*Disclaimer* This might seem like a really random post, considering my last post was announcing my engagement...in January. Sorry about the lapse, but this is one I've been meaning to write for a while.
In honor of World Vegan Day, I thought I'd share why I stopped eating meat. While this is a subject very important to me, I'm not trying to sound judgmental or self-righteous. Veganism is about compassion and peace, not waging war against those who haven't made the same choice.
I've been interested in vegetarianism/veganism for a couple years. In 2011, I read a book called The Kind Diet. It was a gentle nudge towards compassionate eating, full of pictures of cute cows and sweet little piggies. I went vegetarian for a month, to see how I felt. Towards the end of that month, I met Mike. We started dating and eating out and it just became "easier" for me to go back to old eating habits. I was not yet ready.
My dad has been a vegan for a few years. When I stayed with my parents for a few months before leaving Las Vegas, we talked a lot about his decision. Despite working out on a regular basis for the last 15 years, he still had high cholesterol and some extra weight he just couldn't drop. He had made the choice to give up meat, dairy and eggs solely for the health benefits. His cholesterol is now perfect and he's the healthiest he's ever been. Every time we discussed it, he'd tell me he's 100% happy with his decision, but I was not yet ready.
In May 2014, Mike and I honeymooned in Maui. While we were there, we visited Leilani Farm Sanctuary. This was my absolute favorite part of our honeymoon. It was very hands-on and Laurelee Blanchard, the woman running the farm, was so kind and informative. We met goats, donkeys, deer, chickens, pigs and more. I loved meeting every animal and looking into their sweet faces. I held an adorable chicken while she ate an apple out of my hand and I felt something stirring in my heart. I was almost ready.
In July, I watched a documentary called 'Vegucated'. It followed 3 regular people as they adopted a vegan lifestyle for six weeks. Part of the documentary shows just what goes on in slaughterhouses and factory farms all across the country. It completely opened my eyes to the truth behind the meat/dairy/egg industry. In the back of my mind, I always knew the animals probably weren't living on some happy farm, just waiting to be magically turned into someone's dinner. However, I can honestly say, I had no idea just how horrific the conditions are in factory farms. Seeing undercover video of how cows, calves, pigs, and chickens were treated literally made me sick to my stomach. I remembered the sweet faces of all those animals I'd met in Maui. The disconnect I'd had between farm animals and how they ended up on the table was gone. In that moment, I was ready.
My immediate decision was to stop eating meat, but I knew I wanted to also quit eggs and dairy. Those animals have it just as bad as the ones awaiting slaughter. I started reading and watching anything else I could find on the subject. The more I learned, the more my empathetic heart broke. Once I pulled back that curtain, I knew there was no going back. After you look past the food, there's the companies that test on animals. Then there are animals being killed for fur and leather; the circuses and animal "attractions". It was overwhelming. After just a few nights of research. I broke down. How was one person going vegan going to stop the millions of animals being harmed and killed? I had to face the fact that I'm not going to be able to save all the animals and that was a difficult realization. However, I'm doing my part. I'm making a one person difference and that is still a difference.
I made my choice firstly for the animals, but I've discovered many more reasons that a plant based diet is better for everyone. The amount of land, grain and water that is spent raising animals for food could feed so many hungry people across the world. Factory farms are also huge contributors to the air and water pollution in the United States. I could go on and on, but I'm trying not to turn this into a lecture.
I really haven't found it difficult to leave animal products out of my meals. I don't miss meat, in fact it makes me kind of queasy to see it now. I don't feel like I'm missing out and I'm not just eating salads every day. There are so many vegan options available now! I find lots of vegan products in my regular grocery store. Target carries quite a few vegan brands and even just launched their own Simply Balanced meat substitutes. We have a vegetarian grocery store nearby that's kind of like a Whole Foods, but doesn't sell any meat. I've recently discovered vegan items at Costco too. I picked up a couple vegan cookbooks and Mike and I have both enjoyed all the recipes we've tried so far.
Speaking of Mike, he was definitely surprised when I (out of the blue) announced I wasn't eating meat anymore. While he has not made the same decision, he has been very supportive of my choice. He's open to trying all the things I make, he's even become a fan of certain items. He doesn't think veganism is for him, but he's already eating much less meat than before. I'll take what I can get.
In my ideal world, everyone would wake up vegan tomorrow. I know that isn't going to happen, but I urge you to at least learn a little more about where your food is coming from. Even just having a plant based meal once or twice a week would make a difference. It's all about baby steps; I'm still very much at the beginning of my journey.
This turned out longer than I planned and I feel like there's so much more I could (and should) say. Please, please message me or leave a comment if you have any questions or want more information. Again, this is something that I've become very passionate about and it's going to be mentioned a lot more since it's now a big part of my life. I'm going to mention a few sites and information sources that led me to where I am.
'Vegucated' (available on Netflix)
'Forks Over Knives' (available on Netflix)
'Earthlings' (very important, but not easy to watch)
www.vegan.com (their YouTube channel is also awesome)
www.vegan.com (their YouTube channel is also awesome)
www.peta.org (can be a little intense, but I use them more as a reference regarding cruelty free companies and vegan products)