Just a vegan growing up in a small dairy farming town, with a family of 8 meat eaters, running a very meat-focused family restaurant.
After having my eyes opened in June of 2014, I made the decision to go vegetarian. A month later I went vegan at age 17, in the middle of year 12 studies. I stayed up until dawn one night watching – most of the time through splayed hands – countless documentaries. Earthlings, Gary Yourofsky, Cowspiracy . . . I felt horrified, engrossed, outraged but also empowered, empowered that I had the choice to not take part in the suffering.
The next morning I announced my decision, “Mum, I’m vegan now.”
My oldest younger sister laughed, “you’re a hippy now. Why?”
So I began reeling off all the things that I had learnt. The environmental, animal and health reasons.
“I really like milk, so I don’t really care. I don’t want to know.”
Now, I’m not a violent person, but it took a lot of strength not to slap her at that moment. How could people be so small-minded? So ignorant? So cruel?
“Do they really do that to the animals?” My nine year old sister asked,
“No, don’t listen.” Mum replied.
Brainwashed, everyone was brainwashed.
I have learnt that most people just don’t think about it. Ignore the obvious suffering. It is okay because everyone else does it.
Life continued like this, countless people asking why I’m vegan but not really wanting to know the answer. Daily, idiotic taunting, from my older brother; “Erin’s going to marry broccoli!”
Working in the family restaurant, carrying out rib eye steak and pork belly. Stuff like this caused me to be always angry, and a in-your-face vegan, which lasted a few months.
At school, I’m not going to lie, I did become socially isolated. Gatherings always involved some sort of food I didn’t eat, people were awkward around me (keeping in mind a lot of them came from dairy farming backgrounds). I was (that I know of) the only vegan – or even vegetarian – at my school of 500 students.
Just yesterday a friend asked me, “do you ever wish you weren’t vegan?” Like it was an allergy or ghastly disease I had acquired, not a choice I’m very proud of.
Time passed and I’m not so angry anymore, I try to let people make the decisions they make. But it’s hard. In one of that many arguments I’ve had with my friend, she said, “Well I’ll respect your decision if you respect mine.” I agreed, sick of fighting. When really, asking a vegan to respect your choice to eat meat if like asking a person of colour to respect racism, or a gay person to respect homophobia.
People always say, “I couldn’t go vegan, it would be too hard. Plus, I would die if I didn’t eat meat.”
I just say, “If you believe in something enough you’ll do anything, and it won’t be a hassle.”