About Me

My photo
My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Small victories

Today was a day of many small victories in my quest to change both my family's diet and its perception of animal rights. It started in the most unlikely of ways: My daughter didn't have school today and so I took her shopping. Like twelve-year-old girls everywhere, she's been growing like a weed and needed new clothes. For fun, we brought along one of her friends. A mall is not exactly the venue you might imagine for a series of small "vegan" victories, but here's the story.

After a few hours of looking at the mind-boggling array of nearly-impossible-to-put-on-unless-you-really-are-anorexic skinny jeans, the girls (neither of whom are fat) got hungry. We stopped at a local chain, Cafe Yumm, which my daughter's friend suggested because "it's a good place for vegetarians." Indeed, it is, and I think it's remarkable that my daughter's friend remembered that I am one. Small victory number one.

While eating our lunch, the friend told me that she herself is a vegetarian. I quizzed her a little. Are her parents vegetarians? Uh, no. (That much I already knew.) Does she eat chicken? Well, yes, because she LOVES it, but she is "trying" not to eat it anymore. My daughter volunteered that she doesn't like how chickens are treated in factory farms. I nearly fell off my chair. Small victory number two!!

I continued asking the friend a few questions. Does she eat fish? Yes, it's actually her all-time favorite food. I skipped the lecture that was in the back of my head, and simply told her that technically she's a pescatarian. She liked that word. She then asked me what I was eating (a tempeh reuben), and then asked me what tempeh is. I explained it to her, and she volunteered that she likes tofu, as long as it isn't by itself. Then -- I almost fainted -- my daughter said that SHE likes tofu, at least in stir-fries. Considering that a few days ago, she had made a big to-do in front of another friend (who thinks I'm crazy not to eat meat) that she HATES tofu, this is quite the admission. (And I think it's true.) Small victory number three.

While we were at the mall, it occurred to me that I'm desperately in need of a new belt. I could not find, in either of two malls, a non-leather one (unless I wanted one with skulls, or roses, or studs, or sequins, or all of the above, on plastic). I told the girls that I just didn't want to buy a leather one, because it didn't make sense to kill a cow for leather goods when there are lots of man-made options available. My daughter replied, "Yeah, I wouldn't kill a cow for a belt, either." Small victory number four.

My daughter's friend needed to go to Payless to get these shoes she absolutely couldn't live without (and which were on sale). So, off to Payless we went, where my daughter spotted some Ugg knock-offs. She has been PINING AWAY for a pair of Uggs for over a year, which I was initially reluctant to buy both due to price and the rate at which her feet are currently growing. But, not only were the Payless version WAY cheaper than the real thing, but they are constructed of manmade materials. My daughter asked if she could have them, and then added, "At least, unlike Uggs, an animal didn't die to make them." How, exactly, could I resist that logic (since I've been trying to teach it)? She now has her Ugg knock-offs. The naysayers will just recognize that my kid, like all bright kids, has figured out how to use her mother's thinking to her advantage. Oh well, a cow didn't die because she did. I say, "small victory number five".

When we got home, I got on the internet to find the elusive man-made, decent-looking, faux-leather belt. It was a SNAP to find, thanks to a site called "Alternative Outfitters." Even with the $6.95 shipping fee, the belt was CHEAPER than the leather alternatives at the GAP, Kohl's or JCPenney. Affordable and vegan? I say small victory number six.

Full disclosure: I'm baking a chicken for my husband, who is coming around, bit by bit, to my new way of thinking. We already had the bird in the freezer and we've decided to use up what we have while we transition to a different diet. But he's not ready to give up dairy (frankly, I can cut WAY back, but I'm not ready to give it up completely either). But he has started buying organic milk. Small victory number seven. And cage-free eggs. Small victory number eight.

I fully realize that the most committed vegans may be unimpressed by these small victories. I guess one can either have the perspective that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or believe the Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

I'd rather believe the latter. I think lately we've taken several steps. It's a good journey.


  1. Love your blog. I'm trying to reduce my animal intake. I've switched to organic - trying to find organic egg whites? Any suggestions? Thanks for posting this... I learned a lot!

  2. Great read!

    Not too sure if one of the arguments is valid: most cows are slaughtered primimilary for meat consumption, leather is a secondary benefit of the animal's death. So, the notion that a creature died in order for belt to be made, seems a bit sweeping. Regardless, the fact that your daughter is honoring your choices and critically examining the choices in her life richly aggrandizes the notions of responsibility and decision making.

    Way to go! Keep writing!

  3. I like your attitude. Yes, everything begins with a first step. But I do think with "organic" milk and "free range eggs" you might be taking a sideways step.

    I don't mean to "preach" just to inform you on some issues you might not be aware of...

    And Teacher Man - about the leather being a by product. Not hardly. It accounts for approximately 40% of the "profitabiity" of the "processed" animal. Leather actually keeps meat "cheap". Also, leather processing is very damaging to the environment. So the alternative belt really was a better choice.

    BTW - so are "Payless" shoes! ;)


Politeness is always appreciated.