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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Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a word that runs deeply into the core of who I am. It is a concept that surrounds me constantly in my way of life. Being both a Christian and a Vegan, forgiveness is unavoidable. As a Christian, I must learn to forgive those around me as well as ask for forgiveness for my own wrongdoings. As a Vegan, the ways of forgiveness are similar, but the reasons are different. I must forgive others for their lack of understanding. I believe this is why nonvegans and nonvegetarians make fun of people like myself. It is because they do not understand. But I think perhaps it goes deeper than that. I think perhaps they do not WANT to understand. This is what I must forgive them for. Forgiveness works the other way as well, though. I must also forgive myself when I "slip." Although these slips are unintentional, as hard as I may try to eschew animal products, I will inevitably and unintentionally consume them in some form or another. The only thing that I can do to get past this is to forgive myself.

Yet, no matter how hard I try and listen to the "Golden Rule," I cannot forget these transgressions I make. I feel a battle rage within me, and I am uncertain if the angel of forgiveness will descend upon me and release me from my anger, sadness, and hurt. As odd as it sounds, my own "sins" hurt me the most. Those also are the ones that I find it most difficult to forgive. I tell myself that it was just a mistake and that I should move on, but still it is a near-impossible task. How odd it must be that I can forgive the ones who care not for the same things I do, yet I cannot forgive myself.

My sister is my biggest antagonist. She is the type of person who will casually watch with an eagle's eye for the slightest mistake. When she discovers one, she will gloat that her victim is not as perfect as she thinks they believe themselves to be. She does not understand why I have chosen the path of veganism, and constantly goes out of her way to taunt me. Any time the subject is mentioned, she seems to crave some sort of animal product right at that moment. Her favorite argument is the one about plants feeling pain and how I should not eat plants because that is cruel. She even ignores my perfectly valid logic as to why plants have no NEED to feel pain. Still, despite all of her attempts to crush my spirit, I find it an easy thing to forgive her. Yet when I found out what was in caramel after I ate a caramel apple, I felt terrible. I had compromised my values for a confection. I simply could not forgive myself for my weakness. I can tolerate weakness in others, but I cannot tolerate weakness within myself.

Sometimes I find myself questioning why I cannot forgive myself. Even when the matter is so small as to be near inconsequential, I cannot overlook it. Yet larger transgressions--such as eating meat and doing so blatantly in front of me--are the sins that I can overlook and forgive in others. Often I wonder why that is. Perhaps it is because I can control my own destiny but not that of others. I have a say as to what food I consume, what products I use, and what entertainment I choose to see. While others have this choice too, I cannot control that choice. I believe I could influence their decisions, so perhaps that is not why I cannot forgive myself.

I wish to be someone that others enjoy spending time with. Even so, I take the time to look at labels and explain why such a product is unacceptable for me to eat. It takes little to no time and I feel good afterwards for having stuck to my beliefs. My beliefs truly are important to me. That is the reason I cannot forgive myself when I betray my own beliefs. They are my core, my essence, and my center. If I can so easily disregard a secular thing such as my dietary beliefs, then I've no chance of maintaining my more spiritual beliefs of God and Christ. And yet, after almost four months of veganism, I have grown to see my religion and my choice of veganism as so closely ingrained that they are nearly inseparable. I can no more forgive myself for accidentally consuming an animal product than I could if I were to accidentally sin against God. To me, both are the same, but on different levels. Both are important to me and to fail in the one is to fail in the other. Although veganism is housed within my religion, it is not that much less important to me.

When I know something is wrong, I find it difficult to forgive myself. I know that eating animals or their byproducts is wrong. Perhaps thousands of years ago when animals were treated with care and were not raped and pumped full of hormones it was not a wrong thing. Perhaps in the days where food was scarce and animals were more of companions than products it was not wrong. Today, however, it is wrong. Farmers play God with the animals, and that is wrong too. Genetically manipulating animals and fruits and vegetables is not something that we were designed to do. If I were to consume these products, I would be, in essence, giving my stamp of approval to those responsible for the gene splicing and mutilation. I cannot approve of such practices. From a primary perspective, they go against my religious beliefs. From a secondary perspective, they go against my ethical beliefs. If we were a nomadic people as those so many years ago, then my beliefs might be different.

Once, about four months ago, I was in the same place as my family and friends. I ate meat, egg, and milk products. I did not know any better. Somewhere deep inside I am sure that I sensed it was wrong, but I had never entertained any conscious thoughts that it was because that was our cultural norms. Meat was a main course for me. I had no reason to question the steak on my plate or consider why I should not eat it. It was just the way things were done. I was enlightened, though, but it was more than that. I wanted to be awakened to the truths of the world. That is the difference between me and those not like me. They do not choose to know the truth. I did, though, and that is a credit to me. Perhaps I should take that into account the next time that I accidentally break my ethics. I am only human and thus am prone to fault. If I can learn to forgive myself, then I will be opened to everything life has to offer me and nothing will be able to stop me or crush my spirit again.

Jennifer H.
Alabama

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