When I got the e-mail from All-creatures.org, I immediately went to the good
news section. As usual, I wasn't disappointed. I especially liked the account of
NATHAN RIVAS IN "THIS IS VEG." I feel sure that anyone who will read part
of it here will probably enjoy it as much as I did from the get go. His story flows
smoothly in response to a question which I believe many more people are asking
now each day re the benefits of a plant-based diet for general health as well as
addressing concerns about animal suffering in the Cafos. The question he tackles
is -does veganiasm really make a difference?
Nathan begins with: "I've got a story to tell that answers this question perfectly.
Before I went vegan--just about five years ago now, I was a meat and veggie kind
of guy and the very definition of a rabid omnivore. A New York Strip steak, spinach,
and a dirty Stoli martini was my favorite dinner out. I ran daily, weight-trained and
felt just fine. I had always loved animals, in the trite way that everyone loves animals
when asked (sort of like how everyone is having a great day when asked at Starbucks
or wherever.) I confess, from time to time, eating meat, dairy, or chicken, gave me
a twinge of nausea. That piece of gristle, dangling tendon, or smell of milk would
reflexively force suppression that a sentient life ended for a ridiculous whim."
I immediately liked Nathan after reading this though we actually are two very
different people who have so little in common except that we both happily became
vegan at a juncture in our lives because of a little furry being entering it.
And then he obviously is young and I am old, though I need no euphemisms to
make me feel better about it. Would I want to be younger? No way. And then 35
years ago, I was a meat and potatoe eater. Here he wisely substituted veggies over
my starchy preference. I don't think I ever drank a martini, unless perhaps at a family
wedding -so liquor was never and still is not part of my life. As for weight training -
the closest I ever got to that is occasionally wearing a weighted vest. Valerie Bertinelli
wears one too, but then she also does the serious weight training to keep her new thin,
svelte body. He was a runner -I was a walker - sort of, usually failing to get the required
10,000 steps on my pedometer. It wasn't too long before I realized that no little gizmo
is going to hold me captive. I'll walk as much or as little as I please. Not smart, but
still the idea of doing as much walking as possible was probably instilled in me because
of that gizmo.
I absolutely loved him for observing that he had always loved animals in the TRITE
way that everyone loves animals when asked. I am always chagrined when people tell
me they love animals- when they only mean they love their dog or cat. That's a far
cry from really loving animals - enough as to certainly not entertain the thought of
eating them. And here's another opportunity for me to repeat the "golden rule for
animals" which people who truly love animals must surely observe- "Treat us the way
you would like to be treated if you were an animal." In my opinion, everyone who is
an ethical vegan is keeping this compassionate rule.
And then he tells his ironic story of how an "obligate" carnivore changed everything
for him. One day he and his friend Troy visited a Seattle Pets Mart during a Perfect
Pals adoption drive. Though he usually was ambivalent about adopting a cat, he
saw no harm in looking them over. Soon the volunteer was thrusting the pretty
felines at him when he noticed one black cat sulking in her cage. She even hissed
at a kitten. I laughed when he noted - "Not exactly Ms. Congeniality." After a time,
she came out to give him a sniff and then retreated to her cage to hurl insults. What
Yes, this had to be the "obligate" carnivore which Nathan would feel a need to adopt.
Seeing her hiding in her corner and realizing that she had obviously been overlooked
numerous times, he approached his friend Troy about taking her home. The volunteer
even had mentioned to him that she had been adopted once before but was returned in
a month or two. This would not disway a person like Nathan who obviously had pity
for a cat who no one wanted.
I remember a dental hygienist telling me that she had adopted "Henry" from a Pets
Mart and returned him after awhile because he wasn't the lap cat she so wanted! I
secretly smiled when I thought about my Paulie, the absolute inveterate lap cat.
Oftentimes, I have to put up my hand in a stop gesture signaling to him - No, not this
time as he was ready to jump on my lap. Turning the pages of my prayer book or
magazine with him in my lap, was challenging to be sure.
The rejected lonely black cat tore at Nathan's sensitive heart. Troy agreed that they
should adopt Hathor. (I would hide too with a name like that.) The paper work done,
Hathor was on her way to a home that would prove to be a perfect fit, though her first
two weeks were spent under the bed during the day. At night she would venture out
to use the litter box. What patient, loving guys these two!
As Nathan was a full time-plus student, he was able to spend a lot of time with Hathor
while she settled into her new surroundings. Of this time he said, "A remarkable
bond forms over time when you have two animals (human and non-human) which
don't entirely trust each other at first, and are somewhat surprised to find each other
in the same space. Hathor, in last few years, let me in on how much animals can teach
us about becoming better versions of ourselves. We don't communicate in the same
ways, but understanding has developed carefully from respect and patience with each
Nathan then goes on to say in his inimitable way- how because of the bond he was
forming with Hathor, he began to realize the connection between the animals we use for
food, clothing and the animal he had come to care for deeply. (I felt exactly the same
way when I got my first puppy Peaches.)
With this realization came a life-altering decision. He wrote: "A cow, a cat, a dog,
click, click, click---we can't deny that these animals are much more than what we
force ourselves to believe. I felt like I was lesser to continue to eat and use animals
when I would never permit such a fate for Hathor; I felt lesser of a person and lesser
of a man to live my life in this forced ignorance. To pun, I went vegan "cold turkey,"
and it was the easiest decision I have ever made (remember this was a man who
inhaled beef, and chicken with gusto.) Once you make this connection, no reasonable
person can go back."
Beautifully said Nathan, and though these were my sentiments also after coming to
know and love my Peaches - looking into her warm and loving eyes, I have never been
able to express my feelings so well. Thank you. I became vegetarian first until I
realized that consuming dairy and eggs caused animal suffering as well, and that's
when I became vegan after five years of vegetariansim. There's more to his story and
of course it is just a click away to All-creatures.org.