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Why Did YOU Go Vegan?

In honor of Kim’s comment from yesterday, consider this my impromptu survey: Why Did YOU Go Vegan? I’d love to see a large survey too. And I’d particularly love to see some hard numbers regarding whether happy meat is an incremental step toward abolition. Logic (at least my logic) tells me that happy meat would delay an individual’s transition to veganism (let’s not talk about macro-level abolition, which I do not believe will occur for generations, but again, that’s me). Maybe my thinking is flawed, though.

One of my goals is to have a foundation with a program dedicated solely to granting start-up funds for individuals to start vegan groups that do a lot of community education, work with local restaurants on providing vegan options, and maybe even have their own vegan bakeries or other types of eateries. And this brings me to a reason why there hasn’t been the kind of research we all would like to see in order to put at least this part of the happy meat debate to rest: money.

If I led a lean, mean abolitionist group, there are many activities I’d consider priorities over funding a study about happy meat. And if I can be said to have had a major during my doctoral studies, it was assessment and evaluation, so if anyone is qualified to do a study about happy meat, I am, thereby reducing the cost of developing and conducting the survey.

The survey as I see it, from reading seemingly-endless debates, would consist of questions like:

  • What/whom influenced your transition to veganism most?
  • Where you a vegetarian before you transitioned to vegan?
  • How long did your transition take?
  • If you have back-slided, why do you think that occurred? (I’m curious.)
  • Do you think happy meat is an incremental step toward abolition?
  • What is your idea of incremental steps, for the individual, to veganism (or don’t you believe in that)?

As I’ve previously written, I was an abolitionist at heart until I got to college, at which time I read Peter Singer and was surrounded by people talking about abuse (rather than use), which led me to PETA (and at that time there was no happy meat discussion, so it was all about ceasing the consumption of meat. The egg and dairy discussion, as I recall, was non-existent). Again, if someone had helped me continue to deconstruct the assumptions behind using animals 20 years ago, perhaps I would have taken a different path.

It took me quite some time (years) to go vegan, and at one point nearly a decade ago I spent an entire year eating medium-rare filet mignon all over the eastern seaboard. And when I quit that I spent less than a year as the single-biggest threat to the wild salmon population of the Pacific.

And as I wrote recently a girlfriend of mine who has been going vegan slowly (by eliminating one type of animal product and replacing it with a non-animal product, in a very deliberate way that I don’t think most people are capable of), reached the level of epiphany after reading Jane Goodall!

Clearly, there isn’t one way it happens. It’s organic. It’s a process for most people, and depending on their personal priorities and passions, it goes quickly or not, smoothly or not. But from my observation, it never includes happy meat.

My idea of incremental abolition is to ditch all of the behavioral stuff overnight. No one needs to wean themselves off rodeos (although I doubt the rodeo-folk are our target market). When it comes to clothing and shoes, in the interest of reducing consumption, I’m all for keeping what you have and readying yourself with an explanation for when you get grilled. I never had leather pants or a leather or fur coat, though, so I’m not sure how realistic this part of the plan is.

Ditto for cosmetics and other products around the house that include animal products or were tested on animals. Finish them, recycle or reuse the packaging, and buy vegan products.

Philanthropy? Cold turkey. Stop giving to organizations that test on animals or to non-vegan organizations (again, good luck with that one).

Last, the food. I suggest the one day a week, then two days a week approach. I take people shopping, cook for them, and take them out to dinner, and that significantly expedites their progress to four or five days a week in no time. I don’t give them the option to not consider eggs and dairy the same way they consider chicken or lobster. It’s all the same. In fact, I emphasize how easy it is to cook without eggs and dairy, and once or twice, with people who do a lot of baking, I’ve started there.

In other words, it depends. I don’t make demands of anyone. I say what is acceptable to me, if they ask, but it’s about getting them on board and over their fears as effectively and efficiently as possible. I don’t say, "If you really cared, you’d go vegan right now and never look back." But some people do, and if it works, great!

What do YOU tell people about incremental abolition? Why did YOU go vegan?

26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Roger Yates #

    There is a little research available –

    a search of this jounal may also reveal updates (not looked at it in a good while).


    October 17, 2007
  2. Dustin #

    What/whom influenced your transition to veganism most?

    That's easy: 9 years ago, when I was 25, I got a job at a college. The college had a work/study program, and as student activities director, I supervised 10 students. One of them was vegan. I admired this person so much I that went from meat-eater (lapsed vegetarian) to vegan overnight—after knowing this person about two weeks.

    Where you a vegetarian before you transitioned to vegan?

    I went back and forth between vegetarian and omnivore for years and years—from the time I was 16 until I was 25. I was a pathetic vegetarian.

    How long did your transition take?

    Instantaneous. I can't explain it. It wasn't reading a book or watching a gruesome video, or even having a deep conversation. I just did it.

    If you have back-slided, why do you think that occurred? (I'm curious.)

    I couldn't stick with vegetarianism; I justified returning to meat-eating in all kinds of ways, not the least of which was "happy meat"—even though, back then, we just called it free-range and organic.

    Do you think happy meat is an incremental step toward abolition?

    No, absolutely not. I have met so many "ex-vegans" because of Happy Meat that it's nauseating.

    What is your idea of incremental steps, for the individual, to veganism (or don't you believe in that)?

    I believe every person is different in this regard. Some people do take time transitioning; others, like myself, just take a blind leap.

    I don't really recommend veganism to people the way I did it, that's for sure. In the past 9 years since I first became vegan, I've certainly endured my share of confusion and have "lost my way." Effectively, I didn't know anything at all about veganism, at first, and I never took the time to really educate myself. Veganism, for me, was a vague idea about it being "the right thing to do." People would ask me why I was vegan and the best I could come up with was "just because."

    My partner of 10 years is vegan, too. I don't think he's ever read an AR book of any kind (except for Lee Hall's "Capers in the Churchyard"—and that's ONLY because I MADE him). He is very dedicated to veganism, but in a very simple, almost innocent way. He couldn't tell you a thing about AR or abolitionist theory (other than what he might hear me say), and there's something I really admire about this "kind" of veganism that is nothing more than a part of his life; for him, it's not an identity or necessarily even something he thinks about very much. I think this is awesome.

    That said, this doesn't work for many. That's what I tried to do: live completely ignorant of the true meaning of veganism. I found myself tempted by all kinds of things, and it wasn't until I became interested in theory that I really "got it." I have to thank Friends of Animals A LOT for this.

    Dustin Rhodes

    October 17, 2007
  3. kim #

    Wonderful Mary! Thanks for expanding so nicely on my suggestion…

    I didn't go the route of "humane meat", as I was opposed to the outright killing, but I did try to find a way to keep eating "humane" eggs and cheese. Even though I was told by PETA that there was no such thing, I was determined to find eggs that came from hens whose male mates weren't killed at birth and who weren't slaughtered after becoming "spent"; and cheese from cows that didn't have their calves taken away shortly after birth for veal and weren't slaughtered once they were done providing milk. (I don't think the realization of forced rape even entered my mind in the equation at that point.)

    It became apparent pretty quickly that these situations didn't exist.

    It wasn't that anyone put the idea of "happy meat" in my head. My search for such a thing was the result of my desire to find a solution to the problem presented – animals suffering in order for me to enjoy my eggs and cheese. I wanted to keep eating these things, damn it, and if there was a way to do so without causing suffering, I would find it.

    Why do most people stop at the myth provided by the producers of said products? I don't know, but I can guess it's because of our indoctrination from infancy in our society that we must eat these things in order to flourish and survive. We want to believe that there can be a way to treat animals humanely, while exploiting them for food. Because removing these "foods" from our diets, and daily social life, is so antithetical to everything we've been taught as being "normal".

    So the question is what is the most effective way to reverse that deep-seated societal norm? How do you convince people that what they consider normal is actually perverse? Can a moral appeal alone overcome that kind of obstacle, or will the approach have to vary depending on what is important to each individual?

    If McDonalds magically started serving vegan food (that was just as tasty, convenient and cheap), would anyone notice or complain?

    October 17, 2007
  4. Hi, this is actually Mary Martin posting for Neva, as she wasn't able to comment. I'm just copying and pasting for her:


    What/whom influenced your transition to veganism most?

    Honestly, PeTA. They used to bombard me with mailings featuring heartbreaking pictures insisting eggs and dairy were just as bad as eating meat.

    Were you a vegetarian before you transitioned to vegan?

    Yes, for several years actually

    How long did your transition take?

    Once I really made up my mind that particular time to be vegan I did it immediately. I started scrutinizing ingredients that same day. But I had been very close to being vegan for some time.

    If you have back-slided, why do you think that occurred? (I'm curious.)

    I went vegan initially when I was 18 and in college. I did ok for a few weeks/couple months while I was living on campus, then the semester ended and I moved into a shared apartment for the summer session. I was on my own completely for the first time and really clueless about how to be vegan. It was the summer of the Jesus freaks and my living situation was desperately unhappy (frequent shouting matches where I'd say "No, Jesus is not telling you to insult, belittle and humiliate people" answered back with "You don't know anything about Jesus. You're a vegan, food is your god.") I was eating terribly, mainly brown rice and broccoli, and sometimes tofu if I managed to get to the one place on the other side of town that sold it. I sometimes baked my own bread but my Jesus freak housemates tended to eat it all. Even though you'd think broccoli and brown rice is nutritious I just wasn't consuming enough calories. I became severely anemic. I was depressed. I was having stomach problems, likely from the stress. My doctor said I had stop being vegan and gave the standard "it's just unnatural and doesn't work speech." Plus he said that people with my type of heart defect can't be vegan, we need animal protein or some kind of BS like that. Then Falls semester started and I had a lunch five days a week dining plan. The main difference was I sometimes ate cheese on campus, and I bought store bread that had honey and whey. Also no more Jesus freak roommates but other non-vegan vegetarians who cooked with me and drove me to the store. Unfortunately this bad experience, even though it was more about overall calories than anything else, discouraged me from trying to be vegan again for a little while.

    Do you think happy meat is an incremental step toward abolition?

    For me it was not. If I'd been able to rationalize eating meat when I first became vegetarian I would not have done it at all. If I'd believed free-range, grass-fed whatever was an option, I strongly believe I'd still be eating it. I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think it's a step in the same way that replacing the usual meat burger with a veggie burger could be.

    What is your idea of incremental steps, for the individual, to veganism (or don't you believe in that)?

    I do think that asking people to eat vegan meals one day a week can show people that vegan food can be good and satisfying. Some people think it will be too hard so maybe some smaller steps to show them it's possible is a good thing. But I don't see replacing one type of animal product with another is an incremental step toward veganism. Nor do I think "cutting back" if it involves just eating a smaller portion of flesh or cheese is a great idea, as it reinforces the idea that veganism is deprivation.


    October 17, 2007
  5. ARevolution #

    This daily blog is amazing. You are dealing with some key issues. I went Vegan for a number of reasons. The first and foremost was for the animals, the voiceless, who continue to get trampled on by our greed, gluttony, and ignorance. I have always considered myself an animal lover, but looking back now I am ashamed to say it. I feel the only way you can give yourself such a respectable label is if you are a Vegan. It took 22 years of living before I really appreciated what it meant to live as a sentient being. Human animals and non-human animals are all together here on earth for the same reason. It shouldn't be us vs them, because it is us with them. We all end up in the same situation. One of the reasons why my transition didn't occur earlier in my life is because of my "grooming" or "development" as a person. I was never educated about the truth about how we get our food, clothing, and the practises of animal use in such places as circuses, rodeos, racing events, etc. Children/youth should be the area of focus, when it comes to transitioning. Veganism should be taught throughout elementary school, and high school and should be mandatory. But when it comes to children, its usually the parents that make the major decisions. This all centres on education or "vegucation", which is the second point of why I became Vegan. Knowledge is power, and for two reasons, a)to make Vegan living possible in this society. b)to know the truth about animal exploitation. The more I read about the practises of animal agriculture the more proud I am to be Vegan. The more I read about Veganism the more health benefits I seek. To know what all those funky words are in the ingredients list should be a life skill. They are what goes in and comes out. To become Vegan I bought myself some cook books (I started out with "The Garden of Vegan", and "How it all Vegan" GREAT BOOKS. Now i have several), an educational book ("The complete idiots guide to Vegan living"), and an animal ingredients list. I gave myself a week to enjoy some foods I would never be able to have again. And just like that, cold turkey, I made the transition to the only morally acceptable way of eating. As for the clothing, I own items with leather that I will continue to use until they are no good, but I will never buy any rotting carcass again. After watching a video of a raccoon dog being skinned alive I don't know how you could like animal clothing ever again. Other items such as soap, shampoo, deoderant, cologne, and household products, are easy to find. You just need to read to know. Its good to know what you are supporting. And to support animal testing is supporting unconsented research = TORTURE. The point is there are Vegan alternatives to e v e r y t h i n g. There's is nothing more spiritual then a cruelty-free lifestyle. Another reason I am Vegan came after I had already transitioned, and it is the health benefits. I lost weight (unwanted fat), have more energy throughout the day, and I am in the best shape of my life. I don't understand why you don't see more ad's, tv commercials on the Vegan diet for losing weight. You see every other kind. You don't have to be an animals rights kind of person to be Vegan, the health benefits should be appealing enough. Thats my story. And I think if Vegans out there just shared their own stories, not just the reasons, but the hows, and the wheres, people would see how easy it is. Every city, town, village, has different resources, so knowledge about how to use those resources or access to the appropriate ones is key.
    I know you didn't quite like the movie "Year of the Dog", but one quote from the movie has stuck in my head. "It's nice to have a word to describe who you are"
    I am super excited for your pamphlet. Everyone finds it easier to live in denial, to look away, out of sight out of mind. I hope this pamphlet hits home.
    As for happy-meat. OXYMORON. Key word moron. It won't help abolishment in my opinion, it will prolong it. People are too used to having their cake and eating it too. Any why not if its "OK". All it's doing is sending mixed messages from the so-called animal advocates, and creating another stepping stone for the movement. I could actually see people moving away from veganism because of this.

    October 17, 2007
  6. ARevolution #

    And yes Vegan should have a capital "V" at all times. We rock!

    October 17, 2007
  7. What/whom influenced your transition to veganism most?

    It was a multiplicity of influences, including my own long, private conversations with myself. Certainly, PETA videos played a role. Every picture of animals suffering helped push me along. The steadfastness of other vegans helped set me right and ultimately prevented me from falling off the wagon.

    Where you a vegetarian before you transitioned to vegan?
    How long did your transition take?

    Yes. At the conscious level anyway, I initially was attracted to vegetarianism for environmental and health reasons; concern for animals was a distant third, and in retrospect mostly suppressed. I was a pescatarian, then lacto-ovo over several years. (Let the record show that I never falsely represented myself as a vegetarian when I ate fish.)

    If you have back-slided, why do you think that occurred? (I'm curious.)

    When I occasionally backslid when I first became vegan, it was because of habit, fear of offending people, and moral laziness. I can't say I ever perceived a signal from an animal group saying it was okay to eat meat or animal prodicts.

    Do you think happy meat is an incremental step toward abolition?

    I see it happen, and it happened to me, so I have to answer yes. Although I never got the impression from any animal group that it was okay to eat meat of any tye, only that some forms of meat-eating were worse than others. In retrospect, however, I'm sure I was influenced by the happy meat advertising of meat/dairy/egg producers. Every picture of every hen on every box of eggs and every delivery truck and every advertiement shows a super-robust happy animal in pristine pastures. This type of false advertising is ubiquitous and pervasive – it's obscene, in fact – and it predates the modern animal movement.

    What is your idea of incremental steps, for the individual, to veganism (or don't you believe in that)?

    I think it varies for each individual. Most people I know who have become vegan or significantlty reduced their animal product intake have simultaneously "refined" and decreased consumption. I suspect their root motivations are the same for each type of incremental step.

    During my embarrasingly long pesce-lact-ovo period, I gradually, though unevenly and not entirely forthrightly made efforts to reduce my contribution to cruelty. One way in which I did this was – at least to my mind at the time – tightening the standards of animal products I would buy. At first it was cage-free and free-range. Then, motivated by guilt in large part I think, I became more circumspect about labels, I began to be more interested in the conditions under which the animal lived, how he/she was killed, how long he/she lived (although I was probably still thinking "it" rather than "he/she" at the time). So when I replaced this egg for that egg, it was in the context of trying, perhaps feebly, to be more humane, as a result of my growing concern for animals' interests. I eventually came to terms with the fact that there was no moral way for me to consume animal products. However, I still hung on to my old ways for a while, out of habit and irrational fears. I would make excuses and so forth, which I'm very un-proud to admit.

    October 17, 2007
  8. Clarification: Based on my own empirical evidence, I think that "refinement" – buying cage-free and so forth – is a natural progression for many people, but I don't think meat should ever be portrayed as "happy meat."

    October 17, 2007
  9. Another clarification, sorry. I first flirted with a no-meat diet in the mid-80s. I became interested in (and exposed to) animal ethics and animal rights in late 2000 and transitioned to veganism during 2001-2004. I thought it might be helpful if people knew the time period during which these conversions took place.

    October 17, 2007
  10. Ellie #

    My experience is a bit different in that I thought of becoming vegetarian for a very long time. It may sound simplistic, but I felt sorry for farm animals whenever I allowed myself to think about them. Admittedly, I put these feelings aside because my husband opposed any suggestion of vegetarianism. I also wasn't sure if a vegetarian diet would be healthy for my family, and so I continued to buy and cook meat, though I sometimes abstained.

    To make a long story short, the time came when I could choose what to cook and eat, and I decided to be vegetarian. In the weeks that followed, I slipped once, but felt strongly about making a commitment, and resolved not to slip again.

    Actually, I was drawn to advocacy groups after I gave up meat, and I too supported reforms. I remained vegetarian for about 10 years, and really didn't think of veganism. I guess I too hoped to find a way to farm animals "humanely", but eventually I realized I was wasting my time.

    I credit Friends of Animals for challenging the root of animal exploitation, for teaching me the real meaning of animal rights, and for encouraging me to be vegan. I've been vegan for about 4 years now, and expect to be for the rest of my life.

    October 17, 2007
  11. brandi #

    Hi, Mary. First, I stumbled onto your blog months ago while researching vegan diets for greyhounds. I've been vegan for just over a year, and until that chance find, PETA was where I looked for information regarding AR. You're blog has been eye-opening, so thanks for your daily writings.

    Regarding your survey, I believe it was in my teenage years when I had the nagging feeling that eating animals wasn't right, but of course, I was equipped with a million different excuses and rationalizations for continuing to do so. Most importantly I was equipped with a way of putting those thoughts in the back of my mind. In my mid-20s, I attempted vegetarianism for a few months, but went back to my rationalizations after thinking that I could just eat one piece of turkey on Thanksgiving.

    Just a little over a year ago I agreed to go to a viewing of "Peaceable Kingdom" with my vegetarian partner, who up to that point had been gently nudging me in the direction of eating less and less meat. After hearing Harold Brown speak and seeing that film (and literally bawling all the way home), my partner and I became vegan that day (meaning we got rid of all our non-vegan food and pledged to not buy any non-vegan household products, cloths, etc. from there on out). Before seeing it for myself, I am sure I was aware on some level that the conditions of factory farms were abhorrent; however, for me actually seeing it helped me actually get it. It’s like a switch was flipped.

    For me, the factory farm issue was the first step because it was the most obvious industry/issue that I contributed to in my daily life. This naturally led to educating myself (with PETA as my first guide) regarding the rest of the AR issues. Honestly, coming around to “getting” and agreeing with most of abolition theory was a gradual process for me. I don’t really know how I would have felt/responded if I had begun reading about abolition on day one of being a vegan. What I am essentially trying to say is that becoming a vegan in one day seems easily attainable; however, being okay with eating a hamburger one day and being completely on board with abolition the next is a big step. Having said that, I think your brochure is a fantastic idea.

    On a related note regarding education, looking back at my master’s work for environmental science, the environmental impact of animal agriculture was touched upon, but there was certainly no focus, which is irritating based on what I now know. At those who eat meat and say they care about the environment, I scoff.

    October 17, 2007
  12. Dan #

    I went vegan literally overnight (excluding honest mistakes during the first couple of months) as a result of being appalled and angered by the conditions of animal agriculture. I stayed vegan as a result of reading and thinking about the philosophy of animal rights, particularly Tom Regan’s and Gary Francione’s thought, which made and makes perfect sense to me.

    I happened to eat “happy” meat prior to that, but had no inclination to go vegan until I was exposed to the realities of animal agriculture. “Happy” meat had no impact whatsoever on my choice to go vegan, and I think it is laughable that someone might think it would. In fact, if it weren’t for basic animal rights philosophy and its obvious (to me) imperative, I would just seek out the least cruel (or most “happy”) meat, dairy, and eggs right now.

    October 17, 2007
  13. Cláudio Godoy #

    I went vegan three years ago, thanks for a short essay written by “Our Father” Peter Singer entitled “Why I’m a vegetarian” in a cover article called “Why do we love animals?” which was published in a mainstream Brazilian magazine (I kept it as a trophy). The first paragraphs were all about suffering, but the last one had an unequivocal abolitionist message (perhaps unintentional from his part). After that, I started to research about the subject and I ended up so shocked then I went vegan right of the bat (to give you an idea about how ignorant I was I had never heard of the word vegan and factoring farming was something new for me). Then I read “Animal Liberation”, and I have to confess that at that time his theory made sense for me (remember it was my first contact with “animal rights” and I had no philosophical training), but at the same time I felt there was something disturbing in some excerpts of the book which I couldn’t identify precisely due to my inexperience on the subject. Some time later, I discovered Regan, but even after reading his works and realizing the true meaning of animal rights, I was not satisfied with some aspects of his theory (like the example of valuing more the life of a human being than one million of dogs in a lifeboat situation). One day, I was reading an Internet forum and someone talked about a certain Gary Francine, whose theories were too radical to be practical. So I googled his name and I found his wonderful blog exactly at the time he wrote his first entry. And here I am, a proud abolitionist.

    October 17, 2007
  14. Deb #

    I got into a conversation with some vegans I met at a youth hostel and they never knew it, but they are why I went vegetarian. For me, it was about the killing, I knew I wouldn't do it myself, and so I could no longer participate in it. I had always been disturbed that meat = dead animals, but for whatever reason, it didn't occur to me to go vegetarian until after talking to them. I went vegetarian overnight, it didn't occur to me to do it any other way, and (perhaps because I majored in biology) it never occurred to me to think that fish could be excluded from the no-killing-animals.

    I read nothing on the subject, not even cookbooks. 7 years later I did get a cookbook, but it had nothing but recipes in it. I moved a year after that and forgot to bring the cookbook, and so I went online to look for recipes. I happened on a forum that had a lot of recipes and I glanced at a post that hinted at the realities of the egg and dairy industry. I didn't know the specifics, and I didn't research them, but because of that vague mention, I went vegan overnight. I didn't even know that other people did gradual transitions. I seriously thought for about a year that everyone did the overnight transition deal.

    Okay, so 8 years as a vegetarian, and then it was another 2 years as a vegan before I read about anything beyond ingredients and testing policies. Finally I started reading about issues, but I never read info on any official group's website, other than looking at peta's lists of ingredients and junk food.

    Someone I respected (and still do, but not for her AR views) mentioned that she tried to steer people towards cage free eggs and free range meat, and I advised my mom to go for the free range meat once. I can't imagine my parents going vegan, but even so, saying that made me feel sick to my stomach. I never did it again. I think it confused my mom to have me say that too, though she never said it. I have gotten them to eat less meat (I should visit more often, since they eat vegan while I'm there), and less dairy, and my mom enjoys making vegan food, and tells me that my dad requests vegan meals fairly often now. It isn't an ethical thing, more of a health thing. I think my mom would be open to it up to a point, but she's too easily swayed in social situations and by needing to cook for my dad, who is completely closed to the idea of veganism, even for heath reasons.

    Even before I knew of the movement philosophies, I always advocated for people to give up things. If they seemed closed to veganism, I would just try to get them to give up some of the stuff at least some of the time. I'd give them vegan cornbread and cookie recipes. I had a vegan dinner night periodically with some omni friends, and they at least now know that vegan food is yummy (and they are spreading that message and knowledge among their friends) and they make it fairly often as well. I've a good friend who essentially transitioned to veganism before consciously considering it, and realized after she'd been avoiding animal products for a couple months that she was ethically bound to veganism. It makes sense to her – as she explains it, she had to be removed from contributing to the issue before she could evaluate it objectively.

    Honestly, she's the only friend who I know I had a direct impact on in terms of veganism, and I wasn't even aware at the time that I was impacting her. Whatever that says about me and my advocacy, I don't think it sounds like anything resembling success. That is, I seem better able to get people to eat vegan food sometimes than to consider animal rights. So Mary, I'll feed them and then send them your way for after dinner drinks and conversation!

    I have never heard of anyone going from happy meat to veganism or vegetarianism, only the reverse. I think I did used to buy 'cage free eggs' when I was vegetarian, but I didn't eat eggs often (or cook with them often) and at the time I didn't know anything at all about the egg industry. I'm pretty sure I thought it was "better" in the same way organic produce and organic cotton are better, but without knowing exactly what was wrong to begin with. It had no impact on my veganism.

    I've never backslid, but I think it is because of the way my brain works. Things are food or they're not, it was a very binary type situation for me, so I was never tempted, even though the ethical basis of my vegetarianism and initial veganism was fairly vague.

    October 17, 2007
  15. Porphyry #

    I’m going to answer the questionnaire a bit differently:

    Understanding what veganism really is necessitates understanding what vegetarianism really is — not the plant-based health diet that has co-opted the name. Understanding vegetarianism is to understand its principal incongruence with humane slaughter and humanely produced animal products.

    The historic origins and periodic reemergence of vegetarian ethics and practice is engaging and offers sidestep to the “save the animals” focus and associated fetish for suffering that becomes intellectual distraction.

    Perhaps this is due to perceptual damage done by excessively emotional animal activists committing irrational actions in the media. While the vehemence and urgency of their message may be explainable, on the onset, no rational person wants to be like them or join their cause.

    Veganism, reverence for life, nonviolence, vegetarianism, Pythagorean principals, Buddhist philosophy, ahimsa, or whatever you want to call it, upon all inceptions, is about improving the condition of humanity much more so than it is about improving the condition of animals; of course, these aspirations are not mutually exclusive.

    October 17, 2007
  16. Vegetarian gets into stew, drops school

    CanWest News Service

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    A Grade 9 student felt compelled to drop out of school after giving a presentation that convinced her classmates to stop eating meat.

    "I don't really want to be there," said Sydney McMahon, who will be home-schooled until the end of June.

    McMahon said she and three friends, who formed their own animal rights group this summer, made presentations to two classes at Churchill High School last month.

    The four were heckled during one of the presentations, and other students continued to give them grief in ensuing days, said McMahon.

    The controversy escalated when parents called the school to complain that children who'd heard the presentation were refusing to eat meat.

    "That was the point of the presentation," said McMahon.

    The situation deteriorated further when the four students and their parents sat down with the school's administration, McMahon said. While her three friends have stayed, McMahon turned down the school's offer to
    transfer her to another school, dropping out instead.

    "What did these kids do that was so bad?" asked McMahon's father, Jim Williamson.

    The four vegetarians handed out their own pamphlets which claim, without citing scientific sources, that eating meat causes a wide range of deadly illnesses and major health problems. They described severe environmental hazards and "torture" in raising and slaughtering livestock.

    Copyright Winnipeg Free Press – October 17, 2007

    October 17, 2007
  17. Ellie #


    I think a fetish for suffering is an apt description of some activism. I've also called it an obsession– sado-masochistic, or whatever floats their boat. It doesn't help animals, and it's not a healthy foundation for advocacy. But more than that, I think self-centered activism is a big problem, whether it's a fetish or a feel good campaign. If humanity is improved by animal advocacy, I think that's great but secondary here.

    October 18, 2007
  18. I can't really say which one thing inspired me to go vegan. I went from omni to vegan between lunch and dinner thanks to a link beneath someone's avatar at a screenwriters' message board. I can't even remember what that first page was. I sure wish I did, because I kept digging dipper after reading that page. And, by the time I got tired of digging, I had seen Meet Your Meat, countless photos, read AR FAQs, learned about vegan nutrition, and had decided to vegan.

    Happy meat is not an incremental step toward abolition. Eating less inhumanely-treated animals is not abolishing their use. However, increasing the number of vegan meals per week is something, and that is incremental. If those people feel that eating "happy meat" (god, I can't even believe I'm writing such a thing) on the other days is better than "unhappy meat" (isn't it all?), then that is for their conscience to decide. I'm there–like you, Mary–to accelerate their transition to a fully vegan diet (and worldview) ASAP.

    October 18, 2007
  19. Ellie #

    I think the problem is the hype that goes with so-called "compassionate" farming– and groups that modify animal husbandry are very much a part of that. As a matter of conscience, if people can buy "happy meat", what's the incentive for being vegetarian (never mind vegan)? If industries and activists would stop selling the notion that farming can be humane, people with conscience would have to deal with reality.

    October 18, 2007
  20. Ron #


    I am not now nor will I likely become a vegan. However, I must say that the word abolitionists seems inapplicable to the cause and I was a bit taken aback when I first read it in relation to animal rights. I know; using animals is slavery, etc. Since you are a linguist and most likely versed in Latin word form and etymologies, perhaps you could coin a fresh new term that captures the specific essence of your meaning of abolitionist. I know a similar common meaning phrase is animal liberationists.

    How about something like sentients (all lifeforms with the capacity to feel sensation = all sentient beings) This is simply the plural of sentient but you might do some wordsmithing with the Latin root or that from another word. Anything seems better to me as an outsider than the all-encompassing abolitionists.

    October 18, 2007
  21. Patty #

    • What/whom influenced your transition to veganism most?
    It really was my sister. I grew up in a family that ate a typical American diet of meat and potatoes. I always gravitated more toward vegetarian fare just because I liked it better. But I never thought that I could go vegetarian…I didn’t know how. It was when my sister went veggie that I decided that I could. I immediately gave up meat. I began to read up on vegetarianism and animal rights issues. It was Peter Singer’s book The Way We Eat that moved me to become vegan. I look back and feel so duped to think that I never made the connection between what was on my plate and the animal it once was.

    • Were you a vegetarian before you transitioned to vegan?
    For only three or four months as I educated myself.

    • How long did your transition take?
    Once the decision was made, it was overnight except that, for a time, I chose not to ask what was in some of my favorite foods because I was worried that they may have egg or a trace of milk. That went on for about three or four months until I decided to be true to myself.

    • If you have back-slided, why do you think that occurred? (I'm curious.)

    • Do you think happy meat is an incremental step toward abolition?
    I don’t think so. The term “happy meat” still subsumes that animals are ours to do with as we choose; we just don’t hurt them (as much).

    • What is your idea of incremental steps, for the individual, to veganism (or don't you believe in that)?
    I have replaced household products and cosmetics, but have leather seats and can’t afford a new car.

    • How/when did you learn about abolition?
    Fairly recently…I came across the Gary Francione article “We are all Michael Vick” published in the Philadelphia Inquirer (I think that’s where it was) during the Vick controversy.

    October 19, 2007
  22. Oh boy, i love talking about myself. =)

    * What/whom influenced your transition to veganism most?

    Concern about cancer, books i'd read (Diet for a New America, Fit for Life), and some inspiring vegan friends.

    * Where you a vegetarian before you transitioned to vegan?

    Nope, went vegan literally overnight.

    * How long did your transition take?

    Oops – answered already. 😉

    * If you have back-slided, why do you think that occurred? (I'm curious.)

    I had a year and a half where i ate dairy, after being vegan maybe 6yrs. At that time i was involved in what i later determined to be a cult (meditation group), and had fought the brainwashing for a few years, but after being compelled to believe it was 'okay' by all my peers and people i respected, i caved. One of my biggest regrets in life. I went back to being vegan, unhappy with the disconnect, and managed to push myself out of the cult as well not long after.

    * Do you think happy meat is an incremental step toward abolition?

    I think it's an incremental step towards happier meat-eaters, and a step away from animal rights, abolition and veganism. Patting people on the back for doing what you're opposed to makes no sense.

    * What is your idea of incremental steps, for the individual, to veganism (or don't you believe in that)?

    I think there are other factors in play for someone to really 'get' veganism..

    A person needs to really believe in justice, and human rights and equality. From there, they need to realize that there is no rationale to separating humans and other animals from the moral universe. Then it's just a matter of changing your habits to reflect this.

    I think this is the recipe for real, long-lasting veganism.

    Just as we don't see people go from being anti-racist to racist, when people progress their moral continuum, it's virtually impossible to move backwards.

    A supportive vegan community is also incredibly helpful.

    Promoting healthful vegan food is important – not highlighting what crap at Safeway is '99% vegan'. A good number of people go vegan, and feel like crap because they end up eating this stuff.

    Okay, this is a lot. 😉

    October 19, 2007
  23. PS – Mary – consider setting up a Forum/Message Board. Blog here, post a link to a copied thread on your message board to 'discuss further'.

    Many of these topics would be interesting to follow-up on, but blogs aren't very good for this purpose…sort of a 'one time' deal, unless someone has time to make a lot of bookmarks, RSS skillz, or old-fashioned scrolling.

    Just a thought! =)

    October 19, 2007
  24. Sheila #

    My journey started with HSUS. I really had no idea that my govt. allowed such cruelty to any living being and was shocked, dismayed, and so ashamed. Of course, this means my life forever changed. My diet changes have not been easy for me. I am a single mom of an underweight 10 year old that is afraid to try anything different. Financially, we struggle, too, so most of what we eat must come from the cheapest grocery stores, which do not cater to special diets. I am vegetarian and my son is vegetarian at home. We started by cutting out all packaged meat, since now I hear their cries when I walk past a meat counter. This happened overnight, but canned, frozen, meal in a box meats, and lunchmeat (mostly, because of the convienence factor) have been harder to give up.
    School, is another story. Last year my son was made fun of by other kids for caring about the animals and he ended up at the principals office for spouting not so nice comments to the kids. I was pleasantly informed that his comments were not really appreciated at the school. I didn't discourage his activism but told him to quiet it if he is met with any resistance. Now he rarely speaks of the cruelty at all, and eats his lunch like everyone else.
    Since I raise my own chickens and know that they are being treated humanely, it is hard for me to see the need to give up eggs. All of my birds live until they die of natural causes, some are around 10 years old, and I do not encourage setting on eggs all of the time because of population control. For their benefit, too, I have to keep the flock manageable.
    I have been "working toward" a vegetarian diet for about a year and I feel I have accomplished that. It makes sense to me to work on veganism, too, but I don't think I'm ready yet. I need to be more comfortable with vegetarianism, first. Some may call me hippocritical, but I believe lifestyle changes are more likely to work in the long term, if you give yourself time to adjust. I'm only human, I may not always practice what I preach, but I can accept my failures and learn from them. My diet is not for "show", and if someone uses my failures as an excuse for not changing themselves then I believe they were looking for an excuse not to change to begin with. For me SHAME was the motivator, not what someone else was eating, and for this reason animal welfare issues are an integral part of my progress.

    October 20, 2007
  25. roger yates #


    I wonder of any of your vegan readers would want to take part in this German Calf Food campaign?

    all the best


    October 21, 2007
  26. GLT #

    I was a lacto-vegetarian for over twenty years first, and so were my parents. Then in college I started reading books and thinking about giving up milk. I planned to do it after I graduated and moved out, because I didn't think my parents would. But the deciding factor was that my parents and I went to a presentation to get the free vegan food, and the people there didn't sugar-coat what the dairy industry does to cows, whereas I never confronted my parents about it. Then my father said, "I guess we should be vegans," and we did. (My parents rock.)

    Under backsliding, I occasionally eat a piece of milk chocolate when someone gives it to me. Ew, traces of bovine growth hormone.

    I don't know about "happy meat," but I think the period where we only drank organic milk before we went vegan may have helped the transition by reducing our milk intake, due to increased cost and reduced availability. But it took a guy confronting us about cows' lives cut short to get us to stop.

    November 12, 2007

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