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I’m Vegan, and I Hate Me Too

Megan Prah, Healthy Living writer

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Gary L. Francione once said, “Veganism is not about giving up or losing anything. It is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable.” I believe that this quote accurately depicts the underlying reasons that I chose to commit to a vegan lifestyle. While it is a very appealing bonus, which I later became passionate about, it wasn’t for the various health benefits resulting in the adoption of a wholesome, plant-based diet and it certainly wasn’t for the stereotypical, condescending pride behind the statement, “I’m vegan.”

Like most kids growing up, meat and dairy was a staple in my diet. Family dinners always included a serving of meat and my brothers and I drank cows milk to ‘grow big and strong.’ I thought nothing of it; it was common sense. It’s what my parents, my grandparents, and generations before them were led to believe. It wasn’t until I was around twelve or thirteen years old, when the word “vegetarian” was introduced to me. Through school and the rising movement against animal cruelty, I slowly became educated on the cruel, inhumane treatment of the animals destined for our dinner table, which the government and massive corporations work tirelessly to keep hidden from the public. Appalling documentaries and footage from inside the walls of the same slaughterhouses many of us purchase our meat from, replaced the false images of happy cows, roaming freely among boundless meadows, which are carefully painted, maybe by government funded commercials, maybe by our own minds applying defence mechanisms to spare our consciences, or maybe a mixture of both. This however was real. It was happening everyday, to millions of animals across the world and I decided that I didn’t want any part of it.

As much as I wanted to erase it all from my memory, the chilling screams, desperate struggles and profound fear in these animals’ eyes plagued my mind and I began struggling with a deep internal conflict. The hypocrisy of my actions became crystal clear; I claimed to have a pure love and respect for animals, yet I ate them, therefore contributing to an ongoing cycle of abuse and torture towards animals in the meat and dairy industries, which represents 99.7% of all animals exploited by humans. I began questioning social norms, confused by the vast difference in treatment towards various animal species; many of us consider our dogs and cats members of our families, treating them with the same love and care as we would our children, yet pigs, which have been proven to share the same cognitive capabilities as dogs and even chimpanzees, are, for the most part, considered nothing but commodities in the animal agriculture industry. I came to the realization that whether it be my beloved dog or a cow confined to the walls of a slaughterhouse, all animals, no matter how ‘cute’ or socially acceptable they are, have a soul, crave attention, feel fear, and have a strong desire and drive to survive; just like humans.

 

With a large, and steadily increasing number of obnoxious, preachy vegans letting their anger overcome them and, in my opinion, spreading their message in the wrong way, it’s understandable that vegans are often negatively perceived and accused of thinking that they are superior to others. For me, however, veganism is about the exact opposite. It is about equality. At the end of the day, myself, and I believe the majority of others who commit to a vegan lifestyle for moral reasons, do it because they possess the opinion that they are equal to every other being on this planet, whether it be another human or animal. Unfortunately, this message is often lost among angry protests, judgemental attitudes and a few extremists who end up doing more harm than good.

Overwhelmed with anger, fuelled with a higher level of understanding and compassion and driven by a stubborn attitude, my transition to veganism was clear and while I have made mistakes, I can genuinely say I have not questioned my decisions once. That being said, while it was clear, it was not easy. Being vegan is extremely difficult and telling people it is easy, in order to try to uphold a pretentious and perfect image is not going to help. Food plays an extensive role in our lives for mental, physical and social reasons and abandoning what society has taught you is normal your entire life, to adopt a philosophy that most people don’t understand, and furthermore will judge you for, can’t possibly be easy. It can be inconvenient, isolating, confusing, and frustrating and it requires an enormous amount of discipline and motivation. That being said it is also, one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I am proud to call myself vegan and would never hide it, but I don’t believe that preaching or pressuring has a positive long-term effect. I believe that everyone has the right to know where their food comes from and the effect that it has on this world and the animals within it. I believe in spreading the message by providing accurate knowledge and support when it is invited and respecting other’s opinions when it is not. I don’t know the answer to every question or have an argument for every opinion, but if you have a question and I have the answer, I will share it and stand by it 100%. Of course in my eyes, and the eyes of everyone else that embraces this lifestyle, in a perfect world, everyone would be vegan, but at the end of the day, some people will never understand. Maybe it’s because they are simply too close minded, are too immersed in society’s perception of normal or it just never clicks with them. Whatever the reason, while I don’t agree with them, I can accept it, because my personal opinion is just that – personal. I can understand that some people may feel judged, given the widely popular and admittedly well-deserved stereotype of egotistical vegans. It does of course upset and sometimes frustrate me to see people; particularly ones I care about, continuing to support something I don’t believe in but how could I judge them for their habits when I also contributed to the cycle of exploitation by eating meat 4 years ago and eggs and dairy just months ago? Veganism is a journey and we all begin it at different times.

To the people who say they understand it but just would never be able to do it, yes you can. I can and am doing it, millions of other people can and are doing it and you can do it too. There is no question about it; animals do not have to be harmed in order for us to live healthy and happy lives. To the people who say that one person won’t make a difference, someone else will just eat the meat instead, I know the numbers seem daunting but one person has a far wider reaching effect than you may think. On average, a person who consumes a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forests, the equivalent of 20 pounds of CO2, and the life of one animal per day. To the people who say that they like the taste of meat too much, and would never give it up, you are deriving pleasure from the misfortune and suffering of another being and it wants no part in it. It doesn’t matter the circumstances. Not to the animals involved.

So decide for yourself. You have this one life to live. Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? More compassionate? Kinder? Decide.

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I’m Vegan, and I Hate Me Too