Don’t worry, this isn’t some proselytizing post where I extoll the virtues of veganism and the horrors of every other mode of diet. I’ve always been of the mind that people choose how they live in accordance with their personal journeys. Mine includes being vegan, but none of my family and friends are and I’m not one to get in anyone’s face about how they live. Having recently started a new job and answering a bunch of questions about being a vegan (as always happens when someone finds out I am one), I just thought it might be nice to share a little of my journey with everyone in case others have wanted to know about it, too.
For about seventeen years, I went back and forth between being a vegetarian, pescetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and raw food. Two years ago this coming December, for no outside reason, I took the last step and became vegan. I say no outside reason because I don’t belong to any groups, I didn’t personally witness any animal abuse, or anything of that sort. I just kept feeling guilty for eating how I was eating. At that point, I just couldn’t stomach (heh) the food I consumed. Really, even ethically raised/well-cared-for animals, or wild-caught fish, still end up dead and on the plate. To me, it’s just unnecessary. As reasoning and aware beings in a country like the US, we have the choice not to eat other creatures. (I am well aware that elsewhere in the world, people aren’t so lucky as to have the choice of what they eat.)
For those who don’t know what being vegan means, I like to use this simple definition: if it had a face, or is derived from something with a face (honey, cheese, wool, etc.), then I don’t eat or wear it.
The first thing people ask: “Isn’t it hard?”
This is really two questions in my mind.
1) “Isn’t it hard to give up meat?” aka… Bacon’s so tasty, I could never give it up. Oh my God, how do you live without cheese? Things along that nature. For me, I’d been one form or another of vegetarian for so long that no, giving up fish, cheese/dairy wasn’t a huge deal. After the first couple of weeks, I didn’t even have cravings and I was a total cheese-aholic, believe me.
The second part of that is, 2) “Isn’t it difficult to maintain?” Honestly? Sure. It is a pain in the ass when I go out to eat with friends, yes. Such a pain in the ass, you don’t even know. I have to ask if the veg option is cooked on the same grill as the meat (it usually is). I have to make sure there’s no hidden dairy. Sometimes there isn’t even a veg option and that’s when I end up eating salad. I hate salad. Loathe all greens, matter of fact. (I’m such a bad vegan) But most restaurants are really nice and I try to joke a bit with the server when asking for the extra care with my food. It’s not generally difficult for accommodations to be made for me (or so they tell me, and I appreciate every cook who’s made my life easier). And I have my go-to places to eat (Mendocino Farms and Veggie Grill are both awesome) where I trust that everything that says vegan, actually is vegan. Maintaining at home is a breeze, of course. Despite the bad financial rap being vegan gets, it’s actually cheaper. (I say cheaper, but if you’re doing it organic, of course it’s more.)
The second thing people usually ask is, “Where do you get your protein?” which kinda makes me chuckle. There’s protein in almost everything, veg included. On top of the veg, there’s all the nuts, beans of all stripes, seeds (who doesn’t like pumpkin and sunflower seeds?) avocados, and the insane amount of soy products available today. Lack of protein is not an issue, believe me.
Some people ask – rather smugly – “Well, you wear leather/use animal-tested cosmetics/buy wool clothes/insert common animal-derived-product here, don’t you?” And the answer is no. I don’t wear leather, I don’t buy wool, I use vegan shampoo, and don’t generally wear cosmetics; though if I do ever buy them, they would be vegan. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass to find completely man-made shoes that look good in a business environment, but not impossible. Really, I give props to the vegans pre-1990 when all of these easily accessible options – tofu products, man-made shoes, etc. – didn’t exist. Those vegans did it before it was so easy (and yes, it really is easy) and I give them all mad respect.
And then we get to the big question that no one really wants to hear the answer to: why? Why put yourself through all that irritation and inconvenience? My answer nineteen years ago was “health reasons,” which people totally get and believe. Today, my answer – because I believe no animal should die for me to have something tasty on my plate – sounds a lot more self-righteous, even though I honestly don’t mean it in that fashion. I feel awkward saying that flat out because it sounds like I’m accusing everyone else of being a selfish putz for not being vegan, and I’m not. Really and truly. You come to this, or not, on your own. Everyone has their own journey, as I said at the start of this post.
Like everything else in my life, I’m passionate about being a vegan. If you ask me about it, I’ll probably talk your ear off, but no one did here, so I’ll stop now. If anyone has questions or wants to talk further offline, though, I’m totally available. Feel free to comment. :o)