15 Years of Veganism

Fifteen years ago today I split a bowl of ice cream with my friend Stacy, hours before I graduated high school. It was the last time I’ve knowingly eaten non-vegan food. Fifteen years! That day we said, ‘Let’s try to be vegan until the Earth Crisis show in two weeks.’  Like many activists, I got involved through hardcore music in the mid-90′s. I never would have imagined that 15 years later Earth Crisis would send out a message about one of my projects.  But here I am. Also my book with Isa, Appetite For Reduction, peaked in the top 100 of ALL books on Amazon. I’m incredibly fortunate. I’m writing about this not to brag, but to pass on the lessons I have learned.

My introduction to veganism was through the militant animal rights movement.  I became the super activist that ate, slept and breathed animal rights and veganism. I went to jail more than once for protesting. I chose nutrition as my undergrad major because of veganism. I was angry and motivated! The way that animals are treated is horrendous and I wanted to do as much as possible.

Then one day while I was still a teenager I was at a group dinner on a boring Saturday night. One kid was drawing pictures of everyone and mine had a voice bubble that said, ‘vegan vegan vegan vegan’ over and over again. It was accurate. I had become that person.  I was living the joke->

-How do you tell the vegan at a party?

-Don’t worry they will tell you.

Not long after that I moved to Penn State University for the last 2.5 years of my nutrition degree. Struggling to find an affordable place to live I moved into the living room of some Anarcho-Feminists. My reading broadened from Peter Singer and Edward Abbey to Malcolm X and Emma Goldman. Oppression of animals was obvious; institutionalized oppression of groups of people much less so. At PSU I was President of the Alliance for Animal Rights and active in my department promoting veganism, but my analysis had changed. I recognized world wide struggle and my own race and gender privileges. I never forgot about veganism, but I became active in the anti-capitalist, anti-globalization movement that roared into the 00′s.

 

You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself. -Sick of it All

 

At a grad school that actively promoted vegetarianism and was the most diverse place I had ever been, I learned even more about my place in the world. I traveled to Chiapas and smuggled art back for a radical Catholic group that raised money for the Zapatistas.  My veganism never waned, but I was less interested in being defined by it. Not long after that I was teaching and working in South Central Los Angeles with a slant toward social justice. Vegan nutrition went to the back burner.

Then about two years ago I got re-energized. It seemed that more people were vegan than ever. Isa contacted me about contributing to her newest book. I suddenly got more requests than ever for private consultation for vegans. And here I am.

 

You must be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

 

I’m now applying the vegan label to myself and my projects: vegan dietitian, vegan athletes, vegan nutrition,  etc.  But  my worldview is expanded from ten years ago. And while my place in the world is bigger than it was because of the opportunities I’ve had, I’m still just one person.  There’s only so much I can do.  But what I can do is significant: lead by example.  Be a healthy, positive vegan that pushes people to think about their choices and how it affects other living beings without pushing them to blindly adopt my ethics and actions. And knowing how my life and privileges affect others. There’s a whole world of oppression out there beyond humans over animals. Read a thing or two (or hundred?) about those struggles, too.  Never stop learning because the day you are convinced that you know enough about everything is the day you become a new-age wacko. And we don’t need any more vegans like that…

So if you are new to veganism and angry about how animals are treated, I’m with you. My advice is to channel that anger into something positive.  Berating My Trainer Bob about eating egg whites does not save any animals.  I don’t want to get on the old-guy soapbox here, but the kids in the mid-90′s who didn’t find positive channels for their anger about animal abuse stopped being vegan. And their criticism of near-vegans probably brought down a fair number of them, too.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about my readers’ projects! If you are working on something related to this post-and not just veganism- please let me know in the comments.

 

 

11 Comments

Filed under political, vegan

11 responses to “15 Years of Veganism

  1. THIS, This, and this!
    Thank you.

  2. Congrats! I’ve got four years vegetarian and one vegan under my belt, so I have some catching up to do!

  3. Dustin Rhodes

    I so relate to this post — especially the transformation from identifying as The Vegan to a person who is simply vegan. That’s a liberating change.

    I couldn’t agree more with the necessity to channel the anger and frustration into something positive and productive; otherwise, it consumes you. And strangely, keeping the anger too close — as you point out — often makes people move away from veganism. And it’s so much easier said than done: it’s really difficult to embrace the fullness of oppression and not drown in the pain/desperation/hopelessness. I witness that happen too often.

    For myself, I took a job at an animal rights organization 4 years ago. I am grateful for this decision because I have learned so much about not only animal rights and veganism, but about human psychology and how careful we need to be in presenting our message. I have definitely learned how off-putting finger-wagging vegans can be. Being at work every day is truly humbling. And I won’t lie: sometimes it’s downright depressing to be immersed in the extensiveness of animal exploitation. But I want to be a good advocate for animals, and I just try to focus on that: how I can do and be better.

    Congratulations on 15 years. You should be proud.

  4. I often hate my self for not taking that last step into veganism and reading this I regret it even more, having been vegetarian for 15 years. Every year I´m getting more and more into the whole vegan thing, it will happen one day and it´s blogs like this that is the key. Never called myself a vegetarian because it´s simply not good enough. I found True Love Health a year ago looking for “ultra distance cycling + vegan” that´s how close i was and still am from that last step. I´m a Swedish cyclist ( that I proudly call my self ) Mtb, road, fixedgear, cyclocross but mostly long distance, doing Paris-Brest-Paris in 65 days. Your 2007 adventure was a great read, understanding there´s no problems getting veg-food at the check points. I do the final 600 km qualification-brevet this Saturday, super stoked as usual! After P-B-P, a great goal of mine, there´s still one more step to take into that Big Take Over. (Bad Brains are playing in Gothenburg tonight at the West Coast Riot festival talking about old school hardcore) Thanks for a great read and inspiration – See You on the road.

    Erik Nohlin – Hisingen Hommus Institut – Gothenburg – Sweden.

  5. What a fantastic and inspiring post. Thank you for all that you have done and for helping others to learn not only about veganism, but about how to eat and LIVE in such a positive, healthful, and active way!

    I am a vegan athlete (competitive swimmer) and train every day eating a plant-based diet (trying to go raw vegan, but not quite there yet). I have been a vegan for five years now, along with my husband. Our three teenage kids are all vegans as well (they all made the move at different times and on their own will) and we are all committed to a cruelty-free lifestyle and mindset.

    Just being the example that you are helps so many people to believe that they can become vegans too… so keep on fighting the good fight and using such a positive platform to educate and change!

    Cheers, Jinxi

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