Many have asked why it is I choose a vegan lifestyle. Often it isn't as nicely worded as that. Most of the time I hear "wait.. you don't eat eggs or dairy? Not even cheese?! How could you live without cheese?!?!" I smile.
I don't look down on a single person who eats meat, dairy or eggs. In fact, I don't live a complete purist vegan life, as I eat honey occasionally. However I do think that this is the right choice for me (as Unitarian-ist as that sounds..hippies are known for that, right?). And I think it is important for people to understand that my choice is a lifestyle, rather than a diet. So often it is seen as a simple weight loss regime, and can be used as such. But. Instead, I have chosen to use this dietary decision as a stepping stone into a completely different way of life.
I was first inspired to live a differently by my parents. When I was a child my parents found it important to do things such as have a garden, keep chickens for eggs and a goat for milk (of course, we didn't get as far as using the goat for milk when a dog found her rear appetizing enough to attempt making a meal out of it). I have fond memories of making buckets of soap with from a recipe found in the "Tightwad Gazette" and often using the "More with Less" cookbook. We ordered from Azure Standard, a natural bulk foods company that sells bulk natural food and home products at a low price. Lentils and granola were often seen in our home. And the medicine cupboard was full of vitamins, herbs and tinctures.
I didn't realize how influenced I was by these things until I learned about vegan diets, why people chose to do this and what other things changed in their lives once they made the switch. So often I saw that there was a connection between people wanting to live simpler lives and having some sort of vegetarian lifestyle. As I learned, I began to change how I did things.
Meat, cheese and eggs are obtained through some pretty gruesome methods. Animals packed into buildings, becoming sick and injured doesn't quite seem like an ethical way to be getting your food. And while you may think that milk products aren't obtained poorly, these cows are injected with hormones and antibiotics to keep them producing milk and not getting sick. Even chickens are packed into crates and their beaks are burned off so they don't peck each other to death. So that ended my desire to eat anything connected with animals products.
The food I eat and the products I use are most often found locally to support local farmers and businesses. This oftentimes gets you the best tasting food since there isn't need for many or any preservatives due to the lack of travel. It also uses less gas. I also choose to use the least amount of paper, plastic, etc considering that while global warming may or may not be worsened by humans, waste is a serious problem. No one wants to end up in a "Wall-E" world covered in trash. Using less hot water, less soap, less of everything helps in energy use and covering the planet in toxic chemicals.
Medicine can even cause serious problems if you take it in excess. Antibiotics no longer have the effect they once did (it has been suggested that this is due to the antibiotics found in so much of our food). Things such as tylenol are harsh on your body and often unnecessary. Head aches usually have a reason such as dehydration, stress or lack of sleep and can be fixed without the use of pain killers. Yet we pop pills for everything (I had an excedrin addiction for a while). There is definitely a time and a place for them. I had surgery in November and due to the bacteria found in an abscess that would have turned flesh-eating if it was left alone, those antibiotics probably saved my life. But there are other options for minor problems.
I have a hard time when it comes to living with less sometimes. I like clothes. A lot. It's difficult for me to remind myself that it isn't necessary to own 500 pairs of shoes, 20 jackets, etc. In a society that tells you the more you have, the better you are, it's not an easy thing to know that living without is okay. But I continue to learn, be inspired and influenced by what I learn.