Stories from my life and travels as an American expat in Germany!

Why I Went Vegan

Why I Went Vegan

I went vegan in early March of this year. A few people in my life have asked me why. I’ve created this post as an easy-to-read (and hopefully easy to google translate!) response.

With the exception of reviewing vegan restaurants while traveling, it’s unlikely that this topic will come up again. It doesn’t fit the theme of my blog. Next week, I’ll be back to talking about my life in Germany.

I have hidden all disturbing/graphic information behind links. This post is safe for even the most sensitive readers.

Why I Went Vegan: A Summary

Here’s the “CliffsNotes” version of why I went vegan:

  1. I believe it’s unethical to take the life of a sentient being that doesn’t want to die.
  2. The egg and dairy industries rely on death and suffering to be profitable. (WARNING: the links are graphic)
  3. Just like a human mother’s milk is meant for her baby, a cow’s milk is meant for her calf. In order to produce milk, cows must be impregnated every year and then their baby is taken away from them within 24-48 hours. See: dairy link above.
  4. A recent study has proven that fish ARE sentient and DO feel pain.
  5. Eating animal products is unnecessary. You can get everything you need from a plant-based diet.
  6. A vegan diet is healthy for all stages of life, including infancy and pregnancy, according to the world’s largest organization of nutritional professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  7. According to a massive recent study by Oxford University, Going vegan is the single-best way you as an individual can help the environment.

why i went vegan sheep

A Note About Factory Farming

While I am disgusted by factory farming practices, I am against the use of animals even under the “best” of circumstances. Points 2 and 3 in my summary still happen on small, organic farms. They have to in order for the farm to profit.

I realize, of course, that there are some people who think it’s OK to eat meat and animal products if the farming and killing are “done humanely.” So, here are some facts about factory farms and slaughterhouses:

  • 95% of all farm animals in the US are raised on factory farms.
  • Protections for farm animals are basically non-existent in America.
    • The majority of states in America have exemptions for farm animals when it comes to animal welfare laws.
    • Federal laws only cover transportation and stunning before being slaughtered.
      • Poultry are exempt from these laws; there are no protections for them at all.
      • It’s impossible to have a 100% stun rate, so there are animals who go through the slaughtering process completely conscious.
  • Slaughterhouse and factory farm workers are overworked, underpaid, and work in dangerous conditions. Many are undocumented workers. Slaughterhouse workers experience high rates of depression and even PTSD.
  • American farm lobbies push hard for ag-gag laws, which make it illegal to film on their premises; essentially, they’re trying to criminalize whistle-blowing.

A Note About USDA Certified Organic

Animals meant for USDA-certified organic meat, or the egg and dairy industries, aren’t treated much better than those on a factory farm. Most laws in regards to organic animal products are about protecting the consumer from things like antibiotics; not to protect the animals.

All other labels are either unregulated, or regulated by third parties. You can go to the ASPCA website to find out what labels are actually regulated.

It’s also worth noting that the majority of animals meant for “organic” meat still go to the same slaughterhouse as their factory-farmed counterparts. There’s rarely a “humane” slaughterhouse for animals from organic farms.

why I went vegan cows

But You Live in Germany Now! Isn’t Germany Kinder Towards Animals?

According to the Global Animal Cruelty Index, Germany ranks 7th overall. This is much better than the United States, which ranks an appalling 49 out of 50.

It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that being number 1 on this list means your country is the least cruel out of the countries being ranked. It does not mean there’s no cruelty at all.

Here are some other important things to keep in mind:

  • Germany, like all countries, imports meat.
    • For example: Poland, which ranks 23rd, exports the most poultry in the EU.
  • Protection laws exist, but they’re not adequate. The majority of German farm animals are on factory farms just like their US counterparts.
  • Just because a law is in place, that doesn’t mean it’s followed. Like all countries, the animal agriculture industry in Germany regularly breaks laws or looks for loopholes so they can increase profits. This is regularly revealed by animal activists in Germany, just like in America.

Möchtest du mehr Informationen auf Deutsch? Schau dir dieses Video an! (Achtung: Das Video ist informativ, aber ein bisschen störend!)

My Journey Towards Veganism

why i went vegan male chickI went Pescatarian in October 2017 after reading this article about piglets that were rescued from a factory farm in America. Another six months later, I became fully vegetarian.

I already knew factory farming meant the egg and dairy industries weren’t great. However, I believed that, by buying organic milk and eggs, I wasn’t supporting factory farming.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t true.

why i went vegan cute pigletIf the grocery store didn’t have the cheese or yogurt flavor I wanted in organic, I’d buy the non-organic version.

I never bought organic pre-packaged food, even though they often contain milk, cheese or eggs.

None of the restaurants I ate at used organic animal products.

In short, I was being inconsistent and a hypocrite.

I started browsing the vegetarian board on Reddit in January 2019. Every now and then, I would see a comment about the evils of the egg and dairy industry. At first, I was annoyed. Why were there vegans on the vegetarian board; didn’t they have their own?

Even worse, I had the sinking feeling they were right.

why i went vegan goatI had become a vegetarian because I love animals. I had finally realized you can’t say you love animals and then eat them. Like most people, though, I did not know the extent to which the egg and dairy industries are also full of death and suffering. Even on organic dairy and egg farms.

Oddly enough, what pushed me to finally do research into the egg and dairy industry was the Netflix movie Okja. The movie is about a genetically-modified “super pig;” it doesn’t have any direct parallels with the dairy and egg industries. Yet it was still the push I needed.

I didn’t tell anyone the first three days I went vegan. During that time, I still wasn’t sure if I was going to stick with it. Not because it was hard to eat vegan, but because I was afraid of inconveniencing other people.

Then, I watched this video by Earthling Ed. It strengthened my resolve. I decided I was going to stick with it, because I wanted to do the right thing. I decided the lives of animals were more important than my tastebuds.

Eating vegan has been so much easier than I anticipated. In fact, the only time it’s been difficult is at restaurants with limited options.

Nutrition is also surprisingly simple. There are days where I actually eat more protein than I’m supposed to, according to my calorie tracker app. My soy milk is fortified with B12. I get Omega 3’s from flax seed added to my morning smoothie and Omega 6 from cooking with soy oil and eating nuts. All leafy greens contain iron and calcium. As for Vitamin D, I’ve always had to supplement that, even as an omnivore.

In fact, the hardest thing for me about going vegan is coming to terms with the fact that zoos are unethical. If you know me, you know I loved visiting zoos and petting zoos. Ultimately, though, I realized that they’re sad animal prisons and the supposed “conservation work” they do is grossly inflated for public relations.

If anyone wants to take me to visit an animal sanctuary sometime, though, I’m down.


More Information

Here is some additional information for those who want to learn more. I’ve also included some of my favorite vegan YouTubers, guides on going vegan, and much-needed cute animal videos at the end!

Learn more about factory farming and slaughterhouses

Warning: these documentaries are highly disturbing.

    • Dominion, a documentary filmed with drones and hidden cameras, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara. This documentary looks into factory farming and slaughterhouses.
    • Earthlings, the older (and arguably more famous) documentary that came before Dominion. Also narrated by Joaquin Phoenix.
    • Land of Hope and Glory, the “UK version” of Earthlings.

All three documentaries have subtitles in German, as well as several other languages.

Learn more about the negative impact of animal agriculture on the environment

    • Cowspiracy (available on Netflix) talks about the environmental impact of animal agriculture. The film maker is a bit dopey (in my opinion) but the film raises a lot of interesting points.
    • A summary of Oxford University’s findings (link to full study) on how avoiding meat and dairy products is the single-best way you can help the planet.
      • An article with interactive charts, that show you the amount of water needed to produce various foods and drinks.
    • Earthling Ed and Jack Harries discuss whether you can be a non-vegan environmentalist.
    • Learn about why the fishing industry is responsible for most of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

cute rooster vegan

Testimony from Former Farmers

    • A former small dairy farmer dispels the myth of small farms being kind. Warning: this is graphic and disturbing.
    • 73 Cows, an award-winning short documentary about a cattle farmer who had a change of heart. VERY happy ending!
    • Even more farmers who went vegan.

Information on Going Vegan

    • The Vegan Society’s Guide to Going Vegan is a great place to start!
    • Plenty Vegan also has a great guide with some simple starter recipes.
    • Even if it’s not January, check out Veganuary for lots of great tips!

My Favorite Vegan YouTubers

why i went vegan happy pig

Find Out How Smart Farm Animals Really Are!

  • Information about chickens (bonus cute video of a very smart chicken)
  • Information about cows (another bonus cute video compilation of them being clever)
  • Information about pigs (spoiler: they’re smarter than dogs)
  • And, finally, an article exploring whether or not intelligence should even be used to decide whether or not it’s “OK” to eat an animal.

Stories of Rescued Animals

Here are some uplifting videos of animals rescued from farms! Unless otherwise noted, there is some disturbing footage in all of these videos, but it’s always brief and the main focus is on how happy (and safe!) these animals are now.

  • Penny, a rescued hen from Canada
  • More happy rescued hens!
  • The story of Penelope, a hen rescued from ritualistic slaughter.
  • Daisy, a rescued dairy cow
  • A rescue bull the moment he was freed!
  • Harvey, a cow rescued from Hurricane Harvey with bonus cute dogs!
  • Rescued pigs on a sanctuary. No disturbing footage in this one.
  • Even more rescued pigs! With no sad footage!
  • Pigs in North Carolina rescued by a kind couple

Eye Bleach

And now…some eye bleach for anyone who watched or read any of the provided links/suggested documentaries. Nothing but happiness in these videos and photos!

  • A rescue bull running to greet the woman who saved him
  • A cute pig compilation video!
  • Betsy, a pet cow who “thinks she’s a dog”
  • A rooster who runs to greet his owner every day when she gets off the school bus
  • Sammi the swimming chicken!
  • The subreddits r/aww and r/Animal_Sanctuary are full of cute, happy animal videos and pictures!

why i went vegan cute adult cow


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