When I was 13 years old, I read “The Lost Book of Merlin” which told the tale of how Arthur the boy, under the tutelage of Merlin the wizard, became Arthur the wise and noble king. In the story, Arthur was just a bit younger than me, and early on in his studies, Merlin taught Arthur that in order to continue his studies to become a Druid wizard, Arthur had to give up meat. The premise was that the consumer took on the last feeling of the animal being eaten, presumably one of terror or pain; “this,” Merlin instructed Arthur, “diminished one’s strength in magical pursuits.” As a kid, this was enough to make me want to become a vegetarian. My mom didn’t believe in Arthur, Merlin, wizards, or 13 year old vegetarians; so I waited…
Thanksgiving of this year will mark twelve straight years of being a vegetarian, and this past Thanksgiving I became a vegan (though I do indulge in honey). While I don’t necessarily believe in wizards and magic like I once did, I still believe in Merlin’s core message, which I think was essentially one of empathy and compassion. He asked Arthur to consider the lives of all creatures, no matter how seemingly lowly. This is still my main draw, and, I’m sure, the exact thing that will sustain this choice until I die.
Generally I do not get preachy about being a vegan, but it is November 1st, which is World Vegan Day, so here goes. Being a vegan means using less water, eating the food that would go to feed “meat,” not killing animals or exploiting them in slave like conditions, reducing de-forestation for agriculture, generally having a lower BMI, lower risk of heart disease, and I dare say an increased sense of awareness about food production, especially as it relates to animals.
If you have no desire to become a vegan, I totally understand that. It’s a pain in the ass, but only if you look at it that way and don’t know why you are doing it. Being a vegan becomes a way of life, but only because it still is a little bit punk rock in our society; it doesn’t wreak of American values to eschew animal products, hunting, and related industries. So if you think you might like to become a vegan, do your research and know why. Also, especially in the beginning, expect people to ask you about this, and be excited to share when asked. It can be a fun way to educate without being preachy, and it helps you to remember your reasons for choosing to be vegan. Make sure you vary your diet, have fun, and explore new cuisines, but also find two or three staples that you can easily cook and love to eat. In the beginning, the transition can be tough, but if you stick with it, being vegan just becomes a part of who you are… easy peasy.