Rule number one: only explain if they are interested.
We, as individuals, are passionate about our way of life and what we believe is right and wrong that we often forget that almost every other person that isn’t us would have had different life experiences: social, cultural, religious, economic backgrounds. What this means is that we will all look at life from different lenses.
But what brings us together is when we show interest in a life that isn’t our own. As a vegan, I am over the moon when people question me about my choices because it shows that they are interested. I always imagine life like those ridiculous glasses they make you put on when you get your eyes checked. Every time you introduce a new idea to someone’s mind that they find interesting, it’s like adding another lens to the way they see the world.
After becoming vegan, my glasses have become a lot heavier. But at the same time, I feel like I’m seeing the world clearer than I’ve ever had by far. So the story I’m about to share with you is a lens from a selection of many – but it’s also one that makes the most sense to me when I explain to myself why I chose to be vegan.
This story calls for a nostalgic recap of the first — and last — fishing trip my dad ever brought me on. I was 14 and probably much too excited about spending an entire day in the scorching heat, at the end of a run-down wooden pier, waiting for fish to latch onto some bait. To classify the experience as a disaster would be an understatement — I have to admit, it was not one of my finer moments.
First up was the cutting of the worms for bait. Mind you, I was always the weird kid that played with worms during recess, so it wasn’t the worm that freaked me out. It was the fact that we had to cut up the worm for bait. If you’ve never done this before, I suggest you stay clear of ever having to do such a thing because the worm actually continues to move around after it has been cut up. Out of desperation, I ended up chopping the poor thing into a gazillion pieces till it stopped moving, hoping that it no longer felt anything after that.
Then, out of some kind of twisted fate, I ended up catching the biggest fish of the day. It was flat and tinted blue, which reminded me of Dory. I was so excited when I pulled it up, but the excitement trickled away as I watched for and hour or so as Dory struggled in the little blue ice box where my dad kept all the fish we caught. As my brother and my dad packed up all the fishing gear, I, out of some insane teenage impetus, picked up the little blue fish with both my hands and threw it back into the water.
I didn’t quite understand back then why I did what I did. But I do now. The reason I threw Dory back into the ocean was a natural instinct to realign my actions in the physical world with the natural compassion, morality and deep connection that we have for the world around us.
Before the fishing trip, I never had an issue with eating fish off my plate because I never made that connection. Chicken breast was just another lump of meat and so were bacon and sausages in the morning. But once you realise that every bite of meat requires the death of another, looking at the dead animal on a plate is really no different to sitting through my grandfather’s funeral all over again. Only, no one suggested to sauteed grand-papa in butter and rosemary — because that’s simply unthinkable.