Vegan: what does it mean to you?

founding Vegan father, Donald Watson

What does vegan mean to you? Today, the idea is very neatly etched in our minds on what it means to be a vegan. Yet, travel back in time to the year 1944 where the idea was sprung in the quiet countryside in England. Every movement has its share of pioneers. In the case of the vegan pioneers, it’s all owed to Donald Watson, his wife and a few close friends, who all shared a strong core of beliefs while forming the first of its kind, “vegan society”. Watson was a pacifistic, and a conscious objector to World War 2. Through his life, he never smoked, drank alcohol, nor ate foods he thought were toxic. He sounds like the perfect 21st century citizen, but in the 1940’s, I can guarantee, this was a true renegade, who laid the path for us modern folk to easily follow.

After years of hard work, while up against society norms, he and his group were able to sum up for the world, what it meant to be a vegan. (a direct quote taken from Watson in 1949) “[t]he principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man”. This is later clarified as “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.

1947, first World Vegetarian Congress

The personal journey

I’ve come to the conclusion, that a life without passion, isn’t a life at all. Almost seventy years ago, the very small group of self proclaimed vegans stuck it out, and by sheer determination and passion, almost a century later, the idea is still very much alive. Words and a statement when entirely believed and followed can in turn, make this world a lovely place to live in. You see, I now have a belief that this new vegan lifestyle of ours is also tied with a spiritual journey. I’ve known many a vegan, and vegetarian in my time. However, the timing was not quite right, thus my personal inspiration was not yet peaked.

Over the course of a few decades after its origination, the vegan society has managed to stay true to it’s original founding beliefs. Appealing as it all is to me, I’m not quite sure if I had started this out any sooner than now, (49) that I would have the same experience. But, let me state, I had no intentions on going vegan. The dietary lifestyle was working for us as a family. After all, we were consuming 99% organic, buying our animal products direct from local organic farmers, and were feeling quite justified. But as a self proclaimed environmentalist, it seemed like an obvious pairing that I was failing to see. Why did it take so long to bring us to this point? I can’t answer that, other than timing. When you’re ready, it’s not a force, it’s a natural transition to the new you.

The two C’s.

Confusion and comfort are the two “C’s” I’m using to explain my delayed membership to this utopian society of veganism. I mean, after all, we’re in a world of Paeloists, Ketoists, and protein addicts. Factually, society is raised on the notion that animal products are needed in our body in order to thrive. Very few of us are ever given the option in childhood to go vegan. This usually comes to us when we can make our own decisions. But the constant indecision that we struggle with before going ‘vegan’ is somewhat of a mind game we play with ourselves. Undoing centuries of animal propaganda is at this very moment threatened, and taking a road less traveled is to some a lonely path.

But make no mistake, veganism is no religion in the mainstream sense, but could it be one of the spiritual sense? There’s the chance that this new spiritual lifestyle called Vegan, seeped into my veins upon conception, yet laid dormant for 50 years. Being that California was host to one of the original ‘vegan’ clubs which was founded in the early 1950’s that idea is entirely possible. Though the California Vegan club only lasted until the 60’s, yes before my time, but you know what they say: location, location, location.

Destiny or fate?

Location could have certainly played an active role in my journey. In retrospect, I remember being very excited and inspired as a sixteen year old girl by a vegan restaurant called the Good Earth Restaurant. Though not so conveniently located for me in Los Gatos, it was worth the drive. Though no longer in existence, I think back on those early visits to the restaurant, bringing my friends to show them what I found, and feeling very at home, while eating a vegetarian menu and sipping my herbal tea. Who knew.

But, becoming a vegan isn’t about eating sprouts and vegetables. Today, the spectrum has broadened. It’s not such a difficult option to shop as a vegan. After all, we have an entire section in grocery stores dedicated to ‘vegan burgers’, and a large haul of pre-made assortments to accommodate or loss of mayo, eggs, butter and meat products. However, I’m going to commit and try hard to stay away from convenience. As you may have picked up from my website, I’m into a totally scratch, home-made, self-made lifestyle. I detest convenience and pre-packaged items. Yet, food manufactures have scrambled to offer a heap of finished food, thus making it easy and palatable to become vegan. Whichever way you choose, I think it’s still a great beginning.

We’re never to old to learn

They claim everyone has their ah-ha moment in life. Mine sprang a few weeks ago. For yourself, it may have sprung a decade ago. The point to all this? I’m not sure how long my journey to veganism will continue, as I can’t predict the future here. However, I’m aiming for permanent. The overall change in my being, my body, my outlook is generally lighter. At last, I can rid myself of the guilt of eating animals. I don’t have to sacrifice a life for my culinary pleasures. More than ever, I feel the food I’m selecting is full in bounty, life, and nourishment.

In addition to all the positivity, I’m feeling my cooking skills and food pairings are becoming quite diverse. I’m finding that we crave a lot of hummus, finely seasoned lentils, hearty brown rice, avocado, nuts, fresh raw vegetables as toppers, and the list goes on. These choices are not only exciting to arrange, but their a delight to consume. Because of this exciting journey, the type of vegan I hope to become is a person who gains a much greater understanding of food and it’s objective here. To keep it simple, nourishing, healing and full of life.

What the Health: our start.

If you’re not on documentary overload, I’d strongly suggest watching the film, “What the Health”. It’s a compelling documentary which clearly outlines the devastating effects animal products have on the long term health of humans. A clear connection to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease when paired with our consumption of animal products.

In addition to personal health, learning about the sad state of affairs our meat and dairy industry is in is also quite alarming. From the puss in dairy from sick cows, to the over all disgust in meat when the demand, the safety and quality standards are flat out ignored. Eating animal products, ensures the slaughtered of sick, miserable animals who are nothing more to the manufacture than a head count. I haven’t even begun to cover the devastating effects animal consumption has on the environment. Vegan is not too strict, nor too fanatical. It’s the future. Something vintage vegans have waited for for over a half century to hear.

If you ever choose to do the math, in simple terms, our planet cannot support the future generation with animal products while being kind to our environment. Clear cutting forests for cattle grazing, GMO food crops invented to feed the animal chain, and realizing the amount of antibiotics and pharma used on animals is actually higher than its use on humans.

Some food for thought:

In the US, for example, an average family of four emits more greenhouse gases because of the meat they eat than from driving two cars. (BBC article)

If the world went vegan instead, emissions declines would be around 70%. (BBC article)

Of the world’s approximately five billion hectares (12 billion acres) of agricultural land, 68% is used for livestock. (BBC article)

should everyone go vegetarian by 2050, we would see a global mortality reduction of 6-10%, thanks to a lessening of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers. (BBC article)

Some global facts:

  • It was an initial health decision after watching the film, “What the Health”. However, I now see the big connection between health and environment. It’s real, it exists.
  • the inhumane treatment of animals must stop, starting with the halting of animal product consumption.
  • the oceans around the world are polluted. From dead zones, to over acidification, to nuclear disasters that seep into the ocean, it’s best to just stop eating fish. By doing so, you avoid the consumption of PCB chemicals, micro plastic particles, pollution, heavy metal, and it’s simply sinful to take any further from the ocean.
  • absolutely forget about processed meats.
  • absolutely forget about cheese, eggs and butter products
  • chicken a huge “no-no”
  • pork-I’d rather see those lovely animals free than penned up any day of the week.
  • cancer is most likely caused by what you are putting into your mouth
  • we are fat because of what we eat (butter, cream,animal products)
  • if we consume a diet high in animal products despite if we’re thin on the outside, we’re fat on the inside.
  • Dioxins in your body are 93% from meat, even when grazing on organic fields
  • Foods I’m living without:
    • cheese (very bad)
    • one egg/day equals 5 cigarettes
    • fish: concerns are (PCB, mercury, saturated fat, cholesterol)
    • meat
    • dairy products

If you’re still not ready to commit to a full-vegan lifestyle, perhaps consider your first step to eliminate dairy. I know, we have all considered dairy products pretty harmless, but when you learn the havoc they wreak on our bodies, it’s a no brainer. Switch your diet to a “whole plant base diet” and try it out. Starting on a trial basis, say 2 weeks, or 2 months, or 2 years, gives you time to judge the changes you see and feel in your over all general health.

Vegan Shopping
Vegan Shopping

Community support:

Search for communities in your area for example Switzerland in Europe.
www.vegi-basics.org: Einstiegsseite für einen schnellen Überblick
www.vegi-tag.ch: zum Projekt vegetarischer Wochentag
www.vegi-weihnachten.ch: Tipps für vegetarische Weihnachten
www.milchwerbung.ch: zur Richtigstellung der verlogenen Milchwerbung
www.govegan.ch: Einstiegsseite zu allen Belangen der veganen Lebensweise
www.v-label.eu: über das V-Label
www.veganmania.ch: die Schweizer Seite zum veganen Strassenfest

Books

Books to help you get you informed. There a ton of options out there, but this is what we’re starting with.

Power Foods for the Brain, Neal D. Barnard
Proteinaholic, Garth Davis
How Not to Die, Michael Greger & Gene Stone
The Plant-Based Solution, Joel Kahn MD
Your Whole Heart Solution, Joel Kahn MD
The Pleasure Trap, Douglas J. Lisle

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