Category Archives: transitioning

My vegan story!

This is my silly intro post. I hate writing about myself but I always love reading about how people came to animal rights and veganism. So here’s my story…

I just celebrated a silly milestone of a birthday which made me think about life and about veganism. I was brought to this amazing movement through a strong love for animals and the environment. I never really fully enjoyed eating animal “products” as a child and mostly kept to eating super processed meats like hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken nuggets. I drank cow’s milk once in awhile but only when it was super cold. I absolutely loved cheese. I preferred food that didn’t really resemble an animal. Looking back I can understand why I didn’t want to eat animals. I always had this relationship with animals. I respected them and always felt that human’s relationship with them was strange but I didn’t really know why or what could be done about it.

I was always crusading for animals and the environment. When I was 8 years old I wrote a letter to Carefree gum denouncing them for testing their sugar alternative, aspartame, on animals. I told them it was mean and I would not be buying their gum anymore. It was my first lesson in corporate cluelessness and greed…they sent me coupons for free gum. I remember opening the letter and reading their lame attempt at a response about how animal testing keeps people safe and then being completely confused as to why they would send me coupons. I stopped trusting giant corporations that day and I also threw the coupons away.

It wasn’t until college that I heard the term vegetarian. It just seemed to fit into my own beliefs about animals and I instantly became one. I started researching factory farms, veal crates, animal testing, etc and found that I was completely disgusted with all of it. I couldn’t support it any longer. I bought veggie burgers and veggie cookbooks. I taught myself how to cook awesome vegetarian food and never felt like I was missing out.

It wasn’t until I transferred to SUNY Oswego that I met a vegan. I had never heard the term before and never really connected that dairy and eggs were a part of the system I abhorred. He lent me Sarah Kramer’s How it All Vegan cookbook and I fell in love! I loved the writing, the style and the recipes. He answered some questions I had, but I mostly took it upon myself to research what was cruel about the dairy and egg industries. I didn’t like anything I saw or read. I felt like a hypocrite for saying I loved animals but continuing to take part in their misery. I couldn’t believe the way that humans manipulate animals natural biology for the sake of a “product”. I had no idea that cows only made milk after being “impregnated” (raped) or that egg laying hens were kept in extremely tight cages while overhead lights manipulated the frequency of how often they laid an egg. It sickened me to think that they had to go through that over and over until their bodies were literally “spent”. I knew I couldn’t take part in it anymore. I remember the horrible feeling of knowing about the atrocities and being scared as to what I needed to do.

It was very scary for me to take that step into veganism for some reason. I totally admit it. I stopped consuming dairy and eggs at home but would still eat it when out. I was too scared to just do it because it was so different than what society had told me to do. This went on for a couple of weeks until I realized I was getting sick a lot and was advised by my doctor to stop eating dairy because I was lactose intolerant. It was the push I needed and I became vegan that day. I bought some vegan cookbooks and started reading books about animal rights. My fears were soon alleviated because I realized that being vegan was pretty easy and tasty! Some things were challenging like eating out in a rural area but there were some options if you looked hard enough. I cooked a lot and learned about vegan baking. I baked all the time and ate so many delicious things. I’ve progressed a lot throughout my almost ten years as a vegan, both in my cooking/baking/eating and in my views of animal rights.

I’m hoping to put myself out there a little more by writing blog posts about cooking and baking, but I am also interested in activist repression and how veganism connects to other social movements. I’m sure these topics, as well as others will make it into my writings. I’m looking forward to sharing what I know with all of you.

For the animals,

<3 Sarah

becoming vegan

Happy new year friends! I am grateful to be a part of Adirondack Animal Rights  and the fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Working with dedicated and compassionate activists has shaped a large portion of my perspective and inspired me to share my experience of being vegan. More posts forthcoming! Questions & feedback are welcome!

-Sheila

first published 1/1/11 & x-posted to veganicorn.

2011 nears and a nearby citrus & cilantro candle rekindles the very specific memory of my first and last taste of ceviche, my first meal of 2010. Unavailable in the climes of upstate New York raw fish marinated in citrus seemed a novel culinary exploit that suited the confines of my voluntary dietary restrictions.

Before deciding to go vegan I followed what I called “pesceveganism.” Such classification permitted (on the side of a “mostly” plant pased diet) lox bagels with capers and onions with my BFF after an art school all-nighter. I could grab endless plates from the sushi-go-round with my family on Christmas. I nonchalantly snacked on octopus, recalling the time my dad tricked me into trying calamari and me secretly enjoying it… not even fried. I was into fish tacos before they were “relevant.” I could load up on coconut shrimp at an awkward super bowl party, and because that was my final instance of animal consumption I will stop there.

“Pescevegan” seemed the most convenient description for a diet abstaining from animal consumption with the exception of seafood. Vegans might abhor the blasphemous inclusion of “vegan” in my terminology, in that true veganism transcends diet. I now understand veganism to be a lifestyle rooted in compassion that seeks to exclude the use of nonhuman animals for any purpose, and a rejection of speciesism and all forms of oppression. Even strict adherence to a vegan diet solely for health reasons is not livingvegan: diet is only one manifestation of lifestyle. Continuing to eat animals dispite ongoing awareness of nonhuman animal suffering would foster more guilt than I could have imagined. When anyone questioned my convoluted habits I would preface, “it’s not about animal rights” or “it’s not an ethical choice,” thereby ignoring my own inner hypocrisy, while parrying any criticism—at least I wasn’t going around claiming to love animals, right? Of course, I would choose wild caught fish when available, to reduce suffering… not that fish really even suffer, right? That “health-based” choices spared some possible suffering was just a bonus. My underexamined attitudes could have been described as welfarist at best.

While going vegan is the most meaningful decision I have made all year (and perhaps ever), sometimes I forget that it didn’t happen overnight or without hesitance. Seasoned friends who challenge me, and nonhuman friends who give and forgive and ask nothing in return, make vegan living feel natural. However, most vegans do not have a vegan job, vegan potlucks, a vegan living arrangement, and going entire days without speaking to a non-vegan at their fingertips. For some well-intentioned people who lack the nutritional resources and support network that facilitates transition, maintaining this lifestyle might feel sacrificial or compromising. The lurid details of what I have specifically abandoned are not intended to fetishise something for which I feel deprived. Instead, remembering the reasons I continued to eat animals for so long might be necessary to empathise with others in transition. Aren’t we all in transition anyway? Constantly learning, improving, and humbled?

Swedish Fish emerge from red velvet cupcake at X's to O's Vegan Bakery.

Omnivores have heard this & vegans preach it: it’s not meat we crave, it’s the preparation and seasoning. Citrus & cilantro evokes the memory of hugging my best fried at midnight, sheltered from freezing rain, amidst warmth of glitter and people. Between prosperous spoonfuls of black eyed peas and cathartic sips of champagne, relief for closure overshadowed whatever goals had been loosely considered for the coming year—becoming vegan was barely within my purview. New years morn, sundrenched cobblestones bore the most poignant quiet I have ever felt in New York. The amount of learning, unlearning, and earning forgiveness that would take place in the following year, the fact that I would abandon suffering and disordered eating & enjoy diversity of food as never before, the powerful friendships I would form with nonhuman animals—perhaps the peace I felt that morning foreshadowed these changes. The scented candle beside me rekindles not guilt: only light.