I am a vegan, which is the strictest of all vegetarian types. I just have one simple rule: I don’t eat anything produced from something that has a face. This means no chicken, because contrary to some Latino beliefs, chicken is meat. Again, no chicken, turkey, cows, fish of any kind and nothing cute and cuddly like rabbits either. Being a vegan means that I don’t eat dairy products. I don’t drink milk, eat eggs or eat cheese. I don’t use butter, mayonnaise or honey when I cook. It’s a pretty simple rule to follow. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why the hell would someone want to do that?” I have two reasons for you, health and ethics.
Many Hispanics believe that it’s impossible to be healthy without eating meat. My family always tells me that I’m going to get sick, or even die because I’m lacking protein and calcium, but that’s not true. “Where do you get your protein from?” is the question I am asked too frequently. I get my protein from plants, beans and nuts. My doctor would also be happy to tell you that I have exceedingly great cholesterol, bloods sugar and protein levels. I have great muscle mass; maintain a healthy weight (I lost nearly 20 pounds after becoming a vegan) and my risks of heart disease, cancer, obesity and high blood pressure are slim.
The next annoying question I’m usually asked is, “What do you eat?” I eat anything, as long as it’s not derived from an animal product. I eat rice, beans, pastas, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and no, I don’t feel sluggish or weak.
The major advantage of being a vegan is that I usually cook my own meals. Many of you are probably saying that cooking your own food is one of the major factors of keeping good health. If you eat at a restaurant, or warm up a frozen meal in the microwave, do you really know what you are eating?
Our parents, great-grandparents and other ancestors raised animals caringly. They fed them well, and when it was time to sacrifice the cow they had raised for months for a meal, it was done so with respect for the animal. Today, hundreds of thousands of animals are slaughtered unceremoniously at factory farms, in filthy conditions without any regard to making it a painless process. If you have watched the news in the last months you probably would have seen several meat recalls. Why are these caused? Because of filthy conditions in factory farms that hold thousands of animals in tight, dark conditions.
I became a vegan unexpectedly one day. I was taking a stroll through Lincoln Park Zoo, and stopped by the farm area. I saw a sow or mother pig with 10 of her piglets. They looked so happy, and clean and had so much space to walk around and play. I thought about it for a while and realized that’s what all animals want, to be safe, clean and happy. That was over a year ago, and I know I made the right choice.