If I had to use only one word to describe how my life has changed since becoming a vegan, I would have to say its transformative. It has changed me in ways I’m still trying to assimilate. My health has improved (my cholesterol level is 3.9 combined – all without medication), my physical shape has changed, and even though my personality flaws remain fully in tact (impatient, hot-headed), I feel like a different person on the inside. Even things that seemed of minor importance at the time now seem connected when I look back: I got a pixie cut last year after having long hair nearly my entire life, I decided to ride a bike regularly after a decade of not even owning one, I don’t get shit-faced drunk like I used to, I’ve re-learned to cook without animal ingredients, and I even make my own deodorant now! I’ve definitely become much less afraid of trying new things. Changing my view of animals and re-defining what food is has freed me in other areas of my life. I don’t even think about dieting anymore; I don’t count calories, I don’t starve myself and I no longer subject myself to punishing workouts. Food has become my friend rather than a shaming device and exercise has become a natural activity for me rather than a chore I have to hold myself to for a certain amount of time each day before it can “count”. Put simply, if someone were to ask me about becoming vegan (they rarely do), I could honestly tell them it’s changed my life.
I could also tell them that it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to discover about myself. Believe me, switching your food is nothing compared to discovering how it got to your plate. This isn’t meant to discourage – let me be clear that I have absolutely no regrets about becoming vegan and the sight of animal flesh and by-products ceased to be attractive or mouth-watering to me ages ago. I can now only see it for what it is: suffering. And who wants to eat that?
But man, once you pull that curtain back….be prepared. Because you can’t un-know it. You can’t un-see it. You can’t un-read, un-hear or undo it. You also can’t pretend you haven’t been participating in it for the better part of your life. Ignorance can only be a reason for so long; eventually it just becomes another excuse. The day my blinders came off and I realized what I had become a party to because I was foolish enough to take advertisers, governing bodies and medical professionals at their word about animal products, animal welfare and farm animal treatment was a day I will never, ever forget. I could practically feel the scales falling from my eyes as the horror of what animals endure every single minute of every single day was revealed to me. Without a doubt, the hardest part of being vegan is knowing that it goes on twenty-four hours a day, across the city, the country, the globe. I’ve mentioned this before but as one of the activists said in the movie, Speciesism, “There has been an undeclared war on animals,” and that is absolutely true. We confine, breed, slaughter, consume, wear, experiment on and use animals in whatever way we see fit with barely a thought to what they go through. They are the lowest of the low in our world. Six hundred and fifty million land animals are killed in Canada for “food” – Every. Single. Year.
While I no longer actively participate in the machine that perpetuates their suffering, I still have to live in a world that does. I still have to see their dead bodies everywhere yet be careful not to draw attention to them lest I dare make someone feel uncomfortable about their food choices. I have to work for a company that thinks barrel racing is a great way to fundraise or that ordering leather chairs for a boardroom will make it “nicer.” Knowing that barrel racing is just another enslaved form of using animals for our purposes and most of the raw materials used to make leather are exported from other countries that also use the skin of dogs and cats, and it’s all I can do not to throw up in my mouth some days. It’s the knowing. The unrelenting awareness that at this very moment, a spent dairy cow is being shipped for hours on a truck in the blistering sun without water, a pig is being strung up by a chain in a slaughterhouse while squealing in terror and resistance, a chicken is dying in a battery cage because their crippled legs no longer have the ability to reach the food and water. The truth may have set me free but it’s bound me to animals forever.
The world keeps telling me it wants to be better, that people are inherently good. But as long as we continue our rampage against animals, as long as we try to fight social injustices while overlooking the most obvious one on our dinner plates, and as long as people keep demanding an end to bloodshed and violence while tucking into a piece of steak, I don’t see how that can be true.