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 | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


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

  1. lindsaymcclure says:

    HAHAHAH YAAA EMMA! haha xo

  2. Amy says:

    Go vegan, you won't regret it and you will not miss milk, eggs, etc. Going vegan opens up your cooking to more flavor than you ever knew!

  3. Candice Garrett says:

    Thanks, and yes, shit ton is a technical term 🙂

  4. Mary says:

    I've been vegan for over 5 years and I have never regretted a single minute of it. The first few months were rough, trying to experiment with which faux meats and non-dairy cheeses were the best and which were crap, but I finally found some products I liked and the selection has generously expanded since then. I love to bake and share my vegan creations with everyone and anyone–vegan or not! Looks like there are already over 500 comments here, but best of luck on your New Years Resolution and feel free to ask for any recipes! 🙂

  5. Kim says:

    Just today ABC broke the news of a raid on a North Carolina Butterball turkey farm and processing plant. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/butterball-turkey-r

    Here is the video evidence submitted from the Butterball factory (video contains graphic depictions of malicious animal cruelty): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5LM06ZvCk4

  6. Aurora says:

    Forks Over Knives! Worth watching!

  7. elephantjournal says:

    529 comments—and counting. Looks like I'm going vegan in 2012!

    So is our star writer Kate, and several of the commenters on this here blog. Anyone else? Email us at [email protected] & join our "Journal of Intimidated Imperfect Newbies into Veganlandia." ~ Waylon Lewis

    (Follow our blogs at http://www.facebook.com/waylonhlewis and http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal we'll need all the advice we can get)

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Yay, we'll need all the advice and help we can get! Just tried vegan ice cream again, tonight, Almond something, and it was great. I actually forgot it was vegan until halfway through.

  9. 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!

  10. elephantjournal says:

    I need it! Not sure where your email shows up…can you email us at [email protected]?

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Nailed it! Thanks!

  12. elephantjournal says:

    ahahaha well done.

  13. Alison says:

    have you seen Forks over Knives? I've been a vegan for years with the full support of my doctor. She does insist on testing my B12 levels every year, but I have yet to be low. What is low is my blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. And I don't take any supplements. Just eat organic, whole foods and follow the vegan food pyramid. Easy!

    The fact is an animal-based diet is killing us and our planet.

  14. Alison says:

    try eating just fruit for breakfast, high fiber fruit such as bananas and apples, the some nuts or peanut butter a few hours later. The slow digesting carbs will stabilize your blood sugar and you won't feel this way anymore. Check this out, it is free and give you 3 weeks of well planned, nutritionally balanced meals to make your transition easier.

  15. spikearoo says:

    have fun. I will be over here eating pork products.

  16. Alison says:

    If you are really interested in this topic, then you should watch Forks over Knives. It can be streamed on Netflix. It is very informative and scientifically sound.

  17. Alison says:

    I use Almond Breeze too. It is awesome in cereal, and I use the vanilla for my Sunday morning latte. It foams perfectly and has just the right amount of sweetness and vanilla that I don't need to add sugar. 90 calories for the vanilla and 40 for the unsweetened, calcium, protein and healthy monounsaturated fat, it can't be beat!

  18. Anand says:

    Just to be clear, are you going to follow a plant-based diet or are you going vegan, which would for example include not purchasing any leather, wool, silk, or down products?

  19. Joey says:

    Hello Waylon.
    Guess you start your path to plant-based eating along with the trend setters. Even Glamour magazine is writing about it – http://glmr.me/vxvNtk.
    Good luck!

  20. Rodolfo says:

    You should definitely go vegan.
    The reason you should do it should ideally have nothing to do with how others feel, but you can explore those reasons during your trial year!
    If you eat enough calories, it is very simple and healthy. My kids and wife and I are all vegan… and my kids from before birth until now. We are all thriving. I've been vegan for 17+ years now, and when I started doing triathlons recently, I went on to win my AG group almost every single race, and placed in the top 3 a few times.
    You can certainly be vegan and thrive.

  21. justanotheryogi says:

    I inherited a friend's ice cream maker helping her move a few years back. The machine died after that summer, but I still remember these two recipes that I enjoyed from Vegetarian Times! I won't offer an opinion on what I think should be a choice with which you feel comfortable. As someone who struggles with the same issues you raised above, I will enjoy following your journey (perhaps by taking the plunge with you). Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2012 for you and Elephant Journal!

    Peanut butter coconut ice cream: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/10626?sect
    Super Chocolate Vegan Gelato: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/10629?sect

  22. Laura says:

    Go for it! A friend of mine recently introduced me to Daiya "cheese" to substitute my cheese cravings! It is delicious and it MELTS! Mozarella, cheddar and pepper jack…mmmmm… I am curious to see how you feel!

  23. DaveTelf says:

    my parents just went totally vegan, and they love it. at 60+, they've never felt better. my dad is even about to start practicing yoga ((WHAT!?)). my mom did it for health reasons, and very quickly she has her cholesterol way down and looks fabulous. my dad is more along for the ride, but the proof is in the gluten-free pudding. also, he would say he is a wegan, which is a vegan + wine (a good source of antioxidants…).

    Do it!!! NudeFood will sponsor you.

  24. I think being low meat is enough. If everyone did that, problems of the world solved! Especially if we all bought what meat we do consume from farmers and butchers that we knew and trusted. That would be heavenly.

  25. Tracy says:

    It would be wonderful if you become vegan. I want to transition from vegetarian to vegan this New Year too. Cows and chickens suffer as much as other animals used for meat. Even in humane farming techniques, what happens to the unwanted baby cows, or the unwanted male chicks?! Veal and the grinder! Also, it's better for the environment and you can be very healthy as a vegan. Watch Forks over Knives or read The China Study. You'll be an ambassador for a compassionate and health way of life.

  26. Amy says:

    Do it! Veganism is the best choice I've ever made.

  27. karlsaliter says:

    " It takes some involuntary mental work to repress where your meat comes from and how those animals were treated, and I was surprised how it made my burden lighter. "
    I love that! I remember being amazed as a young man when, after a year of Karate classes, I was no longer in fear. Before the course began, I was unaware of any such fear. Doesn't mean I didn't have it, it was just that I was blinding myself to it, with some unseen effort. That is a great synopsis.

  28. karlsaliter says:


  29. […] Waylon says: {click here for back story, why going vegan yadayada} […]

  30. […] pushed me over the edge this week? It started with a recent commitment by Waylon Lewis to go vegan for a year. Yes, it is a New Years Resolution and a particularly extreme one (makes doing yoga 6 times a week […]

  31. Alex says:

    Please keep us in the loop about your libido. I'm serious. After about 6 months vegan/raw – I said bye to mine. Curious as always- Alex

  32. Anna says:

    Go Vegan!!!

  33. DarkStardust says:

    I believe the point she was making in the paragraph above is that even as a vegetarian, the same politics of cruelty apply. Whenever you buy dairy or eggs, you are supporting an industry which defaults to those horrible outcomes at some point in the life of the animals being used. When consuming the by-products of industrially enslaved animals, whether or not one eats the actual flesh of these tortured beings is irrelevant. The spent animals are eventually slaughtered anyway, after having lived their entire lives in slavery.

    In short: Whilst vegetarians may feel that they are living a kinder & more conscious lifestyle, there will still be blood on the hands of anyone who supports this system.

    Having an immense amount of trouble with logging in via WordPress/intensedebate/OpenID modules here. Not sure why, but bypassing & posting as a guest. =/

  34. todd says:

    Since you already have enough comments to take the plunge, all I can do is be a signpost of caution:

  35. Erin says:

    Go for it! If it works for you GREAT! If not, GREAT! At least you will gain understanding that you may have previously lacked.

  36. Guest says:

    maybe you could also take a break from caffeine too there, Tanya

  37. Sarah says:

    I see what Steph is saying after viewing all of the sample diets of the Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness link posted on my thread up there. It is all a bunch of Vega protein shakes once and sometimes twice a day. Vega is a vegan protein diet shake that has extracted the protein from many vegetarian sources. What does this company do with the rest of the food after they extract the protein from it?

  38. Sarah says:

    I think it would be painful and weird if a cow suckled milk from MY breast. Or anyone's.
    Cows have molars and ruminating stomachs.
    I have a combination of molars along with other tooth designs meant for an omnivore diet, and I do not ruminate.
    I know what exercise is. I also know how much harder someone like myself needs to exercise when they've loaded up on carbs, unless the carbs were extracted and the protein remained like the vega shakes have.

  39. ARCreated says:

    hahaha and i'm coming off of being vegan and going vegetarian :_ good luck!!

  40. ARCreated says:

    erin this is the best response!!!

  41. Ulyana says:

    Well… it sounds like you're mind is set. You're officially trying veganism and creating some awareness. I am a long term vegetarian but to be honest I am uncomfortable with labelling myself as a vegan, even though I don't eat animal products. I just hate aggressive vegans/ fruitarians/ whateverians because they put people off this lifestyle. I've never been happier cutting out the animal product and I'm the healthiest person I know. It works for me and it might work for you. Good luck!

  42. Rory Haubert says:

    I understand this is really boring and you’re simply skipping to another comment, but I just wished to toss you a large many thanks — you solved some things for me!

  43. Matt Davis says:

    All animals deserve to be free from unnecessary pain, fear, and suffering at the hands of humans. How can anything less claim to be humane? Do I want more people to go vegan, is that why I talk and write about it? Of course, but it has nothing to do with me or some group that I belong to. It has to do with the animals who suffer everyday so that we can eat them, wear them, and do whatever we want to them simply because we can.

    Veganism is the practical response to a social injustice.
    –Ari Solomon

  44. Christine says:

    Booja Booja = wicked vegan ice cream. Dairy is evil in my eyes. Cow protein enriched sweat booby excess…. ewwwwwww
    Personally,need meat in diet else get skinny. Do what feels right.

  45. @SarahYPP says:

    I've been a vegetarian for almost two years now. People always have this 'fear' of being vegetarian, that the food wont taste as great, it will be inconvenient etc etc… but truth is, there's no difference. I love being vegetarian! I've committed to being a vegetarian for life, who knows, maybe one day I'll go vegan too.

  46. Genro says:

    Waylon, I too am a practicing Buddhist, including a 2-year period in an Asian monastery–your deep faith alone should help you to extend the basic laws of karma and inter-being to the foods you choose to eat. I don't have time to read all 446 comments but I'm sure someone by now has mentioned the Engine2 Diet, Carlston Esselstyne, MacDougall, Ornish and others. A whole food plant based diet is healing thousands of people every day and may bring Food Inc and big Pharm to their knees. And it's delicious! The hard part for me is cutting the oil, but I'm learning while I heal. Go for it! bows.

  47. Jeremy says:

    Good on you Waylon, while i don't support veganism for environmental reasons (i'll get into that in a second), i think we could all learn a lot from your experiment. I have been vegetarian, i now eat meat, consciously. I think about it a lot, because my meat eating does leave me in a moral dilemma. But the beautiful, painful, harsh and amazing bit of truth is that every bit of food embodies death. For something to live, something must die. Let's set aside factory farming, CAFO's and all that bad shit, i think readers here can agree that that is bad. However to deny eating sustainably, humanely and locally raised meat for any reason besides it just not tasting good to you, I have a hard time with. For your soy-enhanced dairy substitutes, milks, and grain products, fields are cleared, whole ecosystems disrupted or entirely wiped out (think, of the once vast and amazing American prairies which now grow soy and corn), topsoil eroded and fossil fuels converted to nutrients then used to move those products from field to market to plate. Our factory farming system (the one that grows vegetable too) is a harbinger of death, it ruins ecosystems, causes the earth to warm, and yes, kills. From the microbes in the vanished topsoil, to the insects and birds killed by fossil fuels, to the downstream ecosystems made toxic by runoff, your vegetables may not have had a face, a mother, or a cute little tail, but their harvest embodies plenty of death.
    In fact, a system of sustainable agriculture, as many know, should be designed using mother nature as the model. And mother nature does not create healthy soil (mostly made of living things btw), without a combination of plants AND animals. LIkewise, intentional agriculture needs animal inputs to be sustainable, otherwise you are importing store bought "fertilizer" such as bone/fish meal, blood meal, seaweed and other inputs, most of us who garden do. Think of the emobodied death and environmental degredation associated with those inputs, our best bet if we cannot own animals is to get the nearest source of animal manures. But what happens to those animals who's products we are reaping? Look at sustainable agriculture systems with the least outside inputs, they involve animals. Animals that we care for, maybe, and allow to exist because we need their services. Should we ignore the fact that they produce eggs, or are capable of converting cellulose into delicious protein? No. Even though this involves killing. We eat an egg, uh oh, no baby chicken, we kill a cow that now doesn't die of old age, but that is the way of nature, animals die in the wild by violence or disease. Domestic, humanely raised animals die a merciful death, a quick slice and their lives have not gone in vain, these animals domesticated US! and have done a great job of making themselves useful, while enjoying lives less harsh than their wild brethren.

    Long story short, we would all do well to accept death as part of life. And death as part of your own, (yes yours) existence. For you to eat, something must die, no matter if you are an omnivore or vegan.

  48. outlanderfan says:

    I think you should do it! And tell us about your experience along the way (what's the hardest to give up etc)

  49. […] I became vegan (thanks to all of your comments), I lost a lot of things. I was already vegetarian, but going vegan lost me good cheese, it lost me […]

  50. Jo says:

    Do you need dairy replacement or cheese subsitutes? The idea of having another animals milk is weird but so is the need to replace that milk with another kind ? I have friends who make the most delicious pizza's without using any kind of substitute .. I am vegetarian myself but eat alot of vegan foods.. I experimented also being a strict vegan but only for a month and half… since that time I barely ever buy milk but I do still have eggs now and again, but that time being vegan made me look at food differently, not interms of what and how can I replace dairy but thinking about all the other options.. and there are so many and if you have the time and money to cook well then its great. I live in the UK and outside of London its difficult to eat out healthly as a vegan… Oh and do you not like booja booja icescream?