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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Four: Medicine, Pets, And Everything Else

I won’t lie: going vegan can be hard, even for those who take a soft approach. Like any restrictive diet or life plan, it requires that you pay attention to the products you’re consuming.

That means reading labels, asking questions of salepeople, changing longstanding habits, and doing things based on principle rather than deep-seated feelings (“I love those shoes, but….”). It’s willpower. It’s mind over matter, where “mind” equals “mind” and “matter” equals “cheeseburgers” or “Chanel perfume”.

It also means taking a risk that your friends will label you a humorless douchebag.

Clothing, food, and to a lesser extent, cosmetics are the most obvious trouble spots for budding vegans. It’s pretty easy to tell that you’ve crossed the line when you’re wearing animal flesh or, conversely, to know that you’re on the right track when you see a “leaping bunny” logo.

But there are many other things we do and products we buy — some of which we truly we rely on — that are derived from animals or make use of them in some unpleasant way. Depending on your living environment, income, location, and a thousand other factors, the thought of using these products could keep you up at night. Or you might roll over and sleep like a log.

Here are a just few that occupy my attention. The full list is much, much longer:

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Three: Food

Veganizing your wardrobe? Surprisingly easy.

Making your bathroom more animal-friendly? Not quite as painless, but on a scale of one to ten (one being “I could do this in my sleep” and ten being “I would rather be submerged in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese and forced to watch Ghost Dad“), it’s about a three.

Welcome to the next step, the pinnacle, the boss level: veganizing your diet. This is where things get real. (Kidding. I just like to sound like a douchebag sometimes.)

vegan food (via Wikimedia)FOOD

There are at least three problems with changing your diet, three things that make it more difficult than the other topics I’ve covered:

A. Food isn’t something you can just give up. Leather shoes? Send ‘em to the thrift shop and buy a pair made of canvas or nylon. Cologne that’s been tested on animals? Toss it in the trash. If you really need it, there are hundreds of cruelty-free options to choose from. But there’s no skipping out on food — at least, not for long.

B. Animal-based food is cheap, easy, and plentiful. If you have time to plan and choose your meals, that’s one thing. But when you’re hungry and in a hurry, rushing to class or a meeting or a flight, your choices are severely limited. You’re either having that sausage biscuit from Mickey D’s, or you’re going to have to re-train your body to subsist on coffee alone. I’ve tried that last one. I don’t recommend it.

C. Food fulfills deeply personal desires. You may love a particular wool sweater, but you own others. You can find substitutes. However, when you’re depressed or stressed or starving, chances are, you crave a very particular sort of food. For me, it’s mac and cheese, for other people, it’s a hamburger or cheesecake. We have a long history with these dishes — they’re often the ones we grew up with — and altering our deep-seated feelings about them doesn’t happen overnight.

So, shifting to a vegan diet involves some retraining. It’s like exercising or calling your parents more often or giving up Facebook: going vegan takes a bit of work, a bit of time, and the creation of new habits.

That said, there are a few ways to smooth the process and set yourself up for success:

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To My Fellow Mississippians & Beleaguered Christians Everywhere

Mississippi state capitolMy Fellow Mississippians:

When I was younger — much younger — I spent a lot of time at the state capitol in Jackson. I was the kind of kid who loved debate tournaments, who adored sparring with words since I was too small and doughy to spar with my fists. Not surprisingly, I loved the annual Youth Congress event, when teenagers like me took over the capitol building and made it ours for a few days, a place where we could pass fake laws, swivel ourselves sick in fancy leather chairs, and generally annoy the crap out of each other so long as we followed Robert’s Rules of Order.

But even then, even in my most precocious years, I knew deep down that I was no match for the Good Ol’ Boy network. Because even among the social outcasts of the debating and forensics circuit, I was an outsider. I just couldn’t walk the walk — not without swishing, anyway. I made people uncomfortable. I made them suspicious.

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Today’s Deep Thought

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, fucktardThese Catholic priests talking about the importance of “traditional” marriage? Do any of them realize that they’re involved in the biggest, same-sex plural marriage on the planet?

I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Two: Toiletries, Cosmetics, And Fragrance

Marilyn_Monroe_shaving

So, you’ve begun to veganize your wardrobe, quietly weeding out the leather and the wool and the alligator and all the other animal-derived stuff hanging from hangers and boxed in shoeboxes. That was pretty painless, and no one really noticed the transformation, so no one has tried raking you over the coals for your new-found code of ethics. (I still don’t know why people do that, but they do. It’s annoying.)

Phase 1: The Bedroom is complete, now you’re ready for Phase 2: The Bathroom.

Chances are, several products sitting in your shower and by your sink contain animal-based ingredients and/or were animal-tested in labs. If you’re only following the letter of vegan law (whatever that is), you’ll just need to ditch the former, but the spirit of that law is all about minimizing cruelty, so it seems like a good idea to toss the latter, too.

A quick heads-up before we begin: this round of changeouts may be more difficult than the first, but don’t worry, it’s totally doable. And as with the clothing switcheroo, you’ll probably be the only one to notice.

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