issues for the first time in their lives, ranging from weight gain to sleep disorders. My only “affliction” was acne.
A student’s diet isn’t something people usually admire. Cheeseburgers, pizza and macaroni are often at the top of many students’ must-eat lists.
One evening, after eating meat for several days in a row, it occurred to me that more meat might equal more acne – so I began paying attention to my diet and to my face. If I skipped a cheeseburger on day x, was my complexion a bit better on day y? Would it remain that way for subsequent days if I kept the same pattern?
My experiments progressed, starting with eliminating red meat, then poultry, then fish. I found it amazing that my complexion cleared up. To add certainty to my experiments, I would break discipline and eat some meat after stretches of abstinence. It didn’t matter if the foods had been fried or cooked healthily, new pimples would appear the next day.
Vanity aside, I was lucky enough in those days to be surrounded by many musicians and artists who followed vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. They unknowingly became my support network. I happen to believe that a support network can be an important factor for new personal goals to succeed. I do mean any goals, not just dietary ones!Without my artsy network, I wonder if I would have made the transition so easily. The veg*ns (note the fun asterisk indicating letters for either vegetarians or vegans) taught me that people made dietary changes for reasons ranging from health to ethics. People’s stories of change were always different, and always personal. I also learned that the veg*n lifestyle was easily achieved in a city like Toronto, where alternative food options are plentiful.
Have you ever noticed that we think of work differently when we take vacations? Perhaps we think about other things that we would rather be doing. As a parallel, I discovered that my attitude toward animal products changed after I began eliminating them from my diet.
My mind began asking how the food got to my table, and where the food came from.
From animals, of course! Somehow, without direct influence, empathy for my voiceless four-legged (or otherwise) friends kicked in. Empathy led directly to ethical considerations. For example, I started thinking about the whole “off with their heads!” thing. Were executions as kind as executions could be? Were environments clean and warm and safe for my furry (or otherwise) friends?
Upon investigation, I learned that the picturesque family farms of yore have been eradicated for the most part. Apparently, an average family farm cannot compete financially with an efficient factory farm. A factory farm destroys the quality of life for animals as it tries to improve efficiency and reduce costs. It’s like having one nurse take care of 10,000 human patients per day: it ain’t pretty.
Lo and behold, I became a full-fledged herbivore.
I don’t protest for PETA or stand outside fur retailers with anti-fur signs. I prefer to influence others by living the way I live (by example), or by playing my music at animal-rights benefits. The simplest satisfaction for me comes when I donate hard cash to veg*n-related organizations.
Diet aside, one of my major goals in life is to tread lightly on the earth. I love that expression! By thinking more progressively, recycling more, bicycling to work more or just doing good deeds for those in need, I think I shall be a happy camper. Being vegetarian is one of those things that helps me to tread more lightly.
Dyniss Roland Rainer (BA 1995 Innis) is a member of the Toronto Vegetarian Association. He manages inventory for big-box retailers during the day while making original “easy-rock” music at night.