This is always the first question I get asked by people when they hear I’m vegan. I don’t mind it as long as people don’t use it as an opportunity to talk shit and try and make me feel bad. It’s happened a lot but I always try and think that I was once in their shoes. But I’ll discuss that more in a bit.
First, let me start off this by clarifying that vegan and plant-based are not the same and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Veganism is a lifestyle where you do not eat or use animal products. It also extends into not supporting businesses that test on or exploit animals for entertainment. While it is very difficult to live a life without harming animals in some way, it is still worth it to vegans to try and live their life that way. Now plant-based is just a diet. Of course plant-based falls under the vegan umbrella since there is no consumption of animal products but it ends at that: diet. I’ll include a link at the bottom for anyone who’s wants more details on this but on to my story.
I grew up in a Puerto Rican household where most of our dinners contained meat and breakfast was not breakfast if there weren’t eggs. I loved it all: meat, cheese and eggs. And being from the Bronx, NY, the best fucking breakfast of all was the bacon, egg and cheese on a roll. And I was that person who thought vegans and vegetarians were crazy. So when my cousin became vegetarian, I shook my head in disbelief, and I felt bad for her. Why would anyone deprive themselves of such wonderful food? And if you had told me then that I would be vegan years later, I probably would’ve told you to fuck off, then I’d eat a cheeseburger. So why the hell did I go vegan?
Simply put, I went vegan for ethical reasons.
It started in December 2012, when I went vegetarian. One night, I was preparing dinner, which included chicken legs, and one of the legs was broken. Did this chicken break its leg trying to escape from its horrible fate? Probably not, but I thought of how scared it must have been, crammed into a cage with so many other chickens destined to die and wind up on someone’s plate. I started to realize that this leg was a part of a living thing. A being with the same desire to live as I do. And I teared up at the thought as I continued to prepare dinner.
Usually when I had these thoughts, I would quickly push them aside. Meat tasted too good to worry about it. But I couldn’t shake that damned broken chicken leg. And of course later on, we were watching a movie and in one of the scenes, the character was walking through Chinatown and passed a barrel of frogs. I’d passed one of these same barrels as a teenager shopping in Chinatown, watching many frogs trying to leap out and hop away but that never happened. I looked at my husband and I asked him “what would you think if I became vegetarian?” And he told me “I don’t care what you eat or what you don’t eat, but don’t expect me to go vegetarian, that will never happen.” He went vegetarian for a year, a few years after this conversation but that’s another topic to discuss later.
That night I text my cousin, the same one who I gave shit to for being vegetarian years before, and told her I was thinking of becoming a vegetarian myself. She was so supportive and I leaned on her and continue to lean on her throughout my journey. (I love you boo!) I quit meat cold turkey and for me it was easy, I really don’t miss it. I believed then and now that killing an animal for my own pleasure and convenience is not a way I want to live.
But I had no intention of becoming vegan. I thought it was too extreme and too difficult to even try. So for the next few months, I was happily a vegetarian. Of course all my family and friends gave me shit for it but I knew I was doing the right thing for me so that’s all that mattered. In April of 2013, I was looking up recipes and I came across a tofu recipe that was prepared vegan and it seemed simple enough. Then I thought: if I care about the lives of animals, then that naturally extends to veganism. I was still contributing to animal suffering by drinking milk and eating eggs and cheese.
So I started to do my research on how to become vegan. I learned A LOT and realized that there are so many things that I was eating that have animal products. Like some brands of salt and vinegar chips have milk in them. Seriously, why the fuck is there milk powder in salt and vinegar chips?! Anyway, I first stopped drinking milk and eating eggs and cheese, but it took longer to find products that didn’t contain animal fat and other by-products. But I did it, I’ve had a few instances where I ate something that I didn’t know had milk or some other animal ingredient in it. And I recently had a super drunk night out with the hubbs where I ate pizza. But other than that, I shouldn’t have any visits from the vegan police.
I’m coming up on my sixth veganniversary this April and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Becoming vegan has been such an incredible adventure for me. Discovering new foods that I would have never tried if I was still eating meat. The shit I get from people just comes with the territory. And while many people think being a vegan makes me soft or weak, I think otherwise. I believe it takes a lot of courage to go against the grain and to stand up for what you believe in. Being vegan is my choice, one that I made happily. And the only regret I have with being vegan is that I didn’t do it sooner.
And for any of you who are interested in learning about becoming vegan, I’ll include some links at the bottom.