I'm new to this forum and as of today I'm a complete vegan. I gave up meat a few years ago, but still consumed very limited amounts of eggs, cow milk yogurt and cheese. Yesterday I threw out any remaining animal products from my home. I never really ate much meat, but I'm from a background of hunting and fishing and have many horrid childhood memories around these activities. My family still lives this lifestyle and I expect their ridicule and fear over my decision. I've lived with it my whole life. My mother still forces milk on me and I haven't drank it since I was a child.....I just didn't like it. Fortunately I have a wonderful kind husband who is not only supportive of total elimination of animal products but loves how he feels and loves everything I cook.
Here is what is bothering me. This may be more of an ethical and moral question, but I would welcome any wisdom or personal experiences. I am overcome with shame, grief, pain and tears thinking of the animals I have forced into a horrific life and death. How can I atone for what I have done? Please....has anyone here felt like this? I can't forgive myself and move forward.
I recently watched Earthlings, which is a pretty intense documentary that shows the different ways animals are used at our (human) discretion. Afterwards, I was overwhelmed by grief and was pretty depressed thinking about how long I contributed to the suffering of animals. This is the same way I felt after reading The Kind Diet, watching Food, Inc. or reading about the horrors of factory farming. What I tell myself is that I just didn't know. And while I believe ignorance isn't a true excuse, you can be held responsible for the decisions you make from now on. I can't hold myself responsible for the grilled cheese I ate when I was 10, or the steak I enjoyed 2 years ago, but I can hold myself responsible for what I put into myself today, tomorrow, and the rest of my life. I feel like every time I choose to consume a plant based diet over an animal based diet, I'm making up for every meaty meal I ate. Try not to beat yourself up over things in the past. It's ok to be upset and feel guilty, but acknowledge those feelings and let them go. Just agree to not contribute to any future suffering as best you can and know that you will start to feel better!
I agree. You can't change the past. And to spend so much time and energy seems wasteful. Just make the best decisions you can going forward. And who knows,...maybe your positive experience will inspire someone else to eat fewer animal products too, saving more animals. Congratulations on your decision, and I hope you will make peace with yourself and really enjoy the lifestyle. All the best, Kim.
Straycat - All you can do is move forward from this moment on. Don't look back at what you wish you had done differently. We would all be crazed with guilt about everything we did wrong or thought we did wrong, if we focus on the past. Look to the future with the love and compassion you have to give in the choice that you have made. What a great thing you are doing now!
Thank you so much for your kind and insightful thoughts and suggestions. Logically I knew I should feel proud and good for my decisions but emotionally I have been totally devasted and sickened. I attribute some of my feelings to just returning from Maui. My husband and I enjoy visiting the islands so much. The oceans, sea life, whales, birds and flowers....I love it all so much. But this time (more than ever) the blanant gluttony, the constant smell of b-b-q meat in the air and the ever present parade of obese and unhealthy Americans caused us to feel disgusted and sickened with each site and smell. I know in my heart that it was there I made my decision. I believe nothing happens by accident so I thank the universe for placing me there at this time in my life. Apparently it's the push I needed. The last light bulb has been turned on and there is no looking back. I thank you all for your support and look forward to the beginning of a new enlightenment and joy. I plan to move through the grief and into actions that will spread the knowledge and share the hope and in that I pray to heal myself and hopefully help others feel compassion for their fellow beings. I'm so happy I was guided to you all!
What a wonderful thing for you to do on Valentine's Day! Congratulations! Please don't beat yourself up over the past. Just focus on how happy you are now, how great you and your husband feel, and the lives you'll save. (Think about this: unfortunately, very few of us were raised vegan, so *everyone* shares in your guilt. Including me, who didn't go vegetarian until age 28, or vegan until age 31.)
And please try not to be too upset with your family members, who are surely feeling threatened. (Obviously you'll want to fix your own plates/drinks around that sneaky lot.) Just smile nicely and let any snarkiness roll on by.
You make a very good point about most Americans are sadly raised to be meat eaters. I'm so thrilled to see blogs and forums by parents who are raising their children vegan. It makes me hopeful. I most likely will remain quite on the subject around my mother and brother (my only living family)......my brother is a commercial fisherman and gladly boosts his joy in killing things. He claims it to be his favorite hobby. In his defense he was introduced to killing immediately and being a boy was expected, encouraged and rewarded to kill. I suffered this abuse as well, but girls back then were not pressured to kill like boys were. My mother has a real interest in diet and health, but remains in denial and ignorant about the true horrors of animal products. She thinks she is the picture of health swollowing down all her vitamins with a big glass of milk. I thank all my years in therapy and all my years weaning them out of my psyche. I will be able to smile and let them go.
You have a very powerful message. I am humbled by your openness to share. I am new to being a vegetarian and find the guilt hard to bear with too. I think Emily says it beautifully. You didn't know and know you do. You are making the steps to helping. So in an effort to not be repetitive, I second Emily. I would also like to add that perhaps you would enjoy some volunteer work. Something at a humane society, or farm sanctuary/fostering location near you, or something of the similar suit. This could just be the small therapy and closure you are seeking. Seeing those saved cows at a sanctuary and feeding a small calf would probably be very rewarding. It is something I plan on doing. Also, I think paying it forward feels AMAZING. :D So youre on the right track! Chin up :)
Thank you all for your honesty and wisdom. I have been vegan for a month now, and at 46 years of age, could beat myself up for a lot of years past. I don't think this would serve any purpose though. I am proud of what I'm doing today :) Glad to be a part of this community!