Being a vegan is not only about diet. It is more than diet. Diet is the doorway.
What is a Vegan?
A vegan is defined as a person who does not eat or use animal products.
This is basically true, but why does one choose not to eat animals or use animal products?
Like all other groups, vegans are not the same. No two individuals are alike. But there are similarities. There are fundamental beliefs.
Being vegan for me is about a way of living, a practical way of living, in harmony with the world around us, and the world within us.
I do not know scarcity nor antagonism; such things belong to a carnivorous crowd. I derive nourishment and sustenance from an infinite plant life (abundance) without the need to breed and kill billions of animals each year (antagonism), which is increasingly harmful to the delicate biodiversity on our planet.
See my post for more details on that: How Livestock Effect The Environment.
I sought after the mysteries of the body – its health. Is health not wealth?
I love animals like I love myself because they are my neighbors. We live together here on one planet. We breathe the same air. We want to live. We want to reproduce. I am a protectionist when it comes to the environment; a conservative, a seer of the sacred connection between the plant and animal kingdoms, our role as women and men in influencing that perfect balance between the two.
I am a vegan revolutionary committed to the inevitable plant-based world.
Growing up, I was raised to eat anything. My motto back then was: I eat anything or I’ll try anything once. At age Eleven, I had two major surgeries to repair blocked intestines. I basically could not go to the toilet!! I was blocked up. The pain was so bad, I remember asking God to just kill me right then and there. I don’t know how I got through it, the pain just never seemed to end.
These surgeries exposed my fragility. My recovery was slow, even learning to walk on my own again, and it left me with two parallel vertical incision scars on my stomach right below my navel button. Someone told me once that, “scars are a reminder that the past was real.” So true.
I became somewhat obsessed with understanding how the human body works. I would read books on the anatomy of the body, trying to treat my body right. It was not until age 19 that I became aware that what I ate might play a role in how I felt. How could the two be related? Why was I not raised on this knowledge? Could this really be true?
My first eye-opening demonstration of this relationship was with my late father who was living with HIV. Back in the late 1980’s, HIV was a death sentence. He changed briefly to a vegetarian diet and I remember him telling me how his doctor was amazed because his white blood cells had started to increase. He felt better. He looked better. He would later succumb to the disease in 1995 after acquiring Pneumonia, but there was no question in my mind that his brief diet switch had made a notable difference. This was a significant catalyst in my evolution. I had to dig deeper and learn more.
As a result, I began reading incessantly on the topic of food and nutrition. I also watched videos showing the conditions at animal slaughter houses. That had a really big effect on me. Dr. T Colin Campbell. Dr. Lllaila Afrika. Ellen G. White. Dr. Neal Bernard and many more. Suddenly, I did not want to take part in this social and cultural practice anymore. I felt I had the power to stop this behavior by simply redirecting my energy toward eating food that did not require the killing and breeding of sentient beings. But how was I going to change my diet? It seemed impossible at the time. I knew I had to do it. The evidence had become overwhelming. So, as I usually do when setting goals, I set a date. I would finish out my 20’s and on my 30th Birthday, I would become a vegetarian. By then it was solely for health reasons.
Vegan versus Vegetarian
The difference between the two are like night and day. A vegetarian is most certainly not a vegan in any way shape or form. We have already defined a vegan, so a Vegetarian is basically someone who does not eat flesh meat but eats fish and no eggs, or someone that does not eat flesh meat but eats eggs, and all other combinations thereof! A Vegetarian is more complicated than a Vegan to define. There are even some vegetarians who call themselves vegan! Furthermore, a vegetarian is all about diet and very little about ethics. To me this is more of a transitory phase and some people either remain there or they acquire more knowledge and develop the willpower to go all out vegan.
We must pay attention to the things we don’t see. As Dr. Melanie Joy defines: “We eat animals without thinking about what we are doing and why, because the belief system that underlies this behavior is invisible. This invisible belief system is what I call Carnism” Breaking through this system is very difficult as its been indoctrinated in most of us. Many can not break this system, making this lifestyle an incredibly lonely road for the few who are able to make the transition.
But how many of us who call ourselves vegan are actually vegan. Do you still buy and wear leather shoes? or alligator handbags? or fur coats made from bear skin? or what about using honey as an everyday sweetener? To answer “yes” will surely disqualify you from calling yourself a vegan. Truth is vegans can also be grouped into sub-groups as well. Dietary Vegans – who are vegan purely on diet, and Ethical Vegans – who are vegan because they are principally concerned with animal suffering. But all these groupings and sub-groupings really go to show that many of us are Emerging Vegans. This has been my journey. This is my story.