I’ve written over 400 articles for Wide Open Pets since I started with them a year ago. It began as merely an opportunity for me to merge two of my passions and skills–writing and animals. But it’s turned into so much more.
The world is full of some horrible news. My job is to put a smile on people’s faces with articles like these:
If you’re an omnivore, you probably have, like, a million questions for a vegan. Despite “green” diets becoming increasingly more mainstream, veganism is still a widely unaccepted concept. Vegans stick out among meat-eaters like the sober dude at the bar.
Though herbivores do appreciate a good debate with a meat-eater every now and then, it’s exhaustingly repetitive. Not only that, but one or both parties usually ends up being a little self-righteous causing off-color jokes about consuming carcasses to be routinely tossed around which then makes vegans like me get teary-eyed because we just love animals so damn much.
Thankfully, it’s relatively easy for an omnivore to educate his or herself on some common vegan diet misconceptions. You might find that vegans are just as misunderstood as the boy who wears pink or the girl who prefers skateboards to Barbie dolls. If you’re a vegan reading this, you best just print out handouts for your next potluck. You know you’ll need them.
1. So, like, do you eat eggs and milk?
Do eggs and milk come from animals? Then no, vegans don’t eat them. The vegan diet abstains from any animal products or byproducts, whole or partial. This means no red meat, poultry or seafood, no dairy and no eggs. True vegans avoid honey, too, because it comes from bees. To be even more precise, vegans don’t consume marshmallows, JELL-O, many brands of gum or most capsulated pills as they often contain gelatin, a stringy substance made from the collagen found in crushed tissues, bones and skin. Yes, you read that correctly—ground-up animal parts. Historically, glue was also made from gelatin. Stop gagging. What did you think hot dogs were really made of anyway?
Let’s clear the air here with some further distinctions. Vegetarians don’t eat things that had a face, meaning meat or seafood. Chicken egg yolks have not developed faces yet (and are usually unfertilized), so vegetarians can still eat the unborn like their omnivorous human friends. They eat dairy, too.
And lastly, stop calling yourself a vegetarian if you eat seafood but not meat. It’s super awesome that you don’t eat meat. But you’re not a vegetarian. You’re a pescatarian, and you’re just making it confusing for the rest of us.
2. Where do you get your protein?
No one asks plant-based dieters Dumbo and Mighty Joe Young where they get their protein, so why do vegans get asked? The first mistake here is thinking meat and dairy are the only means of obtaining protein. The second mistake is assuming the average individual requires a large intake of daily protein. In fact, according to the U.S. FDA, the average American has a daily recommended value (DRV) of only 50 grams of protein, a few grams less for women and a few grams more for men. To put that in perspective, the DRV for fat is 65 grams. That’s right, it is actually suggested that a normal, healthy diet contain more fat than protein. On average, females eat about 1.5 times the suggested amount of protein while men rake in double. The reasoning is clear: American diets revolve around animals.
Now it’s time to debunk the meat myth. Animals are not the only source of protein. Most foods—even vegetables—contain trace amounts of protein. For vegans looking to bulk up, nuts and beans are chock full of muscle-building amino acids. One cup of lentils, for example, contains 30 percent of your protein DRV. In my vegan diet, I still get twice the protein DRV.
3. Do you ever miss real food?
Real food? I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that the casserole I just bit into was for display only. Next question.
4. Veganism is so unhealthy.
Actually, being lactose intolerant is normal. Modern society has developed a dependence on dairy that has genetically altered some humans to be tolerant of lactose. Cultures that don’t depend on dairy in their meals see a reduced number of individuals with this genetic variation; in East Asia, roughly 90 percent of the population is lactose intolerant. Humans are the only species on the planet that continue to drink milk after being weaned off the breast. And, we are the only species that regularly drinks a milk not from our own kind, all thanks to the many Bessie-filled barns around the globe.
Furthermore, meat has been linked to illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Red meat also causes joint pain due to acid crystallization that situates itself in joint pockets. Switching to a vegan diet has time and again been shown to shrink cancer cells—in just two weeks—because the body is no longer harboring animal proteins that promote cancer growth hormones. Most people just love bacon and cheese so much they’re willing to risk their lives for it.
5. We have canine teeth for a reason.
Our hunter-gatherer Neanderthal forefathers did not rely on meat in the capacity that developed countries do today. They labored for hours in the bushes of the Serengeti in pursuit of prey, often returning home empty-handed. And when they did make a kill, many tribes held a sort of ritual sacrifice. They also butchered and cleaned it themselves, then made use of every single part of the animal. We cringe when sheep tongue is a national delicacy, but at least no part of the animal is wasted.
What separates us from other animals is that we have a conscience. We can make informed, ethical decisions about our own well-being and that of animals and the planet at large.
I’ll also close this point with a fun fact. The land mammal with the largest canine tooth is the lovable, grass-eating giant, the hippo. Perhaps this suggests the presence of canine teeth does not presuppose a carnivorous diet, but rather acts as a form of defense. Something to ruminate on.
6. What do you eat?
Contrary to misconception, vegans don’t sit around chewing dandelions and gnawing on toothpicks. Quinoa, tempeh and hummus are filling vegan foods in addition to classic soups and heavy salads. Branching out from the basic hamburger and spaghetti recipes allows herbivores to get more creative in the kitchen. Vegans might not be able to order everything off a menu at a restaurant, but their diet is often jam-packed with variation.
7. You’re not going to change the world by being a vegan.
Whoa now. Not all vegans are trying to change the world. Each decision is fueled by different reasons. Some people don’t eat animals based on moral or religious rationales. For others, good health causes them to choose veganism. There are also vegans who are trying to be eco-conscious and environmentally friendly. And even if they don’t change the world, they’re educating people, creating beneficial conversation and debate and reducing their own carbon footprint by being self-aware.
As for the “hippie” vegans who are just jumping on the band wagon, so what? They didn’t judge you for mullets and parachute pants in the 1980’s, so don’t judge them for being vegan in the new millennium.
8. I could never do that.
If Steve Jobs had said this, he and Steve Wozniak never would have founded Apple in his parents’ garage. Veganism is a commitment just like anything else in life— job, family, exercise, New Year’s resolutions, AA meetings. When you believe in something enough not to give up on it, it’s pretty amazing the things you can accomplish.
9. You’re too skinny. You need to put some meat on those bones.
Some fat people are vegans. Some skinny people are omnivores. Diet isn’t the only thing that accounts for body type. Exercise, mental health and genetics play an important role, too.
Fun fact: I eat roughly 2,000 calories a day. Much more when I’m about to enter the hibernation phase of my menses. I can also bench press a Labrador retriever. Just saying.
Oh and while you’re sitting there calling me “too skinny,” run a quick data check. More than one-third of Americans are obese while less than two percent are underweight. Roughly five percent of the U.S. population was characterized by non-meaters in 2014, half of which were vegans. This is double the numbers from 2009 and only expected to rise. On top of that, 33 percent of Americans say they eat multiple meat and dairy-free meals in a week.
In summary, veganism is not synonymous with “too skinny.” And also, if you’re healthy and happy, then ignore the haters and love your body no matter its shape.
10. But meat gives you energy!
So does a bag of Pixy Stix. So does an apple. If a vegan diet does not support energy, then, pray tell, how do you explain the plethora of websites dedicated to professional vegan athletes? From boxers to cyclists to runners and yes, even body builders, vegans do extreme sports, too.
The act of eating requires energy, from chewing to the energy-intensive digestion process. Some foods require more energy to digest than others. Protein-packed meals like meat use up 30 percent of the food’s caloric count just for digestion whereas only 12 percent is used in fatty foods and 7 percent in carbohydrates. If you consume the same amount of calories whether on a vegan or omnivorous diet, the meat-eating option leaves less energy for you to climb a mountain, bounce on a hippity-hop or do whatever activity it is that you do.
11. You must fart a lot.
Thank you for your concern, but I actually fart a healthy amount.According to Purna Kashyap, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, farting up to 18 times a day is a sign of good microbial gut action—and is considered the healthy norm. Count your farts. If you’re not up to par, maybe it’s time you reconsidered what you’re putting into your mouth.
Even smelly broccoli farts are healthy. If you’re passing gas and it’s a clear-the-room egg smell, remind your victims that you’re just minimizing your cancer risk by gorging on sulfurous veggies.
What’s the take-home message here? The perks of veganism far outweigh the cons. Vegans lead healthy, adventurous, ethical and tasty lives. So please stop with the rabbit and bacon jokes. They weren’t funny eight years ago and now you’re just making yourself appear uneducated.
**Please note, this list is not all-inclusive. Dear vegans, please leave your list of grievances in the comments below.
The first eighteen years of my life, I was not a rebellious child. I had no curfew because I couldn’t stay up past 9:30 PM. I was allowed to be unsupervised with friends because my father had witnessed the tween drama that ensued when I accidentally sipped Mike’s Hard Lemonade and subsequently thought I was dying. I was permitted to hang out one-on-one with males because my best friend growing up was a boy and, when I had my first kiss as a senior in high school, I told my parents about it.
I was the spitting image of a good Catholic school girl, except that I went to public school in my later years and also made far worse fashion choices.
But I rebelled when I went to college. I cut loose from the throngs of societal propaganda. I started making my own decisions. I still went to church. I didn’t drink or do drugs. I never pulled an all-nighter.
I rebelled in a weird and unorthodox way: I stopped eating meat.
Growing up, I gravitated toward animals, forever knowing that my career path would revolve around them. I pet stray cats and lured lost dogs onto our doorstep so we could find the owner. I threw back any fish I caught in the summer, smiling as it swam away. I saved earthworms from the sidewalk on rainy days while I waited at the bus stop. I cried when we boiled crabs on family vacation because I thought the bubbling was them screaming.
But like most children, it took me all of my childhood to understand the association between the meat on my plate and my barnyard friends.
It was my dad who inadvertently gave me an inkling that hamburgers were once a living being. He always checked to make sure his burger wasn’t pink or bloody. He wanted it well done.
Blood? I thought. Why would a hamburger be bloody?
When I first began connecting the dots and voicing my disgust at the meat casserole on the dinner table, I was informed that I needed protein, and that my only option was to make my own non-meat protein-filled dinner.
I was a busy child, spending my evenings and weekends in sports, after-school clubs or piano lessons. I grew up when the Internet was coming into its own, before Google was the go-to encyclopedia. I didn’t have time to make my own meal (still not sure how Mom managed it in her schedule). I didn’t yet understand that every opinion should be warranted, educated and informed.
While I have since debunked the meat industry myth that a big fat steak is required for proper nourishment, I probably would have stuck to tater tots and ice cream if I had to make my own dinner growing up. So instead I hid pieces of hamburger pie in my napkin and naively continued eating chicken without batting an eyelash because birds are not mammals so surely there is something different going on there. Surely.
Red meat was easy to cut out because I related it so easily to animals. I became nauseous when bacon fumes wafted under my nose as I couldn’t help picturing a pig’s face. (Pigs are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.) Soon I began to recognize that chickens have feelings, too.
Then I read Temple Grandin’s Animal Behavior by candlelight lying in a monkey-poo-stained hammock in a bamboo hut while saving animals in the Amazon. And I knew I had to do this commitment thing for real.
Initially, I was a pescatarian, informed only about the inhumane treatment of the meat industry. I committed to eating meat only if I killed the animal myself. I couldn’t. I can’t. So I don’t.
When I took a marine biology class and learned that overfishing is the number one problem plaguing the oceans, I stopped consuming commercial seafood cold turkey. I said I would only eat marine life if I sustainably caught and cleaned the fish myself.
And then I couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t look a fish in the eye and say, “I need to eat you. I need you to survive.”
I do realize that, yes, it is a privilege to be able to choose not to eat animals. And I do realize that, yes, some animals are overpopulated or invasive, and hunting them is considered a part of population control.
But until I am put in a situation in which my survival depends upon eating another living, breathing being, I am dedicated to this decision, my conscientious choice, to not eat animals.
So when you poke fun at me for not eating meat, when you wave a burger in my face and say it tastes sooo goooood, please know that I’m crying inside and secretly thanking that cow without a name who died for the pleasure of your taste buds.
Later, I cut dairy out of my diet originally to lessen the pain of post-Lyme disease that manifests itself as arthritis in my joints. Now, that decision also roots itself in morality and environmental reasonings. To read more about how changing my diet has helped me fight my battle with Lyme disease, click here.
Follow my blog to catch tomorrow’s sassy post on veganism that is sure to elicit oodles of controversy. Yay.
Yesterday, I went through the five stages of grief in record time. On my walk home from work, I was hustling at record speed, trying to escape the depression and anxiety setting in, when I came to a bench overlooking the mountains and Puget Sound. I stopped for a moment and was about to start up again when I decided against it. Instead, I sat on that bench and had a talk with myself.
Mother Nature is a very good teacher. The Olympics stood before me, proud, powerful and beautiful, reaching for the sky. They were happy and uninhibited. I went home and decided to spend the rest of my day being like those snow-capped mountains. I went home and danced my heart out.
Do what you have to do to take care of yourself. Once you do that, then you can be the change you wish to see in the world. Never stop fighting for good. Love with every ounce you’ve got. And always, always dance your heart out.
I will dance like a fool every day if it will help you get to tomorrow. (And yes, I do take requests.)
Have you ever been on date but you didn’t realize it was a date and when the sirens go off that this non-date is actually a date you’re torn between casually going with the flow for the remainder of the evening or making a quick exit out the window to attend to the dying goldfish that needs to be walked at this odd hour of the night but wait you don’t have a goldfish and fish don’t walk but that’s completely irrelevant at this moment in time because you have a dying goldfish on your hands?
Yeah. That happens to me a lot.
I think it’s because I’m bubbly and I love my guy friends and I still maintain a certain amount of innocence that is rare in today’s world. Combine those traits together and you have a recipe for awkward dating history.
Sometimes I wish that panic button had an escape hatch, but then I wouldn’t be able to share these awkward moments with you. So here we go.
Let’s embrace the awkwardness.
In my junior year at Ohio Wesleyan University–a magical campus in Delaware, Ohio teeming with Frisbee-enthusiasts and the best grilled cheese-makers known to man–I met a senior who we will call Marv. Marv and I were crushing on each other and Marv really wanted to date me but I said, No, we are too different. Marv seemed to settle for friendship status. Notice that seemed is emphasized.
I worked evenings at the library and had a strict 9:30 bedtime (which, cough cough, I still adhere to). One night in December, Marv texted asking if I wanted to watch a movie. Marv lived just behind the library, so I figured, sure. I could go over to his abode, catch a few minutes of the flick and then head back to my house in time for my beauty sleep.
But when I stepped onto Marv’s driveway, he comes bustling out the door.
“Where are you going?” I say.
“We’re going to see a movie,” he says.
(Remember, males on the whole are not good communicators. Apparently “watch a movie” and “see a movie” are synonymous.)
I decided, okay, fine #yolo. (Except back then I think it was #youdonthaveclasstilonetomorrowsoyoullsurvivejustthisonce.) <–#suchagoodstudent
I figured we were walking 10 blocks to the old one-show cinema owned by my university to see said movie. Then Marv gets in the car. So, silly me and my assumptions, I assume we’re driving. Which, viva la revolucion and long live the environment, but driving meant I’d get home sooner.
But then Marv turns right instead of left.
So I repeat my question.
“Where are we going?”
“To see a movie,” he responds.
“Where is this movie?”
This is when the little heart of studious me skipped a beat, because Columbus is a 30-minute drive from the town of Delaware. But again, #yolo.
We arrive at the movie theatre 20 minutes shy of my bedtime. (I can’t remember who paid for the tickets but I would have assumed I insisted I pay for me but really I’m just trying to defend my innocence here so I’ll move on.)
Marv and I walk into the cinema to see Australia, which, if you’ve never seen it, is the longest movie known to man. This was before Leonardo DiCaprio would captivate us for the same length of time in The Wolf of Wall Street. But Leo did captivate us. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman did not. Australia is a movie that ends somewhere around the 100-minute mark but then has another 80 minutes of pure torture when you’re on a non-date that you’ve now realized must be a date.
Finally, Nicole Kidman dies or Hugh Jackman saves her or I don’t really remember what happened because it was past midnight, but we are in the car heading back to campus. I’m watching the world through slitted, cat-like eyes trying to stave off sleep. We come to a stoplight just before driving through downtown Delaware.
Marv leans over to kiss me and I realize it a moment too late so I squirm in my seatbelt and turn my head so he gets total side-lip. And then, as if that wasn’t awkward enough, I speak.
“What you are doing? Ohhhh! Thank you!”
Yes, that’s right. I thanked him.
Coldplay sings through the speakers. I look out the window.
As the silence between us becomes palpable, and the awkwardness so taut it would make a twang if you plucked it, I open that mouth of mine again.
“Delaware sure looks nice with all these Christmas lights.”
“What?” he says, proceeding to turn down the radio.
I repeat my verbal diarrhea.
He offers me a mumble of agreement and we turn in silence onto my street.
When Marv pulls into my driveway, I high-tail it out of the passenger’s seat and grab my backpack from the back seat. Then I walk e’er-so-briskly up one walkway but Marv is already making his way up the other. We meet on the porch.
“Well, uh, thanks! Have a good night!” I say.
And because I’m too nice or awkward or don’t want to break his heart, I go in for a hug, but it’s one of those handicapped hugs where you pin down the other person’s arms and, mind you, Marv is a full foot taller than me.
And then I scamper inside.
A few days later, Marv sees me at the computers in the library and grabs a seat next to me.
He leans toward me. I’m being studious, Marv, I think. Please don’t notice me. He notices me.
“So… Do you wanna talk about what happened?” he says.
I swivel my head toward him.
“Um, I’m okay! But if you want to we can!”
Yes, I said so excitedly with exclamation points.
Marv and I didn’t really hang out after that.
I’m available for dating tips at any time free of charge. Just drop me a comment.