The Dirty Hippie’s 5 Year Veganniversary or, How I Became More of a Man


You may think that being a vegan man is not that “manly”, but I beg to differ.  Doing what is right, instead of what is easy, is manly. While everyone who goes vegan does so for their own reasons, I want to share my story. It starts nearly at the beginning of my life, with a deep love of the Earth.

Starting at a very early age, we’re talking elementary school, I embraced the environment.  Faced with the eminent doom of the Earth portrayed by the 1980’s environmental movement, I convinced my parents to recycle.  I was interviewed on TV in 5th grade talking about ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.  To this day, I am a poster child of the three R’s!

Despite my best efforts, I have seen many of those gloomy predictions from back then come to fruition.  I have been in the environmental movement at every stage in my life. In my teens, I practically lived outside in nature. I grew up on 127-acre land trust and was an active Boy Scout, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout.

Eagle Scout

Getting my Eagle Badge.

My love for nature and the natural world developed during this time and I established a strong connection that only grows as I age.  Everything I do personally and in my business is based on being mindful of the Earth.  I recycle, compost, collect rainwater, use cfl/led bulbs, drive a hybrid, use energy efficient appliances, conserve energy, buy local, grow my own vegetables and fruit, subsidize wind energy, buy recycled products, re-use, etc. etc.


Compost from the Dirty Hippie’s garden.

“The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats.”  Theodore Roosevelt

One fateful day 5 years ago I was simultaneously reading Skinny Bastard and watched Forks Over Knives – on the same day.  The environmental facts portrayed in both were all I needed to see/read.  And this was way before Cowspiracy brought vegan environmentalism to the masses. I was shocked to find that everything I had done previously, (recycling, hybrid driving, etc.)  paled in comparison to the impact of eating animals.  I could not unlearn the things I discovered, nor could I turn my back, as so many people do, after discovering the horrors and devastating impact of animal husbandry.  I immediately went vegan in an effort to increase my environmental activism tenfold.

“You can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry.” -Abraham Lincoln

Interestingly enough, I was already vegetarian at that point.  I had first stopped eating meat at home since my wife (girlfriend at first [the Bohemian Girl!]) was vegan.  I still occasionally ate seafood out, but liked that less and less.  I remained vegetarian for about 7 years, with my last holdout being cheese.  (sound familiar??)  I loved me some cheese and could literally eat a grilled cheese every day.

Grilled Cheese

Daiya Grilled Cheese – often served with garlic or tomato slices as well…

About the same time as my vegan coming out, I discovered Daiya cheese.  It was because of my beloved Daiya grilled cheeses that I had not a care in the world giving up dairy.  That coupled with learning about the “acceptable, legal levels” of blood and puss allowed in cow milk and cheese. Bleh! Now there are myriad vegan cheeses on the market and even more recipes for making your own.  Any kind of cheese you loved with blood and puss can be made vegan.  I hope for your sake you are googling “blood and puss in cheese” while reading this.  To say you don’t like vegan cheese is just like saying you don’t like animal cheese because you don’t like brie.  There are  as many options in vegan cheese as there are in dairy cheeses.  My favorite homemade vegan cheeses include blue cheese and Somer’s smoked gouda.


Daiya Cheddar Shreds – the vegan cheese that saved the grilled cheese!

Giving up cheese is hard; it will be hard for you because you are chemically addicted to it.  Eating it releases chemicals in your brain similar to opiates.  But you can do it, if you are a real man (or woman).

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” -Helen Keller

Looking back, I feel like more of a man now than I ever did before.  For several reasons but not the least of which is that I simply chose what was right over what I wanted.  The longer I went without meat, cheese and dairy the less I wanted it anyway.  The less I ate meat in the first place, before I even went vegan, the less I liked it.  When I hear people say “I could never give up cheese”; or “I could never stop eating meat”; “I don’t eat that much meat”; or “I love eating meat”; all I hear is the echoing voices of addicts saying; “I love cigarettes” or “I don’t drink that much” or any number of excuses that other addicts –and I -have said in the past when the truth of the situation had not settled in.

“Money doesn’t make a man.  Muscles don’t make a man.  Tattoos don’t make a man.  Character is what makes a man!  Let a man’s character be his currency; that will tell you what he’s really worth.”  -Tony Gaskins

The environmental numbers are astounding.  51% of greenhouse gases come from animal agriculture.  FIFTY-ONE PERCENT.  How can anyone, man or woman, read that statistic and ignore it?

If you think that animals are not sentient beings who suffer and feel pain just as you, an animal, do, you are lying to yourself.  Just look into the eyes of the dog or cat companion you love and transfer that love to any and all animals.

If you are fat, sick or nearly dead and think that what you eat doesn’t matter; you are lying to yourself.

So, if you can reduce your risk for nearly every major disease in modern society, lessen your impact on the environment and save the lives of billions of innocent, sentient beings all by going vegan, how can you not?  I couldn’t keep eating animals or their excretions, I had to go vegan.

“The man who achieves makes many mistakes but never makes the biggest mistake of all – doing nothing.” Benjamin Franklin

You may think that being a vegan man is not that manly, but I beg to differ.  Doing what is right, instead of what is easy, is manly.  Eating animals is easy, so easy.  Almost anyone can do it.

Hunting on any level does not impress me; saving lives impresses me.  Because it is hard.  I know killing animals is easy because I myself have done it.  When I was younger I wanted to be Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans and hunt and eat animals like the Mohicans did.  It was learned behavior and sometimes it takes a lot of guts to realize that the behavior that you have lived by and know to be right, is actually wrong.  I felt remorse every time I mimicked that behavior and did not continue it.  I know that every human being that hunts starts out feeling this way and overcomes the remorse by numbing themselves to it, blocking out compassion from their lives.  Losing compassion is how we all ignore the horrible things that happen for us to eat animals.  Every day that you go without consuming them, you feel lighter than the last.  Not only do I feel healthier than I ever have before, I feel more aligned in my soul.  I feel compassion for the world around me.  It is a world that desperately needs more compassion.

Besides, with amazing plant-based meats on the market, like Beyond Meat, no one needs to eat inhumane or unsustainable animal products anymore. Just try Beyond Meat. Or  Gardein or Upton’s. You’re going to love it and feel better about yourself and the world. You no longer need to kill or abuse animals or the Earth for protein.

When I look at animals, I look at them the way I would my dog companion.  Each one has a personality, feelings, emotion and I connect with them in the same way.   Two of the best friends I have known were  my rescued greyhound, Lochrima (who passed on 5-1-15), and Mabel, an 850-pound pig friend that currently  lives at Burleigh Animal Sanctuary.  Mabel and Lochrima  had a lot in common – both love(d) bellyrubs, both love(d) when I bring them treats and both come running when they hear my voice.  Animal cognition goes much farther than most people realize.

Lochrima and Mabel

Me with Lochrima, three days before her passing earlier this year; Me with Mabel the pig, who I still enjoy regular visits and snuggles with.

If you think you need to kill animals or drive a big truck or be a bodybuilder to be a man than you are likely lacking the character of a real man in the first place, and seeking to replace that emptiness and lack of confidence.  If you drive a big truck around with a dead deer strapped to it to prove you are a man, you have just announced to the world, “I am not a real man and have to do this ignorant and archaic shit to make up for it.”

But don’t take my word for it. Man up and go vegan.

“What makes a man are his deeds, his responsibilities and his reactions… These things are also what makes a man a monster.”  Shannon Delany

3 responses »

  1. Fantastic article! I know I only ever write about recipes over on our blog, but you’ve summed up a lot of my own thoughts and feelings with regards to how I view animals and their personalities 🙂 Alex

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