I became vegan over 15 years ago. The motivation for that decision originated from an environmental ethics course I was taking at Leeds University at the time.
One of the lectures I attended centred around the arguments for animal rights, particularly in regard to the theories of Peter Singer and Tom Regan. I found the arguments compelling, and worthy of consideration. However, it was not until I attempted to argue my position as a meat eater with a fellow vegetarian on the course, that I was satisfied that I ought to change my behaviour. I found my own arguments to be weak and unsubstantiated, whilst the claims made by my vegetarian friend were reasonable and well considered. I am not sure I ever openly accepted their arguments at the time, but at that moment it was enough to trigger a change.
It did not take long for me to begin on the path to vegetarianism, which I found pretty easy all things considered, as it was just a matter of swapping meat for non-meat alternatives. It was a further six months before I started to think seriously about the origins of dairy, eggs and honey. As a vegetarian I did not eat the flesh of animals, though I still consumed various animal ‘products’. For instance, cows were forced to give birth in order to continue the cycle of life which facilitated milk production. This system was in place so that I could have dairy milk on my breakfast cereal in the morning. These cows were suffering throughout the process and still being killed when their utility began to diminish, so I found it inconsistent to take a position on animal exploitation when I was still supporting the suffering of animals in this way. So, not long after, I decided to go vegan.
After 15 years, my personal view is that veganism is partly a lifestyle, in the way we choose to live from meal to meal or from day to day; and it is also partly the practice of a radical idea that brings into question the use of non-human animals. Veganism can be seen as the practice of directly challenging the dominant paradigm of animal exploitation that has placed animals into zoos, farms, laboratories, circuses and aquariums, and through making this challenge identifying the ‘vegan’ alternatives that people can choose that do not involve the use of animals.
Over time I have taken on an expansive view of veganism in order to include forms of consumption and lifestyle that impact the environment and other people. So, although veganism directly addresses the matter of animal exploitation, it can go further still and incorporate ways to address issues of human and environmental exploitation that are present within our vegan lifestyle and society at large.