Some of you out there may celebrate Lent, the 40 days of fasting and prayer that occurs before Easter. I have never been one to participate in this particular religious tradition, but many who live in this area do. As a vegetarian, and now as a vegan, I view this tradition in a unique light.
The way Lent works (at least as far as I and Wikipedia know; I’m no expert) is that people do not eat “meat” on Fridays (although fish is allowed), and people typically give up something in addition to that for the entire period (some common examples I’ve heard: soft drinks, chocolate, swearing, etc.). The Lenten season is marked by specials at restaurants and grocery stores, displaying their “new,” “limited time only” items that fit the Lenten criteria. This season is also marked by people (young and old) saying, “Awww … I can’t eat meat on Friday.”
Now that just doesn’t make sense to me. There are tons of foods available to EVERYONE that are not meat-based. I do understand that it is hard for people to break out of their norms and actually look at every option available on the restaurant menu. Lent leads to many people being frustrated because they don’t know what their other options are. However, some of our closer friends have wised up to the fact that we don’t EVER eat meat! How could we possibly live?! Well, they see how we live, and they see how well we eat. They have started taking some of our tips for eating meatless, and I hope that they feel better for it. I could take this topic all the way and go into a full-fledged religious discussion, but for now I prefer to just leave it at the diet aspect.
So, the greater idea behind Lent is to give something of yourself so that yourself and others may benefit. Fasting is a form of giving up something for yourself, and prayer is in order to benefit others. However, this whole “benefiting others” seems to have fallen by the wayside. My own philosophy on veganism is that it is something that I do for more than just myself. Yes, I receive benefits as well, but it is more a way for me to be responsible and give back some of that which I take. I think that it is a greater overarching idea that goes beyond what you eat and “will this diet help me lose weight?” It is more about being conscious of yourself, of others, and of our interactions together. For me, going vegan has not only opened my eyes to both animal and human suffering related to food production; it has also enhanced my awareness of the greater world around me: the environment, human rights, the destruction of the earth for a great many “reasons” (which I put in quotation marks because there is really not much reasonable about it). Being vegan makes me want to be a better person in all ways and to enhance my interactions with the world around me.