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Things I’ve Learned Since I Went Vegan

The following article was written by Keegan Baur.

What is veganism? According to Wikipedia, veganism is “the personal practice of eliminating the use of non-human animal products,” and it’s definitely spreading. For instance, vegan meat alternatives can be found in most grocery stores. Many restaurants—and ballparks!—are serving veggie burgers and veggie dogs. Mainstream bookstores like Barnes & Noble usually have a robust vegetarian/vegan cookbook section at each location. Even Oprah’s been buzzing about veganism! And yet, despite all the hype, there’s still some confusion on the subject.

Veganism isn’t about personal purity. Although veganism is about trying to cause the least amount of suffering possible, we can’t always be perfect. Before going vegan, I felt scared that I would “mess up,” that I would accidentally eat something with a small amount of “animal something” in it, and that I would be a failure as a vegan. But that’s not the case. As a consumer, I do read labels, and I do make sure that there isn’t any meat, milk, or eggs in anything that I buy. But I’m not going to refrain from purchasing a box of cereal because there’s a tiny amount of monoglycerides in the ingredient list that may or may not be animal-derived! Basically, I try not to sweat the super small stuff.

“Cruelty-free” doesn’t mean “vegan.” These two terms are not synonymous, and this confused me at first. For instance, I purchased a lip balm that said it was cruelty-free, but later, when I looked at the label, I saw that honey was listed as an ingredient! I had to research a little bit in order to learn that when a product says it’s “cruelty-free,” this means that animal testing wasn’t used to produce it. However, the product may or may not contain animal byproducts, and if it doesn’t explicitly say “vegan” or “no animal ingredients,” I’ll still want to check the list of ingredients to be sure.

Many foods you love are already vegan. When I initially went vegan, I thought I’d have to give up all the things I love. But there are so many products that are accidentally vegan that I can still eat many of my favorite foods! Products like Frosted Flakes, Original SunChips, and Peanut Butter Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars are all frequently in my pantry. And what’s more, I’ve discovered new things to love! For instance, Gorilla Munch is yet another breakfast must-have that keeps me in touch with my youthful side.

People say that we learn something new every day. When I went vegan, there was a little bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but, overall, I discovered that veganism isn’t a difficult concept, nor is it difficult to practice. I do need to be a conscientious shopper and pay attention to labels (which is something we all should do, regardless) but I can still eat many of the things I love or versions of them. And I don’t need to stress about being 100 percent perfect all the time. This lifestyle choice—choosing compassion—makes me feel good about the products I put in or on my body, and since making the change, I’ve never looked back.

What did you learn when you went vegan?

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  • kathy says:

    Since the topic has gone slightly off-topic toward a discussion of health, I’d like to add that many processed foods are genetically modified. Not only do I avoid buying genetically modified foods for my health, but the seeds end up contaminating organic food through wind and other methods of cross-pollination. If Monsanto continues making GM seeds for new crops, one day we may no longer have access to organic, non-genetically modified foods.

  • Erik says:

    Well i just recently turned vegan and i basically switched to it because of the torture of the animals,They are being handled the wrong way they shouldn’t treat them the way they do and amount were consuming is ridiculous. I don’t believe meat is necessarily bad because there is not vegetation suitable to eat or even around some parts of the world. People in very cold and snowing regions were theres no vegetation but there may only be animals around to kill to eat and survive or dessert regions people eat reptiles.That’s how life works but we don’t eat our own kind, Species don’t eat there own species,some do actually but they don’t have the mentality like we do. God gave us the power to think learn,use the resources around use but also to give back and be gentle to the world around us, care for it but were not doing that were using up all the resources to fast we need to slow down down treat the thing we eat to survive with some dignity. They have every right of living a good decent life like us. Vegetation is also there for us and like some of it you cant eat just like some animals people will not eat but the point is there more vegetation to go around and plants don’t feel pain like everything else, they don’t fear, remember,see,move like us so there’s no pain in picking it,cutting it,eating it so everyone thinks that’s the right choice we just need to slow down stop using so much of it,treat the live food we eat with respect be gently,kind to them.They feel pain like us THEY ARE EARTHLINGS just like us. With the technology me got now i’m pretty sure there’s a way to end it without all that suffering they do. When a pet gets put to sleep there’s stuff they give them to fall asleep and die and i heard of something called Nembutal.They could find a way to make it painless but they don’t care as long as they get money and they need to kill more to make more. I’m not going eat meat again until these living being like us are treated better

    sorry if theres any spelling error’s im 17 but not the best speller lol

  • jon.b says:

    As a vegie on the path to veganism I find the smell of a bbq wafting through the air ruins an evening walk;even when I ate meat I saw the “barbie” as a way to incinerate meat in fat and soggy onions .

  • Alycat says:

    I was a vegatarian for over 20 years and just became vegan 4 months ago. It was difficult at first because I liked cheese so much, but I make so many delicious foods I don’t miss dairy now.

  • Lori says:

    I learned that most other people have a problem with my choices, than i do!

  • FutureVegan says:

    Not totally vegan yet, but I’m getting there. I’d like to echo what some have mentionned. Vegan does not automatically mean healthy. Frosted flakes? Come on, that’s garbage. No one should be putting heavily refined sugar and processed grains in their bodies. I have known many vegans who eat tons of garbage and who are definitely not healthy. Pasta twice per day every day is not healthy. Sorry. I’m hoping to lead by example. I’m currently cutting way back on animal products to try and ”wean” myself off of them.

  • Lilly says:

    What I found out when turning vegan… That every breath I take is precious. There is no amount of meat, dairy products, or poultry Which can give me the privilege to breathing easier . I suffered from chronic asthma and sleep apnea until becoming vegan. Now I can sleep more restful at night.

  • sylvia says:

    I want to thank Barb for her comment about smelling bbq in the air. I often find myself salivating at this familiar smell from the past. I haven’t shared this before as I have been vegan for five years and it made me feel guilty. As soon as this occurs, though, I think about the suffering of these animals and I would rather eat my pillow (or something equally indigestable).

  • Denise says:

    I have been always an animal lover, but being raised in a family that always consumed meat I never asked myself what was in my plate. Later when I started investigating about the meat market and all that they do with the poor farm animals I decided to be vegetarian but my goal was to be vegan. In the beginning my family was criticizing me but later when realized my health improved and I looked so much better they decided to follow me and 2 years later we became vegan. Also I converted many friends and I feel so happy about myself changing people’s life. Let’s not keep for ourselves this priceless way of livind, let’s spread the word for our sakes and for the animals’s sake!

  • alexes says:

    i learnt that i feel better as a vegan – not just metally and emotionally either. i have a disability, so “better” is a wonderful thing. that sounds weird, and i thought it was all in my head, until a friend of mine, who also has a disability, mentioned that her experiment with vegetariansim has made her feel more awake, lighter and “better”. i can’t help but think it is the lack of all the hormones, antibiotics and drugs that meat comes packed with. I can’t bear what is done to the animals that are deemed “food”. if i feel better not consuming them – how bad must it be for them to live with that stuff in their bodies, everyday? that is cruelty too, i think.
    i am just so glad that i am vegan, because another thing i leant was that the wieght of guilt is surpisingly heavy. people tell themselves that they don’t think about it – but we all do, even for a second or two. then you have to push it down, and that takes energy. “not thinking” about it takes a lot of thinking.
    the best thing i learnt? veganism is contagious! i was infected years ago, and now my best friend is switching, and her family too. i think it is kind of like kindness and love; it gets passed on, and gets bigger as it goes. thank God for that!

  • Sophie says:

    @diane carvello, a word about honey: There are many contested methods of bee farming, some of which involve electrocuting bees to make them drop their pollen, others involve chopping off the heads of the males to force them to ejaculate, for breeding purposes. But these things aside, the main reason that eating honey is bad is that native bee populations (such as mason and bumble bees) are declining, and the farming of honey bees has a large part to play in this. Honey bees are often imported, and these non-native species are aggressive to other bees and only selectively pollinate. All this is and will have a major impact on our environment. It’s not got anything (for me and most I know, anyway) to do with notions of enslaving bees or taking things that aren’t yours – it really is dangerous for the world, and for the bees, to eat honey. Also, did you know that honey is bee vomit?!

    Although, actually I gave up honey before I went totally vegan, as I came to realise how unethical it is.

  • Ty says:

    I am so grateful that I became aware of the cruelty that I was causing by eating meat, eggs, and dairy. I learned that I need to make sure that I get the proper nutrition. I take Red Star yeast for B12, get sun for vitamin D, a sprinkle of Sea Seasonings Kelp and Dulse for iodine, and TEVA for DHA sourced from algae.

  • Tom says:

    I’m shocked at how people would never consider allowing their pets to be treated like the animals being slaughtered, yet they think nothing of devouring huge quantities of meat products. They brag about how their pets have personalities and feelings, but at the same time they ignore the fact that the animals being treated so cruelly have those same feelings.

  • Barb says:

    That it’s less expensive to be a vegan because fastfood is pretty much eliminated. That trying new recipes (like bok choy with cashews)is fun and not hard nor time consuming. That occassionally when I smell bbq in the air and that old familiar feeling starts to stir fill my stomach with something – preferably yummy – and I’m sated. I am happy to be a vegan!

  • Ketty says:

    I went vegan cold turkey pardon expression! my gf introduced my to the kind diet, I cried hysterically while reading the book to myself then I read it to my husband and 7 yr old daughter..I cried so much and decided to go Vegan its been 3 weeks, yest I had a touch of milk in my coffee from the corner coffee guy in NYC and was SO SICK after it, Im so happy by body is rejecting, I can sleep better (Ive had sleeping problems for last 6 months) feeling good and spreading the word, my daughter is so aware and wants nothing to do with Animal products…I love shopping for local vegs and trying new recipes Ive always love legumes so its a breeze, I miss Cheese but keep thinking of those gorgeous cows and soy milk is just fine for us!

  • Greg says:

    I learned that veganism was part of my identity before I ever chose it. It was a budding relationship to the whole of our ecosystem. It was a non-violent, compassionate action that allowed me to deeply acknowledge the interdependence of all things. I’m thankful for learning these things with the love of my life, a vegan, who challenged me to consider whether what I consumed was congruent with my worldview.

  • kathy says:

    P.S. Here is a little info about bees and honey that I found on another forum:
    “Bees collect pollen in sacs that are attached to their legs. To harvest the pollen, commercial beekeepers use a thick “comb” in the bottom of the hive, in the slit the bees use as a entrance/exit. The bees then have to drag themselves across the “comb” to enter or exit the hive. The bristles catch and often tear off their limbs and other parts, and, consequently, pull most of the pollen they’ve collected off their legs in the process. The beekeepers then collect the pollen and and get rid of most of the “debris” (aka. bee body parts).
    Bees need pollen to survive as a healthy colony. Taking the pollen from them (in the usual way) makes them have to forage more often, which is wearing on their bodies and health.”

    Also, I saw a documentary that showed honey being harvested from a colony that didn’t use these tiny combs. Some bees were still inadvertently maimed or killed in the process. It’s basically unavoidable.

  • kathy says:

    First I went vegetarian and then vegan. Food was fairly easy since I was already learning about the raw diet and being a vegan fits into that perfectly. However, in the beginning I had to learn where to get things like vegan shoes. At first it was a little difficult but I found a lot of vegan shoes, clothes, accessories online that I like as much or more than what I used to buy. After the initial adjustment I find my lifestyle very easy.

  • Lyndsey says:

    I learned that as long as I keep animals in my mind, that becoming vegan was very easy. It helped me loose weight too even though I never tried to cut back on anything. I learned that some people got upset at me or tried to make fun of me at first but I always kept the attitude that this is my life and what I am doing. EVeryone has to do what’s best for them and as long as I didn’t try to put my ideals on anyone else, friends and family left me alone.

  • Colleen says:

    I’am a vegetarian that has just recently started on the vegan route. I’m having a problem with finding a substitute for milk that tastes good. (I also need it to be gluten free.) I want it for my cereal, but find some taste like cardboard, or are too sweet, etc. Does anyone have a recommendation for one that is close in taste to milk?
    Also, I’m learning of all the hidden words. I always thought if it didn’t say a particular name it was ok….not true. Is there a list of words to watch for available somewhere?
    Thank you for any help you can share!

  • Kryztena says:

    I’m 55 and have not eaten meat since I was 17 after reading Diet for a Small Planet and have never been a true dietary vegan other than when I was a raw foodist back in the 80’s but one thing that has surprised me with the new generation of vegans is that they are not really concerned with health.

    Compassion for animals yes but I see a lot of refined white sugar & processed foods in their diets, not good.

  • Nikki says:

    I was always fond of eggs, but despite being vegetarian, it’s strange how I never wondered what happened to all the male chicks. When I realised how cruelly they get killed, I felt ill.

  • Danika says:

    I’ve learned so much about gelatin and stearic acid since I became a vegetarian and I’ve changed so much of what I eat and products that I use for my hair and body. I’m also more aware of what I buy for my dogs. Eventually, I’d love to be vegan and have healthy dogs as well!

  • littlevegangirl says:

    I slowly became vegan, at first I did it by cutting out meats. I always had trouble with certain meats and certain dairy products, because I suffer from U.C. so it really wasn’t hard for me. The hardest thing giving up was cheese and fast food meats. Fast food meats are very tasty, but are awful, because not only are cruel, but they cut down parts of the Amazon to make more room for the cattle. I love my new life style and I hope I keep it forever. I am even looking into buying clothes that are made different, that I can guarantee are synthetic non-animal based and are fair trade; however, this is harder to do knowing that not everything is “fair trade” even when it is marked “fair trade”. Such a travesty.

  • Max Kelley says:

    I started the new year with a pledge to myself to “go vegan”. The first thing I learned was that this would cause a huge fight with my husband. I had to compromise to keep peace (and possibly my marriage). However, I compromise as little as possible. I was already practicing vegetarian eating, so cutting out other animal products besides meat was not difficult, and I feel good about being as committed as I can be. The second big thing that I learned was that omnivores do not appreciate vegan eating habits. People were tolerating me as a vegetarian; now they look downright annoyed at parties and other eating events, for example when I avoid the cheese. I am noticing just how much meat, fish and other animal products people eat, and it is distressing. It is difficult to proselytize because it makes one very unpopular.

  • Allison says:

    I learned that veganism is not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle, and that my previous lifestyle had been incredibly cruel to all sorts of animals. I also learned that converting others takes patience and kindness and the willingness to accept that not everyone gets it, which is incredibly trying at first but then becomes second nature after a few years.

  • van-steenberghe says:

    i sign

  • diane carvello says:

    same as above. i spend more time in the stores now, looking at labels and ingredients. But i dont think honey is cruel.

  • Ilhana says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing! I went vegan on November 1st last year and since then, it’s been a joyride! I’ve learned a lot during these past 7 months and discovered new food that’s vegan and delicious! It’s a bit hard when I need to travel somewhere, but I prepare a bunch of soya steaks and I’m good to go! All in all, eating something that you know isn’t derived from cruelty is the best thing there is.

  • MatildaJ says:

    I learned that “vegan” does not automatically mean “healthy.” When I first went vegan, I lost weight quick because I didn’t want to make any mistakes, and survived on mostly salad, tofu, and beans… but then I discovered that there are so many foods that are accidentally vegan, AND there is a bourgeoning market of vegan replacements and junk food. It’s all about making good choices and representing veganism as an active, healthy, intelligent person!

  • Shaun says:

    The first time I visited the Peta website, I immediately went vegan. It’s about being compassionate and educating ourselves about what happens to animals and the surprising cruelty involved! I have been a vegan for 8 months and I am absolutely positive I will stay that way. I have downloaded the peta search bar to raise money for Peta. I love sending letters to help animals in need. And the least I can do for animals is not eat them! There is plenty of good food out there that does not contain animal products.

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