500 comments, & I’ll go Vegan for a year.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Dec 26, 2011
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Why should I go Vegan in 2012? #NewYearsResolutions

I’m going vegan, maybe. And using the consideration over the next few days to inspire a respectful consideration for our whole mindful community. I’ll decide based on comments, on New Year’s Day. ~ ed.

Growing up, I ate meat—until I was four, or something, and I realized the cute pigs and other animals I was reading about in children’s books were what I was eating on my plate. That’s gross, and mean, and crazy, I thought!

I became vegetarian for two weeks.

Fast forward 10 years or so and my Buddhist practice of tonglen (compassion meditation, you could call it) and my newfound passion for environmental responsibility (started by the fun, simple book 50 Ways to Save the Planet) led me to eat and enjoy less and less meat. The changes in my diet weren’t particularly inspired by compassion for animals—it was more about eating mindfully, and appreciating what I was eating, and only eating meat when I knew where it was coming from. This was around 1995.

In 1999, I was barely eating meat, ever. My then-girlfriend, a lifelong vegetarian, moved in, and I casually offered to only eat meat out, since separating the pots and pans and cutting boards and all was a bit of a hassle. Overnight, I wound up, rather inadvertently, becoming a full-fledged vegetarian for the first time in my life. Why? Well, I’d been hardly eating any meat, anyways. I never got pepperoni or sausage on pizza, since I didn’t know where it hailed from (almost certainly a factory farm, and I wasn’t down with ordering torture for dinner). Most helpfully, my gf didn’t proselytize…she just ate healthfully, and showed me how (which is key: many folks who “try” veganism just take the meat out and then wonder why they feel weak). Instead of looking for meat substitutes, which rarely compared to the real thing, she ate a wonderful, delicious diet full of protein. At 185 pounds, very active (bicycling every day, etc) I felt just as good as always.

I’ve been vegetarian ever since, and it’s been easy. I don’t really think about it, and the few times I’ve been offered meat and accepted (once by my Buddhist teacher, as a sort of prank) it’s tasted like flesh, not the yummy meat I remembered. I no longer want it. Sure, bacon still smells good, but so might bbq’d human or dog or horse, and we wouldn’t eat that if it smelled nice, would we?

Day to day, I’m just about vegan. Have been for some time. I don’t eat meat, of course, and I don’t use milk for anything (I switched to Americanos or black coffee, leaving behind dry capuccinos, with the encouragement of some of my vegan frenemies a year ago). The only time I eat dairy is when cheese, for nachos, or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I’ve tried all the vegan ice creams, and they don’t cut it. Not nearly. At least, not yet.

So, I ask you: why should I go vegan in 2012?

I have slow food friends who’d rather see me eat meat again mindfully, and appreciate the best of foodie culture. I myself have been turned off by some of the aggression in the vegan community, and hesitate to join their ranks. But my conscience is more important to me than any of that. Why should I eat dairy? Does eating mindfully produced dairy or meat help change an industry more than abstention? Can conscious consumerism make the dairy and meat industries kinder than going vegan, where you’re removing any incentive for said industries to get more gentle and responsible?

Also, Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin and others (see here for my interviews with them) say that if everyone went vegan, there would be no domesticated animals left at all. If we didn’t have an incentive to keep cows and goats and chickens and even buffalo around, they’d be gone. Poof. Most vegans say, well, that’s fine. These are breeds not intended to live in the wild, anyways. Still, that seems complicated: vegans shrug shoulders at the prospect of losing millions of acres of farmland and millions of animals (though I understand they live miserable lives).

So I’m looking for comments, for or against, or middle of the road.

Whatever you think. Why should I go vegan? Why shouldn’t I? What’s a good (truly) vegan ice cream? What’s a good vegan cheese (I’ve been buying almond for some time, and am impressed—they work for nachos! Not so sure about pizza).

If we get to 500 comments (for and against both count, to aid the spirit of mutual respect and conversation)—our most-comments-on-one-blog-ever on elephant is 488—I’ll go vegan for a year. And write about the experience, which should involve many more readers in this vital contemplation. If all goes well, I’ll stay vegan.

Why so many comments? Because I’d like to use my path, here, as an instigator of conversation for as many of us as elephant’s diverse community can reach to figure out how to live responsibly, with joy, and with minimal aggression and prejudgment at others. Any disrespectful, personal comments to anyone will be deleted, and won’t count toward the total. Leave a comment. One word is enough.

Help this conversation get out there. Share this to your Facebook wall, or email it to your list, or tweet this (hashtag #mindful to share with other elephant readers).

The deadline is, of course, New Year’s Eve, at midnight, when I’ll be emceeing at BMOCA.

Bonus >

Peta’s 10 Reasons to go Vegan.

elephant’s 5 tips for making the Vegan transition.

PS: Pigs are cute. Pigs are also smart.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom


450 Responses to “500 comments, & I’ll go Vegan for a year.”

  1. Alison says:

    To produce milk, cows have to deliver a baby. If the cow nurses her baby, then there is no milk left for human consumption. So even in an "organic" dairy, the baby is sent away to become veal if male or another dairy cow if female. Either way, these calves are not allowed to stay with their mothers for more than a few hours or days. If you are trying to live mindfully, there really is more cruelty in a glass of milk or piece of cheese than in a steak.

    • OmShanti says:

      I totally agree…the dairy industry has to be one of the cruelest things on earth. I'd eat meat again before I'd ever eat dairy…and that will be never:)

  2. Kalara says:

    If not vegan, at least vegetarian. I'm trying to convince my family not to eat meat – alas, they are still corpse eaters. But they are cutting down… it's a small planet and meat is wasteful.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Amen. Already vegetarian, as the article said, have been for nine years, it's been easy and I have plenty of energy (my friends would agree: maybe too much!). ~ Waylon

  3. Betty says:

    http://pinterest.com/pin/41236152807800235/ http://www.veganoutreach.org/articles/animalsnota… Meat-eaters are the only ones in a position to save animals in the future. We have to engage them in a constructive and honest manner, not glorify ourselves or impress other vegans. I urge those pinterested to refer to the link of origin for oddles of information 🙂 Vegan goodies is a "springboard" to a vegan world of information…not just a collection of images. "I'm just one species among so many incredible beings sharing planet Earth with me… "In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time." (Henry Beston)

  4. Kelsey says:

    Yes!!! Go vegan.

  5. Bryon says:

    Go dude!

  6. Shel says:

    Go vegan! Eat lots of veggies. Tastes good, feels good, is good. Best wishes for 2012. Enjoy!

  7. Candice Garrett says:

    I think vegans are awesome. I am not one, but I eat a TON of vegan food. So why not vegan? Because I really like whole ingredients. Butter = butter. I understand it might not be healthier, but I am more comfortable with foods that have as few, whole ingredients as possible. I can't bring myself to eat a shit ton of processed crap just because they call it vegan, and that includes tofu and veggie burgers and all that, except for rarely. THAT BEING SAID: I know there is a way to do it where you are still vegan, eat a balanced diet and avoid all those scary lab-made foods. So if you can do it that way, I'm all for you going vegan Way!

  8. Vince says:

    hey Waylon,
    I've been vegetarian for a couple of years and I switched ti vegan last spring. Its not that big of a deal, no milk no meat no eggs. No milk related problems from eating or drinking stuff made for calves, no meat issues from cholesterol or for me, gout that really sucked and no cholesterol from eggs. The other thing is that if everything is an aspect of the Divine then I'm not eating and disrespecting the that which is part of me and everything else. Sure meat and milk and eggs taste good, but that is all it has to offer; so I have to take a vitamin B supplement that is only because we chlorinate the tap water and kill the bacteria that used to provide us with the Bs (dead tap water is better than typhus and cholera et al) So go vegan because all those animals we used to kill to eat end up being part of what kills omnivores. Being lower on the food chain is better.

  9. Holling says:

    Eating animals' flesh and their menstrual fluids and breast milk is both cruel and disgustingly bizarre.
    I have been vegan over 20 years. My son has been vegan his whole life – over 8 years – and we are healthy, rarely sick, full of energy.
    Jump on in! Good luck!

    • elephantjournal says:

      You could say driving a car made out of metals ripped out of the earth and burning fuel won through wars is "cruel and disgustingly bizarre." And yet many vegans don't seem overly concerned with organics, or green generally (though the vegan diet has wonderful green aspects to it).

      Seems to me vegans, and all of us, have to choose our battles. ~ Waylon

  10. catnipkiss says:

    I think it would be interesting to hear your thoughts about it while you are trying it out. – Alexa M. (PS see you New Years!)

  11. jeni vegan says:


  12. Robin Velasco says:

    Please go Vegan 🙂 It will really be a GREAT example to a lot of people! There are many reasons to go Vegan, and an encyclopedia of books can be written on this topic alone 🙂

  13. Don says:

    Don't do it! oh wait…..

  14. lauren says:

    Definitely do it! I was eating 90% vegan, then went 100% and wondered why training for a 5k was so much easier than usual. It's definitely not unhealthy at all, and not hard either – only as hard as any other healthy diet is to maintain. Read Vegan for Life by two vegan nutritionists, Ginny Messina and Jack Norris. It hurts to hear people hate veganism so much. I hope you enjoy it if you do it! I do!

  15. Linh says:

    Wow. By being Veg for one year, you can save 84,000 gallons of water and 2400 with each meal?

    Save 84,000 gallons of water – animals and animal agriculture consume a lot of water. Consider that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to make one pound of beef. Other animals such as chickens and pigs consume less water than cattle, but their consumption is still pretty high given the sheer numbers of animals used for food.

    CHECK IT OUT! http://wannaveg.com/

    • elephantjournal says:

      Well, if we put all those animals in a sanctuary or a bunch of sanctuaries, we'd have to water them, still, no? Confusing stuff!

  16. Kristen says:

    I've been vegan for six years and feel committed to it. You have to make your own choices, but if it was up to me, I say go for it!

  17. VegCamDoll says:

    Go you & your wonderful decisions!

  18. Ann says:

    I actually just wrote a column for my university's paper about the benefits of veganism: http://vegansloveuta.tumblr.com/post/14317961808/

    I would recommend Daiya vegan cheese, and Tofutti, So Delicious and Coconut Bliss make good vegan ice cream.
    I also recommend the following blogs: http://vegandad.blogspot.com/ http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/ http://theveganstoner.com/

    Good luck and feel free to contact me if you have questions or need more recipe suggestions!

    • elephantjournal says:

      One question, actually:

      What things that we wouldn't normally think of as non-vegan aren't vegan? Someone just told me beer is made using honey, for example. ~ Waylon

  19. Alia says:

    After watching Gary Null on PBS one night when I was 21, I went vegan. I was eating everything before that. Luckily there was a vegan/vegetarian restaurant (probably the only one minus the Krishna buffet) a few blocks from my
    apartment. This was downtown Denver, 2001. I was fortunate to have that spot an a live-in boyfriend who decided to Vegan out with me.

    Fast forward 10 years and I am not vegan, or even vegetarian anymore. But I am returning. More importantly, I am eating better than ever. I am still eating clean. I buy mostly Organic for my home. I use only coconut milk, & almond milk. Unsweetened. I use coconut oil almost exclusively.

    For me, I like the occasional sushi, chicken feta spinach sausage, or mmmmm bacon. But in moderation. Soy = no way Jose. Too many hormone and adrenal issues there. Hydrogenated oils, HFCS, no way. I am working on avoiding cane sugar too.

    It’s important to focus on whole, fresh, organic, clean non-gmo food sources.

    Vegan means you can eat potato chips and junk food. It can still be vegan. Doesn’t mean it is healthy though.

    Some words for to

  20. YES! GO VEGAN for LOVE, Waylon! 🙂
    Love of animals, love of the planet, love of health, love of LIFE! And just for the love of love!
    To me, being vegan is all about becoming a better lover.
    I went all-vegan 8 years ago at a raw foods retreat with Gabriel Cousens (Awesome yogi!) and I've been loving it ever since!

  21. Stacey Taylor says:

    Because the animals need more compassionate humans on their side.

  22. elephantjournal says:


  23. Anand says:

    There is less suffering from a vegan diet than a comparable vegetarian diet. Mainly, this is animal suffering. Is that important to you as a Buddhist, to reduce suffering, even if it's *only* animal suffering?

  24. Jeanette says:

    Go vegan! <3 It's the best choice I've ever made in my life! Been vegetarian since I was 7 years old & vegan for over 17 years!

  25. Eric says:

    There might be a lot of aggression within the do called vegan ranks, but I assure you the majority of us who choose a vegan lifestyle do so out of compassion (for others as well as for ourselves) and try our best in letting that be the practice, not aggression. I’m sure you already have a plethora of reasons as to why you would benefit greatly from a plant-based diet & vegan lifestyle for a year, but if you want helpful facts and reasons I recommend books such as The China Study and a World Peace Diet. Kudos for considering this and God’s Speed!

  26. SwamiHenderson says:

    BOOM, doin' my part.

  27. Anaïs says:

    I comment.

  28. darkstardust says:

    I've been vegan for over two decades, and started off as a vegetarian in a similar way to your earliest description; "I'm old enough to sit at the table, therefore old enough to make my own decisions about food."
    Many years later & I've actually lost count of how many years vegan (after 20 years, who really cares?) & am going on my sixth FULL year doing raw food only (I stick with this because I feel amazing & regenerate like mad).

    These days I've been doing a bit of coaching for people (mainly those who are already vegan) on how to eat mindfully, with specific attention on locally grown, grower-direct, grown-at-home & Ahimsa. I love it. Food is such an important part of who we become & the essence we emit/reflect… I feel best knowing that I'm doing absolutely everything I can to honour & cherish this planet and all of her inhabitants, whilst also obeying the Golden Rule I've so often found to be so relevant in this lifetime: Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

    In other words: Live & let live. The rest will come easily.
    Join us for awhile & incredible things will follow. =)

  29. What I find funny are the comments from people who are scared for your health…"You are going to get frequent check ups and blood tests right? It's a really risky way to eat!" Do people say this to their friends who just eat crap?

    Not sure if this is a pro or con but: http://www.veg-world.com/recipes/haggis.htm

  30. donutszenmom says:

    Why go vegan? Watch "Earthlings" — and pay special attention to the dairy cows. There are some good videos of dairy calf rescues online, too. The offspring of dairy cows are treated like "byproducts" of the industry — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IkwE8tHBAs&fe

  31. Theresa says:

    Yes do it! The best thing you can do four your health, the environment, and the animals. I have made the switch to being vegan and no longer wear leather, silk or wool either. I am a better and happier person for it.

  32. Jesse says:

    There are (literally!) a zillion vegan-baking cookbooks, and an ever-increasing array of vegan bakeries. Where did you get the idea you'd have to give up baked goods? All you have to give up is meat and dairy (and all other animal products, of course); no more Beef Wellington layer cake, perhaps, but there are other varieties of cake (and cupcake and pie and….) out there.

  33. m. ryan says:

    do it!

  34. Carla Golden says:

    The metaphor of eating is central to spiritual communion with the divine presence.

    It is universally recognized that eating food is both a literally and symbolically sacred action: it is directly partaking of the infinite order that transcends our finite lives.

    May all beings be free and at peace, Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet

  35. Kim Roberts says:

    I've had a friend visiting for the past 3 weeks who has been "cooking" me raw/vegan dinners every night, and fruit/nut/coconut milk salad every morning, (granted, in Thailand, the fruit here is delicious enough to make anyone go fruitarian) and I feel like a totally different person after only 3 weeks. so I'm headed in the same direction as you, looking to the new year for a fresh start. go for it! good luck!

  36. Roberta Rivera says:

    Just do it Waylon.
    It is better for your health and so much better for the animals.
    Peace and love to you in 2012.

  37. Charlie says:

    Absolutely do it. I cannot say it any better than the multitudes who have already commented. But what a beautiful way to respect life. Good luck and enjoy!

  38. Elizabeth says:

    It's an incredibly easy, delicious and varied way to eat, in addition to benefitting your health, the animals and the planet. It also allows one to live and eat in sync with one's values (to do no harm to other living beings). There are countless websites and books with great recipes and information in addition to groups and meet ups to provide information and support. Millions of people in this country and across the globe have adopted this lifestyle and know how great it is — you can too!

  39. windysgarden says:

    One of the best decisions I made this year was to switch to a plant based diet. I discovered Daiya cheese and many other dairy alternatives. It's well worth a try.

  40. dEANO says:

    Just do it! There are too many POSITIVES to being Vegan. It goes out in ALL directions: personal health, environmental and animal health, ethical health… can I even suggest KARMIC health? IT'S GOOD – for you, for EVERY LIVING BEING.

  41. karlsaliter says:

    Personally, I'm vegan. I like to think that if you go vegan,
    there is a chance, however slim, that somewhere,
    a kitten will not get punched in the face. Best of luck
    with your choice.

  42. buffallosoldier says:

    "my conscience is more important to me than any of that"_

    If you know what happens to the animals, your conscience should rule, period. No lame excuses.

    Your body will thank you for choosing to refrain from dairy.

    _ _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kM387cI4rk&mid=546

  43. kari says:

    I went vegan almost 4 years ago and I have never felt better. I use to get sick ALL the time and now I never do. I was vegan through my entire pregnancy and now have a 15 month old healthy vegan boy. Go vegan for a year and discover how your taste buds change and how good beans, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and fruits can be!

  44. Kristen says:

    Try “So Delicious” coconut milk ice cream! I love being vegetarian 🙂

  45. Alexa says:

    Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals (Donald Watson, who coined the word in 1941).

    Being Vegan is a lifestyle; not just a diet. In order to truly be Vegan, you must also not purchase leather, wool, silk, etc. If you have them, it's ok to keep them, but you should not acquire new ones.

    If you do that, you merely on a plant-based diet. Please use the correct terminology.

  46. Rainbow says:

    Here we go! say goodbye to cheese and eggs

    • elephantjournal says:

      Already don't eat eggs, really, but I guess eggs are used in a ton of baked goods…that'll be tough to give up!

  47. Julz says:

    There is no way to kindly kill an animal. It is all cruel. Eating dead meat that is shipped from far far away rotting is not something you want to eat. Milk is for baby cows to get fat, not for humans to drink or eat. Tofutti better Pecan is the best I have tried. Once you stop eating dairy soy cheese will start to taste good, it just takes time. I truly hope you find your way to become vegan. Not just for you, but for all the.hungry people out there.

    • susan says:

      what about euthanizing people or other animals? otherwise i don't think there is any way to live and be kind, because we would always be about extending suffering

  48. Crystal says:

    First off, I’m for going vegan because there is no such thing as “mindfully produced dairy or meat”. It doesn’t matter how painlessly you might kill and animal, you are KILLING them. Its the end result that is wrong. Dairy is the same, to get milk you have to have a pregnant or nursing cow, goat, etc. Isn’t that milk for their baby? How “mindful” is it to take milk away from a baby, or even keep a mom producing after her infant has been weened. Go vegan because you think it is right and how you should live, not because you get a strong postitive response from all of us! If you only go because its “popular”, then you are in it for the wrong reasons.

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