This post has been a long time in the works. Veganism is such an integral part of my life, and yet, every time I think about writing a post to address why I choose this lifestyle, I find myself too overwhelmed to write. I actually think it’s because it’s so important to me, I worry that my words won’t do it justice, I’ll turn away readers (it is a very polarizing subject), or I’ll somehow miss something big in my explanation. Totally my perfectionist tendencies taking over, and it’s time for me to just get over it. Here goes…
When I was fairly little, my family switched from a typical omnivore diet to a vegetarian style of eating. This was driven by my mom, who decided she couldn’t stand the thought of eating the animals she loved so much. I was too young at the time to make the connection between what I was eating and where it was coming from, and so I periodically ate meat at friends’ houses or when we would go out for meals. It wasn’t until college that I really started to think about my food choices outside of calories and fat grams.
Similar to my mom, I’ve always been extremely passionate about animals. I can still remember going to get our milk from the local dairy and making a beeline for the cows. I refused to drink the milk (and would always crinkle my nose, saying “it tastes like cows!”), but I could have spent hours hanging out in the barn. I even had a favorite cow, Pearl, who was the inspiration behind the name of one of my childhood dogs. But even then, the connection between Pearl and the steak I was eating didn’t resonate.
I started to get really into nutrition after my sophomore year of college, fueled by the desire to lose the weight I had put on the previous year. Reading Fast Food Nation was the first tipping point for me. I was horrified at mainstream food practices, and I went vegetarian immediately. But my decision was still mostly self-involved – how gross to be eating meat that was dirty, tainted, fattening?! And so, I still ate the occasional fish, and dairy and eggs didn’t even really cross my mind. It’s not like my eating frozen yogurt, cheese, and omelets was really hurting those animals, right? Ignorance was bliss.
The next tipping point happened when I picked up a copy of Eating Animals. This book, probably more than any of the many others I’ve read, rocked me to my core. It was extremely difficult to read, but I forced myself to face the reality of how the vast majority of animals are raised and slaughtered. The only chapter I skipped was the one on pigs. I read the first page and just could not bear to read any more. I had a massive mental shift when I started thinking about farm animals the way I think about my dogs. That is when veganism clicked for me.
A few months ago, I watched the Vegucated documentary. I went into the film thinking it would just be a reiteration of everything I had read in Eating Animals, and it was for the most part. But what I was not prepared for was the complete emotional breakdown I had seeing those animals endure such truly horrific existences. Those images are highly uncomfortable and terrible to watch, but I firmly believe it is our responsibility to seek out this information, not to turn a blind eye.
And so that brings me to my last point in this post – compassion. I love the health and environmental benefits that I believe a vegan diet provides, but that’s not what keeps me committed. Without question, my deepest connection to veganism is emotional. I am so incredibly fortunate to have a choice when it comes to what I eat, to be able to cast a vote with every dollar I spend. I know our food system is complicated and there will always be room for improvement in making more ethical purchases, but doing my best to act in a way that benefits animals, my surroundings, and also my health…it’s a win win win.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. It seems I have more to say than I initially thought. I might need to turn this into a series of posts…