What Veganism Means To Me in A World of Suffering – Extending Compassion to All

Being vegan is acknowledging and honouring living beings in a way that is practical and possible. We can control our actions to a certain extent and make a choice to support animal suffering directly or abstain. We will never fully escape animal suffering in our lives, but we can certainly minimize it by choosing a compassionate life.

The ideal is making a genuine effort to be conscientiousness of our choices. This extends far beyond veganism to considering other humans, insects, trees and even objects as we are choosing to act in a way that acknowledges consciousness and the value of being-ness.

While we may not be able to stop animal or human suffering entirely, we can go a long way to not support it through our actions. Just because we cannot stop something personally, does not mean we cannot be an individual in a collective seeking change. For this reason, I remain vegan.

Moved and Arrived!

I started a blog and then ended up moving a week later! This is the first time back at the computer for non-work since my move, but it went really well and we now live on a beautiful country property. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived outside a busy urban center – I grew up in downtown Ottawa (Canada’s capital) and left only 2 years ago after I graduated. I’ve always been a nature person though and I have to say, I prefer being in the country already. Hopefully one day we will be able to buy our own land and build a small eco-home. We don’t have a car, so there’s been a lot of scenic bike rides. So far we’ve come across wild turkeys, bald eagles, lots of birds, tons of insects and a heron.

I’m a bit squeamish around insects, but I don’t like to purposefully kill them, so we’ve been using peppermint oil as an ant repellent in our bathroom where they seem to be getting into the house somehow. It’s worked really well so far.

My favourite “fast-food” vegan foods lately have been homemade vegan mac’n’cheese, lots of green smoothies, homemade Lara bars and a few quick dishes of steamed veggies with tamari. Also, can’t go wrong with smoked tofu – just slice it, pan-fry for a few minutes and then enjoy with some ketchup – filling and delicious! I can’t wait to get back into my normal food routine though.

Forever vegan? Tips to Stay Vegan. Part 3.

I believe everyone should at least try to make their decisions with a bit of thought and maybe even a bit of preparation. While I think that deciding to “go vegan” is an awesome decision, I want everyone to realize that there is no set timeline to do so. Sustainable diet and lifestyle changes tend to happen incrementally and most long-term vegans I have encountered made the transition over several months to several years. Even increasing the ratio of plants to animal products in a diet is commendable and I do believe it makes a difference to not only the animals, but to the environment and even your health.

I wanted to wrap up the forever vegan tips by discussing some of the more practical aspects of staying vegan.

3. Do not be afraid of supplements and take B12 (because your life actually depends on it).

I want to dramatically emphasize the absolute necessity of taking supplemental B12 to vegans. B12 is a vitamin created by bacteria, which when you cease to eat animals or animal secretions, you are no longer eating things that contain this bacteria produced vitamin. It’s a vital and very important vitamin – deficiency can lead to things like permanent nerve damage, paralysis, blindness and more. I will refer you to registered dietician Jack Norris’ site for more information on B12 and how to take it.

I’ve encountered vegans and omnivores who have an extreme phobia of taking supplements. They feel it is somehow “unnatural” or damaging. Natural is a very subjective term – you can take almost anything we do today and pass judgment on whether it is natural or not. Yes, taking supplements is not something we did 5000 years ago, but dying at age 30 was. Of course, I love to eat more “natural” foods and pursue an idealized sense of nature, but I try and not get attached to the label or the idea of something being natural.

Supplements and isolated vitamins are human-made tools to assist us in preventing deficiencies, treat our ills or make life a little simpler. While taking a multivitamin is no replacement for good diet, it certainly helps, so if you find yourself not eating up to par all of the time (as we all do), it may be worthwhile to take a good quality vegan multivitamin everyday or supplement with the vitamin or mineral you may be lacking. In the case of veganism, B12 takes center stage as a must-have vitamin.

4. Reach out and participate in the vegan community.

Whether it be through blogging, pot lucks, meet-ups, pod casts, websites or protests, there is certainly no lack of activities and ways in which you can connect with fellow vegans. Creating connections helps us feel a part of something greater, which can be a huge help to maintaining a vegan lifestyle long-term. Personally, I’ve found the connections I’ve made through online channels to be invaluable.

5. Read, research and learn.

Unless you have the knowledge base, it becomes incredibly difficult to navigate the non-vegan world as a vegan. I find that the adage of “knowledge is power” rings true in particular for staying vegan. The more you understand your dietary and lifestyle choice, the more personal it becomes and the better equipped you are to deal with the ups and downs. It also helps to learn about your dietary options, discover new recipes or find out where you can buy awesome vegan shoes, plus you may end up creating lasting connections in the process.

6. Learn to prepare your own food and to cook.

Like moving out of the novelty stage of veganism, it’s good to move out of the junk-food vegan stage as well – not just for your veganism, but also for your health. Junk foods and processed foods can still be a part of your life, but on a day-to-day level, you need to be able to make yourself meals or being vegan can become costly and overwhelming very quickly.

I conquered my fear of the kitchen and cooking in general through a very gradual process. I started by watching my husband cook and prepare recipes, then started to help him and eventually, he became the sous-chef and I the cook! Recipe sites, recipe books and having a well stocked pantry certainly help ease the process. Don’t expect to want to learn to cook when you have to start off making a complex and unfamiliar dish, so start simple. Even if you feel you don’t have the time or aren’t all that interested in cooking, you can help yourself a lot by making basic things like steamed vegetables, baked tofu and brown rice. Also investing in time-saving small appliances or kitchen gadgets helps. When you can prepare yourself delicious vegan meals, you are less likely to falter and more likely to feel good about your vegan lifestyle.

Well that’s the end of my forever vegan tips, I am sure I will elaborate and discuss some of these tips moreĀ  in the future.

Quick Links: Informative Vegan Perspectives

A recent article in the New York Times called “The Challenge of Going Vegan” certainly made not one, but both of my eyebrows rise.

I really appreciate this thoughtful analysis of the article, which pretty much sums up my thoughts on it.

I also liked the Vegan R.D’s perspective.

Forever vegan? Tips to stay vegan. Part 2.

Yet another day of beautiful west coast (BC, Canada) weather. I spent the day at a meeting with my pseudo-boss/client, then ran errands with my husband (CS) in preparation for our move next week. I work as a virtual assistant/website editor/copy-editor from home, which is pretty much my dream job that I have been able to transition into over the last year. Although I am not “using” my university degree, I am much happier pursuing lifestyle over career.

Read more…

Forever vegan? Tips to stay vegan. Part 1.

I wanted to start off my little corner of the blogosphere with a series of post combining lessons learned from my vegan journey and hopefully, some useful information on staying vegan.

I’ve lived a vegan lifestyle for almost four years and prior to that, I was a vegetarian since my late teens. So, for almost eight years, I’ve remained a committed vegĀ (I refer to veganism, and/or vegetarianism together as ‘veg’) head and I don’t foresee that ever changing.

Read more…