'I can't go vegan, it's too hard!'

Thursday, October 01, 2020 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

You’ve probably heard it before, or maybe you were the one who actually said it: “I can’t go vegan; it’s too hard!"

During my talks on veganism, people come up to me and tell me they salute me for my discipline. “I don’t have your willpower!” they sometimes say. I’m quick to correct this misconception that veganism is a matter of discipline, as if it's like staying away from fatty food or sugar. Ask my friends and they’ll tell you that food is my Waterloo; I always give in to my cravings!

being vegan is easier than you think

So, how is it exactly that I’ve been vegan for more than two years now without ever feeling deprived? How is it that I went vegan without much effort — and I actually enjoyed the shift?

Perhaps, if we answer this question, it can help us along in our decision to adopt this ethical way of life:

Why is going vegan hard for some but easy for others?

But before we do a deep dive, let’s reorient. In case you got here because of an online search, allow me to introduce you to the second day of this one-month veganism guide for Filipinos. Yesterday, we talked about veganism, speciesism, and why the Meatless Monday campaign isn't actually a vegan initiative. Do give it a read if you haven’t yet. And in the coming days, we will be talking about other issues touching on the ethics of veganism, at the same time answering questions one might have about where to source food locally if one were to go vegan in the Philippines.


The real reason veganism is hard for some

I asked around in Manila Vegans, a Facebook group of about 40,000 members (and growing as I type this) why they found going vegan hard.

Most of their answers can be summarized as follows.

    • They think they’ll be deprived of food that they love;
    • They think they can't sustain the effort to stay away from tempting non-vegan food;
    • They think vegan food is inaccessible and expensive;
    • They can’t cook, so they think going vegan while staying with a non-vegan family will be impossible;
    • They think vegan diets are lacking in protein and other important nutrients;

And the list goes on.

Some of the answers revolve around myths, such as the protein deficiency unfairly linked to vegan diets. It isn’t also necessarily true that vegan food is expensive — when we go to restaurants, it’s always the meat dishes instead of the vegetable dishes that are more expensive! Tofu, monggo, string beans, okra, kangkong, and malunggay are just some of the really cheap but really nutritious vegan food that anyone can buy in a market.

Misinformed opinions aside, do you notice one word common in all their answers? It’s the word “think”. In other words, it’s about their perception of what might happen, and the perceived barriers mentioned by the respondents have a common theme: Going vegan will feel like a lot of sacrifice.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. It may require a bit of adjustment in the beginning as one learns how to live vegan in a non-vegan world, and it also requires the unlearning of concepts we might have assumed to be normal because of social conditioning, but going vegan does not require sustained willpower if someone connects to the ethics behind veganism and deals with the addiction linked to the consumption of animals (which, by the way, we will be dealing with in tomorrow’s post).

Are you ready to make going vegan easier?


Changing one’s mindset

Going vegan is not the same as going on a diet. It’s not the same as abstaining from tempting food. (Admittedly, there is an exception here, and it’s when someone has a serious addiction problem to animal flesh and secretions, which we will discuss in the next post.)

To someone whose perception of animals has changed, “meat” will not even look like food anymore. Fried chicken will look like the dismembered legs of beautiful creatures who once fought for their lives before their throats were slit. Lechon will be the cooked remains of a pig who screamed in fear before being killed. Beef will be the cut-up parts of a cow who begged for mercy but whose cries fell on deaf ears.

Veganism is not about us but about animals

“Meat” is the carcass of every animal who wanted to live but didn’t.

These animals whose deaths we paid for used to enjoy their lives the same way the dogs and cats in our lives still do. They had their own personalities, their own emotions, their own fears surrounding death. They all felt pain. They all felt fear. They all suffered.

They all lived invisible lives and died invisible deaths. We never even felt their existence.


Hidden in plain sight

Where is the slaughterhouse nearest you? Do you know?

Do you know why you don’t know?

There’s a good reason slaughterhouses don’t announce themselves. This is where animals go to die so that they can be cut up in neat little packs of chopped pork and beef. The violence that goes on inside a slaughterhouse is traumatic if witnessed by a passerby. 

There’s a good reason this part of how your food is made isn’t public knowledge. The animal industry doesn’t want you to think about how these animals have been bred into existence, kept in cages so small they couldn’t even turn around, and eventually killed in gruesome ways. They don’t want you to think of how these animals screamed their lungs out when they realized they were about to be slaughtered.

They don’t want you to picture the violence inherent in “meat”.

It is through these hidden truths that the animal industry continues to exist in a society that wants to be humane. So, it’s time you took a peek into what truly goes into your plate of bacon.

At the end of this post, there’s a recommended video that will change how you look at “meat” for the rest of your life. It’s going to be tough to watch — but it will make going vegan easy, because it will make you realize what kind of horrific cycle of violence you’ve been paying for and participating in all these years.


How to make veganism easy as (vegan) pie

For someone who still thinks animal flesh and secretions are food, veganism will seem like a matter of willpower. However, the flipside is also true: Once one's perception of animals changes, “meat” will no longer be seen as temptation, but as what it truly is: the remains of an animal who wanted to live.

All their suffering and despair goes into every bite of bacon, hotdog, and liempo. Do you really want to eat that? If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to hurt cats and dogs, “meat” is the last thing you want on your plate.

Besides, everything has a vegan version! (I’ll be sharing tips on where to buy vegan “meat” in the Philippines, whether or not you know how to cook, in the coming days.)

vegan SPAM in the Philippines
Check out this vegan version of SPAM in the Philippines! Just about everything has a vegan version here -- it's a great time to be vegan.

So, let’s make going vegan easy for you. I mentioned above that there’s a video you’ll have to watch if you want going vegan to be easy. It’s titled Earthlings — and it’s free to watch here.

Don’t skip it if you already believe that veganism makes sense, and that it’s the next ethical step to take to align your actions with your values. Consider it your compulsory homework!


Final question

Here’s a question I would like you to answer:

What animals do you still objectify, and what traits do these animals have that make you believe they deserve to live?

Maybe it’s something you’d like to think about while you do your chores. Maybe it’s something you’d like to think about at night before sleeping. Whichever works for you, try to come up with an honest answer. Feel free to write it down so that you can look back at it as you try to complete this one-month veganism guide.

You can also share your thoughts on social media! Make sure to use the hashtag #GustoKoMagingVegan so that we can all look at each other’s posts.

Veganism shouldn't be hard

In the coming days, I will be sharing a vegan pantry checklist so that your home will always have the ingredients you need to prepare vegan food, regardless of your cooking skills. Ain’t that fun?

I will also talk about how animal flesh and secretions are also quite addicting, which leads to the usual defense mechanisms (denial and rationalization, among others) whenever veganism is mentioned. And just so we’re clear, addiction is not an excuse to keep oppressing sentient creatures! So, if you connect to the ethics of veganism but feel that you have an addiction problem, make sure to check out the next post!

To get updates once the next post is published, wait for reminders on my Facebook page or Instagram as well — it’s where I post pictures of the yummy food I find in the Philippines! You might also want to be a member of the Facebook group Manila Vegans so that you can ask questions and look for vegan restaurants near you.

And if you’re too lazy to follow me on my social media or join a Facebook group, there’s one other thing you can do! Just scroll down and you’ll see an option to subscribe via email. Once you do, the entire post will be sent to you via email, hassle-free!

This is Day 2 of your one-month self-directed learning on veganism. Congrats!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!