Starting today, there will be a new vegan story posted every Friday by someone who will be sharing their experience with veganism. My hope is that the stories will inspire people to reflect on their own choices and to make more informed decisions. Veganism may not be easy, but these stories will show that it is very possible to achieve.
To set things off, our first post is from Alex at That Vegan Girl, an insightful blog about animal rights. Thanks for sharing, Alex.
My transition to veganism was a measured process. Having been introduced to vegetarianism in the latter half of my high school years by individuals I respected very much, I acknowledged that giving up that privilege which enables us to kill others and eat their flesh is a legitimate choice. However, as for my choice on the matter, I respectfully demurred. Like everybody else we vegans speak with, I argued: “I just love meat. My whole family is carnivorous. I hate vegetables. Etc. Etc.”
Several years passed and I met more and more people who had made the decision to go vegetarian or vegan. Through my social dealings – and my life on a rather socially active university campus – I had the opportunity, or more accurately, I decided, on a very limited basis, to open my hands (And mind?) to those numerous sources of information that surround the issue of our abuse of nonhuman animals. I did not, however, alter my habits; nor did I change my mind. In fact, quite the opposite: I began to argue the opposing side. I thought I could defend eating the flesh of another because I was “really smart and most of them were mere hippie idealists and hardcore dudes who were crazy anyways.”
This went on for some time with nothing of any real substance happening. One day, however, everything changed. As I walked through campus I was approached by a volunteer for PETA. She handed me some of the traditional literature, including, of course, the “Vegetarian Starter Guide” – horror stories, graphic images and all. I sat, alone, in the union, drinking coffee and in a single instance I decided to listen. In the past you see, I waited to respond – not listen – because, like others, “I loved meat!” Here, on my own, I placed that selfishness based on nonsensical assumptions aside, and consumed the information I was given. For two weeks, I read more and more. I thought; I reasoned; but I didn’t speak to anyone about this process. On my own, I said, “What the hell is wrong with us (human beings)?” Finally, I concluded that I ought to assent to what is often labeled today the “conservative animal welfare position.” I reasoned: We (humans), are, in fact, better – morally and actually speaking – than nonhuman animals; however, our treatment of them belies this position of superiority. As a moral species, as a species capable of governing itself by our reason and sentiment, unlike those brute, base other species of animals, and therefore, we ought to apply this capacity to our relationship with beings that so clearly suffer and experience the lives they lead. It was, as I always say, “My single act of protest against an institution that couldn’t possibly be operated by moral beings.”
I was a vegetarian now, militant and proud. I was happy in this existence. Veganism was for the absolutists; the morally deluded. Omnivorism was cruelty manifested. I often reminded myself of the tragedy of “meat production” with the occasional PETA video, and that sufficed to prevent any regressions.
After three years or so I suppose, I met Jen. A nearly lifelong vegetarian; smart as a whip too. She had a class on bio-ethics, if I recall correctly, which included a discussion of Peter Singers, “All Animals Are Equal.” She said to me emphatically: “You have to read this!” I did. After that, I read Tom Regans, “Animal Rights.” Regans statement, “We don’t want bigger cages or more humane slaughter. We want an end to it all because justice demands it,” coupled with Singers definition of equality and his challenge to our collective speciesism, forced me to reconsider my own premises. I found out, for example, to my surprise – Yes, “surprise”. I hadn’t really thought about it. – that mammals must be pregnant to produce milk. Thus, what happened to the baby cows? Also, Jen, being who Jen is, couldn’t help but challenge my erroneous attempts to reason my way to a defense of eating dairy and eggs. She forced me to admit why I kept eating cheese, for example: “Because I loved it and I didn’t want to stop.”
I realized, after some time, and further discussion with Jen, that my arguments for vegetarianism concluded with veganism. I can’t avoid the conclusion without challenging the reasons for my own vegetarianism. I couldn’t do that and still claim to be a moral, reasoning creature. Indeed, as quickly as the philosophical arguments pushed me up against a theoretical wall, I decided veganism was the only reasonable option. So it went, on the way home from a little vacation Jen and I had taken I said, “I think we should go vegan.” She said: “Let’s try some vegan yogurt. If it’s good, we’re on.” Fortunately, for the animals and the conscience of the world, vegan yogurt is too good to be true. It take’s some courage and moral fortitude, but anybody can do it – and I’m one of those “anybody’s,” I just didn’t want to realize it.
So here I am a vegan for a few years, a slip here and there (Remember, I’m a selfish, egoistical human being too), which Jen and I euphemistically called, “vegan breaks.” But no more of those. Today, I’m fully committed to the movement and totally convinced by the core of the argument for ethical veganism.