What Vegan Means to Me – a Story of Vegan Evolution

By Marion Raby, Guest Contributor

When I was first offered the opportunity to contribute to Your Daily Vegan my first thought was of countering the Top 10 silly and mostly uneducated comments I had heard since becoming a vegan 3 years ago. Living in Austria surrounded by tractors and cows in every field chewing luscious dandelions, where people assume that all their meat is grown in their own neighborhood by someone they had gone to school with, I have heard it all. Mentioning I’m a vegan in these parts I have faced scorn from strangers and family alike. However the wonderful thing about being in my forties is that the approval and acceptance of other people mean very little to me. I don’t feel the need to defend my actions anymore and I follow the beat of my own drum. So the more I thought about it the more I realized such an article would be more about defending what some call an extreme and crazy lifestyle instead of giving a true explanation of what being vegan means to me.

I could tell you that I gave up meat and dairy for my health, or that it is about the environment and leaving a smaller footprint on this glorious planet of ours. Or I could say that it is about all the cute and cuddly and even the not so fluffy animals, which of course it is, how could it not be, but even that is not the true reason why I became a vegan.

What it boils down to is being able to look in the mirror each morning and having respect for the person looking back. It’s a purely selfish reason. Don’t we all want to feel good about our actions? Don’t we all want to be the best person we can be? Watching a video of a sow crammed into a gestational crate unable to turn around, does not give me joy. Watching a piglet being treated as a product, deformed and mangled as he is castrated and has his curly tail and ears cut off only makes me feel enmity towards the people who put him there.

Most people do their grocery shopping and they see the bacon in shiny Saran wrap, I see suffering and a life spent in agonizing boredom neatly packaged for the consumer. Products are given mouth-watering names such as Blackforest or honey-baked ham, baby back ribs and pork tenderloin. Before I knew the whole truth I bought into it each week, but as I ate my ham sandwich there was something somewhere inside me, that didn’t make me feel good. It wasn’t until I became a vegan that I realized that feeling in the pit of my stomach was guilt. Guilt for contributing to the miserable life and the horrible death of a being that wants to live life on it’s own terms. Guilt for filling the pockets of farm factory owners who make their living causing unthinkable pain. I didn’t want to be a person who merely says how horrible meat production is and that somebody really ought to do something to change the way things are done, I wanted to do more.

It was a big change for my family, but we have stuck with it and I don’t see us turning back. Being vegan has opened up so many culinary doors to an entire world of new and wondrous ingredients. I had never tried tahini or tempeh, I thought quinoa was for the birds and soaking beans for hours was too much work. I had to learn to cook all over again, but for the first time in my life I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. I learned to cook dishes I never knew existed and as time went on and my body got used to the changes everything I ate tasted better because there was no longer that lingering guilt for having participated in the untimely death of another being. I love going to the farmer’s market and seeing the rich colors of the seasonal vegetables. The crunch of a fresh carrot, the taste of freshly picked raspberries from my backyard. I feel free and yet more connected.

That guilt I used to feel in my gut is also gone and when I see a cow in a field she is no longer a steak or producer of milk, she is a fellow Earthling, a friend. When I look at her I like myself for being vegan.

Photo: Marion Raby