Why I’m Vegan


I was really happy to partner with PETA for this new ad, and also for a signature prAna chalkbag (you can buy one here, or win one here) that benefits PETA.

I have supported PETA, the Humane Society, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund for several years, and I admire these groups a lot for their tireless efforts on behalf of animals. Animals and kids need people to help them and fight for them, as it’s always the small and defenseless who suffer the most. Seeing how much some people work to protect them gives me faith when I get despondent at seeing how much evil and cruelty exist in the world.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved animals. And I think most kids love animals. It’s always been a strange disconnect for me to see people grow from children who love animals to people who don’t care that they are held in wretched living conditions and killed violently because “meat tastes good” (personally, I don’t think it does) and because humans have the ability to do whatever they want. Hurting animals is not good. Hurting anything is not good, I believe. Hurting animals is a lot more bad than anything could taste good, if you know what I’m trying to say. Why do we treat some animals (dogs and cats) like little princes and princesses (which I am all in favor of, by the way) and sentence others to a miserable life in a concrete cage without thinking twice about it? It really does not make sense. My brain works very logically, and I’m consistently puzzled by things like this.

My intention here is not to make people feel all defensive/offensive and angry and not wanting to hear about it because their lifestyle causes harm to animals–rather, it’s to say, hey, I think we can all agree that hurting defenseless creatures is not ideal. What can we do to start making changes in a positive way? And if it just so happens that changing our lifestyle leads to environmental benefits, health benefits, economic benefits, and positive social change, then all the better. One thing I’ve learned is you don’t have to do or be anything you don’t want to be, and you can change anything in your life just by starting to do it. It’s you who chooses who and what you are, by the things you think and the things you do.

I’ve been vegan for 10 years now, and there’s nothing in my life that hasn’t become better as a result, from climbing and athletics to mental and spiritual well being. No one says you have to become a “perfect” vegan overnight. But why not start making small changes and see how it feels? I believe it’s the small choices people make that have the biggest power to change, and nothing is more simple yet also more far-reaching than changing how and what you choose to eat. We’re all here for a short time, in the end, and living a well-intentioned and compassionate life seems like what ultimately matters the most, the only real goal that I aspire to.

I started eating vegan because I noticed that it made me feel better and perform better. After a couple of years, I became aware of factory farming, and what exactly is being done to animals all day every day in our society in order to create cheap meat, eggs and dairy products that are not even causing Americans to be healthy or fit. Knowing what I know now, even if being vegan didn’t make me healthier, energetic and stronger (which it does), I would continue to eat this way purely in order to keep my dollars out of the system that perpetuates cruelty and abuse.

I believe that in our society, spending money is the way we “vote” on things. So it’s important to me that my vote is cast for kindness to living creatures. And if I climb better and feel better on top of it, well all the better 🙂


  • Great post – and compelling perspective for veganism! While I personally believe I need meat in my diet at this point in my climbing training and personal health, I agree 100% about the cruel and disgusting industry of factory farming, which is why I solely get my meat from local farmers – and try to limit my animal product consumption. Maybe one day I’ll be able to overcome my love of cheese and become vegan, haha!

  • I think that is an excellent option. Thumbs up, and thanks 🙂

  • Amanda

    Thank you Steph! As a fellow vegan and (amateur) climber, I couldn’t agree with you more. I encouraged my parents to watch Forks over Knives, and my father (who used to eat meat for every meal) now eats mostly vegan, and juices every day. Thank you for being a great example for the rest of us! I think that’s one of the greatest ways to inspire change.

  • Whilst I agree with your statement on not trying to make people defensive and angry, I find that a majority of the time people get very defensive, no matter what spin you put on trying to get your point across about vegetarianism and veganism. It’s sad to think so many people are hooked on meat and animal products that they can’t conceive of any other diet, which could enhance their lives greatly!

  • Hi Amanda, someone just recommended that movie to me: I’m gong to check it out. 🙂

  • thanks Paul 🙂

  • Nice post! I’m all for people at least making small changes. Grass fed beef over corn fed, almond or soy milk over regular milk, more plant based foods. It’s all about crowding out meet and dairy with so many good tasting options you don’t even know it’s gone. Plus, you telling the farmers it’s just not ok to treat animals like that.

  • thanks Rob !

  • cattz

    I’m very interested in other athletes experiences as “vegans”… Myself, I found it impossible to be even “vegetarian”. Even eating meat once a week worked only in summer-fall: the rest of the year, I found I had to eat it 3 times a week. Trying not to eat meat, while eating adequate protein via whey protein, brown rice protein powder, milk products, eggs, etc, and adequate fat, calcium, still always resulted in me 1) feeling physically sick 2) pain in tendons, and 3) performance going to hell and poor recovery (I use my power/type 1/short ATP-cycle muscles mostly though, NOT the endurance muscle, and I’m very muscled). The worst, I literally felt like I could eat any dog I saw on the street! I love dogs, but when I saw them while abstaining from meat, all I could think was “food”. Or, felt incredible craving for eating bones, and could eat all bones of a chicken in a second, hard ones as well. As soon as I’d get numbness/tingling in my arms (carpal tunnel), eating bones would work like magic. So, I’d never be vegan or even vegetarian, even though I’m mostly a raw foodist in my diet.

    I believe it all depends on individual physiology, which can drastically vary from person to person (and depends on ethnicity! Eskimo doesn’t have the same digestive system as East Indian, etc, it’s been proved over and over). Of course, I only eat organic and grassfed animal meat. These animals are brought up humanely as well, from local farmers, which is good for animals and those who end up eating them, both. I love animals–but eating them has absolutely nothing to do with this, as we’re omnivores by nature, just like chimps, and the world is designed in a way that one creature eats another… If I ended up eaten by bears or coyotes, I wouldn’t feel bad, I’d feel it was time to return to the cycle of nature. Ancient peoples who lived on this land, before Europeans came and killed them, ate animals, and this is natural way. Our civilization plays around with the words “humanity”, “kindness to pets”, “animal rights” ….well, whose land is here, to begin with, which we are using to ride high horse, on top of extermination of tribes? Of course, it’s easy to claim whatever “humanity” now and pretend to be all civilized and enlightened….this won’t change the Natural Way, of things eating each other, and species population control works this way, and requires it., and Native peoples had lived this way…well until Europeans decided otherwise. If lions, bears, wolves, etc eat a person, it’s cool with me. It’s only natural.

  • Hey Steph,
    You rock, sister! I read your book and loved it. And now I find out you are vegan as well as a strong, independent, gifted writer and climber Thanks from me and the animals you protect by not supporting the factory farms. Together we can make a difference. Thank you also for your amazing book and life. And for having the courage to stand up for what is right.

  • Thank you Vivienne, I’m really glad you liked Learning to Fly! And thanks for caring about the animals 🙂

  • Jason Williams

    Hi Steph!
    I respect your love and consideration for animals and your desire to not cause them unneeded harm. I became a 98% dietary vegan since before Christmas (with some cheats, that is), straight off my decade long adherence to the Atkins plan. While personal health – mainly avoiding cardiovascular disease – is why I am going this route, I have begun to read of the conditions in animal processing facilities, especially chickens which were my main staple. Stories like the following would break the heart of any chicken eating common person: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/usda-plan-to-speed-up-poultry-processing-lines-could-increase-risk-of-bird-abuse/2013/10/29/aeeffe1e-3b2e-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_story.html And as we know, the conditions do not measure up to the “back home on the farm” image we tend to have when it comes to animal agriculture.

    I am familiar with vegan strongman and world record loglifter Patrik Baboumian, as well as other vegans who have excelled in their fields. But to be honest I am a fan of your awesome prowess as a rock climber and BASE jumper and that is what motivates me now and keeps me on track and from falling off the wagon. I know I can accomplish anything in my life as a vegan – regardless of the physical demands – you have proven that and more it is possible. Thank you for your inspiration.

  • Thank you Jason, what a great story, and congrats on your mindfulness and action!

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