By Brad Kneeland
I’m going vegan. That’s right, vegan. No meat or animal based products in my diet. My goal is to make it a month. This isn’t going to be easy, but I have been trying to go meat free for almost a year, and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I resolved to give going vegan my best shot.
I love animals. Part of the reason I went vegetarian last January was out of love for my dogs. I have two pugs back in Montana who are the lights of my life. I was cuddling with them watching the Real Housewives of Everywhere over Christmas vacation, and as I was doing so, I began to think about my meat consumption. I began to think about the animals that we kill to sustain our diets in America. In the United States alone, we kill 56 billion farm animals a year—roughly 3,000 a second—for food. Cows have a life expectancy of 25 years, but we kill them the year they are born for food. To get dairy, we impregnate cows constantly so they produce milk. Imagine an animal being constantly pregnant for only two purposes—to produce a baby (to be taken away and killed) and to produce milk. Pigs have been proven to have the intelligence of dogs. Male chickens are often suffocated, minced or boiled alive, and farm animals for kill are often kept in cramped quarters, deprived of sunlight and the freedom to move around. How can I love my dogs so much and still have such a disregard for the lives of other animals. Why do we place the value of some animals’ lives above that of others? It was then that I decided to give up meat.
I haven’t always been a good vegetarian. When I’ve had a few drinks, I’ve been known to cave for late night cheeseburgers. But I’ve tried my hardest to commit to not eating animals. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I read an article where scientists talked about how they now believe that chickens are still conscience when they are killed; that the methods farmers are using to kill chickens for our food are not as humane as once believed; and that the chickens, while paralyzed, still feel the pain of being killed. I’ve often thought of what it must be like for these animals and their ultimate fate. I have a paralyzing fear of death. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to know that the only reason I am here on earth is to die for someone else’s consumption. Nobody wants to die, and I believe that that extends to animals as well. So I have resolved to go, not just vegetarian, but vegan for at least one month. I want to see if I can do it, but I also want to make a difference, albeit minimal, in the number of animals being consumed. For the next month, I’m going to update you on my journey, and for this post, I thought I would take you through my first 24 hours as a vegan . . .
I woke up on Sunday starving, which is impressive because I ate my bodyweight in Chipotle the night before. Two of my friends had a housewarming party, and they had Chipotle cater the event. Let me tell you something about Chipotle—I love it. I could eat it every day; I want to be baptized in their hot sauce; if you think you’ve given me too much sofritas in my burrito, you’re wrong—I’ll take a third scoop; throw a fistful of cheese in my face, oh daddy. I. Love. Chipotle. Not having any groceries, I remembered that my mom had sent me a care package the week before in which she made me “zombie brains”—a combination of Oreos, Kit-Kat Bars, and frosting smashed and then melted together. I grabbed my phone to do some research, and wouldn’t you know, all of the ingredients were vegan. I was off to a good start. I hadn’t been off to a good start with the Chipotle. I usually get the sofritas, which are tofu based in a hot chili sauce, but that wasn’t an option with dinner. What was available was an assortment of meats. Recognizing that I was going to give up meat and dairy the next day, I figured why not have one hell of a send off. I loaded my burritos up with meats and cheeses and went to down. I’m amazed I didn’t have meat sweats—I’m telling you I needed a tarp for how loaded my burritos were. When I was done with the burritos, I made loaded nachos with chips and chipotle toppings. It was either the most impressive or sad thing you’ve ever seen. But I digress.
After my breakfast of vegan friendly junkfood, I headed to Starbucks to get a black coffee and to do some work. I’m looking for apartments right now so I spent the better part of my day trolling on Craigslist. For lunch, I met my best friend at the Good Food Store, and I got a burrito (partly to calm my Chipotle kick). I did a spinach tortilla, black beans, cilantro rice and fried tofu with corn. I was doing well with this whole vegan thing, and I was feeling rather full of myself and how easy this was going as I made my way over to my boyfriend’s apartment. I got over there around 5:30pm. We were going to watch the West Wing and relax when he said that he wanted pizza for dinner. I froze up as if a semi truck was going to hit me headfirst. How could I get myself around pizza? I suggested Indian food and other options, but nothing was really sticking. Realizing I didn’t have an out, I dropped the truth bomb—I told my boyfriend that I was going vegan and wasn’t too crazy about the pizza because of the cheese. You would’ve thought I revealed some dark infidelity or that I was dropping a truth bomb. “Why would you go vegan?” he said in protest. “Vegans are so selfish, they ruin all the food options!” This wasn’t our first heated discussion, but it was definitely top 5 serious conversations we’ve had since we started dating.
He thought I was being selfish for being vegan. He had me there. Here I was trying to work my way out of a pizza with the same level of diplomacy used to sanction Iran for their nuclear program. But I didn’t want to cave on my principles. I needed some air after this discussion, so I put on my shoes and offered to go to the store to get something for dinner and promised I would text him with options. The thing is, when I’m committed to something, I go for it. If I’m going to be vegan for a month, I needed to get used to these obstacles when it came to food selection. I didn’t want to deprive him of his pizza, but I also didn’t feel like scraping off the cheese and toppings for what would ultimately be a $12 slice of bread with tomato sauce. Also, can we talk about a more first world problem? Debating what to have for dinner? I mean, come on.
Luckily for me, once I got to the store, I was pleasantly surprised to see a wide selection of vegan options, INCLUDING a spinach pizza with vegan cheese. I also found two vegan breakfast burritos, which I bought and had for breakfast the next morning. The vegan pizza was delicious, and we both got what we wanted—he got pizza, and I got something that wasn’t tied to animal cruelty. All in all, not a bad first day of being vegan.
I’m not going vegan to be a prophet. I’m not going vegan to be an inconvenience to others. I’m going vegan because it is something I believe in. I’m going vegan because I like to challenge myself, and I’m going vegan most of all to help animals and hopefully make a positive impact in their lives and our society’s gross overconsumption of them. For more information on going vegan and how you can make a difference, check these out:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some animal friendly Chipotle to indulge in (extra hot sauce, hold the cheese).