Why I'm Vegan

People ask me all the time why I’m vegan.  It’s an understandable question - I’m sure for many of them, I’m the only vegan they know.  While veganism is gaining a lot of attention nationally and the number of people eating plant-based diets is growing like crazy, it is still a definite minority, and one that is mostly associated with angry PETA activists and pot-smoking hippies.

I LOVE that I don’t fit the typical vegan mold, and I get really excited to talk to people about it.  But I also get stage fright.  It’s a lot of pressure to be the sole representative of something, especially of something that’s so close to my heart.  Disappointingly, I usually end up downplaying the depth of my conviction for the sake of being inoffensive, brief, and to avoid seeming too much like a crazy hippy-activist.

So for the sake of my own clarity, I thought I would write out an explanation for why I am a vegan and how it’s impacted my life.


I’ve always been a tad bit squeamish about meat - pork and raw chicken in particular have always grossed me out.  I also had a few lovely roommates in college who are vegetarian, so I was exposed to the concept of a meat-free diet for a good long while.  I always thought it was interesting (and knew by the ever-present spinach in our college fridge that they were eating pretty healthfully!) but never really investigated the dirty deets of what/why/how.  I think I knew that if I really explored the idea of vegetarianism, I would face some pretty harsh realities about animal treatment, so I just avoided learning about it.

But a couple of years ago, after spending a weekend with my lovely vegetarian friends Lauren and Chris, I started talking more seriously about the idea of going vegetarian.  Meanwhile, my sweet husband was tracking down some podcasts for me to listen to during my commute, and added one to my iPod that seemed fairly harmless - along the lines of “5 Ways to Cook Chickpeas” or something.  Unknown to either of us at the time, the author of the podcast is a vegan, and while I did learn about chickpeas, I also learned a LOT about the treatment of factory farmed animals - the torture that chickens and cows and pigs experience during their lifetimes as well as their slaughter.  I was exposed to a lot of information about the dairy industry, the cruelties that those sweet Borden cows are subjected to, and the ties between the dairy industry and the veal industry.

Most importantly, I heard for the first time about another way to eat - one that could free me from ignoring exactly what I’m touching when dressing a Thanksgiving turkey, or what I’m chewing when I bite into a burger.  For me it really was truly eye-opening - there’s a reason I’ve been uncomfortable handling raw chicken or eating rare steak!  I’ve always loved animals so it makes sense that at my core, I’m uncomfortable eating them.  And to learn that you can have a tasty, satisfying meal without animal products (and that it wasn’t all alfalfa sprouts and carob) was kind of a revelation.

So... I just stopped.  I really wasn’t planning to quit meat cold-turkey (haha), but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat the leftovers in the fridge.  I spent MANY a night bawling my eyes out to Cody, wrestling with my emotions about the realities I was learning about animal treatment, but also my desire to not be a wierdo, and maybe I’m just being too sensitive, but also I JUST CAN’T EAT MEAT ANYMORE!  Cody was wonderful, never once getting defensive or frustrated or even worried about what this meant for his future hot dog consumption.  He has since told me that he felt the Holy Spirit moving in him during those weeks, telling him that this is a holy conviction for me, so instead of fighting back he encouraged me to follow my heart and to live according to the convictions that I felt were being so strongly impressed upon me.

As I did further research, I decided that as an ethical vegetarian, I really should cut out dairy and eggs as well.  (I flirted with eggs for another year or so, sourcing from a free-range farm that I felt was a step ahead of others, but I’m now basically off of eggs as well.)  It took about a month from my last bite of meat until I was 100% off of dairy.

My last bite of meat and cheese was two years ago this month, and I can’t tell you how great I feel!  How LIBERATING it is to know that I’m making a choice every day, at every meal, to live in line with my values.  To walk through HEB and just totally bypass the meat and cheese section.  To try things like tempeh and kale and nutritional yeast because a whole new world of cooking has opened up to me.  To watch documentaries like Forks Over Knives and read books like Diet for a New America and know that the things I’m learning about nutrition and disease prevention and the environment all align with the way I’m choosing to feed myself and my family.  To know that because of the choice I’ve made for my family, no animals would be harmed or killed on my behalf.

There’s a lot (LOT!) more I could say about being vegan.  About the health benefits that I’ve personally seen and that truckloads of research supports.  About the deliciousness that is tofu (for real).  About how much more I now enjoy cooking, and perusing blogs and Pinterest for new recipes.  About going through pregnancy, natural childbirth, and breast-feeding without eating animal products.  About the challenges of finding non-leather shoes.  About eating lentil loaf for Thanksgiving dinner.  :)  It’s been a wild ride and I’ve had so much fun learning and experiencing so many new things.

But all of that is secondary.  Because the real reward of veganism is the peace I’m walking in, knowing that I am following a conviction that God has impressed upon my heart.  The book of Jeremiah talks about the Rekabites, a group of people in the Bible who abstained from drinking alcohol because of a calling of their forefather.  God honored their family’s commitment to their conviction in a big way, blessing them and saying that “Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.”  Of course, not everyone is called to abstain from alcohol, but we each have certain convictions that we feel weighty in our hearts.  Those aren’t there by accident - it’s the Holy Spirit’s prompting!

I’m so grateful that I stopped turning my back on this particular call in my heart.  Facing the realities of the suffering that is associated with our food culture is scary and overwhelming at first, but knowledge really is power, and there are tons of resources out there that can educate you and empower you to change your dietary habits.  If any of the things I’ve mentioned piqued your interest, I would just encourage you to explore the idea more for yourself and PLEASE feel free to talk to me about it.  Like me, you might be surprised to find that becoming a vegan is one of the most joyful decisions you’ll ever make!!


Melanie L said...

I love, love, love this post! While I don't share those same convictions (well, yet ... never say never!), I so admire and appreciate you and your heart for doing what you know is right. I think you're amazing.

Also, I love (1) the story of the Rekabites. Totally new to me; great interpretation and (2) the cold turkey joke.

Melanie L said...

Also, I'm sorry for ordering a lamb kebab when we visited last. I still feel bad about that, really.

Alyssa said...

What a great reason to follow your heart. We kinda had the same calling in January this year and are going plant based more for health reasons than love of animals though. Its a tough transition with 4 kids who love them some chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.

Donna Baker said...

I'm so glad you shared your heart with your readers (and posted on FB so I could find it!) we have been transitioning as well for a while (I didn't document the day we stopped eating meat, eggs, etc. but I started reading Skinny *itch books and watched Forks over Knives too! very eye opening! I have been making LOTS of raw foods (check out my All Things Vegetarian/Vegan pinterest board if you haven't seen it yet) and feel SO much better!! oh and I've lost about 20 lbs since Nov (smile)

Amanda said...

Thanks for being honest about your decision. It is hard to find honest people.. especially about "sensitive" issues about diet, childbirth, etc.