When I was diagnosed with food allergies in 2007, it took me more than a few months to accept the reality that I would have to give up many of the foods I loved. If you had told me then that I would, a few years later, decide to ditch the rest of the animal kingdom in my diet, I would never have believed you. I was having a hard enough time as it was.
Fast forward a few years. I was learning to cook gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and egg-free. I was not only accepting my fate, but enjoying it as well. So when I took an Animal Law course during my last semester of law school, I was already in the mental state of “I can tackle any restriction life throws at me.” And speaking of mental states, I had already given up eating red meat years earlier, partially because I had an “I don’t eat cute animals” rule, and partially because I didn’t like it enough to justify breaking that rule. Silly, I know. Not exactly Aristotle-esque reasoning, but it was a start.
Animal Law turned out to be a months-long exploration of everything that’s wrong in the world. At least, that’s what it seemed like to me. Week after week, lecture after lecture, video after video, a whole new world unfolded before my eyes. Not a Disney Whole New World, but a a world where living creatures were tortured and abused, slaughtered recklessly in filthy conditions, neglected, beaten, confined. This was the world of factory farming. Many students pointed out that we could avoid this problem by purchasing ethically raised meat. Considering there are almost no legal standards in place to define what’s considered “ethical” or “humane”, relying on this moral loophole seemed problematic to me. And the more I thought about it, is killing another being for food ever “humane”? The more I thought about it, the answer for me was very clear.
Of course, going vegan is not always easy for everyone. Again, I had flirted with the idea of going vegetarian/vegan for years and never fully committed. One reason is that I wasn’t educated enough on the issues surrounding veganism. I find that the more people educate themselves on where their meat comes from, the less likely they are to want to eat it. Another reason is that in the past, I would try to make drastic changes overnight, rather than slowly transition. It took me almost a year to transition to a 100% vegan diet — and there was certainly a point during that time when I thought How am I ever going to give up sushi? But instead of looking at this way of life as deprivation, I instead decided to simply add new foods to my diet and to broaden my culinary influences. Where roasted or grilled chicken (boring!) was once a staple in our weekly meal plan, I started adding more Indian curries, Mediterranean stews, stir-fry dishes and lots of new and interesting meals into our regular diet. Before long, I rarely missed animal products, and was finding that being vegan was way more fun (and certainly more rewarding health-wise).
Since being vegan for me is a life-long plan, I also felt it important to make sure I was eating a very balanced diet of gluten-free grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and other plant sources of protein. I strongly feel that when many people try and fail on a vegan diet, they are (for the most part) probably not eating the right things. Loads of processed foods or simply fruits and vegetables without grains or legumes can be unhealthy, too. And of course, B12 supplementation is key.
That said, everyone is welcome on this site, vegan or not. I was an omnivore for 25 years, so I am certainly not one to judge or dismiss others. But since I feel strongly about this way of life, I felt it important to explain my story here, as veganism is a big part of who I am today.
The below resources were invaluable to me in making my vegan transition.
Considering going veg or vegan?
Check out these resources for tips, information, and maybe a little kick in the pants:
Our Hen House: Run by former animal law professor, Mariann, and her wife, Jasmin, Our Hen House is a great resource and clearing house for all things animal rights related. They have a blog and online magazine, with features from a variety of authors in the animal rights community. I am also a regular podcast listener.
Meat.org: Ok, so this is a PETA run website with an agenda. But the “Meet your Meat” video on here was what really made me never want to eat meat again. I believe that any person who eats animal foods should know where their food is coming from — this video largely shows you the norm in animal agriculture, not the exception. So brace yourself.
Kathy Freston: She got Oprah do to a 21-day vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free cleanse. She is all about educating people on going vegan for health or ethical reasons, without getting preachy or intolerant.
Eating Animals: A great book that explores the philosophy behind the decision to not eat meat, our nostalgia about food, and why not eating animals might just be a good thing. Very well written, entertaining, and fair analysis of the concept of “eating animals.”
30-Day Vegan Challenge: An great program for people looking to try a vegan diet, but wanting a little guidance and support.
Vegucated: A wonderful documentary following three meat-eaters as they go vegan for 6 weeks. This film delves into the main reasons to go vegan, including the health, ethical and environmental issues.