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"Oh No, I Couldn't Possibly Give Up Cheese!"
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"Oh No, I Couldn't Possibly Give Up Cheese!"

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)

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  1. The Flaming Vegan Crew
    The Flaming Vegan Crew
    What a GREAT first post. Welcome to The Flaming Vegan!
  2. Tonya Kubo
    Tonya Kubo
    Great post! I know you speak for many. Thanks for giving dairy addicts a voice :-D
  3. Veganara
    Voted. Great blog. The thing is, you don't have to give up cheese as such - there are a lot of awesome vegan cheeses on the market these days, which are very close to the real thing! So it is much easier for vegans in that respect than it used to be. So every time you get a cheese craving, why not go for a vegan cheese instead, phase it in gradually, maybe? That is what I had to do as, like you, I really struggled going vegan at first, because of my cheese addiction! Give yourself time to quit it, maybe do it over a year, something of that kind, that is what I did, what worked for me. I wish you all the best with it anyway, and hope you can make the transition to veganism in the next few years. One bonus of giving up dairy products is that you should find your health improves quite a lot!
  4. Lubear
    I want to call your attention to what is allowed in cheese. Have you not seen Forks Over Knives? I don't care how good cheese tastes! I refuse to eat any dairy knowing that it contains allowable amounts of blood, pus & feces! No thanks! I will take mine with vegan cheese any day!!
    1. alexandra bezerra
      Yup Lubear!..I'm with you all the way!...Forks over Knives and Earthlings are films that all need to see
  5. LittleChamp19
    Hi, Melissa--- I had to write this comment, because just like you, I had been an ethical vegetarian for many years but was struggling to make the transition to veganism, and yes--it was mainly because of cheese. (And chocolate. And those times when I was exhausted and/or getting a headache from caffeine withdrawal and needed a coffee, but the only places around that sold coffee had three variations of dairy milk to choose from, but not a single vegan option with which to lighten my coffee...) I used to joke that I suffered from "the lact-ovovore's dilemma." Like me at one stage, I don't think you realize just how horrendous it is for dairy cows. It isn't just that milk cows are penned up day and night, unable to nurse their young or socialize with other cows. (Which is bad enough.) It's that milk cows are continuously RAPED by humans sticking a mechanical device, informally known as the "rape rack" (yes, it's actually called that), into them, and artificially inseminating them. Nine months later, she gives birth to a baby calf--but within a day or two, that calf is hauled off to the VEAL FACTORY, leaving the mother to grieve her heart out until she is once more raped and impregnated, and the whole process happens all over again. That is, until she is too old--at which point, she is sent to the slaughterhouse, where her short, miserable life is ended and she winds up in somebody's goddamn hamburger. In their natural lives, cows live into their mid-twenties. But the harsh and painful life of a dairy cow leaves her dried up and infertile by the age of 4. After seeing baby after baby being stolen from her, she probably doesn't want to live any longer, anyway. And yes, they do grieve for their lost babies. They weep and moan audibly for days, sometimes weeks on end. One veterinarian told the story of a dairy cow who had been forcibly impregnated and then had her babies stolen from her again and again in this matter, who eventually gave birth to twins--and hid one for almost two weeks while turning the other over to the farmer so that he would not suspect anything. In the words of the veterinarian: "One of my clients called me one day with a puzzling mystery: his Brown Swiss cow, having delivered her fifth calf naturally on pasture the night before, brought the new baby to the barn and was put into the milking line, while her calf was once again removed from her. Her udder, though, was completely empty, and remained so for several days. As a new mother, she would normally be producing close to one hundred pounds (12.5 gallons) of milk daily; yet, despite the fact that she was glowing with health, her udder remained empty. She went out to pasture every morning after the first milking, returned for milking in the evening, and again was let out to pasture for the night — this was back in the days when cattle were permitted a modicum of pleasure and natural behaviors in their lives — but never was her udder swollen with the large quantities of milk that are the hallmark of a recently-calved cow. I was called to check this mystery cow two times during the first week after her delivery and could find no solution to this puzzle. Finally, on the eleventh day post calving, the farmer called me with the solution: he had followed the cow out to her pasture after her morning milking, and discovered the cause: she had delivered twins, and in a bovine’s “Sophie’s Choice,” she had brought one to the farmer and kept one hidden in the woods at the edge of her pasture, so that every day and every night, she stayed with her baby — the first she had been able to nurture FINALLY—and her calf nursed her dry with gusto. Though I pleaded for the farmer to keep her and her bull calf together, she lost this baby, too—off to the hell of the veal crate. Think for a moment of the complex reasoning this mama exhibited: first, she had memory — memory of her four previous losses, in which bringing her new calf to the barn resulted in her never seeing him/her again (heartbreaking for any mammalian mother). Second, she could formulate and then execute a plan: if bringing a calf to the farmer meant that she would inevitably lose him/her, then she would keep her calf hidden, as deer do, by keeping her baby in the woods lying still till she returned. Third — and I do not know what to make of this myself — instead of hiding both, which would have aroused the farmer’s suspicion (pregnant cow leaves the barn in the evening, unpregnant cow comes back the next morning without offspring), she gave him one and kept one herself. I cannot tell you how she knew to do this—it would seem more likely that a desperate mother would hide both. All I know is this: there is a lot more going on behind those beautiful eyes than we humans have ever given them credit for, and as a mother who was able to nurse all four of my babies and did not have to suffer the agonies of losing my beloved offspring, I feel her pain." At the time when I first went vegan, I repeated the following quote I had read somewhere like a mantra every time I was tempted to give in to the addiction for dairy. (And it IS an addiction; milk contains hormones that are meant to be addictive because they are meant to strengthen the bond between mother cow and calf.) "The dairy industry is the only industry that expects rape victims who've had their children taken away from them to shut up and be happy about it." :'( If you support the dairy industry, you support rape, you support abduction, you support murder, you support enslavement, you support incomprehensible suffering, you support concentration-camps for animals, and you support the veal industry. There is no such thing as supporting dairy without supporting the veal industry. In some ways dairy is even crueler than meat. Yes, it's THAT bad. I am not saying all of this to be harsh. I'm saying it because it was the only thing that managed to get me to stop eating dairy, and I sense that you also want to give it up, but are struggling with it. It is so, SO hard to give up, especially at first, and I will not try to pretend otherwise. However, one thing that makes it a whole lot easier is to buy yourself a good blender and a food processor. I cannot tell you how much of a difference that makes. For years, I lived in frustration because I was never close enough to any stores that carried vegan egg and dairy replacements. But now that I have a good blender, I can make my own vegan cheeses and other dairy substitutes out of cashews and almonds. There are ways to make vegan melting 'moxarella' for your pizza, vegan feta, vegan cream cheese, and a whole bunch of other vegan cheeses at home, and all you need are a blender, some nuts, oil and vinegar. Once you get the hang of it, you will no longer need to feel deprived, or buy expensive and difficult-to-obtain store-bought vegan substitutes. Being able to use cheap and readily available ingredients to make vegan substitutes can go a long way towards making you feel like you can get through this. My advice is to get yourself a blender and food processor and start experimenting with some recipes, as well as trying store-bought vegan alternatives (Daiya cheese is especially good), while trying to eliminate dairy as much as possible. Don't be hard on yourself if you slip up--many in the vegan community have a tendency of being rather critical of those who slip-up, which isn't helpful to anyone--especially newbies who are trying to make the change, and who need support, not judgement. It's especially hard to not feel fatalistic when you start realizing how many things (paper towels? wine? veggie burgers?) that you NEVER would think contain animal products, do in fact contain them. The most important thing is to just keep getting back on the no-cheese wagon, no matter what. I would absolutely be happy to offer advice, if you have any questions. Good luck--I have faith that you can do this! Oh, and btw--PETA is NOT an animal rights organization!!! :
    1. Veganara
      Wow, that comment is an extensive blog in itself, LittleChamp! Very well-expressed and compelling. Do you write blogs for TFV? If not, you should. You are so right - that is what gave me the final push I needed to become vegan, being made aware of how much cows suffer in the dairy industry. It is even more cruel than the meat industry, ironically (because cows raised for meat are slaughtered much earlier, so don't have to go through all the years of torment a dairy cow has to).
      1. Melissa Nott
        Melissa Nott
        Agreed, Veganara! Thanks to you and everybody who has joined this discussion. I live in an area where there aren't many people like me (vegetarian for ethical reasons.) I'm so happy to have found a place where I can chat with like minds, and learn from like minds!
    2. Melissa Nott
      Melissa Nott
      Fabulous comment, Little Champ! Thank you for sharing. I agree with Veganara that you should indeed write for this blog site. I was not aware of the details you shared; your writing IS very compelling and honestly I don't know if I'll ever be able to eat cheese again with remembering this knowledge you've shared. Sure, cheese is good, but it's not THAT good!
    3. alexandra bezerra
      Amen have described the horrific dairy industry to a T...
  6. Skip Stein
    Skip Stein
    I certainly understand why so many are vegetarian/vegan for lots of reasons but all these comments are all about animals. While that is terrific, you must also realize that consuming animal food products is dangerous to your health! Many/most people just don't understand the devastating impact that the Standard American Diet has on health and wellness, but refuse to recognize what is before their very eyes. Americans (and many others) are Fat, Sick and Nearly dead from consuming animal 'food'. The industry is devastating to the economy, pollutes the planet and destroys forests (to make room for grazing herds). Consuming animal 'foodstuffs' will kill you so understand and focus on these aspects of our Vegan movement as well as the protective aspects and elimination of cruelty and violence. In the end, we all arrive at the same ultimate goal, preservation of our Planet, better health and wellness (lower costs too!) and protection of the animals that are so beneficial to us all and our Planet! Cheers, Skip Stein Vegan Conservatives
  7. Lyla A
    I had the same problem for a while. But I gave up dairy 5 years ago, before I was even eating vegan. Cheese and dairy were my FAVORITE foods, but I managed to give them up. Lots of dairy-consumers try to convince me that I must not have loved it that much if I could give it up. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was in love with it - I put dairy on my dairy on my cheese. But it is possible. Sometimes it just has to be the right time for you. But I so did not give up chocolate. There are a lot of dark chocolates that have zero dairy in them. I always preferred dark chocolate, so not much changed there. And it tastes exactly the same without dairy (I know people say that when it's a big fat lie, but seriously, there's only ever a teeny bit of milk product in dark chocolate anyway, and lots of them never have it at all). It's not "vegan" chocolate, it's just dark chocolate. --I definitely don't want my epitaph to say, "Oh no, I couldn't possibly give up cheese!"-- That's actually what everyone says when they hear I don't eat dairy. The longer they talk about it, the more emphatic they get that they MUST have cheese, that there's no living or happiness without it. Sometimes it devolves into a tearful tale of how they almost died when they didn't have it for a week. ;)
    1. Skip Stein
      Skip Stein
      Lyla, you hit the nail on the head. We find so many friends who seem to be so addicted to 'cheese' and other dairy (what else will I drink if not milk?). It is part of the decades long brainwashing most people have been subjected too all their lives. Commercials on TV, misleading adverts in media, etc. The dairy industry have been masters at creating a marketplace for their products and continue to do so. People just don't realize and usually refuse to even listen when anyone tries to explain the danger from consuming dairy and other animal products. I've posted and refereed people for years to documented scientific articles (current ones too) that explicitly define the health dangers of consuming dairy products. We can only do our best to be patient and advise and direct those who will listen and act as examples to others. Being and remaining healthy and happy (we are both 67+) is one of the best ways. Me having cancer (prostate) and my wife having suffered from fibromyalgia and heart disease (both now gone!) usually gets their attention but not for long. It is so unfortunate that so few listen. This is the reason Americans and others are so Fat, Sick and nearly Dead as they sulk around with no energy, impaired brain clarity and disease. It is sad, sad thing but not much you can do about it but hope and pray that one day (before it is too late) they DO listen and learn. The truth and evidence is really overwhelming if anyone would really keep an open mind and do a bit of research; but that takes effort and too many are unwilling to expend even a bit of effort to save their very lives. Keep up the educational efforts. Some will listen and that is the best we can do. That and continue to act as an example of Health and Wellness through Plant Based Nutrition. HAPPY 4th of July! Skip Stein Whole Foods 4 Healthy Living


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