Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World


Vegan Story

Vegan Story: Jennie

So here it is, our second installment of the weekly vegan stories. Every week a new story will be posted. This week we hear from Jennie, who started the blog, That Vegan Girl.Thanks for sharing!

I went vegetarian the summer after my younger sister was born, when I was 8 years old. A girl at summer camp introduced me to the idea that it was possible to not eat meat, and I never looked back. When I arrived home six weeks later and informed my mother that I was now a vegetarian, she phased out the meat on my plate slowly, after realizing that I meant what I had said. 15 years later, I still have not relented.

I think many people are shocked that at such a young age, a child can conceptualize the fact that the Chicken McNugget in their Happy Meal was once an animal. I find it hard to believe that more children don’t become vegetarians. Without ever having to see graphic images or hear slaughterhouse horror stories, I decided animals were more important than just another ingredient in the soup de jur. They were my friends, and as anyone who has attended kindergarten knows, we don’t eat our friends. In my opinion, children are inherently less set in their stupid than adults.

In my late teens I was introduced to the concept of veganism by a group of the most aggravating, pretentious, and ridiculous people I believe I’ve ever met. I was turned off. In retrospect, I perhaps should have looked beneath the surface more, but damned if I would be told being a vegetarian for a decade wasn’t ‘good enough’. High school was a tough time for my vegerianism. The novelty value had faded long ago, and having myself lumped in with people I quantified as arrogant assholes wasn’t appealing. I became that vegetarian; the one who says it’s no big deal if you eat meat around her, and agrees with you that a meatball sub does sound quite good. I never gave up, but I lost the why. Enter a string of non-veg Significant Others, and suddenly I realized me being a vegetarian was just like saying I don’t eat peas because they’re gross  – it no longer meant anything.

The summer before I turned 21, I was fortunate in two ways: I began dating a vegetarian for the first time in my life, and I was lucky enough to be introduced to two vegans who were not self-important, overbearing jerks. They were kind enough to share with me the why behind their choices…and to feed me. And after finally admitting that my reasons for maintaining as a vegetarian were purely selfish (and induced by an addiction to cheese), I was shocked to find myself defending the concepts behind veganism to Alex, my new boyfriend.

Three-quarters of the way back from an end-of-summer road trip to northern Idaho, Alex turned to me and said, “I think we should go vegan.” After a couple of minutes of watching the sporadic lights of the countryside fly by my window in silence, I looked back at him and agreed: on the condition that vegan yogurt didn’t taste like lightly flavored pond scum. We picked some up at a grocery store in town and opened it in my kitchen, found some spoons, and dug in. It tasted exactly like yogurt is supposed to, and suddenly we were vegans. No last hurrah, no nonsense. Just a commitment.

When I think about all the vegan foods I could have picked, I can’t help but think how lucky it was that yogurt was the first one that came to mind. Had it been cheese I would have said no way. I’m equally sure I would have made it here eventually, either way. I’ve been very lucky to have the support of both my significant other and my family on my journey to veganism. Two years in, the road is far less fraught with difficulty than I ever could have imagined from the ‘other side’.

Vegan Story: Alex

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.

My Vegan Story

I grew up within a family of hard-core meat-eaters. Hunting was something people did for both fun and food, and we almost never ate a meatless meal. However, I was inadvertently exposed to children’s films that put “radical” ideas into my head (at least that’s what I attribute my first foray into vegetarianism to). For example, one of my favorite movies when I was a small child was a straight-to-video film called, if I remember correctly, Seabert. All I really remember of it was that it involved seal hunters and something about the mother seal dying at the hands of the seal hunters. I also adored Ferngully, and Captain Planet was amazing (and still is!) Even though the latter two were geared specifically toward environmentalism, I think they made me realize when I was young that not all was as it should be.

I had weird meat-eating habits growing up. I would eat meat if it was chopped up in a sauce or something, but I wouldn’t eat things like chicken legs or pork chops. I guess it reminded me of the animal too much. When I was in the sixth grade, I tried vegetarianism after a friend started, but it didn’t last long.

In the 10th grade, I finally stopped eating meat. I don’t know the exact day, or what it was that gave me the final push to stop eating meat, but I’m happy I changed my habits. The summer after I graduated high school, in 2005, I decided to take it further and become vegan. I had thrown this idea around a little bit for a while. I finally realized that I was just being lazy because  being a vegetarian was a hell of a lot easier than being vegan.

Strangely, it seemed to me that the change to vegetarian had been harder than the switch to veganism. I think it could have been because I ate vegan most of the time anyway, other than the occasional cheese.

I know I’ll be vegan for life. If I can live on the campus of a very vegan-unfriendly campus and survive, I’ll be fine. Does anyone else have a vegan story to share? Just post in the comments.

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