I became vegan almost 1 year ago. My motivation? I was feeling depressed and overwhelmed with the threat of global warming, as well as feeling inconsistent with my beliefs about compassion and animals. You see, I have been vegetarian for almost 30 years. I became a vegetarian mainly because I believed that the inhumane treatment of livestock was unnecessary and wrong. I continued to eat eggs and dairy, however, because I thought that wasn’t killing and it was somehow more humane. I knew in my heart that it wasn’t true, however, and continued to believe that I was somehow helping the animals and the planet through not eating meat.
Last year, as I was feeling overwhelmed, I gave myself the advice I have given many others; don’t try to reinvent yourself. Do what you already care about and are passionate about. I realized that the change in my life and the step I was looking for to improve my impact on the planet was right in front of me all along. I have always been passionate about animal rights, human rights, the peace movement, and food! I could tie all those passions up into one relatively simple (well I didn’t think it would be simple at the time) change in my life—become vegan. I thought about all the changes that were possible. Buy a more fuel-efficient car (couldn’t afford it at the time), volunteer for political and peace events (I was doing all that I could, but my time was limited), change my diet—now that I could do immediately!
What seemed like a difficult and arduous change was actually easy and painless. The more research I did, the more resources I found and the more proof I found that I was doing the right thing. Did you know that eating an animal-free diet has more impact than driving a Prius? Did you know that the we raise 10 billion land animals a year for dairy, egg, and eventual slaughter in this country? Did you know that the raising of livestock contributes more to global warming that cars? Did you know that a majority of the worlds rainforests have been and continue to be lost to grazing lands for cattle? Did you know that an animal-based diet takes up 8 times more energy and resources than a plant-based diet? Most importantly, have you ever met a cow, pig, or chicken? These are sentient, sweet, and intelligent creatures. They should not be treated as property or a commodity. The yogic tradition as well as many other spiritual traditions teach that all living beings are connected and deserve respect, peace, and love. These traditions are not just for humans. I believe that spirituality is about taking less and giving more. It is about taking care of those who need help. “It is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong. Something the best people have always done.” (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
I do not believe that this is the only path to change, but I do believe that it is one that is accessible to all of us. I also believe that any step taken towards a more conscious life is a good step. I suggest giving up the things that are least important to you, not the most. Try one day or even one meal a week without animal products. Many ethnic cuisines are inherently vegetarian. By the way, this diet also happens to be really good for your health!
“I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.” (Dean Ornish, MD)
Here are some resources:
Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, andVegenomicon, all by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (www.ppk.com (The Post Punk Kitchen))
“If you look at the course of western history you’ll see that we’re slowly granting basic rights to everyone. A long time ago only kings had rights. Then rights were extended to property-owning white men. Then all men. Then women. Then children. Then the mentally retarded. Now we’re agonizing over the extension of basic rights to homosexuals and animals. We need to finally accept that all sentient creatures are deserving of basic rights. I define basic rights as this—the ability to pursue life without having someone else’s will involuntarily forced upon you. Or, as the framers of the constitution put it, the ability to have ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ By what criteria can you justify denying basic rights to any living thing? Realize that by whatever criteria you employ someone could deny basic rights to you if they objected to your species, sexual preferences, color, religion, ideology, etc. Would you eat your housecat, or force a mentally retarded child to ingest oven cleaner? If not, then why is it ok to eat cows and test products on sentient animals? I believe that to knowingly commit actions that cause or condone suffering is reprehensible in the extreme. I call upon you to be compassionate and treat others as you want to be treated. If you don’t want to be beaten, imprisoned, mutilated, killed, or tortured, then you shouldn’t condone such behavior towards anyone, be they human or not.” (Moby)