Again today, I heard that my choice of being a vegan is 'misplaced pride'. They - and when I say 'they', I mean anyone who has a thing against vegetarians and vegans - told me that they no longer have french fries in the restaurant of a GROCERY STORE, and went so far as to offer me a free hot dog, knowing very well I can't have that. When I refused, they turned to each other and said 'que vaina' (what misplaced pride). So I turned around and walked away, actually hearing some customers' surprise at my refusal. Well, for the customers in the store, I can understand: they don't know anything about my veganism nor why I chose this lifestyle. But the store clerks know I have a special diet, and even though I never explained why, the comments about my misplaced pride are uncalled for.
Without even thinking about becoming vegetarian yet, I started to eat healthier because I was starting to have weight issues. I greatly reduced my dairy consumption and cut out liquid milk altogether, then cut out hot dogs, pork, foie gras, several fast food restaurants - especially the ones that are notorious for their high percentage of crap - and a few other fatty foods from my diet. To my mother's dismay, I was beginning to change.
I'm sure it was destiny that made me who I am today, because shortly after that, people who taught me the different aspects of eating healthier just stumbled on my path purely by what seemed to be coincidence, but which I now understand as a journey towards environmental and social justice and highly improved health. While living in Montreal and broke as hell, I met a young man who, although he was not yet vegetarian himself, was learning how to mend his habits and was slowly becoming an organic and vegan consumer. We became roommates and after a short 6 months together, I was already a hardcore organic eater. This, along with the slow decrease in meat and dairy, was my first step.
At that time, I was working as a sign language interpreter and deeply involved as a volunteer. I offered to be a translator for a Deaf theater director who wanted to put on a Shakespeare play in sign language with only Deaf actors. Amongst those who were chosen were several vegetarians who explained some of the reasons why they were vegetarians. Although I didn't listen much at that point, the seed was planted.
One of the other volunteers did, however, chose to become vegetarian and continuously lectured me on what to eat if I truly wanted to lose weight. I would stubbornly deny that this was any good and kept repeating that my nurse mother told me this and that about meat and dairy. He never gave up on me, though, and I learned quite a lot from him without realising it.
By that time, I had met far more vegetarians in the short 3 years I had lived in Montreal than my entire lifetime. However, I had never heard any other reasons than health benefits for opting for that type of diet. What I needed was a 'shocker', a truth that would finally open my eyes. Invited to dinner by a friend who needed help with an English to sign language translation, this reality was at last presented to me. While using the washroom, I noticed a page, ripped out from a magazine, taped to the wall, perfectly located at eye level for the one doing his or her business. I'm pretty sure it was from PETA, and it described the obvious injustice of cattle-raising when it came to the amount of food needed to raise these animals when so many died of hunger. That did it: I chose to become vegetarian. Oh, and it helped that dinner was absolutely delightful!
Wanting to pursue my studies in my field of work, I then decided to start preparing a move to Edmonton, Alberta. THere are very few locations to chose from in sign language, and of all the others, only one would be a good alternative - Vancouver. I only preferred Edmonton to Vancouver because the university offering it gave the full program in a very intensive form, thus finishing in only one year. It seemed perfect for me, until the news came that the program was closed due to budget cuts. Disappointed, I started working on my application for Vancouver, the hippie, vegetarian and natural city of Canada. Only when I arrived there did I realise what a blessing it was to have 'accidentally' ended up there. It's the country's vegetarian paradise.
This is where I finally made the most progress. Not only did I keep learning about the social benefits of vegetarianism, the different environmental organisations offered information and reports on the environmental reasons why vegetarianism is good for the environment. I finally managed to cut out meat altogether and learned how to use tofu meat alternatives at this point, as I was living with two other vegetarians. Even though my friendship with them didn't last, their support was appreciated.
But, I started to have financial issues since I couldn't find a good job near my home, and the toll of the amount of work from my program - which was a heavy one, the 3-times-a-week, hour and a half bus ride back and forth from work to home or school, and the hours of work were too much. Strapped for cash and burned out, I quit school and ended up with the job from hell (click to read the details). But, as they say, every grey cloud has a silver lining, and the one I found there was the last push I needed to become fully vegan. Another vegetarian working in a separate department had heard my pleas of wanting to know why dairy was not healthy. Though I had no idea yet, I was convinced already that dairy was a definite problem for humans, and simply saying that no other animal drinks a different specie's milk was not enough for me. I demanded answers, and of course she was the only one to happily oblige by bringing me her copy of The China Study. That did it for me: I quit cheese and yoghurt, the only two non-vegan items left in my diet, the very day I finished reading it. Her book was so used from me towing it back and forth everywhere with me (I was a busy-body) by the time I read through it that I purchased a new copy for her! Too embarassed to give her back her original book, I sheepishly apologised and gave her the brand new one only to hear "You really shouldn't have done that". Oh well. I felt better doing it that way.
And now, I am still convinced that my choice was written in the stars. How about you? What 'pushed' you in this direction?