By Eliana Felder
At the beginning of last semester, I made a plan with my roommates for us all to start a vegan diet. Honestly, there wasn’t much thought behind it, and while it was something we had each briefly considered at earlier points, this was us saying, let’s give it a shot, because why not? And so, we each embarked on a new journey. To be clear, some of us lasted longer than others. Roomie Number One caved almost immediately, digging into her routine yogurt that first day at breakfast, but deserves an A for intention. Roomie Number Two lasted longer. Her version was more of a weekday diet, because, as an in-towner, she didn’t want to inconvenience her parents on weekends. My third roommate followed a similar path, with what she called the “two-vegan-meals-a-day” approach. This left me, the last one with my head fully in the game, alone in creating what would become a permanent lifestyle change.
Now, let’s talk motivation: Why did I do this? And why did I continue? While I started out with my health in mind, I retroactively decided to educate myself on the matter and find out what there was to being vegan, and why the demand for vegan food continues to increase exponentially.
Naturally, I turned to the most esteemed source of pro-vegan documentaries: Netflix. I began with What the Health, a 2017 documentary that examines the connection between diet and disease. The conclusion, according to the film, is that serious health problems are a consequence of consuming animal products, and that a conspiracy exists to cover it up. They claim this results from connections between the meat, dairy, and pharmaceutical industries, as well as various health organizations. All involved sides are working together with great amounts of money at stake, and no one is willing to give that up – even for the sake of our country’s health.
Maybe I bought into the film’s conclusion, and maybe I’m happy I did. I’ll admit that I researched the producers and sources behind the film, and saw that many, if not all, were coming from a pro-vegan stance, meaning the message is inherently biased. But that’s not to say there is no truth to the theory, and I was willing to take it in stride.
My next stop on Netflix was a film called Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. In short, the message is that animal agriculture is the leading cause behind global warming, water depletion, deforestation, ocean dead zones, and so on, creating an environmental disaster that is seemingly being ignored. I consider myself an environmentalist, and this spoke to me, as I believe we must take care of this planet that we have the luck and privilege to live on. It angers me that some people–including, unfortunately, a large sum of those whose opinions matter – are not willing to properly address environmental issues.
Today, almost eight months later, I am still a vegan and truly loving it. Maybe my journey was backwards, in that I first did it for my health and then later found out my true motives. It can be hard when everyone I meet feels entitled to an explanation; I’m vegan and thus I obviously have a passionate, well-sourced speech ready for anyone who requests such, right? Wrong. It’s almost as if any meal can turn into a courtroom, where I am on the line arguing for myself. Maybe what we need to realize is that sometimes, a choice is simply a choice. I’m not your average zealous vegan, and I’m not going to deliver a powerful speech any time soon. I will, however, continue to live my life knowing and feeling that, in my own way, I am working to better myself, my country, and my world. Can you say the same for yourself?