Many people find the transition to veganism easy, but some people have a hard time with it. A few make the transition overnight; for others, it will be a gradual process spanning weeks, months, even a year or more. Old habits are hard to break, and new habits can be hard to form. I went vegetarian for a year in 1995 before I went vegan on July 24, 1996. The only thing to keep in mind is to get to the state of total veganism sooner rather than later. The animals are counting on it, especially cows on dairy farms and hens on egg farms. As I've already said on countless occasions, and on this website, the beef and dairy industries are inextricably linked, as are the chicken and egg industries. Cows who can no longer produce milk profitably, and hens who can no longer lay eggs, are sent IMMEDIATELY to slaughter. And that's not even to account for their misery while they're imprisoned, tortured, inseminated, and forced to act as egg- and milk-producing machines. Therefore, even if you consume no meat, there is NO way you can cause little impact when consuming milk and eggs. Don't be fooled by claims to the contrary.
Furthermore, don't buy into the agriculture industries' self-contradicting language suggesting that their products have been "farmed humanely." Terms like free-range/freedom/organic/cage-free/antibiotic-free/hormone-free/grass-fed/buying local are slick advertising scams used to trick people into buying cruel, deadly products. These marketing ploys don't benefit the animals; they simply make meat, dairy and egg-eaters feel better by convincing them that the animals enjoy being on the menu!
Start eating a variety of fruits for breakfast, such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, kiwis, watermelon, cantaloupe and raspberries. Or blend a combination of two to four fruits into a smoothie. A bagel with Tofutti cream cheese, or peanut butter and jelly, makes a good snack, breakfast or lunch. Peanut isn't the only nut butter, by the way. Try almond, cashew and macadamia butters. Nearly all the bagels at Bruegger's, Tim Horton's, and Sheetz are vegan (check out the Vegan Breads, Bagels, and Other Baked Goods page). Avoid eating inordinate amounts of white bread, white rice and pastas, as well as excessive amounts of sugar. Refined carbohydrates and sugars can lead to unexpected health problems. Bananas, peaches, kiwis, plums, carrots, cucumbers, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds or walnuts make great snacks throughout the day. Dip veggies in hummus for a great snack or meal.
For lunch or dinner, have a veggie burger instead of a hamburger. Cook vegan meats the same way you cook meat. Barbecue it, bake it, fry it or grill it, and use the same sauces, spices and toppings. Tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, cucumbers, pickles, hot sauce, mustard, ketchup or MY FAVORITE—VEGENAISE—are a must! Vegenaise is a soy-based mayo and it is OUT OF THIS WORLD! Earth Balance also has a delicious soy-free, gluten-free mayo. When dining out, investigate some ethnic foods. Order Aloo Gobi (cauliflower), Aloo Palak (spinach) or Chana Masala (chick peas) at an Indian restaurant. Make sure these items are made without cheese, cream or ghee (butter). Get falafel, hummus, tabouli and fatoush at a Middle Eastern place. Eat the many egg-free pastas at Italian restaurants, and add lots of broccoli, mushrooms, garlic or other vegetables. Order a cheeseless pizza with extra sauce and veggies. Just make sure the dough and sauce are made without animal ingredients. Hit those Asian restaurants and substitute tofu for meat, or avoid the tofu altogether and have a vegetable stir-fry (order it without fish/oyster sauce). Finally, you can always eat broccoli, asparagus or eggplant for dinner. YES, vegetables are a meal in and of themselves. Have a look at the Restaurants and Grocers and Vegan Recipes pages for tons of great ideas.
Don't forget about the veggie sub at Subway (order it on Italian bread); it's the cheapest item on their menu. Order the bean burrito without cheese at Taco Bell, too. It is the cheapest fast-food item around, and it's vegan. If you order a cheeseless pizza at Papa John's (their sauce and dough are vegan), it is the same price as a pizza with cheese. When eating at ethnic restaurants, you'll find that their vegan items are the same price or cheaper than the meat entrées. So there is no extra expense there.
Sometimes it takes extra effort to care, but I am always willing to put in extra effort to make sure OTHERS don't suffer and die for me. If the cafeteria at your school isn't offering enough veg food, get some students together and walk into the cafeteria office and ASK for more veg food. No need to scream or yell or protest, just peacefully demand that they cater to you and your fellow vegetarians/vegans. Rice and beans are super cheap, too, and easy to cook. And so are lentils. You might sometimes have to bring to school a lunch or dinner that you made at home, thereby consuming valuable time that you might have spent studying, or partying; but consider the victim's point of view. If YOU were destined to be imprisoned, enslaved, tortured, and finally killed, wouldn't you pray that somebody else would make that effort so you don't have to suffer and die?
First and foremost, you MUST learn the facts about veganism. I recommend using this website to get all the information—and all the arguments—you will need to refute the lies that people will throw your way. Start with the articles in this section, All About Veganism. Then peruse the Other Animal Rights Issues section to learn more about all the other issues involving animals, beginning with the essay on Animal Intelligence.
Veganism is easy as pie once you get used to it. So keep thinking compassionately and logically about this issue and you will be vegan before you know it.
Dealing with Resistance from Friends, Family Members, and Strangers
For clarity's sake, let me just add this about dealing with people who might give you a hard time with your new lifestyle. Unethical people—whether they are friends, family members, or strangers—should not be advising ethical people on how to live their lives. You need to do what you now know to be true. So don't let others bring you down. Misery loves company; those who still eat meat, dairy and eggs are drowning in misery, and would love some company. So stay strong. The animals are counting on you to make compassionate decisions.
I do have some bad news, though. Friends and family ARE the toughest people to talk to about veganism. Naturally, this hurts the most because they are the closest to us. But there is hope. My father made the transition to veganism in 2002, almost five years after we stopped discussing the issue. So you never know when logic and evidence will break through. Unfortunately, our friends and parents—like most people on this planet—are completely full of shit because their parents lied to them, whose parents were lied to by their parents, who were lied to by their parents . . . you get the picture. But now you have the power to end this vicious cycle of lies. Don't let people who refuse to protect the lives of innocent beings offer you advice, or run your life. Stand up, and be strong. Speak for the animals as YOU would want to be spoken for if you were in their position. Do what's right instead of trying to please your parents and fit in with your friends. As French philosopher André Gide said, "It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you're not."
Besides Darin, a dear friend of more than 35 years, I lost every other meat, dairy and egg-eating acquaintance along the way. You will find out quickly who your REAL friends are. They will either make the transition to veganism, or regurgitate lies and trite excuses such as "God says it's okay." Just so you know, some vegans allow others to eat meat, dairy and eggs in front of them. I choose not to. My table is always vegan. I, for the record, do not condemn fellow vegans who want to let others eat animal products in front of them because they want to show them how good vegan food truly is, and make them (subliminally) feel guilty about their meals. This will be your decision.
I do not have a magical remedy for making friends, strangers or family listen. But if you ALWAYS speak the truth, know your facts, and let your passion come out, people WILL listen. Please do NOT hide your passion, or your emotions. Passion and emotion get a bad rap, but that's only because people respond to both, so the unethical people in our society are always trying to mock people for being passionate and emotional. Remember, Susan B. Anthony, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and many, many others, were ALL passionate and emotional about the causes they embraced.
A website called VegFamily.com might offer some help with friends and family. But don't drive yourself insane with people who refuse to change their violent lifestyles when the truth is presented to them. Positive change can only happen when people let go of barbaric habits and bloodthirsty rituals. Since religion, governments, schools and the media have been brainwashing people to act evilly to the animal kingdom, de-programming people and turning them into compassionate souls is a difficult task. Sympathize with these misinformed folks, try to enlighten them and give them a chance to comprehend. But if you see no progress at all, move on to someone else. I stopped talking about veganism with my dad years before he made the switch because he never listened (or he apparently wasn't listening), and then one day it made sense to him. Plant the seed, and hope it grows.
As Gandhi once said, "Even if you are only one person, the TRUTH is still the truth." The strongest people stand alone. And no matter how many others you convert, you HAVE made a difference by going vegan. You might want to memorize a few quotations of prominent vegans and social-justice activists, and use these quotes to introduce your new conversations.