Sarx Trustee, Jenna Sital-Singh, speaks to us about her faith, the path of peaceable living and her recent veggie wedding!
- Tell us about your journey to Christ
My faith is full of questioning and gaps in certainty, knowledge and understanding but there is no other message of hope and love that parallels the one that Jesus brings nor an example of how to live so passionately, so deliberately and so inspiringly as His.
When I think about my belief in, and relationship with, Christ as a journey it doesn’t feel easy to put it into words. I guess that put simply it has been a subtle evolution over time of my upbringing (Christian) and my primary school education (in a Christian school) into an incrementally but increasingly independent decision to believe that God made the world and sent his Son to die for us.
- Why did you decide to become a vegan?
This too has been a journey. I didn’t eat much meat growing up (my mum went off meat during her last pregnancy with my younger sister) so in some ways I guess I never really acquired a taste for it. Eventually I decided that rather than pick and choose what meat I would or wouldn’t eat, it made more sense to simply stop eating any of it! It was only as I went through secondary school, took a gap year to go travelling and then went to university that I became increasingly aware of what goes on in many parts of the animal industry – the cruel way in which animals are often treated (both in life and when sent to their deaths) and the detrimental impacts on the wider environment – the only world we all have to live in. With increasing knowledge came an increasing awareness that it didn’t make sense to just not eat meat, but that I needed to stop eating fish…and eggs…and dairy products…and all things animal, which I have more or less done in that order!
- The number of Christian vegans are few but growing. How do your marry your Christian faith with your vegan lifestyle?
Perhaps this is where my “veganism” gets interesting! I would say that my Christian faith (as well as many other parts of my education) has taught to place huge importance on living with love toward, and in harmony with, the world around me. Why treat what and who we have in life poorly when we can treat it well?
Because of this I would say that technically I am not actually a vegan for the following reasons:
– In a world that seems to thinks it is okay to be flippant with what we have much of the time, I disagree with waste as much as I disagree with maltreatment of animals and our environment so there are times when I will eat vegetarian food that would otherwise have been thrown away.
– I have found that there can be some social contexts in which it could cause offence to refuse the food that has been made for me or even, on occasion, distress and in those circumstances I might then eat vegetarian or, if I felt I absolutely couldn’t refuse, meat dishes (but with the latter only if I essentially felt I had no choice)!
– Not all farms or farmers are evil! In fact, some farms and those who work on them treat their animals and their land incredibly well, and then I like to support them, as a means of showing it to be the better way and, hopefully, encouraging others to follow suit. It is also a livelihood for some people and vegetarian products, when the animals are treated well, are naturally produced so I think it is a good thing to support those who show ethical practice in their work. As a side note, I also sometimes question whether a vegan diet is the healthiest so the times when I have no qualms about the production of yoghurt or cheese in particular, I think a little bit of these products can be good foods to eat!
So it is probably far more accurate to say that I am vegetarian. I continue to call myself a vegan however because it lessens the confusion / simplifies the explanation for other people as well as removing the pressure for those who might cook for me to need to know which non-vegan/vegetarian products I would be willing to consume!
Ultimately, I want to live well in the world, not causing harm or contributing to / supporting people or industries that do – not just for the sake of animals but for the whole world and EVERYTHING and EVERYONE in it. I would say that this is therefore how my vegan lifestyle choices marry with my Christian faith.
- Have there been any challenges in becoming a veggie?
Yes! One challenge comes in the form of seemingly endless conversations – it never ceases to amaze me just how much of a conversation starter it is – explaining my choices to other people and experiencing reactions of admiration (good, if at times frustrating too!) but also disapproval or scorn at times (the more challenging part).
Another challenge is holding true to my vegan lifestyle choices – especially when it comes to food, but also in terms of far wider lifestyle choices that become impacted, such as where to buy food, clothes, shoes; how and where to travel; how to challenge others to think more deeply about it all without them ending up feeling judged.
- What are the rewards of meat-free living?
The satisfaction that comes from knowing that I am trying to follow through with my beliefs through doing, and that I am taking a stand against actions that result in avoidable and unnecessary pain and suffering; living life hopefully in a world that can sometimes feel so full of hopelessness; interesting conversations; a naturally more healthy lifestyle.
- I heard you had a vegan wedding! How did this go down amongst the guests?
Well it was an ethical-vegetarian / vegan wedding. It certainly seems like it was an unusual thing to do, and a few friends poked fun a bit and jokingly threatened to smuggle in meat to add to their plates but I didn’t catch anyone doing that on the day!
The thing is, most people’s fears of a vegan diet are that it will deprive them of the breadth, excitement and ‘tasty’ factor that they seem to get from eating animal produce. We knew this wasn’t true and we approached a catering friend who could make us a menu that our meat-eating friends wouldn’t be able to find anything to complain about and therefore be able to counteract the myth. Unsurprisingly we were correct and everyone commented on how good the food was. A thumbs-up for the veggie-vegans!
(As a promo for this cook, her name is Ela, and she serves delicious food most Wednesdays at my favourite little cooperatively-run veggie-vegan café in London: Bonnington café in Vauxhall).
- What tips would you give to Christians taking their first steps towards a more peaceable lifestyle?
Take your time. Think about why you’re taking the steps that you are, talk to people who already by certain lifestyle choices that you want to emulate and get their advice, read things…
Also, check out the upcoming Sarx lifestyle section which will give you some ideas of how and where to start to live more peaceably.
Then… just GO FOR IT!