I’ve been vegan for about a year. I know that veganism is very trendy now, but many people still don’t understand what it is and why people do it. So I’ll share my story, my reasons and what I think about it.
What does it mean?
Vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan….what do all of these words mean? I’ll explain them below because I know there’s a lot of confusion about the terms. And frankly, I didn’t understand most of them either 2 years ago. So here’s what each of this means. If you already know this, feel free to skip ahead to the next section!
The “normal” diet includes vegetables, fruit, eggs, milk and meat. Basically you eat everything people normally eat.
The pescatarian diet includes vegetables, fruit, eggs, milk and fish. Other types of meat are not included.
The vegetarian diet includes vegetables and fruits, but no meat at all. It can include milk and eggs.
The ovo-lacto vegetarian diet is a vegetarian diet that does include milk and eggs.
The vegan diet includes vegetable and fruits, but excludes all animal products (no milk or eggs, or even honey sometimes).
The raw vegan diet includes vegetables and fruits, but the food is not processed or cooked at high temperatures.
*As far as I know, all diets can also include nuts, raisins, grains, seeds and herbs. When I mention milk, I also mean dairy products like cheese, yogurt and so on.
My story: How I became vegan
I’d like to share how I became vegan, because I think this could be important for what I believe in. Plus, it can help you understand me and my decisions better.
As a child, I was raised by a family that ate everything – including animal products. And so did I because that’s what was natural in my family and in our society in the early 90’s. I was never crazy about meat, but I did like some types of foods that had meat in it.
But when I was a teenager, something changed in me. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what it was. I remember that I started to think I shouldn’t eat meat anymore. I think it was probably because it finally sunk into my mind that meat came from dead animals – this is something that we seem to forget somehow. I started to dislike meat a lot and the smell of it would make me sick to my stomach.
I did not give up meat completely, mainly because my mom always insisted that I have to eat some for my health. I would sometimes eat a bit of fish or chicken. I also liked some processed foods like salami. I enjoyed eating milk, cheese and eggs, but I could have eliminated meat completely – if my mother would have let me.
Interestingly enough, I recently read somewhere that my situation is not unique. There are people who spontaneously start to dislike meat. In some cases they feel so sick when they smell or eat meat that they are forced to become vegetarians.
When I went to college, I moved away from home so my diet changed a bit. I ate even less meat and only if it was processed or cooked by someone else. I never bought and cooked meat for myself since I found it repulsive somehow. And even when someone cooked meat and it tasted good, I only ate a bit. I kept on eating eggs, milk and cheese. I started to discover new varieties of cheese and I loved them – especially Grana Padano, parmesan and mozzarella.
I only became vegan sometime in 2018. It was a slow and natural transition. I was living with my boyfriend, Radu and he previously had a normal, all-inclusive diet. But then he learned more about meat – how damaging it is for the environment, how badly the animals suffer when raised on farms and he decided to stop eating meat. I was really happy because I couldn’t stand the smell while he cooked it anyway. And since I rarely ate meat for several years, giving up meat was the easiest thing for me.
In time, Radu started to learn more about animal farming – the cruelty the animals are subjected to and how many resources we are using for this. And he discovered that even the dairy and egg industry is very cruel and harmful!
We all know that animals are slaughtered for food – that’s how we get the meat. But most of us have no idea how terrible animal agriculture really is. When he discovered this, he wanted to cut back and then eliminate eggs, milk and all dairy products. And this was very hard for me.
I loved milk and cheese and I consumed them every day. I was very reluctant to give up eating cheese – but I couldn’t deny the fact that I was contributing to terrible things just by eating it. I honestly didn’t want to accept this at first. I tried to bargain with myself and with my boyfriend, trying to find a way to make it alright to keep eating cheese. I would often talk to him about it and say “But what if we buy the milk from a company that does not harm their animals? Or what if we get it from a farm? What if it’s not that bad here, in Romania?” and so on.
But the truth is that you don’t really know how badly animals are treated on a farm. Here’s what we do know – those animals are raised in poor conditions against their will and we literally steal their milk to drink it when it should go to their calves. Somehow, this was not obvious to me all those years while drinking milk. Maybe you find this ridiculous, but I think that we are so unaware of what animal agriculture means because we have never been involved in it. All we know is that when we go to the supermarket, the food is there packaged nicely. We don’t see where it came from and how it was produced.
After a few weeks of trying to deny the truth and bargain with my otherwise-strict-and-moral conscience, I have decided to cut back on dairy and give it up too. There was another factor involved too. I was often feeling sick to my stomach. I often felt like throwing up – especially in the morning when I was eating yogurts or drinking coffee with milk. I started to wonder if it could be that the milk and yogurt were making me sick, so I tried to phase them out for 2 weeks and see how I felt. And a few days later, I started to feel much better. This also made it that much easier for me to give up dairy completely.
I know that my story seems to be a straight line with obvious decisions, but it was actually a gradual process. Every time, I gradually removed something from my diet. And becoming vegan is definitely a learning curve. It takes some time to find the foods you can buy that are vegan. In the beginning, we would sometimes buy something with milk or eggs in it out of habit or because we didn’t realize it was not vegan. So we started reading all the labels until we figured out which foods are vegan and which are not.
The same thing applied to restaurants. It’s really easy when you go to a vegan restaurant since you know you can order anything and you’re safe. But in other cases, you have to pay attention. You need to read the menu and ask the waiters if something has animal products or not; sometimes there are some ingredients that may not be listen on the menu. And some foods may or may not contain animal products like pasta, mayo, cakes and so on. Some waiters and restaurants were very accommodating and they could alter their recipes to fit our diet. But when this was not possible or we did not know for sure that something was vegan, we chose something safe like salads, fries, grilled vegetables and so on.
My motivation: Why I became vegan
There are generally 3 reasons why people become vegan: for ethical reasons, for the environment or for their health. It can be any of them or all of them.
In my case, my main reason was for ethics or morality. I am usually a very moral person and I care deeply about doing the right thing – not just for me, but for others and for the planet. So when I discovered that by eating any animal products I contribute to such cruelty and so much pain, the right thing to do what obvious to me. And I decided to act on it. I decided that I do not want to contribute to a life of suffering for so many animals just so I could drink some milk or eat some cheese. I think it’s not worth it.
My boyfriend, Radu, started to cut back on animal products because of the environment. He first learned about the negative impact animal agriculture has on the environment and this motivated him to change his diet. In time, as he learned more about how farm animals were treated, he also acquired the ethical motives.
Other people choose to become vegetarian or vegan for health reasons. Consuming a lot of meat can raise the risk of gaining fat, becoming obese and developing health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some types of cancer. The people who are lactose intolerant obviously avoid milk and dairy, but they may still eat eggs and meat.
Reasons to consider becoming vegan
I think that different people can have different reasons to adopt a vegan diet. But I think most people do not even think about veganism because they are unaware of the problems caused by animal farming. I was very unaware about this too. And I think there is information we can find out there – but we need to know enough to care. This is one of those cases where you need to learn a few facts to understand why you should learn more. And once you do understand you want to educate yourself on these, you will find articles, books and documentaries about the animal farming industry and all its issues.
One of the reasons why I wanted to write this article is precisely this – I wanted to share some basic facts that will probably help you understand why it’s important to read more about this. I’m not trying to convince you to become vegan right now, but I am trying to inform you so that you can make an educated decision.
Did you know that…?
The land used for animal agriculture is equivalent to the area of the Americas?1
70% of all arable land is used for animal agriculture.2
The animal agriculture industry is responsible for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions? This makes it the second most polluting industry.2
Some of the effects of animal agriculture are: 3
- the pollution of soil, water and air because of fertilizers and manure
- some species are driven to extinction because of habitat loss caused for animal agriculture
If we stopped animal agriculture and used the same resources to create food for people, we could solve world hunger.
The animals raised for eggs and meat are often raised in very little or crowded spaces. Sometimes, they are kept in cages that are so small that the animals cannot even move.4
Cows are often artificially inseminated. As soon as a cow gives birth to a calf, they are separated. The calves are often killed so that all the milk can be collected and sold. Then the cow is inseminated again and the process begins again.
The animals raised on industrial farms are subjected to horrible treatment. The reason why most of us have no idea how these animals are treated is that there are laws that prohibit taking pictures or filming on farms.5
Here is a global map that shows the meat supply per person around the world:6
And here you can see a map that shows how much land we would need for agriculture if everybody on the planet would adopt the average diet of certain countries. You can see that it would be impossible to feed everyone if we all had the diet of people from countries such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, France.7
I know that most people consider eating animal products perfectly normal. And the frequency of consumption and type of animals consumed depends on where you live and your family traditions. When we were children, we did not have a choice but to adopt the habits of the people around us. We did not think we should question them. And I understand that because our brains like it when we accept the things we already believe. I think this is why sometimes we do not stop to ask ourselves why do we what we do.
But I think we, as adults, have the freedom and responsibility to frequently reassess what we think and why. We can look for the current information and scientific data we have to make better and educated decisions.
If you are curious what is the difference between different types of diets based on energy consumed and CO2 emissions, here’s a graphic that shows that. This was made by my boyfriend, Radu Antoniu. He is currently doing research for a big documentary on pollution, climate change and the transition to sustainable energy. I’m sharing it here with his permission.
I wanted to share scientific information in this article because that’s the only thing we can trust. If I tell you that something is good or bad, you cannot know if I’m right or not. But data and graphical representations of data such as this one cannot be denied.
I also know that sometimes it’s hard to change our habits – even when we know what is the right thing to do. And it will take some time before there will be a big shift in society and more people will become vegans. But I have noticed that this change is happening. More and more people are talking about this.
For example here’s a video of an adorable 5-year-old girl who talks to her mother about not eating meat:
I don’t think we would have seen such videos 10 years ago. And I find it extremely weird, but also normal, that we often seem to fail to acknowledge that, as the little girl said, we are cooking animals in the oven!
A few things to reflect on
We engage in cognitive dissonance and the manipulation of facts and memories so much that we often fail to recognize that this is happening. But I think we should challenge our views – even if it takes some effort and it makes us feel uncomfortable. Otherwise, we cannot really call ourselves Homo Sapiens or Wise Man. So let me ask you a serious of thought-provoking questions that will help you analyze some of your beliefs and habits. This may help you break free of the beliefs that were passed on to you and it will give you the freedom to know yourself better and refine your belief system. Please read these questions and reflect on some of them – even if just for a minute. It’s a good exercise for self-awareness.
Why do you think it is normal to eat meat? Can you answer with something else than “That was normal in my family/society”?
What do you think about the people who are vegan or vegetarians?
Do you have any pets?
Do you love animals?
If you do love animals, why do you eat some of them?
Why is it normal to eat pork, but it is not normal to eat dog or cat meat?
If you can raise a pig or a cow and then slaughter and eat it, why won’t you do the same with your cat or dog?
If you had to kill an animal every time you want to eat meat, would you do it? Would you kill a pig yourself and pull out his organs and cut down his fat and cook it?
Humans ate meat probably since the species appeared. But back then, they did not have all the options that we do. They couldn’t go into a supermarket where there is an entire section of delicious vegan food that you can just buy and consume. So do you think it is still necessary for us to eat meat?
What good reason do you have that could justify raising animals in cages they cannot move in, being separated from their cubs immediately after birth, raising them in fear and doing things that can be considered torture and then mercilessly killed?
Do you think you are a good person? If you do, how can you reconcile eating meat and animal products with your morality?
How do you feel about the fact that the food we grow for the animals we eat could feed every hungry person on the planet and we could eliminate world hunger?
What reason could you find against veganism and in favour of eating meat, dairy and eggs?
I know that these questions are challenging and not easy to answer. I know that some of you probably skipped over them. Some maybe ended reading the article to avoid those questions. I get that – it’s hard to confront your beliefs. It takes a lot of self-awareness, resilience and maturity. So if you’ve read all the questions and thought about your answers, congratulations! I have a lot of respect for you.
I wondered whether I should add these questions or leave them out. I know that we get defensive when someone asks us to challenge what we think is normal or right. But then I realized that I wouldn’t really be me if I wouldn’t sometimes ask good meaningful questions.
My intention when writing this article was not to force you to choose veganism right now. Not at all. My only desire was to provide with some facts that put things in perspective. I also wanted to share my story to show that being vegan can be a gradual transition – this makes it easier. And, to be honest, I also wanted to challenge you and shake up some of those ingrained beliefs that we often take from our family without any questions or thought. I wanted to put you face to face with the truth you cannot deny. I wanted to encourage you to engage in an act of reflection that can foster growth. I wanted to give you the chance to see things as they are if you put them in perspective so that you can make a more educated choice now.
I am perfectly aware that you will decide what to do and I don’t really have any power over that decision. But I think that once good people really think about the problems of animal agriculture and animal cruelty, they cannot deny how terrible it is. If you are a good, moral person, I am sure that you realize the big problems of animal agriculture. And I hope you will think about this for a while. In time, you may decide to cut back on meat or dairy. In time, you may want to become vegan. Or you won’t. But I think every person who is moral and self-aware eventually chooses either to reduce or to eliminate animal products from their diet. Some will engage in complicated delusions to convince themselves they don’t have to. I hope you won’t be one of them.
We are each of us largely responsible for what gets put in to our brains. For what as adults we wind up caring for and knowing about. No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain we can change ourselves.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Whatever you decide to do, I am glad you took the time to read my article. I am glad you gave me a chance to share my story and my perspective. I hope you won’t ignore the issues I raised here. I rarely talk about veganism because I do not want to seem pushy or dogmatic. But it is a topic I am passionate about. And I do want to encourage everyone reading this to consume less meat or become vegan.
I know that becoming vegan may not be easy for some. And I’m not sure if this is the “perfect” diet. But I believe it is the right diet.
I would love to hear your opinion too! What do you think about this? Do you have any questions about veganism? Are you vegan or have you thought about giving this a try?