My path to becoming vegan began in 1989. I was 30 years old, and I went was starting to feel uneasy about killing animals for food, so I went vegan for animals and my own health. But I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up losing far too much weight, becoming alarmingly thin. At that time there was no internet, and I didn't know where to turn for guidance. Sadly, with additional pressure from friends and family to stop my "extreme" diet, I turned back to sometimes eating animals, but mostly eggs and dairy.
Thankfully for anyone going vegan now there are extensive resources available as reliable guidance. Check out the links in this site to various resources, and visit this page too.
I was predominantly vegetarian for the years that followed up until 2013 when I learned more and went fully vegan, with no intention of stopping now.
During my vegetarian years, I thought since I was no longer eating animals directly, as in meat, that I was doing no harm to animals. I thought no animals were dying to create my food. I was wrong. I now know that eating eggs and dairy results in not only abusive and miserable conditions for animals for their entire lives, but these animals are, in fact, killed after their usefulness is exploited. So being vegetarian is possibly even worse, both for the animals, and as it turns out, for human health as well.
I feel embarrassed now to admit that I assumed cows and goats simply "gave milk." I thought these particular animals were chosen as our milk-givers because for some reason they spontaneously and continuously produced milk. I never had children and didn't know women who were breast-feeding so I just didn't understand it. I was far too old when I realized that cows and goats are mammals, just like humans, and they must get pregnant to develop milk. This means forced insemination, which is a terrible intrusion. Worse, when we take milk from these animals, it means their babies are not receiving it. These babies are killed so we can steal their milk. I would not knowingly, willingly steal milk from babies. And I certainly would not kill a baby to take his/her milk. When I realized I was paying for others to do this for me, I stopped eating dairy. It was the ethical thing to do, and I also realized personal health benefits by getting rid of dairy.
Going vegan for me has been a process of connecting dots. For example, I thought it was okay to use leather because I couldn't stop millions of people from eating animals, so I figured we might as well use their skins efficiently, and not let that part of the animals go to waste. I meant well, in my ignorant way. But normalizing the use of skin from a dead animal perpetuates the idea that animals are here for us to exploit however we please. This is the core tenet of veganism, that no animal is here for us to use, for any purpose.
I grew more interested in nutrition and health. But it took a long time to arrive where I am now at a whole food plant-based no-oil diet. There are many conflicting ideas about what we should eat and why. But after learning that humans are not omnivores, and we are certainly not carnivores, but that we are herbivores, it all started to make sense. In a nutshell we are made to eat a balanced variety of whole plants, not animals. And it goes beyond our own health when we insist on continuing to eat animals. It obviously harms and kills animals, and it is also destroying the environment.
I was raised like most people in my demographic group. I'm a white baby boomer from a working-class family. We grew up on meat-heavy weekend barbeques, homemade ice cream, and our generation as a whole saw the rise of fast food and processed convenience foods, and gobs of cheese dumped all over everything.
One of my first jobs was at a small, family-owned mobile slaughtering service. The company had a single truck driven by the owner who would go to a local family's property where the family raised one or two cows or pigs. One animal at a time would be killed and cut into halves or quarters inside the truck. I never went out on the truck. I worked in the shop, further cutting and packaging the carcass of the animal. I was a teenager, thrilled to have a job at all in a rural area that did not have much to offer in the way of entry level jobs. Killing, cutting, packaging, and eating animals was the cultural norm. I did not think too much about it until I was into my late twenties. Then I tried to be vegan and failed. And then I settled on vegetarianism for a long time. Too long.
I wish when I tried to go vegan at 30, that I knew what I know now about how easy and healthful it is to live a vegan life. The main point is that I wish I had not subjected so many innocent animals to terrible lives and horrific deaths by my uninformed choices. I am so sorry to all the animals I harmed. I am an activist now because I want all the facts that I missed for so long to become common public knowledge. Our culture around food must change.
As a vegetarian, I thought I was doing the ethical thing. I thought I was living a healthy lifestyle for my own wellbeing. I had much further to go to actually reach those goals.
Like many, I believed there were laws, regulations, and just plain human decency that made sure all the animals kept for milk or eggs and even those used for meat, leather, skins, fur, and entertainment were all looked after with care and kindness, that they lived long, healthy, comfortable lives and somehow they all died peacefully. I know now that this is not even remotely true.
The current system in place now to create food and products from animals is rife with abuse and corruption. It is shocking to see slaughterhouse and factory farm undercover footage of what really goes on in those hellholes. I will absolutely never support it again now that I know.
Currently we have "humane" meat and "grass fed" or "free range" and "organic" labels. Like me, people want to believe they are good people who are doing the right thing, like being vegetarian and thinking that is enough. We don't see ourselves as contributing to animal abuse. But these labels are pure marketing hype coming from companies who want things to stay the same - the same abuse, the same exploitation, the same profit that comes from using animals.
Laws are stacked up in favor of companies that raise and slaughter animals whom they regard as no more than commodities, objects. The entire system needs serious disruption. We are eating ourselves literally to death, killing billions of innocent animals in the process, and we are also destroying the planet, all to produce foods we are not even built to be eating. Learning all this, I had no choice but to be vegan.
Throughout my life I incurred serious illnesses like so many of us who eat animals. For me the most impactful was life-threatening extreme hyperthyroidism. I conceded to having surgery on my thyroid gland, losing half of it along with a massive tumor which turned out to be cancerous. During surgery my vocal cords were damaged, resulting in permanent paralysis of the entire left side of my vocal cords. I had to learn how to breathe, swallow, eat, drink, speak, and keep food down all over again. My voice has never returned to normal. Surgery also rendered me hypothyroid for life.
I have read many accounts of people using a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet to balance hormonal situations like mine with my thyroid. How can we expect our hormonal organs and systems to function properly when we eat animals whose flesh is imbued with their natural hormones as well as added hormones and antibiotics the animals are forced to eat to make them grow fatter, faster? How can we expect hormonal balance when we are drinking milk and other dairy foods that come from cows who have exorbitant levels of estrogens because are pregnant and lactating? How I wish I had been able to at least try this way of eating before having my surgery. Would I have still been hyperthyroid even as a WFPB eater? Maybe. Maybe not. But without surgery, I'd still have my gland and would not be relegated to taking thyroid hormone replacement therapy several times every day.
But whether I had a healthy thyroid or not, I do know that hundreds, if not thousands, of animals would not have had to die for my intake if I had stayed vegan from the time I first tried it. I wish I could go back and do it all over again as a vegan.
My family's medical issues include terrifying pancreatic cancer. My father and brother both died of it. My dad was 65; my brother was only 54. They each became suddenly diabetic as adults, and within months they were dead. Over the years I have watched, uneasily, as my own markers around insulin sensitivity edged further into dangerous territory.
Although vegetarian for several decades, I still had high cholesterol, I had crept into a pre-diabetic state, and after my thyroid gland was partially removed, I quickly gained 30+ unwanted pounds. It was not until I went fully plant-based and specifically no oil, that all these markers returned to normal. These markers and my weight now hover effortlessly at the correct healthy levels. What a relief!
As I learned more about how to eat properly, I also found out that animal agriculture is a leading driver in environmental destruction. The more I learned, the more solidly I embraced veganism. There is simply no valid reason to eat animals.
Choosing a whole foods plant-based no-oil diet is the best way I have ever eaten. It provides the best nourishment, with the least harmful impacts on many levels, and it is the most delicious and diverse food I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I can eat as much as I want, and I still do not gain excessive weight, so it is not a diet of deprivation at all. It is ethical, easy and enjoyable. It is optimal.
I am so glad I have finally learned the right way to live, not just for myself, but for so many precious animals who don't want or deserve to be treated the way they are treated, and for our beautiful planet which is also in dire need of help.
As I write, I am at the age of retirement. My retirement will be spent as a vegan activist, helping to spread this critical information about animal rights, personal health, and planetary stewardship. I was a graphics/web designer in my working days. As a vegan activist, I built Vegantegrity.com, a website filled with memes and essays I created, discussing various aspects of veganism.
Then I created vegancouragement.com, this website, to showcase the stories of other vegans like myself, ordinary everyday people who have learned vital truths and who have altered our lives accordingly. Both websites have extensive resources to help people learn to be vegan.
As more people learn to connect the dots and see the many consequences, good and bad, surrounding our habits and choices, there will be more vegans.
I feel so good to be part of this movement that is so desperately needed.
If you would like to share this page you can
Please check out the CONTACT page for links to Vegancouragment's Facebook, Instagram, and email accounts.