I've been a vegetarian since age 30 for ethical reasons, but I haven't yet made the bold leap to veganism that signifies I'm really, really, REALLY committed to the cause. PETA says that dairy is a cruel product, and that's probably true. Milk cows are penned up day and night, unable to nurse their young or socialize with other cows. And yes, I do mean socialize. Cows are friendship-seeking animals with a social order all their own. Given their druthers, they'd hang in cliques just like kids in high school. The Cool Cows would probably congregate at the barn entrance, judgmentally eying the less-cool cows. The Nerd Cows would probably cluster near the farm machinery, making bets as to who can figure out how to start the tractor first The Jock Cows would no doubt spend their hours creeping up to farmhouses and peering through windows, trying to catch a glimpse of ESPN. The Loner Cows – well, there wouldn't be Loner Cows, because like I said, cows are social animals.
Why would I, a self-proclaimed, animal-protecting vegetarian, consume cheese and other dairy products when I know that dairy cows are abused, imprisoned slaves whose lives are riddled with stress and often end in disease and/or untimely, inhumane slaughter?
For the same reason, I suppose, that I ate meat the first 30 years of my life. I understood from the age of 8 that meat is murder, yet it took me 22 years to put that sick, guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach toward a positive lifestyle change – vegetarianism. Frankly, I always liked the taste of hot dogs. (I know, I know). Salmon tastes pretty spectacular, and the fried chicken and homemade noodles my grandma used to make are part of some of the best memories of my life.
Perhaps I will evolve to cheese-less veganism some day. The problem is, I do love me some cheese . . . and chocolate ain't bad either. But I know in my heart there are tasty vegan foods at my local Kroger that would satisfy my need for the salty, savory creaminess cheese provides. Websites like The Flaming Vegan are just teeming with sumptuous, guilt free vegan recipes;I should be stuffing my piehole with those foods instead of murderous cheese and chocolate.
Solutions are out there. I know there are.
I'm 40 now. Perhaps by my 50s I'll work up the guts to switch to veganism, sparing the lives of not only slaughterhouse cows, but dairy cows as well. If I truly am committed to the ethical principals behind my vegetarianism, this is something I should at least think about. Cheese is high in fat and cholesterol, so it's not like I'd be missing out on any essential nutrients if I gave up mozzarella, feta, provolone, cheddar jack, pepper jack, Gorgonzola, and Colby, not to mention cheese popcorn, Doritos, mac and cheese, cheese pizza, cheesecake . . . um . . . excuse me. I need to make a trip to the fridge.
Okay. Back now.
Like I was saying, it really is high time I put my money where my mouth is and become the hoity-toity animal lover I claim to be. I just need to give up a few more food items and I'll be up there on that pedestal of purity with the best of the vegans. Giving up cheese won't ruin my life. Lying on my death bed some day, I won't shed any tears over the thousands of grilled cheese sandwiches I missed out on because of some humane dietary choices I made.
As a matter of fact, lying on my death bed, I'd probably get a kick out of knowing I made life a little happier for some Cool Cows, Nerd Cows, even Jock Cows. Heck, maybe my epitaph will say something like, "I lived for the cows." I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons, after all. One thing I know for certain: I definitely don't want my epitaph to say, "Oh no, I couldn't possibly give up cheese!"
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)