I remember as a child being aware that eating meat involved the killing of animals and this was something I didn’t want to take part in. At the age of 8 I told to my mom that I wanted to be a vegetarian.
That was back in the late 1980s when the vegetarian section in supermarkets was considerably less than it is today. Still, my parents were supportive and my mom was happy to start cooking vegetarian versions of meals for me and even began to eat a lot of them herself. Growing up I had no real idea about the cruelty involved in the egg and dairy industries and so still ate milk and eggs. Although my reasons for being vegetarian were ethical ones, in time being vegetarian was just something I did rather than something I consciously thought about.
In 2011 my husband and I were in New Zealand on a working holiday. We took part in a work exchange, which involved working on a dairy farm in exchange for accommodation and food. Before then I had never thought about the fact that cows needed to be pregnant in order to create milk. I didn’t know that cows were regularly forcibly impregnated, their babies taken away from them within hours of birth. I didn’t know that male calves would be taken away and killed for veal or that some calves would be stillborn or born with deformities. This wasn’t a ‘factory farm’ either; it was a relatively small operation run by a friendly, welcoming family who named their calves and showed them affection. Still, their freezer was full of beef from ‘spent’ cows and they had no problem sending calves away for slaughter, because ultimately it was a business. Their cows were bred for monetary gain and so they cared for them to the extent they needed to keep them healthy in order to maximise output.
I began looking for vegan resources, and started listening to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s podcast. I felt my compassion for all living creatures being reawakened as I learnt more about veganism and knew that becoming vegan was the most profound thing I could do to take a stand against violence to animals. Being vegetarian already did help the transition but there was still a big change in my eating habits, particularly when eating out. The internet can be a brilliant resource, especially when travelling – just Google ‘vegan food [location]’ and you will find something. I eat a much wider variety of foods as a vegan and have gained a real passion for cooking. There is a great community of vegans online who continue to inspire me, and help me feel connected even when I know very few vegans in real life.
For me being vegan means a life of integrity: being true to my values of compassion and justice, and I am happier and healthier than ever. I love that I can make a difference every single day!