What makes some vegans so certain, while others have trouble speaking up, or lapse back into consuming animal products? Well, not all vegans are alike. The difference is that some truly have conviction, and until one reaches that point of absolute, lifelong certainty, living vegan might be a struggle. In this way, being vegan is like being in love.
I’d heard all my life that when you were truly in love, you knew it beyond a doubt. I didn’t believe love like that was possible, until the transformative moment when my partner and I knew we were destined to be together, come what may. Not everyone has a flash of insight when it comes to love. I’ve heard that arranged marriages often end up with as solid and devoted a relationship as any couple that falls in love.
In both love and veganism, you can get there in an instant, or by practicing it. True love came easily to me. Or rather, it overtook me and changed my world suddenly, when I hadn’t even seen it coming. Veganism, I had to work at. There are plenty of vegans who go from zero to die-hard-vegan-who-will-never-look-back in a single, life-changing thought. I want you to know that if you’re not one of those people, if you don’t suddenly hate the smell of donuts or bacon, if you are occasionally tempted, and even if you give in to temptation, that doesn’t mean veganism isn’t right for you.
I can’t tell you the moment I crossed over into solid vegan certainty. I worked at it. I cheated and lapsed. I made myself watch slaughterhouse videos to remind myself why I wanted to walk this path. Bit by bit, I developed a respect for all life. I pieced together my vegan conviction with actions, thoughts, and conversations. Over here is the time I was short on money and still paid twice as much for organic sugar. And over there, the first time I didn’t mind skipping a meal when there was nothing vegan available. The dream I had in which I stopped on the freeway to help an injured animal, and he spoke to me; that dream makes up a piece of my conviction. The first Christmas I wasn’t tempted into eating my mother’s non-vegan cookies (which was the second year of my veganism, by the way.) There’s the day when I was steaming milk at work and wanted to gag, because I knew the suffering of the mother it was taken from. Handing over my huge black angel wings (made of real feathers) to my sister, and feeling relief at being rid of them. The day I saw a dead bird at a bus stop and sincerely mourned it, then felt overcome at the thought of how many birds were bleeding to death right then, never having known earth or fresh air in their short lives. No, I can’t tell you what moment I reached my vegan conviction, but I can tell you that I am there now.
Last November, while I was struggling with the question of spending Thanksgiving with my family or not, my soulmate made the comparison of having a roasted turkey on the dinner table to having the cooked, headless body of one of our cats on the table. It simply isn’t food; it’s a corpse. He was right, and I realized I felt that way about all animal products. They truly aren’t food (or materials) to me any more. They’re no more edible to me than a piece of a human body. If you stick with veganism, you will also have this epiphany. And as with love, when you reach that point, you’ll know it. You won’t have to look to anyone else for validation. Your veganism will come from within.