Why vegan?

This is the part where I share my journey in the hope it inspires you – whilst you gaze upon the massive image of my face and awkwardly positioned arm. 

Who am I?

I’m the parent of a 6 year old kid. And I love parenting. I do all kinds of work ranging from thinking-stuff to physical-stuff, and I’m massive A-type. I have many projects going at any given time. I have been involved in a decade of activism, done decades of high level creative work and lived overseas. I’ve also been poor, and had some serious life-long health challenges to overcome! My life has been always full-on.

I’ve been vegan for over 15 years now. I run a charity called Go Vegan, distributing free vegan starter kits to New Zealanders. Over the years the project has changed a lot, we went from sending out kits self-funded, to running a beautiful vegan catering business called Hungry for Raw.  But as it turns out, selling food as trade is difficult! Who knew!

I didn’t have the resources to dedicate more to it, so I’m back to blogging, like I was almost 10 years ago when you couldn’t buy any decent vegan food in the supermarket. I’m a working parent too, so I’m not only tight around the belt I’m also time poor. One of the main goals of this site is to keep veganism accessible and low-cost and to make meals that are quick for busy-minded people like me. I like to think any of the food made here is something you too could make after a trip to your local New World or Pak n’ Save.

But I digress. I guess the honest truth about why I went vegan is kind of embarrassing.

I walked past a SAFE stall on the street one day and literally thought “I should dooooo something… for the community.” So without knowing anything at all about them I volunteered to run a stall. On that stall I had no idea what I was doing, publicly gobbled a few non-vegan treats in front of my horrified stall mates. I boldly proclaimed I didn’t care about animals dying, etc. Shockingly I was asked to volunteer at another stall. When I was collecting the stall stuff I became fast friends with a super hot vegan. I told her I wasn’t a vegan and she said “Why not? You’d make a great vegan.” And I my ego went wild. I was bamboozled by her flattery. To this day she is still one of my best friends. I admired her greatly then, and I still admire her now.

So after telling everyone that veganism was just a bit nonsense for, like, ever, I started reading. And then I watched some animal rights stuff. And more animal rights stuff. And I begrudgingly cut out products that I thought were hurting animals because I couldn’t fault the logic that their suffering was grand. First pigs, then chickens, then eggs, then… and then… battling every time to believe that some of these things are surely OK. Then a year later… I had a dream, that a cow I’d eaten was with me, just looking at me. I guess over the course of that year I had grown a genuine and profound sense of compassion for animals. Then I watched Meat your Meat and this shifted all that I knew about animal suffering into a global context. It was wrong what we do, especially at such a scale. Globally speaking, industrial animal agriculture is brutal. I found that I actually cared – a lot. When I found out that veganism is perfectly nutritionally adequate for most people I wondered:

Why should they suffer so greatly to provide something I do not need?

This thought compelled me.

I mean, I grew up on my grandparent’s farm. But I’m also aboriginal, and my parents taught me to treat animals with great affection. Animals are cousins; friends. When I really considered my history, I realise I’d always had compassion for animals and a creeping urge to avoid animal products, and it was a feeling that I’d long denied. I didn’t want to look at the reality of who eating, or really look barefaced at what happened to animals, and the only way I’d been able to habitually eat them was by pretending they were ‘generic protein’ and divorcing myself from the reality of what happens. A rigid depersonalisation of animals as beings – and denial of their suffering – was necessary for me to consume animal products.

It didn’t sit well.

I shouldn’t continue eating animals if doing so required me to perpetuate a state of avoidance or denial.

I walked for hours and thought. I knew what felt right. I became an aggressively focused vegan. New friends and I rekindled The Vegan Society, I started Go Vegan with my partner, and for the next 10 years I went to conferences, handed out pamphlets, gave talks, I gave every spare second of my time and all of my skills to support other groups, and I organised lots of stuff to help animals. I participated in rescues, I organised a march against factory farming. Nowadays I’m the longest-standing moderator for Auckland Vegans on Facebook.

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That’s me on the right, speaking at 2000-strong march up Queen Street to end factory farming practices.
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I’ve also done anti-rape advocacy. A friend and I organised this vigil to gain better support through the justice system for rape survivors.
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End rape culture now!
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Here I am with my partner Erin (and friends) at a Hungry for Raw vegan food stall where we did vegan outreach, and introduced people to vegan food.

I’ve fractionally mellowed.

I understand there are challenges. Veganism isn’t widely accessible. I acknowledge that some medical issues exclude beloved friends from being vegan. I understand the challenges to pressured, low-income families, who are busy and don’t have the time or spoons to revolutionise the kitchen of their entire home, and I get the value of traditional foods. I don’t think that veganism should ever be used as a point of pressure to harass those who are suffering – or vulnerable – under capitalism. I agree we should acknowledge our privilege in all that we do. 

There is no such thing as purity in a dirty world.

I reject the notion that veganism is about purity, “clean eating”, absolute moral perfection, or about disordered eating. I see my relationship with veganism, animals, those around me and the environment as a journey and not one of exclusion and lack, but one of growth and depth that has bloomed across the course of my lifetime. My veganism, has grown with me. It isn’t a static viewpoint but a concept that exists in relationships with my many other values. Sometimes those values are aligned, sometimes they have points of conflict. That is the nature of life.

Facts

Animal agriculture is one of the main causes of international environmental devastation.

Animal agriculture hurts animals and it hurts the environment – it is an unsustainable practice. Even the most conservative of authorities now admit that a global transition toward a vegan diet is the only way we’ll be able to feed the blooming human population, without irrevocably damaging the earth.

Given what I know about the health benefits, I think it’s important to give my kid the best advantage I can.

Over time, I’ve learned more and more about the economics of global sustainability, the environment and health. I now perceive modern animal agriculture as a form of animal slavery, divorced from indigenous relationships with animals and divorced from natural  hunting practices. Humans now use animals however they please, without any regard to their safety or happiness. Unnecessarily, we cage them, we forcibly inseminate them, we take their babies away, we skin them alive, we relentlessly exploit every single part of their bodies and lives, simply to satisfy our tastes. We put the most trivial of our interests, ahead of their primary ones.

No solution is perfect, but boycotting animal products is a step in the right direction.

I tend to think of veganism like recycling. It’s just part of being an ethical, responsible human being. Not everyone is perfect at it, and we are all far from perfectly moral, but we should strive, together and the animals deserve at least our best effort toward their freedom from this struggle.

friend
A friend.

Here are some articles and documentaries so you can hear it from others –

Health

Why vegans were right all along – The Guardian

Veganism reduces disease risk and offers improved health outcomes – The American Dietetic Association (vital in protecting the health of children and families)


Environment

United Nations Centre for the Environment urges global move toward a vegan diet – The Guardian

Animal agriculture responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions – Livestock and Climate Change


Animals

Watch the movie Human Animal

Watch the movie Earthlings to find out more about animal agriculture

Richard Dawkins interviews Peter Singer

The moral status of animals – Stanford University

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