By the time I finally made the switch from vegetarian to vegan, I had been vegetarian for two years. I was always the person who thought they could neverrrrr give up meat, and then I did it. I also always thought I could neverrrr give up dairy, eggs, or any other animal byproducts and that being vegetarian was enough; and then I did it.
It wasn’t until I took another environmental class at Oregon State University in which we watched the documentary Vegucated that I finally decided to quit half-assing my veg life and go full vegan. The documentary basically takes 3 people and asks them to volunteer to go vegan for six weeks. The volunteers wanted to try it because they wanted to lose weight, look good, and feel healthy. Little did they (and I) know what they would learn during this journey would change my life forever.
You can watch the documentary here, if you feel so inclined:
But here are my main takeaways:
In the past 50 years, the world’s demand for meat has increased five-fold. Causing farmers to move from small family farms to huge factory farms to compete in the marketplace. Which means treating animals like machines.
Today, dairy cows are forced to produce 340% more milk than they would have in 1950. Cows won’t produce milk until they give birth, so they are constantly artificially inseminated and their babies are taken away within 48 hours after birth so that humans can take the cow’s milk.
Pigs are very intelligent and social animals. A mother pig spends most of her life in confinement and her babies are taken away from her within about 10 days. They then have their tails clipped and often contract infections because of the horrible conditions they live in.
A typical male egg type chicken is sorted from females and considered useless when born because they won’t produce eggs or grow big enough to be meat. They are typically killed by being ground up or even thrown away in plastic bags.
A female chick will become an egg laying hen. She is crammed into a tiny wired cage and since she shares her space with another chicken, a third of her beak is seared off in order to not peck her to death. If one chicken dies, the other just lives with the dead body in the cage.
All of these practices are considered legal because they are “common” practices under farming exemptions as animals used for food are not covered under the federal animal welfare act.
The volunteer vegans are shown these practices in the documentary and asked all the same questions I was asking myself. But most importantly, “How did I not know about this?”
I had educated myself on the meat industry but I never realized how much more suffering I was causing with my decision to eat and drink animal byproducts including eggs and dairy.
From that day I went and had my first intentional vegan meal. I walked straight from class over to Chipotle and ordered everything I normally would as a vegetarian: veggie fajita bowl with no cheese and no sour cream. I thought to myself, “Wow, how easy was that?”
Now at the time, it was easier to cut out dairy from my life than eggs. I was working on a farm as an office manager and the farm owner had her own chickens and would give me the eggs they produced. I figured, I see these chickens, and they are happy. I didn’t feel as bad getting those eggs.
But when I moved home from school and didn’t work on the farm anymore, I knew I couldn’t trust the “free-range” and “organic” practices of chicken egg farms after what I had seen in Vegucated.
My point in telling you about the slow process of giving up eggs is that veganism is a journey. Anyone who judges you for taking small steps towards veganism isn’t seeing the big picture. Deciding to go vegan is a huge decision, I totally get how it seems like such a foreign and extreme concept to most people. It basically throws everything you know about your eating habits out the window and forces you to really take a look at what you’re doing to animals, and it can be very uncomfortable.
I encourage you, if you are curious about making the change, to do it YOUR way. I didn’t do it overnight and I don’t think it’s any less admirable for taking steps towards full veganism. Any conscious effort you make towards consuming less animals and animal byproducts is a win for the animals in my book. Do what you can, make the switch when it feels right, and know that you are doing a lot better than you were just by becoming more aware and making an effort.
Wherever you are in your vegan journey, I am here to support you! Please reach out if you ever have any questions or need encouragement. I know I wish I had more people willing to talk to me about veganism when I first started out, so I really do want you to reach out if you need to talk about making the change!
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi