I Could Never Go Vegan, Right?

How Changing My Diet is Changing The World

I Could Never Go Vegan, Right?
A Vegan Quiche at Fox & Fig in Savannah, GA

I actually did it.

I had been saying for a long time, “Oh, I wish I could be vegan, but…cheese is so good…yogurt goes well with everything…but I love scrambled eggs…”

Sure, I had gone vegetarian, and that’s something that I also said I could never do. Pretty much because of bacon. Because, I mean, how could you live without bacon? The first time I came back to the United States after living in the Middle East, my family cooked 2 pounds of bacon in my honor!

And then I read "Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism (Our Sustainable Future)" by Ozzie Zehner in June 2015 and my life as a vegetarian began. I had never read before that animal agriculture (the raising of animals to eat and to use their products) produces MORE greenhouse gases than the ENTIRE transportation industry.

That’s trains, buses, cars, segways, airplanes…combined. Globally.

Ozzie Zehner encouraged eating no or less meat to better the environment.

I decided to put my mouth where my words were. I had considered myself an environmentalist for quite some time. So, I stopped eating meat that day. Bacon went by the way side and I started using beans, quinoa, bulgur, and tofu to add more oomph to my plate instead of meat.

And yes, I had some cheat days, and days where I went to people’s houses and they cooked meat without knowing I was a vegetarian, so I ate it. I’m not that legalistic. And I know it tastes good, don’t get me wrong.

But with my knowledge of how my eating habits were affecting the environment, I chose to put the environment first. And…it tasted good.

Brunch at Sluggo's Cafe in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Fast-forward to November 2016. I decided to watch a documentary one Sunday, and turned on Cowspiracy (available on Netflix). That did it. No going back.

I hadn’t realized that all dairy cows, and all dairy cow’s babies, turn into hamburger. No exceptions. Tears filled my eyes at the cute little calves, doomed.

And then I found out that the raising of cows accounts for 1 soccer field-worth of the rainforest being cut down. EVERY SECOND.

That blew my mind. That is 1 whole soccer field-worth of the most diverse organisms on earth being killed every second. How can I stand by and say that that doesn’t matter to me?

“You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period.”

That’s what one guy said on Cowspiracy. And it hit me hard.

That did it. I started researching ways to eat vegan. I started sharing with my friends so they would understand my food choices. I started reading labels. Man, the dairy industry has tip-toed their way into absolutely every part of our lives. You don’t realize it until you go vegan. I finally found a spaghetti sauce that didn't have dried cheese in it, found that Oreos are a vegan's secret best friend, and used HappyCow.Net to find vegan-friendly restaurants in each city I visited.

Eating at a 100% vegan cafe in Verona, Italy - found through HappyCow.Net.

I started looking up vegan recipes and figuring out ways to change some of my favorites to vegan-friendly. And, I’ve learned that eating vegan is actually really tasty. It’s also better for my body, according to another documentary, Forks over Knives (also available on Netflix). I have a lower risk of having many types of cancer if I live on a vegan diet, and it's become easier to maintain a healthy weight.

Yes, it can be hard sometimes. Living in a world that is so consumed by animal agriculture can feel very stifling. It makes me realize how little these companies care about our health, and how much they care about their wallet. But, it is do-able.

I hope that you will try some vegan recipes, vegan you or non-vegan you. It's a fun challenge and makes for a great dinner discussion ("Ooh, this is so good! Wait, it's vegan? It can't be vegan!"). And that you will realize that by choosing to eat without animal products, you are indeed caring for the Earth and everyone that lives on it.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

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Kaelin Priger
See all posts by Kaelin Priger