FAQs: IS VEGANISM A DIET OR A LIFESTYLE?

People go plant based for lots of different reasons- for their health, for the environment, to save the animals, because it’s trendy, for religious reasons… and sometimes a mixture of the above.

I went vegan a few years ago because I couldn’t stand the thought of an animal being killed for my food, which was the most common reason back then. There wasn’t much available literature around the environmental impacts and health benefits, and most people assumed that if you didn’t eat meat you were lacking nutritionally.

As more information comes out about the negative impact that animal agriculture has on our bodies and the environment, going vegan has become a well-rounded lifestyle choice, and has increased in popularity because of this.

What the Health, Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy are all some really great documentaries highlighting the impacts of eating meat and animal products, which has sparked a rise veganism and vegetarianism.  

For some, veganism is more of a dietary decision, either for losing weight or to lower cholesterol, and is often referred to as “plant-based”. While for others, it is a way of life and perhaps even a moral compass. Veganism means to avoid animal flesh and products, but also includes by-products like dairy, honey, leather and wool. To me it also means to live life with love for all creatures.

Personally, veganism is a lifestyle. People often ask me if veganism is my religion, and I guess you could say that in a way it is. I wouldn't consider myself religious, but veganism is similar to a religion as they’re both a way of life, lived to a certain set of beliefs. My veganism is less a diet and more a religion, due to how I apply it to everyday life.

I believe that when you go vegan or vegetarian (for whatever reason) it broadens your mind and you begin to think of the ramifications of all your actions. For example, going vegan for the animals makes you eliminate your predisposition to speciesism and carnism, engrained in us from a young age by our habit of loving some animals and eating others.

(Speciesism: the assumption of human superiority to other living things, leading to the exploitation of animals... Carnism: the belief that some animals are superior to others, the reason why we believe it's ok to eat cows but not dogs).

Once you realise this way of thinking is wrong, you also eliminate all kinds of preferential or discriminatory thinking and extend compassion and love to all living creatures. It’s not a direct link, but I think there is definitely a more open-minded and accepting community within vegans and vegetarians with issues like racism, sexism, religion and sexuality.

Veganism teaches that all living creatures deserve respect and happiness. Not only that, those who openly practice a plant-based lifestyle have probably been subject to some scornful comments from those who don’t share their beliefs.

With plant-based, veganism and vegetarianism being a minority in the western world, mainstream society doesn’t share the same views- opening us up to criticism and discrimination in some situations. This also broadens our mind and allows us to experience what it is like for other minority groups around the world, and the negative way society can treat those small groups.

Due to these reasons, I do believe those who engage in a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle are more likely to show open-mindedness, empathy and compassion to all living creatures, no matter their race, sexual orientation or species.

FAQs: WHAT SORT OF VEGAN ARE YOU?

There are a few sorts of vegans out there. A vegan is “a person who does not eat or use animal products”, but there are two main sorts of veganism - abolitionist and welfarist.

Abolitionist vegans do not believe in anything other than total animal liberation. They take a more “hard line” approach to veganism and do not support animal welfare changes (i.e. laws around battery hen cages and sow crates). The do not support anything less than absolute veganism, and do not support vegetarianism or Meatless Monday approaches.

Welfarist vegans, meanwhile, are a little bit more “lax”, and support animal welfare law changes and a slower movement towards veganism, and support a movement towards a vegetarian diet. PETA and RSPCA are companies that are based on the welfarist approach, and often fight for better conditions in factory farms and slaughter houses.

Personally, I am both welfarist and abolitionist, or somewhere in the middle. Of course I would love for the entire world to already be vegan and save over 150 billion animals a year from torture and slaughter - but I also realise that that dream is not a reality, and probably a long way off happening. The end game is definitely for humans to realise we don’t need animal products to survive, but in the meantime I think it’s important to make sure animals are getting more and more rights and better welfare.

Humans have been eating meat since the beginning of time and is ingrained in tradition. For a lot of people, changing their view point about consuming animal products takes time. It’s fantastic that so many vegan health and animal rights documentaries (like Cowspiracy, What the Health and Food Inc) have come out, so people are being more and more educated on veganism and it’s obvious benefits - with documentaries and information arising, vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise.

In fact, in the past two weeks I have had four seperate people tell me that they have turned vegetarian with the goal of going vegan! Fantastic news! As someone who appreciates that turning vegan isn’t easy for everyone, I love that people are taking a step in the right direction. Which is where an abolitionist and I might have some disagreements.

Abolitionist vegans generally do not approve of anything other than absolute veganism, and often use a more aggressive or scornful approach towards non-vegans- like in that episode of the Simpsons when Jesse rolls his eyes and says, “I’m a level five vegan. I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow” in response to Lisa telling him she’s vegetarian. Lisa looks embarrassed and disappointed in herself, a feeling stemming from feeling like vegetarian is not good enough.
When I first went vegan I was definitely in this category, and would be non-supportive of vegetarianism. Often my conversations about veganism would turn hostile because I was judgemental and not willing to broaden my understanding of how non-vegans felt about a huge lifestyle change.

Over time, even though I am still vegan and still promote veganism above vegetarianism or anything else, I am more encouraging of smaller, slower steps towards eliminating animal products. This is mainly because I have noticed better outcomes of being supportive of family and friends who have turned vegetarian- mostly that is the first step, followed by eliminating wearable animal products, and sometimes going vegan.
I have found that when I would accept nothing less than absolute vegan perfection (abolitionist), people felt more judged and less encouraged to change their diet, and therefore lost the opportunity for forward progress.

I would absolutely rather someone go vegetarian than continue eating meat every day.

Abolitionists would argue that the support of anything less than veganism makes people complacent and less likely to commit fully to veganism. I definitely understand that point, but I disagree and think that if people open their mind to cutting out meat, they will continue to educate themselves and have more of a chance going vegan in the long run. After all, my own vegan journey started by cutting down meat consumption, to going vegetarian, to finally cutting out all animal products- a journey that took me two years.

There's no right or wrong ‘sort’ of vegan, and I truly do think we need both to change the world. Whether you want to take it slow or be strict is completely up to you and what makes you comfortable.

To learn more on both perspectives, here are some useful related links:

http://veganstrategist.org/2015/03/02/on-gary-francione-and-the-abolitionists-1/
http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/about/the-six-principles-of-the-abolitionist-approach-to-animal-rights/
https://vegaprocity.com/2015/06/abolition-welfare-type-vegan/
http://www.veganise.me/discussion-of-the-terms-abolitionist-welfarist-and-animal-rights

 

 

FAQs: WHY DID YOU GO PLANT BASED?

My veganism journey started at a really young age by someone very special. I’m an only child and when I was young I had to amuse myself most of the time and find fun alone. When I was six, my parents bought me a puppy to keep me company. He was a Kelpie x Rottweiler and I named him Rottie.

Before they bought him, mum asked me if I wanted a “rich puppy” (designer breed) or a “poor puppy” (rescue). I said I wanted a poor puppy and to give him a loving home, so we went to the pound. I remember it so clearly, the litter was kept in a tiny concrete cage and they were all clamoring at the fence for attention. We took Rottie out to a small enclosed oval so we could meet him. He was about 9 weeks old and had never seen or felt grass before. As soon as he felt it under his feet he started running crazily around and around, with what seemed like a huge grin on his face. I could feel his excitement and happiness and it was beautiful and contagious. That’s the first time I experienced that animals have complex emotions like humans- that they feel love and joy and neglect and hurt just like we do. And most importantly, that animals and humans are connected spiritually, even without language - because of this shared sentience.

Rottie was my best friend. He was the best dog in the world. We lived way out in the bush in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland - surrounded by bush and endless places to explore. We did everything together. During and because of this time, I had more and more exposure and experiences that solidified what I had learnt about animals.

Our next door neighbour and friend had chickens and I would go around and play with them, feed them and collect their eggs with her.
We lived in a very outdoors and ‘amongst nature’ house, and every morning there would be mice stuck in our bathtub who had been looking for water. They were tiny little field mice and so adorable. We had a special box to put them in, and every morning I’d scoop them out of the bathtub and release them back into the bush on our way down to the bus stop. It was my favourite part of everyday. The mice couldn’t get out of the bathtub by themselves, and seemed so grateful when we scooped them up, they would walk straight into the box. They became my little friends and I really cared about them.

These were the early exposures I had to the idea that if dogs have emotions, then it would make sense and is evident that other animals like chickens, mice, sheep, pigs and cows do too.

 

My family and I ate meat as a child. It was the total ‘norm’ of my childhood for people to eat meat- in fact the only person I ever knew who was vegetarian until I was about 14 was my aunty. I remember when I was about 11, eating roast lamb and expressing that I thought it was weird that a baby sheep was alive and now we were eating it. My mum agreed that it was weird and not a very nice thing to think about, and we both didn’t finish our food.
I always loved vegetables and would sit and eat them raw as mum cut them up for dinner, but I think after that ‘light bulb’ moment, I really started eating more and more vegetables, and less and less meat.

 

I really loved animals when I was young and did everything I could to be around them more often. I was particularly obsessed with horses and spent as much time with them as I could. I would go away for weeks every year to spend time on a horse farm (for race horses- which for reasons I don’t support now, but didn’t understand when I was a child), but I continued to learn so much about animals from those experiences.
I loved to draw horses, and make up their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, family trees, likes and dislikes etc. I really started to view horses, and all animals, as people. I knew that dogs and mice and horses had emotions, so I began to make a connection.

The horse farm was I spent a lot of time on was huge, and there was a paddock of sheep right out the back. I used to go and pat them and try to cuddle them every day after we fed the horses. One day, I noticed that one of the sheep wasn’t getting up and looked really sick. I called Pete (our family friend and owner of the farm) over to have a look. The sheepie was completely windswept- flies had laid eggs under his skin and maggots were covering his entire bottom half. It was disgusting, and very grim. I could really sense this sheep’s emotions, and I could imagine vividly being in his position and crying in pain and despair. It broke my heart and I started crying uncontrollably, desperate with the feeling of alleviating his suffering.

(I should mention now that I think children have a beautiful innocence about them, and a spiritual and emotional connection to all living things. Their unbridled imagination allows them to feel and see things that adults have been conditioned to ignore. This is a whole other topic on negative experiences, memory, the conditioning of forgetting and disconnecting that adults learn to do.)

I begged Pete to help him. So we picked him up, and he sat on my lap, covered in maggots with me sobbing over him and rode on the quad bike the 10 minutes back to the shed. Pete and I cleaned the maggots out, washed and disinfected the wound and dressed his bottom half with bandages. We kept him overnight and he slept on the front porch with me by his side, and eventually released him back into the paddock with his sheepie friends.
This was another key in a series of locks of understanding about animals, their complex lives, their vulnerability to man, their inability to communicate with us, but - also knowing we were deeply connected to them on a level outside of language. Because I was a child, this was particularly evident to me.

 

As I got older a few kids at my school were vegetarian, and I tried out the idea of it multiple times but never stuck with it. I graduated, and started a degree in Journalism. I wanted to be an investigative journalist. I decided to write an article about the meat industry, and this is where my life changed. I was old enough and mature enough to think about things practically and analytically, and now understood animals and their relationship to humans in a whole different way.
I’m so thankful that I already had a deep connection with animals in an emotional and spiritual way, and now I could build on that. I researched animal agriculture and was appalled to find videos of animals being slaughtered for meat. I guess I had never really thought about the intricacies of eating meat and how that meat comes to be on a plate, before I started paying attention.

Becoming vegetarian was just the next logical step for me. I already ate and loved vegetables, I knew in my heart that animals have emotions, and I knew that I didn’t like where meat came from. This made me realise that I didn’t feel comfortable participating in a cycle that abused animals. So the result of that, for me, was change. And it’s a change I have never, ever regretted.

Rottie passed away a few years ago and his death broke our family's heart. He was a loyal friend and loved very dearly in our house. He became very sick and stopped eating. He had stomach cancer and lost a lot of weight, and was so weak couldn't move on his own. We had him euthanised in our home and he died in my arms, as I cradled and kissed his head. He passed on surrounded by those who loved him- something that every animal killed for food doesn't have the privilege of.

I know I will never eat meat again and I have absolutely no desire to- it seems like a crazy idea that I would eat another person’s body. I live a very happy and healthy life, and have absolutely no reason to hurt others for my food.

MY BEAUTIFUL ROTTIE

MY BEAUTIFUL ROTTIE

REST IN PEACE

REST IN PEACE

ROTTIE WILL ALWAYS BE CLOSE TO MY HEART

ROTTIE WILL ALWAYS BE CLOSE TO MY HEART