I grew up on a farm. My neighbours were farmers and hunters. Cows grazed in the field next to my house. Kraft Dinner, microwave dinners, and Puritan beef stew were dietary staples. Until I was 22 years old, I drank one litre of cow’s milk each day. As a child and teenager, I loved McDonalds.
When I was 16, I stopped eating red meat. I was worried about it being unhealthy (yet I didn’t really eat any vegetables). At 22, I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian after doing a research project in university about the negative environmental impact of animal agriculture. The cats I’d adopted – my first pets in a decade – had also given me a sense of kinship with animals.
It was a year or so later, in early 2004 that I experienced something that changed my life. It was a book called The Pig Who Sang to the Moon– a birthday gift from my father. In it, the author described the horrific crying of a mother dairy cow whose baby had been taken her away from her, and relegated to the veal pen. I’m not a mother, but the passage left me shaken, and sobbing. I knew that I needed to opt out of participating in this kind of hell for animals, which meant that I had no choice but to become vegan.
Lots of people become vegan for lots of reasons, and all of them have validity. As long as the outcome is veganism, I’ll take it, because not everyone is swayed by the same arguments. In my day-to-day life, I’ve made it a priority to support those who have reached this same outcome, whatever their motivations, because it can be a lonely road without support.
So why am I vegan? I am vegan because I care about animals, and I figure the best way for me to live that truth is to not kill and eat them, especially since there are lots of other things out there for me to eat. So I don’t eat animals. It’s that simple. I don’t think that just because something might taste good to me, that it’s a sufficient reason for an animal to experience untold pain and suffering.
I am vegan because I take the interests of non-human animals seriously. I am vegan because I do not wish to cause harm to any other living being, and killing a being is by its very definition causing it harm. I am vegan because I believe that each and every animal values its life, and should have the right to be free of needless interference from his or her enjoyment of it. When I think about animals who aren’t very different from my own dogs experiencing the hell that food animals experience, it rips my heart out. How are my dogs different than those animals? The truth is, the difference exists only in social constructs.
I am also vegan because I live in a part of the world where it is very easy to be vegan. I can be, so why wouldn’t I? And while there are no doubt ways that vegans inadvertently harm animals due to the very way our society is structured, it doesn’t stand to reason that we shouldn’t do our best to limit the harm caused that is well within our control.
Secondarily, I am vegan because I believe it is a more environmentally sustainable way of living (the United Nations agrees with me), and I care about the environment’s intrinsic value. I also believe that eating a plant-based whole foods diet is best for human health (science agrees with me). I eat a lot of fruits and veggies these days. It took years to re-train myself how to eat, but I’ve never enjoyed food more than I do now.
One thing I’d ensure is clear, is that none of the reasons that I am vegan have anything to do with you, or anyone else. My reasons for being vegan are about the animals, period. If others don’t share my values, or don’t come to the same conclusions as I, then there’s not much I can do about it. But my beliefs are not up for debate, and certainly not because they may incite defensiveness amongst others. We all need to own our decisions.
I have now been vegan for nearly a decade. It did take me a while to transition from vegetarian to vegan, but I’ve never looked back since. I don’t miss animal foods at all, although many people do and that’s okay. I have never seen a single video depicting the horrors of farms, although many vegans find them re-affirming. I never, ever feel like I’m doing enough for animals. The need to do more is what keeps me going, even when I’m overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of animals who are losing their lives.
Some people ask me if eating “free range” or “organic” meat might be a good compromise. For me, it is not. I fundamentally disagree with the notion that animals should be bred and raised for the purpose of killing and eating; that an animal may have experienced nominally improved treatment does not make me feel more comfortable with eating him or her.
If you’re considering becoming vegan, or starting to move in that direction, there has never been a better time. The growing public interest in veganism means that lots of companies are making increasingly better substitute products (to ease your transition!) and there is more of a widespread acceptable of veganism than ever before. Consider those of us who went before you as trailblazers who have cleared your path. 😀
If you are thinking about veganism because you value the lives of animals, I encourage you to release your preconceptions and your fears, and jump right in. I’ve never for a single moment regretted aligning my actions with my beliefs.
Here are a few resources if you’re considering veganism (or just google!):
Animals as sentient beings
How-to (including recipes)
Note: In this post I focus on vegan diet. However, my veganism informs every single purchase decision I make. This includes furniture, clothing, cosmetics and personal care products, etc.