I have been vegan for a little over two years now, and every day, I am reminded how doing so was the best decision of my life. I feel healthier, happier, stronger and more fulfilled than I ever did back when one of my most defining characteristics was how much I loved chicken (cringe).
In a single year, the average vegan saves 365 animals and 401,500 gallons of water and prevents 10,950 acres of rainforest from being cut down. So long as you make sure you are eating enough and getting the right nutrients, there really are no downsides. But a lot of people don’t seem to know that. There are so many misconceptions about veganism, it makes me want to bang my head against a wall. (Read: There will probably be a "part two" to this article.)
Here are 10 of the biggest things vegans would love for every human on this planet to know:
1. Gluten intolerance and veganism have nothing to do with each other.
(Unless someone happens to be allergic to both wheat and animal products.) Gluten is not an animal product and, therefore, not a problem. I like some nice, unhealthy boxed pasta, white toast and cookies made with white flour as much as the next dude.
2. Concerns about how I’m getting my X, Y and Z are really not necessary.
I get more protein than any other food group — more than I did before I was vegan. Almond and soy milk have 50 percent more calcium than dairy milk. My morning granola alone has 80 percent of my daily recommended amount of iron, and that’s all from simple ingredients like nuts, seeds, maple syrup and dark chocolate. The only thing I have ever been deficient in is Vitamin D, and that’s because I’m a hermit who hisses at the sun.
3. The phrase, “Don’t worry, the restaurant has salad!” does not excite us.
This is a secret vegans don’t like to disclose out of fear of being excluded from future outings, but…we don’t want the salad. Who wants salad as their entire meal? Usually, this is said by well-meaning friends who believe salad is what we normally eat anyway, and we’re really thankful they thought of us at all, but generally, if the restaurant’s only vegan option is salad, then it’s going to be a bowl of lettuce with a couple of cherry tomatoes and a cucumber — like, not even a good salad.
4. “I found the vegan!” comments are ridiculous.
We weren’t hiding to begin with, so…congratulations for noticing our existence, I guess? Jokes aside, it gets pretty frustrating. We’re just trying to share what we’ve learned and spread the change we want to see in this world. It’s as ridiculous as writing, “I found the LGBTQ supporter!” or, “Found the anti-police brutality proponent.” The cause we’re fighting for hasn’t caught on as much as others, but don’t shoot us down for that. Vegan jokes, in general, are kind of a swing below the belt because it’s something that means a lot to us. We can still laugh at ourselves, though! Avoid anything hateful or in poor taste and you’re golden.
5. Vegan does not mean gross, tasteless or boring.
Take this from a formerly extremely picky eater (now only moderately picky). There are so many options! Cooking can be simple (microwaved taco) or really creative (creamy potato leek soup and smoky root vegetable macaroni with a side of BBQ beans). With meat no longer as the centerpiece, other bold flavors and textures can take the spotlight. A lot of what you eat is probably already vegan or could easily be made vegan if you shifted the focus of the meal.
6. We don’t know how to answer when you ask us what we eat.
It’s literally too many things to name — as many as you eat, just a little different. When I get asked this question, I usually end up with some stupid variation of, “Uh…I mean...food, I guess? Cookies? I’m a big fan of the potato…”
7. You don’t have to dive in headfirst.
No decent person is going to judge you for doing what you can at your own pace, so long as you’re trying. Try giving up pork first. Try to make one meal a day without dairy, eggs or meat. Try to cut out everything but eggs and fish. Start with what feels possible for you and work your way up — aim to go vegan, but if it takes you a while, then that’s OK! Everything makes a difference.
8. We don’t think we’re better than you are.
If you dislike vegans because you have interacted with one who did act obnoxiously righteous, then I’m sorry, on behalf of all of us. That's not the norm. We hate animal agriculture — we hate how it is destroying the planet, abusing animals long before they’re actually slaughtered, and brainwashing otherwise kind and intelligent people into thinking these products are happy, wholesome and necessary. But we don’t hate you. We once were you, until we realized what a conspiracy it all is. We’re trying to start a discussion and make you question what you know because we know there are people out there who would care if they knew. And I truly believe that’s most people. It’s that bad.
9. Corporations are lying to you.
(This is very shocking, I know). Read about how cows have to be forcibly impregnated with a “rape rack” in order to give milk (how they are not some special mutated mammal that gives milk all the time like you were told), and how their babies are taken away hours after birth, the mothers running after the trucks and calling out for weeks after. Read about how billions of live baby chicks are put through a grinder because they’re male and won’t be able to lay eggs. Read about how pigs recognize their names, love to play and explore, and are smarter than dogs — and three-year-old children. Read about how it takes 441 gallons of clean water to produce one pound of beef, how 1-2 acres of rainforests are cut down every second to make room for cattle ranches, and how domestic cows emit more greenhouse gases than the entire automobile industry.
10. When you really listen to what we’re saying, try the food we offer, cook a new dish with us, or make a point to eat fewer animal products because of what we have shared with you, it makes us happier than you will ever know.
I mean it. Sometimes it weighs on me, a lot, that there is so much wrong in the world, and in the case of animal agriculture, it’s not getting better very quickly. I’m doing what I can, but I’m only one person, and too many people don’t want to listen because they like the way things are.
Veganism is healthy, delicious, doable and the solution to so many harmful practices. I can share these things with you, but no one can make you do anything. It has to be up to you. You have the power to move mountains and more willpower than you know.
Stop looking the other way.