About 6,500 calves got slaughtered in 2018 in the European Union for the consumption of veal and beef. In the United Kingdom only, more than 9,500,000 birds are slaughtered every year. With forced impregnation and extensive biological manipulation, cows produce up to 12 times more milk than they usually would in order to feed their babies.
I decided to cut out meat and fish from my diet almost two years ago. Ever since I’ve always planned on transitioning to a fully plant-based diet. Eventually, after much apprehension, at the beginning of this year, I took the leap. Although I wouldn’t describe it as a tough decision to make, the long wait was definitely a result of a number of fears. Fear not to find alternatives, fear of coming across options that are too expensive for me to afford, fear of not living up to the expectations the label ‘vegan’ entails. I deeply thought that cutting all dairy products from my diet would require an extra ton of efforts — not so much as it regards to drinking milk or eating mains that contain cheese, since I was never much a ‘direct dairy eater’, but more about the fact that dairy is found in plenty of products (especially for the chocoholic that I am). But enough of my ‘On The Road to veganism with me’! The point here is that, anyhow, I did it. Special mention to anyone who helped along the way (whether it was intentionally or not, before or not).
In How I Became A Vegetarian, I dwelt upon the many beneficial changes my new diet brought me. However, as I planned my upcoming transition with much excitement, I had an epiphany. More than engendering, directly or not, as less harm as possible, I realized that it was all about living in perfect accordance with my principles and beliefs, which we could also call the opposite of hypocrisy. All the love I hold for animals is inherent to my belief in the utter equality between our species. As Joan Dunayer puts it her writing, ‘Like human equality, animal equality doesn’t mean equal abilities. It means that all animals have an equal right to moral consideration and legal protection.’
Oftentimes perceived as a mere fashion trend, veganism shall rather be considered a means to an end, a way of expression. The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once proclaimed: ‘Once you label me, you negate me’, a sentence that gives plenty to reflect on… I am not a vegan, I am vegan. ‘Vegan activist’ wouldn’t be the description of my social media accounts, ‘animal lover’ could. I never felt attracted to labels (there was once a time when I wouldn’t even call myself a feminist — until I realized that it was important to speak up against the great injustice we were victims of, but that’s a different matter). For most of the opposite party, people that are labeled by the adjectival noun represent those who are aggressive towards, and intolerant of people with divergent views, vandalize butcher shops or would be referred to as ‘extremists’.
There is a huge difference between following a certain diet (which can be for various reasons, be it health or other personal motivations) and following a certain way of life. Indeed, veganism is a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that can be explained by 1. the manner in which one decides to go through their daily life without consuming food or purchasing goods that have somehow an animal origin and 2. the compassion one is willing to practice to a full extent. In other words, veganism is a philosophy.
When I was finally shown what meat and dairy production meant, I realized that it was something I never wanted to be a part of again. Did I believe that I could make a change? Yes, I did. Did I want to keep on living whilst something definitely clashed between my beliefs and my practices? No, I didn’t. For me, being vegan is merely living according to what I truly believe in, which is compassion and equal rights between human beings and animals, and amongst both species. It is expanding my love towards animals, showing it and being it.
What do you believe in? And, if you’re not already doing it, will you dare start living by your values?