My friend. My fellow vegan. Sophie.
We are hoping to change the world together: by challenging conventional thought, by saving one animal at a time, by truly mobilizing animal rights into a movement.
We sat down in my dorm room one evening to talk about the state of the world and the place of animals in it. I recorded this, and below is a transcription of Sophie’s beautiful and honest responses to a series of questions I asked during our discussion.
Truly, Sophie is a world-changer. I am beyond lucky to call them my friend. Read on:
1. How long have you been vegan?
A year and two months… and eighteen days.
2. What was the precipitating factor in your decision to become vegan?
Before I became vegan, I was aware of veganism, but I didn’t really know much about it. I had actually just gotten home from a burger joint with my dad, and my mom came up to me and asked if I wanted to be vegan with her, and I just said yes because I figured that it would be interesting. I didn’t really have any notion of being vegan forever… It was just sort of “Sure, why not?” and then it escalated from there. I found out about the health benefits and that made me think I would stick with it for a little bit longer. And then I found out about the environment and thought, “Okay, I’ll just keep doing this until I get bored with it.” And then I found out about the animals and how awful the system is, and then I thought “Well, now I’m vegan forever.”
3. What has surprised you about being vegan?
I was a really picky eater before I became vegan, and it only took me about two weeks of being vegan to like everything. Before, I thought I needed to eat meat and milk and eggs and all these things I hated, and then it was so liberating once I knew I didn’t have to eat that stuff. I could focus on actually enjoying what I was eating. That was the most surprising part, was how much I fell in love with food. Before, my mom would make something, and I would just pick at it and wouldn’t really want it, but now food is so good. I eat a greater variety of foods now. Vegetables I hadn’t even heard of before I became vegan, I eat those now. I just feel as though I’m so much healthier.
4. Describe one of your most joyful or unique experiences as a vegan thus far.
The first time I had ever been around farm animals was when I saw them on a field trip for my All About Food class. I felt like I understood them, because I knew what they went through. I hadn’t really connected with an animal before, but I loved being able to look at them and know that I wasn’t contributing to what was harming them. I felt like we were the same… I knew we were equal. I knew we both felt things. I had never connected with anything like that before.
5. What is the most troubling part of being vegan, and how do you try to cope?
Since becoming vegan and then becoming knowledgeable of the issues, I feel helpless all the time now. Everything that people are eating and wearing and doing, it’s evidence of this mass genocide that is taking place. I hate that… I’m sitting next to someone who is eating lunch, and all of the sudden I see these images of animals being slaughtered. And I’m just sitting there watching these people eat animals and contribute to this horrendous holocaust, and I don’t say or do anything. If I were to say anything, I would just be shut down. I never before had the notion that I was living in a cruel world. I always had an optimistic view of things.
I’m going to give everything that I have to give, and that’s all I can do. The difficult thing is that I can’t just choose not to talk to people who are contributing to all of this, because that’s almost everyone. Sometimes I just try to focus on the good things about a person and remember that I was once in their position of not knowing what happens. When I remember that I was once unaware, that gives me hope that others will also become aware and then be able to change and become vegan and become animal rights activists as well.
6. What is your advice to new vegans and those individuals considering adopting a vegan diet and lifestyle?
To the people who already are vegan, I would tell them to remember that every day they are making a difference and actually having a positive impact on the lives of others. To those who are considering becoming vegan, even vegetarians who are considering becoming vegan, you don’t know how your life is going to change when you become vegan. Although now I do view the world in a more pessimistic way, and I do see cruelty everywhere I go, I also feel compassion on another level and feel more connected to things outside of myself. I feel healthier, and I feel like I get excited by smaller things… Somehow that’s all connected to being vegan. It’s just so worth it. And once you are vegan, you can feel good every day because you are just being a compassionate human being.
7. What distinct health benefits have you experienced since becoming vegan?
I have a lot more energy.
8. In one of your earliest blog posts, you undertook the challenge of disproving common myths about veganism. Why do you believe such myths run so rampant in our society?
Mostly I think it’s because people get defensive of their own diets and then look for reasons why another diet may not work. I think a lot of the individuals who challenge veganism are the ones who are aware of its benefits and are trying to continue to justify their diet as it is.
Another issue is the government. What the government tells us we need is very different from what we actually need. The big food industries control government policy because that’s where their money goes.
I think it’s important to write about these issues because all it takes is people reading about them and then they don’t have to be misinformed anymore.
9. How has veganism influenced and/or changed the way you live your life?
I just walk around feeling more compassion. I notice it more. The smaller things make me happier, and I can’t find the correlation between that and veganism, but I know it’s there. I also feel like I love all of the earth now, whereas before I ignored a lot of it. I was a speciesist, I suppose.
I feel like I have a purpose now. I know that there’s something I just need to do, you know?
10. Complete this sentiment: Compassion is… a turkey-less Thanksgiving.
Read Sophie’s writing at http://powerofthevegan.wordpress.com.