Exactly three years ago, my wife Reem and I independently decided to go vegan. Prior to that I was a vegetarian for 7 years which means I have now been meat free for10 years. I thought this was an appropriate time to reflect on a roller coaster ride.
While I did a lot of work and thinking prior, I still look back at the day I went vegan as the day I got serious about trying to make a difference in the world. Leading up to this decision I had done a lot of soul searching and work on myself, which looking back on it, made the decision inevitable.
I explored the idea of selfishness and how it was such a powerful driver of my choices. I understood it is an essential part of us all but also that it drives the behaviours that are so profoundly destructive. I came to realize that I could never be satisfied without deep and serious consideration to the harm my choices cause.
Looking back many years, it was learning about climate change that probably got me started. At the time I was a meat eating Aussie, living the dream. I learned enough to be seriously concerned about the future and to be overwhelmed with a helpless guilty feeling. The guilt came from knowing the implications that out of all the species on earth and all the humans, and all the countries, my contribution was huge. Seeing that some others around me were worse than me was not comforting. I decided being an apathetic bystander was a scenario I could not live with. The natural response was to at very least try my best to be an example and act responsibly. This led me to the idea of considering the impact of my choices on the earth and the suffering caused. For the first time I had a powerful desire to control my desires for short term gratification if there were negative implications for others.
At this stage I was already vegetarian and then I was given an education on animal agriculture. We were at a fundraiser for an animal sanctuary and they showed a few videos of practices in a range of animal exploitation industries, including dairy and eggs. There was also information shared about environmental effects and some nutritional facts. I immediately decided that veganism, and hopefully beyond veganism, was an essential path for me.
Since then, I have spent a lot of time educating myself and looking at all the arguments put to me against veganism. While many of these arguments are wishful thinking some have validity on the surface. One point often made is that veganism cannot claim to cause zero harm. Any serious reader in the area knows this is true. Zero harm towards other humans, animals and the wider environment is not a realistic goal. This is particularly true of those of us living in western countries. Simply building a house, or driving a car is harmful. The argument gets off the rails when this fact is used to justify very harmful activities.
One example we often hear is that growing food crops causes harm in many ways. This is true. The question is what does this mean for veganism? Turns out it actually reinforces veganism as the right and least harmful choice. Exploited animals must be fed, and this requires much more crops than if we live directly on crops, as vegans do. This is an unavoidable fact of nature which is explained in detail on our website (earth tab). So, first we must accept that perfection is impossible and then commit to the realistic goal of harm minimization.
So after three years of reading, learning and living vegan, I am convinced I thrive on a vegan diet (as expected according to the leading nutritional bodies around the world), and short of obscure impractical ideas like dumpster diving, there appears to be nothing that comes close to veganism on the harm minimization scale.