Thanksgiving in America is a food-centric holiday. We would like to think it’s more about being thankful than anything else but often food is the main focus and for some (most?) it’s simply a time of sinful self indulgence and gluttony.

There are three things most Americans look forward too on Thanksgiving: Food, Family, and Football. Maybe you don’t like watching football. And maybe you don’t particularly look forward to hearing that one relative talk about politics or having to endure corny jokes. But you can deal with all that stuff because the meal is what brings you and everyone else together.

However this changes a little bit when you become vegan and your family eats meat and dairy. If you don’t go to the traditional family meal you feel like you’re letting them down and you feel like you’re creating a rift in the family. I would say this is especially true the first year that you are vegan and you decide to skip the meal.

The brute fact is that it will create a rift (if you’re a vegan who cares about animal ethics). I don’t want to watch the people I love eat animals. I can’t unknow how those animals got there and how they were mistreated. I can’t unsee the bloodbath. I can’t unhear the last sounds made by the slaughtered animals (if you want to lose sleep for a while, listen to the sound of pigs being crushed in a factory). It’s heartbreaking and sad.

Have you ever thought about the amount of meat that is sold in grocery stores? Look at all the turkeys and hams for sale in just one grocery store during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Then think of all the turkeys and pigs that end up in all the grocery stores across the country. Do you know how those turkeys and pigs got there?

Why is it okay for us to eat birds, pigs, and cows but not cats and dogs? Can you imagine if you walked into Walmart and they sold freezers full of roast puppy dogs or cat burgers? What makes cats and dogs worth more than pigs, turkeys, and chickens?

I first became vegan because I wanted to lose weight and was convinced by the health arguments that a plant-based diet would not only help me lose weight but would also help prevent heart disease. My wife is the one who introduced me to it. She became vegan for both health and the animal ethics. I have now come to the place where I can say that I will never eat meat or dairy products again because I know what goes on behind the scenes.

Now, I painted a potentially bleak and dismal picture early on when I said that being vegan creates a rift. But it’s not a rift so deep that ties need to be cut. It may bring feelings of sadness and frustration for those of us who are vegan. It should not lead us to be hateful or arrogant to the nonvegans in our lives. Hopefully your family and friends will respect you and support your decision even if they don’t agree with it.

My wife and I will have our own little plant-based Thanksgiving meal and we’ll visit our family after they’ve already eaten their meals. I’m very thankful that they respect our decision to be vegan and that they don’t shame us or berate us for not coming to the Thanksgiving meal.

I don’t browbeat my family about becoming vegan every time I see them. In fact, I rarely talk about it or bring it up. They know why I’m vegan and we’ve had conversations about it in the past. I know why they’re not vegan. I simply choose to treat them graciously and with kindness even though the fact that they eat meat upsets me.

I simply strive to be humble. I know that I wasn’t always vegan. I used to make of fun vegans and joke that they only ate kale. I ate meat and dairy for 26 years. If you knew me before June 2017, you would have known my reputation as “The Wing Guy”. I loved to eat wings and would have them at least once a week. I loved trying new flavors (weirdest flavor I ever had was peanut butter and jelly). I loved ice cream and fast food.

But I watched myself getting fatter and I knew I was not healthy. I was in sin and needed to repent of my lust for food. I had to change. I was headed for diabetes, a heart attack, and most certainly an early grave if I didn’t make a change in my diet.

I was like most people. I went through life without questioning what I was told and wasn’t taught to think critically or form my own conclusions. Thankfully I learned to think for myself. I’ve lost about 45 pounds since I began eating a plant-based diet. But I didn’t become vegan because someone yelled at me and told me “meat is murder”. I studied the information and formed my own opinion.

I don’t want you to agree with me simply because I told you this is what I think is true and right. Rather, I hope you’ll be challenged to research the arguments for and against veganism and think for yourself.

Do you know the process of how food gets to your grocery store? Why do you eat some animals but not others? Think about why you eat what you eat and if what you eat is truly healthy. That is what matters at the end of the day. Will you prolong your life or shorten it?

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