Gateway Compassion

Compassion for animals and even other humans is looked upon with scorn by some segments of the population.  I believe this is in some part due to the meat industry and their influence in our society.  It is a sad fact that Big Meat makes more money when they raise and kill more animals (OK, I’ll need a better ominous name for the meat industry- that seems like a frat brother’s nickname).

When an industry’s profit margin is a result how cheaply it can support and then end life, there are bound to be some ghastly results.  However, since the PETA warriors handle all of the shock and awe tactics, I will refrain from the nauseating images and stories and let you mull that over on your own time.  Instead, allow me to reflect on my own transformation and at the same try to answer a question Sheree asked.

If you have not noticed it before, there is a comment section at the end of each blog post here.  I derive an enormous amount of strength from the supportive comments that a lot of the regular readers leave.  I was comforted during the cravings in the beginning, I was educated on my newbie mistakes, and more recently, I was supported during a weight loss plateau.  There are some who comment once every few months and others who are more consistently visible, but they all keep me from feeling like I am shouting into the void.

Sheree is one of the regulars.  She is a kind, caring vegan who found her way to animal-free living years ago.  She has been very upbeat and supportive throughout my nine months of being a veganaut.  During the previous post’s discussion, she asked a great question about the catalyst for my change from plant-based dieter to compassionate vegan.  She agrees that anyone giving up meat for any reason is a benefit to animal welfare in general, but was specifically curious about my own inner change… and I am NOT going to pass up an opportunity to talk about myself.

Rather than retelling the whole story of my dysfunctional relationship with food, I’ll summarize by saying, I was messed up.  It would be fun to try and blame other people but I used my hands and my money to buy bad things to put into my body.  It’s hard to shift that kind of blame off of myself.

After soul searching and researching, I came to the conclusion that a plant-based diet would be the healthiest way to reclaim a few of the decades I’d tried to steal from the end of my life.  This is a selfish reason to give up meat and dairy and eggs, but I didn’t hear any animals complaining about my choice.  The Earth was pleased with the decision as well, but I was not really worried about how a planet felt when chest pains were forcing me to my knees.

During the first few weeks, while the cravings were running their course, I was completely focused on how much better I felt and how relived I was that a simple change in diet could effect how I feel so drastically.  I was really enjoying the payoff of the health benefits I changed for.  However, it was during this time that my motivation began to morph.

For meat eaters to enjoy bacon in the morning they have to do a lot of compartmentalizing.  They have to take the movie Babe and stick it in a mental jail cell that isn’t visited during breakfast.  They need to take what they know about the intelligence of their pets versus the intelligence of brilliant pigs and lock that up in another mental jail cell until the bacon is done sizzling.  They are forced to repress all of the images of the inhumane living and dying conditions that animals are forced to endure so that we can eat them.

I know what I am talking about here- I ate pork by the handful, beef with reckless abandon, and whole chickens at a time.  Meal time was NOT a time to release all of the truths that I had in lock-down.  It was the time to pretend that meat comes from a grocery store and not a factory farm.  I was never ignorant about the meat industry, I was simply in denial.

An amazing thing happened as the meat-free weeks passed.  Every day that passed was another day when I didn’t have to lie to myself.  I didn’t need to pretend that meat isn’t a product of another creatures death.  I was able to let the truths out of their mental jail cells for longer and longer walks around the yard.  Eventually, these truths were allowed to have conjugal visits and that is when they began to multiply.

Compartmentalizing is a great way to cope with conflicting beliefs and overwhelming trauma.  It is also a very effective tool for lying to ourselves.  Unfortunately, just because we can hide certain truths when they become inconvenient does not make them disappear.  It just makes us live our lives in way that is contrary to our actual belief system.

Plant-based dieting may be a selfish reason to give up meat, dairy and eggs- but it is a gateway to compassion.  Celebrate this seemingly selfish motive in others because it is the first step in removing their blinders so they can live an honest and compassionate life.

A closing note to you lurkers who read silently but regularly.  I see your visits on my view counter and even without you saying a word I am grateful for your presence.  It is easy to imagine you all walking with me as I stroll past McDonald’s and through the meat department at my own grocery store.  Your silent reminders make it easy for me to walk confidently away from my old life and comfortably into the new one I share with you here.  Gratsi.


About jasongillett

I'm Jason Gillett, 2 year VEGAN, and a 41 year old family man. My wife & I teach in a FL school. I am using a blog to chronicle our family's new life. View all posts by jasongillett

38 responses to “Gateway Compassion

  • toxicvegan

    Hey old friend – I really LOVE this post. I was raised a vegetarian from a young age and although I had a brief foray into non vegetarianism, I have no major experience of it.
    I never understand how people can treat different animals so differently – especially the ones who call themselves animal lovers. It confuses me! But it was the same with me and dairy I guess, before I became vegan. Loving your work as always!! 🙂

    • jasongillett

      Thanks Tox! The brainwashing is hard to shake- but people are capable of rewiring their brains with some effort- then they can admit what they always knew about their pets they love and the meat they eat. You rock as always- and I hope you’ve noticed your ears burning on Friday nights- it is Toxic Vegan night at our house with a celebratory week ending meal which wouldn’t be called plant-based healthy, but still qualifies as compassionate. Peace : )

      • toxicvegan

        Ha ha! Oh I LOVE that Jason! I need to get my toxic nights back to a once a week cheat – have been full on celebrating my 40th but back on track soon! Peace back at you dude! xxx

  • Provoked

    Lurker coming out! Great post… again!

    Want a less patronizing name for the meat industry? How about flesh peddlers? Or life-profiteers? Those are only the ones I can repeat and remain a lady – Ha-Ha!

    I love how you say you went vegan for health reasons but in the process no animals complained! So true! Yes, there are many benefits – And the wise ones like you have no problem finding them all no matter what the initial motivation was.

    Long live the veganauts!

    • jasongillett

      Hmmmm…. Life-Profiteer sounds too much like a fun-loving and swash-buckling pirate. Flesh peddler might do. It has a nice ring to it and evokes a sinister character. However, I’m sure the list of names you have that you are unwilling(unable) to share is a lot more descriptive, colorful and accurate ; ) Long live the Veganauts!!

  • thefoodery

    What’s neat about your blog is that it’s based on your own choice. No pressure from friends, no bets to see how long you will last…everything is all you. I also like that you already know what it’s like to NOT be a vegetarian, so whatever you have to share is based on experiences as well as new knowledge. Plus, you’re pretty funny. 🙂

    • jasongillett

      And you’re pretty awesome!

      Choice is so crucial. It is my firmly held belief that anyone who tries to live a compassionate (and healthy) animal free life absolutely has to make that decision at their core. If a spouse forces it upon a spouse, or a dietitian prescribes it, or any other external force, forces it upon us, there will be temporary (and whiny) success, followed by regression/failure. This is one of the main reasons I would never push this belief on anyone- it would be counter-productive to force my kids to eat this way because they would resent it. As with everything, all we can really do is live our own lives. You are very kind and I must now go get my hats re-sized… my head seems to be a little larger than I remember.

      • thefoodery

        I’m glad for your way of thinking! It’s nice to hear a viewpoint on eating choices that doesn’t sound like a religious or political debate…and that’s all it really is, a choice. Go enjoy your new hats! 🙂

  • Silvia

    I really enjoy your blog and your writing!
    I went vegan for ethical reasons but like you I find that the longer this journey lasts the more I come out of denial. And I notice how much rationalizing and suppression was necessary in order to eat animals and their products.
    I might sometimes still want to eat sausages (my weakness) but I feel glad that I do no longer participate in this cruel and inhumane business. That as far I am able I can lead a compassionate life.
    Greatings from Germany

    • jasongillett

      Hello from Sunny Florida, Silvia!

      We have the same passion and the same weakness. I seldom ate sausage when I was younger but when I was on the Atkin’s diet for so long, I learned to LOVE sausage. I can highly recommend the Tofurky Italian Sausages if they are on sale in ‘die Stadt’ you live in. Sear them on the outside, saute/grill green peppers and onions, and cover it all with horseradish mustard- sigh- so delicious.

      Thanks for reading and keep up the great work you are doing! And THANKS for checking in from a continent away! : )

  • The Savvy Sister

    Pleeeeease write a book someday.

    • jasongillett

      Deal- I could be done by Thanksgiving, or even Halloween, depending on my job- but my personal deadline is in time for Christmas/Solstice at the latest. I’m not sure how to autograph you electronic copy, but I’ll figure something out : )

  • Wendy Polisi (@cookingquinoa)

    This is such a beautiful post. I too started out as a vegan as a way to improve my health and ended up finding compassion. You’ve said what I am not articulate enough to say (but do feel) so beautifully.

    • jasongillett

      Thank you Wendy- you are too kind. It is great to meet someone else who entered the room through the same door I did. We intended to save our own lives, but in the process, we now save 1000’s of lives a year, or more. Thanks again, I hadn’t had a good blush in a while!

  • Sheree

    🙂 Your answer was worth the wait, Jason! Thank you for such an insightful and touching recount of how you got here from there~~I will celebrate *anyone* who is making their way toward compassion for whatever reason and no matter how small the steps are…it’s all good!

    • jasongillett

      Thanks for the great question Sheree! You hare one of those people who walk around Earth and just generate waves of good. I’ve not met you in person, but it is easy to see even through my laptop screen. I remember your goal in asking the question was to better understand the mindset so you could “nudge” your friends in the right direction when the time was right. This means you are out in the front lines of change- you ARE the change you want to see in the world (thank you Gandhi) and you are willing to help and support anyone who is interested in joining us in the new world. Thank you for the question, for months and months of support, but mostly thank you for being great human being that leads by example and guides with a purpose. Shalom.

  • Melanie

    Ok – Jason, I have to confess I have been one of the lurkers. I subscribe to your blog and eagerly go to read the latest entry when I get my email. I haven’t commented because I’ve been struggling with the whole thing. Forks Over Knives was an eye opening DVD for me. It was shortly after that, when I did a “vegan” search that I found you. Back in January I was a bonafide vegan for 3 weeks. It was hard and by the third week, I was ready to eat anything that moved. But I also enjoyed the good plant based meals that I ate. I just gave up too soon. And I tried to do it without support.

    I went from vegan to vegetarian and now back to eating meat again. My health is a big issue but it is the compassion for animals that keep pointing me back to veganism. As I said, I’m struggling and so perhaps I need to comment here more often and be more transparent. I’m sure that there are a few cows and pigs and chickens who are eager for me to get off the fence!

    Meanwhile, you are an inspiration to me! Keep it up and thanks.

    • jasongillett

      Hi Melanie- I am extremely glad to meet you! Three weeks of veganism is really great. That sounds like a short amount of time to anyone who HASN’T tried it before. Week one and two can be very painful, depending on the level of support you have. Making it to week 3 is great AND very close to a tipping point. I found the 4-6 week mark to be total calm acceptance. My body quit trying to take over my brain and drive into a Bar-B-Q joint. I had a love affair with produce that blossomed during the 1 to 1.5 month mark.

      If you’ve been on a similar path as me over the decades, diets are just a part of life. They can seem depressing when they don’t deliver the results quickly which then makes them easier to give up on.

      I think when you decide to make a change like this, you are dieting and you should allow yourself to make mistakes. For me, a mistake on Weight Watchers meant I failed so I might as well eat a whole cake or a cow. Now, a mistake with a lifestyle choice means that I need to get on with my life, not change how I am living it. I kept reminding myself that I was not dieting, I was living a new life- and everyone makes mistakes in life. Mac-n-cheese at the salad bar and you can’t seem to stop from getting a scoop? Then eat it- and forget it- and keep on living your good life.

      This is a little over simplified, but I hope to expound on a few of the important points your bring up in future posts. Thanks so much for checking in and I wish you all the best on your journey. We are all there with you.

  • thecrueltyfreereview

    Great post Jason. I think you and I have the same thoughts on PETA (but correct me if I’m wrong). They are a great organization with the right ideas, but not always great execution. Shock and awe can sometimes turn people off of wanting to learn more about changing to a plant-based diet, or propel them even further into denial about what they are eating. It’s stories like yours that do more good. I think people who are considering a change to a plant-based diet would be more willing to do so if they could see how others have done it, without shoving horrifying pictures and video in their face all the time.

    • jasongillett

      I completely agree~ when I was a meat eater, it was just as easy to roll my eyes at extremists as it was to forget about where bacon comes from. Now as an herbivore, I’ve always felt like our animal friendly segment of the global population has been represented by the loudest, most attention grabbing sub-section. It makes me want all the moderate, understanding and supportive herbivores to start speaking up, in their calm collected way. It would be nice if we could replace the face of veganism with something less bold. From a marketing standpoint, I’m not sure if they are making the best choices. I dunno- but I do appreciate hearing from people like you- it reassures me (and others) that you don’t need to throw red paint to make a difference. : ) Gratsi!

  • Laurene Davison

    yes I agree with ” Savvy Sister” you need to write a book! I just know it would be great! I cant even remember how I found your blog but im sure glad I did. I look forward to it. I dont personally know anyone that is vegan or even close to vegetarian and stopping by and reading your blog makes me feel less alone in this!

    • jasongillett

      Thank you Laurene- I hope to make that happen in the near future. You are very nice to say so, and it fuels the ‘get-it-done’ fires within. In the meantime, I am glad you consider this a friendly place to hang out- you’ll always have tons of veganaut support. Plant Power!

  • Jenn

    Fantastic as always! I am sure all the shrimp still swimming in the wild are happy you are helping to reduce the harvest pressure one meal at a time.

  • Melody Pilgrim

    ha ha I am such a lurker! Thanks again for a fantastic post – I can completely relate with your journey. It’s pretty powerful stuff eh.
    My five year old was wandering by and was irresistably drawn to the Lisa Simpson image and asked me to explain it – very interesting conversation about meat…

    • jasongillett

      That is such a great conversation to have with kids. They are so pragmatic and open and not as ‘under the influence’ of cultural norms as older kids. The elementary school teacher in me is ecstatic to hear about any high level conversation that parents are having with their kids- and this has the added benefit of including animal rights and the Simpson’s. You rock! Great to meet you former-lurker, wonder-parent, Melody! Thank you very much for reading along : )

  • Anand

    As Franz Kafka once said while standing in front of an aquarium:

    “Now I can look at you in peace. I don’t eat you anymore.”

    There is a great deal of shame involved when you meet your food in the fields and aquariums… or on your plate.

  • erin

    Hi Sheree and Jason,

    I have been oscillating between omnivore and vegan for a long time. I make all kinds of excuses for eating some sour cream or cheese or a chunk of meat here and there. Usually, my excuse is the fact that none of my family is vegan, and so I just have to eat whatever delicious food they cook. I feel too sheepish to ask for no animal products, or I’d rather avoid a debate about it.

    My question for ya’ll is how do you convince your family to accept your choice to be vegan? Some of the feedback I get from them is that I’m being “elitist” or that I “don’t know the facts.” I am kinda sick and tired of debating all the time, and I’d rather just peacefully eat my vegan food without being questioned about it all the time.

    On that note, thank you for your post about changing your name to a Veganaut. I really liked it, and it really helps to take the pressure off when you slip up and eat some animal product (as I often do).

  • Jennifer

    Love this post. I want to believe that people are truly compassionate souls and can unblock their minds to the suffering that animals face, but I do agree that the “selfish” motivation of better health often motivates people more than the environment and animal welfare in the beginning of a vegan diet adventure. Peeling away one layer of lies begins the process and has a domino effect.

    My relationship with the planet and with myself has improved so much as a result of cutting out so many lies and half-truths. I have a long ways to go in terms of making sure where I shop and spend my food dollars reflects my values, but it’s happening, slowly but surely!

    I love your blog because I’m having a hard time finding people to relate to here in terms of the veganaut lifestyle. Frankly, I have yet to meet a “vegan” I actually like here! I will have to settle for virtual veganauts for now….

    • jasongillett

      Excellent!! Spending our food dollars is exactly like voting. I was voting for the wrong candidates for so long it is an absolute pleasure to finally be spending my money on the right candidates. Like you, I am still figuring out how to make sure as many dollars vote my conscience as possible.

      As far as hanging with the virtual veganaut crew- you’ll always have a safe harbor here. And if all goes well, more and more people will emerge from the nameless shadows and claim their positive, happy, accepting place under the veganaut umbrella, and soon you’ll have plenty of like minded people to connect with in real life : ) Avast!

  • Rhianna

    Hi Jason, thanks for writing this insightful blog. I saw the movie Forks over Knives recently and found it interesting even though I found an article online written by someone who discounted almost all of the tests etc shown in it. Then I saw another documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead about a guy who juice fasted for 60 days and turned his health around. I am 80 pounds overweight, debilitated with Fibromylagia and Asthma and feel like I’m 153 instead of just 53.

    I too do not have a great fondness for either fruit or vegetables, so the thought of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle terrifies me yet intrigues me. I live on the water and have befriended the local critters that inhabit our shores. I have come to realize that they aren’t just random animals but my neighbors with personalities of their own and they have come to trust me as someone that puts out a bit of food for them and means them no harm. This had made it harder for me to justify my meat eating ways. Just because I haven’t personally met my dinner, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a face, a personality and a connection to it’s offspring and fellow critters. It is making it harder by the day to continue eating the way I do.

    Your story is an inspiration to me and I hope that someday soon I will be able to follow in your footsteps. My biggest challenge is my partner who is skinny, healthy, cooks all our meals and can’t fathom a life without cheese and meat. I like the idea of being mostly vegan with the thought that I can still allow myself special occasions, but I suppose like you, once you get into this lifestyle, you don’t want to slide back into old habits.

    I wish you continued success on your journey and thank you once again for your inspiration that change is possible.

    • jasongillett

      Thank you Rhianna! I wish you all the success in the world when you decide to make the big leap (and up until then of course, ha). I know that in the beginning, when I was allowing 6 hours of food and health documentaries crash over me, I had actual tears in my eyes when I realized that nothing would stop me from my quest. I made my own food, ignored pessimists, embraced optimists, and made new life for myself. You will know you are ready when get to the point where you are able to yell, “I’m unhealthy as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” and not allow obstacles to actually stand in your way. It is a challenge but like any tough journey, the benefiting results and personal growth outweigh the energy invested. I am excited for you! Cheers!!

  • Family Food Fight « Jason and the Veganauts

    […] a comment from last week’s Gateway Compassion post made me take a closer look at my glass of water and once again find that it is well over the […]

  • the bear and the blackberry

    Very well written… you have managed to put the words that float around in my head on paper. Go team!

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