Our Cruelty Free Couples Journey

Monday, March 19, 2018

All photography by Kelly Louise Photography

When Chris and I first met, neither of us were vegetarian let alone vegan. We were full blown meat eaters knee deep in animal products from what we ate to what we wore, myself in particular. Growing up in an Italian family, we ate any and every type of meat and cheese. You name it, I probably ate it at one point or had it every Sunday for family supper. Chris was never a massive fan of red meat or pork, and never really even had a cheeseburger until his mid-twenties. He was definitely more selective (or picky, some may say) when it came to food. He wore leather belts and wool sweaters. I had suede shoes and a down comforter. We never really thought twice about any of these things. It was "normal", and the way we were raised. Come to find out, just because a certain thing is "the way it's always been" does not make it right, and it certainly does not mean it cannot be changed. 

I won't be going into my vegan story in this post, that will be saved for a later date, but I will explain how changing my lifestyle affected my relationship, and how it differed from Chris's journey. It was about a little over a year into our relationship when I decided to switch to using only cruelty free products, to stop eating meat, and then to ultimately go completely vegan in every aspect of my life. My personal transition happened very quickly, and that was because of the overwhelming passion I immediately felt about it. I initially went vegan for ethical reasons - for the animals. All it took for me was to learn of the indescribable pain and torture these creatures endured and I lost all interest and desire to use and consume animal products. I was full steam ahead, but that was not the case for Chris. While Chris was always supportive and encouraging, it didn't seem to have the same effect on him. I was overbearing at first, not taking his individual experience into consideration. He even told me he would never stop eating meat. How could he still want to eat meat? It didn't make sense to me. Is he a psychopath? Who knows.

No, Chris was and is not a psychopath (to clear that up). He just was at a different point than I was. He cared and was empathetic, but the comfort of following the same routine for his entire life was preventing him from veering off that path. The fear of change and general ignorance of it all made it seem daunting and unappealing. He knew nothing about veganism, or what that even truly meant. Me showing him nightmarish videos of cows being slaughtered and chickens getting their heads chopped off was not helping my case. While it obviously upset him to see, it did nothing to help him make the actual connection. That's when I realized that (duh) not everyone will have the same visceral response to animal abuse and exploitation as I do. All it took was one video for me to completely overhaul my choices and delve into further education and research to learn as much as I could. So, my first bit of advice would be to look, think, and feel outside of your own emotions. If you are with someone who is slower to advance on their journey, you have to let them go at their own pace, and try to understand. It's foreign, and strange, and new, so not everyone is going to want to dive in head first.

From that point, I let off a little. I was still strong in my convictions, but I did not try to browbeat Chris into making the same decisions as myself. Instead, I educated him. Education and awareness is the absolute most integral part of veganism and aiding someone into comprehending what it all means. For Chris, the slaughter of animals disturbed him, but it wasn't quite enough to make that light bulb go off. I started sharing different pieces of information that I learned with him that had more to do with the global environmental impact, and the debilitating consequences animal products have on our health. We went to farm animal sanctuaries where he interacting with these thoughtful, sentient beings firsthand. He looked into their eyes and saw their personalities. Then, I introduced documentaries. More education. Chris watched Cowspiracy and immediately stopped eating meat that day. 

The fact that animal products are so detrimental to our health is what convinced Chris to go more plant based. He is very health-conscious. When discovering how meat and dairy are carcinogenic, how red meat is the number one cause for heart disease, how high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and various other ailments can be attributed to the consumption of animal products, it then became clear that it was no longer something he wanted to put into his body. He had stopped drinking soda months after we met because he realized it was basically poison, so this only made sense to follow. This is what finally made Chris's light bulb go off. I went vegan for ethical reasons, and he went plant based for health reasons. Everyone is different

You'll notice that I am referencing him as plant based and not vegan, and that is because Chris still occasionally eats fish. This is his personal choice, and while he may consider stopping one day, right now - this is the point he is at. From saying he would never stop eating meat (like 99% of vegans before they went vegan btw), to only eating fish here and there, I am still proud of the developments he has made because it was his choice. He did not do this for me, or because I "made" him. He did it for himself, and that is the most rewarding part. While he had his own reasons for making alterations in his lifestyle, it still ultimately created a ripple and had the same effect in saving animals' lives and bettering the planet. 

What helped the most was finding foods and products I knew he would like. Chris loves to cook, which definitely makes a difference, so trying new recipes is fun and interesting for him. We have gone to VegFests and vegan/vegetarian restaurants to expose ourselves to plant based cuisine, and at this point we have a list of our favorite places and most liked meals. I found alternates to his favorite toiletries and clothes, which he ultimately ended up liking even more. He felt and saw the difference for himself, and that is also what drives him to continue this lifestyle. Now, it's his choice to shop for those things, and he does so on his own! He looks for cruelty free symbols on products, searches for animal products in nutritional labels and on clothing tags, all out of his own volition. He considers clothing and accessories made out of animal skin and hair immoral, and returns gifts he receives that are made out of it. Chris even makes suggestions to me for new vegan places to try, animal friendly places to go, cruelty free brands he discovers, etc. He is happy and content with his decisions, feels healthier than ever, and proud that he no longer supports cruel and inhumane industries. This is what it's all about people.

So, if you know someone who is adamant that they will "never stop eating meat" or doesn't see why leather is bad, give it some time. If that is someone you're dating or married to, a friend, or a family member, there is always room for education and awareness. I have even gotten my own parents to drastically cut down on their meat consumption, sometimes going days without it. You never know the impact you can have, but patience is key when it comes to veganism. This is integral and important, I know, but human beings are scared and stubborn creatures. They'll dig their heels in and turn up their nose if you overwhelm them with change, so showing, proving, and guiding is the most effective way to create a spark of change in their minds. 

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