I’m a vegan… Mostly. That qualification will likely be surprising to a lot of people, but it’s necessary.
I chose to follow a vegan diet in June of 2016, but my decision has actually been more of a relatively natural life progression for me. I don’t subscribe to the idea that human beings are in some way more valuable than other animals. Without other animals, and without the plants that supply this planet with oxygen and other necessary nutrients, we wouldn’t even be here. We are, simply put, one piece of a universe that is too vast and intricate for us to even comprehend, and to me, we are no more valuable than any other piece.
My veganism has developed largely out of a desire to stop giving my money to people who are hurting the animals manufactured on their farms. I do my best to not be in anyone’s face about it, and I rarely try to convince someone to become vegan. I just give them my reasons for wanting to stop eating animal products and share some of the benefits I’ve gotten from doing so (mostly). However, it really does disgust me that there is so much evidence of corporations getting away with, and profiting off of treating their employees, farmers, the towns their farms are in, and the animals they sell, as poorly as they do.
Animal farms don’t merely raise animals for the slaughter; the impact of this industry on these animals has significantly altered the life cycles of multiple different species and killed off others. While our diets have become centered around eating meat, humans are not carnivores. We are omnivores and do not require the flesh, fluids, or eggs of animals to survive and grow. Yet, many in our society can’t fathom life without ingesting animal products— some are convinced that it’s actually necessary for survival.
Truthfully, my actual motivation to become vegan was based on my belief that the production of animal products violates my own moral code. I’ve never been a fan of killing, and I have a severe disdain for violence. I didn’t want to be contributing to the death of another living creature, especially if this means supporting those who do so, simply to make a profit. Not so ironically, this belief is also what has disappointed me so much when I have to acknowledge that I am little more than a “wannabe” vegan.
Last June, I watched a documentary called “Earthlings” and immediately decided to become a vegan. Less than a week later, I was on a plane to Alabama to visit my sister. I was brand new to being a vegan and didn’t really know how to navigate restaurants effectively (which, I still believe was actually a relatively justified excuse), so I made an “exception.” I based this on the premise that it would cause unnecessary strain on the group of people I was with to have to figure out my meals every day. Then, I made another exception for my best friend’s birthday party/barbecue cook-off because… birthday barbecue cook-off. A couple of months later I was in Indiana and Kentucky, and I made an “exception” (one which I may make forever) so I could eat Skyline Chili.
I was doing well with eating vegan outside of those exceptions. I cooked basically all of my own meals and was insistent about eating nothing that came from an animal. I’ve gone through cycles of being a “good” vegan and a “bad” vegan, but lately, it has actually felt more difficult to be vegan for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is that it can be expensive to eat well and vegan, although it is also expensive to eat poorly and vegan. I’ve also been doing a lot of running around and developing a new relationship, so I’ve taken less time to sit and really make my meals ahead of time for a couple of days, which always makes things easier.
I catch myself eating non-vegan food and barely even trying to stop myself. I’ve long been grabbing handfuls of chocolate from the jar my mother keeps in the kitchen. I still stop at places like Burger King or Wendy’s, even though before I became vegan, I really didn’t want to be stopping at these places. I’ll find a bag of chips that I know is made with cheese or some milk product and finish the whole thing. I’ll quickly agree to make an exception to eat at a particular restaurant, under the guise of “making it easier” for another person.
It’s been difficult, much more difficult than the beginning of my transition made me believe it would be. What’s weird is that the people who have been most angry about me being vegan (no, really, though, there have been multiple people with very serious anger about the fact that I chose to stop eating animal products) are the ones who make me most ashamed of my “half-assed” veganism.
My shame comes from my struggle to be open with people about my personal contradictions. A large part of not wanting to be open is because those same people who are mad I’m vegan will be even more mad to find out that I am not “the perfect vegan.” Many of them will even count this as a “win” because I couldn’t actually avoid meat. Frankly, I don’t want to give them a “win” for something that wasn’t a competition in the first place.
Vegan food is delicious to me, though. I’ve found that basically any non-vegan meal can be made with vegan ingredients, and the use of sauces and seasonings is still the same. I’ve grown to appreciate a large variety of beans, seeds, and nuts. I love lentils, and I love tempeh (which is a soy-based protein). I also want to start looking into making more raw food meals because I’m learning that a lot of the nutrients get cooked out.
I truly would recommend being a vegan, however, I’ve also learned that everyone being vegan could actually be unsustainable environmentally. So, I have shifted towards eating animal products in moderation because I believe it can not only be better for us, but better for the environment, and for the animals that currently suffer for us to have food and milk.
I’ve questioned whether I can afford to be fully vegan, and financially I really may not have it, but overall I’m glad I made the choice. Since my decision, I have lost around 60 pounds. I feel quicker, I have fewer stomach problems, I’ve found new foods to enjoy (some of which I would have previously scoffed at). But, those were all relatively unexpected benefits for me, and they are not necessarily the results anyone else will see for themselves.
Most importantly, though, I feel better about my own self and my own life, even knowing that I can be really bad at sticking with my own morals at times. We all have our contradictions. For now, this is one of mine, and I’m slowly beginning to accept that.
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