My first veganniversary (love any excuse for a good word combo) passed in November, so it's been well over a year now and I thought I'd share a few of my key takeaways from the first year. I'm sure most of these are pretty universal experiences for us vegans, but hopefully you'll get a few laughs or shout an "amen" or two.
1) It's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be.
Yes, it takes intentionality and planning, and can be inconvenient, especially in certain places. And yes, I have the privilege of living in a city with a Whole Foods, a few vegan restaurants, and a handful of other places that make it easy to eat out vegan without having to analyze the entire menu to come up with two items that pass muster. I know I can't pretend to know exactly what it would be like to live as a vegan in a place without all that stuff, but I do know that A) so much can be ordered online now, and B) most of that stuff is just vegan icing on the cake, not anything that's necessary to eat a balanced and delicious diet.
I get that there are people who go vegan primarily or initially because of health reasons and want to stick with more of a "whole foods" diet. I certainly crave and eat my share of veggies and whole grains, but I also gladly enjoy rich, indulgent vegan foods —and because of that, I don't feel like I really gave anything up. I still regularly eat delicious burgers, tacos, queso, cookies, brownies, ice cream, pizza, etc. So when people find out I'm vegan and say, "that must be really hard, I could never do that," I just smile and say "I never thought I could either, but when I figured out I didn't have to give anything up and just had to change which version of things I eat, it became pretty easy."
2) Still, there are all kinds of things that I'm continuing to learn, and that's okay too.
The most obvious thing when deciding to change my day-to-day behaviors to stop abusing animals was to stop eating them or eating their secretions that cause as much as (arguably more) harm than eating their flesh. That was already a big step, since in the past I bought into the "happy cow" myth ("They don't actually have to hurt or kill them for the milk, so I'm gonna happily enjoy my cheese, thanks"... boy was I wrong), and I also really didn't relate to fish, so I justified eating them because they are so different from me that they seem like they're from another planet. (As I quickly learned, wrong again. Okay, marine animals were out, too.)
But even after making the change of not eating animal flesh and secretions, I had to continue learning. Leather and fur (ew, never did fur thankfully) were obviously out, but shouldn't wool be okay, since they don't have to kill the sheep? Yeah, if you're alright with knowing that the pressure for efficiency means that the sheep are often abused. But surely silk is fine, right? It's just what the silkworms make and leave behind? (Oh wait, we actually boil the warms alive to harvest the silk, since they "ruin" the fabric if they hatch from the cocoon.) Honey seems to be a trickier issue, but hard-line vegans maintain using honey and beeswax is exploiting the bees' work and stealing from them, and we should find a way to support beehives without having to doing this. (I generally avoid honey, but want to continue to do more research about how vegans can support a healthy bee population.)
As I got more comfortable with the basics of being vegan (i.e. checking ingredients for gelatin, dairy, eggs, etc., checking shoe labels for leather or wool), I started learning more about animal testing and only buying "cruelty-free" products not tested on animals. (Literally my old thought: "It doesn't hurt a rabbit to put blush on it, right?!" OMG stop me.) And I know I will continue to learn even more (like how stearic acid in a lot of candles is made from animal fat... but good ole Yankee candles are fine!)Read More