When I was four years old, my mother decided that she didn’t want to cook meat anymore because she loved animals too much. She didn’t understand why it was accepted to eat cows, pigs, and chickens but not other animals—after all, weren’t they just as worthy of their lives? After some deliberation, she stopped purchasing and preparing meat. My father, my brother, and I followed suit since she was the cook of the family, and we never looked back.
It wasn’t easy being a vegetarian in Northern Illinois in the 1980s, that’s for sure! Easily-accessible substitute brands like Morningstar Farms or Tofurky weren’t mainstream yet, so we frequented co-ops, health food stores, and specialty supermarkets to get the items we needed. It was tough, but we stuck to our beliefs and moved forward.
However, after nearly twenty-four years of devoted vegetarianism, I recently chose to take the vegan plunge once and for all (I tried veganism once before and failed after a year). Veganism was always in the back of my mind but I was never motivated enough to cut out all dairy and animal products from my diet. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the pain and suffering of animals; it was nothing more than laziness. I kept thinking: “Gosh, I really want to go vegan, but it’s just so hard!” or “I don’t know if I could ever stop eating cheese.” Looking back on it, I was sort of selfish.
I didn’t decide to go vegan because I wanted to cleanse myself, lose weight, or reduce my carbon footprint (although, those are all extremely valid reasons). I decided to go vegan because of my love for animals. I’ve always felt unsettled that my money still supported the inhumane and horrifying practices of the meat and dairy industries, and I got to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore. So, one night at my favorite coffee shop, I told myself to stop whining about the reasons not to do it and start acting on the reasons to do it. I promptly set a start date, made an announcement to my family, and jumped…and I’ve been exceedingly happy with the results!
Surprisingly, I have faced little opposition about my dietary restrictions so far. Other than the occasional “What do you eat, then?” or “You eat fish, right?” questions, people have been rather accepting. It’s unfortunate, but many people believe that all vegans are on a mission to convert omnivores at every turn. As much as I’d like for everyone in the world to be vegan, I realize that’s an impossible task and so I don’t waste my time arguing with people who are already set in their ways. I’m always happy to explain my reasoning if people ask, but I get defensive if people accuse me of having a holier-than-thou attitude. That couldn’t be further from the truth. People are free to live their lives just as I’m free to live mine…all I can do is state my case and move on! As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
There are plenty of heart-wrenching videos I could suggest in favor of a vegan lifestyle, but many of them are so graphic that I don’t feel comfortable listing them here. However, if you’re interested in doing some research on veganism—whether because of animals, your health, or your desire to go green—I’d recommend starting with Vegan Outreach.
Do you have any questions about veganism or about my story? Fire away!
Jill Tooley is the Content Marketing Manager and Social Media Manager for a top-notch online promotional products distributor, Quality Logo Products. She also manages and writes for QLP’s marketing blog.
Editor’s note: If you are thinking of taking the first steps, consider reading why I went vegetarian. I am leaning towards veganism since I eat very little dairy or eggs.
- Have you thought of becoming a vegetarian or vegan? If so, why?
- Are you a vegan or vegetarian and how did it change your life?
- What are your favorite vegan cooking dishes? (Okay, sweets always counts!)