Something happened when I started communicating with animals in a deeper way. I realized that I couldn’t be a vegetarian.

I grew up vegetarian, and have only eaten meat a handful of times in my life. But my dairy and egg consumption was something I didn’t think too hard about. Until now.

There is something out of alignment for me if I am harming animals in any way when I eat- so, I’ve made the switch to becoming vegan. I’m not super strict about anything in my life, so I won’t be a perfect vegan. But, I am trying.

And, I respect you if you aren’t. Like all my vegan friends who loved me when I wasn’t vegan, I love you and I trust your choices. But I did feel compelled to write about my journey to here. Maybe something will resonate with you!

Here are the three major reasons why I’m trying my darndest to not just be a vegetarian, anymore.

I Love the Environment

The UN just issued another report imploring us all to become vegan, on the heels of the release of Cowspiracy, streaming now on Netflix.

I encourage you to peruse these links asap, but in summary, the meat, seafood, and dairy industries are growing across the globe, and that means really bad news for ecosystems and climate impact. It’s simply unsustainable for everyone in the world to eat as much animal products as we do in America.

On a recent trip to Vermont I was disappointed to learn there weren’t many clean bodies of water where we could swim. The dairy industry affects the rivers and lakes, even as the picturesque farms seem to be treating the cows as well as you could hope.

In more intense factory farming and ocean fishing regions, the environmental costs are WAY worse. And other parts of the industry – processing, shipping, refrigeration – all intensify those costs to our planet.

So I will preach to you – cause isn’t that the stereotype of vegans we love best 😉

… If you consider yourself an environmentalist, then please question the impact of your consumption of animal products. If you are open to the truth, eating salmon or goat cheese might not be so appealing.

I Love Myself

In my early 20’s I occasionally ate meat. My partner at the time was a very skilled cook when it came to bacon and burgers. Always up to try new things, I would enjoy his creations.

As I considered being a carnivore for the first time in my life, I faced a moral conundrum. I felt that if I was going to choose to eat cows and pigs, then I should be able to slaughter them.

Friends of mine have farms. I could have easily set up a trip to go be part of animal processing. But I knew that deep down I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

Here’s my preaching part of this section: If you are going to eat meat, then I encourage you to go on the journey this woman took. Find a farm, and kill your food.

I couldn’t do it. And when I realized that dairy production involved taking baby cows and goats away from their mothers, I admitted to myself that I wouldn’t be able to separate a heifer and calf either.

Framing it this way helps me feel the impact my vegetarianism was having.

I Love Everyone

That brings me to the vegan argument that pulls my heartstrings the most – abolition.

I’m a fan of people. Most humans are pretty awesome. I support Black Lives Matter and anti-sweatshop activism and everything else human rights because I think racism totally sucks. It’s horrible how a disproportionate number of black men are in prison and killed each year: a stark modern reminder of slavery.

Animal communication proves to me that nonhuman animals are sentient and feel things deeply, just like friends of mine with African ancestry.

So why should animals be treated like we used to treat slaves?

During slavery, African women were literally bred to produce new slaves. Mothers and children were separated by the “owners,” because they were viewed as property. That sounds an awful lot like what happens during dairy production.

To put it another way, here’s a bit about animal rights theory from The Abolitionist Approach website:

“Moreover, as long as animals are human property, animal welfare standards will never provide adequate protection to animal interests. A shorthand way of describing the view presented here is to say that all sentient beings should have at least one right—the right not to be treated as property.”

I won’t get preachy about this one. I’ll just say – I can’t justify supporting any animal, human or otherwise, to be treated as property. No matter how much I love ice cream.

Owning My Vegan Side

There are tons of challenges to being vegan. (Just look at this list of unexpected things that contain animals). Baked goods won’t taste the same, and I’ll have to forgo some of the easier options when eating out. Many of my sacred family recipes will have to be modified.

In the grand scheme of the ENTIRE WORLD, these seem small costs to pay.

I believe that every choice we make has an impact, so I’m encouraging you to explore what it would mean to reduce your consumption of animal stuff. Maybe there’s something you could cut back on?

Do it for the environment, yourself, everyone! And, because I love you.

Photo credit: Aria Everts – An incredible vegan meal my dad prepared with fresh greens from his garden… in December! I’m grateful my parents raised me on mostly fresh vegetables and model small-scale intensive farming methods.