Like many of us, I have always loved animals. As a child, I adored my pet cat, and I had a family of stuffed dogs that I took with me everywhere. I also didn’t like to see any animal (or insect) suffering – I remember once rescuing a grasshopper that was floating in the lake where I was swimming. I let it jump onto my raft and brought it back to shore.
Even though I loved animals, I was raised to believe that meat and dairy were necessary for my health and well-being. I enjoyed the meals my mother cooked, which generally involved some sort of meat, potatoes, and vegetables in a cheese or butter sauce.
I had little awareness of the animals who were bred, raised, and killed to be part of my daily meals. Growing up in Midwestern farm country, I only saw the cows grazing in the fields. I never saw the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – aka factory farms – that were kept out of sight.
In fact, I rarely thought about the fact that meat comes from animals. If this thought did cross my mind, it was fleeting. I did not see any other option. I had no idea what to eat if I stopped consuming meat or dairy. I was not the healthiest eater – often choosing what was convenient, easy, and comforting – fast food, microwave meals, chips, and sweets.
It wasn’t until I was 40 that I had my awakening. I saw a program about meat processing plants that shifted my awareness of the whole animal agriculture process – and I realized I did not want to participate in this anymore.
It was freeing – an epiphany that allowed me to live by values that I had long held. I was able to embrace my compassion. I no longer had to turn away from the truth about animal suffering – so that I could have a hamburger or fried chicken.
And far from being depriving as I had feared, a whole world of abundance opened for me. The very next day after watching that program, I tried out a recipe for roasted red pepper and artichoke lasagna. It was delicious, full of vibrant colors and sumptuous flavors. Wow, who knew I could cook?
I began trying spices, ingredients, and condiments I had never used before. I expanded my food palette and found new freedom, joy, and creativity.
When I stopped eating animals and embraced the bounty of the plant kingdom, I became freed in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
I was freed from past food preferences, habits, and addictions that weren’t healthy for me.
I was freed from an inner weight I hadn’t known I was carrying.
I was freed to find my voice and a deeper sense of purpose.
In more fully living my values of compassion, peace, health, wellness, and sustainability, I become more authentically me.
The peace and freedom that I found through living my vegan values is shared by many other vegans. In fact, in my book research on the transformative impact of a vegan lifestyle, the number one positive impact reported by survey respondents is “being true to inner convictions and values.”
My research participants reported a cascade of positive outcomes from aligning daily choices with vegan values:
- Greater peace
- Purpose and meaning
- Contributing to something greater
- Doing the least harm
- Freedom from inner conflict
Far from being limiting, restricting, or depriving, becoming vegan often brings a surprising sense of empowerment, fulfillment, and freedom…and the hope that we can unite our common values to create a healthier and more compassionate world.
May you enjoy the peace of embodying the values you hold most dear. And in honoring our shared values, may we create a world of greater health, compassion, sustainability, and flourishing for all.
Note: This article has also been featured in New Mexico Vegan Magazine, January 2023.
For more on my vegan journey, check out my earlier article: How Veganism Inspired Me to Find My Voice.
The research referenced in this article is based on my book research on the emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual impacts of a vegan lifestyle.
Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create healthy lives that nurture mind, body, spirit, and planet. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell. She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional benefits of a vegan lifestyle. She serves as a psychology advisor for WeDidIt.Health, an on-line community that shares the benefits of a plant-powered lifestyle.