How I became vegan

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How I became vegan

Run for your life, little chicken!
Run for your life, little chicken!

I didn’t become vegan overnight. In fact, it was a long process, which did not start in animal rights at all.

I grew up on a small homestead in Vermont. We raised some goats for milk, cows and pigs for meat, and grew a lot of our own vegetables. My parents were (and still are) very Christian.

I had heard about vegetarians, but didn’t know any. Didn’t think about the whole idea much at all.

In junior high I learned how to shoot a gun and went hunting. I never shot at any animals, though, but I did go out hunting a few times. I think I was more concerned that hunting wasn’t a very cool thing to do, rather than concerned about animals.

But, there were a couple of vegetarians in my class. So the idea kind of became somewhat familiar to me. Still strange and unrealistic, but now I actually knew people who were living as vegetarians.

I actually became concerned with meat eating because of the pacifist views I developed (partly because of going to church, I think). I really took the whole idea of “thou shalt not kill” to heart, and had a realization that when we slaughter animals to eat, we really are killing them. The violence of taking of their lives began to feel very wrong.

My initial vegetarianism, during my final year of high school, was actually pescetarianism, meaning I still ate fish. This was something of a concession to my parents and to family gatherings.

In my first week at university, I ate the worst tunafish sandwich ever, and that was the end of my fish eating.

I was a regular vegetarian for the next couple of years. But, I still was not really concerned with animals at all, except in an abstract, theoretical way.

My girlfriend at the time (who I eventually married) told me more about the issues of animal welfare and animal rights, as well as the hidden ingredients like rennet and gelatin. I recall giving up leather and cheese before giving up milk.

I didn’t go vegan until my last year at university, which meant I had to really reduce my consumption of pie and pastries, which was difficult. After that, though, I was fully vegan.

Also, living with cats again brought me back in touch with animals, this time from a different perspective than in the past. Now I approached them on their terms, viewing them as individual beings, whereas I had previously viewed animals as things intruding on my life.

The moral of the story is that I became vegan over many years, and it was a complicated process (probably much more complicated in real life than I am presenting it here) involving many factors. It actually didn’t matter what any one person had told me about animal rights or veganism. For me it was a process of trying to cause less harm, and a view to a path towards that goal. One thing I do know now is that there is no end to the process.

So, as we are out trying to raise awareness about the conditions of animals’ lives and an awareness of animal rights, it may be that our message will not convert anyone to our way of thinking. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be out there trying, but we do need to watch that we are not disappointed or angry when people do not change. You never know where they are on their own path. Or where that path is leading them.

What, then, is your story? Please share it in the comments.


8 Comments

Tasha

May 2, 2009 at 10:52 pm

I was vegetarian a short while in my late teens, I cannot even remember why. I know I didn’t really like the taste of meat.

But I went back to meat eating a year later.

Two years ago, I got a new roommate who was vegetarian and she eventually went vegan and then raw vegan. Because of her I started reading more and more of animal welfare and the welfare of our planet. I am an animal lover through and through (I can never answer that cat or dog person question rightly as I love them both so much) It wasn’t a leap for me to give up meat again!

And, through educating myself even more (and watching horrifying documentaries such as Earthlings) I realized that we humans are brutalizing animals as much as we are brutalizing ourselves. My love for cheese will be substituted with with other loves like bean salad now. Or a really yummy bean and rice burrito. Or just a really good smoothie.

The only hard part i’m finding is that I really have to read labels when buying groceries.. things like bread or sauces.. otherwise I’m so happy to not only go vegan, but also shop at farmers markets and local businesses for my goods.

It feels good to be vegan and green! I have so many vegetarians in my life now and it’s awesome to share recipes, restaurants, and ideas with them. And share the same with non-vegetarians!

Ed Coffin

May 3, 2009 at 7:42 am

I grew up very similar to you. I used to go hunting and fishing as a kid with my Dad. I never shot anything, but I did catch many fish. My parents are now into the idea of being vegan, but I know they would never do it. My Dad still says, “I need to have meat at every meal”. My Mom is a bit more into it than he is and I see that she eats a lot more vegan meals now.
I have always had a strong interest in eating healthfully, which was the original reason I had pursued a professional degree in nutrition and started writing the Eating Consciously blog. I was quick to shun red meat and pork at ten years of age, again for health concerns. When I was 19, I remember coming home late from work one night and my partner had declared that he was no longer consuming meat and was quick to show me some eye-opening videos online. I was convinced, no more poultry and no more fish.
I began researching as much information as I could and was completely baffled that I wasn’t learning any of this information in school. About six months after becoming vegetarian, I stumbled across one of the most shocking discoveries of my life. I had discovered that cows didn’t just give milk naturally, but needed to be pregnant in order to do so. I immediately told my partner, and that day we became vegan.
I had always told myself, and others, that I was making these choices for health reasons, but here I was becoming vegan out of concern for animals. The floodgates had opened and it seemed everywhere I looked, more compelling information was streaming my way. I quickly found myself leafleting in the streets, arguing with my nutrition professors, attending vegan events, and speaking out about veganism at any given chance, all on behalf of animals and the environment. I realized that while I still consumed a healthy diet, my focus has shifted to moral and ethical concerns regarding the food I ate. I wasn’t only concerned with my own food choices, but became strongly driven to encourage others to adopt this lifestyle as well.

Becci

May 3, 2009 at 10:42 am

Really interesting blog post, and I am enjoying reading other people’s stories as well.

Like everyone else’s, my “going vegan” story is ultimately pretty long and complicated, so I’m just going to shorten it as much as possible. Basically, I’ve always loved animals, and when I was about 7 or 8 my beloved goldfish died. I’d had her for most of my life and she was very important to me. She had been struggling for a while in the tank and my father, in an attempt to end it more quickly for her, put her in an empty bowl on the porch. I went out to look at her and obviously it was terrible, and that day I promised her that I would never eat fish again. A year later I became obsessed with pigs, and stopped eating pork despite the fact that pepperoni was my favorite food.

Then, until I was about 20 or 21, I struggled with the idea that pigs and fish were somehow more deserving of empathy than chickens and turkeys and cows. I felt very guilty, but dealing with a lot of allergies meant that my food choices were already limited, so I tried not to think about it. Meanwhile, ever since I was very young, I had abhorred the concept of wearing fur, and so I refused to wear leather as well. I went shopping with my grandmother and sister, who gave me a hard time for being too picky when it came to wearing shoes with leather. They told me, “Look, you EAT beef–what’s your deal?” I couldn’t tell them. I just knew that it had always made me uneasy. That year at university, I came across an animal rights table with some info about the leather industry. I remember being shocked and amazed that there were other people who ALSO had an issue with leather. I took some info and a “Vegetarian Starter Kit” sticker, which I stuck to my computer monitor as a reminder that I ought to look into the idea.

Later that year, I stopped by the table again and they had Meet Your Meat playing. I couldn’t watch it, and I remember thinking, “If you can’t watch it, you shouldn’t be eating it.” I also realized that it WASN’T the animals’ fault that I had so many allergies, and that it wasn’t fair for me to continue eating them. Right about when I turned 22, I went vegetarian, and about 6 months later, I realized it was only consistent to go vegan as well. That was about 5 years ago.

Roger

May 3, 2009 at 11:05 am

Short version: my wife went vegan (Becci, above), so I did too.

Slightly longer & more accurate version: she started bringing home leaflets & arguments, and I kept rationalizing. I’d come up with the sort of counter-arguments that don’t really hold much water if you look closely, but let you ignore the facts if you’re so inclined. “How do you know that’s not just one case? I’m sure they’re just picking the very worst farms for their videos etc.” “That can’t be right–farmers are decent people, and no decent person would let these things go on.” That was the hardest thing for me to get my mind around–how could anyone, much less nearly everyone, allow the sorts of unspeakable abuses that are routine on factory farms?

But Becci wasn’t just looking for excuses, and she wouldn’t let me off the hook. She’d look up more facts, she’d debunk the sources I appealed to (usually annoying anti-PETA websites), and she’d keep arguing with me–the way to a philosopher’s heart, incidentally.

Even once I was convinced that factory farms were hell, I didn’t immediately decide I should go vegan. I spent a few years thinking that the right thing to do is to buy organic/”humane”. This wasn’t because I thought organic farms were heaven–Becci was there again with reasons why they aren’t–but because they’re marginally better than factory farms, and I believed that since we aren’t going to get everyone in the world to go straight to veganism, we need to work on incremental improvements in standard animal agriculture. My way of supporting that would be to help create an economic incentive to treat animals a (very) little bit better.

What finally made me go vegan was getting involved with animal activism, after we moved to Vancouver. I realized that, first of all, there are plenty of people willing to pay for a happy label on their meat than there are willing to take a stronger stand by going veg*n: so, first, the economic incentive for making “happy meat” is already there; and, second, going vegan myself is much more likely to send a message to people around me that there’s something wrong out there. I still think we need to work towards incremental improvements in welfare–and I’ve proudly been involved in campaigns supporting organic eggs over battery-caged ones–but I’m not going to do anything to suggest that I think things are OK for the animals on any farm, anywhere.

addie

May 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm

I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but it was an article I read by Joaquin Phoenix, on PETA, two years ago, that hepped me to some of the facts on industrial farming.
Eating meat had never seemed like a very big a deal, we are omnivores after all, but I would never hurt an animal so when I learned about industrial farming that was that.

MichelleLauren

May 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Really good idea for a blog post because I think often meat-eaters and even vegetarians are intimidated by vegans and think being vegan is an ‘unsustainable’ lifestyle.
“I need my meat,” they say.
“Umm… who said it was yours?”
Non-vegans must realize that becoming vegan is a learning process.
Some people equate being vegan to being “chaste”, having to always say ‘no’ to maintain a higher moral ground, but eating delicious vegan food feels really fantastic, physically and emotionally.
I’m learning new vegan tricks each day : )

Jacki Wilson

May 6, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Like a lot of people I think, I first went vegetarian in college. I took an Animal Ethics course, not b/c I was interested in the subject matter, but because an upper level Philosophy course was a graduation requirement and the Animal Ethics class was scheduled late enough in the day that I could sleep in. Not the best reasons I know, but sometimes fate has a way of steering you onto a course without you ever realizing it’s happening. As part of the course, each student was assigned one meeting’s worth of readings to present on and lead the discussion. I chose my week based again, not on interest, but because it was the only week I didn’t have assignments due for another class.

Well, my readings turned out to be about the ethical argument for vegetarianism. They ranged from actual manuals for factory farming methods to philosophical articles by greats like Peter Singer. I was horrified and moved by what I read, but I wasn’t considering going vegetarian yet. During the actual class discussion however, I had one of those moments where my worldview shifted violently. My professor saw that we’d gotten to a point in the discussion where no one was arguing against the ethical reasoning behind giving up meat, and yet this was a class with only one vegetarian and no vegans. He asked us, not in a confrontational way, but instead as a means of generating further discussion, how we could agree that killing animals and eating meat was morally wrong, and yet conveniently turn our blinders on when making the day to day decision about what to eat. The professor had refused to tell us at the beginning of the semester whether he was vegetarian or not, and this was the moment when I knew he was. At the end of the year, he took a vote amongst the students, and only myself and one other classmate guessed correctly that he was a vegetarian.

I realized as he spoke, that I could never eat meat again. The blinders were off, and I couldn’t put them back on. Initially I went pescatarian, but after learning more and more about the pain and panic responses fish are capable of, I went ovo-lacto vegetarian. I was vegetarian for about 6 months, continuing to read and learn about the animal industry (such a horrible term) and animal ethics. Then, because it seemed like the only sane thing today and felt comfortably inevitable I went vegan.

Now, my entire life has been changed. I have new life goals and a new career as a vegan baker. The paradigm shift that happened in my head that day in class is one I’m forever grateful for.

Wo_Dao

May 6, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Hm, I guess I got something to share, but my “mentality” & “morale” fits something that would not sound like those of a vegan at all.

I guess it all starts at a young age. Not sure when. Childhood. The word “vegetarian” did linger in my mind for a long time, despite not giving much thought about it.

Until I became 16, maybe that’s when I started to make an effort. Going “fruitarian” (in a 100% fruit, without nuts, way also lingers in my head; which is another story) also lingered on my mind that time.

But yeah, I really decided to go vegan when I heard of how cows had to put up with all that nastyness. Maybe the effort to go vegan started around 18-19, when I had access to the net.

Mind you, through all these years, even through high school, constant discouragement, hatred, etc. all resonated towards me. Even the whole nutritional fear mongering kept on coming at me, from “doctors” to my hard-core meat-consuming mother.

I won’t forget, that around 16…the winter months…I made the effort. I hesitated to say that I was going to go “vegetarian” to my mother, only because of her nasty temper and anger, which also inherits within me. One of my “former doctors,” I decided to use him as a scapegoat that time, as an “excuse to stop eating meat.” I really never wanted to open up to my mom, due to her non-stop constantly discouraging attitude which kept on happening for years and years. I did have high blood pressure that time, not because of the salt. But I did consume heap loads of meat that time. A lot. “Organic” and non-organic. My mom knows how to “choose the right meats.” Regardless, my water retention was also another issue, that has haunted me since I was around 10.

As for the stubborn morale and anger, I did not let one bit of anyone’s comments or thoughts of nutrition shake me one bit. Though I admit, it did make me hesitate a bit. But the will to go vegan was running in my blood. Despite the hateful eyes I kept on getting over the years. Just because how I appeared. Just because how different I am. It was so much to the point where I was ready to draw my sword and retaliate against anyone who wanted to do harm to me. Being unhesitant to stand by what I believe in. But it sucks that I had to have such an aggressive way of going about it.

Yes, around 16-19…it was very slow before I actually got all the animal by products out of my way. Mom’s still been cooking for me, and sneaking things within my food. Even lying to me about the ingredients. I am aware of what oyster sauce is, and she tells me it’s “thick soy sauce.” The refusal of eating her cooked meals brought huge controversy and discouragement again. Then it slows down. Around 19, when I finally how more of my own income, I started to explore more vegan meals and ideas…but I was too shy to even go to places where they have vegan goodies..let alone..explore. This shyness was a result of not wanting to be around people. The moment one discourages me, I would tell them off and “verbally and hatefully” harm them so badly. Such is my rage.

Well, around 20…it slowly changes more. Discouragement is less than it use to be. Despite how many anti-vegan & nutritional fear mongering comes out of the blue, I merely give “the finger” and walk on. If someone were to tell me that I’ll die for being vegan [“nutrition-wise”], I would twist what they say and force the words right back at them. At this point, I hesitated less. Kinda like how if someone were to point a knife at me, I would panic less. ’cause I do remember hesitating a bit when someone says I’ll get sick for not “having enough protein” etc etc.; yet I still was devoted on moving on, “protein or not.”

Knowing some friends who were suicidal, they might just suicide if they were in my shoes. But me? Never wanted to suicide, never felt guilty one bit, no matter what nasty things I have done in the past. I never ever felt any “genuine guilt” in my entire life actually. This is how I have no problems going vegan.

If I got a flaw, I just work on changing it. If someone has a problem and wishes the worse of me, I tell them off; unless I see that there is a way to have a “helping conversation of sorts.”

Being 21 now…and still working…still making the changes…in life…still in progress of being where I want to be. I maybe eating vegan right now…..I intend to go “fruitarian.” Sadly, because of the meats in the past, my water retention has been haunting me…so my body will not tolerate with cooked food. Genuine vegan cooked food (prepared with love) has the least compromise in my body. So let’s just say I’m rushing myself to try many vegan goodies and meals before I go raw…then where I wish to be.

I still hold the same anger. I still hold that stubborn morale. No “nutritionist” nor doctor will scare me one bit. Quite equivalent how pointing a knife at me will not make me change my stance as to where I wish to be. I’m slowly getting use to being around people, but I still am intolerant of those with a nasty ego and will tell them off at the right time (if someone wants to spout rhetorical stuff like “we are omnivores” with an ego, I will tell that person “correction, WE ARE THE NECROVORES!”). Yeah, there are other ways to deal with such situations…but……I guess this is how I am for the time being. Why? Just annoyed with how people act like some bloody “facts” must mean I “must abide by them” when I will twist and alter “reality” with my own hands.

Even though all these years, I have been exploring the mysteries of life…things that would not be put into words…things that are “wordless,” kinda like the “spirituality” stuff. Not to mention watching the status quo and the misguidance and patterns of people. I am certain by going vegan, and sticking to what I believe in…I will resonate with the people I feel ready to be with. While being different…back in the teenage days..I have already chosen the right friends. Whether they vegan or not. But at least I’ve planted some sort of seed awareness in them.

Well, despite my angry tone in some of the stuff I talked about..I hope those of you who read down ’till here won’t mind.

Anyways, as I still explore and “seek answers” in the unconventional ways…objectively and SUBJECTIVELY without letting any status quo fear mongering get in my way….there is much hope I want to share with those..who are having it hard as they stand by what they believe in.

Anyways friends and folks….that’s my story in general…keep standing by what ya believe in….

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