Eating meat always bothered me a little bit. Even when I was downing two Big Macs for dinner when I was in high school, something in the back of my mind was saying, “You like animals. Why are you eating them?” I didn’t even know that vegetarianism existed until I was 15, when I got to know someone who became vegetarian for ethical reasons.
But even after finding out about vegetarianism, this great idea that seemed to gibe so well with my personal beliefs, I spent too many years asking how my sister, who was vegetarian for five-and-a-half years beginning when she was 12, was going to get enough protein. I didn’t know what I was talking about, I was just repeating the only question I ever heard anyone else ask a vegetarian.
It wasn’t until a number of years later that I really considered giving up meat. When I was 22, I went to Vietnam with my to-be wife and her mother. One of my main interests in Vietnam was experiencing CaoDaiism firsthand, a virtually unknown religion (to westerners) that I studied in college. When we made a trip to Tay Ninh, the heart of the Cao Dai religion, we visited the family of Dr. Hum Duc Bui, a Cao Daiist friend of mine in the United States. They fed us an amazing three-course feast of vegetarian food. At the time, I was still a hardcore meat eater, but in my journal I wrote: “We arrived [at the house] and Truong’s family (they are all CaoDaiists) treated us to a wonderful three-course vegetarian dinner—all 16 of us!” The memory of how good the vegetarian food was, to the point of me not caring that there wasn’t any meat in it, stuck with me.
Two years later, I made the decision to start cutting back on meat. Following my continuing interest in CaoDaiism, I decided to follow their model of abstaining from meat ten days a month, a practice that some of the more devoted in the religion follow. A mere two months later, I found myself sitting in front of a bowl of pho (Vietnamese beef soup) and realized that it was only the second time in the previous three weeks that I had eaten meat. It was at that point that I decided I was finished with meat, and I just stopped. I haven’t looked back since.
I became vegetarian 18 1/4 years ago and have been vegan for 14 years. A lot has changed since I became vegetarian and starting this blog. Early on, I was of the mindset that one could be an ethical lacto-ovo vegetarian in good conscience because, hey, organic milk’s OK, right? It didn’t take long before I saw the holes in my logic and that I was continuing to justify dairy and eggs in my diet despite the direct connection they had to the veal and poultry industries. So, over time, I went vegan. How hardcore am I? Well, to me, labels are important in the sense of letting other people know about your beliefs in a concise way, but at the same time I’d rather spend my time volunteering at a farm sanctuary than arguing with myself or others about whether or not some miniscule ingredient of a food item is vegan or not. If I know something contains an animal product, I won’t eat it. If I find out later that the OJ I drank had vitamin D derived from lanolin, I won’t all of a sudden be “less vegan.” But I’ll have learned for next time.
In the same way, I still own some leather goods from before I started concerning myself with such things. I’ll continue to use them until they’ve reached the end of their usefulness and then I’ll buy a non-animal-based replacement. I started with my wallet and shoes.
I started this blog with the intention of providing the point of view of a new vegetarian in an attempt to help other new vegetarians, or just people trying to cut some meat out of their diets. After this amount of time and with how much I’ve learned (most of it reflected here on the Veg Blog), the site doesn’t necessarily have the same perspective or sole focus on new vegetarians. At the same time, the target audience has broadened. Even though I still have a lot to learn (something that is evident everytime I meet a new animal rights activist or vegan businessperson), I feel that while I can continue to help new vegetarians make the transition, I also have something to offer for long-time vegetarians that may need a little reminder about why they’re doing what they’re doing.
The Veg Blog has been mentioned in the New York Times and VegNews. Let’s take over the world!
A little more about me
Yeah, I know everything above is about me, but here’s some basic bio stuff that isn’t directly related to the above. I’m a 43-year-old guy living in Virginia. My wife, 12 year-old daughter, 6 1/2 year-old son, and dog are also vegan. Other obsessions of mine include diners, tea, horror movies, hip-hop, and web geekery. I got into running a few of years ago and have run a bunch of 5ks, 10ks, and in-between; I hope to run a half-marathon someday. I volunteer at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary and I wrote for Herbivore magazine. My wife and I sponsored a goat named Juniper at Poplar Spring (who passed away in July 2010) and lived with a wicked mellow Bluetick Coonhound named Amina (who passed away in June 2010). We currently live with a German Shepherd/Basset Hound/Bloodhound mix named Shepp and a Coonhound/Beagle named Ann. With two Veg Blog regulars, I co-adopted Bessie the chicken from the Farm Sanctuary in New York, who passed away in 2006. Other friends that have passed include Dutchess, Buttons, Bosco, Lady, Moe, and Pepper.
If you find this all terribly interesting, my personal site lives over at laze.net.