I will be the first to admit that I am not a pious vegan. I adopted a vegan diet for the health benefits. I don’t have a membership in PETA, and I am not part of any vegan activist communities. I am downright intimidated by angry ethical vegans as I know my lifestyle would not live up to their perfect standards. I was a chicken keeper for years and I even have an aquaponics veggie grow op in my basement. I am exploiting goldfish for their fertilizer. I believe that the chickens and goldfish in my care have had the best lives a chicken or goldfish could have, but I doubt this would endear me to a proper vegan.
So with the caveat that I became vegan to save my own life rather than the animals’, let me just say that a not insignificant improvement in my wellbeing came about as a result of being able to let go of the incredible cognitive dissonance that I had to live with to eat animal products. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t claim to love animals yet almost everyone quite willingly participates in a system that guarantees their suffering. A combination of willful ignorance and extreme rationalization is required to continue to eat certain animals while sharing a home with others.
In addition to the animal suffering I am no longer party to, there is a feeling of relief at having a lifestyle that has a considerably smaller ecological footprint. I’ve been a frustrated environmentalist for years, in that my lightbulb changes and shorter showers don’t seem to have a significant impact on my own personal planetary devastation. Choosing to eat food which requires a fraction of the resources of animal agriculture actually does.
Living a life that is much more in line with your values is one of the best things you can do to improve your mental health. If you are honest with yourself, you may find that having animals killed on your behalf is not truly something that you feel good about. So maybe just stop doing it and see how much better it feels?
I realize that this all sounds rather selfish – I changed my diet for my own health and I am pleased to find that I prefer not hurting animals. If I was a proper vegan I would know it’s not about me at all, but luckily I do not have to choose between my health, animal rights and the environment. By not eating animal products, we all benefit.
featured image credit: unsplash