Going Vegan

I’ve been a vegetarian for over seven years, a change in my eating habit that was fairly easy to make. Especially since the last seven years have brought many new meatless products so good they make giving up the real thing feel like you’re not giving up anything at all. But making the change to go completely vegan was more of a struggle for me.

For a long time I thought it was good enough that I ate “mostly” vegan and that the cheese pizza or grilled cheese I occasionally ate wasn’t incredibly harmful because I wasn’t eating meat. What a ridiculous thought.

Even though I’ve watched pretty much every vegan documentary available, Forks Over Knives, What the Health, The Game ChangersCowspiracy, and a few others, it wasn’t until I watched Earthlings that everything changed. I could no longer make what I thought were harmless exceptions to my diet. I was going full vegan, and I was going all the way. I bought a vegan leather jacket, as well as vegan leather handbags, and cleared my closet of anything that was a result of animal cruelty. I was thankful that my favorite pairs of Converse Cons were vegan. 

Going vegan, you are consciously deciding to no longer take part in the torture of the living beings, brutally slaughtered to end up on someone’s plate. 

Eating a compassionate diet, a diet not comprised of the suffering of any life, has helped me to find my inner calmness, even during these unstable times of a deadly global virus and thousands of domestic terrorists trying to overtake the U.S government.

As I watch these disturbing and violent clips, I turn to veganism and the vegan community to remind me that there are people who empathize with the pain and suffering of others, and are activists in trying to stop it. We need a world filled with more people like that. 

If you’re interested in giving veganism a try, since 2014 there has been a non-profit organization that encourages people to go vegan called Veganuary where people pledge to go vegan for January and longer. Veganuary | Home | The Go Vegan 31 Day Challenge

A Hundred and Eight Years Later, The Jungle Still Hits Home

A writer writes. Nothing new there. Everybody knows that.  But a writer also reads. A lot. At least, they should. I often narrow my eyes with skeptical sideways glances toward writers who confess they don’t read much. “Just don’t have the time,” they say. Hogwash. You make the time because for writers, a day without reading should feel like a day without breathing – a necessity to living.

I enjoy learning favorite books of other authors, which almost always include the classics from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lee, Poe, and Salinger (to name only a few). And why not? That’s why they’re classics. People love them. And though I adore the stories written by these exceptionally talented writers, (if only I had an iota of their ability. sigh) my favorite all-time book is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I need to read this book every couple of years. It is that good.

The way Sinclair describes his characters and the scenery makes me feel I know these people (they are me) and I am living inside those pages.

The Jungle is set in the early 1900’s and tells the story of a Lithuanian couple, and their extended family, who are lured to America, Chicago, for the opportunity of a better life through the promise of higher wages. Based on the advertisement the Chicago companies, the Stockyards of Chicago, use to recruit immigrant people, the family’s image of the beautiful land they will soon call home doesn’t fit the reality of what awaits them.

This becomes apparent on their train ride as the scenery of colorful green pastures and wild flowers mixed with the scent of fresh clean air gives way to the dreary and gloomy sights of the Stockyards, lined with slaughterhouses and over-whelmed with the rancid smell of death, where their ride ends.

This is home.

Upon their arrival, the family faces a huge setback when they realize the inflated cost of living will cancel out any advantage of the higher wages they may earn. This forces every single member of the family, including the children and the old, to work long hours, every day, just to stay afloat.

This book brilliantly depicts the struggles of each character as they face the harsh realities of their new life.  The Jungle incorporates social injustices such as the exploitation of immigrants, the lack of labor laws, including child labor laws, workplace safety issues, and political corruption as contributing factors in the decline of a once morally and ethically strong extended family of twelve.

For his research, Sinclair is sent to The Stockyards, by a socialist newspaper, to live among the working people in the meatpacking district for seven weeks. He becomes one of them. The Jungle is his firsthand account of the horrible living and working conditions forced upon the immigrants.

There was a huge outcry from the country after The Jungle came out, but it wasn’t the reaction Sinclair was aiming for. His intent was to get an appalling reaction from his readers through the cruel injustices that were inflicted upon human beings at the hands of corrupt individuals, politicians, and corporations.

Instead, America was sickened by the dirty and unsanitary way their food was being handled. When the public found out that rats, spoiled meat, and whatever happened to be on the filthy floor at that time, was shoveled into cans with the rest of the food and packaged to be delivered to someone’s dinner table, the outcry was loud. President Theodore Roosevelt created the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, the same year the book came out.

Upton Sinclair is famously quoted as saying, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit in the stomach.”

What resonates with me when I read this book, that was written over a hundred years ago, is how socially familiar these injustices still are. And that is sad.

When reading about the atrocities inflicted upon people in a book that was published in 1906, my first thought was, “Wow. History has a horrible way of repeating itself.”

 

Photo courtesy of Public-Domain Images.

Photo Courtesy of Public-Domain Images