NAME: Cecily Bumbray
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN VEGETARIAN? AND WHAT INSPIRED YOUR JOURNEY?
I have been vegetarian or vegan for about 8 years. I became a vegetarian when I was 14 years old. I had never eaten pork or red meat as a child, but I loved chicken and ate it very regularly. I occasionally ate seafood as well. I cannot remember what exactly sparked my desire to be vegetarian. I think it was a combination of things. First, my brother and sister, who are 10 and 12 years older than me respectively, had both been pescatarian or vegetarian for a few years, so the idea did not seem foreign or strange to me. At the time I had also been reading more about mercury in fish and contaminated chicken that was making people sick.
I have always been health conscious, since I can remember, so it seemed like a good idea. I told my mother I wanted to become vegetarian and she said, “Start today,” so I did.
It wasn’t until after I made the switch that I read more about the environmental benefits of vegetarianism/veganism and about animal cruelty in the meat industry. Knowing more on those topics solidified my decision.
Lastly, it was also a spiritual choice. In some way I’ve always felt that ingesting animal meat would make me an angrier, more anxious person, simply because of all the stress the animal experiences before it is killed. That’s a lot of negative energy to ingest (potentially).
HAS VEGETARIAN ENHANCED YOUR HEALTH? WHY OR WHY NOT?
I truly believe it has enhanced my health, although it is difficult to point to tangible proof. I think becoming a vegetarian pushed me to be more health conscious overall, and be more food conscious. It made me more aware of what I put into my body. Also, once I became vegan in college, there were so few unhealthy things left to eat, that I was forced to fill up on greens and fruits, which I know has been beneficial.
IN RETROSPECT, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MEAT? OR DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON AMERICA’S MEAT INDUSTRY?
I have serious problems with America’s meat industry, from the antibiotics put in meat, to the pollution caused by factory farms and slaughterhouses, to the abuse animals suffer in these places. However, I am aware that many of these issues are specific to America.
When I studied abroad in Ghana while in college, I started eating chicken and fish again. I did this because I was visiting a new culture, and food is such an integral part of experiencing a culture. Also, I did not want to be rude and refuse food everywhere I visited in the country.
For me at the time, being flexible and accommodating were most important. I did realize in retrospect, however, that I still was uncomfortable knowing that the chicken that was just running around the yard was now on my plate, and I am very adamant that if you eat meat you must be honest with yourself about where it came from and be comfortable with that. Unless I ever have the stomach to kill the chicken myself, I won’t be eating it again in the future.
WAS THERE A COMMUNITY OF BLACK WOMEN THAT HELPED YOU ALONG YOUR MEATLESS JOURNEY? AND IF NOT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO CHANGE THIS FOR OTHERS?
I wouldn’t say I ever had a community. In high school I did not have a single friend who was vegetarian, and everyone seemed to think I was a little off for not eating meat lol. Once I came to college I met a couple women who have helped me along the way. One friend help persuade me to try becoming a vegan, and I am so happy that she did! Another friend has recently started a blog: Bangin’ Bird Food. It has some great recipes and general support.
I have a dream of starting a non-profit that will teach young black kids about nutrition and healthy eating habits. This will come to fruition one day, but for now I just try to talk to my friends and family whenever I can about what it truly means to eat healthy and to use food to fight disease.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ONE OR TWO TIPS ON TRANSITIONING INTO VEGANISM?
I have 2 suggestions. First, if you are going to become a vegan, I suggest going in hard for 2 weeks! Don’t let yourself slip, just be fully dedicated. If after 2 weeks you want to cheat every now and then that’s fine, but I know for me, trying to cut back a little at a time would never have worked. You’ve got to go all the way to realize that you don’t need or want that stuff as much as you thought.
Secondly, I would say to any young black person out there and to any person of color who does not live in a major city that you’ve got to be strong and you’ve got to truly ignore other people sometimes. They will not understand. They will make you feel like an alien just because you won’t eat a hamburger. You’ve got to realize that you chose the path you are on for a reason and that it is your journey and no one else’s. So stay strong!
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