The following is a long explanation on where I’ve been lately. The short answer is that I’ve been reading, watching, and soul searching.
Back to the title of this post. The differences might not seem that big to most people, but they are huge to people who go through the changes.
By definition Vegetarians do not eat meat, but there are different types of vegetarians, Mendal and I were Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians. This meant we ate Dairy and Eggs. If you are interested in learning about other types of vegetarians go here.
Then we decided to try going plant based for health reasons. We were eating way too much cheese and simple carbs, we were typical lazy vegetarians eating the American Diet of french fries and cheese covered foods. Going plant based was the best thing we ever did. While I was able to cut dairy out right away, I did eat a few eggs until we ran out of them. Mendal is doing incredibly well, she now only eats cheese and sour cream when we eat out at Mexican or Italian Restaurants, she has hopes of being dairy free eventually, but we all have our own speed of changes. Our home is vegan, with the exception of our kittens’ food there are no animal products or secretions in our home.
I, like many people, became vegetarian because there is no difference to me between my muscles and animal meat. This similarity helped me see that we are all animals, the only true difference to me is that I am a human animal and my cats or the cows and chickens and fishes I ate years ago and most still eat are nonhuman animals. I thought by being vegetarian I was doing my part in ending the suffering. Even after going plant based I still didn’t understand how eating cheese and eggs actually leads to the abuse and eventual death of the cows and chickens who make these foods. I experienced this awakening when I started listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Podcast Vegetarian Food for Thought because I wanted to learn more about eating plant based. Turns out Colleen’s Podcast tells you more than how to ensure a balanced diet, she also shares the horrifying truths of the dairy and egg industries.
For example, I knew the dairy cows had to be pregnant to produce milk, so I knew there were calves born to each one every year. But I had never given thought to what actually happens to those innocent babies! The answer is that the girl calves are doomed to ensure the same fate as their mothers, and the boy calves are housed in small crates for a few months then killed for veal. Veal! So, yes, by buying milk products we are supporting the veal industry. How disturbing is that? If you want to read about this click the calf picture on the right.
Colleen also talks about the horrors the chickens who produce eggs live through, even those so called “free range” chickens. For example did you know that in some cases free range simply means the building the chickens are packed into by the thousands has a single window? In other cases it means the cage is a few inches bigger or less crowded. In very few cases, and never at the large production levels, are the chickens literally roaming outdoors in green pastures. While the egg laying chickens’ lives are sad and cruel, the lives of the male or boy chicks are a terrifying nightmare. When chicks are hatched in egg laying chicken hatcheries the baby boys are killed soon after hatching. The newly born chicks are sorted, the boys are worthless and are literally either thrown into trash bags alive where they suffocate or thrown live into giant meat grinders alive. They are a waste product of the egg industry. Millions of boy chicks are killed every year so you can have your omelet. How is that okay? I know that this knowledge does not sit well with me and has ensured I will never knowingly eat another egg. If you would like to read more on about egg laying hens click the picture of “free range chickens” on the right.
When I became Plant Based, I said I would eat small amounts of dairy when I had no choice. I thought I would be okay eating a cheese pizza every once in a blue moon. I even told one of my sisters I would be eating a piece of her wedding cake with all it’s egg and butter glory. Now after spending the last few weeks listening to Colleen’s Podcast and watching such films as Earthlings and reading tons of websites about what it means to be vegan, I can say with confidence I will never eat a cheese pizza or or traditional cakes. I am no longer simply Plant Based, I am Vegan.
To me the difference between Plant Based and Vegan is intention. Plant Based people want to eat healthier and might also be concerned with their carbon foot print. Both of which are fantastic and commendable reasons to stop supporting the meat and dairy industries. Vegans typically come from a place of compassion, they stop consuming animals and their secretions (to use a term Colleen loves) because they do not wish to harm other living beings. This includes not using leather, silk, wool, or feathers in fashion or home decor or car interiors. From what I have heard and read, Vegans typically put the animals well-being before their healthful diets. Which is why there can be unhealthy vegans, just like when I was vegetarian.
I can be vegan and still eat Oreos! But I can’t eat them if I am plant based, because there is nothing whole foods nor plant based about that processed, refined, overly sweet cookie. Luckily for me I have never like Oreos, so I’m not tempted, but there are still tons of accidentally vegan and purposely vegan products that are bad for you. So I will be doing as Colleen teaches and eating whole foods, plant based because it is healthy and because of my vegan compassion. Though now when I “slip” from plant based foods, I will be having vegan cheese on my pizza and coconut milk ice cream. I no longer allow myself the idea of having cheese again “someday” nor will I be eating my sister’s wedding cake.
This journey has taken me almost exactly 5 years. I became vegetarian in June of 2008, I became plant based in March of 2013, and I became vegan in May 2013. It has been an amazing ride, and I cannot wait to see what this newest destination will bring to my life!
I hope now that the initial drive for vegan and animal rights information has past, I will find time to once again write up some posts. I have my list posted a while ago and I have a bunch of photos of yummy foods I just need to write and edit and post!