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I have been doing a lot of summer press lately for my book 365 Vegan Smoothies, chatting with many non-vegan journalists and bloggers about my lifestyle. And it always surprises me how every single one of them ask that one question every vegan hears again and again,
"So, why are you vegan?" or "What inspired you to try veganism?" or "Why vegan?"
As a vegan for about 13 years now, and a vegetarian on and off since my teen years, I am surprisingly still caught off guard by this question. I never seem to answer it exactly the same, and I never have a "speech" ready as I know many of my vegan friends do. You would think that by now I would have some set in stone response, a tried-and-true answer for everyone who asks. But I always find myself stumbling a bit as the questioner awaits a long, detailed and lengthy response. But the reasons, once I gather my thoughts are really quite simple.
It always goes like this. When I respond to the "Why vegan?" question.. I usually start off by saying one simple thing like, "Well ever since I was little I have had an intense love for animals." And I pause. The interviewer pauses, response-less, expecting me to continue. So I do continue for the sake of filling the void of dead air and silence. Even though to me, I have already answered the question. I love animals. And do not wish to eat them. Simple, yes? But yes I guess I could go on. So to really detail ALL the main reasons why, here is my five point answer that I am happy to share today.
Discussion Ahead: Reasons why I am vegan, how I talk to kids about my vegan diet, and pets and veganism!..
5 Reasons Why I am Vegan
1. I Love Animals. I have always had a very strong emotional bond with animals big and small ever since I was a child. I would adore the birds and raccoons and other California wildlife that would pop up in our backyard. I loved my pet kittens and bunny and bird and fish. I loved everything about sweet, gentle animals. That love has never faded. I light up like a shooting star when I come across animals in my day to day life. Dogs on the beach walks, birds chirping in the trees, dolphins jumping out of the sparkling Pacific ocean as they glide across the water, cats in windows and on YouTube videos, cows grazing in a pasture, tiny ladybugs and butterflies in a garden. Animals speak to me on a level that humans never have. They have such pure and honest souls. They are on this Earth, placed in our care.
Humans have the power to fight for animals or take advantage of their innocence and vulnerability. They are like children in that way. Even the strongest lion in Africa or shark in the ocean could be easily destroyed by a human. It is not a fair fight. Animals do not have voices and they do not have the same level of highly evolved intelligence that we have. (Though they do have strengths in ways we can only dream of. Dolphins have sonar, cats can see in the dark and find their owners sometimes thousands of miles away, bears can hibernate, fish swim in majestic underwater worlds, cheetahs can run as fast as a speeding car, and birds can fly. Just to name a few.) But still, animals are subject to the force or love of humans. And so it is up to the animal lovers of this planet to fight for them and speak up for them when their is need.
Look closely and it is easy to see that animals are similar to us on so many levels. They can exhibit the same emotions we do, fear, love, sadness, joy. They take care of their babies, find mates, make friends, play, build homes, travel and explore and feed themselves. So the bottom line to the number one reason why I am vegan: I love animals and I do not have any desire to eat something with a life of its own to live. And with this answer, I feel justified. But yes there are more answers waiting in the wings..
2. The Horror I Have Seen. I find that many vegans, like myself, have done their research either by chance and accident or on purpose. Many have watched those horror-filled undercover investigation videos that are promoted via organizations like PETA, Farm Sanctuary, COK and many more. If your eyes have seen what goes on behind the scenes of a slaughterhouse, a place where animal product production takes place you will most likely not want any part in those practices. You would likely not want to participate in the pain and horror that can be found. "But those are extreme examples." Non-vegans might say. Well yes, the pain experienced by animals is on varying levels, and those who eat "compassionate or local meat, dairy and eggs" may claim the animals have "good lives and one bad day." But I personally think that those types of statements are pointless. The bottom line is that animals are being bought, sold, born and killed for the point of making animal products. Animal products that do not have the need they did in decades past, since there are so many alternatives available in today's world. Synthetic wool and leather, plant-based foods, veganism is an option for humans, it just takes the desire to want to do it. I believe that there is no such thing as "humane slaughter." Could you imagine the horror on that one day of your animal life? To end your life in such a sad way? I do not want to dwell too much on this reason, simply because you have to go out there and watch a few videos, read the latest animal cruelty reports, watch the horror stories unfold. As Paul McCartney famously says, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian." Doing your own research, watching videos, reading books, will hopefully inspire the desire in you to be curious about a plant-based, animal product free way of life.
Nowadays I try very hard NOT to watch those videos because it hurts my heart too much, but just yesterday I came across a video from a lobster factory that made me want to cry. It was horrible. The cases of cruelty never end. New ones are always popping up. The only way to end them is to end or at least dramatically reduce our dependence on animal products. It is possible! Be inspired, and take it one step at a time until one day you turn into someone like me. A person who is so thrilled with their vegan diet and truly thinks that ANYONE would fall in love with it too if they give it a chance.
3. Health. Yes yes yes. This too. Health. Wellness. Nutrition. I love the health benefits of being vegan. I naturally fill my day with healthy foods like veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. I try to eat a healthy vegan diet by monitoring what I eat, making sure I consume enough nutrients like vitamin D, iron and B12. I supplement when needed and never feel like I am missing out on anything nowadays. It pays off to learn a bit about vegan nutrition and plan your diet accordingly. I find that I naturally keep my weight in a healthy range and I never feel the need to "diet." In fact I pretty much eat anything that is vegan. My diet is only about portion control, rather than strict rules on what I can and cannot eat. That may sound silly to outsiders, but seriously, there are so many foods that are vegan that I never ever feel deprived. It takes time, but in a few years you might even forget that you are vegan when ordering food and grocery shopping. This is the free-est way of eating I have ever experienced: I eat anything! As long as it contains no animal products.
4. Vegan is Delicious. My favorite foods are vegan. I have always been in love with fruit, sweet potatoes, hearty whole grains, pasta, fresh bread, muffins, smoothies and more. All these foods are easily or naturally vegan. And seriously guys, anything and everything is vegan nowadays! And the vegan versions of foods are delicious! Dairy-free ice creams are delicious. Coconut and cashew based ice creams are dreamy! Vegan cheeses have gone gourmet and amazing. There is even very realistic versions of mayo, beef, chicken and more. It is crazy how easy it is to be vegan in today's world .... even if you ARE a meat lover. Dive into those fake meat products. Eat at Veggie Grill if you visit LA! You will be forever changed!
And then over time, you may grow tired of "meat" version foods as your vegan diet evolves. But those foods are super transition foods or foods for part-time / experimental vegans. And for me, I love vegan products and brands like vegenaise, Beyond Meat and Field Roast. (And many more..)
Plus with SO many vegan bloggers out there, basically any recipe you could dream of has a vegan version. Browse my site FindingVegan.com to find them.
5. Vegan Makes My Heart Feel Good. Vegan is not a diet. It is a lifestyle. You could simply go "plant-based" as a diet, which many celebrities and others have done in the past. But going vegan is something you do with your heart and not just your head. Rolling your eyes yet? DON'T! Do not be afraid of having a compassionate heart! Do not shy away from saying, geez I eat plants and save animals lives, I am a rockstar person! I feel so good knowing that my diet is in line with my values and ambitions to treat all living creatures and our planet with love, compassion and respect.
My Vegan Place in a Non-Vegan World. I look at my life as just one little person doing what they can for animals. Most of my family members and a large number of my best friends are not vegan. And I personally choose to respect that. It isn't even an issue when I dine out with them or interact with them. I do not think any progress is made when being negative or hateful or mean to those who do not live the same lifestyle as you do. I respect their choices just as I hope they respect mine. And I find that by having a non-judgemental stance at the dining table, non-vegans feel more at ease in discussing my diet and asking questions they may have about plant-based foods with me. Confidence is key. Never feel ashamed or quiet about your vegan status. Speak boldly but with love and truth, others will respect your conviction and hopefully come to respect your lifestyle as well. And maybe even become curious to try it themselves.
Another key: compassion. To humans too! Fact: no one likes a grumpy and hateful vegan. Even if your have seeing others ordering animal products and eating meat, just remember that they probably do not see their actions in the same light that you do. And maybe even remember back to days when you too ate meat without a care! Everyone can change. So give people a shot before turning into the grumpy angry vegan. You just do not want to be that person. Use your passion and sensitivity to speak to people in a kind way. Practice and learn the skill of speaking to people to gain their trust. I promise you will be able to speak deeper to them once they listen to what you have to say. Ears close right up when people are spoken to with anger or animosity.
The One Thing I do to Inspire Vegan-Thoughts in Others: FEED THEM. I truly think delicious food speaks louder than words. I will say that again. Delicious vegan food speaks louder than words. People, all people, even vegans, want to eat delicious food! Vegans love food! And if you can share delicious vegan recipes with others you can speak to their stomachs. What do they say... the way to a man's heart is through his stomach? Well lets add women to that saying. Girls like to eat too! I cannot tell you how much joy I get when I bring a plate of vegan cookies or a platter of vegan sandwiches to a party or potluck event and get rave reviews from non-vegans asking for the recipes. THAT my friends is how I share my vegan lifestyle. I think if people can first realize than vegan living can be delicious, they may be more open to hearing about the other arguments for veganism. You know, those little things like saving animals, saving the planet and spreading compassion, light and love where ever you go :)
Little Ears. What to Say to Kids who Ask I spent the past weekend with two little darlings who were always curious about what vegan Aunt Kathy was eating so this..
As a sidenote, I get asked often by little kids like my niece and nephew why I am vegan. The answer to them is usually a bit different. I never want to offend parents by getting detailed into my reasons, so I always feel a bit unjustified simply saying, "Well I love animals." So little ears can be tricky. I try to focus on how delicious my vegan food options are and remind myself that children's eating habits are most often a reflection of their parents eating habits, so rather than try and pin the kids down and give them a lecture on animal rights and welfare (something I never ever do) I try and find opportunities to talk about food and veganism with the parents. And keep things light and cheerful, positive and delicious with the kids.
Pets and Veganism. I get A LOT of questions from readers about how I deal with having two carnivores in my household while I am vegan. And those two carnivores being my kittens. Well I guess the purist answer would be to never adopt cats and only adopt vegan animals as pets. But then what happens to all the cats and kittens out there in the world? This discussion could really be a quite lengthy one, and I might even at some point call myself a hypocrite for adopting a vegan lifestyle while opening cans of salmon, turkey and even rabbit for my cats every day. It gives me great sadness buying animal products to feed my cats. But my simple answer is this: LOVE TRUMPS VEGANISM. Sound strange? Well lets put it this way, if my husband suddenly went back to his very old ways and started ordering beef burgers on date nights. Or if I had a child that shunned veggies and only requested meat. What would I do? Stop loving them? Stop feeding them? No way. I would of course, with humans, continue to convince them that veganism is AMAZING. But for some animals, like cats, veganism is not a healthy choice. Cats, from my research, need meat to survive. Maybe one day in the future, a pet food company will create a plant-based 100% nutritionally complete form of cat food, but until that day, cats in my house will eat all the cat food they desire. Love trumps veganism for me. I love my cats and family and do not put my vegan ways above the relationship we have, just as long as it does not get in the way of MY lifetime choice to be vegan.
So what brands do I feed my cats, since many of you ask. Mostly ZiwiPeak, Weruva, TikiCat, Instinct, Halo (by Ellen Degeneres! aka vegan superstar) and a few others.
So those are my reasons 1-5 with a few more thoughts thrown in. I would love to hear how you answer the question, "WHY VEGAN?"