With it being Veganuary right now, I've seen a lot of people taking the challenge which is so exciting! If you're unfamiliar with Veganuary- it is an organization started in the UK that encourages (and helps!) people to go vegan for the month of January. And this probably goes without saying that even when it's not January, you can still take a 30 Day vegan pledge! :) During this month, I have also seen vegan YouTubers share their experiences on living a vegan lifestyle which is awesome. It has inspired me to share my vegan story.
A little backstory, when I was 11 years old, I was eating an Italian sub from Subway and out of nowhere I questioned to myself, where the heck does salami come from? I had no idea what sparked that thought other than maybe how weird salami looks. So I went home, started digging around on the internet and stumbled upon slaughterhouse images and videos. From that moment, I went vegetarian cold-tofurkey.
During junior high and high school, I maintained a vegetarian lifestyle with no problem. I was never really a fan of meat but cheese, well cheese was another story. I was consuming cheese like it was oxygen. My then-boyfriend and I would go to Olive Garden (oh you fancy huh) and get the alfredo dipping sauce for breadsticks and THEN I would get the fettuccine alfredo on top of that! My cheese addiction was real, as real as my stomach issues. My stomach would always feel like crap (pun not intended), no matter how many of those silly Lactaid pills I would take. And yet, I remember a time at Dunkin' Donuts, while holding my cream ladened coffee, that "I would never go vegan because it is too extreme and that there is milk in everything"...
Can anyone else relate?
And yes, there are so many products that they sneak milk into that is totally unnecessary but in my opinion, that is not a reason not to pursue veganism. It is true that you need to put more effort into reading labels but wouldn't you want to see what other ingredients you're putting into your body anyway?
Looking back, at that time in my life, there was a major disconnect from the truth about the dairy industry. This is always so embarrassing to admit (although other people have told me they thought the same thing) but I did not know that cows needed to be pregnant to produce milk. I was completely unaware that cows are artificially inseminated only to give birth to a calf that will be taken away from her and either follow in her footsteps if it's a female or be slaughtered for veal if it's a male.
My first trip to Gentle Barn was one that would change my life when I met Buttercup, a former dairy cow. I thought she was pregnant because her stomach was enlarged. However, the volunteer informed me that she actually had a hernia (which was what was protruding from her stomach) from being impregnated so many times. Buttercup just kept delivering babies and they kept taking me away from her. When she arrived at Gentle Barn, she acted like a mother to the new, younger cows that they would rescue. How adorable yet heartbreaking. I just kept thinking about her story over and over again and I thought NOPE. Can't do this anymore. It is not worth it. **Buttercup has recently passed away but I will be forever grateful to her to help shed light on the dairy industry.
Beautiful Buttercup. Photo Credit: Gentle Barn
Same goes for the lack of knowledge with the egg industry. The conditions hens are living in are deplorable (even the "free-range" ones) and they are genetically altered to produce more eggs than what nature intended. And at the end of the day, once the hens are "spent", they will ultimately be slaughtered. After digging even further down the rabbit hole, I found out that most male chicks, literally a day old, are killed because they are useless to the egg industry. I watched a video of male chicks on a conveyor belt, being ground alive...I mean what. the. hell (A photo of it posted down below). So with all of that built up knowledge, I knew eggs weren't going to cut it anymore. I actually remember my last "eggy" meal. It was at an Easter brunch with family and I ordered scrambled egg whites, dug into the meal and just felt nauseated by what I was eating. And I'm glad I did.
The heartbreaking reality of the egg industry. Photo Credit: Vegan Outreach
*This video contains some graphic imagery but valuable information.*
So ultimately, the dairy and eggs fell by the wayside and I am SO glad they did. I cannot even imagine going back to eating those products. I feel so much better, mentally and physically. Being vegan is about trying to reduce as much harm to others as possible. Vegans don't have a magical trait, we don't sprout horns and become unicorns, we're just normal people trying to make a difference. ANYONE can go vegan. I hope that is something more and more people realize.
If you'd like more information on living a vegan lifestyle, take a look at my Vegan Resources page. I compiled some of my favorite resources that include documentary recommendations, food blogs, beauty resources and more. Also, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. I would love to help as much as I can!
What is your "vegan story"? Comment below! :) I love hearing what inspired people to live a compassionate lifestyle.