Happy Herbivore Blog

What Vegan Means: Growth

Posted by: Andrea Dermos |

Category: Guests

Today's guest post is from JL. Post-40 JL Fields became a marathoner and triathlete, changed careers and transitioned from vegetarian to vegan. She now blogs about vegan cooking (and wine!) and fitness at JL Goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a Side of Kale and is the editor of Stop Chasing Skinny: Find Happiness Beyond the Scale.

I used to associate the word vegan with food. Only. I was vegetarian for many years before assuming a plant-based diet and that word--vegan--represented something very scary to me. It meant giving up eggs, cheese, butter and yogurt -- I was sure those were the only foods keeping me from eating flesh.

I stopped eating meat, poultry and pork after a trip to Kenya. I attended a ceremony for work and was introduced to a goat whose sad fate was to then be slaughtered and boiled. I ate a piece of him that night, assuming a refusal to consume him would be seen as a sign of disrespect. The next day, on my way to South Africa, I phoned my husband back in the U.S. to announce that I was a vegetarian.

The journey was a bumpy one (there was one Kentucky Fried Chicken incident--don’t ask) and I played the role of fraudulent vegetarian by identifying as one but I continued to eat seafood. Four years into it I stopped eating all flesh. I continued, however, to consume that which I could not imagine giving up--dairy, eggs and honey--for three more years.

Nearly two years ago I made a decision to follow a plant-based diet. I called myself vegan but it was about the food. I gave up animal products when I discovered after a two-week cleanse, in which no dairy was allowed, that I was only an egg away from eating vegan. So I ditched the eggs and did not resume the dairy. I have never looked back.

As the months progressed, and I began learning more about the vegan diet (and being vegan in general) I couldn’t turn away from what I was seeing and learning. That how we get our dairy and eggs is as inhumane as the mass killing of animals for meat. That I can get calcium directly from the source -- greens from the ground -- and cut out the middleman (middle cow?).

 
(Photo Source)

I read about a goat named Clover at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. She was saved from slaughter and she will live the rest of her days as a free, happy goat at the WFAS (I now sponsor her). It all came full circle. I went vegetarian because of a goat. I started eating plant-based for diet. I now embrace and claim the label vegan completely, because of another goat.

What does vegan mean to me? Being compassionate to others -- animals and humans -- and expecting the same in return.

What Vegan Means: Compassion

Posted by: Andrea Dermos |

Category: Guests

Today's What Vegan Means post comes from our friend LJ. Lindsay loves talking yoga with LJ on Twitter, and I like to tease her about boys, heh :) She's a teacher from Miami and she blogs at It's Veganlicious.

I have to start this post with some gratitude. Thank you to Happy Herbivore for asking me to write about “what vegan means” when I can answer that in just one word: compassion. And thank you to life for bringing me that question just when I needed to ponder that one word the most. Isn’t that the way life works? I hope my friend doesn’t mind me soul-searching all over her blog. ;)

So, compassion. It’s the #1 reason why I am vegan. Compassion for myself, compassion for Mother Earth, and of course, compassion for the Animals.

Compassion for myself? That’s easy. I want to do what’s right for my body, mind, and spirit. In my opinion, the vegan diet is the healthiest diet for a human. My health and nutrition are why I became vegan in the first place. But to remain vegan, I had to find a little more awareness, a little more selflessness, a little more compassion. There had to be something beyond my own self-preservation.

Compassion for Mother Earth? Again, easy. I’ve always been the hippie environmental activist type. I remember my first Earth Day celebration back when I was in high school, and the bumper stickers that I barely understood covering my car afterward. I remember telling my mom I was going to become vegetarian and having her (pretty accurately, at the time) laugh at me. But that was more than 20 years ago. And this is now.

Compassion for Animals. One more time, easy. Knowing what I know now about factory farming, factory fishing, zoos, circuses, and so much more institutionalized cruelty, how can I not live a life of compassion? I recently visited Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in Ocala, FL, met a lot of animals, heard their stories of abuse and neglect, and fell in love with how genuinely happy they now are, how they know that they’re safe there, and how they were truly able to communicate that to me. To meet these animals was just another reminder that all animals are sentient beings with thoughts and feelings…just like us. I can no longer even imagine living a non-vegan life; in fact, it seems as though I’ve almost forgotten my pre-vegan days.

And that might be a problem. This is the part that is not easy. There was a time before I was vegan, a time before I know what I know, and it wasn’t that long ago. And there are people, many people, who do not yet know what I know. And I judge them. I do. I admit it. I label them Defensive Omnivores, but I, I’ve come to realize, should be labeled the Preachy Vegan. I’m judging them, and then I’m judging myself for being judgmental. It’s a vicious cycle, a vicious cycle that has to stop now.

 Because there are ways for me (and others) to break through this cloud of judgment, to educate with compassion, to teach and not preach, and to still make a difference for the animals. One simple way is through food. Provide our omnivore friends with yummy vegan treats (Happy Herbivore’s Black Bean Brownies come to mind), and they’ll be more vegan friendly, they’ll want to know more. And when we share information, we need to share it with compassion, not judgment, we need to think back to when we learned the truth and how it affected us, and share it in a way to ease our new friends in.

That’s it. Compassion. That’s what vegan means to me. Compassion for all beings: for animals, for humans, for defensive omnivores, even for preachy vegans. We are all significant, we all deserve compassion, no matter where on our paths we are.

Again, huge thank you, Happy Herbivore, for the opportunity to publicly soul-search, and find out just how compassionate I really can be.

xoxo, LJ

Happy Herbivore in Europe: Venice!

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Travel

We didn't plan to land in Venice on my birthday.. but its not exactly a bad place to celebrate, 'eh?

Venice is beautiful --- no doubt about that! but it's more jam packed than Times Square in July, or New Years. You can't move it's so congested with people (and yes, the canals are a bit stinky, too). I thought Venice was pretty, but would have preferred it with a little more breathing room. There were just so many tourists (my phrase of the day was "holy tourist!").

That said, Venice gets an A++ from me on the vegan front. Not only did we find soy yogurt (and soy ice cream!) in a grocery store by our hotel, they also had the best---most amazing bread-- I've ever had in my life and it was whole-wheat/whole-grain!

The restaurants also get a thumbs up. Almost every restaurant has a same, standard menu, but on all menus you'll find a plate of seasonal, grilled vegetables, pasta with sauce and vegetables (but no meat or cheese), a plethora of big, beautiful salads to choose from and other vegan and vegetarian options. And nothing came swimming in oil, which I was worried about. (In fact I don't think oil was on any dish...just in a bottle on the table). The cute bistro Scott & I ate dinner at also offered gluten-free pasta, which impressed me.

The coolest (and most exciting) eat, however, was my vegan gelato (rice based AND sugar-free). heaven!

and don't start me on the fresh produce.... that you can apparently buy on a boat...