I have always considered myself an animal lover. We always had at least one cat while I was growing up, and sometimes we had a dog too. I thought of animal suffering in terms of dogs and cats — being run over and left in the street, or euthanized at the pound, or killed for no reason by cruel people.
In high school, I became aware of animals being used in laboratory testing for cosmetics and household products. I read a few more articles about it, and eventually I requested information from PETA. I was shocked by the pictures showing the abuses suffered by rabbits, monkeys, and even dogs and cats. I stopped buying items made by Procter & Gamble, and bought products from companies (like The Body Shop) that didn’t perform animal tests. Eventually, I also became a member of PETA and started receiving their Animal Times magazine.
When I was 22, I was living with my boyfriend and working at Baskin-Robbins. I would read my Animal Times during my half-hour lunch break. The magazine was published quarterly, and I remember being so sad at the articles detailing animal testing, but not really reading much of the articles talking about farm animal suffering. I think I’d see the photos and say, “Oh, that’s so awful, those poor animals.” I know I thought it would be really hard to be a vegetarian.
One day at work, I sat reading my latest issue of Animal Times while eating a 99-cent Whopper I’d just purchased from Burger King. I was reading an article about cows, and how they’re kept on feedlots. There was a little cartoon graphic of a hamburger bun, and in the middle, instead of a hamburger patty, there was a Holstein cow, bleeding, and it had a scared expression on its face. And it dawned on me… I am eating a cow. A cow that suffered terribly, a cow that was killed in a horrendous manner, a cow that’s an animal just like my beloved cats at home… and aren’t I an animal lover???
So I decided to go vegetarian. And I got books from the library on how to eat, how to make sure I got enough of what I needed. Too bad I didn’t find the books on how to deal with my family until much later! Nobody in my family was supportive for quite a few years, and that was rather hurtful — “Aren’t they supposed to love me unconditionally?” I remember thinking, about my mom and step-dad and older sister. And my step-mom, and my aunt, and my cousins…
It just felt right. Right for me. A year after I went vegetarian, my boyfriend did too.
I read all I could find about animals who suffered and died for my plate. I read about chickens, factory farms, and dairy cows… and vowed that “someday I’ll be vegan.” It took me nine years! I slowly cut out cheese and ice cream from my diet (I’d started drinking soy milk and rice milk when I went vegetarian, since I never really liked cow’s milk all that much). I never really ate eggs either, only when they were in prepared foods. Like cookies and cake.
During the latter part of those nine years, Jan, a vegan, came to work in my office. I was so glad when I found out, because I reasoned that my meat-eating co-workers would finally leave me alone and start pestering the vegan, who was more extreme than me! Yes, I was the lone vegetarian in my office up to that point. (I worked at a hospital, where the cafe served some of the unhealthiest fare imaginable!) Not fun. Anyway, I was also glad when Jan arrived because then I could ask her about being vegan — was it really as hard as I thought it was? She was the coolest, and would answer my questions when I asked them. But I didn’t ask too many. I was just too afraid of “The Unknown.” Jan told me that her daughter had been an intern at a place called Farm Sanctuary. They were vegetarians until her daughter came home from her internship and announced, “Mom, we’re vegan now.”
In 2001, I quit my job at the hospital to go back to school. My major was Biology. I wasn’t quite vegan, eating cheese occasionally and I only had cake or cookies when I went to my mom’s since she liked to bake. I’d still eat pastries or other items that contained dairy, and kept telling myself I was getting closer to being vegan. Even though it seemed so hard.
One night, during my third year of school, my boyfriend and I were flipping channels on TV. We stopped when we saw chickens — they were being picked up, held upside down, getting their throats slashed, and then hung by their legs in shackles on a moving line… the video was called “Humane Slaughter?” and it was on cable access TV.
I was horrified. I didn’t know whether to scream or cry. I felt like I was being turned inside out. My chest ached, I was shaking, and I couldn’t speak.
And I was vegan after that. In no way was I going to contribute to that kind of suffering! All the photos I’d seen over the years of layer hens in rows of battery cages, of cows hanging in shackles as their throats bled, of veal calves chained in the tiniest pens… it took seeing these things as they happened, for real, for me to get it.
I wish that it hadn’t taken so long, because becoming vegan was so easy! And even if it were hard, it’s nothing compared to what the animals go through, day after day, for their entire lives.
I feel that this is what I was meant to be. I feel like the whole process of me becoming vegan was my evolution. There was simply no other way my life would end up. I love being vegan!
~Kerrie in California