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I was always aware of there being something wrong with eating animals but raised in a strong family with two elder brothers my ideas were always considered childish. I tried to turn vegetarian when I was 12 but was confronted with mum trying to sneak ham into my sandwiches and so many comments of ‘it’s just a phase’. Having been unable to stand up for myself most of my life, I just conformed, it was the easy option. I kept my head down and worked through school and university and got married to a bully who make me feel even more worthless as a person.

Two years later after a string of events I plucked up the courage to stand up for myself. Finally. I have never looked back. After vowing to stay single I met a wonderful man, Matthew, who just happened to be vegetarian and we moved to the country. Living near animals made me aware of the choice I’d never truly made but knew I should so I gave up the meat. I could not watch the lambs in the field infront of our cottage and laugh as they bounded from one side to another playing games and then eat a lamb roast. Couldn’t do it. So I was a vegetarian. I never considered becoming a vegan until I listened to a podcast from Compassionate Cooks. My now husband Matthew fell upon the podcast one day and told me I must listen. He was a bit stunned after I did listen and decided I was immediately vegan. He took some friendly persuasion but I am thrilled to say he has now made the same decision and we decided to raise our two children as vegan also. We have a little girl, Heidi, aged 2 and a son, Miller, aged 7 months.

We have encountered difficulties as vegans, not least being that we live in Northern Norway (we are English but moved over here in 2004) in a small community where meat eating is abundant, vegetarians considered mentally instable and where elk hunting is quite common. Needless to say I have to travel far and wide to get the basics I need to keep my family healthy! But we are healthy and I feel more alive than ever. When I gave up the dairy I noticed so many positive changes, I lost all my pregnancy weight and my shape is better than ever, my skin is flawless (I had excema before, none since), my hair shines and I no longer feel sluggish or bloated. I also feel more in control of my life and am so happy not to contribute to suffering.

I feel my life continues to improve in leaps and bounds. I am quite a different person than the shy girl I grew up with inside of me. I am part of a media company which I helped found here in Norway and am writing a script for a children’s television series alongside many other arts projects. I am also a qualified yoga teacher. I have a blog entitled new vegan mom (www.newveganmom.blogspot.com) and my son and I make a weekly vlog for new mums and their babies entitled ‘Yoga Baby’ (www.yogababy.tv or you can go to blip.tv or itunes and subscribe). I am also writing an interactive book for children (www.snoredust.blogspot.com) where kids can submit ideas and pics to be included in the published novel. I guess you could say I’m busy!

I encounter many people who just do not understand why veganism has such a positive impact on our lives…but then occasionally I meet one person who does…

~Jill in Norway

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I was a vegetarian for about 10 years before finally taking the vegan plunge this summer, and have always been proud of my choice not to eat animals. The notion of veganism was a niggling presence in the back of my mind, but I told myself that I “couldn’t” do it for all the standard reasons — it’s too hard, I couldn’t live without yogurt and cheese, I wouldn’t be able to go out to restaurants any more, eggs and milk don’t kill the animals, yadda yadda.

Listening to your podcast changed all that. It was in finally making the connection that the veal industry exists because of dairy that really clinched it for me. As a vegetarian, I had always felt that veal was one of the most reprehensible things you could eat, yet there I was supporting that very industry every time I put milk in my coffee.

Honestly, I don’t know why I never grasped that connection. After all, I grew up in a rural area and we actually had our own cow when I was a child. My parents would have the vet come around and artificially inseminate her — a process we knew she was none too fond of, because she would always try to hide when she heard the sound of his van coming down the driveway… which goes to show  just how smart cows really are! The driveway was not visible from the paddock  where our Moo and the other animals lived, yet she was able to make the connection between the sound of his engine and the nasty procedures that were done to  her.

Clearly, Moo was a lot better at making connections that I was, considering I never made the link that she had to have babies in order to give milk. The more I think about it, the more it amazes me that I managed to get through forty years of life without considering the implications of what it would mean on a scale of mass production to have millions of cows constantly giving birth to calves that would be 50% male, and just what would happen to all those male calves.

The same thing goes for eggs. Even after I went vegetarian and educated myself somewhat about factory farming, I still somehow thought that free range-eggs and organic cheese were the answer. I sort of assumed that “free range” hens would live the way our hens did when I was a kid. Even when I was little, though, I knew that my parents killed the roosters. In fact, this was one of the formative experiences that eventually turned me towards vegetarianism; being served the flesh of chickens that I’d known personally made it difficult to avoid the knowledge that meat is animal flesh. Yet I never quite grasped the idea that this killing-off of male chickens is simply part of the egg-producing industry, and that it happens on “free-range” facilities just the same as any other.

I suppose that’s a symptom of being raised in a culture where everything is so disconnected; we become blinded to what’s going on right in front of us. And the unvarnished truth is that, like most people, I didn’t make those connections because I really didn’t *want* to make them.

Listening to your podcast is what finally cleared the cobwebs from my  thinking. I really appreciate how thoroughly you debunk the myths and assumptions of  our carnist culture, replacing them with facts and logic. Not only do you make a powerful case for the importance of becoming vegan, you also make veganism seem really accessible. I think that even just listening to your voice helped me; it made me feel as if I “know” someone who made the transition, and that if you were able to do it, maybe I could do it too. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it really helped a lot. I’ve now transitioned my diet and most of my wardrobe to veganism, and am working to gradually eliminate animal products from my life.

I’m amazed by how profoundly becoming vegan has affected me. It’s a much deeper change than becoming vegetarian ever was, and seems a lot more significant. Looking around, I find myself seeing the world through new eyes. For example, I can’t believe how many leather items I’ve thoughtlessly purchased over the years, or the fact that I never questioned what happened to the ducks whose feathers fill my duvet. What was I thinking? How is it that I could have  given money to support such things, all the while believing that I loved animals?

These are painful realizations, yet it’s a good kind of pain because I’m finally being honest with myself. It feels like a homecoming, like I’m finally living a life that’s true to who I really am — and I have you to thank for it. So thank you, Colleen, for all the wonderful work you do. Never doubt that you are making a huge difference, both for the animals and for the people who love them.

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I tried being vegetarian a number of times but it never stuck.  I realize now that while intellectually I was drawn to it, my heart wasn’t really in it.

Then about 2.5 years ago I was going through a divorce (a nice kick in the butt causing me to reevaluate pretty much everything) and got connected with a Buddhist group based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings.  The first mindfulness training is: Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking and in my way of life.

There are so many different ways and levels to read and understand that…and over time it started to sink deeper and deeper into my heart.  I realized before long I would be vegetarian.

First however, I was moving towards a life without alcohol as I began to see how it wasn’t serving me or supporting my life’s journey.  This was a real challenging one though because a significant part of my job involves entertaining clients (which inevitably revolves around drinking).  Also, when I would connect with friends from college, it was the same thing.  So while I had a lot of resistance around giving it up, there was a strong sense I needed to to be true to myself.  Then…a lyric from a song called Western South by Kate Callahan pierced me.  The song was about her struggle with alcohol and the line was:

          it’s not the drink I think I need

          it’s the illusion that i’d be so much happier free

          from the sound, and the weight, and the history

          that comes from saying “no” all the time

It was like my own heart talking to me.  And shortly afterward, I was done with it without any struggle at all.  Amazing. 

A few months later, I went on retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh and the movement towards being a vegetarian became permanent…and again it very easy because my heart had opened even wider.  I knew my only remaining resistance was the same as it had been with alcohol…the perceived weight of explaining my choice again and again to people who didn’t understand it.

But I had no choice.  My heart had already decided for me 🙂

In the following year I slowly learned more and more about the suffering and killing involved in cheese and egg production and my resistance/fear to living vegan quickly became untenable.  Last fall, following my heart I made the switch, again without struggle.  I’m learning to cook 🙂 and am loving the exploration of all the new foods I never new existed!  Physically, my body feels great.  And best of all, I’m living in greater harmony with my heart and soul.  What more can I ask for?

That’s my story in a nutshell.  I found your podcast a few months ago and am so grateful.  Thank You for shining your Light in the world! 

~David in Colchester, CT

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I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian 19 years ago after a “double date” where we watched Faces of Death 1, 2 & 3 all in one night. That did it for me and I have never eaten another morsel of meat again after that and have always tried to avoid animal ingredients in the products I buy, avoid products that have been tested on animals and be a conscious consumer – so I am used to reading the label on each and every item that I purchase. My brother has since also become a “vegetarian” but he continues to occasionally eat FISH! (Fish is not a vegetable… I have to try to get this through his head). We also have at least 5 cousins who are vegetarians so maybe it’s genetic! I was lucky enough to meet my husband who has been vegetarian for about 10 years as well.

We recently watched Earthlings and the DVD from PETA on factory farms and battery hens which both had me bawling as I watched the torturous conditions that these sentient creatures have to contend with and never experience joy in their short lives.

I guess I did KNOW about the suffering of Chickens and Cattle, and the connection of Dairy and the VEAL industry…but somehow I was still able to justify it in my head… now I have finally accepted that I have been irresponsible in thinking it will be “So difficult… to give up CHEESE and Yogurt” and that I just can NOT contribute to the suffering on a personal level any longer. I want to get everyone I know to watch these dvds and think more about what they are eating and the effects it has in the big picture, the circle of life. The conditions these animals endure is reprehensible. I don’t want to be a part of the reason it is allowed to go on anymore. I believe in Karma.

Some books that have helped educate me along the way and finally assist in my decision to go vegan and stop messing around are: Being Vegan, The Vegan Sourcebook and The Uncheese Cookbook all by Jo Stepaniak; Vegan – The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus, Becoming Vegan , Fast Food Nation, Diet for a New America and the Vegan Handbook. I have watched Go Further many times and the constant mention of the blood & puss in milk was an inspiration to avoid dairy, even living in the dairy state where CHEESE is constantly “in your face” at every turn.

My husband and I had tried being Vegan a couple years ago, it lasted about 6 months – with occasional cheating! This time I do not feel as if I am “giving up” something, but starting down a new path with many rewards and true joy. I have my husband joining me on this path, which makes it even easier… however most of our friends are omnis and when I mentioned that we were not going to be eating dairy or eggs any longer they had no comment which kind of made me think they are thinking “oh great, this is going to make our socializing more difficult” or something along those lines.

My husband and I have been listening to all of the Vegetarian Food For Thought, Vegan Freak & Vegan Radio podcasts which were the REAL impetus for our renewed enthusiasm to make the final permanent leap to VEGAN! The gentle and educational tone of Vegetarian Food For Thought podcasts are the perfect balance to the ranting style of the Vegan Freak podcasts and with your help we are not even THINKING of looking back or “cheating” as we have in the past when we were vegan for about 6 months a couple years ago.

Thank you!
-Tonya & Brian
Milwaukee, WI

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I have eaten (loose) vegetarian off and on for fifteen years.  Last year, I stopped eating land animals for good, due to factory-farming practices.  As I have heard you mention on your podcast, before going vegetarian, I sought out meat from locally raised, authentically grazing animals.  This is not hard since I live in a remote area of Colorado where ranches are abundant and I can go directly to a ranch to buy meat. Even so, I was conscious of still supporting a vicious and tortuous practice.  By maintaining the practice of eating meat, I would find myself in restaurants where I could not be certain of the animal origins and at the houses of family and friends who might not have the opportunity or awareness to buy humanely raised meat.   Explaining why some meat is okay to me and other is not was fuzzy, grey, and felt hollow.  If most meat in this society comes from tortured animals, why eat it at all when there are so many other options?
 
For the year I was eating no meat but still milk, eggs, and cheese, I avoided thinking about the conditions in which animals who produced these products lived.  These animals had not yet gone through a horrible slaughter and finally, hopefully, rested in peace.  The animals producing milk, cheese, and eggs, were still suffering, living in unbearable conditions as they produced the organic milk and cheese I consumed each day. 
 
As I listened to your program, I finally went there.  I thought about the conditions the animals lived in and that my life was being sustained by their suffering.  There are so many other ways to sustain my life than animal products – so many wonderful ways.  The big things I have gotten from your program are being exposed to the horrors of factory-farm practices, which I had avoided; hearing nutrition issues addressed in a clear and factual way; and considering the importance of being joyful about embracing veganism.  Right now, sorrow for creatures who endure unthinkable suffering is large for me.  But I am grateful for the sorrow, which is real, and is part of awakening further to life. It is a relief to no longer open the refrigerator to see eggs and cheese and feel my mind close to their origins.  Bringing plant-based foods to the center of my life and to meals that I share with family and friends is nourishing physically and spiritually.
 
I am happy I encountered you on my path and I am grateful for the work you are doing on behalf of creatures who suffer unbearably and needlessly.

~Victoria in Colorado

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In 1988 I took an Environmental Science class as a sophomore at Penn State.  From films, we learned about soil degradation, water pollution and destruction of the rain forest as consequences of animal agriculture. I don’t know if the professor was a vegetarian, but I made the switch rapidly that semester to a meat-free diet.  It was purely for the environment and had nothing to do with animal welfare in any regard.

Four years later, I worked for an animal shelter in rural Oregon.  I saw a hand-made flier entitled, “Vegetarianism and Animal Rights:  A Free Series of Videos on Alternate Thursdays.” Since “I loved animals,” I thought my boyfriend and I should go.  It was November and just before Thanksgiving.  Off we went to this perfect stranger’s house with no idea what was in store for us.  I’m not even sure I knew what “Animal Rights” meant.

In Ron and Peggy’s living room, we watched, “The Animals Film” and learned about intensive-confinement animal agriculture, the clear connection between milk and veal and that roosters have no place in egg production.  It was hard to watch.  I have a crisp memory of the drive home through trailer parks and orchards, both of us sitting in stunned silence.  Someone said, “Well, I’ll never eat that again.”

We didn’t, and for the most part, we have never looked back (he’s now my husband).  Yes, we have made occasional allowances for wedding cake and if grated cheese finds it’s way onto our plates, we make do, but for the most part, we haven’t missed these things that were the foundation every meal, every day for over twenty years.  And it’s not
because of the incredible array of delicious, animal-free foods available, of which there were and are many.  It’s because of the unforgettable footage of the routine practices of animal agriculture.

Today, when I speak up about the cruelties of animal farming, I’m told, “Oh, I know all about that.”  Really?  I doubt it because I believe the vast majority of reasonable people would find the routine practices of animal agriculture abhorrent, if only they would bother to take a serious look.

So, if you know of someone who says they simply can’t resist animal products or they say they believe stories about animal agriculture to be false, exaggerations, or atypical occurrences, ask them to watch, “Earthlings” or “Meet Your Meat” or another of the video’s available online.  These are not easy to watch, to be sure.  But if we demand animals endure deplorable conditions in which death is their only relief, can’t we take enough responsibility to watch?  Once we become
completely informed, the decision of what to eat takes care of itself.

~Susan in Pacifica, CA

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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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