Before I talk about another reason why I’m vegan, I want to take a moment to discuss Cecil the lion. If you haven’t heard about Cecil, you might be living under a rock, but the TL;DR is this: an American dentist lured Cecil, a popular lion that resided in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, out of the safety of the park’s boundaries, where he then proceeded to shoot him with a crossbow, stalk him for 40 hours, and then kill him with a rifle.

Matthew Scully talks about big game hunting in Dominion, so this is subject is unfortunately topical for me. Let’s be clear: if you respect something, you don’t murder it in cold blood. You certainly don’t lure it from a protected environment, shoot it with an arrow, let it wander around and bleed out for over 40 hours, only to actually kill it with a bullet later. You don’t skin it for a rug, and you don’t decapitate its head for a trophy unless, of course, you are Ed Gein reincarnated. A certain coldness is required for hunting that I don’t even pretend to understand, but big game hunting? I can’t even fathom it.

Walter Palmer, the dentist responsible for Cecil’s death, is quoted as saying, “I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.” How insulting. If this had been a different lion, Palmer would not regret murdering an innocent animal. “Taking of this lion” — are you kidding me? The language he uses to describe what he did is so disturbingly insightful to the mental hoops he must jump through to justify his actions to himself. Guess what? These beautiful animals are not yours to take, whether you pay $50,000.00 to do so or not. I cannot even wrap my head around that amount of money, let alone on spending it in such a frivolous manner. I hope every time Palmer looks at his trophy, an elderly lion’s decapitated head,  he is reminded of how reviled he is. Hopefully he learns something from this whole experience, but judging from the list of other animals he’s murdered, I am not hopeful for any serious reflection on his part.

That doesn’t mean we, the self-identified animal lovers (both omnivorous, vegetarian, and vegan), can’t take time to reflect about our own actions. I’ve seen a lot of vegans upset about the general public’s reaction to the news, and I understand– it is frustrating to watch people up in arms over Cecil while they munch on their cheeseburgers and slurp on their milkshakes. That being said, I find solace in the sheer number of folks who are heartbroken over what must have been a horrific death. I believe that most people truly love animals, and tragic losses of life like this should make us pause and consider what we can each do to minimize suffering of all. Modern factory farming has waged a brilliantly executed war to help people forget what they’re actually eating. Meat comes in plastic, vacuum-sealed packets, renamed (hamburger, beef, pork), with pictures of happy animals splayed across the packaging. We all know that these idyllic pastures are a far cry from the reality that farmed-animals face. If Cecil’s murder upset you, perhaps it’s time to do some introspection. I would not be surprised if the meat, dairy, and egg industries upset you, too. I didn’t mean to throw 500 words at you there, but the whole thing just breaks my heart. Let’s talk about something more positive.

My reason for this #whyimveganwednesday is an obvious one… the food! Look at what I came home to for dinner tonight:

ohsheglowsratatouilleveggies

The boy made Angela Liddon’s Ratatouille Inspired Summer Vegetable Dish and served it with Israeli couscous. Y’all, I am so spoiled.

Being vegan has introduced me to a whole world of foods I never would have tried before. Growing up in the Midwest did not afford an introduction to diverse dishes. Veganism has opened the door to an entire world of cuisines, and Austin is filled to the brim with new places to try. Since going vegan, I’ve had more Thai, Indian, Japanese, Ethiopian, and Puerto Rican dishes than I’ve had in my entire life. It makes me so sad that some people chug along through life living on variations of chicken nuggets and pizza. Boy, are they missing out.

Going vegan has also taught me how to be a better cook. People always ask if vegan cooking is really time intensive. I don’t think it takes any longer than meat-based dishes, but there are a lot of atypical ingredients that you need to get used to. Being forced to confront new styles of cooking head on has taught me to experiment and take risks in the kitchen — I’m even going to attempt to bake JB a birthday cake this weekend! We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

Hats off to you, Cecil. I hope, wherever in the universe you are, you know you are loved.

sb