Disclosure: I have nothing against veganism, nor am I trying to impose my beliefs onto others. This is simply my experience and how I responded to this lifestyle.
I have waited 4 months to write this blog post out of fear of backlash, but I think I am finally ready to explain more about why I chose to leave the vegan community.
I became a vegetarian back in 2008. Then, I was exposed to the other aspects of why many people transition to this lifestyle, and upon that exposure, I turned into the biggest vegan activist in 2015. I “needed” to educate others on the things I had learned because I was so disgusted with what was going on. I was appalled that no one had taught me these statistics sooner. I still am. I will go more into that below, though.
Throughout my 8 years as a vegetarian, and my 1.5 years on the vegan bandwagon, I received everything from love, thanks, and well wishes to hate, guilt, and disgust from people all over the world. I’ve brought out the best in some and I’ve seen the worst in others.
I am not going to tell you veganism sucks and that’s why I no longer choose to live that lifestyle. I am not going to tell you veganism is the answer to all of the world’s problems, either. I am going to tell you my experience, what I have learned, and what I make of it. It’s up to you to decide what to take and what to leave. Here goes.
There are two sides to every story
There are environmental, ethical, and health benefits to leading a vegan lifestyle.
I am not denying this. You DO vote with your dollar. The environment does suffer (to an extent) due to factory farming. Here are some stats that shocked me the most upon learning:
- Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
- Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.
- Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually.
- 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
- Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land.
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
I sourced this information from the documentary “Cowspiracy” or www.cowspiracy.com.
TO BE FAIR: With this, there is always the other side of things. Just like with everything in life. I have read countless articles and listened to many podcasts on how these studies are written and skewed in a way to scare others into adopting a vegan diet. Maybe that’s the point? You decide. I’m only the messenger.
MY BEEF WITH COWSPIRACY
At the end of the film, only one simple message was heavily implied: Go vegan. It only appealed to the abolitionist veganism goal to convert every single human being on the planet to go completely meat- and animal-product free, and in turn get rid of all the domesticated animals.
There were no compromises offered, no alternate solutions, nothing. Just, go vegan or face the consequences of being responsible for killing the Earth.
The film only has one ultimate “solution” to the problem of feeding the world and climate change: veganism. Thus, it is a propaganda piece and not an open-ended documentary that allows further discussion once the film is done.
The film focused on the quantity of facts, not the quality of them. As long as there were a whole lot of facts thrown out there, regardless how out-of-date or erroneous they were, the producers knew that the overabundance of such facts was going to overwhelm the audience so much to spring them into some kind of action.
With a deliberate means to pit the omnivorous “meat-eaters” against the hard-core vegans, it created the facade that ONLY those who NEVER eat meat are “true environmentalists” and maligned anyone else who ate meat, no matter if it came from the ethical, far more sustainably-raised operations, as the environmental destroyers and greedy gluttons of the Earth. That, in itself, was a huge problem I had (and still have) a big issue with.
It was really hard to ignore that everyone in the film were not so coincidentally, vegan. Diet really shouldn’t have anything to do with what this film is trying to show. It’s really hard to shrug off how their diet choices suddenly made them better and more “credible” experts than some of the far more credible individuals out there that actually have a background in agriculture AND the environment.
Now, that all being said, I did not bring you here to make you feel “guilty” about what you may or may not consume on a daily basis. Note that there are ALWAYS two sides to each story. So, don’t always believe everything you hear and don’t let all of this ruin your day. When I first recognized all of this, and watched the documentaries, I let it ruin more than just my day. And that is NOT what life is about. Stay educated, but stay present and aware that you do not own or cause all of the problems in the world. I will actually cover this in my next few bullet points, so please, read on.
Veganism is not the only way to save the world
I am happy to point you all in the direction of veganism, but I am even happier to tell you that veganism isn’t always the answer for everyone. Veganism isn’t going to solve everyone’s problems. Maybe veganism is YOUR answer. In the sense that it makes YOU feel good when you eat that way. Maybe it solves YOUR problems, it heals YOUR digestive issues. Hell, you might find that your one purpose in life is to spread awareness on this subject. And if that’s the case, then I am so stoked to have helped you find this new found passion of YOURS.
Are you noting the key word here? Y O U.
Here is my point; veganism doesn’t work for everyone. Simple as that. Simple as the points I listed above. And THAT is what I have found most people (including myself) don’t/didn’t understand in the vegan community. You simply cannot tell others what to do with their time/money/life. You can lead by example. You can inspire. You can better yourself. But you cannot physically force everyone to go vegan. It won’t happen. And you cannot let it affect you to the point where you are saying “vegan or nothing else”. I mean, I guess you can, but what kind of life is that? What kind of life are you living if you are not accepting and you are judging others and their choices?
First thing’s first. YES. You can still be a good person and consume a diet with animal products! You can still save the environment, you can still contribute to ending animal abuse and you can still be healthy, ALL WHILE consuming animal products on a daily basis. This point is one of the most important points I will write here. And it’s something that once I was immersed in the vegan community, I couldn’t even comprehend.
There are so many ways to conserve water. So many ways to save animals. So many ways to save the environment. Do your research. Donate. Do what you can to help if this is something you’re passionate about.
I am thankful for my years spent without animal products because it caused me to create a bond with these animals that I never had before. It caused me to create a bond with Mother Nature. It caused me to really research and understand the detrimental effects of the industry I supported my whole life.
As I came full circle, and as I began really craving animal products again, I realized that I could do this in a humane way. Did I at first? No. I definitely did not. And it’s taken me a long time to realize that that is OK. I am human.
Does hating myself save animals, and the environment, and my health? No. Does hating anyone else for eating meat and dairy save animals, the environment, or their health? No again.
So what do you do now? What you should do now is learn. Be proactive. If you feel you want to make a difference, then make a difference.
There are benefits to consuming animal products
Vegans, please don’t take this personally. I mean that. I know how my blood used to boil when I would read a statement like this. But that’s just the thing. I was so one-sided and naive to think that veganism was the only answer. To think that the way our ancestors grew eating and living was all wrong. To think that the “circle of life” is BS. It isn’t.
Just like the “Paleo diet” isn’t the only answer. Just like the “ketogenic diet” isn’t the only answer. Just like the “atkins diet” isn’t the only answer. Each of these diets may be the answer for certain people at certain times in their lives, which is incredible, but people change! We are all so unique. We all thrive off of different foods/locations/lifestyles. How can we be so ignorant to assume that one diet works for everyone?
Nutrition is the only field in the world where two theories can both be proved correct. No one diet fits all.
And yes, just as there are studies that show the health benefits of eating animal products, there are studies that show the contrary, like in the documentary Forks Over Knives.
Overconsumption of meat and dairy is NOT healthy for the human body. But is overconsumption of anything going to benefit us? In my opinion, that’s a no. Balance folks. I think that this is something that we can all agree on.
I could go on, but are you seeing a trend here? I am supporting two OPPOSING VIEWS! I am supporting the consumption of meat AND the consumption of a plant-based diet. So which one is the right call? That is for YOU to decide. On your own. Test out the theories. It’s not for me to tell you what you should do or how you should live.
My veganism story
I have never in my life been immersed in a community that has brought so much to my life, both good and bad. Here’s a short and sweet synopsis of what went down. Or at least I will try and make it quick.
When I thought about switching from vegetarian to vegan, it was nothing more than my innocence getting the best of me and wanting to live as lovely as the girls I’d admire on Instagram who appeared to eat nothing but mangoes and green smoothies on the beach in Australia all day. I liked the idea of eating foods that are extraordinarily colorful and, of course, flavorful and good for you. I liked the idea of not eating anything that once had a heartbeat. I liked the idea of being more rigid and black and white in what I could and couldn’t eat.
The first months of being vegan, I discovered ways of making certain foods I’d never known existed. I went to the farmer’s market every Wednesday. I talked about it nonstop. I pretty much led my whole life around being vegan. It was my identity. I loved feeling a part of something. I was transformed into someone who made veganism their life. I felt incredible. I was living!!! I was preaching. I was inspiring. I was loving it.
Unfortunately, this was pretty short lived. As time went on, I started getting random symptoms that I just attributed to “detox.” That’s what all of the famous Youtubers would call it. So I was OK with dealing with my “detox,” even though I was breaking out, constantly, I was so low on energy, and I started gaining weight fast. My diet consisted of an extreme amount of carbs because no matter how much I ate, I still felt tired and starved.
Aside from finally having that “Instagram-perfect” life, behind the scenes I was declining invites to my favorite sushi restaurants, avoiding social situations with non-vegans (pretty much everyone I knew), and attaching to the foods that made me comfortable rather than the foods that were meant to nourish me. I felt detached and void. I began to crave living more of a “normal” and moderate life. I wanted to go out to dinner and not have to look up the menu beforehand to make sure there was something other than lettuce that I could eat.
Last winter, I started to experience bad digestive issues. I went from never having a stomach ache to not knowing what life was like without constant pain. My GI told me it has to be IBS and that stress is one of the worst things to affect it. I felt like I was stuck in a vicious cycle where I was worrying about my stomach which led my stomach to hurt which led me to worry about my stomach.
The final straw was when I went to emergency room from my pain. My mom and boyfriend at the time sat me down and expressed their concern about my vegan diet, questioning if it was something I was eating (or not eating) that was causing my issues.
I have to admit, I responded with anger because I genuinely believed veganism was the only answer.
So, I let it go, ignored the signs, and stayed vegan. Why?
Because I was still in the “comfort zone” of my eating disorder.
Because it gave me a reason to justify removing more foods from my life without admitting to myself that I was using it as a way to restrict myself.
Out of all the things in the world to restrict, food shouldn’t be one of them. When I was in the depths of anorexia, food was the only thing I could think about. I realized veganism did the same thing. I didn’t want to live comfortably in the throes of an eating disorder anymore.
I constantly thought about food, ingredients, and what I would eat. Vegan Youtubers boast that veganism is a “lifestyle of abundance” but I felt more restricted, more trapped, and more controlling. I realized that I needed to love myself.
So, a few months ago, I dropped the diet entirely. I’ve found this process to be incredibly liberating and freeing for me. I learned that succumbing to “absolutism” isn’t for me. Life isn’t black and white; I want to live in the gray.
At first, I felt this sense of responsibility and guilt. I felt responsible for holding myself up to this standard of being a “public figure” that was vegan. The vegan community constantly fed me this idea that “meat eaters” are horrible people and that by being vegan, I was MORE loving, MORE compassionate, and a better person. It made me feel special.
I have heard time and time again that “I just didn’t do veganism the right way” or that “If I eat meat, I don’t really love animals.” But this is simply not true.
I got so tired of being demonized by vegans.
I am not a murderer because I eat meat. I can eat meat and still be an advocate for animal rights.
Where’s the humanity? Where’s the love for one another? If vegans have so much love for the animals and the planet, why not have love for our brothers and sisters the same? Where is the acceptance? Why is there so much judgment?
Many fruits and vegetables come from farms that exploit low-wage migrant workers. Should we stop eating those too?
In some sections of the globe, animals are treated as pets, loved, and cared for almost as members of the family. In other sections, those same animals are used as food sources. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs. Here, that would be bizarre, if not downright horrific to some, but that’s just a way of life in certain portions of the world. Different people, different upbringings, different diets.
I have never had romantic notions of what goes on in a slaughterhouse. I realize animals need to be killed and butchered in order for us to eat them, and that was never supposed to be a pretty affair.
While I understand everyone’s journey with food differs, this was mine and I didn’t like it anymore.
I feel worlds better now. My stomach doesn’t hurt. I don’t have a need to please anyone with the foods that I’m eating, or not eating, nor do I push any of my beliefs onto others.
I love animals. I love fruits and veggies. I love myself. Even those of you who choose to hate me for this. I have nothing but love for you, and wish you nothing but success and happiness. I am stoked veganism works for you, I hope you can accept why it does not work for me.
There’s an unspoken ideal in the online world about being healthy and vegan and eating out of pretty bowls. But I say be whatever you want to be. Skip the labels. Eat the fish. Drink the milkshake. Enjoy your protein with a salad and grill some veggies with that too.
Good mental health, in my opinion, surpasses any food you can put into your system. There will always be gray areas. Embrace them. Own your body and own your feelings.