Thursday, March 7, 2013

How I Became Vegan

I am an animal rights philosopher. My Ph.D. from University of Toronto is in animal ethics, and I also did a post-doctoral fellowship at Queen’s University. I have taught many animal rights courses at Brock University, have had several peer-reviewed journal and encyclopedia articles, and maintain a website at, which also links to my blog. Now I have been a vegan since 1988, nearly a quarter-of a century. What inspired me to go vegan? As is the case with many people, especially from around that generation, it was one particular book: Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer.

I used to haunt the World’s Biggest Bookstore in downtown Toronto. One day I was unaccountably drawn to Singer’s book and decided to read it. I took in his lucid reasoning (although now I take issue with a number of his ideas), and his detailing of factory farming and vivisection. I stumbled out of my bedroom and said to my mother something like, "The way they treat these animals in factory-farming is so horrible…" She interrupted me and finished my sentence: "So you want to be a vegetarian? Okay." From then on she cooked such meals. My sister Miriam was already a vegetarian for many years, although she never breathed a word about it to me. My mother and father went vegetarian years later, and she said she was being vegetarian vicariously through her children prior to that time. The death of the family dog brought on my mother’s conversion, and she eventually persuaded my father to follow suit.

Since I left the nest I have learned vegan cooking and offer a modest cookbook on my website with some of my family’s favorite recipes. The truth is I had not yet decided to be a vegetarian, but my mother finished my thought, and for the life of me I could not think of a more appropriate conclusion. Every animal product I learned about was mired in suffering and cruelty. My susequent conversion to veganism shaped my career as a philosophy student and scholar. The best reason to go vegan is for the animals, but the environmental and health reasons only make conditions better for all animals too, if only indirectly. There is an incredible array of reasons for going vegan, and only pathetic few excuses for omnivorism that give up the ghost on close examination. I hope that people will energize such life-giving transformation on an ever-broader scale.