Since going vegan four months ago, I have noticed the interest in my diet go through the roof. When I was vegetarian, people would sometimes ask a few questions but overall, it was not incredibly curiosity-inducing for those around me. As a vegan however, I have found that I tend to become the center of a attention quite frequently. And as a somewhat reserved person, this is something I have yet to grow accustomed to! Many people ask about what I eat, which values about vegan are most important to me, etc. That’s why I created this list of frequently asked questions about being vegan.
I’ve grown to understand that my presence as the only vegan in the room, or perhaps even the only vegan another person knows, is a powerful and important role. Learning to answer questions thoughtfully and from my own experience is a way I’ve learned to better navigate social situations in order to share truths with others in a way that is not alienating, choosing to find the spaces where opinions overlap or empathy can play its part.
Many people I have encountered are aware of what vegan is, but there are still those I encounter who do not. A number of questions about what veganism is can be answered by simply returning to the original definition of “vegan,” as described by Donald Watson who coined the term in 1944:
Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.
I still vividly remember the process I went through when I first learned the facts that led me to make the switch to veganism that very same day. I had always known what vegan meant in terms of other people’s actions. For example, my friend at work would choose to pass on the chex mix and toffee I would bring in around the holidays and the only valid excuse to me at the time was that he was vegan and did not eat butter.
But why didn’t he eat butter? This is where things can get a little lost in translation for a lot of people, obviously me included! So in order to shed a little more light on they whys I’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions about being vegan along with my own answers from my own experience.
If you have any unanswered questions at the end, please share!
Frequently Asked Questions About Being Vegan
What do vegans eat?
Well, for my readers here, I’m tempted to just say look around! But all jokes aside, I most commonly get asked this question face to face. My response is to list out the main plant-based foods that are staples of my diet such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, mushrooms, nuts and seeds. I find that the majority of people’s reaction to this answer is a blank stare. So I usually follow up with a few examples of plant-based dishes that I make, perhaps what I had for dinner the night before or the fact that I have a green smoothie every day for breakfast. Giving some examples of the delicious food that I eat helps people understand that there is more than bird seed to a vegan’s diet! (Though I do eat lots of seeds!)
Why don’t vegans eat eggs if the chickens are not killed?
For me, the truth about the egg industry is exactly what led me to become vegan. Having already been a vegetarian, eggs was one of the few remaining animal products in my diet. I was proud of the fact that I did not eat meat and was no longer causing the unnecessary death of any animal, all of whom I said I loved and would never want to harm.
Most people are aware of the horrible, disgusting conditions in which chickens are kept in order to mass produce eggs for human consumption. When I was vegetarian, I would only buy organic, free-range eggs thinking that it would make a difference in the animals’ lives and the way they were treated. There are many resources available to educate us on the different labels that egg industry use to try and convince consumers that they are not causing chickens any harm.
But the truth is, animals are harmed and killed in the egg industry.
This is the part that came as a shock to me. While I always thought that eggs were ok for me to eat since no animals had to die, I was dead wrong. Since only the egg-laying female chickens in the egg industry are considered “useful,” newly hatched baby male chicks are killed in a process called chick culling. Approximately 200 million baby chicks are ground up every year in the US – just so humans can eat eggs for breakfast.
So when someone asks me why I don’t eat eggs, I tell them it is because I do not want to cause unnecessary violence and death. I encourage people to listen to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s amazingly eloquent podcast about this topic.
Why don’t vegans eat cheese and other dairy products?
Similarly to the question about why vegans don’t eat eggs, many people wonder why dairy is off limits since the animals to not have to die to provide milk. Because many of us have a very unrealistic notion about the nature of cow’s and their milk, this issue takes a little longer to break down. Many people (myself once included) seem to believe that cow’s milk is always there for the taking. However, Cows, like any other mammal, produce milk only when they are pregnant or have recently given birth. Therefore it is logical to concede that their milk exists for the purpose of nurturing a baby calf, not humans!
In the dairy industry, cows are artificially inseminated in order to keep their milk production up. Some of the resulting male calves are kept for breeding, but many are sent to be butchered for veal. And either way, the mother who has spent months of pregnancy and the pain of giving birth, never gets to fulfill her nature of nourishing her baby.
The bottom line for me, is that by supporting the dairy industry, we are also supporting unnatural cruelty toward animals as well as the meat industry which we claim to admonish.
Where do vegans get protein?
Eating a plant-based diet consisting of mainly whole foods, it is impossible not to get enough protein. Did you know that broccoli has more protein per calorie than steak? Greens are a wonderful source of protein and I throw spinach or kale along with some walnuts or almonds into my smoothie for breakfast every morning. Quinoa packs 9g of protein per cup and is also gluten-free. And then of course there are soy products like soy milk (9g per cup), tofu (9g per 4oz serving) and tempeh (30g per cup). But don’t forget one of my vegan grocery essentials, beans (15g per cup)!
For me, the key is not putting so much concern and emphasis on a single nutrient out of the endless different nutrients our bodies need to sustain a healthy balance. Making sure to eat a variety of plant-based, whole foods is the key to giving my body what it needs to thrive.