You can already picture it: half-naked hippie vegans screaming about how meat is murder as they throw blood on you, all while shoving tofu down your throat for good measure.
Ah, the wonderful world of free speech. If it were not for free speech, this column could never be brought to your attention. But I know you — just like me — can agree that sometimes vegans seem out of hand. I am in no way bashing them because, as you might have guessed, I’m one of them as well.
In no way am I trying to say: “All vegans want to do is love and care for everyone, animals included,” and some other hippie crap. That doesn’t always happen. There are, dare I say it, vegan radicals. These are the vegans with whom I don’t even associate. That’s because they believe that my one year as a vegan has nothing on their 12-plus years. And because I don’t bathe in kombucha or criticize other people’s eating habits, I am “not a real vegan.” Sometimes, these people come off as mean — if I talk about my experiences, they won’t even bat an eye.
My purpose is not meant to bash other vegans; rather, I’d prefer to share about my life. And the best place to start would be at the beginning of my vegan journey.
So about two years ago, my friend decided to go vegan because she saw a bunch of these videos about animal abuse and couldn’t stand to see that. Well, guess who she showed these videos to? If you guessed me, congrats. But if you thought I converted to being a vegan at this point, you’re crazy. So I decided ‘Let me be a vegetarian because being vegan is too extreme for me.’ That lasted about one year. I felt great. I didn’t eat meat, but I was still eating dairy. Life was fine for my new veggie self.
Then all went downhill when I went to New York to try The Halal Guys. I hated it because I wasn’t eating meat. I bet you are about to pull a Raven Simone because you might have a vision of what happened next: I ate meat. (A moment of silence for that poor chicken. Okay. well it’s been two years, so he’s probably in a better place. Or should I say “she,” because let’s be real here, how can I possibly assume a chicken’s gender?)
Long story short, I began eating meat again. To be honest, I loved it so much. I could eat whatever, wherever I wanted. But I swear karma exists because a few months later, reality hit me like a bus.
I felt disgusting. Remember how before I said it was amazing? Lies! All of it! Because I soon began to realize that I hated the taste of meat. Not only that, but I couldn’t stand that I was happily accepting the fact that I was killing innocent animals.
Put that eye roll away; it’s not what you think.
I personally have always loved animals because they are just so cute and so sweet. If you are ever bored, just look up pictures of baby cows. It is the best thing ever; I swear. Soon, I became very aware with where I got my food.
Then I decided: “Okay, let me go back to being a vegetarian.” You know how I said karma exists? Well, it sure does. A few days after I decided to become vegetarian again, I ate some cheese and my stomach hurt. Karma laughed in my face once that happened. Since I decided to eat that chicken that one day, I now couldn’t tolerate dairy.
I have never been allergic to food before in my life, but when I took a bite of that cheese, my life quickly changed. At first I thought maybe it was just bad dairy, but when I kept eating dairy, I became sicker.
It was at this moment I realized I messed up.
At that point, I went vegan. The two hardest things I have done in my life are geometry and becoming vegan. For me, geometry is the devil’s math, something that I cannot tolerate, and veganism should not be taken lightly. This transition was honestly terrible. The amount of salad I ate was astonishing.
Being vegan is especially difficult when you have nobody to help you. Yeah, my vegan friend who initially began this entire thing was in my life, but ya girl lived half an hour away, so she couldn’t help me. Quite frankly, there were some days where I didn’t eat dinner, today included, because there wasn’t any food for me.
Thank God for my mother Doris Correa, because without her, I would’ve withered away to skin and bones. My mom is a master in the kitchen. Even though she only really knows how to cook like two things, homegirl really helped me out. Eventually, I learned how to make my own meals.
And I discovered that holidays can suck. Even normal family reunions became a nightmare because my family is Colombian. Colombians love meat. Whenever I visit family, most of the dishes contain meat, and so I learned that I need to be at family functions with my handy-dandy salad.
Even loyal friends sometimes betray you; there have been many times where cheese divided our kinship.
The transition from carnivore to vegetarian or vegan is definitely a life-changing decision, one that you need to consider seriously. No, this is not because eating vegan is expensive, but because realizing your purpose for doing it can be difficult. You see, I realize that not a lot of people are going to become vegan or save the world. But I do know that by sharing my story, it can inspire others to tell their own and create more awareness of the meat and dairy industry.
If everyone in the world went vegan, livestock farmers would lose their jobs, although the global benefits would outweigh this loss. According to the Vegan Society, the amount of grain feed required for meat production is a contributor to deforestation, habitat loss, and species extinction. Brazil alone has 5.6 million acres of land used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. The land contributes to developing world malnutrition by driving impoverished populations to grow cash crops for animal feed rather than human food.
But being vegan really isn’t the hardest thing in the world. Cashew milk exists, vegan butter exists, even vegan cheese exits. Yet I’m going to keep it 100 with you and tell you to embrace the vegetable. Embrace that you are eating real food! Sure, sometimes you want a taco and might get some fake meat, which they sell at Weis or any other large grocery store. And let me tell you right now, that stuff is life-changing — it tastes amazing. In reality, becoming vegan helps you understand that the food you should be eating is meant to benefit your life and the lives of animals.
It would be completely unrealistic to expect everyone to go vegan, but I urge you to find out where your food comes from. In my opinion, if you are uncomfortable with its source, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
Photo courtesy of Bibi Correa.