Intersectionality is a big buzzword lately. This term refers to the way our identities—our language, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and more, intersect and interact with each other, creating a unique perspective and experience for each individual. While we think we can assign characteristics or stereotypes to certain groups, intersectionality makes that natural instinct not so simple.
This is true of veganism, too, especially now that the meatless population is increasing every day. There is not one type of vegan; they are a diverse bunch, with unique histories and beliefs that led them to their compassionate conversion. Here’s how nine vegans or vegetarians—including me!—explain the intersectionality of their veganism.
“I would be lying if I said the motivating factor to make the leap wasn't the chef side of me. Something brand new to discover and learn, something new to try and master, recipes to tweak. I like that there are ways to make veggies taste like meat. I like to use spices to add interest. I like tricking other members of my family into eating a fully vegan meal because it tastes really good, and they don't miss the meat, eggs, or cheese. I want to do my part as an activist, to rescue animals and give them a chance at good and long lives, of course, but I am having fun with it too. Being a chef is a huge part of my life.” – Rosemary
A Human Rights Activist
“I have always viewed the world and our many issues through the lens of ‘how can we do better?’ Every issue seemed so complicated and virtually impossible to 'fix' because it would involve grassroots changes, changes from Congress, overturning Citizens United, sweeping changes to school programs, and maybe propaganda. Then one day something clicked about eating meat, dairy, and eggs. Here is an industry that deeply and negatively affects almost every aspect of our lives. And the only thing we have to do to minimize those harms is to stop eating something. It is maybe one of the only issues where there seems to be such a clear, simple, and obtainable solution. So in that way, I guess going vegan is an extension of my pre-existing desire to help find solutions for complex issues.” – Jenny
“I was born and raised in India as a Hindu. Being born and raised in an environment where you weren't encouraged to feed off of other animals, vegetarianism/veganism came very natural to me. Back in India we have a ton of variety of vegetables, fruits, pulses and beans that you won't necessarily feel the need to look for meat. When I came to USA I had the freedom to consume meat; however, I didn't feel that was right. It started off as a religious reason, but as years passed by I wanted to stand my ground and stick to my ethics. So now it's more of a personal choice and the thought of killing another living being for my joy/consumption doesn't feel right.” – Alekhya
“When I look at a cow or a pig, I see a sensitive, thinking, feeling being - just like me. Torturing or inflicting pain on them is (in my view) profoundly cruel and unethical. This doesn’t come from an ancient, flawed text defining my beliefs. It is the natural empathy that I feel when seeing another person suffer, extended to all animals. As an atheist, I don’t believe animal products come from god and I feel free to question their origins. In doing so, I have consistently found that milk, eggs and meat are the result of an extremely baroque system of rape, torture and inhumane slaughter. Therefore, I refuse to consume them. And if you do believe in god, I urge you to scrutinize factory farming. No benevolent god would bless what occurs in a modern slaughterhouse, egg farm, or dairy farm. I believe you will find animal products completely incompatible with your ethics, too.” Matthew
A Musical Therapist
“I am a music therapist. Not only are values of compassion and empathy reflected in my work and personal life, but I had three other badass women in my class (out of 12) who were or went vegan.” – Anna
“I used to work for a dairy company, and when I found out that the cows were artificially inseminated, I, as a woman, found it really offensive. These cows are also females and are pregnant for nearly their whole lives, constantly giving birth, but they never experience sex nor motherhood, except for the painful first days of their babies’ lives before they're ripped away from them. All so we can get their breast milk. As a woman, I just can't support the rape and child abduction of any female, regardless of their species.” – Mariana
“I've always been very driven to live in a way I find to be ethically consistent and intellectually rigorous. I was vegetarian and then a friend pointed out that by not being vegan I was half-assing it and wasn't actually following through on animal rights. I was mad that he was pointing out weaknesses in my logic, but realized he was right. I guess my veganism is an extension of my desire to combine logic and ethics. And to live a life with no hypocrisy or internal inconsistency or avoidable evil.” – Liz
A “Lactose Intolerator”
“For as long as I can remember, I had terrible stomach aches, and sometimes bad headaches after eating certain meals. It was to the point where I had to arrange plans according to when and where I'd be eating a meal. However, once I dropped the meat and dairy, I felt a million times better and never had to worry about my plans getting interrupted. I will say that in the beginning it was strictly for health reasons, but once I learned more about it, I came to understand the perspective that animals are not meant to feed humans, and the fact that humans are manufacturing animal products is the number one cause of the world’s environmental problems. ” – Aly
As for me—Lauren—I was taking lightning-fast showers, recycling, using cloth bags for groceries, buying items in bulk, choosing organic when possible, shopping at farmers’ markets, and reducing my food waste whenever I could. That’s when I met my very first vegetarian. After I mocked him relentlessly, he taught me about concentrated animal feeding operations (better known as “factory farms”) and how destructive they are to the environment. I was horrified—so horrified that I switched to meatless within months. When I think about animal products, it represents one more way that humans are carelessly exploiting the planet and all of its inhabitants, and I simply could not participate in that.