Peace Begins On Your Plate

by

Patty Shenker

In 2010, I celebrated a 40th! No- it wasn’t my birthday (I wish) or my anniversary to my sweet husband. It was forty years of being a vegetarian and I am very proud of this milestone.

I didn’t know any vegetarians back in 1970, even at my very liberal college in Southern California. This was before Peter Singer’s book- Animal Liberation, Francis Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet and even before PeTA! I just decided that I wanted to live a non-violent life, as best I could. And I realized immediately that it was my food choices that caused violence, suffering and death- and on a daily basis. I truly realized at that moment that “Peace begins on your plate”.

Now back in 1970, there were few vegetarian dishes at most American-style restaurants so I quickly became a “foodie” for ethnic ones- Indian, Thai, Chinese. They offered vegetarian food that I found very delicious and satisfying.  The hardest places were, of course, the American “Steak & Lobster” restaurants where they go out of their way to make a special dish of  . . . steamed vegetables!

Back then, my father was part owner of the Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  I would visit my parents often and we would dine at the famous five star restaurants at the Dunes such as The Sultan’s Table and The Dome of the Sea where  a woman played a harp while floating  in a pool of water in the middle of the restaurant.  But I would secretly be wishing  I were at the local Indian restaurant. There I could get saag paneer, aloo gobi, samosas, onion bhajiis- and NOT steamed veggies. My mother, who would eat any animal, looked at it as a phase I would grow out of and left it at that. I knew it was a profound decision that had changed my life but I had no idea to what extent this one decision would affect my entire life.

With this decision, I became committed to this lifestyle and began to learn the ugly truths of factory farming, genetic breeding and the utter disregard for these sentient beings we call “food animals.” I lost weight & felt better. I became involved with a farm animal sanctuary and I found people who I not only shared my deep seated belief with but I could eat with them without being disgusted. I was no longer alone.

The rest of my life has been fairly “normal.” I married a wonderful man and we had one daughter, Julia. My vegetarian lifestyle did become a concern for my mother when she learned I was pregnant. I swear she thought I was going to have an eggplant- or something! Being brainwashed by the meat industry, she was convinced that I would not have a healthy baby without consuming animals. I knew better and didn’t budge. I am still so grateful that my mother lived to see and hold our 8 1/2 pound, healthy baby girl as my mom died 6 weeks later. My husband had become vegetarian and we raised our daughter as a vegetarian. I actually think that our daughter is a stronger, more independent person because she grew up being a little bit different- no fast food & their toys, no uggs AND no feeling of being deprived!

I am sorry that it took so long to become vegan. I feel very guilty about this. Cheese is a very addictive food and I was addicted. But I could no longer deny that there is what I now call “living violence” and that every time I had cheese, I was supporting the horrific veal industry. To support the dairy and egg industries was going against the non-violence to which I had dedicated my life so I finally made that change.

But it was really in 2005 that my life as a vegetarian/vegan came to a new level. Volunteering weekly for Animal Acres, a farm animal sanctuary outside Los Angeles that I co-founded, I have grown to know and love these gentle beings in ways similar to my pets and the people in my life. I have seen their joy, their suffering and their incredible ability to forgive us humans in ways we can only dream of.

So I am celebrating these 42 years now and I feel great. I take no medications, have low blood pressure and cholesterol, and I am very grateful for the blessings in my life. I know my vegan lifestyle will keep me healthier but it will not prevent my death. But I believe that my diet will always be an advantage in fighting what may come my way. More importantly, I look at my lifestyle as a conscious, compassionate choice that has brought real meaning and goals to my life. I am so encouraged to see how many young people are becoming vegan.  To everyone else I say, it’s never too late to change, to set off on the path that is healthier, environmentally friendly, and, above all else, more compassionate. It will make a difference- and isn’t that what we all want to do?

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