So, I’ve been vegan now for more than 8 years and along the way I have encountered people from all walks of life being curious (or defensive) about veganism.
One certain thing is that each and every vegan has his or her reasons for being vegan and I believe that if you’re looking for reasons then the best place to find them is within yourself.
I also believe that life is (among other things) also about learning and sharing but since I’m having trouble with addressing random unknown people with this subject, here are some actual messages I wrote for 2 real people who approached me with questions about veganism.
Friend number 1
Do you have any idea how I could become vegan considering that my parents only cook using animal products? I cannot help myself…gosh, I think it must all be about conviction and power of will.
I believe it’s not about conviction or power of will, at least not in the superficial sense in which you could also say that you need conviction and power of will to quit smoking.
I think usually this train of thought is not necessarily healthy, basically because it suggests some type of compulsion, a constriction which leads to the development of all sorts of defensive reactions in some situations, which is the exact contrary of what you were initially aiming to achieve.
I think it’s best to doubt everything, even your own convictions, because only this way can you give birth to more deeper processes of self-reflection and observation.
Eventually some things become so clear that there is no more place for doubt and these conclusions, these processes of understanding are also the ones which lead to changes in behavior. I would say it’s somehow logical because together with knowledge comes change, which in the end is the one and only certainty in the universe.
To give a concrete example on conviction and will, I think the smoking subject is quite relevant. I started smoking at 16 and quit at 23. Simple as that. And I used to be a very passionate smoker in the sense that I loved to smoke right up until I stopped smoking.
And even then, I did not go over my head to convince myself of anything, I simply understood that smoking is not only completely useless but moreover, totally damaging, and not only for my organism but for the whole environment (not to mention all the animal tests funded by tobacco companies) and I simply refused to participate any longer in financing the tobacco magnates. Here I can also mention that I am not the typical full of conviction and will kind of person, au contraire.
I feel that this whole “conviction and will” story is a trap, especially because in this day and age, there are so many programs and initiatives, very progressive and leaning towards self-improvement and cultivation of a certain type of “ego”; and then it is very easy to fall in the trap of the pattern promoted by this sick society in which you are being told that you need to have conviction and will to, you know, succeed in life, quit smoking etc. And then you can easily say, well fuck that, I have neither of those, so what next?
I believe that “real” conviction comes together with knowledge because unfortunately, although we’re living in the age of information we’re more stupid than ever because of the overcrowding of conflicting information, an excess which leads to short-circuits in the brain.
We are simply bombarded with information, most of the time useless, shitty one, and we become immune and brainwashed by traditions and reserved in front of any attempt to become aware of the truth; for example: one argument many people use when referring to eating animals is that “it is natural and our ancestors did it since time immemorial…”, which unfortunately can’t be more false, and then you ask yourself, how can you be so convinced of something which is so blatantly false. But this is exactly what’s happening: most people are not concerned with reality as long as traditions and brainwashing work according with the preimposed pattern. Why question anything after all?
Anyways, I wasn’t born vegetarian, nor vegan and my father has been a cook all his life so I kind of ate plenty of stuff and although naturally I loved and cared for animals ever since I know myself, I never really made the connection between what I was eating and how that food came to arrive on my plate until I was 19 years old, after coming across some articles on the internet and seeing a very shocking video from somewhere in Asia, with raccoons and foxes skinned alive and electrocuted for their fur.
For some reason, this had such an instant impact on me that I then realized that the piece of meat that was satisfying my “desire” or “need” (which in its turn had been fabricated, since meat, without all the spices, would just taste like shit), was once alive and able to feel pain. I simply did not need anything more than this to understand that I cannot and I do not want to participate in the suffering and death of anyone.
Unfortunately, it still took me 2 years more (but hey, better later than never:) ) to realize the dairy and egg industry is no better than the meat one. Just like so many people, I failed to see the death in the production of eggs and milk, because at a superficial glance, you could easily say that there’s no one dying for an egg or for a glass of milk, which unfortunately again, could not be farther from the truth.
And this is the compassionate approach, in which you choose not to be speciesist, not to value the life of your own species more than that of any other, because it is not. Life is precious, in all the forms it occurs in.
Another tragic aspect is the fact that consuming animals is toxic for people; anatomically speaking we are simply not built for that, which is extremely shocking and unacceptable for many people, precisely because of the indoctrination and submission to tradition. After all, “believe without questioning” is still the motto of such a huge percent of the human population of this planet.
Anyhow, about the parents, I am sorry to hear you are in such a situation. It is even more complicated to try and dismantle the mental constructions of tradition in their case, I imagine. If you don’t find understanding with them, I don’t know if it would work to try and convince them of anything because you might be facing violent reactions (since anything which does not correspond with the matrix leads to mental blockages and if there isn’t the slightest intention or openness to accept new information then they will simply not know how to react and just firmly reject it under various hocus-pocus kind of arguments).
Cook for yourself! This usually saves you from any obligation to eat something which does not fit your thoughts or conclusions. You can always start by stopping with the meat-eating, that’s a big step in itself and then gradually you can leave the rest of the animal products behind as well.
Speaking of dairy, I also read a few days ago a very good article, about the substances from milk which create addiction. In other words, its pretty much scientifically proven that “dairy addiction” is as real as it could be, mostly due to casomorphines. Here’s the article, definitely worth reading: Dairy Products: A Historical and Cultural Anomaly .
Anyways, I’m glad you asked, because I try to be as open as possible with anyone interested in finding more about a more compassionate life. Among other things, I believe that “what goes around comes around”, karma, circles, however you wanna call it, I really believe that we are ourselves an universe in miniature and that the changing of the “world” really begins with the change of the individual. It makes sense in all ways if you ask me. By simply having a radical approach, I have an impact on the way a whole system is working; and by radical I am referring to an understanding and a search for the source, the root cause of the problem and tackling the problem starting from there instead of looking for answers on a more disengaged level. So if I don’t agree with violence, I don’t have it on my plate, right?
I’m not perfect and I think that all these processes of understanding and acceptance take time and that each step, no matter how small, matters, and that the more honest we are with ourselves and the more aware we are of the impact we’re having by simply existing, the more chances we have of living in balance with the rest of nature and the universe, instead of living outside them.
Friend number 2
Transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism. Any helpful tips?
Documentaries are a fantastic source of info and I’ve seen quite a few which are definitely eye and mind-opening and revealing on so many levels. I’ll try to make a list of the some, maybe you’ve seen some already, but if not, I hope you enjoy them.
Another thing I use a lot for info is Facebook actually. I have gathered in time quite a big list of vegan related pages which are sometimes extremely helpful: Vegan Info. On that note, I also have to say I’m quite a bargain hunter so I always search for the best deal ever when buying food; (not only because our budget is tight but also because I don’t agree with how the whole capitalist system is handling things and I feel cheated if I buy something which I know I could have gotten for cheaper. For example, I got a bag of 5 kilos of Chia seeds for 22 euro online – what you find in the supermarket is packs of 200 gr. for 2 or 3 euro’s making it even 30-40 euros a kilo. And this is just an example. So for that, I have tips as well. Also, I have to mention that the amount of vegan products available in the regular supermarkets has grown I think with 100% since 4 years ago, and you can now find alternatives for everything, very conveniently.
I’ll start writing the docu’s below and attaching links in case they’re online. If you have any questions about anything, please shoot them at me. It’s really one of my main interests and if there’s something I don’t know, it would be a huge joy to look it up and research it further.
Earthlings – the most life changing documentary ever, very powerful and very informative, about “society’s tragic and unforgivable use of nonhuman animals” – this is an absolute must watch, even if it’s definitely a painful watch, it reaches so deep within you that you come out a different person, so I have to say it’s an experience I think everyone should feel. To make a parentheses, I also wanted to mention how I became a vegetarian: it was actually after seeing a small clip of foxes and raccoons being skinned alive for their fur – I find it interesting that I didn’t see footage from slaughterhouses and also that I didn’t go vegan straight-away – as I mentioned before, it took another 2 years for me to make the connection further.
For me, what was stopping me from making the move was not seeing the bigger picture. I was content with my belief that no one dies if we consume milk and cheese and eggs so at that time, I was being as honest with myself as I could be, even though lack of knowledge or of a broader perspective aren’t such good excuses.
I think I made the connection after seeing some more footage from chicken factory farms and dairy farms and reading about the complexities and the wickedness of the animal industry. I think I value honesty the most in life and all the lying which goes around in the world today is simply very complicated for me to accept and live with…So the way the whole pharmaceutical industry is manipulating people through food, hand in hand with the food and animal industry, is just so outraging that I feel the least I can do is to not take part in their schemes by not consuming their products – I know it might seem very little and insignificant, I think people have the tendency to underestimate their power as individuals…but I believe that if everyone would be truly honest with themselves and if they would really, you know, walk the talk, then maybe there would be a greater chance for a collective evolution of sorts, towards a more peaceful and balanced existence.
Gary Yourofsky’s Best Speech you will ever hear – this one is a real pearl! I have to say that when I found it I was very (very!) skeptical, mostly because of the title. It is however an excellent speech, a great lecture, with a great Q&A afterwards. It’s extremely informative and it covers anything you can think of related to veganism, in a very radical and direct way. Gary is a vegan and animal rights activist – he has a tremendous energy and has been spreading veganism through his lectures in universities around the world (haha, it sounds like a religious cult:)) – here is the Q&A session as wel: Q&A
Forks over knives – a great one as well, focusing on the health aspect:
“The film examines the claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods”
Here’s a trailer: Forks over Knives trailer
Vegucated– a very nice and fun documentary, you can watch online: “This documentary follows three meat-and-dairy-loving New Yorkers as they try to stick to a vegan diet for six weeks.”
Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days – this a nice docu about how an extreme change in diet can have extremely positive consequences on your health – in this case, reversing diabetes. Very impressive.
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead – also a great documentary about a man’s journey to reclaiming his health through juicing. Very motivational.
Food Inc. – an account on the food system in the US and how it is completely owned by corporations interested in profit not people
Cowspiracy – the film that environmental organizations don’t want you to see. Highly recommended for anyone who thinks of themselves as being “concerned about the well-being of the planet”, as it goes straight to the point in exposing just how powerful and influential the meat & dairy industry really are and how they are able to penetrate all layers of authority, whether governmental or non-governmental.