Why I Became a Vegan

If you had approached me even one year ago and told me that I would go vegan, I would never have believed you.

42 comments

If you had approached me even one year ago and told me that I would go vegan, I would never have believed you. For my entire life, eating meat was simply a thing that everyone did, and there was nothing wrong with it. I had vague conceptions of unethical farming practices, but I assumed that this must be a small minority of cases. And I was never a huge animal person. I mean, animals are nice and all, but I’m not an Animal Lover™.

I viewed the condemnation and information sessions of factory farming by animal rights activists as mainly emotional manipulation or even some sort of exaggeration of reality. I suppose my irritation was something like the irritation some pro-choice people express at March for Life protestors who carry photos of aborted fetuses.

I also absorbed society’s portrayal of veganism as a thing only for hippies and bleeding heart liberals and people who think it’s unethical to even have a pet. (And PETA, to be fair, doesn’t do the best job at being palatable)

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But mostly, I simply didn’t think about the ethics of my food. I simply followed the accepted norms of society, which was eating meat and dairy and eggs. I didn’t contemplate it any further. Sure, I knew the death of an animal was involved in the food on my plate, I knew it intellectually, but I didn’t KNOW it. It was mainly something I blocked out of my mind: a simple and unavoidable fact of life. No one else seemed to be bothered by the origin of their meals, so for the most part, I wasn’t either.

Then, one day around February of this year, I was watching YouTube and came across a video by one of my favorite channels, CosmicSkeptic. I’d been following him initially for his atheism content; I found our thinking styles and beliefs very similar and he also grew up Catholic, like me. A couple years ago he became vegan and began focusing his channel on that issue as well. His video called “A Meat-Eater’s Case for Veganism” popped onto my recommended that day, and, intrigued, I watched it.

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The video goes into the philosophical case against animal products and factory farming, and I appreciated that it focused more on pure logic than emotional appeals or pictures of dead animals. When I finished the video, I was slightly unsettled. I hadn’t ever thought about humanity’s treatment of animals this way before.

It really had never occurred to me that there was a huge socially-conditioned difference between the way we view animals like cats and dogs and the way we view animals like pigs and cows. Nor that there was no intrinsic reason why humans deserved to exploit and kill animals simply because we were more “intelligent.” Or that torturing a sentient being for your own convenience and taste pleasure– which is what a lot of animal farming is– is wrong. Really wrong.

Essentially, I realized that the ethical and logical case for veganism is very strong and the only real reason I didn’t pay it any attention before was pure ignorance and peer pressure.

So I left a comment on the video: I always had this in the back of my mind (my parents shut down my childhood vegetarian attempt tho) but I never REALLY thought about how little sense the justifications for eating meat are…. Maybe I should actually go vegan…?

And then I closed the tab and pushed it out of my mind for five more months.

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Starting to Consider Veganism

As the year progressed, I kept my newfound revelations in the back of my mind and tried not to think about them too hard; after all, becoming vegan would be such a hassle, vegans were weird and crazy, and I liked cheese and bacon.

But vegetarian… now, vegetarian I could maybe do. In the summer, I began to think about it some more. I took to ordering vegetarian options at restaurants. And I kept watching YouTube videos about veganism, even though I’d decided it was too extreme for me. Also, seriously, what was wrong with eating milk and eggs? It’s not like you’re hurting any animals by doing that!

But then, I came across a couple of videos. One was Erin Janus’s “DAIRY IS SCARY” in which I learned the deceptively obvious fact that cows don’t just… magically produce milk. Female cows produce milk after they’ve been pregnant. For their calves to drink. Just like human mothers make breast milk for their babies to drink. Just like basically all mammals. Why did this fact never occur to me?

And how, then, do we get the cows to be producing milk all the time? Artificially impregnating them. Yes. The milk and cheese you like is probably from raping a cow.

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I watched some more of Erin Janus’s videos, becoming more nauseated as I continued. Surely this could not be real, I thought; it’s probably cherry-picked worst-examples for propaganda videos from animal rights nuts isn’t it?

It was around this time also that I watched the documentary Earthlings and cried through the entire thing. Again, I thought it could not possible be true. The documentary was made in 2005, and surely, things had improved by now? Plus, it’s not like all farms are like that, right? They had to pick the worst ones to make this documentary. Gotta use that pathos. And I was NOT going to be emotionally manipulated into giving up mac and cheese.

Unfortunately, as I continued digging deeper into the issue of factory farms, it was becoming more and more clear to me that there was a lot of things the food industry wants to keep hidden from you– and had successfully kept hidden for me for my entire life.

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A Sample of Things I Didn’t Know When I Was An Omnivore

  • Cows don’t just magically produce milk. They have to be pregnant before they start making milk… just like all other mammals. And to maximize the production of milk, dairy cows are artificially inseminated, meaning that the dairy you eat exists because we are quite literally raping cows.
  • Factory farmed animals are bred to maximize profit. And so quite often, these animals are genetic mutants. For example, turkeys raised on factory farms grow so large they can’t even walk. For chickens, there are two main breeds: broiler chickens and egg chickens. Broiler chickens are raised for meat, so they’re designed to grow super big super fast, causing them all sorts of health problems and making their lives terrible. This isn’t what you think of when you think about chickens on a farm. And then there’s the egg-laying chickens. Not only are the hens bred to lay way more eggs than is healthy or normal for them, the male chicks born of this breed aren’t worth the investment. So they are just killed as soon as they are born
  • “Cage-free” and other ethical labels don’t actually mean anything in most cases. That probably just means the chickens are crammed in a giant room instead.
  • Cow agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change
  • Pigs aren’t stupid. They’re actually possibly smarter than dogs. But does that really matter?
  • Most animals killed for food only live to a fraction of their natural lifespan
  • Again, there is almost nothing resembling the “natural food chain” in anything about modern-day farming
  • Factory farms aren’t just an unfortunate minority of cases. The fact is that the vast majority of animal products you eat in the Western world come from one of these places. Some studies report that 99% of farm animals in the US live on factory farms (where they’re basically tortured for their entire lives)

When I moved into college, I was officially identifying as vegetarian. Though I continued to eat egg and dairy products, I felt a pang of guilt every time I did so, but I procrastinated fully making the switch to veganism, trying to ignore all of cognitive dissonance for my own convenience and peace of mind.

But finally, now, as of about last week, I’ve made the switch. I have done a lot of research on how to stay healthy on a vegan diet, and I’ve acquired B12 supplements as that is the only vitamin which is not possible to get without animal products. To be honest, I know way more and pay much closer attention to nutrition now than I ever did before.

And so far, it’s been fine. You would be surprised how easy it has been to be vegan. The hardest part is dealing with the judgement of others.

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Why do people hate vegans?

In sharing with those around me that I am now vegan, I’ve been met with a variety of reactions. Some people have made fun of me, others are convinced I have simply fallen for propaganda, and some have even become offended by me explaining why I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s wrong to eat animal products due to the things I have learned.

But once you learn these things, you simply can’t unlearn them. And it’s true that I cannot look at meat and eggs and dairy the same way anymore. And it’s true that I bring up these opinions in conversation with others now.

Perhaps I am playing into the stereotype of the pushy vegan. Perhaps, as someone said to me, I am forcing my “religion” on you all now. But to me, ethics are important, and I believe in sharing information I find ethically relevant with those around me. I do not think it is good to be willfully ignorant.

So, thanks for sticking around through this entire post. I’d strongly encourage you all to think about going vegan, or at least reducing how much you support the evil industry of factory farming. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even just reducing your intake of animal products or sourcing from local farms can make a difference. And if you do decide to go completely vegan, make sure you do proper research on eating a balanced diet and obtaining all your necessary vitamins.

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42 comments on “Why I Became a Vegan”

    1. I realize it’s become fashionable for some people to portray themselves as atavistic Dexters, wearing psychopathy and other mental diagnoses like fashion labels — always without having an actual diagnosis, since genuinely suffering from mental illness isn’t fun — but everyone has a conscience.

      There is a difference between understanding something in the abstract, believing you understand it, and actually seeing it for your own eyes.

      This is why no one likes to talk about where meat comes from and no one posts photos of slaughterhouses as holistic sources of nature’s goodness the way people post photos of tomatoes growing in idyllic gardens.

      As OP noted, we deal with uncomfortable truths by ignoring them. We deal with them by weaving abstract layers on top of them so we don’t have to think about what they actually are. Thus, pigs become ham, tortured and blinded baby cows become “veal,” and the practice of using chemicals or forceps to dismantle a nascent life becomes “reproductive healthcare.”

      Thus, Ukraine becomes a “special military operation” instead of an unprovoked war of aggression in which poor conscripts take out their frustrations with the elites who sent them off to be cannon fodder by raping Ukrainian women, torturing captives and dumping bodies in mass graves.

      Thus, Uyghur concentration camps become “reeducation centers” where people are taught the “values” of communism.

      Thus our myriad anxieties are distilled to mere misunderstandings and we can continue sleepwalking through the world, content in the knowledge that Things Aren’t So Bad.

      And if there’s one thing that remains true, it’s the fact that if we have to avoid thinking about something and dress it up in euphemisms to tolerate or justify it, then it is something we shouldn’t be supporting.

      You have a conscience. We all do.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m very impressed with Bigbuddy’s intellectual honesty and consistency. It’s very rare these days to find such a coherent, well-written point of view. Although I don’t feel like joining this particular debate, I thought the comment deserved more than a ‘like’.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks, storyshtick, I appreciate your kind words. I took a look at your blog and found the idea of working AI-generated text into a larger story interesting. I’ve dabbled in machine learning and natural language image processing, but have not yet played around with AI text generators. Your blog has definitely piqued my interest in learning more about the subject. Cheers.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Solid post. The only thing I’m a bit cautious about is having conversations with other people. There’s a time and place for those discussions, and choosing them wisely makes the difference between successfully getting someone to reconsider or unintentionally leading them to double down.

    Unfortunately I know this first hand. I had some die hard vegan friends in college including one who would sit down at lunch, see me eating wings and say things like “You just killed six chickens!”

    It made me defensive and probably pushed back my decision to abstain from meat.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re absolutely right. When I went vegetarian, my cousin thought he was being clever by loading a plate with meat at a BBQ and slapping it down in front of me, and he’s a grown man. I’m sure you deal with much worse.

        I read your about page after I read your post and commented, and you are a hell of a lot more aware, empathetic and conscientious than I was at your age. You should be proud of that. Some people go their entire lives without giving thought to animal life and suffering. For me, it took an extraordinary animal, my cat, to teach me animals have thoughts and feelings just like humans do, and to compel me to research animal cognition and welfare.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    I have to say I’ve never actually met any of these pushy vegans society keeps telling me about, and I’ve never seen anyone say anything rude to the vegans I know either! So I’m sorry people are being annoying about it to you.

    Personally I don’t really like meat that much and I don’t ever bother to buy or cook it for myself, but I haven’t gone officially vegetarian because there’s often surprisingly little to eat for vegetarians. Like you go to a conference and there are 10 vegetable sandwiches provided in total. So I just eat a chicken sandwich and leave the vegetable ones for people who are seriously vegetarian. Finding vegan options anywhere is obviously even worse.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh yeah. It is quite difficult sometimes. The other day I was at a journalism workshop for my job and they had lunch provided, but the only options were Subway turkey sandwiches, and Subway vegetarian sandwiches– that all had cheese on them. Luckily I have started carrying around a stash of vegan protein bars in my backpack for these situations

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      1. I recently learned I have to go dairy free for several months, and there is seriously milk and cheese on everything. No idea what I’m supposed to be eating. And everyone keeps forgetting I’m not supposed to eat it and keeps saying we should order pizza, go out for ice cream, etc. I also ordered a sub from a pizza place the other day and said no cheese, and they took the cheese OUT of it but still sprinkled some on top.

        Good luck to you because I am struggling and I’m not even vegan! XD

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was fully aware even before I was vegan because when I was a kid I was allergic to both dairy AND eggs. So I have an advantage of experience coping with the presence of milk and eggs in literally everything

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  3. I have been thinking about becoming at least vegetarian for ages now, but I am a teenager and live with my parents, who say that I would need to cook my own meals when they eat meat, which I don’t have the time, energy or skills for right now. However, I have promised myself that in the future when I am old enough to live alone etc, I will be vegetarian and maybe even vegan, if I can manage it. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while and this post has been great with that

    I already minimise the amount of meat I eat in restaurants when I have the choice as to what I am eating. My family doesn’t eat that much meat- and what we do eat is locally sourced, which is better but still not ideal and I’m not appreciating meat as much as I used to anyway.

    Being vegan is I guess for me like it was for you – it seems a bit extreme but at the same time the more I think about it that’s what I do want to do.

    Anyway, this post was very interesting and I would love to hear more about your veganism journey!!

    Zoë
    zbestbooks.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really feel this– I actually waited so long to tell my parents about it because they were unsupportive and I would not be able to become vegetarian or vegan when I lived at home, but I just moved to college and now have the ability to control my own diet

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  4. We are not vegan at our house, but we have been steadily moving in that direction for 2 years. We don’t buy meat but are still eating eggs and cheese!
    Years ago I read Eating Animals by Foer and one of the things that stuck with me are the number of suicides among the animal processors (slaughterers) in all kinds of animal factory farms. It really does make sense to me that causing death carries with it natural consequences on the spirit. I know you said you are an atheist, but any kind of deliberate harm of another creature with a spirit has to carry some change in energy and damage. One natural consequence is shown through mountains of scientific research that is often buried by US Industry and marketers. As a family we started following Dr. Gregor and his team at nutritionfacts.org and read How not to Die by Dr. Gregor. It just makes sense to me logically that if you are taking from the earth to make theses unhealthy animals and then killing sentient animals out of gluttony and preference for the taste of meat
    that the body would reflect that choice in exhibiting poor health.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. That part of the book stuck with me too. And that many of the people working in slaughterhouses I’m pretty sure are undocumented works and other marginalized people who don’t have any choice

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  5. I think it’s awesome you’ve made this decision, Emily! If it weren’t for the fact that I absolutely love meat, I would become vegan in a heartbeat 😅 The environmental reasons on particular have always really resonated with me, and, even though Europe has much stricter laws concerning them, I also find the conditions in some farms appalling. We actually cover most of the points you mentioned here in school, so I can’t say they come as a big surprise…

    But I just find it too hard to give up meat completely! Instead, the compromise I’ve made is that I am not allowed to have meat more than once a week and that, when I do, I always buy straight from the local butcher so that I know where the meat comes from and how the animals were treated before they were slaughtered. And since I’m lactose intolerant, avoiding dairy products is an ingrained habit of mine anyway…

    I think it’s interesting to hear about the perceptions of veganism that you were confronted with, though! It’s so common here that I’ve never really heard about anyone being weirded out by it… But yeah, I think being vegan is really admirable and hope it catches on more!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad that you’re watching out for nutrition! We talked about this on Goodreads before so I feel like it’s a bit repetitive, but it’s super important whenever someone starts a new diet. Your health is important!

    Personally, I couldn’t see myself going 100% vegan because it would mean giving up my culture. My family ancestry is from a part of China that uses a lot of meat and seafood in its traditional foods. Some of these foods are tied to important holidays and festivals, with the significance tied to the food item itself. For example, my family eats shrimp on Chinese New Year because the word for shrimp sounds like laughter. So, if you eat shrimp, you eat a symbol of good luck, fortune, and happiness. Eating imitation shrimp doesn’t really mean the same thing since it’s well… not shrimp.

    I think the pushy vegans are sometimes dismissive about situations like this, assuming that anything can be substituted when that’s not (yet) the case.

    A good compromise could be to sometimes eat vegan and sometimes eat animal products when the dish calls for it. When I was living by myself, I often did vegetarian lunch and omnivore dinner, but it’s harder now that I’m living at home again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hm. I understand culture is important to people but in my mind the ethics outweigh cultural significance of food, because what is more important, a symbol or the life of an animal? It’s true some vegans are pushy but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. of course I myself am a pushy vegan. But I want to be honest about how I think it’s wrong to put your own taste pleasure/nostalgia/etc. over making what I think is the ethical choice. Vegans can be blunt and have strong opinions but it’s because we really think what is happening to animals is wrong

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      1. For me, I think it’s ethically wrong to push something without at least acknowledging the impacts it has on the people it’s being pushed on. Which can sometimes be the problem with pushy veganism that calls for people to be 100% vegan ‘or else’. There’s no room for recognizing people’s different situations.

        Sometimes, it can be really dangerous if people are giving nutrition-related advice and it doesn’t work with someone’s personal health concerns.

        It’s not perfect veganism, but a decent compromise could be for someone to eat vegan when they can, but to eat traditionally significant foods when it’s appropriate. Is there going to be some animal death, yes, but it minimizes animal death while also enabling someone to continue a culturally significant practise.

        Or if someone lives in an area where it’s really hard to find vegan substitutes, like where I was in France, a compromise could be to eat vegan when possible and buy the animal products when it’s too expensive otherwise. (I remember wanting to try the hazelnut milk there, but it was 2x the cost of dairy milk and yes, I’m still sad about it 😦 )

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  7. This was a really interesting post to read. I went vegetarian at 12 and never looked back, but my partner and I went vegan last year after watching the same CosmicSkeptic video you watched. We’ve now moved away from being 100% vegan because my partner can’t eat gluten and trying to eat vegan and gluten free was incredibly difficult for us, but we’re still veggie, and vegan when we can be.

    I can completely understand the “pushy vegan” mentality and wanting to tell everyone the truth about animal products. I had a similar view when I first went vegan and I would get so passionate and angry about things that people and companies were doing that harmed animals and the environment. But I realised that holding onto my views so strongly was hurting me and putting me in a bad place with my mental health, so I had to take conscious steps to change how I thought about the topic. I still care about the environment and animals a lot and I still consider all the choices I make with food or otherwise, but I had to change how I viewed other people and their choices because it was making me miserable and I have a much better and happier mentality now.

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  8. Welcome to veganism! My vegan journey began a year and two months ago (even though I’ve been using cruelty free products since the 1990s and haven’t had pork, veal, or lamb since the mid-1980s – yeah I am old!) … It’s a great place to be not only for the environment and animals, but for your own health. Even with vegan junk food my health improved drastically on a vegan lifestyle. You just have to be strong when people criticize your choice. I recently had a client who was always challenging me, but because I’ve been vegan over a year, I was able to meet her challenges with the right answers. The funniest comment from someone was when I was told I was “limited.” For over a year as a vegan, I never made the same recipe twice! With thousands of fruits and vegetables, you can’t go wrong 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi, Emily, this is a fantastic post, thanks for sharing. I have been vegan now for probably 10 years, and I’ve found that most people simply don’t want to hear about their contribution to animal cruelty and global warming via cattle farms. I do touch on the subject sometimes on my blog, but usually get a bit of pushback. Kudos to you for making this most important decision, regardless of your piers and family! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’ve actually begun taking vitamin d supplements as well, and I try in general to eat a lot of vegetables including mushrooms for vit D and kale/spinach for iron. being vegan has caused me to think way more about nutrition than I ever did before.

      Liked by 1 person

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