I've been vegan for over 11 years now. Originally, I went vegetarian without knowing much about it other than that it involved choosing not to eat animals. I became vegan a year or two later for health reasons (milk allergy and lactose intolerance), again, not really knowing much about it. My understanding and knowledge about being vegan has grown a thousandfold since then. Once I started meeting other people who were veg/vegan, my whole idea about it changed. Through reading, asking questions, and listening well, I became more educated about veganism and the impact on the planet and on animals themselves of consuming living creatures for food and utilizing them for human purposes. I choose it as a lifestyle now for deep ethical, spiritual, and moral reasons. Every year I have been vegan, my veganism and the ethics, morals, and beliefs that have formed around it and because of it have grown more complex and more deeply ingrained.
Today I am vegan because I want to try my best to honor and respect all beings as equally deserving of compassion, love, and freedom. Being vegan is about intentionally living compassionately and with love toward all beings, and choosing a way of being in the world that has as little and as positive an impact as possible. I am vegan to give back to Earth, to help to heal it rather than take from it. I am vegan to maintain a healthy mind, body, spirit, and soul. As best as I can, I want to live as an example of how to walk tenderly, harm minimally, love fully, and lead with a compassionate heart, and to learn from others who are doing the same. Living compassionately spreads love. I am vegan to hopefully help to counter all of the fear, hatred, and cruelty out there with peace, kindness, and openness, while also attempting to make up for my own negative crap I send into the world.
My reasons for being vegan aren't all pretty and all about love and peace and happy-happy, joy-joy, though. There's an ugly, insidious part of it. Every day, millions of animals endure intense, incomprehensible suffering or die lonely, prolonged, painful deaths at the hands of humans who treat them as worthless objects. Animals have souls, too. They are sentient beings that think and feel and hurt, develop lasting communities and families, and build strong attachments and loving relationships. Most of us live in a society where exploitation of animals for human purposes is not only condoned and justified but also turned a blind eye to, the experience of many other marginalized populations around the globe.
On farms, in rodeos or circuses, in puppy mills or fur farms, trapped in a pharmaceutical lab or the home of a callous pet owner, or hunted in the wild, so many animals are destined for lives filled with chronic abuse and neglect, hurt and confusion, grief and loss, and mistreatment of unimaginable proportions. And related industries like factory farming wreak havoc and destruction on the health of the environment and people. Most experience horrible, prolonged, painful deaths. I feel that any use of animal products on my part says that I'm okay with this, puts a stamp of approval on animal cruelty to further human ends and reinforces living beings being treated as objects. And from an energetic standpoint, the last thing I want to put in my body is any animal product that carries with it the trauma of a life and/or death of tragic suffering. For me, being vegan is a way of giving the animals a voice and honoring their lives so that they are no forgotten- they so desperately deserve and need that. I definitely do not live a "perfect" vegan life, if there is such a thing. I am fallible, and I find it hard as hell and pretty near impossible to be 100% vegan 100% of the time. But I try with all of me to do so.
It's kinda been a natural progression to move toward eliminating everything reasonably possible from my life that isn't compassionate, including materials used in creating my art and jewelry. Anything else feels 'unnatural' and incongruent with who I am, what I care about, and the impact (or lack of one) I want to make in the world. Plus, I put so much of my true self into creating things that to me (and hopefully others) are pure and convey beautiful things. Cruelty isn't beautiful. Materials that are derived from cruel methods or that dishonor other beings aren't beautiful.
Living a vegan lifestyle is strongly aligned with my spiritual and religious beliefs. I am a yogi and a Buddhist, as well as an advocate of rights for all beings, humans and animals and plants and the planet. Animals, human beings, and the planet- all are one, and in essence, of the same energy and spirit. I also don't think humans are any less valuable or have any less potential to be pure of heart and spirit than animals- we're all created equal and are all sacred beings. We just have much more of a chance and likelihood to become deluded or or lost and disconnected from love and compassion. Anyway, all of that stuff is entwined with being vegan for me, really hard to separate out.
I don't judge people for not living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. At any given time, everyone falls on a spectrum in terms of global awareness and what compassion means to them. That tends to change for people as they go through life and have different experiences. Each of us makes the decision that is best for us at the time, something only we can know. In my opinion, it's compassionate awareness, living from the heart, and deep understanding of the impact of choice and the consequences of inaction that are most important- how we live our lives tends to naturally follow intention and thought. The heart is never wrong.