“You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice” – The Universal Paradox
My choice to adopt a vegan lifestyle was a long time coming, but officially the choice was made over two years ago. My only regret, as many vegans will tell you, is that I didn’t do it sooner.
I met my best friend Ella when we were in Grade 2. One day, into our third year of friendship, after feeding the chooks and sheep on my stepfather’s small farm in regional Tasmania, we retired for lunch. My Mum had made us lamb sandwiches on fresh bread with mint sauce. I was blissfully tucking in my lunch when I saw Ella inspecting her food. She asked, “The lamb on this sandwich, were they one of the ones we were just playing with?”
A few years after my Mum and Dads divorce, my Dad started dating Bec, a fun, highly-educated Forestry Scientist, who used to eat weird vegetarian sausages out of a can. Even though I was emotionally struggling to cope with my parents’ divorce, it was impossible not to like Bec. My Nan would cook Bec spinach and ricotta pastries and other delicious vegetarian dishes and I would often order vegetable lasagna when eating out at restaurants during high school, but otherwise ate a conventional diet.
In Grade 12 I studied Biology and wrote a report on the Impacts of Climate Change on Beef Production in Australia, I was shocked by the statistics but failed to make the connection between my diet and climate action. The following year, I moved interstate to study a Bachelor of Psychology at Deakin University in Victoria. That was four years ago now and during that time my life was radically changed. I flourished at university – I got a fancy scholarship, partied, learnt all the theories, additionally studied world religion and politics to try to better understand the world and met people that really influenced me. During my second year, I learnt a lot about research methods and evaluating evidence and went back home to visit my family and friends at the end of the first trimester. Ella was working at a video shop at the time and told me she had just watched a documentary she thought I’d be interested in. I enjoyed a big bowl of Mums Spaghetti Bolognese before settling in on a Friday night to watch this documentary, named Forks over Knives. I was presented with compelling evidence that a whole-food, plant-based diet, that is, plant-based vegan diet (see infographic) was a method in which to avoid several chronic diseases. Moreover, plant-based vegan diets were being prescribed to overweight Americans by their doctors to reverse the damage of these diseases, to literally save their lives, without surgical intervention (hence, Forks over Knives).
My next blog will discuss the topic of disease, but the choice to adopt a vegan diet based solely on the associated health benefits meant that initially I became a dietary vegan. As I was not informed about animal welfare issues and sometimes struggled to fit in at social events, I would sometimes eat vegetarian meals in the absence of a vegan options, or when it was simply too difficult to ‘veganise’ a meal cooked for me at someone’s house or when I ate out at restaurants. That isn’t easy to admit – the tyranny of the Vegan Police is real, but this tendency would make me by some people’s standards, a Paris Vegan. Nonetheless, I ate a strict vegan diet at home, trying to include in my diet as many whole-foods as possible from as many organic sources as I could afford, whilst supporting as many places serving up vegan options as possible. When I started learning about the environmental detriment of animal agriculture and animal welfare issues, my vegan diet became a vegan lifestyle, by definition I became an ethical vegan.
The reason I like this infographic is because it highlights that there are numerous reasons people choose vegan lifestyles. Some of these ways to be vegan admittedly perhaps bastardise the term, however I am of the opinion that perfection is an unrealistic goal and any efforts towards achieving an ethical vegan lifestyle make an enormous improvement to general health, significantly reduce ones carbon footprint and spares the lives of thousands of animals over a lifetime. Regardless of the underlying reason for such a lifestyle choice, as vegans we make informed decisions dictated by the degree to which we can live with the consequences of our choices.