It’s hard to imagine that only a year ago I wouldn’t eat my meals unless there were meat in it. A lot of meat that is. Bacon, steak, chicken, lambs, pigs…etc. More the better! At the same time Sara would be happily chewing on her raw vegetables like a cute rabbit. (Sara’s not a vegan by any means, but she just loves vegetables.)
Fast forward a year later, I am 90% vegan.
How it started?
What happened? My friends and family would ask me. I would often ask myself that too!
It all happened a year ago when I saw this post on Facebook where people were protesting against Yulin’s dog meat festival in China. It was absolutely horrifying for me to see those footages (let’s not go into details here). I have had my dog Buddy for the past year and half at the time. Buddy is my first real pet (besides the pet turtle I had when I was little), and he completely changed my life.
Of course my first thought of watching those horrific footages was that I couldn’t imagine if Buddy were one of those dogs. Many of the dogs were actually stolen from their loving families, which made it even worse. However, as I was getting over the grief, a thought came to mind.
Who are we to judge those people from eating dog meat when we are eating all sorts of other animals like cows, chicken, pigs and more? What’s the difference?
As a dog lover, I get it. Dogs have those irresistible puppy eyes and they are simply adorable. Dogs also love you unconditionally (well, besides Wiggles, who turned his back on his rescuer, Sara lol).
In my opinion, all the other animals are just as adorable too. Sara would argue that dogs are bred differently and weren’t bred traditionally for eating like cows, chicken and pigs. Yeah, I guess…
So I thought I’d educate myself a little related to this topic. Before you know it, I had subscribed to many animal welfare/vegan Facebook pages. Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, the Dodo, and Peta (they are a little extreme) to name a few. It really only took a few of those behind-the-scenes videos that made me start cutting back meat from my diet.
What shocked me the most was how the food industries breed, grow and treat those animals. For instance, the chicken were given so much antibiotics that many of them got so big that their legs could no longer support them. In addition, the ones that could stand would spend their entire lifetime without room to walk not to mention ever seeing the sky. By doing this, the companies are able to get the most return/meat with minimum cost. The consumers can then enjoy $2.50 chicken sandwiches at fast-food chains or a bucket of wings for $9.99.
I guess this is the product of capitalism. Even though I am all for capitalism, I am against these completely profit-oriented practices at the expense of animal welfare.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against eating meat. I understand human’s long history of eating meat. Especially back in the day where people live off of the livestocks that they raise. However, I am against the mass production of animals where the pigs, chickens and cows are not be given a proper life that they deserve before eventually slaughtering them for consumption.
If the chicken, cows, pigs and other animals are being raised humanely, naturally and given enough room to roam throughout their lifetime before they were humanely killed, I would have no problem eating them. However, this simply can’t be achieved in order to get to the low price points and high demand at major retailers or the dollar menus at fast-food chains.
The inhumane mass production of animals driven by low-prices mass consumptions are what I am having a very hard time with.
The Transition to a Vegan
It only took a few of those videos for me to make a change on my diet dramatically. Almost immediately, I stopped buying meat from grocery stores. I still can’t believe that only a year ago I would be excited seeing that chicken breasts were on sale so I’d pick up an extra pack.
Phase I: No more meat from grocery stores
After I stopped buying meat from grocery stores for a month, I did some quick math. If I used to buy one pack (6 pieces) of huge chicken breasts a week, that’s at least 12 chickens a month or 144 chickens a year! The crazy part? This is only from one individual only! Imagine if everyone cut back even just a little on their consumptions, those meat companies would lose so much sales, which I could careless. But this is where as a consumer, you can actually make an impact.
Stop cooking and eating meat at home was definitely a struggle first. Especially I value my protein in-take for keeping in shape purposes. Thank God that there’s Pinterest to the rescue. It’s quite unbelievable how much resources there are out there on the internet nowadays. However, I had to go through a steep learning curve. I can’t tell you how many times I had failed making seitan or ended up with mushy and weird-tasting veggie burgers. The best part about having a dog? My dog Buddy would always be my biggest fan no matter how gross my failed vegan creations are. It’s fair to say that Buddy definitely had his fair share of my (failed) vegan dishes.
Phase II: Cutting back meat when eating out
Over the next couple of months, I started cutting back on ordering meat when eating out. It definitely wasn’t an easy transition. I had a lot of cravings when I first started especially when I already no longer cook meat at home. Sometimes I would even go a little crazy if we were at a buffet and ended up eating more meat than I normally would. As my roommate Lysi would say, “when you unleash the animal inside the vegan”!
Phase III: Vegan!
Now, the hardest part by far is going from a vegetarian to a vegan. I got used to not eating meat fairly quickly, which only took a few months. But when I tried to be vegan and cut out dairy especially, oh man, it wasn’t easy at all. I could live without cheeses but cutting out my Greek yogurt, milk and eggs was for sure a stretch. I would often be scrambling and looking for proteins as dairy was one of my main protein weapons for building muscles. Thankfully there are many options out there available such as pea proteins and delicious nut milk which are packed with proteins and other nutrients.
During my transition to a vegan, I joined a few vegan meet-ups and communities in the area. To my surprise, there’s actually a thriving vegan community here in Dallas where I live. When I tell people that I am a vegan-wannabe, people would say that I live in the wrong state since Texas is basically the capital of meat in the USA. The cool thing is that most cities in the US are getting a lot more diverse and I am able to meet a lot of like-minded individuals who shared my passion. Vegan Outreach even paired me up with a mentor Armando who’s actually a super cool vegan chef!
Where I am today
After a year of transitioning, I’d say that I am 90% vegan now. That’s why I called myself a bad vegan. I hardly eat meat anymore but I do still eat seafood from time to time. I would buy eggs from the the Happy Egg Co. as they are true free-range chickens that roam around.
Many hardcore vegan people may judge or hate that fact that I am not 100% vegan. But one time I talked to my vegan mentor about this and he said “as long as you are happy with yourself”.
I am proud the fact that my consumptions of meat and meat-related products are down dramatically from a year ago to almost none. I believe I am making a tiny impact.
Imagine if everyone would cut their meat consumption by even just a little bit. In addition with education and raising awareness of behind-the-scenes industry news, I believe there would be huge changes to the meat and animal industry standards.
Final Thoughts: Asian Vegetarian Mentality vs. Vegans in the West
There are actually a lot of people in Asia who are vegetarians. Especially Taiwan, where I am from. There are vegetarian restaurants on almost every other block.
Many vegetarians in Asia are vegetarians actually are not due to religious beliefs or anything but instead, health. Many Asians believe that a vegetarian diet is healthier for you thus they are vegetarians.
The term “vegan” is almost unheard of in Asia. People actually would think you are quite weird that you don’t even eat eggs or drink milk.
Compared to the US, of course some people chose to be a vegetarian/vegan for health reasons, but many of them were simply fed up with the meat industry as well as the inhumane treatments of animals. That’s why many people chose to be vegan.
This brings to my point that there are actually very little awareness in regards to ethical treatments of animals, or the meat industries in general in Asia. They chose to be vegetarians for their own health purposes rather than the altruistic reasons. In my opinion this somehow explains why there are so many stray dogs and cats in Asia and there are way less animal rescue groups as you would see everywhere in the US.
I hope with Mao & Then, in addition to my travel posts, is to help bridge the east and the west, and share some of the best practices and bright ideas so that we can learn and benefit from each other’s unique culture.
What are your thoughts on vegans? Comment below!