The transition from omnivore to herbivore came to me in small increments over a number of years – I was quite stubborn.
I was raised in a family which was firmly planted in the traditions of hunting and fishing. As a youngster, my father, grandfather, and uncles took me afield and as I grew older these traditions became everything to me. In addition to this, our family diet was heavily base upon domestic meat, dairy and eggs. I am one of nine children and each year my parents would buy a cow from the local butcher to put in the freezer. I also grew up working on my best friend’s dairy farm just a few miles out of town. They didn’t pay much, but they provided all the milk, ice cream, cheese, eggs and bacon a farm hand could eat. As I grew older and left the family nest for a small farm of my own, I immediately immersed myself in the raising of rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys.
Throughout my youth, and into my adulthood, I was sometimes referred to as a “softy”. This was given to me as a derogatory label within my hunting and fishing circles. But as time went on, voices deep within kept telling me it was not in my best interest to kill animals. For many years I resisted and ignored these voices – after all, nobody writing in my small livestock, and hunting journals had any concerns or incite on this – it all seemed perfectly fine to them.
Eventually though, some friends of ours subtly questioned my “might makes right” lifestyle. This set off a succession of realizations within me that eventually lead to my quitting hunting, fishing, and animal farming. As years went on though, I continued to eat occasional eggs, dairy and fish. Sometimes my hunting and fishing buddies would give me game and fish that they killed – they either had so much of this meat they couldn’t eat it, or they enjoyed killing it, but couldn’t bring themselves to eat it. I always accepted – reasoning that it was kind of like road kill – it was already dead and my not eating it wasn’t going to bring it back to life.
A couple years later, I befriended a woman who was well educated in the realm of “new age” spirituality. I took a profound interest in this field of study and read a book by the title of The Hundredth Monkey, by Ken Keyes, Jr. and also read about Maharishi Mahesh (a Yogi practitioner) and his astonishing results concerning Transcendental Meditation. I began to understand the principals of mass consciousness and realized that my violence – whether active or passive – was fueling more violence in the world. I also came to realize that my accepting and eating meat from friends, was no different than an alcoholic or drug addict accepting substances from friends due to peer pressure. Additional research taught me about the harm animal foods (if we can label them “foods” at all) do to my health. It becomes obvious – eating animals isn’t good for us – and it’s no coincidence.
Now I see the vegan lifestyle as a vehicle to help move human society from the dysfunctional “might makes right” paradigm to one based on compassion, altruism, and oneness. The only challenging aspect of being vegan for me is not judging those who reject this compassionate, functional way of life. But then I look back on my lengthy transition and understand that ultimately, if we intend to live sustainably and peaceably on planet earth, we will all be vegan. We are all in transition – it’s simply taking some longer than others.
A few years ago, the realizations which I have outlined above brought forth a great need to inform the world about such issues. As you probably know, there are many aspects concerning the vegan lifestyle. To the non-vegan, it is a huge topic with much to consider. I would often find myself frustrated while trying to explain these aspects via verbal or electronic conversation.Often I would get cut off by some interruption or be misunderstood somehow. This lack of concise communication sparked and idea which lead to my writing a book about my transition to veganism. In August of 2006, I, along with Wingspan Press, published, A Northwoodsman’s Guide To Everyday Compassion. For more information on this book, visit any large retail book outlet. It is also available for purchase at the Marquette Food Co-op and at Northern Vegan events.
To read articles by Ken, click here.