Archive for May, 2007

I first became vegetarian in 1995 when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 4), and I began to read about ways to cure her.  I learned about people who had cured themselves from cancer through their diets, particularly macrobiotic, and the growing research documenting the terrible effects of meat and dairy products on the body.  When I became vegetarian at that time, I still ate eggs, but I hadn’t eaten milk products for years due to allergy.  My mother passed away a short time later, and I continued my vegetarian lifestyle determined not to die as she did.  I explained my choice to people as a health concern, stating that the animals were raised in such horrible and unsanitary conditions that it could not be healthy to eat such products.  At that point, I understood on some level the horrors that the animals suffered to feed us, but think I only allowed it into my heart and mind at a fleeting and superficial level. 
At some point, years later, I began to eat meat again, though I rarely if ever ate beef, still seeing it as an unhealthy thing to eat.  I am not quite sure how it happened.  To be honest, I missed the taste of certain barbecued and spiced meats.   I think I worried that I wasn’t getting enough protein.  I was surrounded by people who ate meat, and my husband at the time, who had gone vegetarian with me, went back to eating meat.   I felt alone in my vegetarianism and like an inconvenience to friends and family.   I imagine it was a combination of those factors that lured me back to being an omnivore.
Then in February 2004, I had the opportunity to attend the World Premiere of Peaceable Kingdom at Lincoln Center in New York City.  From the moment I saw the seemingly endless number of male chicks sliding down chutes and conveyor belts on the way to the dumpster – useless by-products of the egg industry – there was no turning back.  The suffering I saw in that film touched a part of me that had been locked away for a long, long time.  Then, after the film, when one of the panelists stated, I don’t eat animals because I love and respect them, it was truly one of those life-changing moments.  I remember thinking – I love animals too, and if this person can be proud of those feelings and act on those feelings by not eating animals, well, then I can too.  And there it began.  I stopped eating animals at that moment.  I ate eggs from time to time, but I felt terribly guilty when I did so, and eventually gave them up, too. 
Being vegan for ethical reasons is very different than giving up meat for health reasons.  I definitely feel healthier, which is an added bonus, so to speak, but now I cannot look at meat without seeing needless suffering and sorrow and the flesh of an animal that I would have liked to have known under different, much happier circumstances.  I do sometimes miss the taste of certain things – bacon, pulled pork, buffalo wings – but I don’t miss them so much that I would want an animal to die so that I could taste it again. 
As a vegan, I’ve experienced rewards I never would have imagined.  I feel a sense of peace within me, which I imagine comes partially from the act of living true to what is in my heart.  I’ve always been concerned about animals and the environment, so being vegan enables me to act on those feelings each and every day.   It’s empowering to be able to choose to not cause pain and suffering several times a day, especially living in a world what seems to be filled with so much of those two things.  Also, being vegan is a very conscious and active way of living, and as a result, I feel much more alive and in tune with life around me.  It is difficult at times to live being fully aware of the tremendous suffering that animals are experiencing at each and every moment, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  For in opening myself up to feel the suffering, I have opened myself up to love as well. 
I feel like I have learned to love again in the truest sense – a love that knows no boundaries – which is why I like to say that I’ve rediscovered “true love.”   My heart feels free to love at levels and in ways that I do not ever recall, but I imagine that I was born with and experienced as a child when I looked at the world with wonder and fascination and naturally loved animals.  I think that perhaps when we are forced to suppress or hide that love we inherently have for other species so that we can eat them, exterminate them, and use them in the numerous ways our society deems acceptable, we turn off a part of our hearts and a part of us dies.  For most of my life, I felt disconnected from the world I claimed to love so much, as if there was some hole in my being, something holding me back.  Becoming vegan, I feel whole again.  I feel as if a weight has been lifted, and my heart is free.   

 ~Janice in Lincoln Park, NJ

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I have been a vegetarian my whole life—not because vegetarianism was imposed upon me by my parents, but because for one reason or another, I had a natural aversion to meat. My mother likes to tell the story of how, on our weekly trips to Friendly’s after church, I would order a hamburger but ask the waiter to “take the cow out.” Though they didn’t restrict me from eating meat, I have no doubt that they had a hand in my early ability to make the connection between what appeared on our plates and the animals that, as a child in rural upstate New York, I had seen grazing around our home. They must have taught me at that early age to empathize with other creatures. So many people go through childhood, if not their entire lives, without bridging the mental divide between cow and hamburger, pig and bacon, and all those other carefully created euphemisms.

Still, I went for nearly three decades—until my 29th birthday, this year—as a lacto-ovo vegetarian without seriously considering going vegan. What held me back was a fear that if being vegan would turn me, an essentially happy and joyful person, into a negative being, and that my entire existence would come to be about what I was not, what I couldn’t do. I feared that it would take so much time and energy to be vegan that it would take over my entire identity until vegan was all I was. I feared that my social life would suffer because my friends and family would feel alienated, judged, or offended, and because I wouldn’t be able to eat out anywhere. And I feared that I’d become full of anger and bitterness about all the terrible things that other people did to animals. In short, I believed all the stereotypes that our culture has about vegans, and I sold short the people in my life by expecting the worst from them. So, I decided that vegetarianism was enough and I stuck to that.

But looking back, it’s clear that part of me didn’t believe that I was doing enough, because while I hadn’t made the full “vegan plunge,” I was, without realizing, going through a gradual process of eliminating the use of animals from my life. After college, I started buying vegan cookbooks, and I took on vegan cooking and baking. I switched to from cow’s milk to soymilk. I stopped buying leather, wool, silk, and down. I made all sorts of gradual changes, until only a handful of animal-reliant habits remained, all of them dietary: ice cream, eggs, and—most looming of all—cheese.

Cheese was my crutch, my lifesaver, every time I went out to a restaurant. Not only that, but I was passionate about it. Pizza and macaroni and cheese were the staples of my diet. This became embarrassingly clear once when I went to a branch of Sbarro near where I worked after having been away for a couple of weeks, and the guy behind the counter gave me a “welcome back” discount. So the difficulty of envisioning life without cheese was immense.

But in the end, it was something surprisingly simple that convinced me to take that last step. I had been reading vegan magazines and websites (another testament to the fact that I was still seeking, that I knew that my diet still wasn’t fully reflecting my values) and all of a sudden, a confluence of examples of positive, joyful veganism came into my life. One was VegNews Magazine; another was Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast, “Vegetarian Food for Thought.” (I still swear that the “Life after Cheese” episode was written with me in mind.)

I discovered that being vegan could be positive, affirming, and expansive. It didn’t have to be all about what it wasn’t—though of course, animal abuse is, to some extent, the elephant in the kitchen for anyone who knows the truth about modern food production—but could be about what it was: a transformative, enlightening, lightening, compassionate discovery of a new way of life. To discover that you can live happily, healthily, and in a whole way without causing needless suffering is a reason to rejoice.

My goal from here onward is to become for others what I myself sought for so long: an example of a life lived with not just conscience but with joy. I think veganism as a movement can grow and flourish as long as people can see examples of vegans who are happy and whole. Being whole also means having a lack of judgment of others, which may be one of the most important thing vegans can strive for. (I think the feeling of being judged is what gives some omnivores such unwarranted venom toward vegans and vegetarians.) For my part, in the short time that I’ve been vegan, I do feel happier, and, contrary to everything I had expected, more free. So, I’m leaving behind my welcome-back discount at Sbarro, but I’m looking ahead to a better life for myself and all this planet’s other beings.

~Erin, Cambridge, MA

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I think even when growing up, I was never totally comfortable with eating meat — there was always a bone, a vein, tendons — even with ground-up hamburger meat, there was always an unidentifiable something in it. But of course, like most everyone else, I didn’t question that this was where I needed to get my protein.

Over the years, I volunteered at a dog and cat shelter, read many animal rights books and donated small sums to mainstream animal welfare groups, none of which detailed the cruelty that I know about now or advocated being vegan.

I became vegetarian gradually and was for about 15 years before finally going vegan last September. I tried once before after reading Eternal Treblinka. That book should have done it for me, but I had no support then & was in fact, met with hostility from vegetarian friends who didn’t want to hear about it. (And I don’t think podcasts or blogs had been invented yet.) So I went back somewhat, still buying products made with milk or eggs, eating eggs at restaurants, cream with coffee.

I’m so glad you mentioned The Good Good Pig in your podcast, ‘‘Peace for Pigs.’’ One weekend last fall, I decided to give myself one last push toward becoming vegan. I read Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World and The Good Good Pig that weekend. That was it for me finally: a good “scolding” from the Vegan Freaks and one truly wonderful pig.

I’ve since discovered it’s absolutely easy living vegan and I’ve learned much from your podcasts and writings. I’ve learned about the bad — such as the mutilations the animals are forced to endure and the young ages at which they’re killed. But I’ve also learned about the good — places like Peaceful Praire Sanctuary and Pigs Peace Sanctuary, and of course about other people who are changing, evolving, to a cruelty-free life.

I just hope we can convince, or inspire as you say, more people to just leave the animals free to live their own lives.

~Lenore in Skokie, IL

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I was raised in a meat-eating household, and vegetarians were viewed as an exotic myth to scare children away from their steaks. I did not come across the word “vegan” until I was an adult. While I do not remember the exact moment, I am sure that I just decided at the age of 20 or so that eating flesh caused needless suffering to beings with central nervous systems capable of experiencing pain and fear.

I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for years, and I would rationalize that eggs and dairy products did not cause the same suffering as meat consumption. That bit of self-deception eventually crumbled under the weight of evidence and I was left with the only ethically consistent course that a thinking person could follow; I became a vegan.

I am a physician with the Canadian military, so you can imagine that I have plenty of opportunities to defend my position against vigorous debate. Most people are just genuinely curious and want to hear my position, but a few are hostile and confrontational. No omnivore has yet offered a logical rebuttal to my position. (There have, however, been a surplus of illogical and often bizzare rebuttals — and yet I love them and live amongst them.)

Being a vegan in a non-vegan world is an odd experience. I am always a little frustrated when I see otherwise kind and intelligent people using, or extolling the virtues of, animal products. By any other measure my friends and colleagues are good people who do not see themselves as a cause of suffering. There is a kind of willing ignorance or self-delusion about it that baffles me even though I was guilty of the same thing for a large part of my life.

Animal products are so ubiquitous that I often have the feeling that I am not a part of the society in which I live. It is like those horror movies where the main character knows the monster is real but no one is willing to listen (think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”…). My wife is reading this over my shoulder and has told me to lighten up — she reminds me that we just had an awesome vegan meal (courtesy of her) and that if I pull myself out of this morose reflection I may get some cupcakes as a reward. So there you have it; the many faces of veganism! 🙂

~Pete in Petawawa Ontario, Canada

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When I was young, my Grandparents kept a pig in their backyard. I thought he was the most interesting “pet” anyone had ever had. I named him Stinky because “he smelled like he needed a bath” – but not enough to keep me from cuddling up with him everyday, after school, for a nap. Stinky was my friend… playful, kind, and a wonderful listener. 

One Sunday morning, over breakfast, I noticed everyone watching me – anticipating. When I finally tried the bacon, there were giggles and smirks all around, as my Grandfather asked me “How does Stinky taste?” 

I was devastated.

We continued on to Church, where my Grandfather proceeded to preach a sermon on how God gave us the animals to eat and to dominate – that it was our right, if not our duty. I tried to accept it, and I vowed never again to love an animal in the same way.

I was a meat eater and “that’s the way God made me.” 

As the years went by, I began to question my religion and its inherent cruelty. I was angry and frustrated with a world that seemed so rooted in violence. And I found no comfort in the idea of a creator that not only allowed, but required such behavior. 

So I distanced myself from all that I had known, I began to make decisions based on my own logic, to follow my own moral compass…

In search of a broader understanding of the world and my place in it, I read all sorts of things, from Taoism, to philosophy to natural health, and then I stumbled onto John Robbins book, Diet for a New America.   I instantly became a vegetarian, and it stuck – for 6 years. Until one day, I did something that, to this day, drives me insane. I started eating meat again.

I’m not sure why… I think it was because I had decided to be vegetarian for health reasons and not for the animals. But I never felt quite at ease with my decision. I would cringe at certain things, and flat out not be able to eat others.

Still, through all of that, for some reason, the book stayed with me, and years later, my husband and I sat down, and in tandem, read it aloud. This time it was different – I remembered how much I had loved Stinky and how I had avoided all the animals that came after him. This time, I “got it.”

My husband and I cried and laughed and cleaned out our kitchen that weekend and have been vegetarian ever since. I’ve been a vegetarian a total of 11 years now (5 for the sake of the animals) and I’ve always felt so good about that decision. It’s allowed me to look at animals again and actually see them -To love them, to cry for them and to hold them. 

My husband, however, recently became vegan and (in my mind) was pressuring me to do the same – loudly listening to podcasts, that threw around phrases like “Joyful Vegan” which just made me roll my eyes. I felt angry at him for “judging me” and accused him of not acknowledging the good choices that I DO make. I used all kinds of excuses. And I was getting pretty comfortable with my lie – telling myself I was still a good person – that most people weren’t even vegetarian, let alone vegan…

Then I listened to several of those podcasts on my own and realized that my husband was doing something not for himself, but for the animals, and certainly not TO me. So in a humbled state, I finally understood that you can’t claim “personal choice” if it affects someone else –  that if given a choice the cows would choose not to be milk machines as surely as they would choose not to be killed. (And let’s not lie to ourselves and say they aren’t killed…)

 I’m newly vegan now, and this lifestyle that for so long seemed too restrictive and extreme is something I’m so excited about. There’s no more guilt, no more excuses. It’s freedom.  It’s amazing – the relief you feel – the calm that sits inside you – the absolute joy that sometimes overwhelms you. 

I still giggle at the name of this website “The Joyful Vegan”… it just seems so appropriate.

~Michelle in Panama City, FL

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My journey to veganism was primarily food based at the start. I was raised in a lacto-ovo vegetarian home, but once I went away to college I hit the hamburger stand full-force. Fifty pounds later, I scaled back to healthier standards, but remained a meat eater, primarily because I didn’t know anyone who was a vegetarian besides my parents, and they didn’t voice objection that I had left the lifestyle. That, and I was going to school in Chicago, home of deep dish pizza.

Many years later I did the best (and worst) thing possible for myself, and it changed my life. In an effort to lose weight, I went on the Atkins Diet for a year. I ate cheese and beef jerky and scrambled eggs and processed deli meat and cottage cheese and Jell-O EVERY DAY. If I had a sweet tooth I sucked Readi-Whip from a can. That was my diet 24/7. And I lost 20 pounds. I also got horrible acne, was constipated on a regular basis, felt lethargic and logy, and began having problems with my “fluid” tract. My doctor was concerned about my kidneys and used the phrase, “possible damage and eventual shut-down” if I continued to consume high fat, high sodium foods. It was permission to quit, and going off the diet was a

After the Atkins fiasco I decided to go back to my lacto-ovo vegetarian roots. I felt better almost immediately.

Then Mad Cow Disease hit in England.

A girlfriend of mine was dating a vegan at the time, and we had long discussions about why we were at a greater risk than he as far as contracting disease or being effected by contaminated food sources. I started to research veganism and animal production. Embarrassing as this is, it wasn’t until then that I put beef and dairy in the same category. I had always
separated the chicken and the egg. However, I pushed my thoughts away for several years because I witnessed how vegans were treated. “Freak,” is the term I remember most.

Then, during a stint where I became very concerned about my health, I decided to adapt a vegan diet 100 percent. I went cold turkey. And I continued to read. As a result, amazing things happened to me.

I love to cook, and learning a new method was an exciting challenge. Two years into my veganism I STILL get a tremendous charge from having someone rave about a bread or dessert that I bring to work, and watching their face change when I tell them the delightful taste is courtesy of tofu!

I’ve also lost weight and kept it off. I still hit the gym and get as much exercise in as possible, but it’s just easier, even though I’m getting older.

However, my greatest gift has been a re-connection with the animals. My sweet kitty cat, Mo, was always a friend, but now she is a true companion. I can’t imagine life without her because I see her as an equal, not just a house pet. And I revere other animals with the same respect. That attitude only surfaced after becoming vegan.

Veganism has made my life come full circle, in a sense. I am one, yet I am part of a community – a huge community of people and animals. It is humbling to be part of such a large family where every “one” is different, yet equal, unique and special. 

~Colleen in St. Paul, MN

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I have been vegetarian for two years now.  I originally cut meat out of my diet for health purposes (to lower my blood pressure, to lose weight, etc.), but I found that before long, I was rediscovering compassion buried deep within me, compassion that I had suppressed for so long because this is what our culture teaches us to do.

Now, two years into my new lifestyle, I can’t imagine ever returning to my meat-eating ways, and in fact I have been thinking more and more seriously about going entirely vegan.  Having listened to every one of your podcasts available on iTunes, I feel I am finally ready to do it.  I had never fully considered how my consumption of cheese and eggs was contributing to cruelty in much the same way a meat eater’s habits contribute to cruelty, but as you say, if we are going to purchase and consume such products, we have a responsibility to know the origins of those products. Thank you again for your wonderful work.

To quote you, I feel every day that I am living my truth.  While I have yet to become involved in activism, I still feel that veganism is itself a small form of activism, and I remind myself regularly that my choice to eat a vegan diet is saving a small number of animals (small in comparison to the total number slaughtered annually).  I feel that the connection I have with my own animal companions is stronger than ever before.  I literally feel as though my eyes are open after a long period of sleepwalking. 

It saddens (but also motivates me) to witness others’ ignorance of or indifference to animal suffering.  I try to educate (without preaching to) my family and friends, and I’m happy to tell you that both of my parents (previously staunch omnivores) have changed their eating habits because of me, and they continue to do so. While they are certainly not vegans (or even vegetarians), they have begun incorporating more plant-based foods (including items that they use to replace animal foods) into their diets, and I constantly encourage them both to continue making these changes. It makes me hopeful to see two older adults make changes like this!

Again, I love your podcast.  It is by far the best of its kind.  You are so articulate and thoughtful.  Beyond the information you convey, the way in which you convey it, in my opinion, is a major step toward shattering stereotypes about vegans. Please keep up the excellent work. 

~Peter in New York

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I was probably a very “typical” vegetarian. I had slowly transitioned into it because of a smart, loving, vegetarian boyfriend, who had asked me some great, poignant questions like: “Could you kill an animal yourself?”  Eating less meat, I slowly realized how much happier and better I felt about my food choices. Simultaneously I was learning about loving-kindness (a Buddhist way of life), and the environmental impact of a meat diet and it all just sort of clicked.  I started educating myself and learning more about living a life of compassion, and it just felt perfect…. and right. I started to view “meat” as “suffering” and couldn’t imagine feeding myself something with so much pain attached to it.

Meanwhile, I was listening to a ton of podcasts and came across Vegetarian Food for Thought with Colleen. I was instantly hooked; emotionally and intellectually. Once I knew about the dairy industry and then saw the film “Earthlings,” there was no going back. You can’t take off your blinders and put them back on. It just doesn’t work that way.

It’s become a moral issue for me now, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was contributing to the horrors of the dairy and meat industry.  I do have memories of having said things like: “I could never be vegan, no way!” but the truth is, it’s been extremely painless…literally and figuratively! A couple of weeks ago I went to a farm and was reminded…. animals are incredible beings! It made me so proud of my choices.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your compassion and wisdom through your podcast. I feel so enlightened and educated, and am proud to be transitioning towards living my own truth, through a mindful, vegan diet.

~Nina in Somerville, MA

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I first became a vegetarian for the obvious health benefits, but soon learned of the cruelty and injustice inherent in the meat industry. I was devastated to think that I had been supporting such cruelty for the majority of my life.

I became a vegetarian in February, and was happy to discover your podcast about a week ago. I have been listening to it ever since. I am glad to know that the issues I wrestle with are felt keenly- not just by me, but around the world.

As a teenager in high school (a Senior), I have trouble getting respect for my choices. I am forced to buy my own food, using my own allowance, because the family I live with are all non-vegetarians, and their mother will not buy food I can eat. I especially appreciate all of the cooking tips, since I cook almost all of my own food.

At the end of the school year, I am hoping to make the transition to veganism. I had not known the extent of the cruelty before listening to your podcast, and I was shocked when I learned about the abuses of dairy cows. I am going to finish the cheese in the fridge that I purchased, and then I am not going to purchase anymore. I have stopped drinking milk already, and will stop buying products with milk in them.

You have inspired me to “speak my truth.” When I first became a vegetarian, my mother – who I live apart from but visit often – was opposed to it. She has pernicious anemia and was convinced that I would not get the nutrients I required on a plant-based diet. I have since convinced her to stop trying to change me back to being non-vegetarian, but she still worries that I am not eating enough.

I want to thank you for all the work you do to help the animals, denied rights and even voices. You are truly an inspiration.


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I can’t tell you what a JOY it is listening to your podcasts.  I have listened to all of them since I began listening in December. It was my first vegan podcast and it is by far the best.  I am a vegetarian but thanks to your approach and your information, I am becoming more and more vegan everyday.  Your approach to human change is as compassionate and encouraging as your approach to animals.  
I live in Pennsylvania and my background is Pennsylvania German, commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch.  Some people think that makes someone Amish.  In reality it means that my German ancestors settled in PA in search of religious freedom in the 1700’s.  The Pennsylvania German culture, like many, is full of meat and all of its by-products.  I grew up on a farm where pigs were slaughtered once a year, usually around my birthday. I remember burying my head with pillows so I wouldn’t hear the screams.   Not surprisingly pork was the first thing to go from my diet. 
On the other hand, there were indeed many wonderful things about growing up on the farm.  Two of them were my mother’s garden and my grandmother’s garden.  I can go on and on about the wonders of fresh picked strawberries, still warm from the sun, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce……My mother started a big garden because my dad ate NO green vegetables and no fruit.  Basically he ate corn, potatoes, and tomatoes – as ketchup.  She didn’t want her kids to be like that, so she hoped that if they had fresh veggies, they would learn to like them.  I tease my mom at how much her lesson worked on me.  Even my brother, still an omnivore, has a huge garden and lost a great deal of weight a few years ago.  Sadly, my dad died when he was only 56.  Technically, he died of complications following surgery to remove a brain tumor but I have to think that had he had a healthier diet, he may have been able to overcome that illness.
My niece can’t understand why her grandfather, who she never met, ate no strawberries.  She LOVES strawberries.  I pray that I can meet her children and grandchildren and that they can see first hand Aunt Wendy, who stopped eating meat and animal products, but was passionate about fresh, wholesome food. 
I am so crazed for raspberries that I went hiking in the intense summer heat very soon after having surgery last summer.  I needed those berries and I tried to pick them before my surgery, but they weren’t ripe.  Why would I want to eat meat and other gross things?  I prefer to save my calories for the truly wonderful things like blueberries, peaches, kale, tofu with broccoli….
You are such an encouragement.  Keep up your wonderful work.  I look forward to hearing the voice of someone I consider as a role model, as a friend on the west coast.
~Wendy in Pennsylvania

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