My childhood was filled with the usual things: sports, video games, television, animals… Nearly every day I’d toss the ball around with my friends, play games on the NES, watch TV and hang with my cats Muse and Whitey. Those were the good old days!
As I grew older, other activities crowded out most of these pastimes. Sports became a more occasional thing, video games took a distant spot in priority behind concerts and parties, and socializing took precedence over the TV. One thing stayed true though – my connection with animals. In fact, at different times, my relationship with animals changed. I began to look at them as more than just companions, but as other beings. Beings who were vulnerable. As I learned of their various plights, I began to change the way I lived.
We always had rescued animals around the house, but little did I know the many problems with stray animals running around and creating tons of offspring. So my mom and I began trapping cats and getting them spayed and neutered. We did this to hundreds of cats, which has surely spared the suffering of thousands of our feline friends wandering the streets of Michigan, especially during the harsh cold winter months.
We went to the park often and enjoyed the presence of deer, who we considered to be friends after years of seeing and spending time near them. After learning that they were to be killed in a cull, the first-ever of its kind at this park, we began protesting. Our protests fell on deaf ears. As time progressed, the hunt continued and many deer were slain. We felt helpless and hopeless. Their deaths still leave small holes in our hearts.
In my early 20s I learned something about animals that I had never stopped to think about before: how they are treated before they reach my plate. I watched a film called Earthlings and I was utterly horrified. This was more wretched than anything I had been exposed to before. Just like things had changed for me in the past when it came to my relationship with animals, something needed to change here too. I went vegetarian, eventually vegan, and have never looked back. It’s been the best change of my life. Not only do I feel great physically, I feel so good mentally and emotionally knowing that I’m not paying someone else to do something to an animal that I would never do myself.
I’ve discovered so many new types of food, thrived at a new level, and found purpose in my life that I never knew I had. As much as my dietary changes were made for the animals, those changes have had such a profound effect on me. I’m so happy to eat in a way that truly reflects my values. Being vegan has a clear positive impact for the animals, but its impact on me has been far greater than I ever imagined.