Lead with Grace. That is my new tag line. For me, this means to meet each and everyone with love and kindness.
My journey to plant-based eating has been a roller coaster. As a child, I decided to give up red meat. It was difficult living in a home where I did not do the cooking, and my dietary choices were not supported by my family. Many, many years later, I again began to feel conflicted about food. I felt a deep connection to animals but was troubled that I still ate meat. I remember watching Ellen DeGeneres’ segment about the documentary, Earthlings. Ellen shared how the movie convinced her to become a Vegan. 30 minutes into Earthlings, I made the leap to never eat meat again.
That was not the end for me. As I made changes to my life, and my household, I chose to continue to consume milk and egg products. Being a vegetarian was hard. Being Vegan would be worse in my mind. As a vegetarian, I already was harassed by those who ate meat. This was difficult for me as I always struggled with fitting in and being accepted. Being ostracized by those who chose to eat meat and ostracized by many in the vegan community because I did not give up milk and eggs was a weird place — I was not sure where I fit.
I held steadfast in my choice not to eat meat. I felt good about my choice. EVERY SINGLE meatless meal is a win for animals, AND for the planet. I feel empathy for those who chose to assail with “BUT BACON” or “CAVE MEN ATE MEAT” or “WE HAVE CANINES FOR A REASON.” I need to greet them where they are and understand that they are struggling with the same disconnect that once haunted my soul.
As children, we are taught that we need meat to live, animals are here for our use, meat does not have a face, breathe the same air, or feel the same feelings as we do. This is the lie we are all raised to believe. If we knew — truly knew what was happening behind the doors of each and every CAFO — the whole world would be vegan in minutes.
Our minds have been brain washed by society, advertisers, big ag, and corporate farmers. I remember the television campaigns of my childhood: “Milk, it does the body good”, “Pork, the other white meat,” “Where’s the beef?” “Got milk?” “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.” These campaigns were crafted to convince that meat, milk and eggs were necessary for our health. This is a lie.
Life is a journey. We live, we learn, and we change. As we know better, we do better. As I look at life, I feel like choosing a vegan lifestyle can be the same. As I aged, I grew as a human being, and I looked at my life compassionately. In doing so, I could no longer make up excuses to eat eggs and dairy. I will not contribute to industries that harm sentient beings, I will not eat them, use them, or exploit them for any reason. This is me, TODAY. It has been a journey, and an exceptionally painful one.
I will not sugar coat my experience for that will do no one any justice. I will not silence the screams of the slaughtered animals that live in my head and haunt my dreams. I will not hide the arthritis that my 2-year-old pigs suffer, because we have bred these animals to grow to slaughter weight in just 6 months. Piglets have their tails cut off…teeth cut…and males castrated without ANY anesthesia. Hens suffer from reproductive issues because of how we have bred them to lay an egg every single painful day of their lives. This is reality. A reality we are all conditioned to not see.
If you are ready to change, or even take baby steps, I am here for you. You see, people bullying me didn’t work, guilting me didn’t work, attempting to humiliate me in public didn’t work. You want to know what changed for me, please come out and see me. When you meet the animals that live at the Haven, you will find your grace. My purpose in this life, I know now, is not to hate you or shame you, but to help you see. See Bob the goat used as a nursery attraction, Blossom the arthritic pig who nearly died because she was a runt and no one cared she was slowly being starved to death, Babe the truck jumper covered in road rash, the 4 mini pigs running for their lives in the city, Tess who never consented to one damn race she ran EVER, or Boots and Chompers who languished at a petting zoo when being touched felt like torment.
I will always advocate for a compassionate life — to make compassionate choices. But…I also choose to take a different stance. I won’t shame you, hate you, or judge you for where you are at. I will embrace you knowing that this road to compassionate living is painful. Hercules’ Haven can be your rock to lean on as you pave your way. We will meet you with GRACE, we will embrace where you are at, and help you along your journey. I will never tell you this is easy, but I will say it is always worth it.
Hercules’ Haven will help you find your grace.