Many years ago, I became vegan for, well, not entirely altruistic reasons. Sure, I knew deep down that eating meat was out of alignment with my values, but this only accounted for about 5% of my reason.
Another factor in my decision was that I’d heard that eliminating dairy from one's diet could cure asthma and eczema, both of which I suffered from acutely during my childhood and teens.
However, if I’m being truthful, the real reason behind my diet shift was that I wanted to lose, and then maintain a good weight. I knew that to do this I had to stop eating bad fats, and of course the main source of saturated fat is animal products, so I thought I might as well go vegan, improve my health conditions, but most of all—get slim.
I could argue that I was young and selfish, but there are plenty of young vegans whose motivations are entirely about the animals, so that wouldn’t fly. What happened to me was this: Over a period of time being vegan, I gradually realized I was very glad I wasn’t participating in animal cruelty. With the advent of the internet, and thus more information becoming available, and films like Earthlings and footage from slaughterhouses being so readily accessible, I became aware that my diet was so much more to me than just a weight maintenance programme.
In the last 10 years, learning not only about animal cruelty, but also about how livestock farming affects climate change and impacts world hunger has blown my mind. Who knew that my (mostly) selfish decision years ago would be the absolute best thing I could do not only for my waistline, but also for the animals, the planet, and world hunger!
Not me when I started out!
Now? I couldn’t eat any other way for all these reasons.
In the past, I have been intimidated by the zeal of many vegans whose motivation for going vegan was purely about not harming animals. I am grateful for these people; their blogs and podcasts have helped my evolution. However, I believe that we develop emotionally in different ways; our ethics evolve at different speeds. To speak in self-help lingo: we are each on our own path.
I fully believe that it doesn’t matter how we come to veganism. The same ends are ultimately achieved. The fewer animals used for our food, the less suffering there is. And I believe what happened to me happens for many other people. (We DO seem to get more interested in the ethical issues the more we look into this lifestyle—just think of all the vegans who started off vegetarian!) Sooner or later, even someone who initially went vegan just to get better skin will discover the wider impact he or she is making, become conscious that this feels good at a soul-level.
My point is this. Don’t NOT become vegan because you think your reasons for doing so aren’t worthy enough. And, if you went vegan for anything other than ethical reasons, and sometimes feel ashamed when you read about how ethical vegans came to their diet—don’t.
You're already doing something amazing. Being vegan in a non-vegan world is no mean feat. Your lifestyle makes you different, something that most people aren’t prepared to be. It takes courage to stick your head above the water, for any reason. If you still feel (or if the universe still feels!) you need to develop on your ethical path, it will happen all in good time.