After ingesting a plate of overcooked veal parmesan at a corporate dinner event in a dimlit downtown steakhouse, Joshua Hicks of Nashville, Tennessee, glanced up at the mirrored wall to make sure he didn't have any tomato sauce on his white shirt, only to find that his reflection was partially obscured by a large cowboy hat hanging on the wall and he'd lost a great deal of face - to himself.
"It couldn't have been clearer if it was written on that mirror in blood," said Hicks, who says that he's always prided himself on being able to read the writing on the wall. "I was eating an innocent little baby who'd been torn from his mother at birth and who'd never known a moment's kindness from anyone. I couldn't bear to look at myself."
Fortunately, said Hicks, at that time, the decorative cowboy hat on the wall spared him from having to fully face himself.
Hicks explained that, as a boy growing up on a dairy farm in rural eastern Tennessee, he'd witnessed firsthand how the dairy industry worked, separating would-be nursing calves from their mothers so that their mothers' milk could be sold to humans. If male, the calves themselves typically went on to become veal or pet food.
"And I knew it all along," said Hicks. "There were no excuses I could make. I couldn't look myself in the eye and lie."
And, so, despite the temporary reprieve the cowboy hat had granted him, Hicks knew he couldn't indefinitely avoid the task of fully facing himself. He contacted his childhood buddy, longtime vegan Kenny Felton, and told him that he was ready to buck up and become a real man by fully renouncing the products of cruelty and exploitation.
The steadfast, compassionate Felton took the news in stride and, with little fanfare, helped steer Hicks into the plant-based path, which Hicks continues to happily tread now, five years later. Hicks says while the shift to vegan living has supremely soothed both his health ailments and his conscience, there's one particular body part in which the changes have been especially marked - his face.
"I no longer need to hide it in shame," said Hicks, who stated that, these days, each night before he turns in, he looks himself squarely in the mirror and congratulates himself on another day of honorable eating. "I saved my face. And boy does it feel good!"