Yep, it’s been a year since I’ve made the decision. I have to be completely honest, it hasn’t felt that long. But on the other hand, it’s hard for me to remember those days before. All the choices that come along with this lifestyle seem so painfully obvious to me now.
I’ve tried tons of new restaurants, recipes and vegetables that I NEVER would have tried before. Rather than shrinking in options, my diet has definitely expanded. I’ve become involved with a non-profit organization called No Kill Louisville, which is working on creating a no-kill community in regards to adoptable pets. And I’ve participated in my first of many animal rights demonstrations; one being a peaceful protest of Ringling Brothers Circus to stop the confinement and torture of wild animals. I can almost guarantee none of this would have happened if I had not been vegan.
What has been the biggest setback? Not the food. Not the hygiene products. And certainly not the clothes. There are cookbooks, veggies, and packaged items available to even those living in the most rural areas now. You can get shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant at most major supermarkets. And it’s incredibly easy to find fake leather and synthetic fibers for every article of clothing you could ever want. The one thing that makes it difficult sometimes, is the social aspect. And this, I think, is the biggest reason people won’t consider going vegan. I don’t necessarily mean just eating out at Buffalo Wild Wings with your friends. I mean the acceptance factor. Most people don’t want to feel like outsiders. They don’t like to draw attention to themselves. And they certainly don’t want to be continuously ridiculed. Going vegan will earn you all of those things, even from your friends and family, if only for a short period of time. Don’t think for a second that I’m painting myself to be a martyr for the animals. Poor poor, pitiful me. No one understands me, boooo hooo hoooo. That’s not the point. The point is, many people just don’t understand things that are different from what they know. They will be more willing to point at you, than try to educate themselves about the matter. Trust me, I live this. I’m a gay-vegan-atheist.
One of those things people aren’t willing to understand when it comes to veganism, is what it’s really about. Having to convince people that being vegan is healthy should be just as rare as convincing people that the Earth is round. A well-balanced vegan diet is healthy for everyone at every age. A poorly balanced diet of any kind is unhealthy for anyone. As far as ethics are concerned, for me, it’s a no-brainer. Viewing non-human animals as “things” that are beneath us and warrant no right to live except to serve our own desires, is arrogant and speciesist. No different from the arrogant and racist views we held for African slaves. Or the arrogant and chauvinistic views some still hold of women. Not to mention the homophobic society we still live in. They are all connected. Oppression of any group is wrong. Some might feel uncomfortable being linked with cows and pigs. But we are all animals. We feel pain, love, sadness, and have a desire to have companions. Just observe your dog or cat.
But the one big thing I think people misunderstand about veganism, is it’s not about purity. It’s not a cult with a Holy Vegan Book and doctrines you must live by to reach an ultimate level of pure veganity. Over the course of the last year, I can’t tell you how many questions I got from people trying to “get” me, or find some loophole that would magically erase any kind of logic that was found in every other facet. At one point, I actually had someone tell me, “You know micro-organisms have to die for your drinking water!” To which I smiled, shrugged and replied, “I guess I can’t drink water anymore.” Do tires have animal products in them? Yep. Try living in this world without getting around on a few tires. Are most pharmaceuticals tested on animals? Yup. If a doctor says I need to take this pill to live, guess what I’m gonna do? Some things are unavoidable in the world that we live in. Will it always be like this? I am eternally optimistic. We are becoming increasingly more compassionate and responsible about the choices we make. This world is what we make it. Educate yourself.
To me, being a vegan is more than just animal rights. It’s about human rights, as well as caring for the environment as best we can. It’s about challenging world views. It’s about evolving. It’s never been a better time to be vegan.