Vegan Teen Stories
Anna (Tennessee, USA)
Hey! My name’s Anna, and I’m the founder of VeganTeen. I’m 18-years-old and live in Tennessee, and this is my story as a vegan teen.
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I’ve been vegan for about 7 years now. Before going vegan, I was on and off with vegetarianism. Sometimes I would, say, choose meat with my school lunches, but I rarely ate meat elsewhere. A desire to fit in really gave me the urge to eat animal products around my friends.
Around 2010, my parents transitioned to a vegan diet. They educated my younger brother and me about veganism with documentaries, online videos, and books. Since we were only ages 9 and 6, we watched videos and like My Friends at the Farm and read books such as The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach.
After being educated about the health, environmental, and animal abuse issues associated with animal agriculture, I gradually started to transition. Once I had learned about veganism, peer pressure didn’t have such a great influence on me. Meat wasn’t too hard to let go of, but cheese and eggs took longer. As I found products like Daiya and Silk, my transition became easy.
When my family was transitioning to veganism, we lived in a very rural area that supplied a lot for the chicken industry. One day, we noticed a chicken in the middle of the road. She must have fallen out of the truck on the way to the slaughterhouse. Of course, we took her home and made her our pet; we named her Flowers. Sadly, due to how chickens in the meat industry are bred, Flowers grew too fat to support her own weight and passed away. I never ate chicken again. Flowers was like any other pet to me, and my heart sank when she died. She was only one of the almost 9 billion of chickens bred by the meat industry annually, and it disgusts and confuses me how people can continue to torture such sweet, innocent animals. This experience had a long-lasting effect on me, and I will never forget her.
Every vegan teen faces struggles, but my journey as a vegan has been a lot easier than many others have experienced. My parents and friends have always been super supportive.
Unfortunately, I have gotten some hate from others. Some people have put me down for my dietary choices, and even if I have tried to reason with them, those people usually don’t seem to listen. I think a lot of vegans feel this way. On the other hand, I definitely have changed the opinions of some of my peers. A few of my friends at least have tried vegetarianism because of my encouragement, and one of my friends has been vegetarian for a year and is considering becoming a vegan!
I feel that just advocating to the people around me isn’t enough, however. Vegan teens don’t have enough websites or organizations where they can connect and receive support. I’m looking forward to seeing this site grow, and I hope to really help others! (You can help me by submitting your story here.)
Besides being vegan, I have many interests and hobbies, including volunteering with people in need (veterans, the elderly and special needs students), art and playing the guitar. This year, I am starting the first environmentalist club at my new school after being inspired to do more activism in my own community, thanks to my great experience at YEA Camp during Summer 2018, which you can read about here.
I hope this helps my fellow vegan teens get to know me better! However, I would like to know more about you guys; please submit your stories too!
Daniel (New York, USA)
I’m Daniel, a 16-year-old animal rights activist from New York City and a vegan of over 3.5 years.
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I volunteer with Anonymous for the Voiceless and have been doing so since June of last year. I recently have become the organizer of the Bronx chapter of Anonymous for the Voiceless. I also am the founder of a Facebook group, EVegActivism, with hundreds of members, where emails and petitions are created and completed for animals.
Last year in Kentucky, 458 pigs were rescued from a slaughterhouse, some pregnant, so the number grew past 500 very quickly. This project was known as Operation 458. I raised over $1,000 in 10 days for their medical care, transportation, food, water, etc.
I’ve attended marches and vigils, and I am currently working with the Animal Liberation Toronto Conference for their 5 days of action this August. Other big plans include a 24 Cube of Truth in Amsterdam this May, and a week long—that’s right, 168 hours—Cube of Truth in the middle of Time Square NYC this July.
My family members have been accepting of my veganism to the degree that they do not really mind it. We have had arguments in the past about why I am vegan, but they never seem to listen, and they refuse to watch any videos or learn about it. Friends and people at school are slightly different; I rarely get “teased,” but I’d rather say that people just do not understand it. If people ask me about it, I will explain it. All of these issues come about because people are ignorant about what really goes on in animal agriculture. We have to remind ourselves that we once were not vegans, and that we need to educate others, just as we have been educated.
I have tons of activist friends that are vegan! I found vegan teens through activism events, as well as on social media, like Facebook, Instagram, etc. For the first years I was vegan, I had absolutely no one to talk to, which is another perk of getting active. Once we start to do activism, we grow a social circle of like-minded people, all who care for us. I’ve never felt a greater sense of family before.
The best part about being vegan is knowing that I am not causing harm to others. I can sleep better at night knowing that I helped save lives that day.
I love to talk to people. I have been volunteering with Anonymous for the Voiceless since June of 2018, and have had hundreds if not thousands of conversations at these events. I also love to learn about everything. That’s how I got into veganism. I’m just naturally curious, so in my free time I research different things like science, learn languages, etc. I also love cooking and cycling/running. After going vegan, I got much more interested in healthy eating as well, and ever since, my running and cycling times have gotten better and better.
In addition to animal rights and veganism, I am very passionate about human rights and politics, as well as the environment.
Here’s my email firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone would like to contact me.
Simone (California, USA)
Hi! My name is Simone, and I am fourteen years old. I live in San Francisco, California. I love singing, dancing, and acting!
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When I confronted my parents on wanting to become vegan, they were not happy. They made it clear to me that it would never happen because of the financial aspect. I was completely heartbroken. Here I was trying to make a difference when I couldn’t even start. It left me completely defeated, and I gave up. Every time I would eat a turkey sandwich or a cheese stick, I would gag. I would look at my sandwich and see those videos. The videos of poor innocent animals being killed and used for their resources. To compensate for not being vegan, I would watch “24-hour Vegan Challenge” or “Life Of A Vegan.” (See here, here and here as examples.) As I continued to watch vegan videos and follow Peta, I realized that I can’t give up. As cliche as that sounds, it helped me become vegan.
Since the first time I tried to become vegan didn’t work, I came up with a plan. My plan was to not only explain the hardships that animals face every day but show my parents the videos that changed me. I was super nervous. I was worried that my parents would say no and I would fall into the deep hole I fell into before. I was sitting at the table and I turned to my mom and told her everything. She listened, which I was not expecting. She looked in my eyes and said yes. A feeling of relief rushed through my body.
As proud as I was to be vegan, I was not expecting the amount of backlash I would get for it. In my head, people would feel inspired just like I did. That’s the opposite of what happened. My friends congratulated me and were very supportive; it was the other people who ridiculed my every move. I would go to my friend’s house and explain to their parents that I was vegan. I got side eyes and the “well can you be not vegan for a day.” I felt so much pressure to eat meat or dairy so I could fit in. I felt bad saying no to the parent’s question. Nevertheless, I would eat what they prepared me. Some parents had good reactions to it and prepared vegan food for me! It made me feel very included, but I would always get questions like, “You’re vegan to lose weight right?” or “How do you get your protein?” I didn’t know how many people didn’t know about the abuse animals suffer and the environmental cost it has on the planet. These interactions left me angry. When I became vegan, I didn’t know how angry I would get. I felt like I was the only one trying to help the world. My family continued to eat animals and animal byproducts. I knew that after talking to people who eat meat and animal byproducts, they don’t know about the side effects of doing so. Now that I was vegan, I had a platform and I should use it.
It’s not as easy as you think to start activism. It is especially hard when you are a teenager and people don’t take you seriously. I started talking at my school. During classes when everyone would eat, I would pull out a vegan bar. People would start asking questions, and I would give them some of the bars. They would look at me and say, “Wow! This is actually good!” Then when I got an opportunity to spread veganism, I would take it. In my language arts class, my teacher gave us an assignment that I knew was the perfect platform for veganism. He assigned us to take a global problem and write a 5-10 minute talk about it. My friend Tabitha and I composed a speech that would change many of the our classmates’ ideas. We worked on it for a month and finally came the day to present it. When we got up, we got students’ comments like, “I love bacon,” or “Plants have feelings too!” I knew that my peers would regret saying those comments after we presented our speech. After we finished, the room was silent. My teacher congratulated us, and the next day at school I heard my classmates wanting to become vegan. I knew that this was just the start of a long journey I would have preaching veganism.
You can find me on Instagram @simone.dipirro.
Jasmine (California, USA)
Hi! I’m Jasmine, a 16-year-old from Los Angeles, who’s been vegan for three years as
of February 2020.
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My unconventional path to veganism began in the fourth grade, when my class watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives. I was so disgusted by the production of meat: I decided to eat less meat and transition into a pescatarian diet. My decision caused controversy within my family and was met with criticism. Some even joked that my teacher had “brain-washed” me. Fortunately, by the time I entered middle school, my family had adjusted and was more accepting of the decision to go vegetarian.
Throughout middle school, I remained vegetarian, but I still only justified my diet by explaining that meat grossed me out. Eventually, I was introduced to veganism in eighth grade; I contemplated going plant-based to challenge myself. When I shared this with my parents, they laughed at the idea, saying I would never be able to give up cheese, ice cream and cake. These comments are what started it all; I was determined to prove them wrong, and I did. As I researched the proper way to transition into a vegan diet, I began to educate myself on animal exploitation and abuse within the animal agriculture industry. It finally clicked. I found a new answer to the question, “Why are you vegan?” It was no longer my distaste for meat nor my competitive spirit that drove me. My response was now much more powerful: for the animals.
Throughout these past three years, I have realized one of the hardest parts of being vegan is reassuring others you’re okay. I know some of my friends feel guilty if we’re at a restaurant, and I don’t have a filling meal. Other times, there won’t be any vegan options at school-sanctioned events, such as dances. Or on occasion, people question my health under the misconception that being vegan means being protein deficient. My response to all of the aforementioned is, “I’m okay,” because I genuinely am: I’m healthier than ever and always remember to pack snacks. The constant reassurance on my part is not annoying, as I’m happy to have supportive people in my life who care, but I hate feeling like a burden to my loved ones at times.
Even though I can feel like a burden at times, I have wholeheartedly embraced my vegan identity. I find that it’s even easier to go by “the vegan” than my name, as it feels like there’s a million other Jasmines at my school. Plus, I’m always happy to answer any questions and educate others. As I’m sure most vegans are aware, people have countless interesting questions (following “Where do you get your protein?”).
I also enjoy dispelling the misconception that veganism must be costly, as I’m a bit of a penny pincher. One of the best feelings is discovering a vegan product at the 99¢ store. Not to brag, but I’ve found tons of options, like vegan cheese, ramen, and even a Gardein product once there. I live by the idea that veganism can be cheap; it’s just about being resourceful and adjusting your expectations.
I love being vegan for countless reasons, but one of my favorites remains the creativity and resourcefulness that our community never ceases to amaze others with. I’ve enjoyed exploring this through cooking and baking. For instance, testing out egg substitutes is always a fascinating science experiment, and discovering new ways to prepare tofu remains exciting. I like to say we vegans are magicians for our ability to transform what we have into want we crave.
Other than plant-based eating, I’m passionate about international relations and environmental sustainability. I created the position of Chairperson of Environmental Sustainability for one of the clubs I’m part of at school and strive to create change within my school’s campus. In the future, I hope to pursue a career in internal relations, where I aim to minimize the dependency on animals globally.
Most recently, I started a youth group for vegan and vegetarian teens in Los Angeles, called Plant-Based Teens of LA (PBTLA). I want to focus on outreach towards adolescence with talks at schools, as I know my journey to veganism began in the classroom. Moreover, I hope we can support each other and encourage going full vegan through going on outings to protests, animal shelters and festivals. I know going vegan/plant-based in a family of meat-eaters can be hard, and I want to help others who may be in this situation.
Caitlin (Michigan, USA)
My name is Caitlin and I’m 17 years old. I’ve been vegan for a year now, although I was vegetarian for the year before.
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My friend and I initially went vegetarian for a week together as a dare, and although she baled halfway through, I loved it and never went back! I think I tried it because I wanted a change. My family ate a lot of the same meals over and over, so with cutting out meat, I got to get out of that routine and be more aware of what I was eating. I really started to think about the steps it took to get my food to my plate, and it was really eye-opening!
Out of curiosity, I watched a lot of vegan documentaries like What the Health, Vegucated, and Cowspiracy. After seeing where meat, dairy, and other animal products came from and how they affected the planet and my body, I decided to go vegan. I couldn’t live with the fact that animals had to die and suffer just so I could eat food that was, in reality, bad for me. There are no benefits or pros to contributing to such a corrupt industry! I refused to be a part of it anymore.
I live in West Michigan with my twin sister and parents. They are all accepting of my diet and encourage my healthy eating habits. I think they see how important it is to me, and they’re are open to me sharing about veganism, although none of them are vegan yet. (Fingers crossed though!) My mom actually went vegan for a month with me because I had asked her to—just so I could show her how easy it was. She has her own health problems though, and her chiropractor/nutritionist tells her she has to eat meat. It’s hard to argue with a nutritionist who claims vegans are some of the unhealthiest people on earth. My mom believes what he says, so I don’t think she’ll go vegan any time soon … .sigh. My dad wants to look into it more, but my sister says she loves fried chicken too much, and vegan meats just aren’t the same. I hope eventually my family will find a way to be vegan together. I’m trying to be a positive influence and share what I’ve learned. I think I have made a positive impact on them nonetheless, because we’ve never had so many fresh vegetables and fruits in our kitchen before!
The hardest part about being vegan is trying to answer all of the questions I get. I’m constantly trying to learn more, but it can be difficult to explain why I don’t eat animal products when I’m surrounded by people who aren’t too open-minded to the idea. I’ve had people get frustrated at me because they think I’m restricting my diet and only eat carrots. It’s hard trying to show that I’ve tried so many new foods and have actually expanded my diet because of going vegan! A lot of times people start a discussion about being vegan not to talk, but to argue with me. The people who ask me questions typically are pushing their own agenda and seem to want to make me go back to being an omnivore again. It takes a lot of patience to work through some of those situations.
My friends say I’m strong and that it takes a big commitment to live the way I do. I’m thankful for their support and recognizing that it takes work, but I want them to know it’s not as hard as it looks! If you’re considering going vegan, I’d definitely try it, even for as little as a month! It’s totally worth it. Just give it a go, because who knows? You might feel SO much better, learn about so many different new foods and experience new flavors. Of course you’ll have your ups and downs, but it’s the effort that counts. No one is perfect. It’s 2018 now, so there’s a vegan alternative for almost every imaginable product! It’s easier than ever to make the change. Why not try?
To me, the best part of being vegan is the positive impact it makes in basically every area of my life and for the environment. It’s one of the best feelings in the world knowing that my actions are doing good. It makes all the difficulties worth it. I read that for each year someone is vegan, they save 100 animals’ lives. Hearing that, I think it really grew my compassion for the animals. It helped remind me of the value of life itself and how cruel it is to take that away from an animal who did nothing to deserve it. I mean, each animal feels pain and has a life. They have families and deserve the chance to live and breathe just like everyone else. Their time shouldn’t be cut short for any reason.
Other than being vegan, I also love running outside, yoga, biking, gardening and cooking, all while listening to Spotify. (I live in my earbuds, haha.) I also love taking pictures, so if you want you can follow me on Insta @tinliac.b. I’m planning on moving soon to California and going to college there, although I also want to travel and grow personally once I graduate next year.
Tamas (Illinois, USA)
Hello! My name is Tamas, but y’all can call me whatever. I’m 15, and this is my journey in veganism, the Animal Rights Movement, and ultimately opening an Animal Sanctuary with my mother.
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In about ’06 I watched the film “Peaceable Kingdom” with my Mom and some other people in a local vegan Meet Up group (these are great resources for young vegans, btw, and if there isn’t one near you, make one!). During the film, when they got to the part about the male egg-layer breed chicks being unnecessary and hence, they were on a conveyor belt headed to the grinder, still fluffy and chirping and adorable, I promptly burst into tears and declared myself Vegan.
Well, I was straight-forward at least.
Now, since I was already like 95% vegan at that point, admittedly, it wasn’t a huge leap. In fact, our household was vegan since I was born. But, the decision to change myself (keep in mind, I was like, five years old at that point, tops) was something kinda big. So, the occasional pizza slice at Chuck E Cheese’s was gone from my diet and I was feeling pretty good.
Now, this is about the time when the vegan meats, cheeses, dairy, and all of the good stuff hit the shelves. This was the dawn of the movement going mainstream. Suddenly Tofurky has a new take-and-bake pizza, Silk has product placement in all of my favorite TV shows, and Gardein is invented. It’s been a pretty exciting time to be alive, really. In the years since my own days as a novice vegan (I like to think of myself as a pro vegan, next-level vegan, OG vegan, epic vegan, etc.), I’ve seen some products come and go, but the enthusiasm never dies, and the conversation never stops. The world keeps growing more compassionate.
Some of my favorite things include cooking and creating yummy vegan recipes, reading just about everything, comics, singing around the house to all the animals, writing, and spending time exploring the city of Chicago, which is only about an hour and a half away from my house. I also attend protests and vegan events as often as I can, and I help rescue animals in need nearly every week. Besides animal rights, I’m also passionate about helping people experiencing homelessness, and I hand out food to hungry people in the city whenever I can. My Mom and I even have a tradition where we do this on our birthdays, and it makes us pretty happy to know that we’re helping in our own small way.
About three years ago, my Mother and I decided to open an animal sanctuary called EARTH, a place for rescued animals needing help and a place for them to live out their lives. And after three years of working really hard every day, rubbing pig bellies, and feeding chickens, we’re still goin’ strong. I’m pretty proud of us. We share our home and land with dozens of animals of all different species, and growing up with a huge bunch of animal brothers and sisters has definitely changed my life and shaped me into a more patient and understanding human being.
My life has been fortunate. I’m home-schooled, so I don’t have to deal with bullying or rejection because of a diet I’ve chosen. And I recognize that maybe my experience has (will) be different than a normal kid, but my advice…?
There isn’t anything about a vegan lifestyle you’re going to regret, except not doing it sooner. And never did I realize that more than when I looked into an animal’s eyes and was able to say with both my words and my actions, “I love you.”
If that makes me a Freak, O.K.
Laura (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Hi, I’m Laura! I’m 18 years old and live in Copenhagen, Denmark. First of all, my vegan journey started as a challenge with my sister for no reason actually. We just thought it would be fun and challenging
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I have a sparkling light inside me that wants to inspire people to eat more plants. I believe that we, consumers, can change the market so that plants—in many shapes—can be the load-bearing element. WE decide what WE want to use OUR money on, and that is simply OUR power. I must say that becoming so illuminated about the food idustry and what it is causing, I became very angry, especially at my family. Today, I’ve learned that being angry is not the way to a more peaceful life; inspiration is.
Overall, a plant-based diet has brought me good in all aspects. Last but not least, in addition to eating a plant-based diet, I am living a vegan lifestyle, which means having no animal products at all, such as clothes made of wool. I’ve stopped buying animal-tested makeup, etc., but I still have some things from before my transition. My transition has happened gradually, and I feel like I am becoming a better version of myself for everyday that goes by. Eating a plant-based diet is so much more than just food!
Nikota (Melbourne, Australia)
Hi there, I’m Nikota. I’m 16 years old and live in Melbourne, Australia (you know, the place with lots of vegemite, koalas and spiders that could swallow you whole).
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I’ve been vegetarian since I can remember—never had a steak, or eaten bacon (I’m quite proud of that)—but more recently, my parents took me to The Gold Coast in Queensland for my birthday. Since 89% of what I ate there had no cheese, milk, or eggs, I thought, “Wow this is great!” And I was off! Since then, I’ve been full 100% VEGAN! And I don’t think I’ll ever go back.
Most people think that vegans chow down 3 times a day to dirt, water and mountains of mushrooms for their protein, but NO! We eat better than any other diet can make you eat, and you feel better than any other diet can make you feel! The strength and pride you feel for not having anything to do with animal cruelty was something I’d never imagined, or experienced before.
It is hard sometimes, having 99% of your friends tell you that they had beef ravioli out of a can for dinner or leftover Spaghetti Bolognese for breakfast. You know, I’ve tried to rant and rave to them about how they’re killing the planet by consuming flesh foods, but they won’t listen no matter hard I’ve tried and tried and tried. They just keep telling me that they could never give up their meat and that they’d miss it too much. If only they had a better consciousness about what they were truly eating!
You see, the thing is over all the stuff and the people and the KFC ads on TV, the best part about being vegan is I find it gives me hope … hope that maybe one day the world will know, and change the way they see themselves. Then and only then will we have the world peace that pageant girls across the globe have been saying is their biggest dream for years (a bit of a cliché, I know, but it is possible).
Being home-schooled (as I am) doesn’t open me up to all the stuff that school kids go through—the names and the bullying that so many do—so I guess you could say I’m in my own little vegan bubble, and it’s great!
The world we live in today is young, and all the people in all the places in all the world are in their own little bubbles, and it’s hard to break them out. It’s hard for many people to see that animals are our ancestors, and although our ancestors for generations have been looked up to for guidance, now animals are being run down, ground up and looked at as only a meal waiting to happen. But we can change that, because more than a billion people have dug themselves into their own holes, and WE the vegan teens of the world hold the ladders to get them out so they can see the light beyond the meat.
On a lighter note, to quote Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says IM-POSSIBLE!”
And that my friends, is all the hope we need!
Rose (Maryland, USA)
My name is Rose. I’m 18 and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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I’ve been vegan for almost a year. It’ll be a year on August 25. 🙂 Definitely when I first went vegan, it was tough because it was really hard to say no to desserts, which are my weakness. It was also hard to find all new foods that I liked, since virtually all my favorite foods before going vegan had animal products in them. It was also difficult because I’m not a huge fan of cooking, and I wasn’t very motivated to find new recipes, much less try to make them.
My parents have been nothing but 100% supportive about it, which I am very lucky for. My brothers tease me about it the most, but it doesn’t bother me. I think the hardest part is all of the stereotypes and things that people assume about you when they find out you’re vegan. When I first went vegan, I didn’t like telling people or answering the “why” question, because I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want people to think I thought I was better than them or something. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that people are a lot more accepting than I give them credit for, and they’re not going to hate me for not wanting to cause harm to animals. And they may not agree with me, but if they ask, it’s generally because they really are curious. If I can do anything to teach people that it’s not extreme (in fact, the opposite) and maybe break some stereotypes—like explain to them how it really isn’t that difficult—then I definitely will.
My best friend (who is wearing the blue dress in the second picture) is actually the reason I went vegan. She went vegan a few months before me, so she was a major source of support and someone I could talk to about it. In terms of my friends and school, I got teased about it at first but now not as much. You just kind of have to accept it and know that whenever you do something so drastically different from the societal norm, people are going to point it out and try to make you feel uncomfortable—ESPECIALLY something that makes them question their own actions and beliefs in such a blunt way. I’ve also found something very, very interesting since going vegan: I found that the people who tease me the most are actually the ones considering going vegan themselves. Since I’ve gone vegan, my mom, and one of my other best friends have gone vegan, while 6 of my other friends have gone vegetarian, and a lot of others have just been doing Meatless Mondays!
The best part of being vegan for me is living in alignment with my morals and values. It’s definitely given me some spiritual guidance that I did not have in my life before. When I was younger, I was fishing and caught a fish, but it swallowed the hook, and I remember running inside and crying hysterically for a half an hour while my grandfather fiddled with the hook trying to get it out. I remember freaking out that it was in pain or that it was going to dry out and die. I also always hated it when my parents boiled lobsters alive when we ate them.
Looking back, I’ve always been vegan at heart; it just took me a while to actually break old habits and form new ones, which is really all being vegan is. Temporary inconvenience is a small price to pay in order to spare animals needless suffering, do the single best thing an individual can do for the planet, and just to be happier because I don’t feel guilty about any of the products I buy or the food I eat. Overall, being vegan has just made me a more selfless person. I care about things that are so much more important now. And it’s also forced me to become more conscientious and be more aware about a lot of global issues.
Some things about me other than being vegan are that I really like to take pictures of people. Portrait photography is my passion. I like to help people, and I’m an artistic person. I love connecting with people and traveling and learning new things. If veganism has taught me anything, it’s to have an open mind and to be accepting of everyone.
Evan (Maryland, USA)
Hello! My name’s Evan and I’m 15 years old. I like to write, draw, play video games (Minecraft’s my favorite), and code. I live in Columbia, Maryland and I’ve been vegan for almost 9 years.
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I first went vegan because my grandmother passed away from a 26-year-long battle with breast cancer in September of 2009, at 69 years old. My mother, knowing that she had a family history of cancer and that this was another link in the chain, then decided that she didn’t want me, my twin sisters (10 years old at the time), or anyone else in the family to die of the same disease.
In the hospital waiting room, she heard a voice in her head, which she still doesn’t understand to this day, telling her to stop eating animal products. She then did some experimenting with veganism and later read the book “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and discovered the connection between health and diet – that the leading causes of death in Americans are diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, that are preventable by avoiding the consumption of dairy and meat products.
After discovering this important connection, she decided she knew what was best for the health of her family. So, she sat down with me and my sisters and flat out told us “No more dairy.” (We were raised vegetarian, so we already didn’t eat meat.) And we cried, and cried, and cried. We were addicted to our yogurt, milk, and cheese, and through the first few months of our veganism, we felt great withdrawal from our typical meals.
That is, we felt withdrawal until we discovered substitutes for our typical meals – transition foods. Things like Daiya Cheese were really effective at first as substitutes for classics like pizza and grilled cheese, but as we went on, we eventually broke away from them and processed foods overall (except for bread, of course). My mother also went to a conference called Vegetarian Summerfest early on (which we’ve continued to go to for the past few years as a family), where she met Chef AJ, a famous vegan chef. She came home with Chef AJ’s cookbook, “Unprocessed,” and started to make recipes from it that everyone in the family liked. That book and cookbooks like it really came in handy for our transition, and because of them, we’ve found that it’s really easy to not only replicate the food we used to eat but also create entirely new and delicious flavors just with whole plant foods! More recently, we’ve even stopped eating foods with refined sugar, salt, and oil, and our family has been holding a monthly sugar, salt, and oil-free and whole food vegan potluck for the past five years. Also, my mother was even able to convert my very stubborn grandfather to veganism within the last two or three years! You can read about his success story here.
Before going vegan, I used to throw up almost every time I consumed a large amount of dairy, effectively throwing up at least once per month. My family never really identified the cause before we went vegan, but once I stopped consuming dairy, I stopped throwing up. It turns out that I’m lactose intolerant, so eating whole plant foods is healthier for me in that additional way. But, besides that, I feel more energetic and livelier than ever before, and I’m able to concentrate and behave better in school. My family as a whole has continued to be vegan not just because of the health benefits, but also because of the positive impact on the animals and the environment, which we discovered later on.
Unfortunately, being vegan hasn’t always been so great for me in every way. Many times in school, I’ve faced a lot of peer pressure and sometimes even direct confrontation just for the way I eat. No one in my grade and none of my friends eat exactly how I do, and most don’t understand why I eat the way I eat. For example, they make fun of my lunch because I drink a green smoothie for lunch every school day. (The smoothies, though they taste good to me, often don’t have very appealing colors. Some kids have made fun of me for it in the past, and some even continue to. I’ve learnt to ignore it.) They feel bad for me because my food palate is so “limited,” and they don’t understand that it’s my choice of eating. My story is a bit long, so when I can’t tolerate their questioning, I just shorten it down to being raised vegetarian and lactose intolerant. But, I honestly feel bad for them, since I know that I’m eating healthier food than they are, and that the way they’re eating takes a toll on their own health in the long run.
I hope that this story is inspiring in some way, and I hope that many other teens will be inspired as well and start to eat the way that I do.
Thanks for reading, and good luck on your own vegan journey!
Samantha (Maryland, USA)
My name is Samantha, I am 18 years old and have been a vegan for almost 2 years now. Some of my hobbies are song writing, guitar, drawing, hiking and yoga.
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Before, I was a vegetarian for five years. I remember the day I became a vegetarian I went to the state fair and saw a steer with the sign “beef” above his head. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this steer was going to be killed. I remember walking up to it and seeing its brown eyes, as if the steer knew his fate. Ever since that moment, I never ate meat again.
Through 7th grade to the beginning of 9th grade, I had twisted views on food. My eating disorder made me feel afraid of food, and my relationship with it was unhealthy. I remember googling videos of people who overcame eating disorders, and so many of them said “veganism saved me.” I knew I wanted to be part of this movement and this lifestyle. I wanted to change my views on food and help support a cause I strongly believe in, so on February 12th, I became a vegan.
There was nothing really smooth about my change to veganism; I just cut out all animal products. I remember the first week was one of the hardest. I felt alone, because no one in my household really approved. They acted like my new lifestyle was an inconvenience and annoyance. I felt confused because I wondered if this was really something I wanted. However, I stayed with the vegan lifestyle and ignored all the negative comments. Within a couple weeks, I knew I had made the right choice. My eating disorder was no longer present, because eating plant-based food made me feel good about what I was putting in my body. I had more energy and it was easier for me to focus in school. I had severe acne and my skin cleared up. Most of all, I was happy that I was helping save animals.
Till this day, I picture that steer in my head and wish there was something I could have done to stop him from being killed. However, I know I am making a change even if it’s not saving a whole farm. Since becoming vegan, I inspired my mom to become a vegetarian too. If there is one thing I learned through this journey, it is to stay true to yourself. I know that’s a corny piece of advice, but it’s true. If I would have listened to my family, I might not be the person I am today, and still would have my eating disorder. Also, I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people who have the same views as me about killing animals. I hope my story might help you, and I wish you all the luck on your journey.
Cassie (Connecticut, USA)
I am 16 years old and have been vegan for nearly 3 years now. Going vegan was definitely one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life.
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While first learning about how farm animals are treated and transitioning to veganism, I remember I was so angry and upset. A new passion formed, and I was so frustrated when people wouldn’t listen to me. Also, I confused: Why hadn’t I been exposed to all of this information before? This needs to be common knowledge.
It took a long time for me to learn how to handle myself in debates and keep my cool. I decided to channel all of this frustration, passion, and newfound knowledge into my Instagram page @kindnessovercruelty. It has been such a great outlet for me and has helped me meet many friends.
At first, I faced lots of resistance from family. They worried that I would become unhealthy or not get the proper nutrients, and this was the case for the first few months of eating vegan. I was still new to veganism and most definitely should have learned more about the health aspect of this lifestyle. However, now I am the healthiest I have ever been and feel amazing! Vegan food is so fresh and flavorful! My family’s hesitation and uneasiness has turned to support, and I have actually managed to convert a few to the lifestyle. Lead by example and others will follow!
Of course there is some teasing at school, but I know what I’m doing is right, and I have found many genuinely interested people in my classes. I try to use school as a platform to spread the message and educate peers. I have a whole community of young vegan friends online and also a few in person! Three friends of mine have decided to make the transition and have been inspired by my journey. It is so rewarding!
For me, the best part of being vegan has to be the people. Through this lifestyle, I have met so many amazing like-minded people who share my passions. It gives me hope for the future and keeps me inspired to keep writing, posting and speaking out about animal rights.
Aside from veganism and animal rights, I have a deep love for reading and writing and absolutely adore traveling. Visiting new places and experiencing the things they have to offer is so interesting and enlightening.
In the future, I hope to create a career for myself in journalism. This way, I can travel, write, and speak out for those in need, combining all my passions in one! Veganism has had such an amazing impact on my life, and I strongly encourage anyone considering the lifestyle to join as soon as possible! We need you!
Elijah (Oklahoma, USA)
Hi! My name is Elijah and I’ve been vegetarian for a little more than the last four years and vegan for over half of that!
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I can honestly say that it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I only continue to reap the benefits.
I happily live in a southern community in Oklahoma (yes that does sound horrible for a vegan but listen a second). Living somewhere so steeped in a culture of tradition, violence and non acceptance has been a gift. Everyday I am challenged to share the gift of kindness with others and inspire people to live peacefully with others.
I hope to go to college at Rice or OU after I graduate and study law. I want to be an attorney for activist groups for a few years. I also want to travel a great deal, especially to India. I want to spend time with Buddhist, monastic communities and study yoga more in depth.
If you ever want to hmu then my instagram is grey_bishop.
I hope all of you are continually inspired to live lives of peace. Much love. 🕉
Brandi (Vancouver Island, Canada)
My name is Brandi, I’m sixteen years old, and from Vancouver Island.
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I have been vegan for one year and enjoy hiking, weight lifting, gymnastics, and yoga, as well as modelling, photography, filming, reading, meditating, journaling, and drawing.
I initially went vegetarian two years ago, because I knew about the health benefits of cutting meat out. I ended up developing a negative view towards food. I feared eating anything and became addicted to exercise. My eating disorder completely took over my life, and I didn’t think I would ever be happy again.
After months of fighting myself, I finally chose to fight my eating disorder instead. I decided to go vegan right away. I did it behind my family’s backs, because they never did approve of me going vegan in the beginning. They slowly caught on and are very accepting of it now. They even let me make all of their meals for one week! My friends are also accepting of it; its just difficult because none of them are vegan. Luckily, I do have online support through other vegan teens on Instagram. It sounds cliché, but veganism saved me both mentally and physically. Even though I still struggle, I’m pushing through everyday.
As time went on, I educated myself more and became extremely passionate about veganism. I am still vegan because of the health benefits, but now also for animal rights and the environment. Along with veganism being a passion of mine, I am also very passionate about minimalism and zero-waste. Though I am not fully committed to those quite yet, I hope to be when I move out of my parent’s house.
If you are considering going vegan, JUST DO IT! I promise, you will not regret it. Stay true to who you are and remember that you are an incredible person and deserve the best!
If you want to connect, Instagram is: @nourishing__myself.
Skyler (Ontario, Canada)
I’m Skyler, and I’m 17 years old. I live in Ontario, Canada. I’ve been vegan for three years and have a black belt in taekwondo.
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I became vegan because I was (and still am) passionate about animal rights. I had been vegetarian for a while, and I realized that I was still contributing to animal abuse by eating dairy and eggs.
My family was pretty supportive of my going vegan. My mom became vegan at the same time as me. My dad, even though he wasn’t vegetarian at the time, was fine with it.
I went vegan the summer between grades seven and eight, and eighth grade was pretty awful. The guys in my class were really rude to me about my choice and would make mean and sometimes dirty jokes towards me.
My advice for other vegan teens would be to stay true to your beliefs. Everyone is trying to find themselves and, as cliché as it may sound, they might try to bring you down just to make themselves feel better. Vegans are making the world a better place, and that’s all that matters.
I have one vegan friend who is a few years older than me, so I don’t see her much. I’ve gotten three of my friends to go vegetarian. (It was four, but one of them had some sort of nutrient deficiency and the doctor made them eat meat. *sigh*)
The best part about being vegan for me is being able to look and be with any animal and not feel any guilt. The pig in my picture is one I met when I went to volunteer work day at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary.
Aside from being vegan, I’m proud of being a black belt in taekwondo! I’ve been doing taekwondo for a little over five years.
Some other hobbies of mine include drawing, reading and listening to music. One of my new interests is astrology and learning about the different signs.
Daniel (South Coast, Mexico)
My name is Daniel. I live in Mexico’s South coast and I’ve been vegan since october 2014.
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My country has very informal ways to produce animal products, so one night I was walking to the store and realized a pig slaughterhouse was set near my house. I saw everything and immediately knew I had to do something about it, so I went vegan.
I am 18 years old now, and I’ve been doing road cycling for 2 years, with no struggle at all. Everyday, I enjoy the huge variety of local tropical fruits.
My friends often ask me for recipes and tricks that can easily make their foods cheaper (and cruelty free). My parents became vegetarian and they do great too.
I’m studying architecture in UAM-X, and the best part of being vegan is that I can go through life knowing that a daily revolution is possible because I changed my attitude.
Natalie (Massachusetts, USA)
Hi! I’m Natalie, and I’m 16. I’m from Massachusetts, USA and I’ve been vegan for about 4 years.
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I’ve faced many struggles as a vegan, such as not being able to find vegan food on field trips/in general, and feeling a bit hopeless because of the oppression of my ideals.
I first went vegan because my mother made me (lol), but soon, I adopted the ethics of veganism and became an activist. My friends have been extremely supportive of me; they provide vegan food when I am at their houses, and a couple friends of mine are even in the process of going vegan themselves.
For me, best part of being vegan is the feeling of being healthy, and knowing that you’re doing something to help animals who are suffering in the cruel world that we live in.
Besides being a vegan, I also love to read, hike, and translate Latin!
Glenda (British Columbia, Canada)
My name’s Glenda. I’m 15 and have been vegan for over a year. Here’s my story.
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For most of my life, I had been a hardcore meat-eater and dairy consumer. I come from a European family, so there’s actually no vegetarians or vegans in my ENTIRE family. When I was about 13, I wanted to go to vegetarian but was never able to follow through. About a year later, I asked myself why I was in so much pain after eating. Not only was I lactose intolerant, but I was sensitive to poultry, making every meal a digestive hell for me. One day, I asked myself if it hurts so bad, why do I keep doing this to myself? There was no logical response.
I vividly remember the day I went vegan. It was dinnertime and my mom was just about to put a pork chop on my plate when I stopped her and said “I don’t agree with this anymore,” and filled my plate with more vegetables instead. They never questioned my choice. I had finally done what I had wanted to do.
Being fueled by Freelee’s vegan fury, I was ready for anything. I started trying a crap ton of vegan recipes and fell in love with baking and cooking! I always make my own meals. It’s been a year now, and I’ve become quite the experienced vegan; I’ve even inspired my friends to go vegan! I honestly think this is the best time to go vegan because we’re learning how to be ethical at a young age; we’re teaching the newer generation how to be ethical. We’re the next generation of teachers, doctors, scientists, and engineers, and we can spread the knowledge we have today to the younger generation. That’s beautiful to me.
This world is changing for the better and it’s because of us. We are such an accepting generation and it’s such a refreshing concept—just imagine what our generation will do for this world!! It’s only up from here. Not only is eating vegan food amazing but BEING vegan is amazing. We’re causing a positive impact and shaping our future for the better. Being vegan just feels better; it’s the ultimate way of living. You’re healthy, free, and ethical. (Also, I dropped 40lbs being vegan—BONUS!)
I’d love to connect with y’all!
@glenda.gav on insta💟
Tyler (Delaware, USA)
My name is Tyler; I’m 17 years old and live in Delaware, USA. I’ve been vegan for almost a year now, and I’m never going back! By far, converting to a fully vegan was the best decision I’ve ever made.
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It all started when I was 9 years old and in 4th grade, when my one friend introduced me to vegetarianism. I did a little bit of research on the topic and was saddened to see how cruelly animals were treated in the meat industry. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t so on board with my decision to cut meat out of my diet, so I would only eat it occasionally if they served it for dinner—but if I ever ate at a friend’s house I’d always tell them I was a vegetarian. And this was when I was only 9 years old! Looking back, I’m pretty proud that I made the connection at such a young age.
As I got older, my passion for animal rights only got stronger. I would talk to my friends about it daily and sometimes would even get ridiculed for having such an emotional bond towards animals, but I didn’t care. I was proud, and knew that I wasn’t alone. I found out that a lot of celebrities that are actually quite well known have made the ethical connection between meat and the animals it comes from: Paul McCartney, Daniella Monet, P!nk, Ariana Grande, Sia, and many more. This made me feel even more sure that I was making the right decision. When I was 15, my mom sadly passed away. Losing a loved one is an extremely tough thing to go through, and it just made me think how awful it is that we make innocent creatures feel this pain every second of every day just for a few moments of pleasure on our tongues. I finally convinced my dad to let me go fully vegetarian, and I was super happy. I haven’t eaten a single bite of meat since then!
However, my journey was just beginning. I started to research on veganism, meaning I would have to give up all animal products including dairy and eggs. I was disgusted that even foods that didn’t require killing any animals could be produced so cruelly. It was then that I watched Cowspiracy, a documentary on Netflix about how animal agriculture is destroying our planet. This made my wish to go fully vegan a sure thing, and I convinced my dad to let me give it a try at the start of 2016. And guess what? I’m still doing it today, and feel better than ever! I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life and have never felt so confident in my lifestyle. In fact, I was extremely surprised at how easy veganism can be! I eat all of the same foods, just veganized: vegan chicken, vegan cheese, vegan baked goods.
ANYTHING can be made vegan nowadays. In 2016, it’s easier than ever to go vegan. It’s hard to believe that all of this started just from my friend telling me that she was vegetarian. I suggest that anyone who is already vegan to continue preaching the truth, as it will bring more and more people to the vegan movement. That’s what happened with me, and I’m one of the most passionate vegans I know! And to all of the parents out there who have had a child succumb to veganism, please stay educated. To not let your child live a lifestyle of compassion and love is abusive and teaching them that cruelty and destruction is acceptable. Lucky for me, my dad has been open to eating less animal products! Veganism truly is for everyone, you just have to open up your heart.
Caroline (Ohio, USA)
Hi, I’m Caroline. I’m 17 years old and I’m from Ohio. Both my parents and six siblings consume meat and animal products, and I recently switched from vegetarian to vegan without much support from my family.
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I originally went vegetarian almost two years ago when a girl posted a picture of a deer her dad killed on Instagram captioned “my daddy got a dear!” I looked into the deer’s lifeless eyes and knew that seeing someone so happy about death and taking the life from another animal immediately caused me to go vegetarian.
When I was little, I always asked my parents if I could go veg, and they would never allow me. After I saw that picture on Instagram, I waited a week before telling my parents I had gone vegetarian, so they would see I could do it. My mom was pretty supportive; she would buy me food but always told me “you know you don’t have to be vegetarian” in a voice suggesting I stop. My dad has tried to trick me into eating meat on multiple occasions, but I haven’t fallen for it. Since going vegan, my mom makes me go to the grocery with her every week and make my own food every day.
I run cross country and track for my high school, and even have a friend on the team who went vegetarian shortly after I did and decided to go vegan after me! I also play ice hockey and participate in a few clubs.
If anyone wants to talk, my insta is @carolinewatsonnn
Zoe (California, USA)
Carried by their legs as if they didn’t matter, eyes wide with fear. They were dead silent. That’s what I saw when I went to a local egg farm to rescue some of the victims of animal agriculture …
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The actual act of being a vegan teen isn’t hard. What’s hard is living your everyday life knowing that, every second, the blood of thousands of animals is pouring down. What’s hard is knowing that the animal rights movement needs to be treated with urgency, and also knowing that you have to do things like school work. What’s hard is watching people eating the rotting flesh of your friends everywhere you go. Being a vegan isn’t hard. What’s hard is the act of knowing. But I wouldn’t trade awareness for anything.
When I was eleven years old, I founded Happy Hen Chicken Rescue, a farmed animal sanctuary in San Luis Obispo, CA. Since then, we have saved over 600 individuals from the horrors of animal agriculture. Although our focus is chickens, we have also liberated pigs, turkeys, geese, ducks and goats.
When I was twelve, I became an organizer for Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), a grass-roots animal rights network working to make animal liberation a reality. DxE has showed me what it means to really fight for animals. It doesn’t mean just being vegan, it means getting out there and fighting like hell. It means putting yourself on the line for those who need you most, the animals.
In July 2016, at the age of 14, I was arrested for an action I did at the Dodgers stadium. You can watch my TEDx talk about it here. DxE did an investigation at a pig farm that supplies pig flesh for the Dodger Dogs. So I ran onto the Dodgers baseball field with 4 other activists. I held a banner that said “Animal Liberation Now.” This action sparked national media attention, spreading the message of animal rights to millions.
The experience I had that day with the LA police department has influenced me greatly, but not in the way law enforcement would hope. It has made me want to fight so much harder for animal liberation. For the first time in my life, I felt how it feels to have someone have complete control over you. The police will order you to do pointless things, they’ll lie to you, and they’ll make you feel like a horrible person. They put me in handcuffs and locked me in a bathroom. I was loaded into a police car and driven to the police station where I was locked in a small room. The room was actually pretty big if you compare it to the amount of space animals are given. The experience of completely losing my freedom has made me understand the plight of animals much more than I did before. I will never fully understand what animals go through; none of us will. But I can tell you that the issue of speciesism goes much deeper than just animal agriculture, animal testing, fur, etc. Just the act of telling our dogs to “sit”, “stay” or “leave-it” means taking away their freedom and dominating over them.
Most recently, I disrupted a speech by Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb. Two investigations by DxE exposed cruelty at a Whole Foods certified humane egg farm and a certified humane turkey farm. An investigation by PETA exposed horrors at a certified humane Whole Foods pig farm. Whole Foods is torturing animals and lying about it. So while everyone was listening to Walter Robb’s speech in awe of his “honest” company, I told the gruesome truth. And you can do the same.
Wherever animals are being harmed, you can expose the violence. You can expose the truth behind a violent act that has been normalized. Don’t just be vegan, don’t just refrain from taking part in the killing, take action. Whether you are fourteen, twenty-six or eighty-five, it’s never too early or too late to start changing the world. Join the animal rights movement. Don’t just eat vegan food, fight for a world where every animal is safe, happy and free.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke
Caleb (London, England)
Hey everyone! My name is Caleb, and I’m a 17 year old from London, England, and I’ve been vegan for over 2 years.
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My main hobbies consist mainly of taking extensive walks in parks, giving filmed one-on-one interviews with random passersby to get their insight on veganism and animal liberation, attending organised public demonstrations, filming and editing videos for YouTube (which sort of links to hobby #2), live-streaming on YouNow, spreading the vegan message on Facebook, and writing/reading answers on Quora.
From what I can recollect, I’ve always been rather mindful in regards to the ethics of meat-eating and animal exploitation as a whole, even from a very young age, but just not mindful enough to realise the enormity of the whole issue – I went vegetarian three times throughout my life prior to going vegan, the first time being when I was just 4 years old, the second when I was 11, and the third being when I was 14 (not long before I realised that vegetarianism was just a deviant form of meat eating.).
I finally made the transition after watching Gary Yourofsky’s “excuses” speech, having been a vegetarian for around 4 months up until that point. Now as I just mentioned, I was already a dedicated vegetarian at that point, so I initially remained very in denial in regards to the whole idea of vegetarianism being pointless, mainly because in being vegetarian, I really thought I was making a difference. After finding out that I wasn’t, it felt like being stripped of an achievement I never actually achieved, which was to help put an end to animal slavery and exploitation, so I think it goes without saying that his speech acted as a very effective and pragmatic wake-up call. I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for that speech – the thought of me still being the ignorant vegetarian I was nearly 2 years ago had things gone a little differently seriously scares me to no end, and it’s certainly something I don’t neglect to contemplate on a regular basis.
My mum (who I live alone with), strongly disapproved and wan’t supportive at all, and went as far as flat out refusing to buy or cook me any vegan meals, which was fine with me as I already knew how to make quite a wide variety of vegan dishes thanks to all the animal rights organisations I’d been following on social media. I’m pretty sure she thought it was just one of those “phases” that teenagers go through, though as time went on I believe she finally began to realise that this was the real deal. It’s worth noting that she’s a lot more supportive these days, so this is obviously something I’m very appreciative of.
During the first few months of being vegan, I sort of laid low in the sense that I didn’t partake in any sort of activism, be it online or not, nor did I tell anybody about it, apart from my parents of course. However, as the months progressed, I began to take the whole concept of activism much more seriously – what’s the point of opposing an injustice if you don’t speak out against it, right? This marked the point where I took to raising awareness online via social media and participating in public demonstrations/organised vegan events wherever I got the chance – things I’ve continued doing right up to this day. In terms of my already strained social life, everything spiralled out of control from that point on; I became distanced from pretty much all my friends, and the amount of hate I received both online and off went through the roof.
Nevertheless, I’ve met plenty of wonderful people since then, whether it be at public demonstrations, on vegan groups on social media, or during live-streams on YouNow. And more importantly, I’m doing my part in speaking out for the hundreds of billions who couldn’t/can’t speak for themselves, so all in all, I have no regrets.
Keep it green, everyone! 🌱🌱
Jenna (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Hello my name is Jenna, I am 19 and I am from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I went vegan about 3-4 years ago. I am an organizer for Direct Action Everywhere.
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I enjoy knitting baby hats for charity. I love studying history, especially Tudor and Ancient Egyptian history. Two of my favourite TV shows are Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead. I have two dogs, a cat and two rabbits (all spayed/neutered, not caged). I also have a fluctuating number of foster kittens from our local SPCA, and my favourite non-human animal is the non-human great apes (I know, that is more than one species). It was actually the non-human great apes who really started me on the path to animal rights. I started off campaigning for their rights and realized other animals had rights too, even if we didn’t recognize them. It made it easier for me to make the leap. To this day, I call chimpanzees the gateway drug.
I am a vegan who hates vegetables, so my family was scared when I suddenly refused to eat animal products, but so far I have made it and still enjoy my diet. I haven’t been made fun of by my friends, but I have had some comments like “want a burger?” I have heard all the classics like “Hitler was a vegetarian,” “wild animals eat meat,” “humans have eaten meat for thousands of years,” “plants have feelings,” and “its a personal choice.” I do have some vegan friends, most of whom I met after becoming vegan.
I think the biggest struggle is suddenly seeing cruelty wherever you look. I see otherwise good and kind people paying for horrible things to happen to animals, even while they say they love animals.
After I became vegan, I realized not participating wasn’t enough, so I became an activist. I have always felt driven to do what I can, and although it can be hard to be an activist, it is also quite rewarding, and I think the best part of my veganism.
My career choices are vet tech and midwife. I volunteer at an animal shelter and wildlife rehab, which can be sad but also quite amazing. I am soon going to do training to become a volunteer doula.
I was always kind of the weird kid at school, so it wasn’t a huge change really. I did have one teacher look at me oddly when I said I would not be dissecting, and she said “you know you signed up for biology right?” I also had another teacher talk about flushing mice down the toilet and high-fived a student when he said he would do the same, so I had to leave class after telling her it was wrong.
Sometimes it can be hard to stay hopeful and not totally hate the human species, when you see what we do to each other and other species for trivial and immature reasons, but other vegans on or offline can help with this.
Josh (Los Angeles, California)
I watched in shock, my hand trembling slightly, as a cold chill traveled down my spine. My flashlight revealed dozens of baby pigs huddled together in the cold interior of a truck.
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The bloated pigs stared at me, a glimmer of hope still in their eyes despite their impending fate. Bruising and bloody gashes covered the pigs’ skin, a sight that haunts me to this day. They were doomed to be breakfast entrees in about a week’s time, a fate perhaps better than the supposedly “humane” conditions to which I was bearing witness.
I didn’t grow up vegan. As a child, I felt no sympathy for the food on my plate. The only vegan I knew was my uncle; he was the black sheep of my deeply religious, and in this case carnivorous, family. When I told my parents about my decision to become vegan, their immediate response was that they would no longer cook for me. Although I had no culinary experience, I learned to cook for myself in order to exemplify what, in my eyes, was moral. In addition, many of my friends bombarded me with comments and criticism that made me question what I was doing. “This is a silly endeavor” they would say. “This is just a phase, you’ll grow out of it.” Initially, comments like these severely impacted my relationships with my family and friends. Still, through the constant criticism, I stayed true to my values and built self-confidence, furthering my ability to advocate for my beliefs.
In addition to living a vegan lifestyle, I made real, positive differences throughout my community. I prioritized attending animal vigils regularly, donating to several different animal rights organizations, and starting an animal rights club at my high school. After taking upon a leadership role in an initiative to add vegan meals to Los Angeles USD schools, I witnessed my hard work pay off, as the school board agreed to our demands, marking a huge success for the
Los Angeles vegan community. I would be lying if I said this path was easy. Being an activist for any cause requires extreme dedication. Particularly for me, being an animal rights activist requires the conviction to even defy religious values that seem obvious and undisputable to other Jews. To this day, I don’t read from Torah scrolls nor don phylacteries as both are made from animals, despite being major components of Judaism. I simply can’t allow my religion to justify acts that I know are wrong, no matter the consequence. At times, this challenging task appeared overwhelming, but ultimately, it helped me become who I am today.
After being exposed to the horrors that exist in the meat industry, I felt an obligation to educate the public to ensure that others were not deceived the way I was. Many people are simply unaware of the horrific conditions modern factory farms raise their animals in. Ultimately, the decision to stop eating meat is up to the individual but ensuring that consumers knew the full truth of where industrialized meat derives from was an extra responsibility I took upon myself. This is just the beginning of my journey, and I look forward to leading the positive change that my generation will make in the coming years.
Megan (Frisco, Texas)
My name is Megan, and I am 19 years old. I have been Vegan since I was 16 years old. I am also from Frisco, Tx, which is a fast and growing suburb outside of Dallas—which I might add is not a vegan friendly city unfortunately.
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I am very passionate about veganism and have been from the day I went vegan cold turkey. This passion has led me to create my own website, and I have grown a huge following on Instagram and Facebook. My mission is to spread awareness on how simple it is to be vegan and how anyone can’t make an impact in the lives of the animals that have no voice.
Some of the struggles I have faced as a vegan teen was when I have gone out with friends to eat. I find it hard to find vegan food to eat at the places they enjoy eating at. I have also struggled with non supportive family members who don’t support my decision to be vegan and save the animals, which disappoints me greatly.
When I first started out vegan, I would get a lot of random people at my school not understanding why I was vegan and asking me all the questions a lot of us vegans get, such as: “Where do you get your protein?” “I couldn’t live without bacon, how can you?” and “Burgers are so good, how can you possibly give that up?” I use to get frustrated with these questions, but now I simply just answer them and hope that they will one day consider going vegan too.
I will say that I am thankful my mom and second dad are both vegan in my house, so that makes the journey much easier. We do a lot of donating to farm sanctuaries and volunteer work.
As far as friends, I don’t really have any friends who are vegan but now that I have been vegan since 16, my close friends are supportive, which I am thankful for.
The best part about being vegan is the feeling I get knowing I am not putting animals in harm and also the fact that I am healthier and have more energy. Most of all, the best part is I get to be the voice for the animals who have no voice. I am on a mission to make a difference in this world for the people, the animals and the environment, and that is why I am vegan.
Even though I am a teen, I already have a great business which is in line with my passion of being vegan. I have a Facebook Fan Page with over 200,000 fans. I have an Instagram page. I also have a new book out called My Vegan Dreams, which has a collection of recipes at the end that are my favorite. The book is a great handbook for people who want to live a responsible, rational vegan lifestyle.
Being vegan is amazing, and yes we have our struggles, but in the end I know we are doing something amazing for the animals and our environment.
Colby (California, USA)
Hi! My name is Colby. I am 17 years old and have been vegan for over two years now.
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Before being vegan, I was an on and off vegetarian for several years. After watching Earthlings, I made the switch to veganism and haven’t looked back since!
For me, the hardest part about being vegan is maintaining a positive outlook on life and not holding a grudge against the people around me. Although I’m told we have more vegans living in California than in many other states, I constantly feel alienated from most people. As a vegan teenager, very few people seem to share the same values, which is a continual reminder of our differences.
I live in a relatively small town that relies heavily on agriculture. The majority of my school participate in FFA (Future Farmers of America) and enjoy raising animals for human consumption. Although their teasing and pestering is generally playful, it is still annoying and isolating. I seldom bring up veganism in conversations to avoid starting awkward arguments.
Although, my mother and father were okay with me going vegan, both have yet to go vegetarian and do not plan to do so. I often also play a much larger role in deciding what family dinners will be and find many of my own recipes now. My grandparents were unfortunately much less supportive. On one side of my family, my grandpa constantly degrades me over my concern for animals’ well- being. On my father’s side, much of my family was more concerned for my health rather than my reason for doing so. I am frequently asked questions related to random health topics and the food I consume.
None of my close friends are vegan or vegetarian, though there are a few other vegans at my school who I generally get along with.
My favorite part of being vegan is being able to eat food without feeling any guilt related to it. I believe that my health has only improved while living a vegan lifestyle which is also an awesome bonus! As I consider myself to be an environmentalist, I also enjoy feeling like I am making a difference in the world by reducing water usage and methane production.
I also participate in a relatively wide array of hobbies. I have fenced as a foilist and occasionally epeeist for seven years now and enjoy fencing regularly. I also volunteer regularly at my local library by shelving books. For the past three years, I have also helped run a children’s food program through the food bank. Additionally, I am an avid boardgamer, member of a local book club, and role player.
Unity (Northeast England)
Hi Everybody! My name is Unity, and I’m 17 years old and live in the North East of England.
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I have been vegan for two years now, but I had been a vegetarian for the majority of my life before that. Initially going vegan was hard—I will admit this! For a long time, I kept asking my mum if I could go vegan and she was unsure, worried that I would be deficient in vital vitamins and minerals. And yes, she even thought I was going to be protein deficient if I cut out eggs and dairy from my diet.
Thankfully, I didn’t stop trying, and I continued to shock her by baking vegan cakes every week for our Buddhist centre, where there are a lot of vegans. Some of my favourite things to bake for the centre are chocolate orange brownies and lemon drizzle cake. And for Pancake Day in the UK, I made over 70 vegan pancakes in one night for the centre!
I also found as many articles as I could to reassure my mum that I was not going to become ill by going vegan. In addition, I began to open her eyes to the world of vegan substitutes—vegan cheese, soy yoghurt, vegan ice cream (my favourite is Booja Booja!)—and introduced her to the marvel that is tofu.
Unfortunately, prior to becoming a vegan, I had been in hospital for a year suffering from an eating disorder, so my mum had every right to be concerned about my diet. I had developed an irrational fear to most foods—anything with sugar in it, from bread to baked beans, and I wouldn’t touch milk or cheese. I was even scared to eat dried fruits and banana. Over time, I became a lot better, and I now enjoy most foods (even sweets sometimes). Despite my progress, I continued to have this awful feeling towards dairy. This fear wasn’t anything to do with my eating disorder. I just had a feeling that eating dairy was not right.
Finally, my mum was beginning to consider it. She told me that as long as my dietician approved and gave some tips, then she was happy for me to go vegan.
My dietician was lovely, thank goodness! She told me that I would be absolutely fine on a vegan diet, as long as I remembered to drink lots of fortified milk alternatives or dairy free yoghurts. She also said it was important to eat lots of nuts. Initially, my thought was “Ugh not more nuts…They’re so boring.” But now, I rejoice in the fact that I can eat nuts because they’re so versatile. I use nut butter for stir fries, on toast and in baking. Cashews and almonds are great for making your own dairy-free cheeses, and you can easily make your own nut milk. Nuts can also be crushed to make oils; so along with olive oil, I include peanut oil, sesame seed oil and other nut/seed oils in my diet.
It was also recommended that I try and have as much protein as I could through things like tofu, meat substitutes (like the vegan Quorn range or Linda McCartney brand foods) and beans, lentils and pulses. Now, I love tofu and regularly use it in stir fries, pancakes and even baking. Lentils, I have to say, I am not so keen on, but I do recommend including them as much as possible in your diet!
I didn’t just want to go vegan all by my lonesome, though—so I took my mum to an upcoming vegan festival, and on that day two vegans were born! The vegan festival opened my mum’s eyes to an insurmountable variety of different foods and marvellous cruelty-free creations, but the one thing that definitely changed her mind was watching the Cowspiracy documentary. We were both in tears, and we made the decision there and then to never be a part of the industry that exploits animals and treats them mercilessly.
Since becoming vegan, I have never been happier about what I put in my mouth, and I continue to find new and interesting ways to cook/bake. I’ve made my own fruit and nut bars using Medjool dates that we bought in Morocco! Authentic! I have made my own coconut butter, made my own food colouring, made my own cheese and discovered a range of new foods I never knew existed. Did you know that you can make ice cream and meringues out of chickpea brine? (It’s actually called aquafaba.) Did you know that I have about 100 different types of flours in my pantry—I bet you can’t name ten, never mind 100! I discovered cacao powder and, seriously guys, it is sooooo much better than cocoa. I also fell in love with maple syrup and so many foods that I thought I would avoid. You wouldn’t believe that I was an extremely picky eater just a few years ago!
Unfortunately, I have been the victim of name calling, and people have laughed at me for becoming a vegan. Some people have also been deliberately insensitive and talked about meat and dairy in a facetious way around me. I try not to become too annoyed and, if I can, I bring them some vegan baking to try the next time I see them. I also try not to suffocate my peers and family with my vegan ethics; I just try and gently encourage, and trust me, this makes a hell of a lot of a difference! If you do want to go vegan, which I highly encourage you to do, be prepared for some initial mockery and confusion from your family. The best thing to do is educate them on all the foods you can have. To start with, you could take your own food and cook with them. That way, they can see that you don’t just eat grass, and it’s not all strange food made in labs or from outer space.
After a year or so, my family is starting to get the hang of it. In fact, at Christmas, I received cruelty-free and vegan shampoos and body butter, and my aunty bought me some vegan chocolate. Now my family seem quite respectful of my diet and lifestyle choice, and some of them are even trying to go vegan themselves. It’s not all plain sailing … but, trust me, it is worth it in the end!
Unfortunately, I don’t have any young friends who are vegan, but a lot of the patients I was in hospital with are now also avid vegan bakers and vegans themselves. I also have a lot of adult vegan friends at the Buddhist centre, but it is hard not being able to go out and eat at a restaurant or a café with a vegan friend.
For me, the best part about being vegan is EVERYTHING! I love feeling the health benefits of clean eating—knowing that my milk hasn’t got hormones or blood in it and that my vegan sausages haven’t come from pigs who’ve been tortured each and every day of their miserable lives. I love discovering new ways to cook with foods and how the vegan community is constantly growing. I love the fact that vegans are making a massive positive impact on the environment and hugely reducing CO2 and methane emissions. I also LOVE VEGAN BAKING!!!!!!!!!!!
Before I wrap this up, I guess I’d like everyone to know that I have most definitely not completely recovered from anorexia and other mental health problems. But, I am on my way, and veganism has definitely helped. I am a Kadampa Buddhist, and this has helped me massively to remain in control of my mind and see things logically, as well as helped me become a calmer and more compassionate, grateful person. Being a vegan and a Buddhist are the best two decisions of my life!
I also have 3 cats which I absolutely love to pieces. Mischief is a tuxedo cat and he is getting old now. He is nearly 7, but he is a great father figure to my 2 little ginger fluffballs who have just turned one! They are called Leo and Diego.
I love being outdoors, walking and doing sport like weightlifting, swimming, ballet and cycling.
I also love my music. My favourite bands are Slipknot, Bring Me The Horizon, Five Finger Death Punch and While She Sleeps. Being in the middle of a mosh pit, all hot and sweaty but bouncing with energy, is such a great feeling! Haha.
As well as vegan baking and going to music concerts, vegan festivals or Buddhist festivals, I also enjoy volunteering and making a difference where I can. I have finished my GCSE’s and now have time to play my bass guitar and flute AND READ GAME OF THRONES AND ALL MY OTHER AMAZING BOOKS!
This September, fingers crossed, I will be off to college and then, eventually, I will become a marine biologist.
My two biggest dreams are: 1) that everyone on Earth could become vegan to stop world hunger and to abolish animal cruelty and exploitation, and 2) that everyone would listen to Buddha’s teachings so they have a happier mind, and so that all the anger in our world could be vastly reduced.
Remember guys, being vegan isn’t all fun and games. You will get made fun of, and depending on where you live, veganism may be hard for you. Eating out at restaurants with family and friends may be really difficult and disheartening, but keep following the vegan world and actively see how much good you are doing. We would love to see you join our friendly vegan community.
I hope to see you very soon.
If anybody wants to message me with questions etc. I would be more than happy to help. My email is email@example.com Alternatively, my Facebook name is Unity Addison.
Imani (Dorchester, England)
I once dared you to go vegan, but I’m now knees to floor, hands at your feet, begging you to do so.
Or perhaps I can convince you standing. My name is Imani, I’m 19, and I’m from Dorchester, England.
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Here’s the thing. After a Christmas of brandy butter, cheddar cheese and confit duck à Paris, I, overnight, stamped the big V on my life: no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, just plants plants plants. And I have never felt so liberated. It seems counterintuitive right? You cut out the majority of foods you’ve been eating all your life and suddenly you feel free? Well, grab your bowl of sweet potato fries, it’s story time…
I’ve been obsessed with food for a long while. By eleven I must have watched every cooking program the TV dished up, I was attempting (and failing) to cook like a Michelin star chef, and was beyond excited to receive a kitchen knife for my birthday. Food and I started as best mates: if I wasn’t working out how to deconstruct an apple crumble, I was competing with my brother on who could eat the most spaghetti. And then one summer, something flipped: food was no longer something merely to love, but to control.
Food could make you fat, and it had been pretending to be my friend all this time. Even by the age of twelve, when travelling across America, gone were the chocolate milkshakes, replaced by ‘caeser salad with the dressing on the side’. And once you start to have negative thoughts about food and body, such thinking grows like mould. By the summer of my GCSEs I was full swing counting calories, restricting, skipping meals, allowing myself to eat now if I didn’t eat then, exercising when Ugly Betty was much more appealing, monitoring, assessing, measuring, checking – with all this unhealthy behaviour hidden behind a cleverly constructed ‘healthy’ front. Because I have, genuinely, always liked vegetables.
Then in lower sixth I moved back home after three years of boarding school (I just missed my own bed), but things didn’t much improve. I was eating with the same rules and restrictions that had become so ingrained in my behaviour and, as you can imagine, studying is all that much harder with a brain preoccupied with judging every bite you take. However, my conflicted relationship with food then began taking on new dimensions as I became properly interested in its health benefits. Queue: cutting out sugar, fearing gluten and limiting carbs. I had become the ultimate controller. Yet, food was still trying to be my friend. I did enjoy creating lunch boxes, I did enjoy learning about health (Ayurveda, nutrition, Chinese Medicine). I just didn’t understand why things had to be so complicated.
Then my body started to buckle: long story short I had a parasite which was causing me to bloat like a pregnant woman and meant I couldn’t eat anything without lying down afterward for the cramps. I was recommended Fodmap by the doctors after a diagnosis of IBS, the most horrid diet (no peas! peas!) which did nothing and I was in meltdown; for whilst I was doing all I could to control my food, my body was out of control.
Things got better when I found out what was actually the matter with me after seeing a nutritionist (my angel) and taking a stool test to discover, ‘Princeton the Parasite’, as we called him. A round of antibiotics and long courses of herbal meds and things were on the up physically, but mentally I was at breaking point – A’ Level stress compounding it all. Come Christmas I had a bit of a fuck-it attitude, eating a whole pot of M&S chocolate mini bites (which was a little unheard of). But even with trying to cut myself some slack, my body and mind still weren’t content. And then one day my friend, whilst sitting in Waterloo’s Pret eating tomato soup and a bread roll, said it was stupid to be scared of carbs and that I ought to go check out the high-carb-vegan-Youtubers.
Do you know how amazing potato is? Sweet ones, baby ones, purple ones; baked, boiled, mashed. Rice, black rice porridge. And did you know, you can pile your plate high as you please with that carby deliciousness, top it with avocado, sweetcorn, mango, peanut butter, burritos, dark chocolate, curry, watermelon, broccoli, pizza, ramen, strawberries, peas, peas, quinoa, coconut yogurt or Booja Booja ice-cream (if you have not tried, stop reading right now and go and buy some). You can eat with the freedom of David Cameron ditching No 10: totally guilt free.
And so the realisation came: food isn’t just your friend, it’s your perfect boyfriend-girlfriend-spouse-jet you off to private islands-lover. If you eat it correctly IT WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT. Food, when it constitutes plant based eating, is our saving grace.
Or so it feels after six months vegan, particularly as the steps I took to discover this ended up orientating around three key topics: health, environment and compassion.
However, what you eat and how you eat depends, believe it or not, on you. So I would simply like to point you to the sources that changed my mindset…
Now I’m not one to speak with any authority, being no doctor, nutritionist or scientist, so I shall direct you to those who can. Although, I warn you, once you start watching food programmes they’re a wee bit addictive.
What The Health: this is the documentary that converted my dad (!The biggest meat eater I know!), and one of the best for bringing together health, environment and compassion. If you do nothing else, for you and your foodie future, I ask you to watch it.
Food Matters: is a Netflix gem which explores the relationship between food and our modern medicine. Asking where we’ve gone so wrong, and showcasing the simple edible solutions. It may get you re-thinking popping statins.
These are themes discussed in Dr Hedge’s Ted Talk on Ayurveda
Food Choices: another Netlfix treat!
Supersize Me: in case you’re still craving that MaccyDs (on YouTube)
Cooked: not strictly vegan, this is a beautiful Netflix series where Micheal Pollan explores food in terms of fire, earth, water and air.
And this is a fascinating programme where Graham MacGregor discusses the power of the food industry’s lobbyists and the fatal implications to our health,
chiefly in regards to salt.
I must admit that I obsessively watch, read and listen to things about food, but I think this has now had a very positive impact on my mindset. When you understand the UNBELIEVABLE health benefits of food you reach a point where sweets, margarine, or fizzy dinks no longer seem like energy givers. Perhaps treats to occasionally enjoy, but not food. Take an apple. High pectin levels in nature’s little spheres regulate our blood sugar, reduce cholesterol and protect our bones. Gifts you won’t get from a packet of crisps. The more you know, the better you want to eat – and it won’t even feel like a chore. I don’t munch on kale because I think I must, but because I know the wonders it will do me. And with this shift in outlook, the way you view your body changes: you respect it. You want your health to honour you, and all your human amazingness, not push you into an early grave.
Matcha over medicine! (Unless you have had a serious car crash – in which case, hospital away!)
As with our health we have serious power to change things for the better through our basic knife and fork activities. But don’t take my word for it…
Cowspiracy: yes, I know everyone’s told you to go watch it. So go watch it! (Netflix)
Sustainable: another Netflix find about agriculture and the production of our food. As I was watching this one my mum exclaimed that I really was an obsessive.
Before the Flood: now I haven’t yet watched this, but it’s Leonardo DiCaprio travelling the world speaking to world leaders about the dramatic effects of climate change, and when there’s a scene of Barack Obama and him in discussion I think we know it will be good. (YouTube)
(Can I just marry them both?)
Food isn’t just about our taste buds: it’s about where it comes from and the effects of its origin. I’m not naive in thinking that being vegan solves all environmental problems associated with food production, but it’s a drastic improvement we can easily make. Encouraging a cruelty-free, chemical-free, seasonal journey from soil to folk. Plant based eating instils not only respect for yourself but the earth – it really is quite amazing in that way.
Calves torn away from mothers, chickens starved to produce eggs, baby chicks crushed to death. It’s impossible to claim factory farms are okay. But I hear what you’re muttering, well we can eat ‘free range’ ‘organic’ ‘grass fed’, and for a while I was with this argument. Killing, I reasoned, is natural. A lion kills a gazelle, it’s just how nature intended. But have you ever considered how a lion kills? There’s a stalk, a pounce, perhaps defeat, another wait, a chase, perhaps defeat, a stalk, a chase, a kill. The gazelle has a chance. It’s not born to be veal, or genetically modified to produce a larger Sunday roast. Nature is fair. But factory farming is inhumane (not to mention detrimental to our health). And which animal gets to be considered food and another a pet is all a matter of perception. Would you BBQ your dog with satay dip? So for a visual aid of the calamity that is animal agriculture:
Carnage: this pho-documentary by Simon Amstell will still get you thinking, but also laughing this time
Animal products carry with them energy of fear. Most live lives of terror and die toxic deaths. Removing them from your diet is a step to ending this cycle. Moreover, you are no longer consuming such energy: it’s just good vibes in, good vibes out.
And if you want to know what this harmony looks like, Jeony Kwan’s Chef’s Tabledocumentary on Netflix is breathtaking.
For me, the joy of eating comes in creating a dish that is doing my body, the environment, and other beings the best that it can – whilst not forgetting it’s darn tasty!
So now my ‘diet’ consists of new rules. Gone is the counting and the monitoring, replaced with:
- Eat plants (Although I just want to say here, for some people the jump to vegan seems too extreme. ‘No cheese!’ they proclaim. So why not try being vegan 90% of the time, don’t worry about labels or being perfect but start being conscious and changing things as it feels right)
- Eat eat, for God’s sake eat. Eat breakfast, eat lunch, eat dinner. Eat when you’re hungry. Eat to be satisfied. Eat.
- If you don’t want to go to the gym, don’t bloody go. Trying on dresses from your wardrobe definitely counts as exercise, and a simple walk should never be underestimated
- Do count your calories: but only to make sure you are eating 2,000 absolute minimum
- Hunt out all the different types of potatoes the world has to offer
- Don’t judge your body. Respect it and treat it with the care you would a baby (Caitlin Moran)
- Own your responsibility to this planet and other beings
- View health as a long term commitment, get excited about food and discovering new ideas
- Listen to your body, really listen
- Be positive. I mean it. If you’re eating chocolate cake then enjoy it, you’ll have eaten enough kale to deserve it!
- Stop dieting, it’s bad for the soul
- Stop making rules, it’s bad for the constitution
Food is incredibly powerful. It has the potential to put us in, or keep us out of hospital. To feel uncomfortable within ourselves, or feel f*@#king fantastic. To reverse or propel the devastation of our planet. To wrack our minds with torment, or have us jump for glee. To kill, or nurture.
Having come from a foggy and negative place with food it is now bright and wondrous. And I promise that, with determination, an open mind and positivity, food will be your best friend too.
So. I’m hoping at this point I’m not on my knees, that you’ve let me stay standing, and that perhaps you’ll take seriously a future of plant based eating. Give it a try, there’s everything to gain.
And nothing is ever lost if you can still eat chocolate…
(The Wild Food Cafe, Neals Yard, London)
Check our my new vegan lunchboxes on Instagram: @mini.munch for some vegspiratoin!
My vegan story first appeared on my website at https://minimunchmusings.wordpress.com.
Radhika (Maryland, USA)
Hi! My name is Radhika and I am 19 years old. I have been vegan for the past 2.5 years now and before that, I was a vegetarian since birth.
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I am from Maryland, USA, which is luckily getting to be quite vegan friendly. My hobbies include watching YouTube, cooking buzz feed vegan recipes and drawing animal faces.
While I was vegetarian, I always thought that veganism was too extreme and that it was something I would never be able to do since I loved cheese. I never really saw the point of veganism because I thought that the animals were not harmed since they were not killed for dairy. Boy did I realize. One day, in high school, I met a vegan in my class. She was really kind and would bring a variety of fruits everyday to class. She talked about the health benefits of veganism and while we were talking, she briefly said something about a documentary called Earthlings. Later that evening, I was quite intrigued by our conversation and then I ended up watching the documentary. After seeing the first five minutes in that documentary, I became vegan, without any hesitation.
When I told my parents that I went vegan, they were at first worried about me receiving the proper nutrients and did not see the ethical benefits of my decision. But then, as I showed them the conditions within dairy farms and how it is a practice that I am unable to support, they understood and are now vegan as well!
After a few months after being vegan, I noticed that I gradually became more active and ended up losing a lot of weight, since I cut out cheese and milk from my diet. When I first made the change, I did not know if I was permanently going to remain vegan, but now I can say for sure that I am a vegan for the long haul.
As a vegan teen, I have been questioned multiple times by my friends on why I am a vegan. Since I was a vegetarian before, many of my friends thought I was just being too extreme by switching over to veganism and they did not see the point. Sometimes when I tell people, they even have pity and they say that they are sorry. But I make sure to explain that it is the best decision that I have ever made. I am lucky enough to say that generally most people are quite respectful whenever I tell them that I am vegan, as I believe there is a general trend that is more accepting of vegans since it is becoming more common. But during the years I was vegetarian, I would face bullying, especially in elementary school. Many people assumed that people who do not eat meat, like vegans or vegetarians, would be really skinny, but since I was a chubby kid, they would sometimes mock me for being vegetarian.
At the moment, I do have a couple vegan friends, which is nice because we are always trying to find awesome vegan places to go to since we are all foodies. Whenever I find something that tastes amazing though, I try to take my meat-eating friends so that they can experience the variety and tastiness in vegan foods.
The best part of being vegan is that I know that my dietary choices are not harming any innocent beings. I also feel that it is a step towards making a greater change in society.
At the moment, I try to advocate for veganism by being part of the vegan club at my University, where we like to pass out pamphlets and fun items to college students walking by that mainly try to educate them on the situations of animals, which many have not thought about.
I think that having a community like this is great for vegans to feel like they are not alone.
Ever since I was little, my family and I has been going to a temple that has a little green field with cows. I have fed the cows and seen the babies grow up to adults. The cows were able to live up to their full lifespan and now the temple is retrieving two more cows to rescue from slaughterhouses. During my observations of cows, I have noticed how they are such gentle animals with unique personalities. I always like to explain to my meat-eating friends that cows are basically just like giant dogs.
In the future, my dream would be to open up an Animal Sanctuary where I can just chill with the animals all day. My older sister is now vegan as well and we hope to just try and spread the message of veganism in anyway we can.
Harry (Sydney, Australia)
Hi! My name is Harry, I’m 16 and I am from Sydney, Australia.
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I wanted to become vegan for a year before I did it, but I waited because I knew it was for the wrong reasons at first. I come from (and am still dealing with) disordered eating, and I knew my intentions to become vegan were to use that as an excuse so I could lose weight instead of going vegan for ethical and environmental reasons. Coming from disordered eating, I found the vegan lifestyle and community to be very positive and anti-restriction, because the lifestyle focuses on food’s nutrition and nourishment. The saving of animals’ lives was a huge factor that pulled me into it. I was extremely patient with myself until I was confident that I was choosing this lifestyle in a healthy mindset. I think that is extremely important when transitioning to a vegan diet, as you need to be conscious that you are eating enough, and when struggling with an eating disorder, trying to eat more terrifies you. I’ll be honest and say I am still struggling, but this lifestyle and community are really helping me with my recovery. I am realising food isn’t something to be scared of; it’s something that can be enjoyed. Food is something that nourishes your body and fuels you, something you can be passionate about without being obsessed about it.
I struggled with making my parents, friends and treatment team believe that transitioning to a vegan diet was a good thing for me. For someone who isn’t in the right place in recovery, eating a vegan diet can just be an excuse for further restriction. That is why I moved to the internet and created my Instagram page and YouTube channel (vibewithplants) to document my vegan journey, share my food creations with others and get inspiration from others as well. It is also a way for me to keep accountable. Each time I film “What I Eat in A Day,” I have to be conscious that I am eating enough, as I don’t want to influence other people to think they have to eat less. When I was very vulnerable last year, I would watch those types of videos and be so self-conscious because I was eating so much more than them, and I don’t want people to watch my videos and see me (a 16-year-old teenage boy who is 6”1) eating LESS than I should be. I want to encourage people to eat freely on a vegan diet, solely focusing on nourishing your body and enjoying your food. Creating these videos is a way of telling myself that.
The majority of my friends don’t know I am vegan, as I didn’t “announce” it. They don’t know about my channel or page either. It’s not like I am hiding it; I couldn’t care less if they find it. I just wanted to create my page on my own and meet other vegans (which none of my friends are). I am so inspired by seeing and meeting so many nice people online from all over the world and connecting through our lifestyle and beliefs. I really want to participate in (or at least attend) events or activism related to veganism. I think it would be such a great way to really connect with others and strengthen my beliefs on the reasons why I transitioned to this lifestyle.
Besides veganism, I have always been in love with film-making and expressing my creativity in any form available to me. I have kind of joined two and two together with creating my YouTube channel. I am an American living in Australia, but when I graduate I plan to move to the USA for university.
So far, this experience has been amazing and it’s something I really cannot explain. This might sound really out there, but it has been one of the best decisions I have done in my life—one of the best decisions I have done in my life at this point especially. I don’t fear food as much anymore, and I don’t only think of food as numbers. I believe in food and the nutrition it’s going to give me, how many lives I’m saving with the choices I’m making every day, and how great I am feeling.
Helena (California, USA)
Hi! My name is Helena, I am fourteen years old and I live in California. I love to dance (ballet is my favorite) and write. I’ve also created a new YouTube channel, where I’ll talk about being a vegan teen while living away from home at boarding school.
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I was mostly pescatarian for almost three years before becoming vegan. I first transitioned to a vegan diet when I became very interested in health/ lifestyle channels on YouTube. I became passionate about having a healthy body, and I had always thought of myself as an animal lover.
After watching videos about veganism, I felt angry because I had been lied to my whole life. I then spent a lot of time researching and discovering the truth about the meat and dairy industries, the environmental issues and my own health.
I planned on going vegan the next month, but it happened almost overnight. I couldn’t go against my own values anymore, and I didn’t want to put anything in my body that wasn’t supposed to be there. My mother was was worried about my health at first. Eventually, I showed her a video that popped up on my YouTube recommended list called “5 reasons you SHOULDN’T go vegan,” by Bonny Rebecca. After watching that, my mom really understood. In the video, Bonny discusses some of the myths about veganism. She discusses how humans function best on a vegan diet, the misunderstandings about vitamin deficiencies, and convenience, tradition and social acceptance. Not only did she clearly explain the benefits of veganism, but she backed up her claims with scientific studies/evidence.
The hardest part about being vegan is watching my family and friends eat my other friends. It can be very depressing at times and it can make me very angry, but I know I am a part of a growing community of vegan superheros!
I am so lucky to have a supportive mother because sometimes, when going vegan, your family can really hold you back. I have shown her many documentaries and she is slowly going vegan! She has been pescatarian for a few months now, and she found a plant-based milk that she likes and uses in place of cow milk! I love her so much and she has always encouraged me to stand up for the truth.
Since going vegan, I have explored a whole new way of cooking and eating. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes can be made into amazing, healthy dishes! Eating a whole foods plant based diet is optimal for human beings and can reverse many diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and more! For more information, you can watch the documentaries What The Health or Forks Over Knives, and you can visit the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website. When i’m in the mood for a treat, there’s vegan ice creams, cakes, faux meats and more that taste just as good, if not better, than the real thing!
Through my love for animals, I have discovered many animal sanctuaries that rescue animals from slaughterhouses, including one near me called The Gentle Barn. I’ve visited the property a few times, hugging the cows, cuddling with the turkeys and chickens and giving the piggies belly rubs! Some of the animals, especially cows and pigs, are scared of humans at first and take months or even years to open up to us. Learning that broke my heart and made me realize that animals are born to live not to die. I am very happy to see places like the Gentle Barn saving animals from death, and I know that one day, we won’t have to rescue them from concentration death camps, because veganism is growing fast. Once enough people discover the truth, the demand with go down, followed by supply.
I think I was most surprised when I found out the environmental impacts the meat and dairy industries have on the environment. Raising livestock consumes more than half of all the water in the US, and a vegan consumes less plants than someone who eats meat because it takes sooooo much grain to breed them in mass amounts. More than 80 percent of the corn we grow and more than 95 percent of the oats are fed to livestock. If humans didn’t farm animals, we would have enough food to feed the whole planet and the growing human population. For more information, watch documentaries like Cowspiracy.
Inspired by the many vegan YouTubers that helped me, I have decided to create a YouTube channel to try and help others. On it, I will post what I eat in a day, vegan advice, and vlogs to share what my life is like as a vegan teen. Because a lot of vegan teens wonder what to eat when away from home, I’m also discussing how I’m managing as a vegan living at a dorm while at boarding school. My channel (Helena Alison) is new now, and doesn’t have many viewers, but I know I will keep going and I hope to help many others on their vegan journey.
Hanna (Netanya, Israel)
Hi! My name is Hanna. I’m 16 years old and have been vegan for over a year now.
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My hobby is singing and playing the piano. It’s a big part of my life, because my parents are musicians, and music is on my mind 24/7.
I first tried to be vegetarian for a couple of years, but the day I went vegan, I didn’t sleep the whole night and was just thinking about it, reading, and watching videos like “101 Reasons to Go Vegan.” I had a roommate for a week in Germany who taught me what I need to know about veganism.
At first, I started eating vegan because of my stomach ache—and let me tell you, I’ve never had this stomach ache again! After that, I more noticed the influence of the industry on the animals and really cared about not putting any dairy or eggs in my body.
As a vegan teen, I’ve heard a lot of jokes about veganism and people saying they could never give up on meat. I just let it pass through me and laugh with them and answer with a positive attitude, because I don’t like ruining relationships with people I love and care about. If it annoyed me too much, I would just tell them politely to stop.
The best part about been vegan is knowing that I’m nourishing my body with good stuff that wasn’t produced by hurting the animals and looking on the world from a different angle. I love being vegan; it’s nourishing my body, my mind and my soul.
I’ve influenced a couple of my friends to be vegan as well, and I know that I at least I did my part of not hurting the animals! ♥
Jake (Arkansas, USA)
Hi I’m Jacob. I’m thirteen-years-old from Arkansas, and I have been vegan for about five years.
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The best part about being vegan for me is that it makes you less likely to get sick, and you know that you’re not hurting any animals in any ways by just eating differently (and not much differently because of substitutes).
When my family first went from vegetarian to vegan, I wasn’t exactly on board with the whole idea of giving up milk and eggs. It was hard because milk and eggs made up a lot of the food I ate before I was vegan. Eventually, I gave up eggs, but it was hard to give up milk, because I didn’t like the almond milks that my family had. They didn’t taste the same as regular milk to me, and it was hard to accept new things at a young age. But then my family had me try soy milk, and I liked the soy milk a lot. It was something easier to transition to at a young age, because it was a lot sweeter than almond milk. Once I found a milk substitute that I liked, I was kind of a complete vegan. A lot of the time, whenever my friends try vegan ice cream, they don’t even notice it’s vegan until I tell them.
My friends don’t treat me differently for being vegan, and I don’t get bullied at school for being vegan. I don’t feel different in school because I’m vegan either.
Another thing besides veganism that I do is that I help homeless dogs and cats. I collect (empty) pill bottles from my friends and family and donate them to a low-cost spay and neuter charity that then uses those pill bottles to give medications to the animals they treat.
My main hobbies are video games, drawing, and basketball. My favorite video game would probably have to be NBA 2k18, since it’s combining two of my favorite hobbies in one. I like basketball the most because it’s fast-paced and fun to watch, but I like all sports in general.
I think the big reason a lot of people aren’t vegan is because they find it to be hard to give up all animal products, which I can understand completely. I think if more people knew that being vegan isn’t drinking protein shakes and only eating a bunch of fruits and vegetables, and see that there are plenty of vegan substitutes for meat/dairy, that they would be more likely to go to a vegan diet. I think what would make it easier as well for people to become vegan is to go to vegetarian then to vegan, because I think it’s probably an easier transition rather than straight to vegan. It also gives you a chance to find all the vegan substitutes for stuff, in my opinion. I think if people knew there’s an easier transition for going vegan, that they would be more likely to switch. But in conclusion, veganism, isn’t as hard to switch to as people think it is.
Stella (New Zealand)
Hi! I’m Stella, @therawblogger! I’m 16 years old, and I’m from New Zealand.
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Before I went vegan, I was vegetarian and have been since I was 10- or 11-years-old. I was vegan from June 2017 till around February 2018, but I lost a bit of weight, and my family were worried that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients. So, they said I had to include milk, eggs, cheese back into my diet. I did that for around 1-2 months. During this time, I didn’t eat those products whole, but I ate things that had them in it. Then in May, I went back to 100% vegan, as I do not want to support those industries.
I moved to a different town at the beginning of the year, and where I moved to is very agricultural, so the main source of income for people in this region is from farming. None of my friends nor anyone else I know down here is vegan or vegetarian—but back at my old school, I have one friend who is vegan! I have faced people mocking me, lots of people asking why I’m vegan and many asking how I get all my nutrients. A lot of people make jokes about how amazing the animals taste and that I am missing out.
However, through Instagram and YouTube, I have made so many incredible vegan friends from all around the world. My family is also extremely supportive. My whole family is actually vegetarian (apart from my step-dad, but he barely has meat). This happened after I educated my mum from where meat comes from and the treatment those animals face, from being in a paddock to ending up on our plates. In my house, we don’t purchase milk; we all drink plant milk, which I think is super awesome!
I try to educate those around me about the impact animal agriculture has on us as humans but also on the environment, but it hasn’t worked because most people at my school love meat too much. 🙁 On my Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, I try and educate others and inspire others to adopt a plant based diet. I ask them to try and have at least one day a week without meat or animal products to start off.
The best part about being vegan is knowing that I am not harming any animal; I am not taking any animals lives away just to satisfy the desire for a taste in my mouth. Another great part about being vegan is the fact that I know I am helping the environment by not supporting the livestock industries. Another wonderful benefit is the many incredible vegan friends from all around the world who I’ve met through Instagram and YouTube.
Besides being vegan, I love photography! It a huge passion of mine, and I only discovered that last year. I also have recently loved starting to draw. I had never been creative before, but my creativity has really been flowing. I also love exercising, spending time outdoors, doing yoga, drawing, filming YouTube videos and cooking!!
I am very passionate about nature, wildlife and the environment. Another issue that I am very passionate about is the amount of waste we produce—especially the amount of single use plastic we are using. I am very passionate about saving the environment, and it makes me very mad thinking about all the damage we are doing to the earth and how we only have one earth, so we need to take care of it. We need to save the animals, save nature, remove all the pollution from the oceans, reduce our carbon footprint, not use plastic, release animals into the wild or into sanctuaries, stop animal abuse, end circuses with animals, stop zoos and aquariums, care for one another, stop violence, stop school shooting, clean up the earth, become vegan and be kind.
My advice is to fill your soul with kindness and think about your actions and how you are impacting the environment. Take time to make your soul happy. Stop judging those around you, and do what makes your soul dance. Have fun and do not take yourself too seriously. Life is too short to be unkind to others. Never waste a moment. It may be the last with someone you love.
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Ruby (North West, UK)
My name is Ruby, and I’m 13 years old. I live in the UK and am half Japanese. I became a vegan through my interest in Minimalism.
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When I was 12 years old, I discovered minimalism from Marie Kondo. I listened to her talk while tidying up my room. After that, my YouTube recommendations became filled with Minimalism. Once I watched them, I was able to get rid of more and more stuff, and I felt better each time. I wonder how many trips to the charity shops we took.
Some favourite minimalist YouTubers stuck with me, and both happened to be vegan. I’m not sure I even knew the difference between vegan and vegetarian then.
I thought being pescetarian would be good enough. After a few months, I became vegetarian, and I looked into the health factors. That’s when I found a vegan documentary called What the Health. When the credits rolled, I went and told my mother that I was going to be vegan. I’ll be honest, it took a few weeks to adjust and there were a lot of cheat days, but I did it. I am vegan and proud and I have learnt so much about my food I’m excelling in Biology classes.
I told my friends a lot about the benefits of veganism and the cruelty towards the animals and planet. One of my friends decided to stop eating all meat except chicken. It’s a small improvement, but I’m happy. My family has been supportive. They usually always drink soya milk and only eat meat about once a week or so.
I can’t really do much as a child to participate in vegan activism, but I have been to a vegan festival before. I loved it and will go to more of them in the future.
I love being vegan because I feel so clean and healthy and light. I know that there wasn’t anything killed or tortured while I eat. The idea of eating a living being is atrocious now.
I have connected with other vegan teens on Instagram. On my Instagram explore page, a post popped up about vegan teens, and in the comment section a few of us made a group chat. We mainly send each other vegan memes and food.
Of course I am a normal teenager too! I have to go to school and do boring subjects and tidy my room, etc. My hobbies are swimming, reading and baking/cooking. I’m not very good at baking so much; I just use a recipe to base it off of and then edit it.
Vegan teenagers are just teens who care about our planet while living normal lives, and you guys can too! It will totally make a difference to you and the animals you save.
Lauren (New York, USA)
I am Lauren, a 19-year-old with a love of seitan and a knack for finding perfectly ripe mangoes! Now that I have been vegan for two years, I look back and smile at the beautiful journey I have taken.
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My unconventional path to veganism began in the fourth grade, when my class watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives. I was so disgusted by the production of meat: I decided to eat less meat and transition into a pescatarian diet. My decision caused controversy within my family and was met with criticism; some even joked with my teacher had “brain-washed” me. Fortunately, by the time I entered middle school, my family had adjusted and was more accepting of the decision to go vegetarian.
Throughout middle school, I remained vegetarian, but I still only justified my diet by explaining that meat grossed me out. Eventually, I was introduced to veganism in eighth grade; I contemplated going plant-based to challenge myself. When I shared this with my parents, they laughed at the idea, saying I would never be able to give up cheese, ice cream, and cake. These comments are what started it all; I was determined to prove them wrong, and I did. As I researched the proper way to transition into a vegan diet, I began to educate myself on animal exploitation and abuse within the animal agriculture industry. It finally clicked. I found a new answer to the question, “Why are you vegan?” It was no longer my distaste for meat nor my competitive spirit that drove me. My response was now much more powerful: for the animals.
Throughout these past three years, I have realized one of the hardest parts of being vegan is reassuring others you’re okay. I know some of my friends feel guilty if we’re at a restaurant, and I don’t have a filling meal. Other times, there won’t be any vegan options at school-sanctioned events, such as dances. Or on occasion, people question my health under the misconception that being vegan means being protein deficient. My response to all of the aforementioned is “I’m okay,” because I genuinely am: I’m healthier than ever and always remember to pack snacks. The constant reassurance on my part is not annoying, as I’m happy to have supportive people in my life who care, but I hate feeling like a burden to my loved ones at times.
Even though I can feel like a burden at times, I have wholeheartedly embraced my vegan identity. I find that it’s even easier to go by “the vegan” than my name, as it feels like there’s a million other Jasmine’s at my school. Plus, I’m always happy to answer any questions and educate others. As I’m sure most vegans are aware, people have countless interesting questions (following the “Where do you get your protein?”). I also enjoy dispelling the misconception that veganism must be costly, as I’m a bit of a penny pincher. One of the best feelings is discovering a vegan product at the 99$ store, which surprisingly was many. Not to brag, but I’ve found tons of vegan cheese, ramen, and even a Gardein product once there. I live by the idea that veganism can cheap, it’s just about being resourceful and adjusting your expectations.
I love being vegan for countless reasons, but one of my favorites remains the creativity and resourcefulness that our community never ceases to amaze others with. I’ve enjoyed exploring this through cooking and baking: testing out egg substitutes is always a fascinating science experiment, and discovering new ways to prepare tofu remains exciting. I like to say we vegans are magicians for our ability to transform what we have
into want we crave.
Other than plant-based eating, I’m passionate about international relations and environmental sustainability. I created the position of Chairperson of Environmental Sustainability for one of the clubs I’m part of at school and strive to create change within my school’s campus. In the future, I hope to pursue a career in internal relations, where I aim to minimize the dependency of animals globally. Most recently, I started a youth group for vegan and vegetarian teens in Los Angeles, called Plant-Based Teens of LA (PBTLA). I want to focus on outreach towards adolescence with talks at schools, as I know my journey to veganism began in the classroom. Moreover, I hope to support each other and encourage going full vegan through going on outings to protests, animal shelters, and festivals. I know going vegan/plant-based in a family of meat-eaters can be hard, and I want to help others who may be in this situation.