As with any story, there is always a beginning. Why I became vegan? My journey into Veganism started when I found myself counting how many creatures died in my seafood salad so I could live for another few hours. It came from watching how prosperous we have come as a species and how we could pretty much synthesize any nutrient needed to meet our dietary needs without killing any creatures. The last excuse not to, came from seeing Nate Diaz brutally submit Connor McGregor in an MMA bout back in 2016.
2016, the year that Trump came to power, the UK voted to leave the EU (still getting there) and people were out in parks chasing Pokémon on their phones. Before this I spent a year being vegetarian and wondering how I could progress from there. I knew I couldn’t be a run of the mill vegan. The kind who donates to PETA, attends protests waving placards with mutilated animals framed for the discomfort of all. I couldn’t see myself habitually lecturing my peers on the pros of going vegan while sporting blue hair and faux leather bike jacket with combative slogans like “Meat is Murder” crudely painted on.
No, I worked in an office, went to the gym, did socials and had a girlfriend like many fellas. I never attended a protest, found PETA to be ridiculous with their marketing messages, despised militant advocates and felt no special connection with animals in general. Once while waiting for an evening train, I watched a magpie smash a mouse violently into the concrete before greedily pecking into its organs. With a full belly, the magpie flew off into the frigid night sky, leaving the wide eyed, lifeless rodent to rot. Needless to say it soon put heed to any sense of spiritual closeness one could have with nature.
My approach had to be selfish at first, with the aim of developing both awareness and compassion for animals and nature as I grew into this new way of life. As such, the following summarizes why I became vegan;
Nature is harsh, but is self-balancing.
Eco systems are important and essential to maintain. Both flora and fauna need to be in correct balance for life to thrive. If we are to understand our place as a species in the various ecosystems we occupy around the world, we must forgo the notion that Human intervention is always the best intervention. It also means acknowledging the role of all creatures, not just for the sake of compassion but of necessity for all life to survive. That means considerations for all the gribbly little things, as well as the bold and beautiful beasts we like to adorn our flags and vehicles with.
I am doing this for me (for now).
The aim was to balance the nutritional and lifestyle aspect so that I can sort of function in close approximation to where I was before. This didn’t mean being a hermit or spending 10x the amount for ‘vegan’ alternative meat substitutes. But saying this, I will inevitably need to adapt. In essence I see myself more as a practical herbivore at this point in my journey. I am sure one day I will take a more direct approach towards animal advocacy, but until then…
Be prepared to learn and accept you will make mistakes.
Sure militant vegans are as about as approachable as a screaming cactus, but the thing to remember is Veganism isn’t about them. It isn’t about being ‘seen’ as compassionate with animals, or financing non-profits who spend your donation on shaming Warhammer fans for playing with plastic figures wearing (plastic) animal pelts. The key is to acknowledge that in a modern urban society there is literally no need for us to consume animal matter in the way that we do. Nature should be allowed and encouraged to flourish so that biodiversity is common place, as many creatures do feel a variety of emotions and in many ways, are not dissimilar to us. We need to realize that we are conditioned to consume animal matter based on the habits and practices of our ancestors. Ancestors who faced struggles that we just don’t have to contend with anymore.
Now that’s not to say this lifestyle doesn’t have challenges. If you eat like a meat eater but swapped it all for tofu and other dairy/soy substitutes, then yeah your food bill will probably go up. So, before jumping in, think about what you do eat day in day out and figure out what can be changed. If you are addicted to certain types of food and there is no good substitute, then think about how you can phase it out. If smokers can do it, so can you.
Another challenge you will find is that you will be reading labels on everything. But what if there isn’t a label? What if you accidentally had a pizza and found that the cheese topping is dairy and not that weird coconut oil mozzarella substitute? Well, make note of this for next time and carry on. There really is no point beating yourself up over every little mistake you make.
You will also likely experience a lot of curiosity and the odd jibing from colleagues/friends/family etc. People are generally curious, though some may feel threatened by your lifestyle choice and will project this through banter and sanctimonious derision. I found this to be particularly the case with people from communities with strong rural or conservative upbringings. You will also find yourself becoming a kind of ‘confessor’ figure to people who want to try vegetarian/vegan living for a few days and feel you should know. It’s a bit of an odd phenomenon, but generally one that should be met with encouragement and grace. Though truth be told I really don’t care if someone insists they want to go vegan but won’t give up eggs. If you want to meet at a halfway point, adopt some ex battery hens and give them a comfortable life.
This story continues. There is still a lot to learn and compassion is something that grows through experience and interaction. For those of you considering following the path, you may want to check out the Vegan Society.
On a last note, remember this; there is no wrong reason for being vegan.