Veganism is everywhere. It’s all over the news, grocery store aisles — even your friends and family are talking about it. Whether people choose a plant-based diet to save animals, manage cholesterol, get in shape, save the environment, or just to know what they’re putting in their body, the word “vegan” is making the shift from marginal to mainstream. But the one thing no one talks about is the #1 reason many vegan diets ultimately fail. To find out whether you’re heading for a cliff, you’ll need to ask yourself a simple question, the answer to which can spell victory or defeat in your quest to go vegan.
First, you need to understand that veganism isn’t a diet — it is a lifestyle. A diet is something you can go on and off for any given amount of time to achieve a short term result. A lifestyle incorporates diet with other aspects of your life into an ongoing, long-term solution.
So here it is, the most important question you will ask yourself on your vegan journey: “Why do I want to go vegan?”
The reason vegan diets fail
What is the reason vegan diets fail? They didn’t make the connection.
If you don’t believe hard enough in something, eventually you’ll start looking for a way out. Going vegan isn’t hard, but going vegan for the wrong reason can definitely make it that way. This is why there are so many ‘ex-vegans’ and ‘ex-vegetarians’.
When you make the connection you are making the connection between animal suffering and human suffering. You realize that in a beings ability to feel pain, we are all exactly the same and that because of this there is no difference between oppressing, exploiting and enslaving animals and oppressing, exploiting and enslaving humans.
You realize that just as racism, sexism and heterosexism exist, speciesism also exists. Just as there is nothing that would change your mind about any other form of discrimination being unjust, there is also nothing that will change your mind that speciesism is unjust. You understand that you cannot be against one form of discrimination but for another because doing so is morally inconsistent and hypocritical.
Typical reasons for “quitting” veganism
- Health — A lack of nutritional and/or culinary knowledge/creativity is usually to blame for many reformed ‘vegans’ going back.
- Hassle — Many people become overwhelmed by the learning curve and changes involved with a vegan lifestyle.
- Cravings — Many people have difficulties with self-discipline and ultimately cave when their weak motivation for veganism is tested.
- Social pressure — Social pressure can come from friends, family, the media — anywhere really — and can take its toll on people with weaker resolve.
- Ethics — As a way to ease their cognitive dissonance, many aspiring vegans cite ethics as their reason for going back after convincing themselves that if animals are slaughtered “humanely” and “sustainably” that this equates with slaughtering animals ethically. There is no such thing as “happy meat“.
You can’t quit veganism. You either get it or you don’t. Anyone who “used to be vegan” but isn’t vegan now, was never really vegan to begin with.
Slavery, oppression and exploitation
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“If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the civil war, don’t look at where you stand on slavery today. Look at where you stand on animal rights.” ~ Captain Paul Watson
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The Golden Rule
The best reason to go vegan is an ethical obligation to treat all sentient beings with the same care and respect we would expect to receive ourselves. This is the universal law of respect, kindness and compassion, best known as ‘The Golden Rule‘ or ‘The Ethic of Reciprocity’.
This universal law applies to all living creatures because it is not based on whether they have dark skin, light skin, feathers, scales or fur; nor is it based on their level of intelligence or skill; nor is it based on their usefulness to any other being. The ethic of reciprocity is based on treating others with kindness based solely upon their ability to feel.
“If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit non-humans for the same purpose? If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.” ~ Peter Singer
Basically, if you wouldn’t like to have it done to yourself, don’t do it to animals.
There is no such thing as “try”
Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. No one expects you to be absolutely perfect while transitioning to a vegan lifestyle the first few times around — mistakes do happen. Many people don’t succeed on the first attempt, but the point is that they keep at it until they do succeed because it is something they strongly believe in. The ones who didn’t believe hard enough are the ones who failed and didn’t bother to go for it again.
“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” ~ Yoda
Notice how I never use the word “try”. Trying doesn’t mean anything — it gives you an excuse to not do. Many people “try” to go vegan but never actually do it because they keep focusing on trying rather than doing.
You either do something or you don’t. There is no middle. You don’t get an Olympic Gold Medal for “trying” — you get one for doing — for going the distance and succeeding. This is what separates the winners from the losers. Do you think Olympic athletes win every time? Of course not, but the point is that they don’t let a couple failed attempts discourage them from attaining their goal. Think like a winner, not like a loser.
Similar words include: “can’t”, “won’t”, “hard”, “but” and “impossible”.
Don’t allow any of these phrases to come out of your mouth:
…I can’t stop eating meat/cheese/eggs/etc.”
…my family isn’t vegan.”
…there aren’t any vegan options at my grocery store.”
…I’m not ready yet.”
These are cop-outs that keep you from taking ownership and responsibility for your own actions. They are not reasons — they are excuses.
Once you make the connection you’ll stop looking for excuses to give up, and start finding reasons to keep going.
I’m not saying that the only way to go vegan is “cold tofurky”. I didn’t come to veganism that way myself. It took a lot of trial and error, but eventually I got it right. We must eliminate the word “try” from our internal monologue and our vocabulary in relation to veganism because we need to be confident and steadfast in our belief that we will succeed.
How to make the connection
Making the connection cannot be contrived — it has to be genuine. Though you can’t force yourself to make the connection, there are certain things you can do to open your eyes and wake up. Some of the best ways are watching real footage of what billions of animals go through every day and what they are going through right now as you read this post.
Here are some good eye-openers:
Don’t just ‘feel bad’ — do something about it
Don’t mistake ‘feeling bad’ for the animals in these films for making the connection. Plenty of people watch the above films, feel bad (some even cry or vomit) and the next day you’ll find them at your local hamburger joint shoving rotting corpses down their gullet.
Don’t be one of these people.
You need to be strong in body, mind, and spirit and your belief in animal rights must be unshakable. Use your brain. Don’t just switch it off because you’re too preoccupied with your own gluttonous cravings and laziness to do the right thing.
Remember, slavery is slavery. Who do you stand with, the slaves or the slave masters?
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In conclusion, it’s understandable if your original reason to go vegan isn’t motivated by your desire to help animals. There are many benefits of a vegan lifestyle such as improved health, fitness and an improved environment for the planet.
Along your vegan journey you will constantly be learning and discovering new things. Discovering the connection between human sentience and animal sentience is vital to your success as a vegan because without knowing why you’re adopting a vegan lifestyle and without making the connection, you are guaranteed to fail.
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