I see veganism as a celebration of life. It’s a joyful, loving way to show kindness, generosity and compassion to my brothers and sisters – both human and non-human. Veganism is humility - a declaration that all beings are equal and have an equal right to live their own lives.
I’ve been vegan for about 18 months. For me it was always an ideal, but something I never thought I’d achieve.
Then, just before my 50th birthday, I stumbled upon Esther the Wonder Pig’s Facebook page. The commentary from her human “Dads”, the love and support she received from her followers, the ideas and enthusiasm and yes, recipes, shared on her site were enthralling. I wanted to be part of this movement of love and happiness.
I spent my Christmas holidays watching every Netflix documentary I could on big agriculture, veganism, consumerism, factory farming: Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Food Matters, Food Inc. and later when it came out Cowspiracy.
Within just two weeks of discovering Esther, I went vegan... just two weeks from being a full-blown carnivore to vegan.
The first month or so was challenging but exciting. I had only an inkling of what to eat and no clue of any of the other moral and ethical issues that veganism addresses. I was on a steep learning curve, scouring the Internet for new recipes, product information and moral support too. I felt bold and very alone.
In my experience, vegans are delighted to help newbie vegans be successful. I went to a local vegan restaurant explaining I was a week-old vegan and the servers gave me their email addresses telling me to write if I ever had questions. Esther’s fans and her personal chef were inspiring. The staff at my neighborhood health food store were fabulous at helping me understand how to prepare different foods and even got me products if I requested them. My coworkers were tolerant and patient, listening to my gushing observations and gingerly trying my cooking.
And boy did I cook! A vegan diet doesn’t close the doors to variety; it flings them wide open!! I’ve tried more cuisines and foods in the last 18 months than probably in my first 50 years. I started posting my creations in a vegan food album on Facebook, as much to remind myself of recipe options as anything. But my friends’ responses were amazing! They asked for recipes. They encouraged me to write a cookbook or at least a blog. They invited themselves to dinner and for cooking lessons. Now I have people asking for particular dishes as birthday treats and for special occasions. No one ever seems to miss eating animal products when they’re in my home.
Just 10 months after going vegan, I hosted a vegan tasting buffet for 35 people (I do NOT recommend trying to cook for 35 people unless you’re a professional chef in a professional kitchen!). People ate and drank and laughed. I raffled off prizes (vegan cookbooks and pots of fresh herbs) and shared information about veganism. And pretty much every morsel of food was gone.
In hindsight I see that that buffet was a tiny act of vegan activism. It was my way to encourage people to challenge what they think they know about our society’s food and food production. I guess it worked too. My dear next door neighbor, Laura, who came to the buffet announced to me on the eve of her 76th birthday that she had become a vegan!
Since then, I’ve gone to a slaughterhouse vigil and written about it, I’ve done chalk-messaging, written and signed many petitions, researched to change laws and practices in my city and I speak up often and loudly on behalf of the animals. Never ever say “bacon” to me and smirk!
I’ve joined vegan community groups for both socializing and activism and as a way to provide education and moral support for new members. I learn something new from these people every day.
And Esther the Wonder Pig? I’ve met her several times now and volunteer regularly at the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. It’s my happy place where I can be among like-minded people, working hard, breathing fresh air and loving some very lucky animals.
My only regret has been that I didn’t go vegan so much sooner. Physically I feel better than I have in years. I’m off my blood pressure medication altogether, something my doctor said is pretty much unheard of. When I go for my physical or blood work, everything comes back “perfect” – again pretty much unheard of according to my doctor, especially for a person of my age and weight (I’m undeniably fat – let’s be clear on that). And my clinical depression, which I know is my challenge for life, certainly is more manageable. Other vegans I’ve spoken to have said the same about their mental health challenges. A whole-food, vegan diet makes a world of difference for overall physical health, to which mental wellness is intrinsically tied.
Most importantly, my heart is at ease. I feel whole, happy and more genuine than I ever have. My life has a deeper purpose and meaning now. I have social connections with like-minded people. I’m being my best self every day and living an authentic life.
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