By Elisabeth Morgan
I think I was in 6th-7th grade, roughly 12-years-old, when I decided to become a vegetarian. Honestly, I’m not sure if I knew or understood what I was doing. What I did know was that I loved and felt deeply connected to animals, someone had told me being a vegetarian was healthier and I liked that, and that I was always up for defiance.
Defiance it was. It seemed like it threw everyone for a loop. I’ve grown up in a meat loving family that didn’t take vegetarianism, or veganism, very seriously. My friends didn’t understand it, and school lunches certainly didn’t cater to it. But my younger self was fueled by this little rebellion (shout out to my pop-punk phase that I never grew out of), and so I persisted.
I won’t lie to you though, I broke the codes once or twice, and sometimes for a month or two. I’m not sure why, but it probably had to do with convenience, a lack of support, knowledge, and purpose for what I was doing. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that things really changed.
I decided to watch the “Meet Your Meat” documentary created by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. To say the least, I was not ready for the number of tears I was going to shed. I think it goes this way for a lot of us. The moment you watch one of the factory farming documentaries it’s as if a switch goes off in your brain.
It’s as if the little voice narrating your life in your head starts yelling, “No. I can’t be a part of this, I won’t.”
After I watched that video I never went back, or even considered going back to eating meat. I researched. I wasn’t quiet when people poked fun at me. I wanted to know why treating animals like that was legal, I wanted to know why there wasn’t more people speaking out (there was, I just hadn’t found that community yet), I wanted to know why no one had ever told me, I wanted to learn every single fact I could about the meat and dairy industry. After that video I was an activist for life, I haven’t watched a factory farming documentary since and I probably won’t.
But, becoming a vegan was much more difficult for me. Not eating meat was one thing, in fact it was entirely easy. After watching “Meet Your Meat,” I wanted to be a vegan so badly. I tried, several times, to make the switch and always ended up falling back into vegetarianism. I had so many questions but no one to ask, at the time I was still in high school and trying to work a full-time job, and back then cheese alternatives were not what they are today. So, transitioning my life was on the back burner.
Until 2016. I graduated in May, turned 18, decided to take a half year off from school, and found myself one beautiful June afternoon sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble with several books about vegetarianism/veganism in front of me. It took one line to change me forever. I really wish I remembered the book and exact quote but sadly I don’t, however it went something like this: If you’re a vegetarian for animal rights and ethical reasons then you’re ultimately a hypocrite, the dairy industry is just as cruel as the meat industry. (I have all the love for my vegetarian friends, this was just a big moment for me in my journey.)
I walked out of Barnes & Noble that day inspired and determined to be a vegan. I did all the research on how to maintain a well-balanced diet so no one could tell me that I was lacking protein or B12, and never looked back.
It may have taken a few weeks to fully get there, but I did, and it’s been my biggest passion and life purpose since.
I went vegan for a multitude of reasons, but by far the most important in my book was animals. My entire life I have felt a deep connection to other living beings and I can’t imagine a life where I’m not advocating for them every day. As an intensely empathetic person, there’s not another way that I could live my life.
Now, almost 4 years vegan, I have a wonderful support system everywhere I look. Though I am the only vegan in my family, my parents are thoughtful and mindful of my lifestyle and often cook vegan meals for the family so I can enjoy it too. Besides my roommate at school, none of my friends are vegan but support me in various ways (my favorite is when they eat cruelty free with me, come to my favorite vegan restaurant Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, or ask me about vegan makeup brands to buy). I feel lucky every day to be able to connect with other vegans through social media, and have many people I look up to and learn from everyday just by following them.
I’m an animal rights activist, an environmentalist, and a lover of great food- overall, I’m a vegan because I want to live the kindest life I can possibly live.
Elisabeth is a 21-year-old journalism major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is VeganZine’s upcoming summer intern! Veganism is her passion! When she’s not cooking, deciding which restaurant to eat at, or thinking about what kind of food she wants to eat next, you can find Elisabeth hiking with her pup Dewey, laughing with her best friend Sophia, listening to true-crime podcasts, studying astrology (she’s a Taurus, so she’ll be turning 22 soon!), reading, or watching a great show or film. You can follow her on Instagram: @elisabethmorgan to see more vegan-related content, or if you’re looking for another supportive vegan friend!