Ten Years Vegan

12 Comments

Hi, how ya been? It’s been a year-and-a-half since my last post, but I’m not willing to let the blog die altogether, so here I am posting on my ten-year veganversary.

On October 13, 2004–the day before I turned 29–I came home from work, sat down for dinner and fired up “Meet Your Meat.” Afterward, I said, “Screw it. I’m vegan now.”

Backing up a bit…

Just over four years earlier, I’d given up meat after a brief transitional period and had been enjoying life as a vegetarian. Initially, veganism never seemed like an option or goal to me, but as the years ticked by, I started swapping out eggs in baking and soy milk for cow’s milk in my breakfast cereal. I learned more about the truth behind eggs and dairy and realized that veganism wasn’t only an option, it was a moral imperative, as they say. Thus, it became a goal. Not a goal clearly defined with a date, but a goal nonetheless.

Why did I choose to watch that video on that night? And why was that the video that pushed me over the edge? I don’t think it was the content, specifically, since I’d seen similar videos and was aware of what happened in the egg and dairy industries. Rather, I think it was finally getting to that point where I realized, “I just can’t justify this [egg & dairy consumption] anymore.”

A decade of change

So here I am, the day before my 39th birthday, thinking back over the last decade, nearly a quarter of my life spent as a vegan. I’ve gone through a number of stages. I started with the “It’s a personal choice, I won’t push it on others” phase before moving into the “Everyone needs to know about this!” phase. Eventually I turned angry abolitionist before settling on “firm & committed vegan that tries not to be an ass to other people.” I should note that every single one of these stages is valid. I think every vegan will find a different stage to settle in once they figure out what is most appropriate for their personality and for dealing with the people they see in their day-to-day lives.

I started off my veganism married, with no kids and no pets. Ten years in, I’m still married (and my wife’s now vegan) but also have two vegan kids and have lived with two great dogs. I’ve continued to volunteer at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, which was key in gently pushing me the rest of the way toward veganism.

People tend to indicate that they think going vegan is difficult. And you know, at first, it is a little tricky. It’s a pretty drastic change in diet and thinking for most people. But after a few weeks (or months), it gets a lot easier. Eventually I found myself at the point where certain things just weren’t food anymore. And when something isn’t food–that is, you would sooner eat a shoe than a fried egg–it starts getting a lot easier. You search out and find what you can eat rather than focusing so much on what you don’t (not “can’t”) eat.

When I first gave up meat, I really didn’t have a very wide variety of foods that I liked. Now, I’ll try pretty much anything. This is a common side effect, based on my discussions with other vegans: tastes change and actually expand significantly considering potential food choices are a subset of what they originally were.

Social acceptance of veganism has also increased in the last ten years. Yes, I still need to explain the concept frequently and some people just don’t get it, but in general, many more people are at least aware of what it means and curious enough to ask good questions.

Aaaaand, in summary…

At ten years in, here’s what my current beliefs are, in boldfaced list format:

  • I do not need animal products to live and there isn’t a fully non-exploitative way to consume them. Since my circumstances allow for it, I have no justifiable reason not to be vegan.
  • I won’t promote vegetarianism or (shudder) “humane meat” as a stepping stone to veganism (or any specific method, really), but instead present veganism as a goal and let folks decide for themselves how to get there.
  • I generally think welfare-focused legislation and outreach isn’t all that helpful. But I allow that I could be wrong and thus don’t actively campaign against such change.
  • I am vegan for ethical reasons first. However, I also try to be a healthy vegan, because my health matters to people other than just me.
  • There is nothing wrong with meat analogs and in no way do they reinforce that meat is OK to eat.
  • There is absolutely no reason for dog breeding to be a thing and absolutely no reason to buy from a breeder.
  • There is quite a bit of intersectionality that becomes clear after being vegan for a bit. Open your heart in one way and it will naturally open in many others.
  • I’m not sure there is a clear line about what diet is right or acceptable for your pet. Bring on more research! (It should be noted, anecdotally, our dog has been vegan for four years and is doing great.)
  • Someone can go vegan for any reason, be it ethical, health, or environmental, but unless a strong ethical component eventually becomes part of one’s veganism, it becomes far easier to justify “cheating.”
  • Vocal ex-vegans are way more annoying than the most overzealous of new vegans.
  • For veganism to really break through to the mainstream, we need to disengage from the often non-science-based rhetoric used to promote it. Stick with the ethical argument first, then show people how to do it in a healthy fashion with well supported nutrition research.
  • People need to come to veganism their own way, in their own time. Otherwise, it won’t stick.

These views may change over the next ten years. In fact, I expect them to.

I’m trying to become conscious of when something I say comes off as judgmental, because I know that’s the quickest way to turn someone off from ever considering veganism (or any shift in lifestyle), so if any of my lessons learned come off as preachy, I apologize. I’m here to help and answer questions. I remember what it was like for veganism to seem unrealistic and something only other people did, so if you’re starting to ask questions about it, you’re ahead of where I was 14 years ago.

And, of course

Super big up respect massive high five pound shouts to my vegan wonder twin Lindsay who went vegan on the exact same day I did, ten years ago. One of the reasons I keep this blog going is so that I can continue to wish her a happy veganversary each year!