One of the first things people usually ask when they find out that I'm vegan is "how long have you been vegan?" and then "why?" So I think it's only fair that since we're still in the 'getting to know you' stage, that I answer those questions.
I started out as a 'non red meat eater' 16 years ago. I was a teenager then, and I can't honestly say I remember clearly why I started. I think it was a combination of thinking that it was healthier and being a teenager (and thus prone to 'phases'). I'm pretty sure my parents thought it was a phase. But I kept it up, and started reading more and more about vegetarianism, and the reasons that people become veg. And eventually, I decided to cut out fish and chicken and become vegetarian. It was pretty easy...eating dead animals just wasn't for me. I never crave meat so I don't find it difficult to resist food or dishes with meat in them. That was 11 years ago.
Over the past few years, I have been slowly moving towards a more vegan diet. I haven't bought milk, eggs or cheese for my house in years (well except for the time last summer when I was training heavily and had this bizarre craving for eggs - but that's a story for another post!). However, I did eat dairy and eggs when I was out... not a lot, but I also didn't worry about scanning ingredient lists or menus to make sure there was no hidden dairy products. My way of describing it was that I wouldn't drink a glass of milk or have scrambled eggs, but I also wouldn't pass up a piece of cake that was made with milk and/or eggs. That worked for me for a while.
But this summer I dated a vegan guy. Wow, how great it was to have someone to go out with to veg*n restaurants, and who liked to cook vegan food. And slowly I found myself scanning for dairy products in labels and then avoiding those products. After not eating dairy/egg products for a while (but not yet 'officially' vegan) we had a party at work with my favorite strawberry shortcake with white chocolate whipped cream icing (I loved that cake)... I debated with myself whether to have cake or not, and finally I caved and had a piece. And you know what? It did not taste good. In fact, it was kinda gross. Probably more because I was thinking of the reasons why I shouldn't be eating it then the actual taste. And so I discovered that I no longer wanted to eat cake with milk and eggs. I could now call myself vegan.
Of course there are many other reasons why I'm vegan, for example health, environment and animal rights. I used to avoid the whole animal rights argument because although I knew cruelty existed, I simply didn't want to deal with it. But I just can't turn my back on it any more. What it comes down to is that if my cat had to live in those conditions and was treated that way, I would be absolutely horrified and devastated (not to mention angry as hell). So why should any other animal be treated that way either?
Anyway, now you know all about how long I've been veg*n and why, and I feel like we're better acquainted already ;o)