Now that I'm in my 60's, there's very little that is the same about me as when I became vegan 40 years ago. My beliefs and philosophies have changed. The one tenet that has remained unwavering is my firm belief in the vegan way of life. The ethical position known as 'veganism' is tangible and not up for debate (in my view). I treat anyone sentient; both human and nonhuman animals, with the decency that I would want to be shown. It's living the Golden Rule. Surely it's unjustifiable to violently assault innocent animals when humans can live healthy lives as vegans. My life is proof that humans can live a vegan lifestyle, but I didn't know this when first starting out. The masses don't realize that people have evolved to be able to thrive as vegans.
The vegan pioneers didn't know what we know today. We have no need to kill other animals to obtain a nutrient (a nutrient that their diet was supplemented with) when we can obtain nutrients directly from plants, or a plant-sourced or synthetic supplement. (If you read labels, you will find that non-vegan foods are also fortified). (Instead of eating cows that are supplemented with B12, we can just consume inexpensive, lab-grown nuggets or liquid drops.) Vitamin B12 and other nutrients are becoming lacking in our soils. Furthermore, it's now recommended that any adult over the age of 50 take a Vitamin B12 supplement, as generally people lose their ability (with age) to absorb B12. “As a result, the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults older than 50 years obtain most of their vitamin B12 from vitamin supplements or fortified foods.” Source ~ We need a minuscule amount of B12 and it's unreasonable to kill cows to get it. Nor do we have to kill animals to get the Vitamin D they made from sunshine exposure on their skin, when we (because we're also animals) can (and should) do the same thing in our own bodies, (without burning our skin.) Alternatively, vegans can eat mushrooms exposed to ultra-violet light, and take a vegan vitamin D supplement. I suggest taking a supplement (plant sourced; not derived from lanolin/wool) for all vegans, especially for those age 50+, children building strong bones and teeth (and for rickets prevention), people with lowered immune system function who too frequently contract colds/flu/infections, and those who get little or no sunshine exposure on their skin. Vitamin D is hardly found in vegan food (because it's the sunshine vitamin). It is important for building strong bones and for immune system support.
I first stopped eating animals at age 12 (when my brother mentioned that 'meat' is a dead animal), prior to becoming fully vegan. In those early years, I remember not knowing if I could thrive without animal products, though that never stopped me. (My parents tell me when I was a girl, I was unmovable in my position of not eating animals or hidden bits of them.) There was no information, or internet, or others who felt the same.
I first stumbled upon the vegan philosophy when a Florida health-food store clerk slipped me a copy of the 'Ahimsa' magazine written by the president of The American Vegan Society; Jay Dinshah. Jay was a forerunner who brought the vegan concept to the United Sates from the United Kingdom; where it originated. 'Ahimsa'; a Sanskrit word that essentially means “nonviolence” and Jay's writing about “dynamic harmlessness” genuinely struck a cord. I internalized the vegan ethic and made it my credo.
Contrary to popular thought, 'veganism' is not a diet, nor one that is about you or your health. If someone eats mostly vegan for weight-loss or to reverse heart disease - that's eating a plant-based diet. Veganism extends beyond diet, and is an ethical position. (Several times I conducted online surveys of vegans; with about 8,000 responding from around the globe. When asking the vegan community to vote on a definition, the winning response for defining veganism was: Recognizing the right of all sentient animals to be treated with respect and justice. Vegans do not consume/wear/use animals or take part in activities of their exploitation; as far as reasonably possible.) Many long-term vegans, like myself, became vegan thinking that it might even be bad for our health or possibly even kill us, but we did it anyway, because we didn't want to fund animal use/abuse. Luckily, all those people who said to me “you're going to die from being malnourished, and “where will you get your protein?” were misinformed. They bought the lies they were sold by those who profit from animal exploitation. One example of the offensive marketing lies is the brand Laughing Cow cheese. There's no cow farmed for her milk (that, by nature, is meant for her calf) that's laughing about her awful oppression. The “dairy-cow” endures constant cycles of her reproductive system being exploited. It begins with her being sexually violated (forced insemination). Then she will have her newborn forcibly separated from her and dragged away so his/her nourishment can be stolen for people. (The newborn will either be killed at birth, tortured to become “veal” or have the same brutal destiny as her mother, if female.) When she's no longer profitable, she is sent to slaughter to become meat and byproducts. She is an animated, sensitive, feeling, conscious being; that's viewed and treated like a machine. The distasteful life of cows and calves was specifically what Jay wrote about that initially sparked me to renounce dairy and become vegan. Farming animals is never humane, so don't be misled by marketing lies. Being vegan is the least stance we can take to “vote-no” to heartless habits and out-of-date traditions.
Decades later, I realized that the sexual assault of bovines for dairy and chickens for eggs, is also a feminist issue. (Though bulls are sexually violated to obtain their semen.) I learned that ALL oppression should be objected to: racism, sexism, speciesism, ageism, or any preconceived thought or derogatory discrimination about any group; whether pertaining to race, religion, nationality, age, species, gender, or sexual preference. We're all individuals with birth-rights, including other animals. I strongly believe in “individual's rights” ~ where all human and nonhuman animals are entitled to the possession of their own life. All individuals have birth-rights such as avoiding violent assault.
My 40th veganniversary is on the 6th of October. I hope that my story will inspire many who don't realize that we can be long-term vegans. For me, and many other vegans, we know that we'll always be vegan. It's the one thing that won't and can't change. It will always be unethical to fund the exploitation of animals, especially when humans don't require animal products. Where there's a will to not intentionally harm sentient animals, there's a way to triumph as a steadfast vegan. Sure, there's an initial effort in learning which products and practices not to literally fund. Yes, we have to re-learn exactly what to eat to properly nourish ourselves. We will need to get educated about non-vegan products and practices. However, more important, there's a joy that comes from following this peaceful path. It builds our esteem to know that we honestly care that innocent, gentle, fellow animals are 'commodified' by humanity. Animals are literally purposely-bred into existence to be used by humans as if they were objects or slaves. We need to stop breeding animals; it's criminal in and of itself; it's rape. En masse, it's a disaster for the environment, global warming, world hunger, and Peace on Earth.
More and more through the decades, my daily life embraced veganism, and I educated myself in 'animal-rights theory'. Always an activist; I offered tasty food to the public to show them that vegan food can be incredibly delicious, was a voluntary head chef at a vegan restaurant and a co-author of a vegan recipe book, a host and/or volunteer at many seminars and events, wrote for magazines/books, participated in online blogging and social media, innovated feeding dogs vegan and vegan-organic gardening, publicly spoke, and organized a huge South Florida VeganFest; free to the public (admission and food), published books, rescued animals, etc. In my day to day living and interacting with people, I will use any fitting opportunity to plant a seed of veganism. I've never been silent about the plight of animals, and I educate others on their behalf. I can empathize with them because I was born Jewish (and a woman). My ancestors were persecuted and murdered just for being born to Jewish parents. I walk though life as one who has deeply understood violent oppression and injustice. If I lived 85 years ago in Europe, I would have been enslaved, starved and worked to death, then sent to the gas chambers; for doing no wrong to anyone; comparable to the 'animal holocaust'.
It's 2018 and I'm no longer alone like in my beginning years as a vegan. It's soul-stirring to witness the recognition that veganism is a social-justice issue, and a movement that's uprising internationally. (When I compiled and published the book Why I will ALWAYS be Vegan: 125 Essays from Around the World, I spoke with vegans all over the world (a few through interpreters); even in places I never expected to find committed vegans.) We long-term vegans, quite literally, offered ourselves as scientific subjects in an experiment to see if humans can thrive as vegans. My life has proven that, with a focus on animal rights, we can easily live without being the reason for animal use. I did it when there was no vegan ice cream and alternative products, when I had to wear 'flip-flops' (sandals), when I had to shop for vegan products without vegan labels or any help from others. Now there's a multitude of vegans willing to help others to live vegan. Veganism is for everyone; anyone is welcome to join in and help usher in “Animal Liberation” and “Peace on Earth”, as well as a solution for reversing pollution, global warming, deforestation and other man-made environmental destruction.
I became vegan in an instant and beyond diet...because I knew that I had stumbled upon a great moral philosophy; something bigger than me. I lived with a cat as a young girl. He was my buddy. I thought all animals are the same in regards to being 'someones', 'subjects of a life deserving respect', and 'friends'. After living with a variety of animal species; pig, horses, Shetland pony, goats, cows, deer, rabbits, pigeons, ducks, roosters, dogs, animals-living-in-the-wild - I unquestionably know that they are feeling, communicative, intelligent, emotional, and friendly beings, who suffer as we do, and who want to “live life”.
I've had 40 years of fulfilling friendships with other species of animals. They know that I'm vegan. They feel that I mean them 'no harm'. They trust me. It makes life more fun having friends that are another species. I am filled with pleasure when a wild duck comes waddling over to me, when a forest deer lay beside me, when a ground-squirrel eats from my hand, a butterfly takes her first flight from my hand, or my (vegan-fed) dog friend wakes me up with a love song. My bond with other animals is my most valued reward for choosing the vegan way of life.