Reflecting on 4 Years as a Vegan

And, now, for something different: 

Last month was my four-year vegan anniversary (vegiversary?); I’m not sure of the exact date, just of the general circumstances that lead me to finally commit to veganism. It happened one day in late July in 2017, two months after my 30th birthday and after a fun trip to Thailand and then Iceland, wherein I ate vegetarian. I unsuccessfully attempted to be fully vegan twice before, so apparently the third time was the charm. 

I became vegetarian in September of 2016, shortly after Foster Parrots’ annual fundraiser. (This year’s fundraiser will be taking place off-site, on October 2; see our website for more information on the fundraiser and on the April 1 fire). You see, the fundraiser always features [delicious] vegetarian and vegan food; as a rule, we don’t allow carnivorous food of any kind at sanctuary gatherings/events. At the time, I was a full-on meat eater (eww!) but was happy to try some cruelty-free food. Well, it turns out that vegetarian and vegan food can be super tasty. There are so many misconceptions about what vegans eat, probably too many to cover in a blog post, but I may attempt to go through as many as possible at some point.

Anyway, not too long after that year’s fundraiser, I decided that it was finally time I gave up meat. After all, I couldn’t really call myself an animal lover if I kept eating them. I’d be vegetarian for about nearly a decade previous — while an undergrad at Denison University — but was brought back to the dark side via bacon on Christmas morning. I’m ashamed at my behavior and the ease at which I was lured into a carnivorous diet. Sometimes I just feel so guilty about having consumed meat for the majority of my life thus far that I wish I had a Delorean-esque time machine to make myself go vegan earlier. I could have prevented most (if not all) of the stomach issues I’ve had over the years. But, alas, not even Dr. Brown and his flux capacitor can help. (Maybe I can try running really fast like The Flash or using the Quantum Realm like the Avengers). 

When I went vegetarian for the second time in my life, my parents were supportive but surprised and, honestly, they probably didn’t think it would last this time. Neither did I, despite being determined and the kind of person who never half-asses anything. Little did I know that I would never eat meat again (at least, not on purpose). And, just a couple months later, after learning more about the dairy industry and the benefits of veganism, I decided to make the switch. I know that it’s certainly doable to essentially go from carnivore to vegan overnight, but this was too much of a change for me, too quickly, so I returned to vegetarianism by Thanksgiving. I liked the idea of veganism, but wasn’t quite ready to eliminate all animal products. After all, I loved some dairy products — most notably, pizza and cream cheese — so much that it was (in my view at the time) difficult to give them up. 

I attempted a vegan diet once again that following spring [2017], in preparation for my upcoming trip to Thailand (two weeks) and then to Iceland (one week). This time, I wasn’t necessarily planning on making veganism a permanent part of my life; rather, I thought that eating healthily prior to traveling would be a good idea, and I even attempted making vegan brownies. (They were OK, not great, as I’m really not a baker). Then, about a month before my trip, I ate cheese and that was that. I had no problem being vegetarian throughout my travels, and I often opted for vegan options without really needing to do so. I was still grossed out by meat, and was increasingly uncomfortable around others who were consuming it, despite being totally chill with consuming dairy. 

I continued my disgusting vegetarian diet when I returned home, until towards the end of July 2017, while attending a birthday gathering of a Foster Parrots staff member. There were two other vegans there, and I was inspired by them to make the switch right then and there. And, I finally realized that I’m not a baby cow, so I didn’t need to consume dairy. If everyone truly knew how terrible dairy cows were treated — which essentially includes rape and tearing babies away from their mothers — then why would they keep consuming it? The egg industry is pretty awful, too, as chickens are over-bred to produce an obscene number of eggs. If people absolutely must have eggs, then the best way to do so is via your own backyard hens, but when I have my own rescue farm/sanctuary I will not consume or sell eggs. (Strangely enough, you can actually give unfertilized eggs back to the chickens, as they need the nutrition). 

I was originally a sort of mean vegan, i.e. the kind of vegan who looked down on others who weren’t also vegan, even though I was new to the lifestyle. I was also sort of aggressive and avid in my veganism, feeling the need to tell almost everyone that I was vegan, even if they didn’t ask and sometimes even when there was no food around. Yeah, I was that vegan. I’m still tempted to just tell people that I’m vegan, but I try to only do it if someone asks or if I’m surrounded by non-vegan food. Obviously, most restaurants are not fully vegan — there’s a great bakery/brunch spot called Dutch’s that’s very close to me! — but almost every place should at least have veg-friendly options. Not that I do this too often anyway (pre-pandemic), but it can be a hassle when going to a mostly-carnivorous restaurant with a group of people who are not vegan or even vegetarian.

Not only am I repulsed at the sight and smell of meat (and, to a lesser extent, dairy products), but I am now a nice enough vegan that I don’t want others to be pressured into following my veganism. At the same time, I do want them to at least feel somewhat guilty for consuming animal flesh and by-products, because it’s terrible. But, then I remember that this is my personal choice, and even though I disagree with others’ choices to not be cruelty-free, that doesn’t give me the right to attack them for it. Just as I am an atheist but do not dislike or condemn people for being religious, I won’t do this to non-vegans. 

After four years as a vegan, there’s no going back. Sure, I could start incorporating dairy products back into my life without becoming sick, but why would I? I know too much about the dairy and egg industries to do that. I’m not the kind of flex vegan who’ll say they’re vegan 90% of the time, but will “cheat” every once in awhile. Well, veganism is not a true diet, such as one that is being used for weigh loss. Veganism is a lifestyle, and if you’re not a true vegan then you should call yourself “plant-based,” which is not exactly the same thing. I don’t want to harp on people who are doing their part to help animals, the environment, and their health by eating mostly vegan or even vegetarian, but that’s still not enough.

Sometimes I get very upset thinking about all of the animals who have died for humans’ needs, and it makes me ashamed to be human. (My mom has rightfully called me [as someone on the autism spectrum] “highly evolved,” so maybe I’m an alien). I’m sure I could write another lengthy blog post on this sub-topic alone. But, I’ll stop here. Look for more vegan-related posts in the near future!