Hi guys. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I should write a detailed post about why I chose a vegan diet. I get this question a lot, especially when someone finds out for the first time. I’ll be honest – it never feels great when someone asks “why?” in a weird, defensive tone. Sometimes, I’ll laugh it off and try to get off the subject quickly. If you catch me on an off day, I might be a little more blunt about it, or sound defensive myself. But I get it – people just want to know why I would stop eating certain products, and they may assume I am depriving myself (not at all, by the way).
I’d like to share my story here and hope that anyone reading this sees my choice in new light, and understands where I am coming from. People eat vegan for a variety of different reasons, but this is mine.
Read at your own discretion – I talk about this pretty candidly.
I guess I’ll start with the short and sweet version of why I eat vegan.
1. For the animals (this will always be #1).
2. I’ve never felt healthier in my entire life.
3. Better for the environment, and a more sustainable way of living.
4. Less chemicals and fake ingredient-foods.
5. It is the root of my happiness and gives me a sense of purpose.
6. A greater connection to the Universe.
As a whole, these are my reasons, but the #1 reason will always be for the animals. I’m very proud to stand up and admit it that it is for them, because I have opened my eyes and seen what goes on behind closed doors as a factory farm, and if you subjected yourself to it, you would too. But let me back up and give you the whole story.
I grew up in an Italian household, which means: cheese, sausage, meatballs… you know the menu. I actually never thought twice about it until I was in college. I honestly did not care what I was putting in my body. I always struggled with weight loss, and was never really satisfied with my body. But I didn’t change anything. I would just give Weight Watchers a go, and buy all the 100-calorie snack packs (which are terrible for you) and surprisingly, would lose weight. But it was all garbage. It wasn’t until my mom decided to research veganism and eventually go vegan herself that I took a step back and re-evaluated what I was putting in my body.
Yes, I was the girl who “could never give up cheese.” I made boxed cupcakes at least once a month, and could take spoonfuls of frosting out of a container and not think twice about it. These are the “luxuries” I thought I could *gasp* never give up.
The first step for me was to cut out red meat. I did that for about 2 years, eating only turkey or chicken. I would try to be vegetarian, and would follow it for a couple months, then go back, then try again, then go back. I really wanted to get serious about this vegetarian thing, so I thought, “okay, let me watch a doc or two for inspiration.” I started with Food Inc. and felt sick after watching it, but I kept going. Food Matters, Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Forks Over Knives. Each one of these brought a different viewpoint to the table. I couldn’t stop watching this stuff to save my life. I couldn’t believe how blind I had been. And then there was Vegucated (my favorite). I didn’t think I was going to come out of this marathon as a vegan, but, behold.
I would cover my eyes and cry to Joe through this whole ordeal – how the hell is this even happening in our world? While the health and science behind veganism is absolutely compelling and eye-opening, it was ultimately the factory farming and animal cruelty that gutted me. From the abuse that pigs go through before even getting slaughtered, to the way all animals could sense their impending fate… it was too much for me. The pork industry was the hardest for me to come face to face with. Captive pigs are more often than not subjected to cruel treatment such as jabbing with pins, beatings with metal rods, raped, and spray-painted with obscenities. You’d probably throw up if you saw what goes on behind closed doors. I picked up the book Skinny Bitch and was expecting mostly health-related tips for veganism (and it is a lot of that) but it did touch on the animal cruelty in the industry. I sat there sobbing on the couch reading an excerpt from an undercover animal activist who watched a man slice off a pigs snout and rub salt on the open wound for fun while it suffered. As if the slaughtering part isn’t enough hell on earth. It’s sick. Vegetarianism accomplished. Case closed. But there’s more, and these documentaries opened my eyes to a whole different side of the story. And this is the side that ultimately led me to make the full switch.
Dairy. People always ask me why I had to give up cheese because no animals are hurt during the process, right? I was so wrong. The life of a dairy cow is despicable. The gist of it: they continually impregnate them to produce milk, their babies are pried away from them to be slaughtered, and when they cannot produce anymore, they are sent to be slaughtered, too.
Eggs. I pictured happy hens just laying eggs. The reality: Once a hen stops producing eggs, they are considered “spent”. Once this happens, hens are either killed for their meat or force molted. Force molting means that they are kept in complete darkness without food or water to shock their systems into another egg laying cycle. WTF.
And then there was the conveyer belt filled with thousands and thousands of chicks, while a bunch of people in gloves check their sex. Male chicks are considered useless in the egg industry, not being able to produce eggs and not suitable for meat production. So they are eliminated by being gassed, ground up alive, or thrown into plastic bags or dumpsters.
I’m sorry for getting lengthy and graphic. But this is what I subjected myself to, and forced myself to watch. I wanted to see, because I was sick of having blinders on. I watched the trailer for Earthlings, and could barely get through it without wanting to vomit. I skipped through because I really couldn’t bring myself to watch it – in between skips I caught: a dog being thrown into a garbage cruncher, a fox being skinned alive, and a monkey being shoved in a test tube. Just sitting here typing this, I am getting worked up and emotional because this is the reality. This is happening right now, and there is literally nothing I can do about it. It enrages me. The only thing I can do is live my own life with compassion for animals, and try to make a small dent in the fight for their lives. Someone needs to be their voice, and I am 1000% there for them.
Aside from this, I have just never felt better in my entire life. It really gave me a new take on life, and has ultimately made me feel a greater connection to the world around me. As hippie as it sounds, it’s true. I believe it is the best decision that I have ever made in my life.
If this sounds preachy, I don’t mean it to be. I really just wanted to get real and personal about this subject, and just share why I am truly passionate about this. I am not saying that you have to live your life a certain way. Vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan… they are all steps in, what I believe, is the right direction. If you are a carnivore and reading this, just being curious about this makes me happy. Awareness is a start, no matter how you choose to live your life.
For me, I just couldn’t unsee the things I watched. No living being in this world deserves to be mistreated. Animals have just as much of a right to be here as we do. They feel joy. They can feel pain. They have relationships. They communicate. They cry. They mourn. They can feel the sun on their face. They are just like us, and writing this post (and this blog) is my way of trying to show people that. This is the voice of all the sweethearts that cannot say anything. If this is all that I can do to stand behind them, then this is what I’ll spend my life doing.