Happy Herbivore Blog

What Vegan Means: Becoming Conscious

Posted by: Andrea Dermos |

Category: Guests

Today's guest post on What Vegan Means is by Jared. Lindsay and I met Jared in DC during her short East coast book tour. We had so much fun hanging out with him, he even tested for Everyday Happy Herbivore...I think he made almost all of the recipes! Jared blogs at The Laughing Vegan and he's also on Twitter.

Hey Herbies!

My name is Jared and I've been following a plant-based diet for over two years now. I stumbled upon veganism by way of the weight loss book Skinny Bastard and it stuck. Why? I don't know exactly...I guess I needed a hobby, haha. But really, it had a lot to do with coming to the realization that I don't require animal products to survive.

If you're not familiar with the diet, it phases all animal products out. Eating and living this way became a complete transformation for me. I cleaned out my refrigerator, gave the food away, declared myself a vegan, and started anew. I'd dieted before, but this was probably the most significant and drastic form -- and it stuck. I don't know exactly how or why I never really wanted to cheat. The book describes details of factory farming, a lot of the adverse health affects of meat consumption, as well as the atrocities that the USDA and FDA commit, and I think the combination of those was what captivated me.

I've come to realize that because of my background, I do not automatically identify with most vegans. I didn't directly ditch animal products because I "cared about the animals" but it was more of a collaborative occurrence as a result of many different factors. I was also never a vegetarian. Because I went "cold turkey" (literally, I gave the turkey away!) I feel as though I can relate to omnivores that imagine how difficult it would be to minimize cruelty. While it was sometimes difficult, namely eating out at restaurants, I've learned so much since then that I wouldn't trade my choice.

I've really enjoyed living life free of animal products for some time now. I didn't intend on my post to discuss too much with regards to weight-loss, but after reading JL's inspiring post I have a few thoughts. I lost over 35lbs. initially when transitioning to a vegan diet, and I credit it to ditching lots of prepackaged and over-processed foods in exchange for hearty low-fat grains, new vegetables, and getting more creative. I've always been passionate about cooking since I was much younger and veganism encouraged me to explore the kitchen and grocery store more. My lifestyle now does not focus on weight loss, rather I attempt to eat a lot of food I imagine is better for me and some that may not be. I always have room for dessert, even if it is something small and sweet like fruit, because it makes me happy.

So what exactly does vegan mean to me? I think it involves living a lifestyle that minimizes cruelty. The atrocities that exist within factory farming just aren't something I want to contribute to or enable. Knowing what I know now about everything that happens between animal to plate, I don't need to "feel guilty" about what I consume because I make the conscious choice not to.

I've considered myself more compassionate as a result of identifying with veganism. The obvious reason would be that I care more about animals and don't want to contribute to their demise, and while I believe that to be true, I think there's more. I want to show people about my lifestyle. I want to encourage others to decrease their contribution to cruelty. I want to share my story, my experiences, and help other people learn more about what it means to enjoy life, eat great food, and not use animals or anything associated with them. 

Do I think most people will go vegan? Nope. Do I think I can help people make smarter choices about what they consume, use more alternatives, and feel better about the way they live? Yes. That's what keeps me going and makes me proud to be vegan.

Happy Herbivore in Europe: Croatia

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Travel

The fresh markets in Croatia will make your heart weep. That's the way produce should look and taste. I've never been in a heaven like this!

After gorging ourselves on fruits we'd never seen before and carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers so rich and vibrant we made room in our bellies to eat at Fork -- a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Rijecka.

All of us ordered the exact same plate---we just had to have it! Grilled vegetables plus tofu.

Delish!

We also couldn't pass up the two vegan cakes they offered. At least we shared!

What Vegan Means: Love

Posted by: Andrea Dermos |

Category: Guests

Today's guest post is written by my friend Megan. She never fails to brighten my day and is genuinely such an amazing source of positivity. She speaks German and is a teacher who blogs at Go Places! (a play on going places both literally and figuratively).


(Photo Source)

My vegan journey began simply with my love for dogs. I hadn’t met my best friend Jasper yet, but I was close to family dogs and was known among friends as a dog lover. I got dog-shaped cards for holidays and chose to spend my birthday visiting the local shelter. I desperately wanted to adopt a pup of my own.

And then one day I thought, “I love dogs so much. I would put myself in danger to save one of the dogs I love, but I eat other animals. What’s the difference?” And that was it. Soon after, I was vegan.

Vegan means discovering a love for animals (or yourself or the environment) that inspires you to change your way of eating, shopping, and thinking. It is a love that causes you to change your life.

When I first became vegan, I thought it was just food. I was enthusiastic and committed, but felt hopeless and a little inconvenienced as I shopped and shopped for non-leather, black, knee-high boots (I lived in Germany at the time, and found some eventually). Going from an omnivorous to vegan within a week was a big jump, and every day – it felt like every minute – I learned something new that wasn’t vegan, or some aspect of the lifestyle I hadn’t anticipated. Wool, beeswax, medicine, gummy bears, the adhesive in Band-Aids…veganism was an issue in every choice I made throughout every day. Everything I touched was a chance for my mind to be blown.

But it wasn’t just my mind. With each new piece of information about animal testing, the use of animal-derived products in consumer goods, and the abuse suffered by animals for human convenience, my heart broke open a little wider. How did I live in this world for so long with no idea? I often explain this feeling to curious friends and family as falling down a rabbit hole. Like Alice, I feel like I’m floating in a strange place with no sight of the bottom. Even on days that I didn’t have to make an overt choice between vegan and non-vegan items, my emotions and conviction snowballed.

My two-year veganniversary is coming up on October 15. I wasn’t terribly emotional about it at the time and was admittedly less well-informed than I should have been. All I knew was that it was the right thing. Choosing to live as a vegan has touched my life in ways much more far-reaching than the edge of my dinner plate. Though veganism in some ways seems like the zenith of a compassionate journey, the last step in a transformation, for me it has only been the beginning.

I am more aware of animal issues and continue to do the best I can on my tight-budget to make life better for the animals in the world. I am also more compassionate toward other humans. I take more time to listen and try harder to understand other perspectives than I did before; I’m on the outside now and understand what it’s like to be misunderstood. I also take better care of myself. In the last two years I’ve become a runner and learned more than I ever anticipated about what my body needs and what it can do. Veganism, despite the fact that explanations of the lifestyle often center on the word “no,” is really about “more.”

I feel more love, for animals, people, myself, and the world. And I feel that how I am living honors that love and produces more.

October also marks the one year since I adopted Jasper, a black lab mix who had already had two neglectful homes. The love I feel for this little fuzzy soul, with whom I have bonded so completely, is beyond anything I could have imagined. He is not a pet, I do not own him. We are in this life together for as long as we have, we are a team, a family. Every day with Jasper reminds me why I’m vegan. Though not all animals have evolved to interact so well with humans, they all deserve to live the lives they came into without fear, discomfort, or untimely death. Remembering Jasper’s desperate barks at the shelter is enough to convince me of that. And being vegan also helps me love Jasper more, to empathize with him and be patient when he barks too loudly at the UPS driver or eats all my vegan cupcakes off the counter.

I love more and better because I’m vegan. Veganism is love.