By Taylor Ward
“Mom,” I said. “My hamburger is bleeding.”
It was bleeding. I scooted further back in my chair. Uncomfortable. Confused.
While my mom waved the waiter down for me, my older sister informed me that I was about to eat a baby cow. She really liked to tease me.
Tears sprung up in my eyes. In my mind, the burger that sat before me had been a beautiful, sweet girl cow. I didn’t want to eat her. How could I possibly eat her?
My shoulder blades pressed even further back into my wooden chair. Utterly freaked out, I just stared at my plate. What was I supposed to do?
I was nine years old when I had my first glimpse of veganism — before I even knew what veganism was. Fast forward 12 years and I’ve made the leap.
Most people get really uncomfortable when the topic of vegetarianism or veganism comes up because most people associate this change of lifestyle with having to sacrifice something they love. That’s only part of it, though.
There are so many reasons behind why people choose these lifestyles. It could be health-related or nutrition-based. It could even be environmental concern. Huge amounts of fossil fuels are used to raise, kill, process and transport animal products — plus animal feces and forrest burning processes release massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is no bueno. For me, it was a mixture of all the different reasons.
My heart couldn’t stand to be the reason for animal fear and pain any more, and the fact that my health and the environment could only reap the positive benefits was just a plus.
Approximately five percent of the U.S. population are already vegetarian and half of those people are vegan. This translates to about seven and a half million Americans not eating animal products. That’s a massive number and it’s only growing!
A vegan lifestyle offers people reduced intake of saturated fats, animal growth hormones and cholesterol while increasing what mom and dad have always told us to eat more of anyway — our fruits and veggies.
But some people don’t like vegetarianism or veganism because they fear protein reduction in their diets. It’s a widespread myth that by going vegetarian or vegan, you somehow will never receive enough protein to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Our protein comes from lentils, black beans, nuts, peanut butter (or if you really want to get crazy – almond butter) and different variations of milk (that can include soy, almond or coconut milk — my personal favorite is almond milk).
If that doesn’t explain why I went vegan cold turkey, let me point out that vegans tend to have lower rates of cancer than meat-eaters and even vegetarians. Also — important to me because I am a female — vegan women had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers like breast, cervical and ovarian. Vegan men even had similar results with regard to prostate cancer.
While all of these facts are great to pull out when I logically explain my choice for veganism, my decision was ultimately closer to the heart.
I’ve always had a deep connection with the animals of this world — completely in awe of their effortless beauty and innate gentleness. I considered cows, chickens, deer and pigs to be my friends. So, when December 2017 rolled around and I had basically cut meat from my diet several months prior anyway, I decided to listen to my heart.
I thought to myself, why do I keep doing this to the animals I claim to care about so much? I could no longer live the same way and be content with myself, so I made a change.
It hasn’t been easy. Building an arsenal of vegan recipes is hard as a college student, but my heart has never felt lighter. I have never felt better about myself than when I chose to stand up for my beliefs.
I went vegan because my heart told me to, and I’m never going back.