When I was in 2nd grade, I loved bologna sandwiches. Well really I loved bologna period. I loved the way it tasted, I loved biting out three little holes in it and wearing over my face as a mask, and I loved throwing it on the wall and watching it stick to things and then pretending I was helping my parent’s clean, peel it off, and eat it.

I was Miss Bologna Schroeder. Nothing could come between me and bologna…That is, until something did.

How It All Vegan (My Story)

Being ⅓ normal inquisitive child, ⅓  unusual know it all and ⅓ self-assigned queen of the Schroeder sisters, my older sister Marlaina not only loved learning but felt it was her scholarly, royal duty as an older sister, but mainly as queen, to collect information that my other sister Marina and I were not privy to yet, and then, to bestow it upon us as the kind and generous queen she was. She genuinely wanted everyone to be on the same page and to spread knowledge not only because of her tiny little child ego but also because she really did feel it was helpful as an older sister (yes, of course she’s a leo). It’s also Not a surprise that she became an educator later in life.

One day she excitedly came home from school and ran up to me while I was in the midst of hollowing out eye holes for bologna face mask and she spat out, “Marchesa! Do you know where bologna comes from?!” I giggled, thinking how silly, of course I do… “The bologna tree”. And she quickly replied “Nope! A pig! You’re eating a pig! Bologna is a crushed up pig!

No. No that couldn’t be true. No tell me that’s not true. “You’re lying!” I shouted as my voice quivered with fear and anger. As I tried to process what she was telling me, I felt a swell of heat race through my body. I felt sick to my stomach. As I tried to swallow the chewed up bologna that was already in my mouth it felt like i was forcing myself to swallow a metal ball of spikes.

My sister, slightly confused at my reaction yet still a child who was ill-prepared to comprehend what was happening continued on “Yes! It’s a pig. Like the animal with the long nose and eyes and ears. A pig!” I burst into tears, shaking my head in disbelief and screamed for my parents. As I cried uncontrollably hugging my parents, I repeated what my sister said, looking to them to ameliorate my fear of this being true and tell my sister she was wrong… but to my horror, they confirmed. I couldn’t fully fathom what was happening in a macro sense or even in a technical sense, I just knew it wasn’t right. I loved animals, I didn’t want them to die ever, let alone, eat them.

This is the moment that I became vegetarian.

As the story goes, after that incident, whenever it came time to eat, before I touched the food I would ask “Does this have a face?” I didn’t know about labels, being vegetarian, or the specifics of anything, I was in 2nd grade for buddhas sake. But what I did know is that I didn’t want to eat anything that had a face… I have a face. I love things with faces.

For the next 10 years I lived a vegetarian lifestyle to the best of my ability. That is, until I learned about Veganism in high school and have been Vegan ever since. Of course there were times along the way when I unknowingly ate meat. Also there were times, namely social situations where I was pressured by friend’s parent’s and others I didn’t know to eat meat and because I was young, I was unable to express or explain my position and to stand my ground.

That being said, I just celebrated my 11th year Veganniversary this last December! This is one of the most meaningful commitments I’ve had over the course of my life for a number of reasons, including the accolades that have come with it (being a finalist in Peta’s Sexiest Vegan contest, being featured in my college newspaper) but namely because it feels good to know that I have been living a life representative of my values.

When I first started writing this article, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it other than just explaining my story but I’d like to take a brief moment and talk about Veganism BUT not in the aggressive animal activist, pour red paint all over your fur jacket kind of way. I’d more so like to clear up some misconceptions and hopefully remind everyone to just be aware.

So as we know, I’m not a huge fan of labels and think psychologically they can pigeonhole and inhibit us but we do need to use them to convey a point. So I think it’s better to say you live a vegan lifestyle rather than you are a vegan. But of course, I use them both for simplicity.

What is A Vegan?

My definition of Veganism is non-consumption of any products or foods that are derived from an animal to the best of your ability.

This means not eating, wearing, or using any products with animal derivatives including those that come from insects. Although this is a separate thing, I also include avoiding products that test on animals. But that is an entirely different beast.

Go vegan

Why Do People Choose To Follow A Vegan Lifestyle?

Largely there are three main reasons why people choose to “go vegan”.

One is animal rights, they don’t agree with eating animals, they don’t like factory farming, and/or the don’t agree with unnecessary killing of animals.

The other reason people follow a vegan lifestyle is for health reasons – either their doctors have told them to cut out meat and dairy or they have decided on their own that it is best for their bodies to eat a herbivorous diet.

The third is for environmental and economic health – They don’t want to support the meat and dairy industries because they are one of the leading causes of climate change, deforestation, pollution, etc etc.

The Vegan Revolution

Now when I first became vegan when I was 15, very few people I talked to about it knew what it was. They didn’t even know how to pronounce it and most people, most people, would just call me a veggie.

There was no such thing as a “v” on a package denoting vegan products nor vegetarian products at that. I would go into grocery stores and have to read through all 78 ingredients on a food package before I figuring out that I couldn’t buy it. My sister and I even bought a book, it was an encyclopedia of sorts of all of the strange covert names for animal derivatives such as mono-and diglycerides, datem, and natural red # 4 and we would have to thumb through it until we finally memorized the main 20 we kept seeing.

Virtually no restaurants knew what Vegan was and if I wanted to eat at one, I’d need to email the corporate office to try and figure out what ingredients they put in their bread, pasta, tortillas, beans, whatever. There were some blogs and online information but it was not even a fraction of what we have now. It was often some obscure blog from a woo woo hippie vegan who, thankfully, had started to post communication they had with companies about vegan products but still very hard to find and navigate.

There were some vegan cheeses, milks, and meat alternative products on the market, that could only be found at specialty stores, very expensive, and were not great. To further convey the point, my wonderfully accepting and encouraging parents, asked my sister and I not to heat up any vegan cheese in the house because it was so putrid smelling. Admittedly, it was awful and it didn’t taste good.

Fast forward 11 years and look where we are at now! Holy spirit of good tasting vegan products, have things changed in the past decade.

We have vegan sections in stores, vegan restaurants and fast food places, festivals, vegan “meat” which is made completely out of plants that tastes so good, it’s winning awards OVER the actual animal meat products themselves, vegan dating apps, and amazing vegan cheeses that melt, smell good, and have won awards for tasting better than their dairy alternatives. I mean really, wow.

Veganism has become a giant movement, and for that, I am so grateful.

And not just for the immediate animals lives that are being saved but even greater than that. This signifies to me, a cultural shift in the way we are all operating. It tells me that we as a society are becoming more aware of the ethics of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and the associated impacts it may have. And not just for veganism, this is much more widespread than that.

Facts About The Meat & Dairy Industries

At this point so many people are aware of the negative impacts of the meat and dairy industries and meat and dairy in and of itself, so I don’t want to be redundant but I’d like to lay out a few facts that you can latch onto.

Here are some statistics:
  • According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2018, Americans are set to eat 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry per person, which is up from 216 lbs meat per person in 2017.
  • Americans eat more meat than any other group of people on earth.
  • Clinical studies show a correlation between consumption of meat and dairy products and cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and countless other illnesses.
  • Animal food production is one of the world’s leading causes of climate change.
  • The Guardian reported in December of 2017 that raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk generates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (which is the second highest source of emissions and greater than all transportation combined). It continues on to state that animal food production uses 70% of agricultural land and is one of the leading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.
  • Joseph Poore, who lead the research for a study at the University of Oxford, UK, and published the study in the Journal Science, said “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification [air pollution], eutrophication [water pollution], land use, and water use. (…) Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.” He explains that the reason he started the study was to discover if there were sustainable animal producers out there but over the course of the past 4 years of the study he has stopped consuming animal products completely because he feels the impacts are not necessary to sustain our current way of life.
Here are so more micro facts about products that many don’t know:
  • Often fruit such as apples and pears, are made to look glossy by being coated with shellac or carnauba wax… Shellac wax is a resin secreted by the lac beetle and they are often killed in the process of obtaining the wax.
  • Datem and mono and diglycerides are dough conditioners used in many baked products that are derived from animal sources unless specified on the package or by the company. I always avoid anything that has these two products in them.
  • Carmine (also known as Cochineal extract, crimson lake, natural red 4, and E120) is a red dye used to color food and cosmetics and comes from drying, crushing, and boiling the bodies of cochineal beetles. This product is in so many things including the beans at Del Taco, blush, lipstick, food, juice, eye shadow, etc.
  • A vegan burger called The Impossible Burger bleeds, sears, smells, and tastes like a real beef patty and is sold in many chains including Umami Burger and White Castle in addition to privately owned restaurants all over the U.S and even internationally including Hong Kong.
  • Mercy For Animals reports that there were 6 times as many vegan in America in 2017 than in 2014 and ethical eating and meat free diets were among the six key trends explored in a report by GlobalData
  • According to Veganbits, 69% of Vegans are motivated primarily by health reasons closely followed by Animal protection and environmental concerns.
  • According to Peta the most vegan-friendly cities in America are Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, CA, New York, NY, Detroit, MI; Nashville, TN, and San Diego, CA.

Want To Learn More About Veganism? Drop Me A Message! 

If you are interested in learning more about veganism or even simply exploring a plant-based diet, feel free to reach out to me! I have been in this game for awhile and I’m deeply aware of the potential obstacles, challenges, opportunities, and areas to improve upon in this Vegan journey. Even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian and are just curious, I’m here my friend!

There are also a ton of really helpful and great blogs to check out for more specific information and facts including: Peta, The Guardian, Mercy for Animals, The Vegan Society, Vegan, and Oh She Glows for vegan recipes. There are also some incredible vegan companies out there doing some amazing things with food including Memphis Meats, Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Daiya, Miyoko’s Kitchen (which is local to orange county), Treeline, Follow Your Heart, Tofurky, and Earth Balance.

Truth

A Call To Be Mindful & Aware

This isn’t necessarily a call to drop everything you are doing and become vegan. It is, however, a call to be mindful, aware, seek the truth, and to take back the reins from companies and corporations.

Be aware and seek the truth.

Know what you are eating. Know what is in the products you are consuming. Know where your products are coming from. Know how they are being made.

Are animals being tortured to make your deodorant? Did that hamburger you’re eating come from an animal that had been standing in it’s own fecal matter and blood, and was then pumped full of hormones and chemicals to combat any disease it may have had from the unsanitary and inhumane conditions from which it lived?

And even in a non-vegan sense, what chemicals and preservatives are in your food and how do they affect your body? What companies are funding the ads, articles, and media you are consuming? What are the agendas of these companies? Do they have your best interest in mind or are they looking to generate a profit at the expense of your health?

Be aware, ask questions often, seek the truth, and demand facts.

We have the power to change society and take control corporations.. We can and should have companies and big corporations working for us.. And not the other way around. We can and should have industries that are centered around our best interests as humans and not driven by greed and money.  

Together, we can and will make an impact.