Why I Am A Vegan

Posted by Paula Mullen, ALDF's Executive Assistant on February 5, 2010

I resisted becoming a vegan for a long time, mostly because I had a cheese addiction like you wouldn’t believe. The funny thing is, I had several vegans around me at various times who should have been influential. At age nineteen, I had a boyfriend who was a militant environmentalist and was not only vegan, but a good cook. The problem? He criticized me for still eating dairy. His favorite line at breakfast was, “Want some pus with your cereal?” as he passed the milk. His sarcasm might have broken down a more weak-willed person, but being somewhat rebellious by nature, I dug in my heels.

Later, I became friends with a vegan who frequently made scathing comments about non-vegans. It came from a place of concern for the animals and an anger that, even then, I understood. But all she made me want to do was go home, cut up a block of cheddar cheese and gnaw on it like a ravenous little mouse.

So, what finally broke through my rebellion? One day, I chanced upon an in-depth article about the close ties the dairy industry has with veal production. I had always known about veal; my mother had never eaten it and didn’t let us eat it when we were children, not only because of the cruelty perpetrated against the male calves, but because the thought of eating particularly young baby animals had always repulsed her. However, until I read this article, I hadn’t stopped to think of where the male dairy calves go after birth, being of no use to the dairy industry. I didn’t realize that even the female calves are ripped away from their mothers soon after birth. And I didn’t know that the mother cows can cry out for days, frantic to find their babies.

I imagined being newly born, roughly shoved into a dark crate with no warmth or comfort, when every instinct a newborn has, whether human or bovine, is to be hovered over, cared for and comforted. I thought about not being able to move, play or do the normal things a young baby wants, and needs, to do. I considered what that would feel like – the confusion, the frustration, the loneliness.

In other words, instead of reacting to forces outside myself, I looked within, and finally found the empathy and compassion from which I had been hiding all those years, behind self-erected walls of fear – fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of really and truly knowing what these animals live and die through, each and every day.

My reasons for remaining vegan are multifold. Practically speaking, when my husband went vegan overnight, all the cheese, milk and eggs left the house, and all temptation and addictive habits went with them. I am extremely fortunate that this very same husband not only can cook well, but actually enjoys it. For a domestically disabled person such as myself, this is priceless.

And, no matter how I try not to look, the cruelty inherent in big agriculture pops up periodically to stare me in the face, serving as confirmation that I have made the right choice. Living in rural Sonoma County, I see it everywhere. There’s the field of orphaned dairy calves off Highway 116, the “family farm” that houses generation upon generation of babies, all destined to grow up and have their own babies torn away from them. These female calves, bewildered and frightened, will come to the same lonely field as their mothers and grandmothers. They will slowly acclimate, then they will be transported to a large scale dairy, and the next wave of tiny orphans will be shipped here. I drive by this field every day.

And there’s the nearby dairy, where the cows literally wallow in a mud pit, next to a huge pile of manure. One day I made the mistake of glancing over as I drove by. A cow was trying to walk, but her udders were so enormous, and her back legs so stiff, that she stumbled and fell in the mud. I slowed to a stop, horrified. Struggling, she somehow managed to get up and move across the enclosure.

If I were ever again tempted to eat cheese, that memory alone would stop me. 

I am forever in debt to the author of that article, and for the chance to come upon those farmed animals and be a witness to their suffering. Although painful, these reminders keep me on my chosen path. It’s been amazing to realize just how powerful our food choices are. If we channel our anger and sorrow into meaningful change, and live as shining examples of compassion, we truly can change the world for these animals.


4 thoughts on “Why I Am A Vegan

  1. Joan D. RN says:

    Read the article…was vegan for most of my life…ate well…however my estrogen was way high…won’t ever touch a peanut again and other high estrogen foods…I am in the medical profession and noticed that my patients who are vegan had lots of cancer…my mom and and 2 cousins all had breast cancer. So I started to eat meat,milk, eggs and cheese again. lost weight from doing so and actually stopped gaining!
    Had another bone scan and bone destruction was decreasing, & slept better at night.

    I swore never to be humiliating to others like that rude vegan who asked if you wanted some pus with your cereal…another thing I don’t eat very much of any longer. When people start elevating what one’s ingestion choices are to a RELIGION, I have all sorts of red flags go up.

    Long ago, when I was vegetarian and my daughter was 6, I would give her OJ, and cereal(non sweetened variety) for breakfast and I had to take her to children’s hospital in Philadelphia because she would become weak, hallucinate and become hypoglycemia…she was reacting to the hot oatmeal or rice cereal she was eating…she was prediabetic and the only diet she was able to handle was high protein, meat and egss and fish! She was allergic to nuts and various grains. Needless to say she is a thin woman now, never becoming fat like her mom, me, who was the vegan. Off she went to Mt Holyoke college over a decade ago and used to be humiliated by students who were vegan and not knowing her medical condition. How cruel and merciless!

    I ask how would you feel if someone berated you for being vegan? And if they did shame on them and shame on any vegan who badgers a carnivore. We have so many serious issues facing our generation and judging and prejudging is an abomination!

    Do something productive, like adopting animals…caring for the elderly, helping a child learn how to read. Don’t give me anymore religous vegan garbage…I already am sick to my stomach with the hippocritical christian right and the Baptists who protest at our fallen soldiers funerals…GET A LIFE!!!

  2. Art says:

    What a silly comment, Joan D. Being vegan doesn’t imply eating healthy. The reason you were fat was likely caused by you replacing your meat and animal proteins with refined sugar. The fact is, even though 65% of Americans are overweight and 33% are obese, in the vegan community, the percentage of obese people is 3%. You can make your anecdotal story support your beliefs, but scientific data does not support your nonsense.

  3. Jeff in Oregon says:

    “If we channel our anger and sorrow into meaningful change, and live as shining examples of compassion, we truly can change the world for these animals.”

    Well said Paula. Many people who are passionate about a cause are also angry because others do not place the same value on that cause. Our default reaction is to act out in anger, condescension, arrogance, self-righteousness and a whole host of other negative emotions. Unfortunately, such confrontational, I’m-right-you’re-wrong approaches result in the audience shunning the messenger and not hearing the message. Joan D.’s post above is a good example of this: no cause ever won any converts by demeaning, villanizing and belittling people. Rather, we’ve got to swallow that lump of pain and anger and reach out constructively to others so that it’s the message that they hear, not our delivery. As the old saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

  4. Joan D. RN says:

    Art the reason I was fat is because my thyroid had tumors and I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Diabetes…I don’t like refined sugars, I hate the taste of meat, milk and eggs…and love my animals…but what I am talking about are people who judge others with their religious vegan views are as bad as the other side of narrow minded hate mongers. And NO I wasn’t allowed sweets and still diabetic so I am careful NOT to eat concentrated empty calories! Why are we so hateful in this country?
    We love to boss others around…we just don’t get it!