The Vegan Lifestyle

Most of what comes up when you announce that you’re vegan is food-related choices. What has kind of been lost in translation, is that vegan really is a lifestyle, not just a dietary choice.

Technically speaking, vegetarianism is eating a plant-based diet. So, what is commonly considered vegetarian these days is actually an “ovo-lacto-vegetarian”, meaning a vegetarian who also consumes eggs (ovo) and dairy (lacto). Then, there are the people who are ovo-lacto-vegetarians plus fish, called pescetarians. What strikes me as funny is that there’s such a wealth of terms out there, but they’re falling into disuse–just when they’re needed most.

I try to be a strict vegan. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes I get home, read the ingredients and find I missed that ever-popular “milk ingredients”. It happens infrequently, but it still happens.

As a strict vegan, I avoid all products made from animals, not just those I eat, but also those I wear, craft with and use in my home. What I want to do here is talk about a few common products that I avoid, and why, because a lot of questions come up about them.

1. Bee products – including honey, beeswax and pollen

A lot of people think that bees aren’t harmed in the harvesting of these products, but it’s just not true. With commercialization comes corner cutting. So while I cannot speak for the smaller, more considerate operations, the larger ones use smoke that hurts the bees, have pollen collectors that can take off wings or legs, and the replacement for the consumed honey is a cheap sugar syrup that isn’t enough to sustain them through the winter months. I don’t think that’s okay, so I don’t consume the bee related products.

2. Silk

Some silk is harvested quite nicely, without injuring the silkworms. But, the majority is harvested by boiling the worms alive in their silk cacoons. Since I really don’t like the idea of being boiled alive, I try to avoid these products too.

3. Wool

I was actually a couple of months into being a vegan before I realized what the commercial industry has done to enhance wool production. In order to produce more wool, the sheep, especially merino, have been bred to have extra folds in their skin. More surface area means more wool. But the folds come with their own problems, including having flies nest in them. The solution that farmers have come up with, which is more than a little disturbing to me, is known as mulesing.

As a knitter, not being able to use silk or wool is frustrating, although the vegan varieties of yarn are still impressing me. What I find even more frustrating is when the woman at my local yarn store questions my beliefs and reminds me that the sheep are not killed to produce the wool. It is not the first time I’ve hard that argument, and it probably won’t be the last. But! it is my choice and definitely not her problem, it only makes it more difficult for me.

What I really, really want to emphasize here is that if done carefully, those three types of products are totally achievable in a humane and wonderful way. But because there is just SO MUCH demand, corner cutting has led to some (what I consider) nasty practices, even in what are considered innocuous products in large scale operations.

And that is why I don’t consume those products.

Are there any other ingredients you’ve been wondering about where they fall on vegan/non-vegan and why?

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The Name Change

There are two common questions one receives shortly after getting married. The first is, “Are you going to change your name?” and the second is, “When are you going to have kids?”. Actually, I was asked both of those questions months before we got married, but that’s beside the point.

Ignore the winter man hands, please...

Ignore the winter man hands, please…Just focus on the pretty rings.

The name issue has been on my mind a lot lately. Why? Well, my passport expires in 1 month. So I either do the easy renewal process and keep my name for the next X years, or I do the full application now (as in, “I’ve never had a passport before” kind of application). After, of course, changing my driver’s license, care card and sin card. Can I get all that done in a month? Not likely.

In an ideal world, I’d change my name to use both last names. But that requires a full legal name change. Which is expensive, and requires surrendering my birth certificate. It means I have to give up my last name retroactively. And more than anything else, that bothers me. I did not spend my whole life waiting for this marriage, and it is just one part of my life. But I either have to give up my past, or keep my last name and have multiple last names in our little family, or take his last name now. What kind of choices are those?

It’s time for a change, oh big government. It’s time for people to be able to easily use both legal names after marriage. Also, it’s time for you to have a unified government body to help us with these changes, because honestly it’s looking like at least 6 months to get all this done. Not too excited about that.

I’m not left with many choices. I have 2 priorities here: one is to share at least half of my last name with my husband and future children, and the other is to not waste a year of my life and give up a big chunk of my past to do so.

Currently, I am inclined to legally take my husbands name, and in all non-official capacities, use both last names. But I must admit, half of me just wants to keep my last name because I don’t want to go through the gigantic hassle of changing it. However, the other half of me knows that isn’t a good enough reason not to do it.

Wish me luck?

Did you or your spouse change your name after marriage? Why or why not?

Going Vegan: The Response

So as a previous post mentioned, I’m trying to go vegan. It has been a very eye-opening experience so far. It was amazing how both of our families have been so supportive and done their best to accommodate (even over the holidays!). And some of the responses I’ve received from non-family have been very…interesting.

Top 5 most interesting responses, and my thoughts about them:

  1. “Oh wow, that’s so great for you! I could never do that!”

This, however, actually splits into two separate issues:

a)  “I could never give up meat / dairy / eggs”

Not even 5 years ago, I insisted that I enjoyed meat too much to give it up. Now, it’s a bit gross.

Just 6 months ago (probably less), I was insistent that I could never give up dairy. I LOVE ice cream. It is my comfort food, and one of my great joys in life. It is the treat you could use to bribe me to do almost anything. I had a friend say to me after learning I went vegan, and I quote, “I am so shocked, though. Ice cream was like your vice.”

(Fortunately for me, there are non-dairy ice cream alternatives, like coconut milk ice cream and sorbet, otherwise my mood would be permanently down the tubes.)

Sure, there were (and are) transition periods, but the cravings eventually tapered off. I don’t even crave cow’s milk ice cream that much anymore.

b)  “It’s just too much work”

I’m going to turn on the sass a bit here, but that’s really just a copout. Yes, it would be hard, and yes, it would take work. But don’t all the best things take work? If they don’t, then they don’t really feel that good in the end.

2.  “How do you get enough protein / vitamins?”

Here’s the thing: fruits and veggies have tons of nutrients! The more one incorporates into their diet, the better — vegan or not. As for the protein, there are tons of alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs out there! (i.e. soy, beans and nuts).

3.  “What do you eat instead?”

I drink unsweetened almond milk and have it on my cereal instead of cow’s milk. I eat coconut milk based ice cream. I eat dairy-free dark chocolate (I highly recommend this one). The cheese dilemma has not been solved but I’m fairly hopeful about the daiya fake cheese we just got. I eat tofu and quinoa and beans and greens and fruit.

Honestly, I have never enjoyed fruit and vegetables so much. They were always a chore, before, but now, they taste pretty frickin’ amazing. I marvel at how after stuffing myself (not good, I know, but it’s so tasty) with a raw vegan meal, I can walk for long periods of time without getting nasty stomach cramps.

4.  “How’d you “convince” [force] your fiance to do it?”

Here’s the truth: I didn’t. He was as ready to take the plunge as I was. I find it very hurtful to have people tell me that they think I would force someone into making that change. It’s a huge change, and the only person I can make that decision for is myself.

5.  “Why?”

Because I love all animals and think they deserve to have a good, humane, life and death. Because I care about my health and after thinking about it enough I really started to wonder about all the crap I’ve been putting in my body over the years.

And there you have it. Overall, I’m really impressed with how people are taking it. It wasn’t too many years ago when I treated veganism with equal parts shock and dismay. How different it feels from the other side!

What experiences have you had where you made a big life change and got mixed responses?