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  • Tereza Novakova

The V word

Is it just me or has the word vegan become a pretty close to an insult when people use it? How is it that people with moral ideals and conviction are often perceived as the bad guys? You know, like when you go to a party and you suddenly can hear some people behind your back telling their friend “you know she is…. v-vegan”, just whispering it with an almost disgusted snark to it. It’s like when someone uses the F word on you, the Feminist word. The pattern is the same - a conviction for a better, equal word used as an insult for some reason. And I am both. A vegan feminist, the ultimate monster, nice to meet you.

My journey to both has been a long one, even though I somehow believe I have always had both in me in a way. Being feminist came naturally to me, I was always very ambitious, had the best grades, wanted to accomplish things… and soon enough realized that it might not be as easy (or rather fair?) as I thought it would be compare to the boys around me. But I have always believed that girls are as strong as boys are, that we are all equal. It took me some time though to put the label on it. I would myself despite those “crazy feminists” thinking what the society has taught me – that they are putting themselves above men and that was not their place. Oh how wrong I was… anyways, so after a few years of the never ending battle to prove myself not only to others but most of all to myself, I have finally had that light bulb moment and realized, that I, in fact, am a feminist and that I believe in equality and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to be quiet about. I can proudly talk about it now, educate people around me, even those… v-vegans.

I grew up in a very meat-eating culture. Yes, I can hear you say “No shit Sherlock, everybody did”. But being Czech, it’s a whole new level of meat eating – we don’t really have that many veggie-based meals. In fact, most of them are some meat with sauce. Of fried meat. Or fried meat with sauce. We don’t even eat salads with our meat, salads are for pussies. And those meals that don’t contain meat are usually sweet and have shit ton of dairy in them. Yes, we eat sweet stuff for main meals, not just for desserts. Despite growing up in such culture, I would proudly call myself an animal lover. Since I was a little kid, I would be surrounded by animals, I had a cat before I was 5, then we had rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, … I would try to save stray kittens (only finding out years later that my grandma drowned them afterwards) and I rescued a dog. Somehow, I didn’t make the connection between pets and the animals on my plate, not until my late 20s…

I went to France for vacation with my boyfriend at that time. We have spent a part of it at a really nice cottage at the Aubrac region. A beautiful nature with green hills everywhere you can see and plenty of cows being outside enjoying their life. And as I was looking at that beautiful cow that you can see on the picture here, I thought My poor little thing, as you are being here outside, you have much better life than the cows in Czech Republic… but still you will die so I can have my steak. And that thought came back with me to the Czech Republic. And after an intensive thinking, I became vegetarian – because, after all, what can be wrong with eggs or dairy, right?

Yeah, well… that didn’t last long. My life changed within a few weeks after that vacation and it changed in a way I would have never imagined. In less than 6 months, I landed in Montreal. Alone, I was heading a new challenge. Soon after, I let the homesickness, cold weather and negative thoughts get the best of me - I felt tired, unmotivated, sick. And I came to that smart conclusion that so many others came to as well – I am feeling tired and sick because I don’t eat meat. So I with a light heart (I was doing it for health after all, right?) went back to eating meat fooling myself that at least, I am eating local and organic and free ranged as much as possible.

Over 2 years went by and I just out of the blue started questioning myself and my lifestyle again. To be fair, it was not out of a blue, it was after a serious alcohol intoxication (I can’t remember the last time I felt so bad after drinking) and one too many cigarettes. I basically quit cigarettes that day, I couldn’t even see a drop of alcohol for a few weeks and I started thinking about meat (still not sure how the meat got associated with the thoughts about alcohol and cigarettes at the same time) and realizing that even though I often buy my meat at local butcher shops, I actually can hardly ever know where the meat comes from and how it was slaughtered. And as I was thinking about that, I bumped into What the Health and after watching it I realized that if I don’t need meat to be healthy, I don’t need to search for where it comes from, I can just drop it all together! And from there, I started searching for more information, bumped into some great vegan activists on Youtube, some awesome videos and… I forced myself to watch Earthlings. I cried my eyes out, I stopped and was only able to continue watching the day after. Even though it was a horrible thing to watch, I believed it was important to watch it all. And that was the day that I made that moral connection. Not the day I saw the living cow outside in France, the day when I watched these atrocities that us, people, do to animals. That was the day when I became vegan.

Now, one must understand that once you make this moral connection, you cannot stand silent anymore. It’s not a question of a personal choice. It is a question of life – the animal and, after all, the human one too. So yes, vegans might be vocal and passionate but know that there’s a right cause behind it. And I know it is hard to let go of the status quo. I know it’s easier to put our heads in sand and just ignore the truth. But we should all aim to uncover it. And no judgement, after all, I have been there too, I once was a meat-eater too. Eating meat doesn’t make you a bad person, it only makes you a person with bad choices. And choices can be changed. Don’t let the environment or the society tell you different. They are the most challenging part you will face in this transition but the switch itself is very easy though, you will see.

So yes, I am the V word. And I am proud of it.

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