Annika: My journey to veganism

Some of you might be interested in how someone becomes a vegan. Three years ago I probably would have never considered going vegan, but a lot of things changed for me, my whole perception of the world has become a completely different one. Here is the story about my personal journey to veganism.

So it all started with a book. I highly recommend it to everyone and no it is not a book that will try to turn you into a vegan. The book talks about environmental issues and raises awareness for human rights and indigenous people. Now the German title of the book is Schwarzbuch WWF. For all the English speaking folks here, don’t worry, you are lucky because the book also got published in English under the title PandaLeaks. Both titles hint at the involvement of the NGO with the cute panda logo and interests of multinational corporations. Generally speaking the book is about the WWF and its apparently tight ties to big business. The book brings up issues such as aqua agriculture and discusses the disappearance of “our” rainforests in the name of palm tree oil and genetically modified (GM). The latter got me interested in food policy and the whole GM crops and foods turned me into a very careful consumer and I started to actually avoid processed foods the best I could. I became convinced that the best food there is is fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetable, preferably organically grown. This was one step in the right direction, but still a long way to go until I became vegan. And while we’re at it, I recently saw a post on facebook about the WWF, click here to read for yourself if you don’t want to read a whole book.

That same summer, for the first time in my life/ever, it occurred to me that the dairy industry is very cruel. What I saw with my own eyes, definitely qualifies as animal cruelty (to my standards). I went to the stables with my sister to help her with the horses. The stables were located on a dairy farm and of course there were kittens. Soooo, we went to see the kittens, but I saw something else: baby cows! Let me clarify, that it was easily 30 degrees Celsius and the only shade those poor little baby cows had was the inside of their “iglu”, you know those ridiculous looking hutts baby cows get to spend their time in once they are separated from their mother. I can imagine that it was pretty hot inside those iglus and the baby cows were really suffering from the heat, I could tell, they were panting just lying there. Oh man, this was so heartbreaking to watch! “Where’s your mommy” was the only thing I could think of and this question has haunted me ever since. It makes me break out in tears, when I think about what dairy farmers do to the moms and their babies. It makes me want to scream out aloud in pain, because their suffering resonates deep within me. When I think about it, I am wondering why it took me 8 more months to go vegan?! What the hello took me so long?? I guess I didn’t realise the power and influence I can have as a consumer… Don’t fool yourself: if everyone gave up drinking milk and eating cheese, what incentive would dairy farmers have to continue their business. Instead they would be ‘coerced’ to diversify and grow veggies and fruits.

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Here is yet another anecdote that helped me turning my back on meat. It was right after Christmas and my grandmother, being in a festive mood and happy about the whole family spending a few days together decided to cook beef tongue. I was helping her in the kitchen with the meal prep and in the end, I had to “peel” the tongue and all I could think about was that this tongue belonged to a beautiful face once. I was so grossed out… Still, I convinced myself to take a bite when everyone sat down to eat, because I didn’t want to be rude. The consistency of the tongue didn’t help, it was chewy and so I sat there chewing and chewing on that bite of tongue and felt terrible about it. It was so so gross. I guess this just shows you how strong our belief system, which Melanie Joy calls ‘carnism’, really is. However, I didn’t go vegan straight away, but it definitely help me figure out that I wanted to change something about my food choices.

Back at the time, I was sharing a flat in Vienna with a very dear friend and he basically introduced me to Freelee the banana girl and Fullyraw Kristina. While I was admiring their diets, because they were “clean” and stayed away from highly processed and unhealthy foods, I was still labelling their way of life as “extreme”. At least, I could hardly imagine to go fullyraw. Another good friend of mine, who is now my vegan partner in crime, also followed Kristina’s fullyraw recipes, because she was dealing with all sorts of food allergies and sensitivities always looking for yummi and healthy gluten and dairy-free alternatives. And for some reason I kept watching Kristina’s and Freelee’s videos at home on a regular basis. I was somehow intrigued by their way of life and became curious about raw foods and veganism. Their diets and lifestyle must have had some kind of impact on me, because at some point I felt ready to accept the challenge and decided to go vegan over the summer months, when all the yummi fruits would be in season.

And then, finally, spring time came around and my favourite fruits started coming into season and I gave veganism a go and loved it ever since. Best decision I ever made! Freelee’s raw ’till 4 lifestyle eventually stuck with me. I don’t have a particular reason why I waited so long to go vegan, but I guess I wanted to do it right and waiting for the season that would bless me with a huge variety of seasonal fruits and veggies was the right decision for me. In a way I wanted to make sure that I’m getting the best experience of the vegan lifestyle in order to keep me from going back to old meat-eating habits. But of course, nobody has to wait until spring to go vegan, this was just the way I was preparing for the biggest life-changing decision of my life.

So I went vegan for the health benefits, at first. But after about 2 months into the new lifestyle I decided to take a day “off” and dedicate a whole day to watching vegan documentaries about animal agriculture. I saw some very graphic stuff that day and I didn’t look away, not once, I didn’t even blink. I allowed for all the horror of the slaughterhouse to be engraved in my heart and soul. I didn’t want to look the other way anymore. I knew that I could never go back to eating meet, eggs or dairy products. Seeing the real victims of our (food) choices has helped me evolve from a plantbased diet to a vegan (for the animals) lifestyle.

As you have read, it took me a while until I connected the dots, made the connection and decided to give veganism a go. Veganism is not just about you and making better choices for yourself; it also helps those suffering from our bad food choices, the animals, and also helps us to protect our environment which our society and industries relentlessly exploit and destroy.

To some extent I would say that veganism is also a political statement, because as a consumer you are resisting the current markets and propaganda and get the chance to voice your dissatisfaction with our society and how things are done. It’s sort of a boycott if you would like to call it that (I like to think it is a boycott). I, as a consumer, only want the best organically grown produce and veganism helps me express this. Maybe Elo or other vegans will tell you a different sorry about their own journey to veganism. Certainly everyone has their own reasons why and when they went vegan, but I think all vegans agree that we should not eat those we love.

In case anyone is interested in trying the vegan lifestyle, I do highly recommend getting yourself an Instagram account and follow some awesome vegan accounts and check out vegan hashtags such as #whatveganseat #veganfoodporn #govegan #vgang #hclf and #gofruityourself. Other than being a source of inspiration, those pics will make you feel less alone as a vegan For some vegan humour, dedicated to all those who have to deal with meat eaters’ arguments against veganism, go check out Vegan Sidekick.

Always remember, veganism will benefit everyone: us, the animals and the environment.

Books that I have mentioned:
PandaLeaks by Wilfired Huismann (http://www.pandaleaks.org/)
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy

The documentaries that helped convince me to stick to veganism, not only for my own health, but also for the sake of the animals’ lives:
Earthlings
Food, Inc.
Forks over Knives
Vegucated
Supercharge me! 30 days on raw diet (available on Youtube)
Simply raw – reversing diabetes in 30 days (available on Youtube)

Youtube channels that inspired me to go vegan in the first place:
Freeleethebananagirl and FullyRawKristina

I hope this was helpful to some of you and maybe makes you think twice about your food choices. What is your story? Let us know!

Stay tuned for a whole ‘About me’ post and Elo’s journey to veganism.
Annika

 

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