An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life
Our latest contributor, a blogger who writes as ‘M’ known as Butterflies Katz, 61, from Florida in the US, became a vegan at a time when even vegetarians were few and far between. It’s been a long journey
I have been an unwavering strict vegan for 40 years. I was a vegetarian for 10 years prior to that, because I didn’t realise back then (before the internet) that the least stance we can take not to participate in animal exploitation is veganism, not vegetarianism.
I was 12 years of age when my brother told me that ‘meat’ was a dead animal, and that was the last time a morsel of meat entered my mouth, even disguised. (I never did get the mind-set that eating a corpse is delicious!). Early on I started preparing my own food, as my family was not vegan or vegetarian.
When I was 21, a clerk at a health shop handed me a magazine published by the American Vegan Society. I was specifically moved by the information that humans steal new-born calves away from their bellowing mothers so they can steal their milk. The name of the magazine was Ahimsa, which means nonviolence in Sanskrit.
I immediately rid my closet of leather, and became a staunch vegan, for the animals, and for nonviolence, as per the literal definition of veganism.
Veganism extends beyond diet to all products and practices, and is a way of life that seeks non-participation with animal exploitation – for any purpose – as much as is reasonably possible. While there may be rewards or benefits of vegan living for personal or planetary health, the actual reason/definition pertains to not exploiting animals.
I am, so far, a healthy vegan. I am not a super athlete, but I don’t have any diseases, take no meds, don’t go to doctors. At age 61, I have plenty of energy to propel me through the days. Of course I will never go back to being an omnivore: once you ‘get it, there’s no going back.
I eat what I want, though I choose to eat healthier ingredients and foods that contain the nutrients that vegans may lack. I have chosen my food choices scientifically. For example, I would include tempeh in my diet because it is the highest vegan food source of L-carnitine. I drink carrot juice because it’s the best source of beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A. I eat salads with baby kale, as opposed to lettuce, as there is much more nutrition in the kale. Greens are a staple food and I avoid greens with oxalic acid. I drink coffee, so to combat the acidity, I eat a lot of watermelon; medicinally. I use food as my medicine. Because pharmaceuticals are tested on animals, I have rarely taken them.
I should also mention that I eat plenty of junk food. But I try to lean towards the healthier ingredient junk food, as in whole spelt flour instead of wheat flour, organic canola oil, organic sugar and no white refined sugar. When I lived in northern New Zealand for 17 years, I could not get vegan junk foods, and rarely ate processed vegan foods/junk food. I was not able to enjoy So Delicious cashew ice cream, Vegenaise, or vegan cheese – but I did enjoy being 20 pounds thinner!
I don’t worry about protein. Never have. It’s in many foods and I eat foods that contain complete protein such as buckwheat, quinoa, and hemp seeds. I also eat tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils… not a lot, but I fit it into my diet to be sure that I am receiving ample protein.
I went vegan at a time when basically no one was vegan. I was very alone; I never heard of or met another vegan (or even vegetarian in those years). Obviously, I walk this path not caring if I’m different. I’m different in a good way. I am exemplifying to the human race that we can live a vegan life and not hire people to abuse and kill animals (after all, we are animals, too).
I lived in a vegan community for 35 years – most of my adult life – so I had plenty of like-minded friends. I was a volunteer who taught the public about the lifestyle. I grew large vegan organic gardens, was a head chef at a vegan restaurant, co-authored a vegan recipe book, etc. In all these ventures, I was lucky to have the support I needed.
Now I take care of my elderly parents with my brother; and we feed them and ourselves vegan food. My dog friend is also fed vegan. For the last 35 years, I have cared for numerous dogs successfully fed this way. Child, adult, cat, dog: if you are in my care, you are being fed and cared for in a vegan way. I don’t make exceptions.
I don’t desire to dine with non-vegans, and I made a stance long ago not to eat in non-vegan restaurants. I’m strict. I don’t feel comfortable around people who think it’s fine to torture animals. I’m also a vegan-sexual. I’ve only had sex with vegans. I’m a “vegan-snob” you might say, though I am cordial and nonviolent to everyone.
I have not had too many people throw vegan jokes at me. I am very self-assured in my position, and people feel that from me. I have all my responses down; I’m educated in animal rights theory, so I know how to respond to people in a polite and knowledgeable way. They know I take the philosophy very seriously and there’s nothing to joke about, and so I don’t receive jokes much.
My most popular blog post is A reasonable response to 60 questions and comments vegans typically hear from nonvegans.
I have thought my responses out, however, I will respond organically and in-the-moment to people. I do take any opportunity to discuss vegan ethics with people; I don’t shy away from it.
I tend to think it is best to educate those who are already inquiring or are interested. For example, I organized the South Florida VeganFest, a free-to-the-public vegan educational event, a few years ago. It was a huge success, with lines continuing out the door; we ended up sending people away as there was no more room in the facility. Over 5,000 interested people showed up. I guess I believe in starting with the many who are already interested and more ripe to listen to the message.
Veganism is not a fad; it’s growing with time. It’s already lasted over 70 years since its conception in 1944, so it can hardly be considered a trend. I’ve lived through a time when there were hardly any vegans and into an era where over 12,000 vegan animal rights activists marched in London recently for animal rights, 30,000 in Tel Aviv, and we’ve witnessed country-wide vegan protests in Australia.
I hear the word vegan on TV daily: I keep hearing about celebrities going vegan; there are vegan protests, restaurants and festivals happening in every corner of the globe; and when Beyond Burger was recently introduced to the stock market, it achieved a record-breaking first day, according to Forbes.
Obviously there are many in support of plant-based foods and veganism is here to stay. Even the meat and dairy industries are offering certified vegan lines or products in response to those who are boycotting their products derived from exploiting animals. They recognise that times are a-changing, and they need to move forward into the more sustainable and less cruel world of plant-based foods and products. Every day there are commercials (in the US) about plant-burgers, and detergents made from plants, and major companies which are converting over and will soon all be cruelty free.
I don’t show horror videos of violence inflicted on animals on social media. If people want to be educated, I can direct them to Earthlings or Dominion. I don’t show people being tortured, so I won’t show animals being tortured
When I see it (on Twitter, and I get a daily dose), it puts me in a place that would not make me a good advocate for animals. We all have to bear witness a few times to keep us on course and know the truth of what is happening, but honestly, I wish I didn’t see all the torture videos online daily.
I’m not sure about the best way to convert omnivores to vegan living, but I believe it to be by using logic and reasoning, by speaking from the heart, by showing educational articles and videos, through public campaigns and marches, and, in general, by using a nonviolent approach.
Sadly for the animals and this planet we all share, the masses change very slowly. They are stuck in habit and custom… so the evolution to a vegan world is not super-fast. Yet, it is happening. It is unstoppable. Personally I see the vegan ethic as Truth; an ethical imperative.