This month Ben shares his story about veganism and helping animals. It’s inspiring for readers of all ages.
Name: Ben Davidow
City: Palo Alto
Are you vegetarian or vegan, and for how long?
Vegetarian for 10 years and Vegan for 1 year.
What motivated you to become a vegetarian?
I became a vegetarian when I was 8, because I was quiet and stubborn. Let me explain:
I think many people realize at a very young age that hamburgers do not grow on trees ¬– I certainly did. However, unlike most children, I did not ask my parents for an explanation. I was an unusually quiet child and like most things, I kept my new worries about meat to myself. Moreover, I liked my drumsticks, and I did not want to confirm my worst fear: that I was eating animals like Fluffy, a shining Maine Coon and my closest friend.
So I pushed this new bit of knowledge to the back of my consciousness. Yet, it did not sit well with me. After a few months, this new awareness culminated in an incident that each person in my family recalls differently. As I remember it, at a family barbecue my sister and I got in a fight over who would get the last hot dog. Unfortunately for me, I had already had 2, and she was only going on to her second – there was no way I was gonna win. So my brilliant solution was to declare myself a vegetarian!
I look back on my choice to go vegetarian as the most powerful decision of my life. Of course, this is only half of the story; my parents could have rejected my decision from the start. I am evermore grateful for their support. My parents have not cooked meat in the house for 10 years. My sister became a vegetarian several years after I did so now we only fight over veg hot dogs.
What motivated you to go Vegan?
For the next 9 years I still had trouble pronouncing vegan, and I thought those herbivores were pretty strange. When I read Animal Liberation in 7th grade, I embraced the philosophy but avoided the sections about the plight of dairy cows and layer hens. I was simply not ready to learn about all this.
Things changed last year when I decided to write an article on the philosophical debate over animal rights. As my research progressed, the issues became less and less philosophical and more and more practical. One night, I stumbled upon some disturbing footage of factory farms. Reading was bearable, but the images were too much; one month later I became vegan.
I became vegan merely because I was uncomfortable supporting the cruelty I saw. Today, I am vegan for many reasons including my belief that I can help millions of animals by doing so. Making everyday choices that are in tune with my stance against animal suffering serves as a basis for all the other activism I do. Finally, Veganism has gotten me into cooking, introduced me to a community of like-minded people, and new foods – it’s been an adventure!
On March 4, I will celebrate 1 year as a vegan. (according to an online sobriety calculator from AA, that’s 365 days!!!)
What are you working on?
- Writing about veganism and animal protection: here is my most recent article in my school magazine [link]
- Making and indulging in vegan food and sharing it with relatives and friends. This month I set out to achieve the perfect vegan chai and the best “cheese” pizza.
- Leading a group of students at my school in raising awareness about battery cages, and encouraging local retailers to stop selling eggs from caged hens.
- Getting issues about animal agriculture and humane treatment of animals into my school curriculum.
- Hosting monthly letter writing parties with BAV at the Bay Leaf Café in Palo Alto.
- Spending more time with my cat, Puddles.
What advice would you give to an aspiring vegan?
If you are reading this, you are well over half way to becoming a vegan. That’s right, the only hard part in going vegan is opening our minds to the possibility of doing so. Veganism gets a bad rap in our society and its often depicted as a lifestyle of deprivation edging on asceticism. Most vegans I know however, are just as voluptuous as most people (if not more so) and overall pretty ordinary.
Everyone becomes vegan differently, so just do what feels right! Take every chance to meet local vegans and explore plant-based food through BAV events. I learned so much by simply being around other vegans.
What advice would you give to an aspiring activist?
- Be Aware: as one of my favorite animal advocates puts it, “As animal activists, we are only as persuasive as we are aware.”
- Be Nice: People who directly or indirectly oppress animals are typically normal people like you and me. The second we look at people as evil, we thwart our ability to communicate effectively with them and to resolve the issues.
- Be Happy: The first time I saw footage of fur farms in China, I thought to myself, “how can I live a happy life when these minks, raccoons, and dogs are suffering so severely.” I eventually realized though, that more suffering on my part will not in any way relieve the suffering of the animals. In general, if we overwhelm ourselves too much, we may lose our effectiveness as activists. While we will surely will be sad at times, we must focus on the positive. Every one of us can make an immense difference.
Favorite cereal: Nature’s Path Hemp Plus Granola
Favorite brand of cookies: Trader Joe’s vegan Chocolate Chip cookies