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The Pioneer

My vegan journey: Transitioning from carnivore to herbivore

Illustration by Dina Arakcheyeva/The Pioneer

Illustration by Dina Arakcheyeva/The Pioneer

Evelyn Tijero,
Photographer

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Six months ago, I decided I was tired of consuming food that put corpses on my plate, so I became vegan.

Being vegan is a lifestyle that avoids all animal food products such as meat, milk, cheese, eggs and honey. It also excludes products like leather, and products tested on animals, according to The Vegan Society, a website that offers advice and support for vegans.

When I became vegan, I didn’t do the transition many do by first going vegetarian and then vegan. I immediately cut all animal products out of my diet. My typical breakfast now consists of oatmeal, avocado on toast, orange juice, bananas or almond milk. For lunch I often make a chickpea “tuna” melt: chickpeas, vegan mayonnaise, bell peppers, green onion, and vegan cheese on top of a bagel or English muffin. I also make some really good sandwiches when I’m not feeling creative to cook. I have to plan ahead for dinner in case I need to go grocery shopping. I’ve made enchiladas with potatoes, vegan cheese and onion, sweet potato fries, sweet potato soup and stuffed bell peppers. For dessert I like vegan cheesecake.  

Becoming vegan has improved my cooking as well as my creativity. My siblings and friends keep asking me if I regret going vegan or if their is something I miss eating since not consuming any sort of animal products. But for me there’s no looking back. I don’t regret my decision whatsoever.

Growing up, whenever my family would buy menudo, a typical Mexican breakfast dish, I only wanted the caldo — the savory reddish broth — not the stomach or tongue or other unmentionable pig body parts it contains. As for posole, a traditional Mexican dish, I only wanted the grains. I was picky when it came to meat, and spent so much time picking meat out of my food at events. Going out to eat, I always chose the vegetarian option.

As a little girl, I once watched three yellow baby chicks running around a muddy field as I chased after them bare-footed. My blond locks swayed as I ran, I had a huge grin from ear to ear. I was promised to take home a baby chick as my first pet. When I was called for dinner that night, the fear in my eyes was evident. The hot plate in front of me contained veggies, beans, rice and the main course was my new little friend. I was devastated and traumatized. I had lost a friend and my appetite.

As traumatizing as that was for me, I continued to eat meat. Not because I loved it, but because I was forced to eat it by my parents. They said it was essential in my life.

I have always loved fruits and vegetables, so when I became vegan in early August, I immediately liked it. I learned a lot from my friend Josue Aguilar who had already been vegan for two years to improve some health issues he had. I learned from him that transitioning is not difficult at all. If you’re doing it for good reasons, the process is easier. I felt at ease knowing that I had a friend to count on.

It was difficult at first. My parents and siblings told me I wouldn’t last. They gave me a week. They kept asking me why I would I do such a thing. But the same question kept going through my head: how can one eat something that was once alive? How can one be disgusted about the idea of eating a dog or any type of pet, but not feel disgusted about the idea of eating a cow, or a chicken? What is the difference between domesticated animals and non-domesticated ones? They both have lives.

Eating at home is difficult. Living with carnivores is not always easy, especially if they show a lack of support. My siblings would enjoy eating animal flesh in front of my face and talk about how tasty it was. They tried to break me. My willpower got me through it: I knew I was improving my health, saving an animal’s life and helping the environment.

Based on my past physical exams, I was always considered to be overweight, but I am proud to say that I have lost weight. Since becoming vegan, I’ve noticed my physical performance change as well.

Roughly one million Americans are vegan, and 79 percent of them are women, according to Top RN to BSN, a website for nursing students. As I continue my journey as a vegan I’m constantly learning new things. Vegan cookbooks, like “But I Could Never go Vegan” and “Decolonize your Diet” have helped me converting non-vegan foods to vegan foods. I’ve found fast and easy vegan meals through Youtube and an app called Vegan has connected me with many other vegans.

My family has begun to change. They don’t plan to go vegan but they becoming more open to the idea. Communication is key. Many people ask, what do vegans even eat? Trust me, it’s not just all salads and tofu. It’s just plant-based. The next recipe I’m going to try is cauliflower buffalo wings.

Knowing that my meals don’t contain any animal products makes me happy. That somewhere I prevented an animal from entering the slaughterhouse is a great feeling.

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My vegan journey: Transitioning from carnivore to herbivore