Vegan-ism for us means compassion. Living our life with Compassion towards sentient living beings, animal or non animal, by trying to eliminate or reduce action on our part that could lead to pain, suffering, unnatural life, slaughter/death of another sentient being. For us, It also extends to love for the planet, knowing where the food comes from, how our actions in terms of food or otherwise affect other living beings, human and non human.
In terms of diet, a Vegan, pronounced as Vee-gan, does not consume any animals or animal products including meat, milk, eggs, dairy, honey. If you are wondering what vegans eat, check out some popular recipes here.
Our Vegan Story – Why Am I Vegan
I started blogging about life post surgery and also personal opinions about things at Hypnagogic, then food blogging here at Vegan Richa, which was hobbyandmore then, and blogging about Dogs, adoption, fostering, rescue, connecting with rescues on social media, participating in fund raising and generally trying to find out anything that I could do to help save death row dogs. We adopted Chewie in 2008 from a rescue and then eventually started fostering in 2009.
I was blogging to keep me occupied and as I could work in the kitchen longer and on the machine longer, I picked up bread baking and then slowly kept branching out into other experiments. Because of the health issues, balance, vertigo, ups and downs, anxiety and such, my short term memory around the downs usually isnt great. So there are gaps where I don’t remember things clearly.
As I got more involved in rescue groups on Facebook, found out more and more about animal testing etc, I also happened upon the term Vegan, vegan food blogs, and slowly all the connections started happening in my head. We went through a few months of eliminating things the house to non animal tested products, no meat, switching to pasture fed local cow milk, cage free eggs and the usual transition phase.
I dont really remember the exact day or month or exactly how I ended up on vegan facebook groups and reading more and more vegan food blogs. Things just started falling into place. Adopting Chewie helped us make a deeper connection with other species and fostering brought us closer to the reality of how animals are treated for commercial use. One of our foster pups, Tuggie, was from a Puppy mill(dog factory farm). He was skin and bones, super scared of everything and never responded to anything. and he was the better of the lot of 30 odd pups rescued. It took him 3 weeks to show any emotion, to wag a tail, to show that he was happy about getting food or going for a walk. His condition both physical and mental also helped us understand the torture that is needed to change an animal’s personality so much. It was heartbreaking.
I had a health setback in 2010, but once I was back blogging food and reading more about the dairy and egg industry and the supposed “humane” practices, I just knew, that I couldnt live with all the cruelty anymore. And then began our diet transition.
I did not watch many videos, the articles and pictures were enough to affect me. And late 2010 to mid 2011, I kept eliminating a few things, finding good subs that worked for both me and hubbs and also started reading more to find answers to my own questions as a new vegan.
I would discuss some articles with hubbs and he agreed with some things and did not with some. He watched documentaries like Forks over Knives, read books like Eating animals, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pig and wear Cows and was finding reason that worked for him. Facts about the environment, statistics and generally the bigger picture affecting the world, planet and so on.
Though he was eating vegan at home and mostly so at work. He would still slip some days. That slipping frustrated me. I know his personality and if there is something he isnt completely following through with, then he is not convinced about it. As JL says on her post about living with an Omnivore husband, you cannot “make” anyone vegan. They have to come to it for their own profound reasons. If they just do it for someone, then they are less likely to fully believe in and stick to it.
I was trying to get him to watch Earthlings in his busy schedule, and it kept getting postponed.
One day, I was very upset because I saw pictures of some animals being skinned alive. So we had a discussion about how cruel humans can be to torture another living being for something as frivolous as fur for fashion. He was not reciprocating my sentiments, so I gave him this link to watch and decide for himself. No, I did not tie him down, to make him watch the video. I gave him a warning about the content.
So he clicks it and watches most of it and that was that. That was the somewhat turning point. He couldn’t sleep properly for a few days and was generally upset. I think it affected him so much because he could associate with the animals much better because they were all fluffy like Chewie. Hubbs grew up without any contact with animals/dogs/pets or connecting with them on any level. Not everyone can associate with all animals too. Like me with crocodiles or snakes.. I cannot imagine liking them, but I know they are living beings and they can feel like all the other animals. I dont’ understand human babies, but that does not mean I do not understand what might constitute pain and suffering.
So after that week, he diligently started asking about what was in the food when eating out or at work, asking me about ingredients, sauces and dressing contents and reading up more about his own questions. It is more difficult for men who dont cook as much to remember so much about the ingredients and names. But he keeps surprising me every day. There has been no looking back for him as well since then.
Our transition happened in phases during most of which I was not able to do grocery shopping, was not able to make all meals, (hubbs would make breakfasts and also meals some days), because of my balance issues, not being able to stand in the kitchen for long, or energy levels (most days it would be a tenth of a normal person level) or agoraphobia of going far from home, panic disorder caused by ptsd, fear of change etc. I wanted to mention this, because time and energy are one of the top reasons given for not making an effort. If my family (hubbs and me) can change, then so can anyone. It is not super easy, but is not difficult either. We did it at our own pace, slow and steady and always changing and are still changing.
There are always questions and a continuous journey towards incorporating more facets of this lifestyle to cause the least pain and suffering wherever possible. Both of us have questions about something or the other and find answers differently. Leather, palm oil, clothes, furniture, and so on. And there is always an answer that is convincing enough to stick to the choices we make everyday. Some answers and options are just harder to find, but finding one that works in your head and heart is the best.
No one is perfect. We are all on a journey where everyday we can do more. One meal, one product, one opinion, one change, one step at a time.
Why Vegan, FAQs and general questions(work in progress)
There are several reasons why we went vegan. I did so for ethical reasons and my husband for ethical, environmental, health and everything combined.
Animals are sentient, self-aware, and capable of experiencing both pleasure and pain. They deserve our respect and deserve a natural life and freedom.
There is information out there and a choice every person can make to choose less cruelty. And we can do it all without sacrificing taste, habits and pleasure.
It is Cruel:
More than 59 Billion land and sea animals are killed for food every year.
The lives of these animals are nothing short of a hell you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. They animals are mutilated, denied veterinary care, have little to no legal protections and ultimately slaughtered.
It takes 25 minutes to turn a live steer into steak at the modern slaughterhouse. many animals move through the slaughter process kicking and screaming as they are skinned and dismembered while fully conscious. The largest confined animal feeding operations now house up to 100,000 cattle at a single location. At 14-16 months old, the 1,200 pound cattle are rounded up and transported to a slaughterhouse. Considering that they are capable of living 25 years, these animals are essentially adolescents.
The calfs are castrated, branded and dehorned without anesthetic.
Sows kept for breeding are artificially inseminated, then confined for the entire four months of their pregnancy in “gestation crates.” These 2 foot-wide crates are so restrictive that sows can literally never turn around, and can barely lie down without portions of their body protruding outside the bars. (8) Sows lie and stand in these maddening conditions night and day for 16 weeks, panicked, confused, increasingly hopeless, and eventually so depressed that they often become unresponsive. Others go insane from boredom and despair, constantly biting the bars of their crates and banging their heads against the metal doors.
When they are ready to give birth, mother pigs are moved to “farrowing crates” that are also typically 2 ft in width. (10) Piglets can reach their mothers to nurse, but, once again, sows are prevented from ever turning around, and must lie or stand on slatted metal flooring through which their urine and excrement fall. The piglets are again castrated and mutilated without any anesthetic.
The dairy industry is based on the systematic sabotage of mothering. Cows only produce milk to feed their young. Humans are able to consume all the milk and dairy they want (but don’t need) only by keeping cows pregnant and lactating, then taking away the calves for whom the milk is intended. And while it’s common knowledge that humans have no nutritional need for breast milk after infancy, we rarely question the bizarre practice of consuming, into adulthood, the specialized breast milk from mothers of other species—milk that these mothers produce for their own babies, babies we force them to become pregnant with, then cruelly tear from them at birth, so we can drink the devastated mother’s milk
The most “cost-effective” way to extract such an unnaturally high volume of milk from cows is with mechanized milking machines, several times a day over a 10-12 month period. The method and frequency of mechanized milking commonly causes teat lesions and painful mastitis (inflammation of the udder). Clinical mastitis is the most commonly reported health problem in the U.S. dairy industry, responsible for 16.5% of all recorded pre-slaughter dairy cow deaths.
Male calves are deemed useless to the dairy industry. In the US. most male dairy calves become veal, and spend their brief, miserable existence confined or chained in lonely stalls before they are brutally slaughtered for their tender flesh.
In India, the huge dairy demand has made it the largest producer of beef in the world. Annually, more than 2.4 million tonnes of beef (mostly buffalo) is exported, this even after cow slaughter is banned in many states. That means a much larger number of cows die because of starvation or illegal slaughter or leather trade. More than 8 million male calves are slaughtered or left to die a slow death of starvation per year.
Egg and Chicken:
Every year in the U.S. alone, more than 9 billion chickens are killed by humans for food; 450 million of those are chickens killed by the egg industry. That’s 24 million killed every day, 17,000 each minute, or 285 chickens killed every second–just in the U.S. Worldwide, over 50 billion chickens are now being slaughtered every year.
All the hens are subjected to cruel practices like intensive confinement; routine mutilations without painkiller; deprivation of natural behaviors; severe illness and injury left untreated; horrific transport conditions; and slaughter while still very young(45 days when their life expectancy in the wild is about 10 years).
Egg production, like dairy production, begins with the mass slaughter of male babies considered useless to the industry. While female chicks can replace “spent” and slaughtered egg layers, male chicks can not lay eggs and aren’t considered the proper breed for meat. Every year in the U.S., 260 million fuzzy yellow chicks are disposed of by suffocation in large garbage bags, ground up alive in giant machines that work like wood chippers, or sucked through a series of vacuum tubes to an electrified “kill plate.”
It is an environmental disaster:
Raising animals in large numbers for food uses up many of the planets resources. 70% of the grain grown in the US is to feed farm animals. 80% of the Amazon rainforests have been cleared to make pastures. To produce one pound of animal protein vs. one pound of plant protein, it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water.
It is the leading cause of major dietary diseases:
A whole foods Plant based diet has been proven to reverse Diabetes, Heart disease, helps lower the rate of cancer and improve the recovery from it. Deadly diseases like Mad cow and swine flu..all because of animal agriculture.
It is bad for us:
All the hormones, antibiotics and cannibalism (feeding cow parts to cows, pigs parts to pigs), Genetically modified soy, corn and grain fed to the animals, is what we put in our own body.
But humans have been eating meat, dairy etc since ages.
Something that has been accepted for a while does not automatically make it normal or natural.
Some decades ago, enslavement and killing of people was legal. Child marriage and girl child foeticide is still practiced in some parts in India. That does not make them acceptable.
Animals are sentient, self-aware, and capable of experiencing both pleasure and pain. They deserve our respect and deserve a natural life and freedom. It is about their rights to a normal natural life. There is information out there and a choice every person can make to choose less cruelty. And we can do it all without sacrificing taste, habits and pleasure.
How about grass fed, pasture raised, cage-free, Humane slaughter?
The notion of “humane slaughter” is at odds with the physiological reality of concussing, electrocuting, slashing open the veins of, and/or violently decapitating an animal. The idea that one can be “humane” while killing for profit is self-contradictory. A murder is a murder. Whether you shoot someone, or take them to their dream vacation, give them a million bucks and lovingly finish them in their sleep. it is unacceptable.
“Humane” label is a marketing ploy in most cases. See this recent HuffPo article about how the enforcers of the label themselves do not know the rules and the slaughter laws are ignored with impunity. This page for how the loopholes are exploited. and my detailed post here.
Grass fed pasture raised animals are much more costlier to the environment. If we have a grass-fed animal, compared to a corn-fed animal, that’s like adding almost one car to the road for every single animal. Enforcers do not know the rules and there is no way to be sure that the animal was raised within the proper definition of pasture, cage free etc. 98% of all the meat/dairy/eggs in the US come from factory farms. There is excessive Antibiotic use which leads to super bugs. Animals are fed Genetically modified corn and soy. Even if you know your local farmer and know where the animals are coming from, every time you eat out(which probably is not infrequent), you are supporting factory farms.
It is difficult being Vegan.
The transition to the diet initially feels difficult just like any major change in life like moving to a new city, getting married or having a baby. Once you figure the ropes out it feels like something you have been doing forever.
There will always be instances when surrounded by limited options which can be difficult. But the ever increasing demand for vegan options are making those situations easier every year. In the past few years itself, I have seen several restaurants around change their menu to either identify already vegan options or adding some. Several people in different parts of the world are choosing plant based diet with or without easy availability of alternatives.
But I love love cheese and I cannot give it up.
Cheese is a slightly addictive substance, because of the presence of more concentrated casein in it, which gets converted to casomorphins in the body, which have an opiate-like effect.
A smoker loves to smoke, an addict cannot give up his choice addictions. It is called addiction for a reason. Any kind of addiction overshadows logical thinking. It takes 10-12 lbs of milk to make 1 lb of cheese.
Cows are constantly impregnated, their calfs taken away and milk stolen from them by mechanical processes which leave them with very painful udders, all so we can get all the dairy to make cheese. Cows, like human beings, do not produce any “Excess” milk that the calfs do not drink, which can hence be used by humans. (else, their udders might explode because of all that excess milk, right (common discussion argument). Let me see if I can find any lactating human moms whose breasts are exploding or giving them any pain because of the excess milk they produce. Of course there are exceptions based on the situation, but in general with normal milk production and normal consumption by baby, excess production is rare. If it wasnt, we would have a bustling human breast milk industry.)
In India, the huge dairy demand has made it the largest producer of beef in the world. Annually, more than 8 million male calves are slaughtered or left to die a slow death of starvation. that is 15 per minute! Numbers numbers. Believe me, A few weeks of no cheese later, you will run away from the real cheese smell.
What I eat is my personal choice.
What you read, how you do your hair is your personal choice that does not affect anyone else. A child abuser doing the deed is also his personal choice. Something that directly results in torture, pain, suffering and violent death of a living being is also your choice, however unethical it may be. As someone who doesn’t approve of a choice in dressing can give an opinion, so can someone who does not approve of and considers an action unethical.
What about protein, b12 and other nutrients?
There is enough nutrition to go around in the plant world. Because of our modern practices humans cannot absorb Vitamin b12 from plant food and that has to be taken as supplementation and fortified foods. More about b12 here.
Vegans are mean, judgmental, preachy and try to convert other people.
a- It is difficult to imagine the amount of and the kind of information an ethical vegan happens upon. That information is what brings out the compassion and action and helps them transition and continue to choose what they do everyday. That passion can sometimes also lead to strong opinions.
b- A good number of times, it is the other way around. Once someone receives the information given to them by a vegan, the sub conscious can process and understand the cruelty and suffering of animals, and make them feel uncomfortable, and can transfer the discomfort to the other person, the vegan, who is labelled mean, preachy for giving the information. If, as a meat/dairy/egg-eater, being exposed to the facts and reality bothers someone, think about why it does so.
c- Even if a vegan gets worked up and behaves in a non acceptable manner (I am guilty of getting worked up too), Stereotyping is probably the worst thing that can be done to a population or group. All men in hoodies are not out there to mug everyone. All Indian men I encounter are not going to pinch my butt. All Vegans are not mean.
Vegans try to inspire people to find out more about the food choices and make changes, by talking/preaching frequently about it. Equality/ talking about any equal rights movement can also be viewed as imposition of views/preachy. Ethical choice is applicable to anyone whether a participant or not. A sex-offender would also call the laws an imposition of someone else’s views.
We were not born vegan, and everyone comes into the transition at their own pace. What is not nice is all the calling out that happens on social media or sites because of the power of being behind a machine. Be gentle, vegans be gentle to non-vegans, and non-vegans be gentle to the compassionate and sensitive vegan souls too.
But I will have to give up so many delicious things.
We (hubbs and me and several other vegans) did Not “give up” anything. We “substituted” it with alternatives and work to vegan-ize dishes that we know. Some are difficult to veganize, some easy. But delicious food, they all are.
But there is so much to do. change so many things in the diet, and outside diet and then there is eco-friendly, green, child labor free, fair trade, pollution, plastic and all that! I am overwhelmed.
So am I. But as Colleen says.. Dont do Nothing because you cannot do Everything. Do something, anything. and don’t stop at that and call it your comfort zone. Keep doing something. Keep adding something.
One plant based meal, one non animal tested product, one change in buying clothes and things, one plan to recycle. Several things to do, but not on the same day. Lets do just one thing today.
I know everything about how the animals are treated. I just choose to live with it.
This is a tricky one. Most times the person saying this does Not necessarily know enough about how animals are treated. And when you do get into more details, there is a very high chance of being shut out. 99 times out of 100, I have been met with disbelief about male calves and male chicks being slaughtered because they are just a no use by-product of the dairy and egg industry. And more often than not, the information stays with them. The connections might get made some other day.
I cannot associate with animals, hence cannot feel the compassion, hence all this information doesn’t do anything.
I cannot associate with “all” animals too, like alligators, snakes. But I know that each animal species is capable of experiencing a lot of emotions, pleasure and pain at different levels. I can understand the happiness and pain of our adopted companion dog Chewie. I can understand the happiness and pain of my husband and family. I can understand that some of the animals and human babies, that I cannot associate with, feel the same. I can understand that if I had to endure the pain and torture that the animals in the food or other animal exploitation industry go through, I would be distraught, broken, and begging to be freed or killed.
Here are a few videos to get you thinking.
Evolve Campaign video on Why Vegan – Not very Graphic. Its a slide show.
Bite Size Vegans V-logs – mostly verbal.
If you’d really like to know Where the meat, dairy, eggs come from, please see a few videos from this list.
I saw “put in name of a vegan friend or celebrity” knowingly or unknowingly eating or using some animal product. If you cant stick to it when why be Vegan.
No one is perfect and there is no 100% vegan. People can unknowingly or sometimes knowingly under certain circumstances choose to eat or use animal products. That does not mean they are Not Vegan anymore. There is no Bandwagon here, where people can fall off. Veganism is not fundamentalism. It is about the animals. In the bigger picture, if a person is not eating animals, not using animal products or products tested on animals, not wearing animal products, not participating in an act they know causes suffering for animals, and choosing so for 99% (or whatever number around 100, you are comfortable with) of the time, they are Vegan. We are all on a journey, where not everyone knows everything at all times. But we try to know more and make decisions to the best of our abilities. On this journey, everyday we know more and we can do more.
What about Circuses, Zoos, Aquariums, Animals in movies.
Use of animals for entertainment means a life filled with torture. The training always involves abuse, food withholding and an unnatural life. There are several articles and under cover footage of animal abuse in circuses and that is the reason Wild animals use for entertainment is slowly being banned in a lot of countries.
As for Zoos and aquariums, both are mostly for-profit. Animals land or sea, being jailed just so we can see them and bred in captivity so future generations can see them in jail too. A real sanctuary is a place where animals live peacefully in as natural an environment as possible, rehabilitates animals that cannot go back to their natural lifestyle, is non-profit, does not breed animals irrespective of whether the animal is a pig or an endangered species. The goal of a sanctuary is to help animals and not keep them in controlled conditions created by humans for generations. Please watch the recently released documentary Blackfish about the miserable life or sea mammals at Seaworld. There is a reason 8 recording artists have broken their contracts and will not be performing at SeaWorld anymore.
Tips for teenagers living with parents
Talk to your parents about why you are choosing the diet.
– If they are accommodating, then they can make variations of the the same food they eat but veganize it by using things like fake cheese or adding tempeh or fake bacon etc to a portion instead of meat, using oil to saute the vegetables instead of butter and using other subs for dairy, eggs etc in a small portion of the meat.
– if they are not as open to the idea, then you might have to pick up some cooking and learn to make easy meals for yourself. simple pastas, sandwiches and such.
There could be other issues you might be facing as well and the initial transition will take some effort and time like any major change. But it settles down as normal routine after a few months.
Here is a good guide which should cover most of your and your parents questions http://www.guidetoveganliving.org.uk/other-people/teen-vegans-and-non-vegan-parents/
and this video by a teenager who is vegan and lives with his parents also addresses the issues very nicely http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4ONfX6DyXI
How exactly to start the transition to a Vegan Diet.
You can do it whichever way you like, do it Cold Tofu, stop eating all animal products that you know of, or do a gradual transition. We did it gradually and I think it is less overwhelming than figuring everything out in a day.
* Start with a few important/frequently used ingredients at a time. Find the substitutes available. Try all substitutes to find the ones that work for you. Sometimes some subs work in certain recipes while some in other. It is a trial and error process.
* Find vegan versions of some of meals or dishes that you eat frequently. If you dont already cook, pick up on cooking a few. 🙂 It sounds daunting, but with the easy availability of substitutes, ready sauces/dips for pastas or sandwiches, it is simple enough to try. Also keep a list of restaurants with vegan options when experimenting. You shouldn’t need to go hungry.
* It is possible to feel lost because all the vegan jargon and new ingredients. Hello, nutritional yeast, lentils, quinoa, millet etc. Stick to subbing out the meals and ingredients you know and pick up the jargon later.
* Ask food bloggers, ask in vegan forums. Ask about substitutions, about recipes. About anything. Ask about cookbooks which suit your eating style. Ask nicely and everyone will help! Find a mentor in the community who can help you through the transition.
* Keep a supply of snacks or meals with you when travelling or visiting, until you can figure out how to manage travel, or how to manage visiting friends and family who are not vegan.
* Don’t be discouraged by slips, or by people making fun of you, or by people from the vegan community itself judging you for taking so long to transition. for not knowing things etc.
* It takes some time to figure out answers and solutions. No one is perfect. Remember why you chose to be vegan in the first place. Hubbs and me are vegan for the animals. And be it Not getting across to people making me feel low, or people judging me or enticing me or anything, a simple thought of why I have made this choice gets things back on track.
Why vegan posts by bloggers that I like:
Evolve Campaign why Vegan slideshow video (stats)
Phil Wollen Debate (verbal debate)
Forks over Knives (stats and mil graphic)
Ghosts in our machine (graphic)
chinese fur farms (Graphic)
For detailed podcasts and answers to confusing questions see Colleen’s site here.
For other misconceptions and questions see Cadry’s posts here.
There is always information out there, which cannot be accounted for by one individual(me) on one page(this page). This is what I believe in. I have chosen this lifestyle for ethical reasons, to cause as less as possible, death, pain, non natural living conditions, for non human as well as human beings. Health and environment arguments need a lot more research. Please use your own research if you choose these reasons.