I know the conversation about animal products is a tough one, but perhaps you’ve considered cutting down a little bit and you don’t feel like there’s a lot of support out there for a person who just wants to incorporate more plant-based food, not go 100% vegan overnight. I get that.
There’s a small but vocal part of the vegan community that tends to turn people off. I’ve felt my rage boil inside of me more times than once when I’ve seen vegans cavalierly talking online about telling their children’s school/fellow parents/whoever else that their child is actually allergic to animal products (milk, fish, and shellfish are among the most common allergens) just to make sure they don’t accidentally get an animal product. (DO NOT DO THIS. IT IS SO HORRIBLE AND DANGEROUS FOR PEOPLE WITH REAL FOOD ALLERGIES. FOOD PREFERENCES ARE IN NO WAY ARE THE SAME AS FOOD ALLERGIES. Ok. Rant over.) The point is: I know that the language and actions of extremists can sometimes be off-putting.
But if you’ve been thinking about cutting down on animal products, I want you to know that I applaud that. I encourage you. I want you to know that every single time you make a decision – whether it’s buying shoes, eating ice cream, or picking out a new bath or beauty product – to leave animals out of your consumption, it does tangible good. Have meat at one less meal per week and you’re doing good. Buy vintage leather instead of new one time and you’re doing good. Look for the “not tested on animals,” “vegan,” or “cruelty-free” terms on your next bath or beauty product and you’re doing good. You’re not just doing good for the animals, you’re doing good for humans and our planet, too. You don’t have to make these choices every single time for the times you do make them to do good. Please let that sink in and feel the empowerment that comes with knowing that even one-off choices do substantial good.
My journey has been full of setbacks and gradual change. Your journey does not need to be a straight line. I don’t believe in all-or-nothing dogma. I believe in doing what you can do every time you can do it and watching how that unfolds. If you think there’s no way you’ll ever give up eating animals, then I would just ask you to think about having one – or even a few – more meat-free meals each week. Once you get in the swing of this, try aiming for a few totally vegan meals a week. I promise you, you will live. And if you do it right, you can thrive.
There are so many great vegan recipe resources out there. When I started cooking vegan food, my entire palate changed and I suddenly loved cooking in a way I never had before. With plant-based food, I learned to embrace so many flavors and cuisines that were once unfamiliar. If you want some of my recommendations on great places to look to for vegan recipes, here are a few favorites:
Isa Chandra. I love everything this woman creates. I have never made one of her recipes and been disappointed. She is a vegan queen. Buy one of her books.
Oh She Glows. This is great healthy vegan food. The kind of food that will reset you with its intentionally jam-packed nutrition.
Minimalist Baker. Simple, wholesome, yummy food. And the photography is beautiful, too.
Jamie Oliver. If you’re looking for something bound to impress at a dinner party, Jamie Oliver’s vegan recipes are winners for taste and presentation.
I grew up eating animal products every single day, at every single meal. If I ever ate a vegan meal growing up, it was surely an accident. I started experimenting with vegetarianism in high school and went back and forth lots of times until this last time (which started nearly six years ago). I used to pointedly avoid watching films that promoted animal-free lifestyles during my phases of eating meat. I knew I couldn’t stomach it and, I realize now, I was selfish. I liked eating the things I ate and I didn’t want to mess with my mind – I didn’t want to see the impact my choices had. I would come up with all kinds of excuses because of my cognitive dissonance. I talked a lot about plants having feelings too, the food chain/circle of life, and even (I’m sorry), protein. But eventually I came to terms with this one thing: I had no business consuming animals if I couldn’t even watch a film about animal consumption. The more I watched and read, the more I forced myself to admit that how I felt ethically wasn’t aligning with my actions. I could only give myself the “but bacon is delicious” pass for so long. Every time I’ve had setbacks over the years, watching something on the subject is an easy way for me to remind myself of why this is important.
If you’re interested in watching some documentaries that helped me to shift my perspective, I’ve listed just three below, though there are many beyond these. I chose these three because they tackle three big points of reducing animal consumption: the animals, the environment, and our health.
I can’t tell you that these films are easy to watch. Sometimes, at some points, they’re really not. But if the footage bothers you in places, imagine how awful the reality being filmed is. Even if you never change your habits regarding animal products, you should watch these. You should know about the darker parts of the animal farming industry (yes, even at “free-range” or otherwise “natural” farms, gross things exist) and you should know about why more and more people are choosing to cut back on animal products. If you decide to make animal-free choices just a little bit more frequently after watching, thank you. Thank you for being willing to look at and learn things that make you uncomfortable.
I don’t judge you. I don’t expect you to make a 180 change overnight. I don’t expect you to be perfect in your transitioning if you do decide to take that path. But if you can switch even one meal or one regular action to be vegan, I thank you and I salute you.