Flirting With Veganism: Motivations and Resources

Sunday, June 10, 2018
In my May highlights post, I mentioned that I was learning more about veganism, but haven't yet made any full-time switch. There's too much to say about the topic to touch on in a quick highlights post, so I decided to dedicate a full post to the subject. Lucky you! If you're at all interested in veganism, even if you're not yet considering it for yourself, stick around for a chat about my motivations, what kinds of plant-based options and resources there are and how I'm making some simple swaps but avoiding any labels for now.

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Before this year I had never considered a vegan lifestyle mainly because I always thought that the reason people went vegan was for animal welfare. Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely love animals, I just haven't been that bothered by the concept of eating them because that's a natural occurrence in the wild. Of course in the wild the animals have enjoyed a free life and haven't been kept cooped up in tiny, dirty cages without ever seeing the light of day -- obviously that fact that this is not the case in the meat industry truly sickens me. But the problem is the well-known and openly discussed instances of cruelty surrounding the meat industry have never prompted me to change, as heartless as that may be. I was raised on meat, I live in "the Beef State," and I genuinely like the taste of meat and dairy.

So what did it for me?

My inner hippie.

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Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
I'm not even sure now where I first started looking at the environmental impact of animal based products, but the reality caught me off-guard. I thought reducing or eliminating the packaging on the things I buy would be enough, but I suddenly realized that simply making those animal-based items was a problem itself, not just what kind of packaging it ends up in.

In hindsight it totally makes sense. Animals need room, even if you are cramming them into teeny, tiny spaces, and they need food, which takes room to grow. And of course farms are crammed, dirty places so you need pesticides and herbicides and ways to combat all that bacteria squishing around. Don't forget that the animals themselves are letting off substantial amounts of methane, which is more detrimental to the environment that carbon dioxide (86 times more detrimental to be exact), and when all is said and done and the animals are ready to die, there's all the emissions involved with transport and processing (51% of the world's emissions are from livestock and their byproducts). And that's not even touching on the fishing industry, which alone is responsible for 20% of the plastic in the ocean!

Once I started opening my eyes to the environmental effects my food choices caused, it was pretty much impossible not to do something about it. I started small, just learning about being vegan and what kinds of experiences different people had going vegan. Like I said in my May highlights post, YouTube was invaluable for this. There are several YouTubers that I listed so be sure to check those out here. At the same time, I started trying some vegan recipes. Minimalist Baker made it super simple to dip my toes into the vegan waters because their recipes are all really easy and really tasty. They've got a YouTube channel, blog and several cookbooks, both printed and ebooks -- I highly recommend them all!

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I've got quite a bit left on my vegan/plant-based eating game plan. Right now I'm just incidentally eating vegan meals, but going forward I want to make more of a structured plan. I might try eating at least 2 out 3 vegan meals each day, or eating vegan on the weekdays, etc. I know that having a goal will help me stay on track and make slow progress. Continuing to learn more about the effects of eating animal products is also important to me. As you know, I love to read so I'll be hitting up the library for some books. There are also several documentaries I'm interested in watching, even if I know they'll be hard for me to watch. Here's what I've got on my to read/watch/listen list currently:

I've got a long way to go, but I'm proud of the changes I've made so far. I am excited to continue down this path. If any of you are already vegan or vegetarian, or are considering making the change, please reach out because I'd love to hear about your experiences! And thanks for reading this behemoth post all the way through! Time to get started on one of those documentaries...
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