My first awareness of animal cruelty was around late 2006. I was home for the holidays when I fell upon some online videos that depicted where the favorite parts of my meals truly came from. I was left in shock and tears because no one had told me that THAT is where my meat came from. I became vegetarian to the disbelief of my family, in which I was always the biggest meat enthusiast. This was the first thing as a young adult that I started questioning. I started realizing that the “adult world” wasn't always the kindest or truest...that it didn't tell us everything we needed to know, as I had assumed growing up.
There weren't many health videos online back then. So, even though I went vegetarian because I couldn't stomach supporting the meat industry, I didn't think of looking into how to meet my needs as a non-meat-eater. I was still adapting to many things in my late teens and when I was constantly hit with low moods and energies, I assumed it was because I had given up meat. I then became a pescatarian for those health reasons. I had reasoned with myself, that at least fish only had one bad day compared to other farmed animals, and I could stomach eating them every now and then to have a “healthier diet”.
I never imagined going vegan to be honest. In fact, I felt that it was too extreme and I wanted to avoid (and still try to avoid) being an extremist about anything. In early 2014, I finally pressed play on many of the mind-blowing documentaries many vegans have already seen. I sobbed, again, and went vegan overnight. This time I was much older and more aware in balancing both my ethics and my health. There were also more people online talking about how to be healthy on a vegan diet.
My journey to veganism has been an important one for me. It has taught me about the consequences of the things we buy and enjoy - the things we think are perfectly normal. It has taught me to question so-called “truths”, regardless of who is speaking them. It has taught me to trust myself and my intuition when things don´t seem right. It has taught me to speak up.
As a vegan of color, it has also shown me how much of our oppression is interwoven with so many of the same concepts and ideologies: from sexism, racism to capitalism etc, or all of them at once. Veganism taught me to question the idea of ownership. Just because certain beings can be oppressed and exploited (like people deemed as “less valuable”, natural resources, and the animals people eat), doesn't mean we should support oppression. It taught me about the immense greed and ugliness of capitalism, and the illusions around us that it creates that persuades us into gladly supporting/enjoying our own destruction on this planet, served with a side of fries and ketchup.
I think more than identifying with just being a vegan, I identify more with being someone who wants to know the FULL prices and consequences of things in our daily lives. As a woman of color, I have become too familiar with the price we pay when things are taken out of their fullest context. So, veganism for me, has only been a part of that quest towards, hopefully, a fuller context of awareness because, unfortunately, the rabbit hole of exploitation masked as everyday necessities tends to run very, very deep.
I am still learning and still growing. I don´t know where exactly it all ends and I am enjoying finding balances between it all. The balance of seeking this awareness but also being able to enjoy life where we can is also very important. But it´s a journey that has made me more proactive in my own existence, more mindful about the choices I make, and to have the power of aiming to live a life in solidarity with with others; humans, this earth and other beings. I think that is our greatest hope and power - our willingness to stand in solidarity with what we feel to be just.
All in all, it has been a journey (so far) that is pretty damn worth it.
YouTube: Abantu May