When I was younger I had a small inkling towards vegetarianism. Every night at dinner, I would eat the meat my mother so graciously cooked for us and wonder, “Why? Why am I eating this animal right now?” I was uncomfortable with the idea. A few years later I gradually began voicing my disturbance with it, which was, of course, met with confusion. “This is what we eat. This is how we live.” Utterances of pure habit. When I was that young I had no idea the kind of change one could perpetuate with their eating habits. I knew people were vegetarians, but I was completely ignorant to the social revolution that was occurring right in my midst. My favorite food was chicken. Healthy, no. Appetizing to me, well so I thought, yes. As I matured and grew more and more educated, I got into the health scene. I cut out foods one by one, first fast food, then pop, and so on. Eventually I became obsessed with looking up health information and my scrutiny of each individual ingredient led me to exile each food I formerly had eaten. It would be easier to write a list of foods I will willingly eat, rather than the looong list of ones I won’t. This is me today. A health-obsessed, fitness freak, who has also sworn off meat and animal products. I am a vegan. Upon this retrospection I see that this road to veganism has been a long one. I have completely transformed my way of eating and living by myself, through my knowledge, led by my passion to be healthy and ethical at the same time. The first time I seriously considered being a vegetarian was about a year ago. My best friend had recently gone vegetarian, and all around me, I was hearing great things about the lifestyle. I considered it more and more, using my beloved Google to answer questions I had had in my head for years. I started to see the possibility, my ability to change myself. I could do it, I could ultimately change a big part of my daily behavior. I had done it before when I evolved into a health nut and I could certainly do it again. Giving up these things to me was hardly a matter of my taste for them, but rather a matter of rejecting the ideals I had been fed (excuse the pun) my entire life: by culture, by my peers, and my family. To many people it was a more subtle, “F*** you!” which is of course the farthest thing from my actual message. When I formulated my arguments I referenced the health and the ethical. The health argument originally became planted in my mind from one particularly life-changing video we happened to watch in my Food and Nutrition class. It was a documentary about people trying to lose weight and turn their health around called “Forks Over Knives”. It emphasized a whole foods plant-based diet (the fork representing immediate gratification, versus the effortful knife needed to cut a thick steak). The information was presented: every country with the highest intake of animal products has the highest fatality rates due to cancer, heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It is a direct correlation. The documentary was shocking. My proof was there. It was the final nudge from some celestial being to step away from meat, to swear off the cow for good. It wasn’t difficult. Besides reading labels more intently (which I had already been doing) and dealing with others’ nagging comments, it seemed a breeze. I felt good, knowing that I was doing something good. I wasn’t exactly sure yet how, but I was doing something good.
My ethical reasoning wasn’t quite solidified yet. I was getting there though. Ever since I first devoted to vegetarianism, which was less than a year ago, I have been formulating my thoughts on this. The Internet has helped a lot. Without it, I wouldn’t know the statistics, the facts behind the cruelty of meat eating, or the disturbing images in my mind of that cruelty being executed. I have gotten here. I have made it. There have been a few health scares, yes, including one night at work where I barely drove home safely because my body was overtaken with numbness and tingling. A vitamin deficiency? I can handle it. The harsh criticism of others? Sure, I can take it. People are ignorant, confused, brainwashed by the American belief system of “Eat the cow, be strong like him,” all the while forgetting that the cow eats grass (well the lucky ones get to). I am here. I am at this point where I know exactly why I am doing this. I have had a complete mental revolution, and what a glorious event to take place right at this time in my life. I will be going off to college in a few months, and here I am, the new Sarah, the new social revolutionary, the compassionate, ethical vegan.
I will always stand up for animals. I have come to recognize myself as the voice for them. I am an advocate of compassion, as I have always been. I do not support violence towards humans. I would not kick my dog. So I do not support the same sort of violence towards a different sort of species. I see no difference between the black man and the white man and the woman and the child, so I in the same way see no difference between the cow and the pig and the dog and the bird and the human. I am spiritual. I see the abiding soul in us all, the thread that makes us one in the same. I am not a dictator. I do not assert my superiority and authority as a human. I do not retain any rights that animals do not. The earth is all our home and I will not abuse my place on it. I can perpetuate change. I have already done so just by making the leap to vegetarian, and then to vegan. Anyone who is already a vegetarian is a simple step away from being a vegan. It is all the more simple when you realize dairy cows are treated as badly as beef cows, and that veganism operates on the same principles as vegetarianism but in their entirety. I do not steal, and therefore I do not wish to take anything from another living creature. I have my reasons. I stand firmly on my devotion to this. I will tell others my reasons if they question my lifestyle, but their comments are mere static in my mind. Any voice but the voice of compassion is reduced to pure silence. I am an ethical vegan. I can still grow, and change, and become more educated but this is one thing I vow to stay the same. I am imperfect. I might have jumped into this whole thing pretty quickly, but I have realized my bravery. I am strong and when I make up my mind about something, there are no questions asked. With moral issues, I see no blurred lines. There is the right and there is the wrong. As much as I am proud of my change, I do not wish to celebrate myself but to celebrate veganism. The fact that there are devotees to it all over the world is the hope that we need, the proof that a different world is on its way. It may be several years down the line, but I can see it. I can see a society that asks and tells, one with an educated public who does not so readily buy into hidden evils. Education is the key, and the more we use our voices to spread this message, the more we can educate each other and ignite something in even the most stubborn of people. This is not an us versus them. We are all one. I too used to be stuck in a mindset, not my mindset, but the one handed to me, the one forced down my throat, and the one many of us so readily accept. You never really know the glorious benefits that can arise from expanding your mind until you take the first step to do it.
There are many things I am still blind to. People everywhere suffer in unimaginable ways, and I am ignorant to these facts. But I am a seeker. I seek the opportunity to help others. It began with my silent vow to vegetarianism in the city of Sterling Heights, Michigan, and it will expand to the far lengths of the world. This isn’t just for animals, for a certain group of people, or for a certain community. This compassion is for everything we can visibly pinpoint, and even the things we cannot. I have been lucky enough to have an existence, and I will work to make it as vibrant as it could be. There is work in this. To implement the thoughts in your head to the world around you is not a simple thing. I cannot even begin to fathom the days and ways in which I will pledge myself to good. Just as I was as a child, I am unknowing of the causes in my future. But I have a taste for them. I am curious. I vow to expand my mind and fulfill a life of goodness. I have yet to make my difference in veganism, but I have taken the first step. I have passion and devotion. I am young, and I have years ahead of me to evolve and evolve my message. I feel really, really good about the life ahead of me, and yes, a huge part of this is my veganism. Heck, if I can do this, if I can put aside myself enough to advocate for the well-being of animals, what can’t I do? What can’t I advocate for? We all too easily sell ourselves short and limit our goals. There should not be limits. If it were up to me, everyone would be vegan and we would divide off a certain part of land, maybe a state or two (something obscure like Iowa) to house our beloved animals. But that’s utopia speak. (Plus, the protein bar aisle would be way, way more crowded.) This difference of opinions and thoughts and lifestyles is a good thing. It creates the mere possibility of change. And if we can change our thoughts, we have mastered the hard part, and we are fully capable of changing the world.
Veganism has led me to something else besides PETA’s website and the closest Whole Foods. It has led to more growth than just my Internet bookmarks and the amount I spend on groceries. The change has been less significantly on my plate and more remarkably in me. Idealism is a beautiful thing. Having compassion towards just one cause can expand your horizons in a limitless way. I challenge you all to take the first step. Educate yourselves, seek what is seeking you, and always, always pursue the good in the world. It is within you, it is within me, and it is most certainly alive in this world. By working to keep it alive, we can expand the world just as much as we can expand ourselves. A revolution in the mind, a revolution in the soul, and a revolution for the world.