A couple of years ago, I posted this question to my Facebook friends: “I’m curious: for those who have been vegan for more than five years, what factors do you attribute to your longevity as a vegan? There are many things that tempt people away from veganism, from a desire to fit in better to simply missing some things you used to eat, and we know that the rate of defection from veganism is quite high. What have you done or what have you plugged into to make veganism work for you? In other words, what do you attribute to your success as a long-term vegan? Thank you!”
Even though this is far from a scientifically rigorous survey and I am not a trained data collector, I think the resulting responses still offer a fascinating lens into what makes a successful long-term vegan. I was almost overwhelmed by both the deluge of responses as well of the generosity of spirit reflected in them. From this simple question, I got a rich supply of answers about the qualities that are both common among and unique to long-term vegans. Curious about what may be part of the successful long-term vegans composite? I collated my most frequent responses in order of how common the answer was below.
1. Compassion for Animals
Far and away, this was the most commonly cited reason for staying vegan: once one’s eyes were open to animal suffering, it was impossible to go back to not knowing and when one wavered, remembering the core ethical basis was key for sticking with it. As my friend Kathleen said, “I’ve been vegan for seven years. I just think of the animals and all the pain and suffering they endure. My pleasure is not worth their suffering.”
Lisa H. said something I heard in different iterations throughout the thread: “I could never be vegan for my health. For the environment I couldn’t be 100% vegan. Maybe 75–90% at the most. For the animals (farmed and wild), I’m as 100% vegan as it’s possible to be.” The ethical foundation was what made it a more accessible, solid commitment when the other motivations were too abstract or not deeply felt enough.
Pam W. said, “I’ve been vegan for 12 years and I fully attribute it to my core value that it is wrong to cause or participate in the infliction of suffering and exploitation. Animal-derived foods are…