Snooping is something I was familiar with long before I became vegan. During my life, I have been both snoopee and (ashamedly) snooper.
The most memorable snooping I have experienced was at Easter time. One year, when we were young, my older brother Ross and I decided to sneak out to the lounge room at various stages in the evening to see if the "Easter bunny" had visited yet. We made a pact to go together --probably because each of us thought that if we got caught, we could blame the idea on the other one! Each time we would see only darkness and empty shadows. But at one point, very early in the morning, I tiptoed out without my brother by my side. This was my first experience as a solo snoop. Completely oblivious to my deviousness, he slumbered on.
What a surprise for Ross to wake up in the morning and discover my absence! The initial confusion, blurred by sleep, slowly resolved itself into panic. Ross leapt out of bed and raced out to the kitchen. There I was, a grin on my little four-year-old face, surrounded by crumpled Easter egg wrappers, smeared from head to toe in sticky chocolate. My early-morning snooping had paid off.
Later in life, when I became vegan, I was to become the subject of snooping. One woman in particular couldn't believe that I neither consumed nor used any animal products. Her name was Naomi, and I worked with her in the local bakery/café. She would say things like: "But you eat eggs, don't you?" I would inform her that indeed I didn't. "But you'll eat them if you can't see them in the food, right?" Again, I would tell her no and explain that it wasn't so much a matter of not liking the taste, but an ethical and moral objection to animal exploitation. This would happen with just about every animal product you can imagine -- honey, butter, milk, ice cream, yogurt, jell-o, anything and everything.
She would watch me suspiciously whenever I wrapped cakes to make sure I didn't slip a couple of crumbs into my mouth when I thought no one was looking. She would carefully scrutinize me whenever I made an iced chocolate to see if she could catch me licking ice cream from my finger. Once she thought she had me. She saw me drinking through a straw from a milkshake cup and thought her snooping had hit paydirt. "Aha!" she cried. "I thought you didn't drink milk. I knew it wasn't possible to live without dairy!" She was quite disappointed when I showed her the water I was drinking.
After I became vegan, I began reading food labels very closely. I soon switched to a whole-foods diet, reasoning that if I couldn't pronounce something then I shouldn't be eating it. However, this emphasis on whole-foods didn't decrease my passion for label-reading. Because I no longer had interesting labels of my own to read, I started to read the packaging from my friends' food before they tossed it away. I suppose it is snooping, in a way, albeit a very open form of snooping -- politely asking if I can read what's in someone's food. I just like to do it for my own education. Often my friends will give me the packet but request that I don't tell them what they're really eating!
However, one friend has taken a different outlook. She now *asks* me to read her food labels and tell her if there's anything in it that I wouldn't eat. I have moved from requesting to snoop to *being* requested to snoop. Mutually beneficial snooping -- I get to have my food-label fix, while my friend gets the benefit of knowing what's really in her food.
Snooping doesn't always arise from suspicion. It can spring from genuine curiosity and an interest in learning about the world around us. Surely vegans have a heightened sense of the world we live in and desire a greater awareness of their surroundings? Snooping can be an educational adventure rather than a sneaky study. I'm still a snoop, but I'm an open and honest snoop.
New South Wales, Australia
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