OK, big shocker, guys: my main motivation for going vegan is the … environmental impact that the meat and dairy industry has on our planet. I’ll give y’all a moment to recover from all that surprise.
Every vegan has their own motivation, usually a blend of concerns (the big three are animal welfare, the environment, and health) but there is no wrong reason to go vegan if you’re motivated by it.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, health alone wouldn’t have kept me personally vegan. That said, the vast majority of people going vegan can expect great health benefits. Learning to thrive while managing my health concerns is a challenge. This is a process and I’m very much still in the thick of it. Furthermore, while I exercise daily, meditate, don’t smoke, and generally eat a whole foods plant-based diet, I’m quite pleased to choose pleasure over health from time to time. So, if I were only vegan for the health benefits, I could see me dropping off the wagon to go for a bowl of ice cream or some brie and baguette.
The animal welfare thing. It’s sad how long I was able to keep blinders on about the dairy industry and believe that if I wasn’t eating meat (I haven’t for about 15 years), I wasn’t part of the problem. I even bought leather hiking boots! I figured there must be humane ways for humans and other animals to partner for mutual gain. And I willfully left it at that. While seeing the torture and slaughter of our fellow animals face to face can’t be argued with, I think humans have an amazing capacity to rationalize, suppress, and avoid guilt. I face this even while I am convinced by the arguments behind veganism.
I’m kind of a monster that way. I hope that by going vegan, I will grow my compassion. I greatly respect those vegans that find animal welfare all the reason they need.
Why the Animal Welfare Motivation is SO Important:
This all said, I think that there is only one motivation that can hold itself up alone. Think about it.
I already explained how a cheat day could lead to consuming animal products if health is your only motivation. Plus, if you have trouble finding a good, balanced way of eating, a desire for health may lead you on to try other diets.
If you’re motivated for only environmental reasons, how do you turn down a block of cheese or a left-over bag of non-vegan chips after a party? Someone else bought it, the damage is done, it was already sent home with you, should you eat it or throw it in a landfill? And I have found many cases like this. How about the leather belt at the Salvation Army? The friend who raises her own bees or gifts you with a wool sweater? It gets murkier and murkier.
If you’re not chiefly motivated by animal welfare, like I’m not, I believe the best thing you can do is to make it a motivation. Please enjoy your own motivation, it’s what makes this movement diverse and beautiful, just also adopt deep feeling for animal welfare.
How To Manufacture A Motivation
I couldn’t eat meat if I wanted to now. I don’t see a steak, I see a dead carcass. If someone sent a left over steak home with me after they had paid for it, I would see if my husband wanted it or feed it to my cat.
This came with time, when I went vegetarian initially, I still viewed chicken nuggets as food, sausage and pepperoni were once vices.
The problem with being newly vegan is that we don’t have time on our side. We haven’t started to see honey as bee vomit, the calf behind the breast milk, the chicken period on the frying pan. To make it more difficult, animal products can be hidden ingredients, much more difficult to suss out. The muffin we face appears only to be a delicious treat, not the product of suffering.
So, for some of us, it may mean being a little artificial. Here are a few ideas to manufacture disgust:
- Call an animal product what it is. Pig carcass? I’ll pass. Hen period? No thanks!
- Educate yourself on animal welfare. Watch undercover footage. It’s difficult to argue with suffering.
- Find alternatives you feel good about. Blended frozen bananas can make a great, versatile ice cream substitute in an area that doesn’t sell vegan products. Tell yourself about how you avoided harming a mother and baby while you enjoy your treat.
Here are some more general tips for going vegan:
- I find it motivating to count the days. If I’ve gone 4 days, I want to make it 5 vegan days. It’s more important than trying an animal-based offering, but this might not work for everyone, I’m self-competitive.
- Avoid temptation. Get the animal products out of the house. (This is easier when you live alone!)
- Tell people you’re vegan. You’ll feel pressure to stay vegan.
- Do some kind of vegan challenge and go public with it (like this one I’m doing).
- Travel prepared (have a snack with you or eat before socializing to avoid temptation based on hunger)
I find being vegan for the environment generally convincing and very motivating. But as I said, it isn’t necessarily enough of a motivation. Sometimes, I feel it may be better to consume a product rather than waste it. Then, I’ve lost my momentum. It isn’t day 40 of being vegan, it’s day 1. And it’s easier to excuse more. And any time I seem to accept a non-vegan product, I tell my friends and family that it’s OK to give me more.
So going forward, I will just say “no”. Offer an alternative.
“Oh, love, you brought home those left-over cheese-laced chips? Why don’t you store those in your car to add to your lunches?”
“I love that you thought of me, friend, but I’m trying to declutter my closet and that wool sweater doesn’t fit into my sense of self.”
I have to draw on the motivation of animal welfare to make it non-negotiable. To make “no” a firm, unwavering practice. I need to learn to see the products for what they are, what went into them. To make the practice of their use unacceptable.
Then, I need to draw on my creativity for finding an alternative solution.
Until next time, keep that talk walking!