First off, get your minds out of the gutter, y’all. I’m talking about my VEGAN firsts. You know, those epic firsts that all of us have: the first time we eat a cruelty-free meal, the first time we actively speak up for animals, etc.

Spoiler alert: As much as we like to think that we all magically became animal rights experts overnight, that’s not how it works. We all have our own “firsts” that got us to where we are today. I know that I do!

So, how did this gal go from being a meat-loving college senior to a peta2 coordinator, you ask? Here we go …

whitney vegan firsts

My first vegetarian wake-up call

When I was in college, I’d never even heard of PETA or peta2. I ate meat on the regular, and the words “cruelty-free” weren’t even on my radar. So, it was by a total fluke that I stumbled across PETA’s website one night. Right there, splashed across the homepage, was the video “Meet Your Meat.” Needless to say, I watched it, and five minutes later, I was officially a vegetarian and a peta2er.

My first vegan wake-up call

After going vegetarian, I hadn’t really planned on making the switch to a vegan diet right away. I mean, it’d be way too hard and so effing inconvenient, right? (WRONG! But I didn’t know that yet.) I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d give it a whirl in a few years. Then four months after going vegetarian, I decided to watch the documentary Earthlings—aka “The Vegan Maker”—on Netflix, and as soon as the credits starting rolling, I was vegan.

earthlings poster
© Nation Earth 

My first time telling someone that I was vegan

I think we all probably worry about what our friends and family will think when we tell them that we’ve decided to go vegan. Will they take us seriously? Will they just brush it off as a phase? Sometimes, sure, they will. But ultimately, we have to remember that it’s our decision, and thankfully, my friends and family were OK with it. And guess what? My little sis even decided to go vegan with me! #win

vegan siblings whitney

My first meat- and dairy-free trip to the grocery store

*Cue Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World.”* Grocery shopping as a vegan newbie can seem downright terrifying at first. “What the eff should I be buying? What exactly can I eat in this place?” Well, thank the lawd for peta2’s Guide to Vegan Grocery Shopping and the insane amount of mock meats (like Gardein and Boca brand) and dairy-free cheeses (like Daiya and Toffuti brand) available at most local grocery stores, or I would have been completely and utterly lost.

vegan grocery shopping

My first slipup

While none of us likes to admit it, it totally happens: the first slipup. It’s almost inevitable that sooner or later, we’ll bite into something only to find cheese, mayo, beef, or some other animal ingredient that we hadn’t intended to eat, like, ever again.

beef burrito
Photo: Steven Depolo | CC by 2.0 

For me, it was a bean burrito (or “beef burrito,” as the drive-thru gal apparently heard it). And in that moment, my world crumbled. In the grand scheme of things, though? Not that big of a deal.

Yes, it sucked, but shit happens. A slipup DOES NOT mean that you’re a bad vegan or that you should give up on helping animals. All we can do is wake up the next morning and work that much harder at being the best voice for animals that we can possibly be.

My first time protesting ever

Now on to the fun stuff: my first-ever protest! Right after I graduated from college, I scored a job with the largest animal rights group on the planet (ahem, PETA). And a few days after I started, I went to my first protest ever, which ended up being against notorious baby beaters Ringling Bros.

ringling bros protest

My first time protesting … in a costume

And then came the more interesting protests, like these:

animal rights protests

My first time protesting … in nothing at all

Annnnnnnnd then came the NSFW protests, like this one:

animal skins protest

Side note: If YOU want to organize your own protest, just e-mail us to get started!

My first time in the field with PETA’s Community Animal Project

Every single day, PETA’s Community Animal Project (CAP) visits impoverished areas of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina to bring food, toys, flea treatment, lightweight tie-outs, doghouses, and perhaps most importantly, TLC to dogs who have spent their entire lives at the end of a chain. When I first started at PETA, I had the honor of going on a ride-along with a CAP fieldworker so that I could see firsthand all the important work that CAP does for animals in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area.

And OMG, look at this cutie I met along the way!

peta community animal project dog

My first animal rights tattoo

Ahhhh, vegans and their ink. When I finally worked up enough courage to get my very first one, I knew that I wanted it to speak volumes about who I am and what I stand for. The obvious choice? The Sanskrit word “ahimsa.”

ahimsa tattoo

(My second tattoo may or may not be dedicated to a certain boy wizard. Just sayin’.)

And there you have it!

A handful of firsts that turned me into the animal-lovin’ peta2 staffer that I am today. Now, I want to hear from you! Tell us about your vegan firsts in the comments below!