Burying the Non-Vegan Past

The earth was heavy with moisture and thick with trailing grass roots. Still, with each shovel full of dirt, my resolve to finish what I had started grew. On the ground, next to the hole I was digging, lay a new woolen shawl, a pair of leather shoes, a leather belt and some sleeping tablets made with milk.

It took me some time to fight through the grass roots and waterlogged earth, but with perseverance, the hole grew to a satisfactory size. I picked up the items lying next to me, delicately setting each piece of my history inside the small hole, and then quickly began to bury them.

All forward momentum in our lives is stunted by the emotional, physical and material baggage that tethers us to the past, and my transition to veganism was no different. The small makeshift grave I was now standing above marked the beginning of putting the cruelty in my past to rest.

To internalize the vegan ideal I had to come to terms with my speciesist treatment of animals. I knew that to move forward I could no longer treat certain feeling, breathing, sentient beings as if they existed solely to feed and clothe me while cherishing others as companions and friends.

After I made this decision, the question remained over what to with the animal-based items that lingered in my life. This story began with my final decision to bury them. Since some people may disagree with this choice, I wish to explain my thought process to remove any confusion.

As I began to contemplate what to do with the animal-based items I “owned,” the options that lay before me were thus: 1. Use my non-vegan items until they wore out. 2. Sell them. 3. Give them away. 4. Bury or throw them away.

To begin with, continuing to use the non-vegan items I owned until they were worn out never felt like a viable option. If I found out my shoes were made of human skin would I simply use them until they wore out? The “waste not, want not” philosophy that leads some people to continue using animal skin, hair and feathers in their lives while claiming to uphold the vegan ideal is deeply flawed. When we compare this level of tolerance for non-human animal skin, fat (such as is used in soap), hair, and bodily secretions to those made from the bodies of human animals such as ourselves, the contradictory nature of claiming to be vegan and continuing to use these items becomes evident. While this thought may seem ludicrous to some, during the Holocaust, lampshades, paperweights, soap, seat covers, and other items were made from the bodies of Holocaust victims. Can any of us imagine owning and using one of these items in order to not waste them?

If I believed that it was wrong to use non-human animals for my own means, then excusing the use of animal-based items because “I already bought them” seemed far too hypocritical. I could not use the fat carved from their flesh to wash my own skin or the feathers plucked from their dead bodies to cushion my head as I fell asleep at night. To keep any of these items in my life would have required me to continue my own denial of what they truly were – part of another animal’s dead body.

The next two options that lay before me were selling the items or giving them away.

Many people make these choices with the mindset that the animal has already been killed or harmed so why waste the items made from them? Or perhaps that they might be preventing someone from buying another animal-based item by providing them with a secondhand option. Some people also assuage their inner conflict by selling the items and giving the money to charity.

These thoughts weighed on me for a number of days, but in the end it felt wrong to sell something that was not mine to take in the first place, even if I gave the money to charity. Would I sell my rescued rabbit’s foot for a key chain? What about my dog’s skin for shoes…? If these thoughts make us feel sick, selling another animal’s body parts should as well.

If I threw the shoes away, though, they would end up in the landfill; if I gave them away, they would eventually end up in the landfill as well, but someone else would use them first.

As I looked at my cow skin shoes and belt, the wool and possum hair shawl, the milk-based homeopathic tablets, I couldn’t imagine another human being slipping her foot into these animal skins or wrapping this hair around them for warmth. To give these pieces of my past away seemed to say:

It is not okay for me to wear these items because I believe it is morally and ethically wrong to do so. But it is okay for you to wear these badges of our speciesist society, marked by death and cruelty though they may be.

I could not pretend that it was acceptable in any way, shape or form. I could not excuse their purchase or simply assuage my guilt over participating in these animal’s deaths by thrusting my karma onto someone else and saying… “here, you take these items, I can’t bear to look at them.” To do anything other than bury them was to continue to act as if they were they were just items of clothing or “comfort” rather than part of a dead body.

On that day I put my past to rest, by recognizing that I was not burying a pair of shoes, I was burying the skin off someone’s back, I felt that I finally gave some restitution to the animals I had taken so much from. It was not a shawl I laid to rest, it was the animals that had been harmed or killed because of its purchase. And finally, I was not wasting my “natural sleeping remedies.” I was recognizing that it was wrong to ingest a mother’s milk stolen from her calf, no matter how small the quantity. And I now sleep much better.

If we truly want to create a vegan world, free from cruelty and injustice, we cannot let our guilt or attachment to the past keep us from living this truth fully. Let us bury the past in recognition that we will not and cannot own, sell or give away another animal’s body parts, which were never ours to use in the first place.

 

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97 comments

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin2 years ago

thanks for sharing

Dale O.

A fascinating discussion.
Had posted a correction but there may be latency so if a repetition occurs, that was the problem.
Apologies, as I have several windows open with various discussions of interest and just typed the reply for another comment board into this one after the cat that owns me jumped beside my computer...had not checked the board to make sure that A was hitting A and it appeared in the discussion board here, how very sloppy of me.

The comment that I made earlier belongs in this discussion, feel free to join in.

http://www.care2.com/causes/why-i-love-vegans.html#comment-5243862

Dale O.

Pamela W, you spoke of having a basic discussion about the meaning of vegan and how the more discussion based informative stories from a personal perspective to becoming vegan is being summarily ignored except with the posting of links. Links provided instead of a personal step-by-step insight doesn’t always do it.

Not to mention even describing the struggles that one encounters when becoming vegan while giving up eating, drinking and wearing things in the past. Sometimes one goes back to eating meat before switching as it is quite a transition and not everyone does it perfectly right away. What about say, ‘support groups’ of other vegans acting as mentors for one in the beginning year?

Dale O.

However, if The Karma Queen/Shovelling Expert is the poster child for becoming vegan, then certainly the reason why vegans are a mere three percent of the populace is certainly crystal clear given her ‘recruiting successes’ of insults directed at omnivores which has not had us running to the vegan fold. These are not exactly dripping in the sweetness of Stevia, since vegans don’t eat honey.

For another perspective, (I don’t agree with the Holocaust references, however although some vegans use this imagery often) here is an article about how some deal with their omnivore or vegetarian past after becoming vegan:

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/burying-the-past.html?page=4

Yolanda J.
Past Member 3 years ago

To continue my comment- Not going to lie about what it has changed in my health.
I think I should point out that I was born in Texas and raised on a Hereford cattle ranch and that my family has been farmers for many generations. But, I do think it is different when you have your own animals and you know how they are treated and you're not grinding off beaks or taking calves away from their mothers. I can understand consuming eggs and milk that came from animals that you yourself have loved, cared for, and treated well. I would still not consume any meat though as I couldn't stand to kill an animal that I had cared for.
I think it's great that people stand up for their own beliefs and ideas. Stand firm and be true to yourself no matter what your beliefs are. Don't change just to suit someone else. It should be about what you believe yourself and what makes you happy in your life. I choose not to post anonymously even when I've made mistakes in my posts and even though I know not everyone is going to agree with me, because I'm stating my own personal thoughts and ideas. If you're Vegan, Non Vegan, Christian, Buddhist, Athiest or whatever I think that you make your own choice which path you want to take. You have your reasons just as we all have our reasons. State your reasons or beliefs, stand firm in them, but don't bash other people just because they disagree. I enjoy reading comments from people who are thoughtful and informative even if I disagree. Thank you and again s

Yolanda J.
Past Member 3 years ago

I'm a dork. I mistyped a word. I intended to say Holocaust victims, not survivors. I apologize for being such an airhead. LOL. Please forgive me for the mistyping.

Yolanda J.
Past Member 3 years ago

First of all, this article made me cry a bit, and I have to say I don't recall hearing that information about the Holocaust survivors before. My fiance is half Jewish, and I hadn't heard him say it and I'm not sure that he even knew they did those things with the bodies.
I started eating vegetarian because of my love for animals. I have never pushed it on anyone, but answer honestly when my doctors, friends, or family ask about my diet. I did it on my own and never required my fiance Joshua to join me in eating this way. He decided to do it on his own after watching me and the changes in my health. I am a Type 2 Diabetic and had high blood pressure up until this last week when it started coming down. I noticed that when I became vegetarian my blood glucose levels started coming down. Then I moved more and more towards my goal of becoming vegan. The closer I got to my goal, the lower my numbers got as well.

I now am not only a vegan because of my love for animals, but also because it has vastly improved my health. I know there are concerns about GMOs, but I have found a variety of things that are GMO free as well as other ways of eating and cooking that would reduce the amount of GMOs in my diet. I have also been eating some gluten free products as well and that also seems to have improved my health. My swelling has gone down and my tender muscles are less tender. I'm not saying this way of life is for everyone, but I am not going to lie about what it has changed in my

Cat R.
Catherine W.3 years ago

What one eats is a personal choice.

Camille F.

Vegans often do not consider the environmental impact of their lifestyle choice. Those burried items: wastefulness in the name of emotion. The synthetic replacements for animal products are often environmentally expensive - their production damages the planet. Is that better than using animal products such as wool that do not harm the animal? Or, are vegans a little short-sighted and infatuated with their own moral superiority.

Mary Hale
Mary Hale3 years ago

It is a personal choice as to how or wht you want to eat, But do look up what makes a food a compleate protein. like peanutbutter for it to be a compleate protein has to have glass of milk with it or it is a incompleate protein, If you have a milk cow she gives more milk than her calf can drink, so not taking away from it. The first three days is the colustrum and is feed to the calf. After that you can milk her and give calf part of the milk, or you can sale the milk or use for your family and have special formula mix it and feed the calf.. They do well with that. again that is your choice. My children were very allergic to milk and different baby formula's, so were raised on goat milk.Children grew healthy and so did her kid. after taking some of her milk morning and night turned her kid in with her for 2 or 3 hours and all went well. So there again is a choice. My only problem was no matter how high the fence was she would get out and go a mile down the road and ate the roses off of one of the school teachers rose bushes , she loved them. Can laugh at it now but sure fealt bad about that then. Each to their own way of life.