Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Hope Against Denial

This world lives on the edge of monstrosity.

Otherwise good, gentle people smilingly buy and consume the products of pain and death. If any person or poster, letter or literature, tries to remind them of the possibility of change, or of some of the cruelties inherent in the products they buy, these people will wall off the suggestions, smoothly, easily, completely, either with a certain amount of annoyance or with understanding and respect that too often is feigned.

A vegan's faith in human kindness can be stretched to the utmost -- sometimes to the snapping point or the beginning of misanthropy -- to come up against the walls of denial over and over again.

Those of us who know the truth and act on it are considered freaks. For the meat-eating majority, not to push away our choices by labeling us eccentric, dirty tree-huggers, radical hippies, extreme, or whatever other pejorative springs readily to mind, would mean that they would have to evaluate their own actions and be prepared for the possibility that not all of these actions are praiseworthy.

There is fear behind this denial, which is nurtured starting in childhood by marketing interests and the people around us who are already in its grip. As every day goes by and we eat or wear or use the products of pain, as we make jokes at the expense of the animals or the people who care about them, as we continue to buy items without questioning how they got to us, our society digs itself deeper into a habit that becomes not just comfortable, not just accepted, but expected. We implicate ourselves step by step and dollar by dollar into the mechanism responsible for animal cruelty and death.

We know this, deep down. We are aware, however faintly, of the distastefulness of this lifestyle. And so we fear any comment, person, or word that suggests to us this lifestyle is not the best or the only way to live. Because what is smothering the deep-down kernel of doubt that we should live this way is the sureness of this denial, which has become so strong it feels like knowledge: "The sun comes up in the morning, and sets in the evening, and I am a person who eats meat. Because people eat meat. It's healthy and tastes good. My family eats meat. My friends eat meat. It's not a real meal unless it has meat."

These usually aren't articulated thoughts, otherwise they would be easier to question. These are unworded assumptions that have become sureties. This is the worst kind of pretending. This is pretending to oneself, without even knowing it.

We start down the path of compassion when somehow we begin to be able to set aside the pretense to which we are addicted. Something softens or falls away and we gain objectivity, sometimes all at once, sometimes moment by moment, about our choices.

What causes this? For some people, it's the first time they confront the bloody facts in a piece of literature like Diet for a New America or Meet Your Meat. Others may have such information come at them for years without making them change. For me, I was in a time of flux with my life, feeling less attached, for various reasons, to rigid ideas of who I was. I was ready to embrace major changes in how I saw myself and the world and in how I lived. Everyone's journey is different.

I believe that with every person who decides to live a life more gentle, another light comes in amongst the blind darkness of denial that is our society. As the number of vegetarians and vegans increases in the world, the easier it is for the rest of the world to consider the possibility that such a life is tenable and enjoyable. I believe that if we make an example of gentleness, joy, health, love, and ahimsa with our vegan lives, then -- however slowly and imperceptibly -- we will have an effect on the walls of denial. Though it may take years or lifetimes before we see the walls weaken, I do have faith that we can someday all be free from their oppression.

Aix-en-Provence, France

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