How I Became Vegan

I recently joined the Vegan Freak forum and in order to be a full member there you are required to post an introduction stating why you are (or are very close to becoming) vegan. Here’s what I wrote (the intro bit about where I live and my hobbies has been left out).

It’s actually my practice of yoga and Zen that brought me to veganism. I had been a “vegetarian” for environmental reasons since 2005. I put “vegetarian” in quotes because I occasionally ate fish. I just couldn’t give up my sashimi and my tuna melts. That reasoning seems so silly to me now, but at the time I was ignorant about animal rights issues and wasn’t ready give up something that seemed important at the time. Even the form of “vegetarianism” that I practiced was quite a stretch for me at the time. I had a rather turbulent upbringing and it took me a while to recognize the inherent value of my own life, let alone the life of another non-human creature. In college I had a bumper sticker that said “I Eat Vegans.” It’sembarrassing to think about that now, but I think it’s important to recognize just how far I’ve come in my own journey. When I run into acquaintances who knew me back then, they are usually shocked that I am vegan.

A couple of years after becoming “vegetarian” I moved to Portland and met my current partner. She was already a vegan (for five+ years) and apractitioner of yoga and Zen. This was exciting and intriguing to me as I had been wanting to learn more about the two for some time, but didn’t quite know how to get started. I asked her lots of questions and we talked a lot about Zen and yoga. After a bit of time we started doing yoga together and I started sitting with her Zen group, which has now become my Zen group as well.

During this time, the meals we shared together were always vegan. My partner is a wonderful cook. The MacGuyver kind who can whip up amazing dinner when you think there aren’t any usable ingredients in the house. After a short while sharing these meals, it occurred me that a nutritious, healthful and delicious vegan diet was not only very possible but not difficult at all It simply required an extra bit of mindfulness and sometimes a bit more planning (e.g. to make sure you bring vegan food to an event that isunlikely to provide it).

For those who don’t know, both Zen and yoga have ethical guidelines. In Zen they are called “precepts” and in yoga they are called “yamas.” The first precept/yama is that of non-harm and non-killing. I have seen the precept worded as such:

“I will be mindful and reverential with all life, I will not be violent nor will I kill.”

And as a further directive:

“Avoid killing or harming any living being.
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
I shall endeavor to protect and take care of all living creatures.
Do not do harm to other beings.”

So, with small foundation of these two practices under my belt, I started to realize that my version of vegetarianism simply wasn’t consistent with my values or my practice. I now knew that being vegan was possible and healthful, as I had been eating vegan 98% of the time for the last few months. I knew it was time to commit to being vegan. This was April of 2008. Now,veganism is an essential, inexorable part of my daily practice.

Since then I have been exploring the specific animal rights issues in more depth. I’ve been listening to VeganFreak Radio and acquiring and slowly reading through the seminal books on animal rights (Singer, Sustein, etc.). I’ve been reaching out to my Zen and tech communities (neither of which are vegan and both of which have vegan minorities) about vegan issues. I hope to growveganism within these communities. At times it is discouraging, but I do think change is possible.