My vegan epiphany
A few times in life, you experience epiphanies. Small moments of insight and understanding which have the power to turn your life to the better and change how you view the world. I’ve had a few during my lifetime; the first when I realized in a moment of pure joy how traveling is what sets my heart on fire.
My deep love for travel later turned into a life mission of conquering borders: I realized what’s important is to create unity in a world of diversity and to never let judgements and stereotypes define my view of the world.
My second epiphany carved the way for my vegan future. 7 years back, in the shadows of a beautiful tree in the Indian state of Gujarat; I made the choice. To me, it all boiled down to a simple question: When given the choice, why harm another living creature to feed and maintain my own lifestyle? Why kill to stay alive when I have the option not to? In that moment, I choose to quit meat, to quit dairy and to thrive only on what is found in the kingdom of plants.
I still don’t know what triggered it. Maybe it was the fact that I had just moved to a state and country where eating meat was the exception, not the norm. Or maybe it was because I was presently immersed in delicious vegetarian food from the Indian cuisine? I still don’t know, but what I do know is that since that moment, I never looked back and I will never regret. Travel changes you. It opens up doors that have previously felt closed, and it introduces you to ways of living so different from your own that you can’t help but to be amazed.
Whatever it was, up until this particular October day, I had been beyond average in love with beef. I loved bacon and just the week before I had enjoyed a fantastic Carbonara in Udaipur’s stunningly beautiful Lake Palace. So what suddenly changed? My intuition told me to stop, that changed. During that exact moment in time, under that beautiful tree in the Indian state of Gujarat, I realized that how the world organizes around food is wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. Half of us starve while the rest are obese. We confuse life with death and compassion with power. We oppress others to feed ourselves, when it is really not needed. Our entire food system is flawed and it is about time we realize.
In the wake of my epiphany, I researched speciesism and factory farming, humane slaughtering and breeding for meat production, antibiotics and chemicals, GMOs and land usage in food production. Then I did the math. In order to kill 150 million land animals a day for human consumption (3 billion if you include fish), you need one hell of a logistics system. To feed the world with the beef it demands, you need 60% of the world’s agricultural land, or if you like details: 30 million square kilometers. Research taught me that neither meat nor dairy are necessary to maintain good health. It taught me that meat and dairy produced through modern factory farming is so tempered with that you can barely call it food. Stress, chemicals, extensive breeding and antibiotics define the “production” process. Economics of scale are prioritized over animal welfare. In fact, the logistics of today’s farming industry is nothing less than an artwork. Let’s use milk as an example: From artificial semen collection from bulls and forced insemination of cows - from pregnancies defined by small confined spaces to separating the calf from the mother at birth - from connecting the mother to a modern milk machine to long-haul transport on the day of slaughter; the entire process of milk production is streamlined to the core. Throughout my research, I kept asking myself; how can animal welfare be maintained in such a system? The question has a simple answer: It can’t.
If you one day find yourself sitting in silence, maybe under a beautiful tree in a magnificent garden like I did, you will realize too…or maybe you already know deep down…that this is wrong. And maybe right there, just like me, you will feel the epiphany. You will ask yourself; “why kill to stay alive when I don’t have to”?
With the resources and food options available today, going vegan is a piece of cake! Wherever you are and wherever you go, options are available. Since I turned vegan, I have lived in Norway, India, Thailand and Malawi. Nowhere have I struggled to find good food. All different, but all good. I have travelled from the beautiful plains of Serengeti to the impenetrable rainforests of Uganda. From Kenya’s gorgeous savannahs to the white-sand beaches of Sri Lanka. From the untouched coast of Mozambique to the charming streets of Burma. Form the traditional mountain villages of Laos to the shores of Vietnamese islands. Nowhere have I struggled. Nowhere have I not met fantastic waiters going out of their way to make me a meal! I admit I faced some difficulties on a bus trip in Morocco’s Rif Mountains, but there I could’ve planned better. And yes sometimes I just have to accept that boring iceberg salad with French fries on the side, but it’s worth it. Every iceberg leaf of it is worth it.
This article is a part of the #StartingWithTheSelf campaign: A collection of inspiring stories designed to motivate you in your quest to make positive changes for an inclusive world.