At the beginning of 2019, I switched to a vegan diet. No longer would I consume the produce of innocent animals.
It was a long time coming. For the last eight years, I called myself a flexitarian, which was a polite way of saying I tried my best to follow a vegetarian diet. I’d occasionally succumb to the temptations of the flesh and feel guilt-ridden for days afterward.
I’m vegan for the animals, first and foremost, so I’m not appalled by the taste of meat or dairy. The first months were spent resisting the temptation and making sure my diet was balanced.
At first, I told a few close friends who were generally supportive. After six months, I felt confident that my new diet would stick. So, I announced my new lifestyle to the world without fear that I would be caught in a back-street joint, guilty and wolfing down a dirty burger.
During those first six months, I noticed that there were a lot of angry vegans shouting from the rooftops about the treatment of animals. They seemed a little extreme, to say the least. I didn’t see myself going down that route. I thought I might post a few quotes, here and there, to encourage people to consider a vegan diet. For the animals, you see.
Until a couple of months ago.
I guess I had a bit of a shift in consciousness. Usually, I’m a “live and let live” kind of person. I’m beginning to realise this approach doesn’t apply to animals. I’m a little appalled and outraged.
For me, it’s simple. I genuinely believe that consuming meat or dairy produce is beyond stupid. We really don’t need to kill and torture innocent animals. If a person really thinks about their food choices, then surely, they will see the light?
My non-vegan friends were the first to point out the change. Our usual lunches and dinners became a battleground as I challenged their food choices.
“Just try the plant-based milk,” I said to one friend.
“Milk is for baby cows,” I muttered to another.
“You’re condemning a calf to become a veal dinner,” I said to the last.
“You do know that a suckling pig is actually a baby pig that has been taking from the breast of its mother to be killed and put on your plate, don’t you?” As my friend’s husband slammed down his knife, his dinner completely ruined, I realised it’s unlikely I’ll receive another invite to dinner any time soon.
Last week, I found myself standing in line at my local market behind a woman buying a pre-cooked chicken. “Savage,” I whispered under my breath without a second thought. When she turned around, I politely smiled as I mentally told myself off.
Even my best friend, who is the most wonderful person in the world, has been on the receiving end of my newly found zeal. Kind, warm, and generous, she cares about the world we live in. She is vegetarian. She doesn’t eat meat at all, but she enjoys cheese and eggs. She has a bit of a sweet tooth for pastel de natas. (That’s a Portuguese custard tart to you and me.)
At our last little outing for coffee and cakes, as the waiter placed my black coffee and her fluffy hot chocolate covered in marshmallows and four little tarts, she took one look at me and said, “Don’t say a word, Sam. I will not feel guilty because you have made a choice to go vegan.”
“Okay, okay,” I said, as I picked up my phone, and sent her three images of baby calves crying, battery hens in cages covered in sores, and a mama cow having her juice pumped out of her.
“I won’t say a word.”
As my friend picked up her phone, I turned the other way, a feigned look of innocence on my face. I could feel her death stare until I finally said, “What?” in a little voice. At this point, she asked, “Will you fall out with me if I don’t go vegan?” I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’ll give you six months, my friend. Six months.”
At which point, we both started to laugh. Of course, I won’t fall out with her because I have every bit of confidence that she’ll make the right decision.
So, you see, I guess I’ve elevated myself to become my friends’ moral conscience. In other words, I’ve become a bit of a pain.
I’m beginning to understand why vegans can seem extreme. I’m trying not to head down the slippery slope of becoming a vegan extremist myself. I genuinely believe that people don’t change by bashing or shaming them, but through encouragement and positively promoting a different way.
I just can’t help myself at the moment.
So, today, I made a commitment to work on returning to my non-judgemental self so that I could positively promote the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. I will call this a bit of a blip. I want to keep my friends.
But, I won’t give up. I’ve realised I’m going to have to be a little smarter in my approach. I’ll have to find another way. I’ll make it my secret mission until they finally realise that consuming meat and dairy is beyond stupid, too.
I do this for one reason. It’s for the animals, my friends, because they don’t have a voice or a choice.