Today is World Vegan Day so I found a pic of the most vegan-y thing I’ve eaten recently. Irony: I rarely ever drink green smoothies. With only a quick scroll through #worldveganday on Instagram, I felt inspired to acknowledge the day myself because on January 20th, 2017, I graduated from vegan-ish to full-on vegan. There are three primary reasons for my newfound commitment: animal welfare (first and foremost), my health, and the environment.
At age 11, I bit into a piece of steak that my mom had lovingly heated up in the microwave, only to discover the horror that is vascular tissue. The sensory memory of this rubbery, unbreakable, biomatter (similar to this) rolling between my teeth, caused an irreversible hyper-awareness that what I put in my mouth - no matter how dead it looks on a plate - comes from another living being. I haven't touched a piece of red meat since. However, that wasn't enough to stop me from ripping into rotisserie chickens for a decade after that. Back then, chicken seemed easy...almost generic. Plus, it was everywhere. Eating only white meat, it looked clean, and showed very little evidence of coming from an animal, i.e. it was generally free of ligaments.
But throughout all this time, I also kept reading. And watching. And learning what the term ag-gag meant. I forced myself not to shy away from things that made me feel uncomfortable, upset, hypocritical, and sometimes sick to my stomach.
After educating myself about the dark arts of factory farming via undercover footage on YouTube, veganism seemed like the most logical solution. The transition to plants was slow and incremental, which is probably the most realistic way to make any drastic lifestyle change. After moving to San Francisco in 2011, surrounded by unabashed vegans and vegetarians, I quickly dropped chicken. No longer could I peel a wing off a carcass and justify it with, "mmm, that tastes good." While in Chicago in 2014, I went on a strict week-long cleanse and realized upon reintroducing foods into my system, that my body (and probably yours, too) hates dairy.
When I was left with just fish, for some reason all it took to let go was a vine video of salmon attempting to swim across a flooded road that they thought was "upstream". Sure, fish are dumb and may only have 7-seconds of memory, but they're just trying to survive like the rest of us. And we have totally f***** up their homes. Rude.
I don’t necessarily think everyone should go vegan. I'm not even sure yet if I believe that humans shouldn't eat animals. But, I have ZERO reservations about opposing the way in which we have evolved to eat animals. I realize I won't create huge change by whining about the mistreatment of animals, because some people just don't care. And no lawmaker is going to fix problems in commercial farming at the expense of profit "because it's the right thing to do". But I can make a change by not putting my consumer dollars behind things I don't stand for. And it's already working. Evidence is in the investments:
- Tyson Foods, Meat Leader, Invests in Protein Alternatives
- Forbes: Leonardo DiCaprio Invests in Plant-Based Beyond Meat Company
- TechCrunch: Impossible Burger Raises $75 Million for Plant Based Burgers
- AdAge: Danone Acquires Whitewave Foods, Soy Milk Provider for $10 billion
Consumers drive market trends and the more open people become to meat and dairy alternatives, the less justification there is for financially supporting this horrific industry that is killing our planet, countless innocent animals, and possibly even you.
I still eat delicious things, go out to eat a lot, and don’t feel deprived at all. Another beautiful side effect of plant-based eating: I don’t watch what or how much I eat aside from ensuring it's not made with or from any animal part or by product.
Mixing and matching my own meals at restaurants based on what they are offering already on the menu. Educating restaurants that butter, in fact, comes from an animal. Traveling to Italy. Thankful for bread. And wine.
Most annoying (residual) comment from non-vegans:
"But Dairy/Milk isn't bad! Cows have to be milked! It's natural."
Yes, milk results from a natural biological process but LITERALLY NOTHING in a factory farm follows or supports a natural process. No, we are not doing a favor to dairy cows by milking them. Like most mammals, cows produce milk for the same reasons we do: to feed and nourish babies after giving birth. The factory farm mentality means profit comes first and whatever needs to happen to eek out the most value per cow is what happens - which is often at odds with how nature designed things. To make milk, to make money, cows are artificially impregnated over and over again (using A PERSON'S ARM as the delivery mechanism, by the way), and the cow is forced into an ongoing period of faux- lactation until she dies. Basically her body is tricked into thinking she is pregnant throughout her whole life so we can hook up machines to her utters and milk her senseless. Sure, sometimes they do actually give birth like a normal cow, but babies are swiftly removed from their mothers as to not drink (read: waste) any precious profit on actual nourishment.
All I ask of others:
I imagine you are already acquainted with the internet and Netflix. If you think you are comfortable eating meat, and aren't as affected by the meat industry, try watching any one of these documentaries to test your own theory: Earthlings, Cowspiracy, Food inc., Vegetated, Forks over Knives. Maybe some people can look the other way, but I couldn’t.