I have never seen Earthlings, Meet Your Meat, Peaceable Kingdom or any movies like that (but if you’re not vegan yet I’ll still tell you that you should watch them). I can’t tell you offhand the exact dimensions of an average battery cage, though I know for sure that they suck a lot. I never had a vegan epiphany moment, really. It’s actually pretty embarrassing how long I spent knowing that I should go vegan before I actually just cut out the cheese and yogurt. My long road to veganism began when I was nine or ten years old. My cousin Ben, who was three years older, became a vegetarian. My brother, who was a big fan of meat, thought it was ridiculous, but I thought it was so cool and alternative. But I liked chicken and tuna, so I decided that I would just stop eating mammals. I think there was actually a short time when I was still eating ham and bacon just because I liked them so much but I cut that out pretty quick. My cousin Emma decided at the same time to stop eating mammals but I’m pretty sure she was back to eating hamburgers a week later.
So, for the last years of elementary school and all of middle school I was “semi-vegetarian” or “pico-pollo vegetarian” or “omnivore who eschews a few kinds of meats and shouldn’t be using the label of vegetarian ever, damn it,” whatever you want to call it. Then when I was 13 my dad gave up meat, except for fish, for Lent. No, my family isn’t Catholic, we’re actually Quaker, but my dad had spiritual reasons for doing it or something. I joined in just to see what it would be like to be vegetarian for 40 days, again, except for fish. It was fine. My parents are good cooks and we always ate a lot of pasta and beans and grains and veggies, because those foods are healthier and because we were really broke, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. So I cut out chicken, and decided I might as well cut out fish too. I didn’t want to be a huge burden on my parents at first, so I said something like, I know you guys use things like chicken broth sometimes, and that’s not a big deal to me. Then suddenly I realized that chicken broth was really gross so I was like, actually, why don’t you just use veggie broth? So they did and it wasn’t a big deal.
So I start to read about vegetarianism on the internet, and discover that these vegan people aren’t actually as crazy as I always thought they were. Turns out, animals get treated pretty badly whether they’re used for meat or milk or eggs, plus if you’re buying milk and eggs you’re still supporting the meat industry. Plus milk is really bad for you and all this stuff is bad for the environment. So I think, huh, I should be vegan, but it sounds really hard. Maybe when I’m older. I start experimenting with vegan recipes, I make nooch-based mac and cheeze but put non-vegan Morningstar hot dog slices in it, I see what happens if I just leave the egg out of my muffins, I see if enchiladas are any good without cheese…
Then I moved to Idaho and I met Kate. She was just vegetarian when I met her, but she went vegan a few months later. We cooked together and talked about animal rights issues and I kept on saying that I wanted to go vegan too. I even made jokes that kind of make me cringe now, like “I was vegan for an hour this morning until I ate some yogurt!” My parents bought me the book Vegan Planet for Christmas that year. Then, when I went back to Portland over winter break I got the zine Please Don’t Feed the Bears. I woke up on New Year’s Day and decided that I was vegan now. I didn’t plan for it to happen on New Year’s but at least my veganniversary is easy to remember. This was 2005, when I was 17, by the way. I told you it took me a long time.