1. Grow up on a crappy omnivore diet that includes a lot of junk food and boring home-cooked meals. In the suburbs, ideally. When you meet your first vegan, ask where they get their protein. Say you love cheese too much to ever give it up. Convince yourself there was a strip of leather somewhere on their shoes.
2. Realize how fucked up it is that animals die so you can eat a McNugget. Go vegetarian.
3. Openly judge meat eaters. Anti-meat militancy often peaks early as you distance your new compassionate identity from your shameful recent past. Lecture mom about the evil of bacon while you pick the remnants of last night’s Sloppy Joe out of your teeth.
4. Get annoyed when vegans say you’re inconsistent for giving up meat but not dairy and eggs. Make fun of those extremist vegans with your meat eating pals to demonstrate how comparatively sane you are.
5. Finally admit that vegetarianism is inconsistent. You don’t eat meat because it causes animal suffering and death, but dairy and eggs cause animal suffering and death. Experience cognitive dissonance. Go vegan.
6. Replace your old crappy diet with an equally crappy vegan version, relying on fake meats and fake cheese as you “transition.” If you experience chronic tiredness, frequent colds, depression, headaches or nosebleeds, discover that it’s due to purifying your old meaty ways. If you feel great, credit veganism.
7. Become so conditioned against eating animal products that finding out there was some butter in the biscuit you just ate makes you nauseous. Cease to think of animal products as food at all. Ask a vegetarian how she stomachs all those nasty pus-filled cow secretions and chicken periods. Call her inconsistent.
8. Surround yourself with as many vegans as possible. You’re sick of explaining where you get your protein. You need a support group. Get some vegan roommates and join an animal rights student organization or a vegan message board.
9. Get into cooking. Eating out is so difficult as a vegan that learning to cook is essential. It’s also the only way to know for sure that animal products haven’t tainted your food. Buy Veganomicon and Vegan With a Vengeance. Make vegan cupcakes and call them “yummy.” Dream of opening a vegan fast food chain.
10. Discover new (vegan) foods. Cutting out multiple food groups forces you to explore all the nooks and crannies of the groups you have left. Express pity for omnivores who have never tried wheat gluten, tempeh, millet, nutritional yeast, quinoa, flax seed, spirulina or pumpkin seed butter. Brag that your diet is more diverse now than when you ate animal products.
11. Follow the healthiest (vegan) diet possible. Cut back on mock meats and processed vegan convenience foods in favor of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains. Agonize over the optimal milk replacement and finally settle on almond milk. Have a green smoothie for breakfast every morning. Cautiously ponder if you may be immune to cancer and heart attacks. Claim you never get sick. Get sick.
12. Be surprised as your vegan friends “regress,” becoming vegetarians and meat eaters. Attribute it to lack of commitment and their junk food vegan diets. Try and fail to imagine yourself ever eating animal products again. Call going vegan the best decision of your life.
13. Make veganism a bigger part of your identity. Hand out pamphlets exposing the truth about factory farming to college students, cook for Food Not Bombs, protest a zoo, become a vegan dietitian, start a vegan blog, get a job at a vegan restaurant or become a vegan body builder to prove how healthy veganism is.
14. What’s with all the people saying you look pale and sick? Write it off as anti-vegan bias. Go to the dentist and find out you have eight cavities.
15. Feel tired and depressed all the time, get bored of vegan food and/or start to question vegan ethics. If you feel unhealthy, blame genetics or getting older, then buy a dehydrator and eat more raw and fermented foods. If it’s boredom, seek out even more obscure vegan foods like hemp seed-based tofu or “carnitas” made from young jackfruit. If you start to doubt vegan arguments, watch the animal torture porn classic Earthlings or read something by Gary L. Francione. Consider actually eating animals for a split second, then feel guilty. Remember: it may or may not be wrong to eat meat, but it’s definitely not wrong to not eat meat. So stay vegan just to be safe. Also, if you’ve never been a coffee drinker, now is the time to start.
16. The cognitive dissonance returns as veganism becomes a burden. How could the perfect diet and philosophy be failing? Veganism is forever… isn’t it? Realize veganism is a major sacrifice and wonder where all the animals you saved are. Previously your belief in the wrongness of eating animals was so powerful that it was easier to change what you did than what you thought. Now you’re in such bad shape that it’s easier to change your beliefs than stay vegan.
17. Hesitantly try a little bit of fish, turkey, cheese or boiled eggs. It tastes strange and the texture is unnerving, and you can’t help but imagine the ghost of the dead animal watching with disapproval, but you’re so desperate that you keep trying.
18. Officially quit veganism. Wonder how you ever went a day without meat, not to mention years. Kick yourself for eating nothing but cheeseless pizza and Maoz falafel during your month in Paris. Go out to eat with your non-vegan friends and truly enjoy it for the first time you can remember. “Welcome back to humanity,” they say. “It’s good to be back,” you respond. Give up bread.
19. Get into humane meat and weird animal parts that you never tried before going vegan. Explain that your dollars promote humane treatment of animals whereas vegans opt out of the question all together.
20. Whenever you meet a vegan, think how cute and naïve it is. Ask how long they’ve been vegan. If it’s not as long as you lasted, give them a patronizing smirk as you calculate how much time they have left. If they’ve been vegan longer than you made it, marvel at how demented they must be to go beyond the point that all reasonable people stop.
21. Learn from your vegan friends and family members that you are a bad person and did veganism wrong. Then learn from strangers that you might not really exist, or that you may be a saboteur from the meat industry. Assuming you do exist: if only you had listened to vegan dietitians Jack Norris and Virginia Messina, you could still be vegan today. But you didn’t, so fuck you and don’t respond to this email.
22a. Stop thinking about veganism.
22b. Write an anti-veganism book or blog.