Thursday, April 7, 2011

Vegetarianism and Infertility Awareness

I used to be a PETA member.  I was a proud vegetarian, carting around my vegan wallet and scrutinizing labels to make sure that nothing I bought had cost an animal its life.  After 2 months (and a screening of "Meat Your Meat"), Peter began a vegetarian with me and we lived that way for 7 years.  It was a good time.  I cooked a lot and learned a lot, and I felt like I was doing a good thing for my body, the animals, and the planet.

I'm not a vegetarian anymore, although I still espouse many of the beliefs I held true at that stage in my early twenties.  (I ate meat when I was pregnant with Nicholas & Sophia and couldnt handle the hardcore porkchop or kielbasa need, stopped being a veg on a regular basis when I got pregnant with Alexander and need a tuna sandwich damn near every day and stopped being a pesci-veg when I got pregnant with Bobby and Maya and craved meat, meat, and more meat.)  For us, the real issue was the "ethical treatment" of animals.  Factory farming so that I could buy a chicken for 99 cents a pound didnt sit right with me.  Crowding hens into crates so that I could buy 18 eggs for $1.25 made my skin crawl.  Pumping animals full of hormones so that we could a little more for a little less...  made me sick to my stomach.  And, at that time, the answer for me was to stop eating meat and to join an organization that cared about the ethics of animal welfare.  So, I joined PETA, paid my annual membership dues, and, although I didnt love some of their tactics, I felt that sometimes 'in-your-face' was the only way to get peoples attention.

As I got older and, honestly, more conscious of my food and environment, and as Peter and I philosophized more on the legacy of beliefs we want to leave our children, it became more and more apparent that I wasn't against the cycle of life that our ancestors (especially our Native American ones) journeyed through.  Live life in balance... Animals have feelings and spirits and deserve our respect and compassion...  We are all animals, on this planet for a finite time, with the responsibility to leave it better than we found it for those in our wake.  We decided that not eating meat wasn't the answer, but was just another way to try and fix the problem.  And we moved to a different way, that of sustainable eating.  Although I do shop at Whole Foods, our biggest money dollars go to into our community, to the local farmers.  We buy our meat from a local, raw dairy farm that treats its animals well and raises them without the use of antibiotics.  We see the animals we eat.  We talk to them; our children touch them.  We can watch the raw milk we buy coming from the source.  We can see the baby goats playing and the hens running around the farm (in fact, I have to drive extra carefully as to not hit them since they run free on the farm!).  Is it cheap?  No.  So we have less of it.  And that's okay.  That's the price we pay.  (And, just for a side note, check out a cookbook from 50 years ago and take note of the meat portion sizes to feed 4... Then look at one of today... We dont need the amount of meat we are eating en mass.  The people of 50 years ago were MORE active and ate LESS; they were healthier too, statistically speaking.)  We go to the local bakery (I bake bread, but I dont have the means to slice it for sandwiches) and pick up 2 loaves to keep us through 2 weeks of sandwiches.  It gets placed in the freezer, since it has no preservatives and wont keep and I defrost it prior to use (no microwave either). For Thanksgiving, we went to a farm down the street and bought a turkey, raised with love and slaughtered the morning of pick-up.  A local farmer.  Our town (and the surrounding ones) have farmer's markets.  Organic, fresh fruits and veggies that werent flown in or trucked in from all over the world.  The cycle of life... It's what we found that we were really all about.  And it works for us.

But, obviously, I couldnt write my check to PETA while eating a grass-fed, free range piece of cow.  So, I dropped the membership.  It was hard.  I had actually applied for a job at PETA when we thought of relocating to the Virginia Beach area.  I had gotten to the in-person interview stage when we decided that it would just be too difficult of a transition for us as a couple, and I declined to go further.  I remember being so excited by the possibility, by the opportunity...  And then, I was ending my financial support of them and it was tough.  But it was the right thing to do.  My beliefs werent in line with theirs.  And, although I wanted people to wake up and realize that animals arent ours to do with what we like and that human beings are responsible for much of their plight, I didnt think that the methods PETA used were all that effective (similar to how I dont think that anti-abortion folks who bomb clinics and kill doctors are effective in promoting a 'pro-life' message).

Over the years since I stopped sending my check (although they still solicit me from time to time), I've kept up with PETA in the news.  Some good things, some bad things, some that just have me saying "that's PETA..." and rolling my eyes.  But when I read some blogs recently that highlighted PETA's latest, "Win A Vasectomy" campaign, I have to admit... My stomach churned as though I'd just watched "Meet Your Meat" again...  in a very anti-PETA way.  To honor "National Infertility Awareness Week", they've decided that one "lucky" man can get clipped if he does the same for his companion animal.

Really?  Pardon my language, but WTF.  And, if you click on the above link and scroll down, you'll see plenty of PETA supporters who are disgusted too.

Infertility isn't funny.  It's not a sound-bite or a lead into a vasectomy giveaway.  It's a disease.  Perhaps for Cancer Awareness, they can give one lucky person chemo therapy if that person does the same for their pet... Or, I know, in honor of the aged, they can give you morphine patches to "put down" that special elderly person in your life when you decide to put your beloved cat to sleep because her standard of life has fallen into hell.  Oh- that's not funny?  You're right- neither is infertility.

Infertiles suffer.  They live in a world that tells them parenthood is the best option, where people trivialize their medical conditions by telling them to "just adopt" or "just relax" or one of the other, myriad pieces of advice.  They go through injections just to ovulate and, in many cases, live through the hell of miscarriage or the death of a child.  They watch teenagers get pregnant, women do drugs and drink and deliver healthy babies, and life go on around them, all while waiting for that elusive BFP or trying every drug cocktail in the world to prolong pregnancy and stop preterm labor, all while their life stops and starts by the beep of a NICU monitor.  Do you want a taste of what real pain is?  It's watching your baby die.  It's knowing that you cant simply make love to your husband and get pregnant, that instead you have to inject yourself with God only knows what and involve a team of medical doctors.  It's the realization that a "natural" birth is something you can dream about because all your future pregnancies hold are risks of miscarriage, severe preterm delivery, pPROM, pre-eclampsia (or even more fun, postpartum eclampsia), placental abruption, or PTL combined with a long NICU stay.  Fun times.  Your right.  Something to make a mockery of with a dumbass contest that is supposed to bring awareness to the ethical treatment of animals.

I'm an animal.  Where the hell is my ethical treatment???  Where is the compassion when I cant get pregnant?  Somewhere between "adopt" and "learn to live childless"?  Where is the love when I lose a baby- you're right... Trapped smack in the middle of "get over it" and "maybe you weren't meant to have children."  Where is the Infertility Awareness that we are all begging for- yep... in a PETA campaign, urging men to get clipped.  Wow... And to think that I've been on the wrong side for all these years.

Infertility is a disease.  It's, as PETA writes on their website (although this is taken out of context), the real "crisis that is a crying shame."  I'm sorry that animals are overpopulating the planet.  I really am.  But the crying shame is that people (animals, too) go through horrendous diseases, no matter what they may be.  Making a mockery of one, in order to bring awareness to the other, is a piss-poor example of someone's lazy PR.  Over 7 million people are impacted by infertility; some are due to genetic issues, others due to "easy fixes" with medication.  But, you know what... It doesnt matter.  It's an illness and those who want to treat it, just like those wanting to treat other illnesses, have that choice.  Poking fun at infertiles- which is what PETA is doing- isn't just insensitive.  It's reprehensible.  

So... What can you do?

Sign the petition, telling PETA that infertility isn't a joke.  It's a very real disease that impacts 1 in 10 couples on a regular basis and, according to doctors, may involve 1 in every 4 over their lifetime.

Email Ingrid Newkirk (the president) and Carrie Snider (special projects), and let them know how you feel.

Blog about it... And, after you've blogged... tweet it and facebook the link.  Let people know this is wrong.  Fertile, infertile, parent, orphaned parent, childless by choice or not- it doesnt matter.  This is just wrong.

I've signed the petition, I'm shooting off an email momentarily, you're reading my blog post, and rest assured, it'll make its way to Facebook soon... But, even if we all do it, will it be enough for PETA to get the message, truly apologize, and get rid of this disgusting 'contest'?  If history points us in the right direction, I'll say most likely not... But this is at least one way to bring REAL awareness of infertility.

1 comment:

Jenn @ said...

Michele -

Thank you so much for this post. I have been a vegetarian (former vegan) for many years and have just now reached the point on the food journey where you are at today. I am slowly introducing occassional meat from local, organic farms. I already purchase my dairy from local farms as well. So much of your post resonated with me - I, too, have suffered from infertility and loss. I have hypothalamic amenorrhea and it was a long journey to get pregnant in the first place. We were fortunate enough to finally get pregnant, but then suffered the loss of our first child. I now have a beautiful 11-month old daughter, but still think of the baby I lost. I am truly sorry for the losses you and your husband have sufferred and I wish you all the joy with your little ones.

I just wanted to say thank you for this post - and to let you know that I will write to PETA to let them know that I also feel infertility is NOT a joke or something to be made light of. Thank you for this.