Veganuary seems like an appropriate time to talk about my personal journey, the how and why I became a vegan.
The answer to why is simple, just one word – love.
Why on earth would I want any creature to suffer and die needlessly to feed me? We don’t need animal products to be healthy and there’s an abundance of delicious vegan dishes that can provide us with all the nutrients we need.
The how, strangely, was the unintended outcome of a lesson at school. It helped me make the connection between the animals I loved and what was on my plate, and started me on this journey.
It was the early 1980’s, and I was 12 or 13 growing up in a country town in NSW Australia. We lived near the edge of town and I enjoyed walking out to the paddocks nearby and talking with the horses, cows, and sheep. I’d pick grass and feed them, never making the emotional connection between those animals and the food on my plate.
Until that day at school. It was my second year of high school and in this lesson we were looking at articles from Choice Magazine, which is a consumer advocacy group in Australia. One of those articles was about what actually went into sausages – bone, gristle, blood and other generally undesirable ingredients. Everyone was pretty revolted, and lots of fellow students were swearing off sausages. Then on the bus ride home, driving past the paddocks full of cattle it hit me, those animals were destined to die for us to eat. That was it, from that moment I became a vegetarian. I didn’t know any other vegetarians, and it would be about 10 years before I met any.
So as you can imagine it wasn’t easy being the only vegetarian in the village. This was a world before the internet, there was no one to offer support or advice and no one who understood my decision.
At the time I’d never even heard of a vegan, and was totally ignorant about what happened to the animals used for dairy and eggs. I’d seen cows in paddocks with udders so full they were almost dragging on the ground so assumed, like so many people do, that cows needed to be milked by humans. Later when I learned about the conditions poor battery hens were kept in, I also mistakenly assumed that free range would be OK. Completely ignorant to the fact that in both cases, the babies are taken away and the unlucky boys are killed as ‘wastage’. Once enlightened about these and other facts of the industry I made the change to being a vegan.
That was a bit over 20 years ago. It hasn’t always been easy. I don’t mean the diet, since giving them up I’ve never had the slightest desire to consume the flesh of another animal or any animal products. I mean the social side of it, the questions, personal attacks, and ridicule that go with being different. It doesn’t happen very often to me personally now, but I know it still happens to plenty of vegans. It’s the price you pay for questioning the status quo. But never let that stop you from making the decision you know is right.
After all where would we be now as a society without those people who stood up and said ‘no’, ‘no’ to slavery, ‘no’ to oppression, ‘no’ to gender inequality, ‘no’ to racism, and ‘no’ to so many other things that have helped make our world a better place.
Do you have a story you’d like to share?