A lot of people ask me how long I’ve been vegan and why I went vegan, but few ask how I became vegan, and nobody has ever asked where I went vegan.
Even before I became a semi-vegetarian, I was never a big eater of land flesh. Okay, there was a small set of foods made from animal flesh which I really liked, but they were occasional treats, not a dietary staple.
I think my mother had a lot of influence here – in her youth, she ate little meat, not because of principles, but because her family could not afford to buy too much meat (she grew up in a part of the world which, at the time, did not subsidize the exploitation of non-human animals as heavily as the United States does today, and thus the cost of animal-based vs. plant-based foods more accurately reflected their true costs). Thus, my mother did not grow up with the notion that meat was an essential part of a meal.
And neither did I. To this day, I still do fully understand why some people are baffled by the notion a single filling, wholesome, satisfying meal without meat. I am baffled when I see a menu for a restaurant which isn’t a steakhouse/seafood specialist/etc., has 15+ dishes … and yet still does not have a single dish which is vegetarian, let alone vegan. Can’t people have more imagination, especially since most people in the past 5,000 years have had mostly plant-based diets?
Because of all of the above, it wasn’t a big deal for me to become a semi-vegetarian during my first year of high school – I stopped eating land animal flesh, but continued to eat sea animals, dairy, and eggs.
But even my consumption of sea animals became more limited. While I was in middle school, my family went to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I learned about their seafood watch program. The exhibit described how the sea animals we choose to consume affects the ocean ecology, and made a case for choosing to avoid supporting the worst practices. It made a deep impression on me, though I think the lesson I derived from it over the years is not exactly the one they intended – after all, they advocate consuming the ‘good’ seafood, not abstaining from consuming sea animals altogether.
Even during my middle school years, just about the only time I can remember eating land animal flesh was when we visited my mother’s friends for dinner, and they served beef. I think there is an irony that the very same kitchen where that beef was cooked – the only beef I still remember ever eating – is the very same kitchen where I transitioned to veganism.
To be continued…