I’m a vegan by accident. Consequently, I’m not evangelical about it. If anything, I’m apologetic for any inconvenience when out with other people. We can go anywhere you like; I’ll manage.
On the other hand, while it happened by accident, I’m not at all casual about it. My wallet, belt, and shoes are all fabric. I read and research the ingredients of everything I buy. And I’ve developed this lifestyle on purpose, with thought and determination behind each decision.
So how can it be both “by accident” and “on purpose”? Allow me to explain.
I’m a voracious reader and innate iconoclast. Raised as an Evangelical Baptist, I found myself most influenced by Jesus’ practice of turning accepted scripture on its head: “You say this… but I tell you this instead.…” It made me question the supposedly rock-solid “truths” of church elders—especially given their pick-and-choose habits with Old Testament law. It led me to suspect ulterior motives behind business and consumerism—especially food.
Example: Margarine was originally invented to fatten turkeys; but turkeys wouldn’t eat it; so Madison Avenue sold it to my mom and other 1960’s housewives as a cheap, “healthy” alternative to butter for their families. [This part is a myth. See my uncle’s comment below.]
The more I learned about mechanized meat production, in particular, the more it appalled. And Ghandi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth (free at that link), offered a humble call to something different. But given the selection at modern American grocery stores and restaurants, how would I survive without meat, eggs, and milk?
Then came “the accident.” The USDA Web site posted a Meatless Monday challenge. I accepted (largely in personal protest of how quickly the beef, dairy, and poultry associations bullied them into taking it down). A Monday with no meat turned out to be surprisingly easy. My soul felt lighter. Tuesday came, and I saw no reason to turn back.
Over the years since, it’s grown ever easier. Local groceries—even Walmart—offer an ever wider range of vegetarian or vegan foods. Servers at restaurants no longer ask “What’s vegan mean?” and instead say, “Yeah my [brother, girlfriend, uncle, etc.] is vegan.” I’ve discovered hummus, and baked beans on toast, and canned vegetarian chili.
In the process, I’ve lost some weight. I lost my diabetes. I’ve rediscovered taste buds I’d forgotten.
The point is, I’ve learned to survive—even thrive—without killing animals. That choice makes this world exactly one iota kinder than before. I can live with that.