30 Days of Veganism: Total Recap

Thirty days has gone by so quickly. When this experiment began, I thought it would be inconvenient and difficult, and at times it was. But what really caught me off-guard is how much I learned in these past 30 days.

I've learned that food can be really delicious and satisfying sans animal products. I had the best lasagna of my life and I now enjoy almond milk, vegan rice cheese, and meat alternatives. I see these products becoming a part of my everyday life. I've also found that Trader Joe's is an excellent resource for vegan-fare, from reasonably priced meat alternatives to pre-prepared lunches and snacks.

Although the exact definitions of "vegan" and "animal-free" still elude me, I learned that being entirely animal-free is nearly impossible, as animal products exist in many of the items we use daily; I struggled with what I called "Vegan Guilt" when I had a misstep; I spoke with Elisha Valdez from Real Food Daily, who encouraged me to be conscientious of this world and our impact on it, and not beat myself up over slip-ups.

From the trusted Dr. Debrier, I learned that there are health costs and benefits to both vegan and non-vegan diets. While cutting back on cholesterol-laden food such as milk and egg yolks may be healthy, such foods also inherently contain necessary components to our health, like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.

Santa Monica College's David Phillips, Professor of Psychology, taught me about the beef industry and its devastating effect on the environment. I learned that almost 3,000 pounds of fresh water and 18 pounds of grain must be used to raise one pound of beef. I watched videos exposing the atrocities committed on animals. In the documentary "Behind the Mask," I learned about the Animal Liberation front and how they liberate animals from unimaginable situations. I learned of Britches, a baby chimp rescued from UC Irvine, who had his eyes sewn shut from birth and was exposed to constant screeching for psychological testing. An undercover field officer for PETA discovered that in one lab when testing household items on animals, it was commonplace to rub the product into abraded skin, into the animal's eyes, or into their rectum or genitals. Ironically, because animal physiology is so different from ours, animal testing is largely inapplicable to humans.

I agree with the ethical issues surrounding the lifestyle, but am not sure if I'm ready to commit a hundred percent. I agree with Professor Phillips who said that it is much easier to be entirely vegan in your private life, and that in doing your best to cut out animal products, there are some exceptional situations. This will be my new approach on my diet and in the products I purchase.

Most of the hardships I faced were not because vegan products were unavailable but because friends and family treated me differently. When I told my grandma the experiment was over she said, "Thank god." My mom would jokingly say, "Oh, its vegan," about any food to avoid further conversation. A server at a restaurant called me "difficult," and a co-worker taunted me for not accepting his M&M's.

I slipped up on day ten and caught some flack, but didn't waver from the diet for the last 20 days. There are plenty of vegan options; many foods are inherently vegan, there are vegan substitutes for many of your favorite ingredients. Restaurants can accommodate your needs and you needn't starve. I don't feel the need to buy animal products for personal consumption in my home anymore. I don't find them necessary and I don't really miss them.

For those of us who aren't ready to go from zero to vegan in a day, there are little changes we can make. We can go meatless one day a week; we can remove our support of companies that test on animals; we can buy meat and dairy alternatives. I encourage everyone to read labels, research companies and truly be aware of the items we consume and recognize their effects on our bodies and our planet. I encourage everyone to be respectful of others' life choices, not to judge and to thoughtfully look at lifestyles different from yours. Happy (and humane) living everyone!