Is It Hard to Be Vegan?

I am asked this question, or some form of it, all the time. I used to answer with a quick, “Oh no. It’s really pretty easy once you know what you’re doing.” (And then I would proceed to help them do exactly that—know what they’re doing.)

Well..I just celebrated my veganversary, and I have been contemplating my answer lately. I think I need to modify it, so that it is more thorough, thoughtful, and truthful. Because there is WAY more to the response than that short sentence.

The logistics of being a vegan, a.k.a. what to eat, wear, use, etc., is, for me, quite easy. I have learned how to shop for vegan-friendly items quite expeditiously now. (Eight years ago, I think it took me 3 hours to grocery shop, whereas now, I can run into Trader Joe’s, and do our whole weeks shopping in 20 minutes or less.) I have also learned to LOVE the kitchen. I am a pretty good cook now, as well.

But…there is a hard part. And the hard part doesn’t ever get easier for me, even though it’s been eight years. In fact, sometimes the hard part gets even harder. 

What is difficult about veganism you’re wondering?

Well…for me, the hardest part about being vegan is having my heart broken over and over and over again by witnessing all of the cruelty, suffering and death that surrounds me on a daily basis.

Driving down the road, I see so many billboards…circuses, zoos, BBQ joints. Ads that so insult animals…like any chicken would be smiling and begging you to come eat their dead bodies. Commercials flood the television, radio, etc. that force me to hear & see the magnitude of what goes on…on a daily basis…every single hour…every single minute…

Every time I see a transport truck on the road…I have to look…I can’t turn away…last week, I saw a snout sticking out of one of the windows. The snout of a gentle, innocent, sentient being on his/her way to death. (I have met some of the lucky ones, who will live their lives out at sanctuaries, but there are so few of them, that it makes me cry.)

Even when I am doing something I love…like watching old “Friends” reruns, this haunts me. I absolutely LOVE “Friends”; they make me laugh; I know a lot of the lines because I have watched the whole series at least 3 times. And yet, when there is a Thanksgiving episode, and I know how many turkeys must have died so that they could get that one scene, it kills me. Or when Ross got Marcel, or Joey and Chandler got the duck and the chick, it makes me sad in the midst of being happy.

And if I don’t think about that and just go back to the way it was before I woke up to animal suffering, then I feel guilty. I feel guilty because it’s like I am sticking my head back in the sand, and ignoring the truth. I am refusing to witness. But witnessing is devastating.

Sometimes I am so tired of not ever being able to just “be happy” the way I used to. Let’s face it: Being vegan in a non-vegan world is tough. And although I am still going to watch Friends and laugh and enjoy it all, a little piece of me cries inside. I guess that is okay.

I am much gentler on myself than I used to be. Letting myself just “be” sometimes without having to be vigilant and “on” all the time. I don’t know a lot about Buddhism but I believe that Buddha would have said life is living with both the sorrow and the happiness, and that suffering is denying one or the other. I am still working on this.


So…while my answer to the question will always still be, “No. Veganism is quite easy.” I may have to add “But…being awake can be quite hard sometimes.” 

With compassion,