If you had asked me a few years what I thought would be the hardest thing transitioning from being vegetarian to full out vegan, I would have immediately answered, “Giving up cheese!” As it turns out, eliminating dairy products wasn’t that difficult, as the cravings stopped shortly after they weren’t a part of my diet.
What I’ve found to be the hardest about being vegan has surprised me. After all, I grew up eating meat… and lots of it. I admit, I had preconceived notions of what vegetarian and vegan meals were; they were incomplete dishes, a haphazard compilation of vegetable side dishes. Wow, was I wrong! Today, I see vegan as a type of cuisine rather than a list of food restrictions.
Cutting out animals and animal products from my life has actually been easier than I thought. Here, however, is what I find toughest about being vegan:
Staying up to date with all the non-vegan ingredients, often hidden behind their chemical compound name, is one of the toughest and most frustrating aspects of trying to live a vegan life. Who would think, for example, that you would have to avoid Guinness beer because it includes fish bladder in its brew, avoid marshmallows because of its gelatin, or avoid raspberry-flavored candies because it includes the anal glands of a beaver.
When I go out to eat at a non-vegan restaurant, I’m fully prepared to have an extremely limited menu to choose from. Although it’s frustrating that my choice will likely be between a garden salad and pasta with tomato sauce, I’m obviously dining there because of the company I’m with and not for the food. What’s difficult is when I explain my modified menu selection to the wait staff, such as “no cheese please” or “don’t include the egg, thanks”, only to find that my meal arrives with my requests seemingly ignored. The whole point was to eliminate my demand of animal products. Each time a restaurant makes this mistake, my heart sinks, because I know that more animals suffered needlessly.
Visiting a New Country with a Language Barrier
This is more of a privilege problem than anything else, so although it’s hard to break through language barriers in order to communicate vegan requests, I’ll continue to endure it. Often times, meals include nuts and seeds from convenient stores, as finding vegan options while traveling can be difficult.
Being a Mirror
Although I long for a more compassionate world, where more people are vegan, I’m not yelling from my soap box telling me that they should abandon their omnivorous ways. When I explain that I am vegan, a lifestyle that coincides with my moral and ethical beliefs, it’s hard to always be on the receiving end of defensive responses. My statement of being vegan is not meant to be an attack, but it often seems to result in people justifying their decision to eat meat. As with any topic I’m happy to discuss why I have chosen to be vegan. However, I am tired of consistently bearing the brunt of what appears to be the guilt of meat-eaters.
Trying to Find Sports Equipment
I am athletic and enjoy playing all types of sports, with my favorite being softball. My glove has almost reached the age of majority and has surpassed a state of “well-worn” and is quickly approaching “tattered”. My cleats have been fixed to the soles with crazy glue…twice. Since I will not buy leather, I’m stuck using my sub-par equipment that I’ve had for almost two decades and long before I became vegan. That is, of course, until companies start offering non-leather alternatives. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a softball gloves or cleats that do not use animal skin.
Hearing the Term “Humane Slaughter”
I believe this is one of the biggest oxymorons I have ever heard. It doesn’t matter how people spin it, slaughtering an animal can never be humane. Her life is being taken from her, without her consent. Period. I’m tired of people spending energy looking for the “right way” to do the wrong thing!
Seeing Horrific Photos of Animal Abuse
As a vegan, I have found a community with other like-minded folk. I have joined groups on Facebook and have found friends living a similar lifestyle. This leads to my social media feeds consistently displaying disgusting images of what happens in slaughter houses and other forms of animal abuse. I understand that these photos are intended to shock non-vegans and hopefully have them reconsider what goes on their plate. Although I value the importance of these images, they are still really hard to look at.
I’m often asked if I want a steak as soon as I explain that I don’t eat meat. I don’t get that, nor do I think it’s funny. If someone told me they were diabetic, I certainly wouldn’t snicker and offer them a dessert high in sugar, and I certainly wouldn’t ask light-heartedly “wanna beer?” to a person, who had just confided in me how long they’ve been sober. I’m tired of people cracking bacon jokes when they see a pig or suddenly “needing a hamburger” when passing cows in a field.
Seeing So Much Wasted Food
I think back to my teenage days working at Burger King, half a lifetime ago, and I recall tallying up the “waste count” at the end of my shift each day. All the food prepared just in case, past their ten-minute shelf-life, thrown away because not enough customers ordered it. It was my job to add up how many burgers, chicken strips and fish patties were wasted. It breaks my heart to think of all the lives lost, not in the name of feeding hungry bellies, but rather for the convenience of having readily available meat.
When I hear people say that they “love animals” while they have a dead one on their plate, all I hear is hypocrisy. I wish they could see the utter disconnect between their words and their actions. It’s hard to live in a society where the accepted definition of “animal lover” only extends itself to selected species, ignoring those trapped in the meat and dairy industries. Why does a single case of dog abuse raise more outrage than the ongoing atrocities of the millions of pigs and cows in slaughter houses? I would rather hear a self-proclaimed animal lover tell the truth: “I love cats, dogs and other cute animals.” Or perhaps, “I love endangered animals, like elephants and panda bears”.