Becoming a Vegan
Growing up my favorite foods were quesadillas, breakfast sandwiches, and Hot Cheetos. It was safe to say I was far from being vegan; animal products were part of my everyday diet.
Now at 23 years old, I can proudly say that I have been vegan for about three years. I slowly (emphasis on the slowly) transitioned from being vegetarian to vegan. When I first decided to become vegetarian, I was an 18-year-old high-school senior living at home. All my family knew how to make were foods based on animal products. When I first told my parents after making this drastic decision my mom worryingly asked me “¿Y qué vas a comer?” while my dad obliviously asked me “¿Quieres ir a Carl’s Jr?” (mind you this was before Beyond Meat was an option here). And my sister told me she only gave me two weeks until I gave up. Suffice to say it became all up to me to navigate on how to become vegetarian and it was a task I was happy to take on.
First, I’d like to backtrack a bit to the night I spontaneously decided to become a vegetarian. I was scrolling through YouTube eating a pepperoni pizza in my bed when I came across a video called “Why I’m a vegetarian.” At this time, I was adamantly against becoming a vegetarian so part of me clicked on this video looking just to roll my eyes to the things they would say. Before, I thought the only reason people became vegetarian/vegan was to be healthier which immediately disinterested me. However, this video focused solely on the torture of animals within the animal factories. All this torture was inflicted just for my taste buds. As someone that claimed to be an animal lover, this immediately didn’t sit right with me. Clicking that video ended up being the best decision I ever made. This wasn’t the first time I was repulsed by meat but watching videos inside slaughterhouses made me face the truth. I remember being disgusted when I would eat hamburger meat, chicken, and eggs (especially when I found blood in them—yes that happened way too often) but I never thought I could change my entire diet.
If I thought becoming vegetarian was hard enough then the transition to veganism almost seemed impossible. I clearly didn’t learn my lesson about never saying never but I do remember saying “I’m stopping at being vegetarian; no way am I giving up cheese. They don’t even kill cows to make milk.” That was a lie since a couple of years later I gave up on milk and eggs. What made me decide to transition to veganism? Another YouTube video! This video cleared up a lot of misconceptions on how we get our milk and what goes on at the dairy farms. The video discussed how farmers forcefully impregnate the female cows with the “rape rack.” This is done to get them to produce milk. Once the female is too old and too weak, she is sent to the slaughterhouse. If her calves are females too, they get the same treatment as the mother. If they are males, they eventually get sent to the slaughterhouse. That was the night in my freshman dorm, I decided to take veganism more seriously.
I don’t want to discourage anyone but becoming vegan—or even following a plant-based diet—was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Animal products are everywhere, even I became discouraged every day. I would accidentally eat food with milk products every day without realizing it. I gave up and tried again for a whole year until I finally decided to be committed and do my research. I researched everything I needed to know until I became a self-proclaimed vegan expert. It took a long time to come to the point where I am with my vegan diet and I can honestly say I’m not missing out on anything. (Well, I’m still waiting on a good vegan Hot Cheeto alternative but for now I have my Takis.)
Ilse Alva is an UCLA graduate living in Southern California.
In the coming blog posts, I hope to discuss more on the challenges of veganism, tips on veganism, and the nuances of veganism.