Being an effective vegan is about helping animals and the planet.
As vegans, we are animal advocates, but are we influencing positive change? Discover what it means being an effective vegan.
Veganism is a philosophy and a way of life, based on the understanding that animals are intelligent, sentient, emotional beings who are not ours to exploit or harm.
One of the first things you should know about becoming vegan is:
There is no single path to follow.
While some people opt for a plant-based diet primarily for health reasons, most vegans embrace an ethical approach – allowing them to enjoy the peace of mind, as well as the physical benefits, a cruelty-free lifestyle offers. Whatever your reasons for wanting to become vegan, you’ve made a very good choice. Whether you run full-speed-ahead or take gradual baby steps in eliminating animal products from your diet and lifestyle, you are heading in the right direction toward saving animals, the planet, and your own life. For me, I took the slower route. Forty years ago, I stopped eating mammals. Then birds, fish, crustaceans and mollusks. Finally milk products and eggs. In hindsight, I wish I had transitioned to veganism a lot sooner. The important thing is, along the way, my journey to becoming a vegan positively influenced not just my life, but the lives of my family, friends, and a whole lot of animals as well. Learn more about my story…
From Zealot to Zen
Change can be very difficult for some people to accept, even when it doesn’t involve them personally. When you decide to become vegan, don’t be surprised if some of your omni family and friends don’t share your enthusiasm about your new life choice. They may feel awkward inviting you to eat with them, not knowing what to serve you or out of concern that you may judge or shame them for still eating meat. Many otherwise kind-hearted self-professed animal ‘lovers’ still choose to consume meat and dairy due to a lifetime of conditioning. Think about it. Most of us grew up accepting it as normal. No one questioned the origin of the meat in their hamburgers or the chicken in their nuggets. It just wasn’t a conversation.
Our attachments to food run deeper than just the flavors we enjoy. Family recipes, traditions, sentimental memories and old habits make the idea of giving up favorite meat and dairy recipes that much harder. Let’s face it – unless you were born & raised a vegan or vegetarian, you are most likely a former meat-eater too. It’s important not to forget that perspective. It will make your transition a lot easier and your relationships much more harmonious when you can relate to your own experience.
Those of us who convert to veganism are keenly aware of the atrocities inflicted on animals. Understandably, we feel compelled to raise awareness about animal suffering.
When I began my journey to living cruelty-free, I opened my eyes and heart to the horrors of animal exploitation. I learned everything I could about the truth of factory farming, trophy hunting, the fur industry, animal testing, rodeos, horse racing, circuses and entertainment animals. I watched documentaries. I read books. I attended protests. I wrote letters. I rescued animals. I felt driven, and frankly, obsessed to share what I learned with anyone and everyone who would listen. I thought, “If I tell them, surely they’ll feel how I feel. If I describe the gruesome details of the abuse of factory farmed animals, they’ll be as outraged as I am.” I felt it was my duty to “speak for those who can’t”.
Did I make an impact? Yes, but not necessarily in a productive way. It took me awhile to realize that most people already know in their hearts that the burgers they eat don’t come from happy cows. They just choose not to think about it because, if they did, they would feel guilty about consuming something they enjoy so much. The thought of giving up their beloved bacon and eggs would be unimaginable. To have someone like me force them to look at the truth about where their food comes from would feel like an assault on their morality and their character. Nobody likes to feel shamed. I re-examined my approach. I thought about how I came to my own decision and realized that enlightenment needs to happen from within. Do I still consider it my duty to encourage veganism? Yes I do. Today, I just do it differently.
Finding your own path
Change rarely happens overnight. Certainly my evolution from omni to vegan was a steady, but not immediate, progression. Each step along the way involved conscious, deliberate decisions on my part, influenced by my own personal experiences combined with evidence that I could not ignore. For me to make a radical paradigm shift from enjoying meat – to finding the idea absolutely abhorrent – had to be my idea, my discovery, something motivated from within me, not forced upon me. No one had to shame me. No one had to talk me into it. I knew logically, that I was a hypocrite for “loving” animals yet being ok with eating animals or wearing animal skin and using cosmetics & products that had been tested on animals. Until I finally owned up to my hypocrisy, I, like millions of other “animal lovers”, continued to close my eyes to the reality of animal suffering. Once I made the connection, I put down my fork and never looked back.
Being an Effective Vegan
Fast forward four decades later – after raising a vegan/vegetarian family and trying every day to live a compassionate, ethical life – I can now reflect on my own experience. Perhaps one could say I have simply mellowed over time, but I believe that I am as passionate as ever in my quest to influence positive change for animals. I have also accepted the fact that it’s almost impossible to be a “perfect” vegan. Try as we might, unless you live in a bubble, everywhere you go, you will encounter non-vegan products: Soaps in public restrooms, leather upholstery in cars, even the streets we drive on contain by-products from animal agriculture. You just have to do the best that you can, supporting cruelty-free, earth friendly companies, and making good choices that favor animals and the planet.
I have learned that I am far more effective living by example than standing on a soapbox. I have made my life my argument, and by doing so, have earned the respect of friends and acquaintances by “walking the walk”. I rarely need to initiate conversations about veganism. Instead, I create opportunities for others to ask me the questions. I do what I can to share all the great aspects about plant-based diets and alternative sources of traditional animal products.
As you embark on your journey to vegan living, I encourage you to do what you can to help your non-vegan family and friends feel good about your decision too. Avoid preaching. Try not to judge. It will be far easier to encourage others interest and support, when they witness your own positive transformation. Think about what influenced you and allow others the space to experience their own awakening to the joy of living an ethical, plant-based, and compassionate life.
Thank you for being vegan ❤️
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