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Ditching meat for good: 10 years a vegan

Corn dogs can be vegan too. (Amanda Meth)
Corn dogs can be vegan too. (Amanda Meth)

This past August marked my 10-year anniversary of one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I was fourteen, I drew the connection between the food I would thoughtlessly scarf down on my plate and the animals which I had grown up wanting to save.

One mid-July evening in 2003, I decided that I would ditch meat for good. The first few days proved to be faulty for me, as no one else in my family was a vegetarian and I thought that I could still order chicken fried rice if I just picked out the chicken. Thanks to the internet, I learned that being a vegetarian would involve more than removing the beef from a bowl of spaghetti bolognese.

Although I was met with some backlash from my father, my strong convictions prevailed. I became a regular at my local Whole Foods Market and started stocking up on mock meats such as Boca burgers, veggie riblets, and chick’n nuggets. Eventually Safeway would start to carry these products, and even my father would bring home pints of soy ice cream for me to enjoy. After a year of extensive research into the horrors of the dairy industry, I decided that being a vegetarian would not be good enough and that I was ready to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle, at the age of fifteen.

Homemade vegan tacos can be an easy and festive way to celebrate Meatless Monday with friends and family. (Michele Kilmer)
Homemade vegan tacos can be an easy and festive way to celebrate Meatless Monday with friends and family. (Michele Kilmer)

Going vegan prompted me to question authority in my adolescence and has exposed me to other forms of oppression. While writing this, I was appalled to find out that “cattle ranching has the highest rates of slave labour in Brazil — just over 3,000 people held as slaves were freed from ranches last year,” according to an article published by Greenpeace UK in 2009. About 200 million pounds of beef is imported by the United States from Central America every year. While it is logical to deduce that most people are vegan because they are compassionate towards animal welfare, there is also an undeniable element of social justice associated with veganism.

Let’s consider the fact that it takes more than 4,000 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef (that’s correct, 4,000 gallons for a single pound!). As the drought in California continues to worsen, it is imperative that we examine our water use. What’s even shittier is that cow manure gets into our water, causing bacteria such as e.coli to grow and infect the population. According to the EPA, a single dairy cow produces approximately 120 pounds of wet manure per day. Veganism is a simple way to address issues of clean water access, which is a social justice issue.  

Although PeTA may like to think that veganism is most glamorous when being touted by the rich and famous, a basic vegan diet does not have to consist of having chanterelle mushrooms sprinkled with pine nuts and black truffle oil as the basis for every meal. I have learned to love cooking with a variety of grains and vegetables and no longer have to rely on my microwave to heat up a frozen dinner. Bulk rice and beans are some of the most economical foods out there and also provide a number of nutrients. Onions, mushrooms, garlic and spices are essential to making your food taste incredible, and leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses that can be made into chips, blended into a smoothie or chopped into a salad with avocados, carrots, pumpkin seeds and nutritional yeast.

Vegan companies such as Just Mayo and Beyond Meat are helping to make vegan alternatives to mayonnaise more accessible by carrying their product in retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Dollar Tree in addition to higher-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods.Let’s not forget about the power of the veggie burrito —packed with deliciousness and sustenance.

So the next time you sit down for a meal, consider what it took in order for your food to arrive.

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