Guess what – I’m a vegan – and I’m not really sure how that happened. It seems to have crept up on me and caught me by surprise. Thinking back on it, I see why and I’m sure it’s the right direction for me. Here’s my story.
Becoming a vegetarian (not vegan, just vegetarian) was something I planned to do mostly because of the promise of improved health. The first book I remember reading that suggested that a diet higher in fresh fruits and vegetables was better than a meat based diet was Fantastic Voyage by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman. After that, I regularly saw medical studies and reports that suggested the same thing – a diet with less meat and more fresh fruits and vegetables was healthier overall.
Another step towards vegetarianism was becoming interested in raw food, and the health benefits of raw food. There aren’t many raw meat options available. The health benefits of raw food was dramatically imprinted in my brain by the documentary Simply Raw which showed how even diabetes can be cured through raw food.
I became convinced that our health is tightly linked to what we eat and that fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably raw and organic) were better for us than meat. The documentary Food Matters was another important step in this direction.
Vegan is a big step-up
Whilst I was vegetarian, I was still enjoying cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc., but being vegan means avoiding all foods that have an animal source. This makes a big difference. Not eating cheese, eggs or dairy is a big change. In restaurants they often add cheese to salads, add cheese to every vegetarian option and use eggs and milk in pastry. You get the idea. It can be challenging to find any option that is vegan.
Also, finding a vegan dessert if very difficult. Think of your favourite desserts – do they contain cheese, eggs or dairy? Almost certainly. The only vegan desserts I tend to find are fresh fruit and sorbet.
Why become a vegan?
Choosing to become a vegan isn’t really about health, at least for me. Even though there is plenty of evidence to suggest that cheese, dairy and eggs might not be the best things for humans to eat, the choice to go vegan is not necessarily health related.
One day I was watching a documentary on TV. Nothing special, just something that was on. There was a man in the wild showing how to live without access to modern amenities. This was all fine until he went up to the side of a small river and said he was going to show us how to catch a fish using a bow and arrow. He was successful, and stood in front of the camera holding up a rather large fish that had a arrow through it. It was writhing around (dying) as he happily explained that this is a good way to catch food.
The impact of this on me was immediate. I was shocked that humans could randomly kill something like this wonderful fish just for the sake of making a documentary. I felt like I could not condone the killing of animals for our pleasure, including the pleasure of eating.
Of course, you can say that cheese, eggs and dairy does not involve the killing of animals, and that’s true, but now comes the next step to me becoming vegan.
I just happened to see James Aspey being interviewed on Australian TV after he’d spent 365 without speaking, in an effort to raise awareness of animal rights. When he was asked why he did this, his reply was (these were his first words for a year);
“We all say we love animals and we all are against animal cruelty, but we pay people to mutilate torture and slaughter animals. And it’s not for any necessity, it’s not because we need to for our health, it’s just because we like the way they taste.”
and that rang an alarm bell deep within me. How can I eat cheese, eggs or dairy, when I know that, for the most part, that means that animals are going to treated badly and basically tortured. Just because someone else is doing it, and it’s out of my normal sight, doesn’t mean it’s ok. If I eat any of these products, then I’m condoning these actions through my indifference.
Thus, I’m a confirmed vegan. I choose to stand up for the fair and ethical treatment of animals.
Delights of being a vegan
Most people think that being a vegan is a very strict and difficult diet, however I find it perfectly fine and there are even some delightful moments to experience.
I’ve had a few delightful experiences in restaurants recently. Once, I was in Oslo for a client dinner and the menu was preset without any choice. It was a seafood restaurant. I explained that I was vegan to the waitress (who was a bit shocked and worried) and she checked with the kitchen. They said they could do something, but I’d have to miss the first course. This was a little uncomfortable because everyone at the table wanted to know what the problem was and it was awkward explaining. Anyway, the vegan dishes that the kitchen came up with were incredible. So tasty and simply wonderful. And vegan.
Another time, at a small restaurant in France, there was absolutely nothing on the menu that was close to vegan. The chef (who happened to be British) actually came out to talk to me after I questioned the waiter. The chef said he could make me a pasta with some vegetables and a tomato based sauce. It was wonderful – better than anything else that was on the menu. As we were leaving, the chef said he really enjoyed making something specifically for someone who really enjoyed it. It was a nice moment.
On another occasion, at a buffet lunch in the UK where they had been pre-warned that a vegan would be attending, they had cooked me a special main course that wasn’t part of the buffet. It was something like a small pumpkin (that tasted a bit like sweet potato) that had been partly hollowed out and stuffed with vegetables, raisins, etc. It was possibly the best dish I’ve ever eaten from the point of view of taste. So incredibly nice and much better than anything else on the buffet.
Where to now with veganism
Even though there can be delights with veganism as I’ve described above, there are difficulties. I still like a lot of the foods that I’ve decided to eliminate from my diet. Sometimes I feel myself get excited about eating something only to then realise that I’ve decided not to eat foods like that.
Another problem is that eating well can be harder in a way. I tend to find myself eating more pasta and bread. In the book Fantastic Voyage, Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman gave a very simple method to improve nutrition – avoid bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sugar. This is really good advice and I try to stick to it, but the problem is that all of these things are actually vegan. So, choosing to be vegan and also eliminating bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sugar as well makes it extra hard. Now I find myself eating more bread and pasta than I’d like.
Being vegan is good for health in general. I’m sure that’s true for me. But it is still possible to eat poorly, to overeat and to be overweight. Just being vegan isn’t a nutritional panacea.
I’ve made the firm decision to be vegan, and I’ve done this to stand up for all the animals that are being poorly treated, tortured and slaughtered just to feed our desires. I believe this is wrong and I do not want to contribute to the demand for such products. Becoming vegetarian was for health reasons, becoming a vegan is for animal welfare.
Many centuries ago humans would have caught animals and eaten them with their bare hands and teeth, but we’ve evolved beyond that now. The human population we are part of is constantly evolving.
I believe it is time for the human population to evolve past the systemic abuse of animals for means of providing taste sensations we’ve grown used to.
It’s time to embrace all living things with love.
I choose to be vegan.
Please leave your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to know what you’re thinking.