Vegan Salt –the blog

{May 23, 2010}   Vegan for Life

There are two things in life I’m absolutely certain of, sure enough to tattoo the words on my skin.  The first is my soulmate.  The second is veganism.

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.


One of the most common objections to veganism is that we ought to be concerned with human suffering more than that of animals.  If you’re vegan, someone has probably asked you how you can care so much about animals while human beings are suffering from injustice and exploitation.  Shouldn’t people come first? This is a nuanced question, so I’ll expound on three different responses: Yes, No, and Irrelevant.  Here we go now, in reverse order.

1-Shouldn’t people come first? – Irrelevant.  You don’t have to choose one or the other.

Black Americans are disproportionately imprisoned, while being under-represented in colleges and in government.  Women do most of the world’s work, but earn significantly less money than men.  More than 10% of Americans are treated as second-class citizens because of whom they love.

Is it possible to be an advocate for racial equality, gay rights, and feminism simultaneously?  Of course it is.  You yourself are probably in favor of environmental protection and the spread of education.  Not only is it possible to push for animal rights and human rights at once, it’s rare to find a vegan who isn’t also an advocate for other causes. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m doing something a little differently today.  Below is an essay I wrote nearly three years ago, back when I rarely capitalized letters.  I think what I wrote back then is as relevant as ever.

i recently read online a letter that Michael Vick wrote to his judge, explaining what a kind person he actually is, asking for forgiveness and a second chance.  he promised that all the money he makes for the rest of his life will be spent doing good in the world, and that he has learned his lesson.

if you somehow missed all the hype and don’t know who Michael Vick is or what crime he was imprisoned for, he’s a pro football star who was arrested last summer for taking part in a dogfighting business.  he was not allowed to play football this last season, and companies with whom he had endorsement deals dropped him like a hot coal.  in december, he was sentenced to 23 months in prison for his part in the beating, shooting, hanging, starvation, and electrocution of pit bulls.  the corpses of dozens of dogs were found buried on his property, while even more abused dogs were found still alive in filthy cages, and are now being placed in loving homes.  for some time, Vick refused to admit that he had any direct involvement in the cruelty and death of the dogs.  his money funded the kennel business however, and he was aware that dogs were being killed when they didn’t fight well enough.

i know i’m a little late to jump on the Michael Vick hating bandwagon.  there’s a reason i haven’t said anything about it for all these months.  honestly, i’m perplexed.  not by the cruelty of Vick and his friends, but by the doublethink of the anti-Vick crowd.

people were outraged to learn about the dogfighting ring, and rightfully so.

to think that someone would knowingly fund such cruelty and animal abuse.  to give money to people who profit off of the suffering of animals purely for people’s enjoyment.  to take a young animal which has the potential for a simple but happy life, and abuse that helpless creature, disfigure it, and eventually kill it, while raking in a profit. it’s unthinkable. it’s repulsive.

it’s the meat and dairy industry.

yes, most of the outraged americans who wrote letters to editors, chanted in protest, insisted that Vick be banned from football, and even those vengeful few who said that he should suffer the same fate he inflicted on those helpless animals, those very same people pay someone every day to abuse, starve, and kill innocent animals packed into filthy cages.  animals who want nothing more than food, warmth, and a little affection; in other words, life.  if what Michael Vick did is wrong, and i’m fairly sure you’ll agree that it was, then wearing fur is also wrong.  paying for a steak is wrong.  buying eggs is wrong.  we live in a society of Michael Vicks who don’t even realize what they have become.

if you don’t believe that you are subsidizing suffering of the sort that Michael Vick subsidized, please learn a little more about what is done with your money when you buy an animal product.  ignorance of the cruelty we fund is no excuse to go on funding it.  please educate yourself and do the right thing.  pigs suffer as much as pitbulls do.

this video is a good place to start.

{January 31, 2010}   Tyler Durden vs. The Vegan Police

Tyler Durden once said of Project Mayhem, “You decide your own level of involvement.” Though he said it as an accusation, I find it holds a lot of truth, and that this perspective carries over to many, if not most things in life, from citizenship to parenting.  Yet, when it comes to veganism, everything is suddenly black-and-white.  Either you are a vegan or you aren’t. For example, a “vegan who occasionally eats eggs from backyard chickens” is not a vegan.  It’s all or nothing.  After all, everything in existence either contains animal parts (or secretions) or it doesn’t, right?  Simple.

But then there’s sugar, which sometimes is and sometimes isn’t bleached with animal bones, and isn’t labeled either way.  (Oreos) And what about those items that don’t themselves contain animal products, but that come from a company that uses gelatin in all their other products and tests on animals(Crazy Cores Skittles, owned by Mars) Or items that have been bought out by a company that tests products on animals? (Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, now owned by Colgate Palmolive) Even organically produced veggies probably resulted in masses of killed insects and rodents.  It’s enough to make a vegan’s head want to explode, particularly when more experienced, more knowledgeable vegans give them that look.  The look you might get if you show up to an animal-rights demonstration in the dead of winter wearing a wool coat.  So you say you’re vegan, but that’s a leather-bound book on your bookshelf?!  Someone call the Vegan Police!!  We have an imposter!

I think I understand the source of the infighting.  Vegans tend to have one thing in common: we have questioned the ethical state of our society and found it lacking.  We push ourselves to be better people, more conscious and more accountable for the effects of our actions.  Perhaps it’s only natural that we take that mentality a bit further and push ourselves, and those around us, to constantly be better, purer, more vegan…  But there is a point at which the quest for vegan purity runs the risk of becoming a “more vegan than thou” contest, rather than stemming from true concern about animals.  Self-righteousness masked as righteous indignation is as unattractive in vegans as it is in religious zealots, and as off-putting to those considering that lifestyle.

Being vegan is a lot like being environmentally friendly or avoiding slave and sweatshop labor, in that no matter how hard you try, the goal will probably remain over the horizon.  Even if every item you put in your body or your home has no animal byproduct, was not tested on animals, and isn’t produced by a company which once used an ingredient formerly tested on an animal… the truck that delivered it to the store where you bought it may have run over a squirrel.  Am I getting ridiculous?  Yes. This argument nearly always ends with ridiculousness, because we live in a non-vegan world and we interact with non-vegan manufacturers and sellers and people.  For now, perfection, vegan purity, is essentially impossible.  All vegans are people working toward an ideal world.  The critical question is not: How vegan are you?  It is this: Are we on the right path, and are we moving in the right direction?

As with any effort toward an ideal, such as environmentalism, or even just being a good person, some basic rules are good to keep in mind:

  1. You’re going to make mistakes, especially in the beginning.  Don’t give up the first (or 41st) time this happens.  Learn from your mistakes and continue forward.
  2. Take the easy and the big steps first (meat, dairy), then work on improving the little areas that are lacking at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm you.
  3. When it comes to the behavior of others, don’t nitpick and condemn.  Share information honestly and openly, but keep in mind that not everyone has reached that “aha” moment yet. (And I’ve never yet encountered a vegan whose “aha” moment consisted of being shouted at and compared to a rapist.)

It’s better to stop eating animals than to continue to eat meat.  It’s better still to consume no dairy or eggs, only plants.  We’re all at different points along the road to a world in which animals are not treated as objects, but as beings.  Yes, you determine your level of involvement on that road.  We should never be content with causing harm.  But we have to accept our own fallibility, and the fallibility of those around us, and allow ourselves (and others) to progress in stages, as our comprehension grows.  Rather than attack our fellow travelers, let’s reach out (with kindness and understanding) to those who haven’t yet found the path, and let’s work to make sure we’re all heading in the same direction.

et cetera