Before going vegan a little over a year ago, I didn’t understand veganism, nor had I really given much thought to where my food came from. I learned at a young age that meat came from animals, and while I didn’t fully understand that process until much later, I can still remember eating breaded chicken from our local Chinese restaurant around age seven and disassociating from who I was actually eating by imagining I was a Tyrannosaurus Rex eating a Gallimimus. (I was very into dinosaurs and Jurassic Park at the time.) As a teen and young adult, I made fun of vegans anytime the opportunity presented itself thinking veganism was some extreme, restrictive diet, not understanding the ethical side to it. As I grew up and became more concerned about our changing climate and the planet, I began to question the impact of my lifestyle and food choices, and I ended up cutting out beef since it was the trendy eco-friendly thing to do at the time, but I continued eating other animals and their secretions because I was told by media that this was what I needed to eat to be healthy and masculine. My attitude towards the animals I ate was that of apathy, and my thinking was that some animals just have to be sacrificed for human survival; that my existence was more important than the lives of the countless animals that were being slaughtered to sustain me, albeit to the detriment of my own health unbeknownst to me at the time.
For the several months leading up to my discovery of veganism, you could have found me in the kitchen on any given morning making myself a bagel sandwich that included two to three eggs, five ounces of processed deli meat (usually turkey or chicken), two slices of cheese, and heavy globs of conventional egg-based mayonnaise with not a vegetable in sight. Not that I had anything against vegetables before going vegan, but at the time I thought it was necessary to eat animal-based foods to gain muscle which was a personal health goal at the time — never mind the fact that every day after eating this egg-heavy, lactose-heavy breakfast I would be on the toilet sick. I guess you could say my digestive health went to shit. Not only my digestive health though — I was eating an insane amount of cholesterol each day, so although I looked healthy on the outside, my cardiovascular system was being clogged with animal fats at a much higher rate than my frugivorous human body could eliminate them. My diet continued like this until my ex-partner and I separated, and I began meeting new people and making new friends; three of whom were vegan. I started dating one of them, and he started exposing me to new information that challenged me on the notion that I could be a non-vegan environmentalist. “There’s no such thing as a non-vegan environmentalist,” he would say to me, and it would piss me off but it also forced me to confront my own biases and preconceived ideas about our relationship to animals and the earth. He recommended I watch “Earthlings,” so I did and no more than thirty minutes in I broke down crying, and I made the decision that I didn’t want to go on creating a demand for animals to be tortured and slaughtered, so I made it a goal then and there to go completely vegan by the end of the summer which gave me about two months to transition.
Lucky for me having a couple vegan friends and dating another – a former chef – made going vegan about as easy as it gets. They shared recipes and life hacks, and we ate together all the time and had conversations about animal liberation and speciesism that I had never had before. I was simultaneously deconstructing my own speciesism and learning to feed myself all over again, both of which are still ongoing works. I had to learn to check ingredients on all the food I bought and it forced me to be more mindful of what I put in my body, and after a couple months, checking ingredients became quick and I had a better understanding of the ingredients that go into making foods and which plant-based foods to use as substitutes in recipes. I learned what and how to order at restaurants and how to find quick, inexpensive vegan bites. The process of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle took about three to four months for me to fully have a handle on it. That was the relatively easy part.
Living vegan can be difficult in a variety of ways, but that isn’t to say that I would ever go back because the benefits greatly outweigh any downsides. Since going vegan I feel healthier and have more energy than ever before. I don’t feel heavy and lethargic after eating a large meal anymore, and I can still eat all my favorite foods without feeling the guilt of needlessly exploiting animals in the process, and I still get all the protein, B-12, iron, and every other nutrient carnists can think up as an excuse not to go vegan. As someone who cares about the environment and is concerned with climate change, I feel like I’m doing more than ever before to live in alignment with my values, although living as eco-friendly as possible is an ongoing struggle and journey. Switching to a vegan lifestyle has generally made me a more conscious consumer overall.
For myself and for many others, one of the hardest thing about being vegan can be living in a non-vegan world that has no moral regard for animal life where 60 billion land animals and trillions of sea animals are needlessly slaughtered for food every year. At times it can be emotionally draining to be acutely aware of the magnitude of animal suffering at any given moment while people around you day-to-day don’t think twice about it but contribute to it instead. It can also be difficult losing relationships for going vegan, but it is more common than one might think. There were friends I lost, but letting go of relationships with closed-minded, ignorant people I thought were my friends was a blessing because it allowed for space in my life for people who live in line with their values and operate on a higher level of consciousness and empathy. The sense of community one gets when they go vegan and seek community is one of the best trade-offs though. You become a part of a community that shares the same obscure, radical, and nonviolent worldview and philosophy that is veganism. It’s a truly beautiful thing to stand united in a community comprised of empathetic, kind-hearted people from all backgrounds all across the planet who have also made this ethical connection and who advocate and fight for the most vulnerable among us earthlings.
To mark my first veganniversary, I am starting this blog in hopes that it will evolve into a multi-author blog that serves as a platform to vegan voices of all backgrounds; a place where aspiring and veteran vegans can come for resources, life hacks, and recipes with a side of philosophy and opinion. So with this I dedicate PNW Vegan Collective to the veteran vegans that came before who made it easier for vegans today, to the vegan activists out there fighting for a more just world in the face of violence and oppression, to all the vegans yet to come, and most of all this blog is dedicated to the countless nonhuman individuals who unnecessarily suffer and die at the hands of humans. We are in this fight for the animals first and foremost, and we will not stop until every cage is empty.