Veganism serves as moral platform, not amusement

It all started with a lobster.

One day in October last year, for some family bonding, my mom decided to take my brother and me out for dinner. We were driving around Mira Mesa looking for somewhere to eat and we happened to pass a Red Lobster. I had never been there before and had no interest in going, but my brother was begging to go. So, we walked in and asked for a table.

After we were seated, I asked my mom if she knew how they cooked the lobsters and how the chefs maintained the bright red color they had.

With horror I listened to her as she told me the color was achieved through the process of boiling the lobsters alive. It was the cruelest thing I had ever heard.

And in the middle of the Mira Mesa Red Lobster, at a booth in the corner of the dimly-lit dining area, I started crying.

That was the day I decided to become vegan.

I promise I’m not crazy.  I’m just a reformed meat-eater who gets a little emotional about animal cruelty.

I’m aware of all the stereotypes surrounding vegans. We are the running joke of the millennial generation. We supposedly bring up our dietary habits in every conversation and berate anybody who chooses not to conform to our way of life.

Before I became vegan, I would think to myself: “Anybody who goes vegan hates happiness! They’re missing out!” or “They’re so lame, they just want to lose weight!”

You could call me a hypocrite for going vegan myself, I suppose. But after the Red Lobster incident, my perspective on the world changed.

That day, it clicked in my mind that for each burger or box of chicken nuggets or lobster tail, an animal is killed. A life is ended.

In modern society, where products come from is so disconnected from how we receive them that the consequences of our consumerism rarely occur to us. We don’t even stop to think that the thing we are eating used to be alive, just like we are.

And so, the sympathy, morality and hard work that goes into being a vegan shouldn’t be so much of a joke, and rather, is something that is respectable.

One of the biggest misunderstandings about veganism is that it really isn’t a diet; it’s a moral stance that people take to protest the abuse of animals. And when looked at that way, it becomes a little less of a joke and a little more of a respectable lifestyle.

So why be vegan and not just vegetarian? Of course removing cheese, milk, eggs, honey, butter, ice cream, and more from your diet is much, much harder than just refusing to eat meat. And that’s where the other big misconception about veganism lies. Surprisingly to most, the dairy industry is just as corrupt and cruel as the meat industry.

According to PETA, when newborn chicks are sorted, the females are tagged and sent to the warehouses, whereas the males, who have no use to the egg industry, are either suffocated to death in trash bags or grinded alive for cheap meat.

Things are even worse in the milk industry. Cows are artificially impregnated so that they continue to produce milk year-round. After the calves are born, they are taken from their mothers within an hour, and a few months later slaughtered to make veal for the meat industry. To quote Ariel Garlow, a writer for One Green Planet, “The dairy industry is the backbone of the veal industry—without it, the routine slaughter of calves could not continue.”

It is such an awful and gruesome phenomenon, and horrible to read about, but sadly it is the reality of our food suppliers.

The third big misconception about veganism is that only a radical, tree-hugging minority follow this diet. But in reality, the diet is actually extremely popular amongst many demographics of people—from professional athletes like NBA player Kyrie Irving, to politicians like Bill Clinton and Al Gore. And of course, many celebrities, such as Brad Pitt, Beyoncé, Woody Harrelson, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, Jared Leto, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga (post-Meat Dress, of course), have become vegan in the past few years in order to use their high-profile platform to protest the mistreatment of animals in the food industry.

For most, being vegan isn’t about losing weight or being trendy. It’s a protest. And, although it’s a small protest, it is hard work. And, like all hard work, it deserves respect.

I think the thing that stops most people from giving veganism a chance is that vegans have the reputation of being unbearably judgemental and preachy towards anybody who chooses to eats meat or dairy. And, I won’t lie, it’s understandable: it’s easy to cross the line from passionate to preachy.

But, deep in each person’s heart who chooses to stand up to animal cruelty, they just want to save one animal life. To stop one baby cow from being taken away from his mother and killed for somebody’s veal dinner. To stop one baby chick from being suffocated in a trash bag, just because they couldn’t make the industry a profit.

Veganism is about saving as many innocent animal lives as possible. It sounds dramatic, but at its root, it’s the truth. And when you look at it that way, in light of the truth, it’s not so much of a joke as it is something to respect.