About a year ago, I decided to ban all animal products from my life and become vegan. Here's my story.
How I got there
I ate meat every day. A ton of it. Twenty-six years without overthinking about where it is coming from, what impact it has, what kind of tragedy it is.
When becoming a minimalist, I knew at some stage I would question eating meat. It's not a rule of minimalism that tells you to become vegetarian or even vegan. Still, the voice became louder to challenge that default as well and be more intentional.
One talk signed the deal. In the end, what we are doing is no more than the mass murder of animals. The difference is, we are doing it every single day in a highly effective killing machine.
Ask yourself how many animals have to die every day that your local supermarket has a full shelf.
That was step one; I became vegetarian. I tried it for a week, and it was great. I also lost a lot of weight — about 15 kilograms in the first six months. My girlfriend and I tried to consume as few animal products as possible, but for example, we never thought we could quit cheese.
February 2020 changed everything. We started with a vegan challenge. One month only vegan was like an eye-opener. In that time, we learned a lot about the factory farming industry. But also about vegan replacements and the milk industry.
After educating ourselves and understanding what kind of impact our beloved cheese and other products still had on animals and our planet, we couldn't go back.
In the beginning, we thought we will stay "mostly vegan" and eat a pizza with cheese for special occasions. Day by day, that idea went further away. Celebrating something with the products of an animal is not correct.
So, we stayed vegan ever since.
Even that I grew up on a farm, I wouldn't consider myself an animal lover. I was in contact with all sorts of animals; I also had a dog, as well as a cat. Still, I am not a huge animal lover.
But I won't watch the meat industry or any other industry building murdering machines for profit.
My philosophy on being vegan could be summed up as the following: "I don't want my actions to impact any other living being negative."
This includes humans; I don't buy clothes or food made by child labor or unfair conditions. But that's not the point of this article.
Even if you don't care about the millions of animals slaughtered day by day, you should care about the planet you live on.
Nearly every single problem that we have on our planet is rooted in factory farming — the deforestation of the rainforest or the question of where to put the tons of slurry.
Finally, the people that we are sharing this planet with. The industry produces so much food, but at least ten percent of humanity is suffering from hunger. And why? Because this food is made to feed animals.
Rainforests burned down for vegan soy products are a myth. Two-thirds of the soy produced worldwide is used as food for animals.
That's highly ineffective. It doesn't matter if it's corn, soy, or wheat. Giving food to people would have a way higher impact.
What has changed
Let's put the reasons aside for a minute. I always like challenges, which was a massive one initially, and a lot has changed.
Eventually, becoming vegan made me excited about cooking again. As a meat-eater, for me, everything was always centered around meat. A piece of meat and the rest doesn't matter at all.
When leaving out the meat, you have to get creative again. Even if it's a cliché, most vegans that I know don't eat tofu or soy every day. I also don't.
Some defaults in my cooking have changed, but not primarily because of the vegan lifestyle, more because it automatically leads you to a more healthy and aware lifestyle.
Since eating meat replacement all day long isn't an option, I started looking for high-quality recipes that taste delicious and are balanced in nutrients.
Over the last year, I developed a special relationship with Hummus. I am trying to perfect it ever since.
As you don't center your dish around a steak anymore, you will likely get more creative, mixing different tastes and textures. For example, I love bowls with hefty flavor mixed up with a bit of sweetness from fruits like grapes.
Indeed, you could do this with meat as well, but at least for me, this was unattainable.
I thought this would be the hardest part. That I would be spending the double amount of time in a supermarket reading ingredients….
I was proven wrong. It more or less feels like you are moving to a new city and have to figure out where the good stuff in your local supermarket is. You will get used to it.
The first few times are a little annoying until you have gathered some of your default ingredients.
A note on the financial part; Living vegan is definitely not more expensive. As you start to educate yourself and learn about different companies, you will change your purchasing behavior. For example, you are likely to buy more local and organic foods.
Compared directly to a meat-eater, there isn't any difference in pricing. You could even claim that a vegan lifestyle is cheaper.
If you want to be a responsible meat consumer, you would have to spend 30 Euros upwards per kilogram for a fair piece of meat. I have also asked some meat-eaters about their eating habits and the costs: If you want to eat organic meat, you will have to spend at least 100 Euros a month on meat. And that's only for one person that eats meat 2–3 times per week.
The fun part is people yelling about organic food prices are likely to consume overpriced fast food on the other end. What does a menu at McDonald's or Subway cost? Around 10 dollars? And how do you feel after it? For 10 dollars, you can get a lot of healthy organic stuff.
So, most of the people yelling about only buying local organic meat at Aldi: Think again. Only one percent of the meat consumed is not produced in factory farming and not sold at the discounter.
Of course, if you only buy oven-ready meals and replacement products like "vegan meat," it will be more expensive. Vegan or not, that you should avoid anyhow. They are packed with empty carbs, nasty ingredients, and flavor enhancers. They make you miserable.
A last note: More and more companies recognize they should jump on the vegan bandwagon. Every good supermarket has extra shelves with purely vegan healthy food, and also more producers of oven-ready meals start to follow up. It's getting easier.
That was the most challenging part when we started. While having the challenge, we went on a bit of a trip with my parents into the most southern part of Bavaria. There it seems like people haven't ever heard of vegan. But it was totally doable.
Just ask and tell. We had a great time, and the people were always friendly and helpful.
Ever since, there hasn't been an issue. Plus, the same as with the groceries: people start to take care. It's bad practice for restaurants to ignore vegans.
The best thing; You will taste many new combinations and be inspired by them. There are vegan restaurants everywhere in Germany that have developed their dishes in a local style.
As a grand finale of the first vegan year, my girlfriend and I planned a vegan Germany trip, and it was great. At some point, I will share all restaurants we have been to and share our experience. There is something for everybody. It ranges from cheap fast food to vegan vineyards and even star kitchens.
Therefore, eating out is not challenging at all anymore. It's fun; it's an own experience.
A note on different cultures: If you are unsure, ask. For example, people in India use much butter to fry things, where Europeans or Germans would default to oil. This way you also learn a lot about the place you are visiting. Again, most people are happy to help and even pay respect for your decision.
As a minimalist, I am not buying new stuff and clothes too often. But at some point, my leather belt fell apart, and I had to get a new one.
This was the first time I got challenged as a vegan with ethical questions beyond food.
I have become more aware of that over time. First, I wanted to make sure that there are no animal products included. Later I also looked if my clothes are produced "fair" relating to the humans producing them.
It's not hard, but also not easy. I will link some resources about fair clothing below.
Back to animal products, as millions of animals are murdered every day, a lot of waste is produced. Parts of this waste find use; hemoglobin, a protein found in blood, is used to make gum (for example, for cigarette filters).
Or if we stick with the easy things: Gelatine. It's everywhere, in sweets, in the Pharma industry.
This part, in my opinion, takes the most significant effort to be "clean." Especially as there are no actual labels that you can trust.
Buying a new pair of jeans is always an adventure.
"But vegans are weak and un-healthy" or "You need meat to get strong" and "Vegan nutrition does not contain this or that"…
I get my blood checked every year, not because I am vegan, but to see if everything is alright. And I am OK.
Yes, I am taking supplements. But in the end, that has less to do with being vegan than it has to do with a conscious lifestyle.
Vitamin A, B12, and others are missing today and are fed to animals in factory farming so that the meat contains a dose of it.
Instead of abusing animals as a proxy to get vitamins, I prefer to take them myself and know where they are coming from. Plus, I am skipping on tons of antibiotics and bullshit that are feed to animals.
When we get to nutrition, and people learn that I am vegan, they eyeball me again. Because vegans are meant to be weak and small. Take a look at this guy. He was the strongest man of Germany in 2011. A vegan.
You can grow muscle and stay fit regardless of eating meat or not. I noticed that since being vegan, I have fewer lows after eating something and feel fitter.
But that again is probably caused by a more healthy and aware lifestyle in general.
And that's the most significant difference, I would say. Look around you, are there any people who are really healthy and take care of themselves? Mostly those are not people that eat meat.
The Killer Excuse; I love cheese
I present you the number one excuse why so many people won't consider becoming vegan: "BUT I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT CHEESE".
For us, it was the same, a life without cheese; we didn't even want to think about that. There were harsh feelings. Especially my girlfriend was highly addicted (her words, not mine) to Parmesan and couldn't even imagine eating any pasta without at least 500 grams on top of it.
But as we made the jump and didn't eat any cheese for a month, something weird happened. Our taste changed. Cheese started to smell strange. By strange, I mean disgusting. I could also name that smell; it was the lactic acid contained, so the cheese ripens.
In that one month, we also got used to the alternatives. And they get better and better.
Today it's not a big deal anymore. On a dinner night, we even served a big vegan cheese plate for our guests.
Milk in General
After a year and some research, I also have to be honest: The milk industry isn't any better than the meat industry. In the appendix, I have linked a movie about it.
Especially our all beloved Parmesan is the worst. It's technically not even vegetarian as parts of a dead calf are needed to produce it.
You probably learned the same thing as many of us; that milk is essential and good for you. That it contains lots of ingredients that you need.
Well, technically, milk is good for you if you are a baby cow. That's the same reason why humans and other mammal babies are given milk. To get nutrients as they are not capable of figuring it out on their own. But as a baby, from your mother and more important, from your own damn species.
There is a lot of effort and money invested in making us think we need milk to survive. It's called lobbyism.
So if you still want to drink milk, there are a ton of reasonable alternatives. I sometimes like to have my protein shake with soy or oat milk. There is nothing wrong with that. If you are in Germany, there is a great manufacturer in the south; I will have some links in the appendix.
Don't believe me? Take the test.
Call your mother or father: When they don't answer the phone with a loud "MOOOOOO!", there is no reason to drink milk.
One last note on milk: We are all lactose-intolerant, as we are not intended to drink milk from another species. Some people just recognize it—some not.
Notes for the pedants
- This is an essay about my experience becoming vegan. If you feel triggered to send me messages about how wrong I am, nice, then I've hit a wound point. If you don't want to read an article from a vegan, just leave it and save your time on that. And yes, I am trying to convince every to become vegan. In my opinion, it's the right thing.
- Yes, I kill insects from time to time. That's nature. But I am not raising them in captivity, torture them and kill them with giant machinery to "process" them. And now tell me that you kill your meat yourself, you lion.
- Vegans don't only eat replacement products, like soy and tofu. We also don't eat vegan Schnitzel and sausage all day long. That most of us eat significantly less. Probably as often as an aware meat-eater gets himself some fast food. Maybe once per month, perhaps every two months. Even if so, I mentioned it before; These products are also getting better.
- Don't talk to me about all the harmful ingredients of vegan food. Most healthy vegan cooks all of their food themselves and pay attention to only use clean products that are not processed. So, I can name every little ingredient.
- Stop trying to justify your meat consumption. For me, it's simply wrong. I don't eat no death. And I don't expect you to explain. Of course, I think what you do is wrong. Still, I don't judge.
Becoming vegan was one of the best choices I ever made. It made me rediscover my love for cooking as you have to be more creative. It made me healthier because I had to pay attention to my body if anything could be missing. Furthermore, it made me more aware of the world around me because I researched many industries and how they are working.
Through becoming vegan, I became a better human.
As a final word: It's not that hard. You will get used to it faster than you think. And here is my offer; if you want to become vegan as well, I can help you. Just try it for a month. And I will help you with recipes, tips for replacements, or simple tricks on how to make a vegan cheese sauce or sour crème. It's easier than you think. Just message me on Twitter or Instagram, the links you will find here.
- The System Milk — shows very well how miserable milk makes the world and also how producers suffer
- What the Health — this movie has a lot of valuable information, especially about lobbyism, but praises Veganism a bit too much in the end
- Dominion — one of the best documentaries I have seen, it shows very well how different types of animals have to suffer because of humanity
- Seaspiracy - What's the real reason for our dying ocean and what eating fish has to do with that
- Peta — Here you can find general information, about products, shops, brands and so on.