"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)
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
Don’t allow yourself to get hungry (snacks throughout the day are key)
Watch a vegan documentary while eating a plantbased meal (This will help reassure you that you’re making the right decision).
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)
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).
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).