Early in 2012 I started reaching out to vegan friends on twitter to ask them to share their testimonials. My hope was that by getting vegans to share their stories we could educate and inspire others and give people first hand accounts to replace perceptions or stereotypes. I’m incredibly grateful to those that have participated. Their stories speak for themselves! If you enjoy the series please let us know!
I was very fortunate to find VitaSoy soy milk cartons, and the original Yves ‘Burger Burgers’ (the ones that actually tasted good!), and that was pretty much the full complement of vegan specialty foods I had access to. It’s been a while, but my memories of eating seemed to focus mostly around frozen vegetables and tomato soup, and a short-lived addiction to soda.
Health was my original motivator (but was soon trumped by ethical concerns). Cancer was rampant in my family with my grandfather (maternal side) dying several years before, and my father dying from a brain tumor a couple years earlier as well (and his sister a few years ago). As a kid, it seemed to make sense to research the populations with the greatest longevity, and I came across people living in the mountains of Tibet claiming to regularly live to 120 years of age. Lacking any meaningful critical thinking skills, I read up on these people, and the main difference seemed to be that they ate yak brains and yogurt a lot.
Well, the former was not at all appealing, but I could do with yogurt, and so I binged for a while. Thankfully, I kept asking questions and reading, and soon came across ‘classic’ books like Diet for a New America and Fit For Life. It turned out, according to them, that I was at least on the right track, and that diet can be a HUGE factor in disease prevention – specifically for many types of cancer and cardio-vascular disease. (My how times have changed. Oh wait, they’re still saying the same thing.)
While neither of these books actually mentioned veganism (they referred to ‘strict vegetarianism,’ gratitude to those today who are unafraid to say ‘vegan’) it became clear to me that animal products were unnecessary for human health (Wait, what? All those posters from the Ontario Dairy Council weren’t entirely honest?)
It turned out that cows milk is not only unnecessary for human health, but also the health of every species on earth with the lone exception of calves. My 14 year-old mind was blown! The skeptical part of my brain had started forming, and there was no going back.
A while later. I discovered what I was doing was called ‘veganism,’ and I managed to find a few other like-minded people. As I learned more, I knew I had to become an activist as well, and having moved to Victoria, British Columbia (where there was an all-vegan restaurant!), I got involved in activism. Since the mid-90′s, I’ve been an outspoken vegan and animal rights advocate.
One of the most interesting aspects of veganism for me is its founding. Did you know the term ‘vegan’ was coined in 1944 by a fellow called Donald Watson from the UK? Did you know that’s when the Vegan Society of the UK was formed, and really started a progressive movement demanding an end to the exploitation of other animals?
Contrary to some popular belief, veganism wasn’t invented by PETA (who institutionalizes the killing of animals in their own headquarters). Even a group like Vegan Outreach, who has ‘vegan’ in their name, fails to recognize the origin of veganism on their website (mainly because it would conflict with their factory farm focus). You do realize that there were no factory farms in 1944, and that Donald Watson and company were motivated by seeing the family farm ‘happy pig’, and not grotesque photographs? Watson had a radical, revolutionary view that’s steeped in peace advocacy and encouraging respect for others – something many vegan organizations could learn from. Read his own words in this fantastic interview.
I’m not one for idol worship (nor worship of the idle), but I do like to see credit given where deserved, and if we’re calling ourselves vegans, we should know what it actually means, and honor its foundation and the organization that continues to promote a serious and meaningful idea.
Today, over 20 years later, I’m fortunate to work for Friends of Animals, an animal rights organization that I can be proud of. I’m also very active as a bike racer, and president of our local OrganicAthlete chapter (another fantastic group that promotes veganism through sport). There are numerous other things I involve myself in, and if interested you can follow along on my blog.
I’ll conclude with a recent quote from Vega formulator, Brendan Brazier, who says, “The closest you can get to perfection is constant improvement.” This is very applicable to veganism. Not only do we want to eliminate animal products from our diets, but also from our lives (i.e., leather, animal testing, etc.). This also includes ensuring animals have spaces for homes (forests, etc.), and beyond that, we want to make sure that ALL animals are treated fairly, including human animals. This means buying organic and Fair Trade products. There is no time to gloat or feel self-righteous – strive for improvement and progression in all you do. (And have fun too!)
Be sure to say hello to Dave on twitter and follow him @VeganCyclist. You can also keep up with him on his blog!
If you’re feeling inspired and want to submit your own vegan testimonial please read this post. You can also read the interview Kasey Minnis (@veggiemightee) did with me about this project on This Dish is Veg.