Why do people go vegan? One human's journey
My journey began quite a few years ago. So many that I’ve forgotten exactly when it started but it was probably in the 90s. While I am vague on the when I distinctly remember whathappened to put me on this path.
Up until that point I’d been your average American, cooking and eating the average American diet; which, of course, included meat. Like most Americans meat was just something that was purchased at the grocery store in plastic wrap. While there was a diagram on the wall of the meat section that showed which part of the animal produced which cuts, I never gave the animal-who-had-been any thought.
The moment that changed my life
Then I read the book “Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer and it changed the course of my life. The book is still in print and has been updated as people’s attitudes and laws have changed. You can buy it here.
By the time I’d finished reading my eyes had been opened to ideas that blew my mind. I was an animal lover - had always had dogs and cats as pets. But, this love had never carried over to farm animals. Not because I was cruel and heartless but because I’d been ignorant of the facts about factory farming. For me, once I became aware, there was no going back. I couldn’t unsee that. From that day forward, I vowed not to eat animals ever again. Imagine my meat-eating husband’s horror.
Bumpy beginnings and choices made
The early days were bumpy. I had decided not to eat animals - did that include fish? Or, scallops? What about eggs? I tossed these issues around in my mind for a while. Ultimately, I drew the line in the sand at this rule: If it moved of its own volition prior to becoming my dinner I didn’t eat it. By that rationale, I was ok with eggs and milk. For a long time, I considered myself ‘vegetarian’ and not vegan.
My husband was another issue. He was not of the same mind on this at all. He didn’t understand how I could just stop eating meat. Sure he liked animals (we had dogs and cats) but not enough to change his culinary habits. He simply didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t. It was a source of considerable consternation and marital stress. Further, I tended to be the family cook and now I was opting out of that role. I refused to have slabs of dead animal in the house. He either ate what I cooked or he cooked for himself.
In the end, we called a truce. I didn’t berate him for his choices (when he ate outside the home) and he accepted that there would be no meat in the house. This truce lasted for 20 years.
Over the following years, people began to recognize the negative impact of factory farming on not just on the animals, but also he environment. In addition, scientific research was showing that eating animal products was a contributing factor to conditions such as heart disease and colon cancer. I’d started my journey due to an ethical crisis. We are torturing sentient beings for the purposes of killing and eating them. It’s barbaric! But now there were more reasons to support my choice as being the right one. The system is not just bad for the animals; it’s bad for the earth as well as the humans consuming them.
When you know better you do better
As all of this evidence began to pile up, more people of all ways of life were turning to a plant-based diet. Veganism wasn’t just for tree huggers any more. It wasn’t always about the ethics. Some people were in it for the health benefits. And, some athletes were in it for the performance improvements. (Check out The Game Changersfor a glimpse into that world.) Bringing this conversation out into the open caused me to question the rule I’d made 20-something years before.
In the beginning I’d justified my choice by saying, well, I’m not eating actual animal flesh. That was then and this was now. If I thought about it, and I did, the egg and dairy businesses were as barbaric as the meat industries. The egg laying hens and the dairy cows and their babies were just as miserable and just as deserving of a life without pain and suffering. Eventually, it became clear that there was no good reason to be eating any of it. So a few years ago, I opted out of egg and dairy as well, going fully plant-based.
And what of my dear husband?
Our delicately balanced truce was shaking. For so many years, I held my tongue. He put up with me and I put up with him. But, it became harder. I would share how it pained me to even think about what millions of animals were going through every day. The horror, the fear, the pain. It broke my heart every day. I just could not understand how a decent human being could KNOW all about that and NOT be moved. Now on top of that I could add health concerns. He was getting older and I was really beginning to fret about the meat he was eating. What would it take to get a change in him?
Together at last
Apparently it was 20 something years of wearing him down on the ethics with the health evidence being the final straw that knocked over his resistance to change. One day he said, I agree with you and I’m in. I was momentarily shocked. What? You’re in? Yep - well, except for eggs. Fortunately, we have friends with a flock of happy free ranging hens who make more than enough eggs for all of us. I am ok with the ethics of eating those eggs, but for myself, I see no reason to eat them preferring to stick with a fully plant-based diet.
One thing that has helped his transition is the fact eating a vegan diet is easier than ever. With the increased interest in plant-based options, food manufacturers are seeing an opportunity to fill a need. The number of vegan options at the grocery store get larger all of the time.
Some might argue that replacing the old diet with processed vegetable protein alternatives is no better for health or environment... I’ll grant that there may be some truth to that. (and resolving that is another journey.) But, I believe that right now it is better to make the vegan choice and if “fake chik’n” gets someone over the hump, then - I’ll take it. The best part about being on the same page, diet-wise, is we can eat together again.