"With a huge lump in my throat, holding back tears I decided to give this vegan thing a chance."

 

Everyone has their own story of "How and why I went vegan". Some of us go vegan overnight after watching a documentary, others need more time and "motivation". My own journey started a long time ago and was kicked off for health related reasons, and even though the ethical aspect and awareness of what is happening to these animals quickly followed, it still took a while until I finally woke up and realised that no certificates or "humane practice" make what we do to them okay. So I kept reducing my consumption to the point where it was only a few dairy products and eggs here and there, but when I not only started to feel guilty while buying these dairy products, but also felt this uncomfortable feeling every time I ate them, I knew it was time to stop.


There are these small or big events in our lives that chip away at our conditioning and eventually there comes the day when we can't ignore the feeling of what we have been doing for so long is wrong anymore. But naturally there are still doubts and worries -"Will I be able to go through with it, will it be difficult? What will everyone think about me, will I become the "fuzzy" one?" - Just to name a few...


By collecting stories from different people about their transition to vegansim - including their worries and struggles - I hope you will see that you're not alone, that you can do it and that you can always reach out.


So off we go with some "How and why I became vegan" stories...

Jamie - @anothereffingvegan


For me it wasn’t just one thing that lead me to become vegan. It was a build up of events that lead me to it. The initial spark to these events was acquiring my first dog, Ziggy, at the age of 26. As a kid my brother and I always wanted a pet dog but our parents wanted no part of it. The relationship Ziggy and I built got me thinking, “If I can create this kind of bond with a dog what would stop me from doing the same with a pig, cow or chicken?”

Another event that stands out to me was the documentary “Blackfish”. I was at my parent’s place flipping channels (because that’s what we did before Netflix) and CNN was airing this documentary about orcas. “Oh cool! I like orcas,” I thought as I got comfortable. I had no idea what I was about to get into. Blackfish was such an eye opener because I saw how far these companies would go in order to make a profit. They’ll flat out lie to children and feel no way about it all to make themselves richer.



The day I decided to become vegan was March 07, 2016 and it was kind of by accident. My new years resolution for that year was simply to “Reduce my meat intake.” To go about this I decided to cut out red meat. I chose to do so because I’d always remember hearing people say red meat is what’s bad for our health (Also mammals are red meat just like Ziggy and I).

This lead me to start a storm of Google searches to why red meat was considered bad for our health. What started out as health related search topics snowballed into the mistreatment of animals in animal agriculture. The final straw for me was watching a video of a cow at a slaughterhouse. In this particular video the cow was next in line to be slaughtered. They walk down a narrow corridor and enter into a dark doorway. This cow, knowing what will happen to it on the other side, starts to slowly back up. The corridor is too narrow for the cow to turn around and I see it starts to panic and frantically back up. At this point I no longer saw an animal but a living being who was terrified of death and tried desperately to escape it. At this point I just wanted to reach through the screen and say, “I’ll save you!” Then I realized that this cow was long dead. It was killed because of my appetite. It didn’t need me to save it. It needed to be saved from me. With a huge lump in my throat, holding back tears I decided to give this vegan thing a chance.

When I became vegan I decided I was going to give myself 30 days before making it public. I was an in-the-closet vegan for my first month. The reason why I did this was because I know people who have watched a documentary in the past, announced that they’re vegan, be VERY vocal about animal suffering… then a couple weeks later they’re back to eating animals. I can’t stand people like that because they make the vegan movement look flimsy. I didn’t want to be like one of them but at the same time I had eaten animals for 28 years of my life. I had my doubts.


What if protein deficiency is a thing?
What if my body rejects it?
Will I lose a ton of weight?
What if I DO need to eat animals to survive?

These were all questions I asked myself. The 30 days past and I made my announcement to the world (aka my friends list on Facebook). It was a 5 minute video showing stats on animal agriculture along with my personal reasons for going vegan. This came as a shock to many because I was a guy who ate anything. Also they were shocked because somehow veganism got the reputation if being a “White people thing.” (This brings me to my next thought)


Representation matters

I can only speak for the Toronto and Montreal animal rights activist community when discussing this. Often I’ve gone to sanctuaries or protests and I’d be the only black male there (Not always but very often). I kept wondering "Why aren’t there other black vegans here? Are there no black vegans in Toronto/Montreal?" - The answer was no, because whenever I go to Vegan food festivals I see my people in droves. I believe the reason for this is because we (black folk) have been fighting social justice for centuries. We’re still fighting to this day. So fighting for animal rights kind of gets put on the back burner while cops are still killing unarmed black kids.

Now this is why I say representation matters. If a black family walks by a Rudsak to see a group of Caucasian protestors they’re likely to roll their eyes and think “these people care more about animal rights than they do ours.” (Which is definitely not the case). However, if I’m there they may be more inclined to open up a conversation. Numerous times I’ve gotten the, “I didn’t know there were any black vegans.” Heck, before I went vegan I didn’t know any black vegans. Because of this realization my Instagram account went from being predominantly memes and vegan foods to featuring more posts with my face in them.

Tips for new vegans
  1. Don’t allow yourself to get hungry (snacks throughout the day are key)

  2. Watch a vegan documentary while eating a plantbased meal (This will help reassure you that you’re making the right decision).

  3. Volunteer at a sanctuary or attend a vigil (vigils are when activists meet outside a slaughter house and record the animals in the truck before being sent off to slaughter)

  4. Remember to eat REAL food (I like fries and Oreos as much as the next person but make sure you’re eating your fresh produce daily).

 

Connect with Jamie on his Instagram and TikTok Account - @anothereffingvegan


Bine - @bine_b_vegan


Why did I become vegan?

Fortunately, after various conversations with different people (friends, people in the tattoo scene and at festivals: PETA2- info booths) I realized that for years I was conditioned by a system that differentiates certain types of animals into two categories: Farm animals that you eat and animals that you love.

After I realized this and since I have been wanting to stop eating meat for a year anyway, I did my own research and discovered the book "PEACEFOOD" by Rüdiger Dahlke on the internet. Since Dr. Dahlke was already known to me through other publications that were already on my mother's bookshelf, I decided to go for this one and its appealing title - Peace and Food. Then, after knowing the unpalatable truth about industrial and exploitative (farm) animal agriculture, I wanted to get rid of any guilt that the consumption of animal products triggered in me. The cognitive dissonance hit me and caused a lot of tears and despair at first. But the solution to get rid of this unpleasant feeling was clear and obvious: I'm going vegan.

This decision ultimately automatically led me to wanting to put an end to this injustice and due to my strongly developed sense of justice directly to activism. I did not become vegan overnight, but within a few months I informed myself about a wholesome plant-based diet and delicious recipes. Fortunately there was an active animal rights scene in my city (Augsburg), where I lived at that time, and I quickly sought contact with them. From then on I was a vegan and animal rights activist with Anonymous for the Voiceless. I found a strategy to transform this enormous anger and despair into the necessary energy to help me and the animals: by talking about it and coming out with the truth behind this cruel and exploitative system!


What was challenging?

When you know why you are doing something, change is not a challenge. For me, my „Why“ was so clear in my mind that I saw no choice but to eliminate animal products from my diet. If you will, the only challenge is finding your favorite milk between all the many plant-based dairy options and solving the good old cheese problem. Fortunately, nowadays this is made very easy and I discovered the variety of plant-based alternatives that the vegan world has in store.


The biggest challenge was not in changing my diet, but in dealing with my social environment.


I now had to find a way not to despair and end up in heated discussions out of sheer compassion for the animals every time I had dinner with colleagues and family. I had to find a strategy to protect myself, not to fall in despair of vegan world pain, and at the same time to be strong enough to help the animals in their misery in the long term. I was only able to do this by educating myself on communication and outreach through the work of other activists such as Earthling Ed, Joey Carbstrong, Vegan is Unhealthy, Beautifl Commitment, etc.... In doing so, I have learned to pass the responsibility for animal cruelty to whoever is still paying for it.

The solution lies in informing people about the truth behind the (farm) animal industry, even if this makes the other person feel (rightfully) guilty, in order to then leave them with the responsibility for their consumption. So by exposing the cognitive dissonance and being open about my values and learning to communicate this, I gradually became more confident. I realized that I am not the one who has to adapt, but the others, who can be grateful to me to finally have learned the truth and be able to live in harmony with their values!


Did I have any doubts?

No, I never doubted that it was the right decision.

What could be better than being able to claim that you are no longer paying for animal cruelty?!


What have you gained through veganism?

I have gained an incredible amount of happiness and truthfulness for myself. I have never felt such an intense sense of bringing peace into this world as I did after choosing a vegan lifestyle.

Veganism has contributed an important part to my personal development and motivated me to question and reflect more on myself and my actions toward other indivduals.

Within two years I have gained so much added value (people, experiences, insights, experiences), all of which have been exclusively beneficial to my personal growth and development. For that, I am very grateful.

I have also gained many delicious recipes and preparation skills and love to cook!

Along the way, I have started training to become a vegan nutritionist (through ECODEMY's distance learning program and hope to complete this soon).

 

Connect with Bine on her Instagram - @bine_b_vegan and visit her Blog www.loveandvegan.net

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“If our stance on equality, empathy and liberation makes us snowflakes - then you best believe winter is coming." - Amy Soranno

 

Recently I've been watching a bunch of videos from the Animal Justice Academy and in one of them they talked about how the Animal Rights movement has different activism approaches and how all of them are important, since they all tackle different layers. From grassroot to changing laws and from holding a sign on the streets to using your skills online.

So in this blogpost I want to list a few easy ways to take action for the animals on your own, requiring litte time and equipment. They might not seem like the most „heroic“ actions, but remember, every action counts, and no matter how small, they can still have a big impact.

Chalking

I want to start with chalking, which I first heard of in a video with Geoff Regier. (I haven't been in the game for very long so yes, I just heard about it!). He started chalking „The film Earthlings changed my life“ randomly over town. Without any hint of what the movie is about or why it changed his life. He went on saying, that he had met people on events who said they've seen the chalking, watched the movie and as a result of it went vegan. So this action is not only easy – all you need is chalk – but also effective.


Check out Wendy Linton and @veganchalkchallenge for more inspiration!


Chalk artwork and images used for this blog post by Wendy Linton



5minutes5vegans


This web-based tool was developed by Vegan Hacktivists and can be used by anyone with a twitter account. It scans and displays all the posts that mention veganism or anything related to veganism and provides pre-made responses to the most common vegan-related questions as well as an option to type up your own, which you then copy and post under the relevant tweet. The idea behind this is that people who don't have a big following and most likely no vegans in their following, will get encouragement, help or advice to whatever question they might have.

So 5 minutes of tweeting might be enough to help somebody else to make the switch!


When using this tool, Vegan Hacktivists recommend to look at the previous replies and ensure that others have not already responded with the same answer, to prevent your tweet from being flagged as spam. You can sign up for an account and save your own custom replies so you don’t always have to edit the pre-filled prompts.


What are you waiting for? ➺ 5minutes5vegans.org


Pic by Ben Kolde on unsplash



The Fast Action Network

This platform created by the Humane League provides an online meeting space centralizing the most pressing and impactful actions for animals in one place. You create your own account and choose which actions you are interested in taking – signing petitions, sharing on social media, emailing, making calls etc. Whenever you have time, you check what actions are currently up and pressing and do what you can with the time you have.


Get started! ➺ The Fast Action Network


Pic by coinview on unsplash

 

Check out 5minutes5vegans and The Fast Action Network.


If you have other easy ways of how to be active please feel free to write me and I can add them to the list!

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“Freedom is being who you are even when people are looking. I surround myself with people who create safe spaces for me to be around."

 

Who are you and what is your mission?


My name is Nicola Kagoro, a.k.a. Chef Cola, and I am a pioneering female Zimbabwean vegan chef. In 2016 I founded Founded African Vegan on a Budget to showcase my cuisine and culinary development as well as to actively promote the reality that people can thrive on a healthy vegan and plant-based diet on a budget.

One of my primary aims through my work with African Vegan on a Budget is to spread awareness of vegan culture across Africa and give people the tools and knowledge to actively integrate plant-based eating into their lifestyles, as well as presenting vegan food and lifestyle in Africa and advocating its great benefits - both nutritional and environmental.


My cooking is African inspired with elements of Western cuisine. Having spent my childhood in New York City, where my diplomat mother worked at the time, my worldview and work ethic has been influenced by the time there as well as Cape Town where, while working at PLANT restaurant, I was introduced to veganism and began to train in plant-based cooking.



I work with private clients, from corporate to individuals, who want to learn more about vegan cooking. I have launched a line of customized African Inspired Chef Jackets made in Zimbabwe with a portion of proceeds donated to underprivileged, young African women in Zimbabwe and Cape Town to help improve their sewing skills.



I also work with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) and AKASHINGA “Back to Black Roots”- a pioneering vegan conservation program front consisting entirely of female rangers. AKASHINGA is a scalable, community-driven conservation model empowering disadvantaged women to restore and manage a network of wilderness areas as an alternative to trophy hunting. The program is vegan and is a vehicle for building strong, respected ambassadors to drive a plant-based movement from the community level of rural Africa. I serve as Executive Chef and Project Manager for the kitchen, preparing entirely vegan meals and ration packs for the female anti-poaching ranger force.

Since 2020 I was awarded the Pro Veg Grant that allows me to develop Plant Based Kitchens in Rural Zimbabwe.



How did you get started and what were the obstacles you had to overcome?


I started as a Vegan Chef intern for an up market vegan restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa. I worked my way up from being an intern in the kitchen to head of the kitchen. I did that for four years and realized there is a huge market for veganism in my home country Zimbabwe, so I started African Vegan On A Budget in 2016. The obstacles I faced to name a few were getting people to understand the importance of going on a vegan diet, showing people that veganism can be for everyone and that the meals could be affordable, tasty and with nutritional value.



What advice would you give to somebody who is just getting started on their own mission?


Don't be overwhelmed by what other people are doing or how much they have achieved. Stay in your own lane and focus on who you aim to become.



What are the three most important lessons you've learned in life and on your journey so far?


  1. There is power in silence. Not everything needs a response.

  2. Be grateful and humble with life.

  3. It doesn't matter if they don't like you, happiness is a you thing.



What are you afraid of or insecure about?


Putting myself out there to face criticism from people who don't understand the topic they're criticizing. It makes me insecure because I have to dig deep within myself and remember not everyone will understand me and as scary as that may be because of the urge to fit in, it is ok to stand out.



What do you do when you feel stuck, insecure, or overwhelmed?


I do something relaxing and spend time with people who bring calming energies.



What are three values you live by?


Same as above:

There is Power in Silence

Not everything needs a reaction

Be humble and grateful with life





What is your definition of freedom? And what do you do to get there?


Freedom is being who you are even when people are looking. I surround myself with people who create safe spaces for me to be around.



Who or what inspires you?


Anyone daring to be different in a positive way that is not harming any one.



If you had one wish for the world, what would it be?


More love, we need more love.



A closing sentence.


Dare to be inspired.


 

If you want to learn more about Nicola and her mission, here is how you can connect with her:


Instagram: @africanveganonabudget

Facebook: @chefcola


Akashinga

Watch the Documentary about Akashinga



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