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Archive for the ‘becoming resensitized’ Category

Living in a state of denial and blind to the exploitation and atrocities of the outside world, I grew up calling myself an “animal lover.” But why then, did I eat animals? It’s odd reflecting on my past non-vegan persona and my newfound joyful vegan identity. My non-vegan persona knew of the horror and of the pain which animals endured, but hid from reality, hoping to escape the guilt which stems from consuming once-living creatures.

The main staple of any of my meals was chicken, fish, or meat. I never questioned or wondered why; I never refused to eat; it was simply ingrained in my mind that my body needed protein and that animals provided the best protein for my body. It took me a long time to realize, to learn, and to transform. However, after becoming a more health-conscience and thoughtful, observant individual, I thought about my diet, researched, and finally faced my fears. I experienced the heartache of knowing how all animals endure such hardships and grief and then I knew that I could no longer allow myself to contribute to the suffering of animals.

At first I went “vegetarian”, but ironically still ate fish. After having another rude awakening, I truly became a vegetarian and then slowly transitioned to vegan. I thought it would be difficult, but it wasn’t. I was so pleased and so happy to feel like I could make a difference and use my own voice to speak for the animals that I was willing to sacrifice the food. Now, I don’t even describe it as sacrifice.

As a vegan, the palate (and more importantly the mind) is cleansed; there is a plethora of healthy, vibrant, nutritious and wonderfully delicious foods to choose from, a diet much more fulfilling than my non-vegan diet ever was. I look forward to cooking such beautiful, tasty food with a smile on my face. And even though the suffering still exists, and even though at times I find it extremely difficult and sad to face the other blind people of the world or continually witness the injustice which exists on Earth, I smile because I am no longer blind. I can see clearly. With no fog clouding my vision, I can attempt to alter the injustice and I am able to pour my heart out to the animals; I use my voice for the animals. I can now sincerely and honestly call myself an “animal lover.”

~Samantha, high school student in southern California

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I’ve been vegetarian for 3 whole years now. From the time I was in high school & saw my first PETA film in 1990 until 2004 I rarely ate red meat, pork or chicken. My yoga instructor encouraged me to cut meat all together – not just for the physical benefits it would bring to my yoga practice, but the spiritual awakening I would experience. She was right on all counts and I soon discovered we had a new closeness in our relationship.

Being vegetarian is no problem for me. But a few months ago, my husband discovered he was lactose intolerant. I’ve been saying for a while now that I would love to be Vegan but had no idea how to do it mindfully without destroying my health & nutrition. I figured his lactose intolerance would be the little push I needed to go all the way to Vegan. As it turns out this was only part of the reason I became vegan. One day I actually read the ingredients in cheese & discovered the wonderfully horrible ingredient: rennet. I literally spit out the piece of cheese in my mouth & have never looked back. It’s been about 2 months now without milk or cheese and there doesn’t seem to be a real issue when out to eat or at other people’s homes.

I have found that my mind is clearer, my emotions steadier, my temper more even, my actions more compassionate when dealing with other people, and, yes, my yoga practice has deepened. Without yoga & the community involved in that lifestyle, I’m not sure I could do this alone. Often, after class, we share stories of our struggles, but swap recipes or names of restaurants that cater to vegans. We can confess our shortcomings, our fears and our failures. And I’ve discovered that my husband is even more supportive of my vegan choices than I ever dreamed.

My eyes have been opened & I don’t expect they’ll ever be closed again. I had my nose pierced 10 months ago as a reminder of my commitment to yoga & the life choices that go with it. When I feel frustrated or lost, I look in the mirror & remember that commitment. I have a horse tattooed on my shoulder & he reminds me who I am doing this all for.

~Lisa in Nevada

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In the past few years, I had heard of some negative press in regards to farmed animals. These included the cruelty of battery hens, hormone injections and antibiotics in animal feed. However, I was not aware of the full extent of the problem and remained unaffected. It was first brought to my attention earlier this year (2007) upon stumbling across 2 podcasts – “Vegan Food For Thought Podcast” and “Deconstructing Dinner.”It was eye-opening and a rude shock. How could I have lived my past 20-so years without being aware of these issues? I dug a little deeper, read more, looked at a few websites, listened to a few more podcasts. As an animal lover and someone with strong moral values, I knew I had to change. Becoming vegan was my goal. However, the obstacles are many and large. How was I supposed to conquer them?

The main obstacle was not so much dietary, but the social aspect. My parents would be the most difficult to convince. Of all the people we interact with, undoubtedly parents have the strongest desire for one’s wellbeing. I’m particularly close to my mother. My wellbeing is of utmost importance to her, beyond anything else. To many people, a diet without meat is unsustaining and ‘unhealthy’. I was prepared, and started small. I told them of the cruelty and the suffering that animals have to endure in order to provide for us. Gone are the days of free-roaming livestock and poultry. The huge human population is putting the world’s resources under strain. Profit always seems to rule, disregarding basic animal rights of being able to have the space to move, be free from pain and stress. Animals are treated as commodities, without feelings or rights. I chose veganism because I could no longer stomach animal products without feeling I’ve contributed to such injustice.

Being fairly slim already, announcing my change to veganism shocked and worried my parents. My 1st obstacle, which still remains my biggest, is mother’s outrage and concern. Despite my talks (that vegan is a healthy, sustainable way to live), she was strongly opposed to it. She believes I’ve been brainwashed by the things I’ve read, and is stuck in my one-sided way of thinking. I could not convince her to listen because, to her, I’ve taken on a mentality which she could not talk any sense into. What frustrates me most is that, she refuse to listen, despite deep-down, she knows there is truth behind my words.

There are many people who, like me, knew some aspects of the horrors in raising animals to provide for us. The problem is that they turn a blind eye so they can carry on living the life they’re used to living.

To me, learning is life-long. I’m always listening, reading, researching various topics and issues. Keeping an open mind doesn’t entail believing everything I’m told. On the contrary, we should be gathering information to be able to form opinions and making decisions.

It pained me to have the dispute with mum. I could no longer look up to her as a role model. I needed someone who is open-minded and cared enough to want to contribute and make a difference to society. She cared for me, and it clouded her judgement. She did not want me to become malnourished. “Why be a minority? Eat like the majority of us. What difference can you make by not eating meat?” was her view. It was painful to hear. Just because I cannot change the world, does that mean I should do nothing at all? Just because everyone else does something, does it make it right?
Dad was slightly more accepting, though he also worried about my health. He is more open-minded, and through introducing him to some podcasts, I hope in time he’ll understand and support my decision.

Mum’s extreme agitation and stress forced me to agree that I would resume eating “normally” – i.e. not vegan. This is an easy enough lie, since I don’t live with her any more. I do not wish to keep living a lie, but am hoping to change her with time.

Friends have been more accepting, though I have not had the chance to tell many of them yet. I’m confident in my decision, and know that the information I’ve learned is not biased. How could I have gone so long without knowing, all these years? It is not just the vegans and animal activists, but wide-spread knowledge of the torture, molesting, that goes on.

Eating as a vegan is most enjoyable. It’s an easy transition, since I’ve never been too attached to  animal products. In fact, it was a relief to learn that I do not need dairy for calcium (I’m Asian and lactose-intolerant – no wonder! Asians typically did not have diary in their diet). However, to avoid every trace of animal product in the food I consume as well as the product I use, is proving to be more challenging. Today, where are more processed foods than ever – many containing long ingredient lists, tainted with all sorts of additives and preservatives. Preparing my own meals from unprocessed foods (fruit, vegetables and grains, etc) is the easiest solution – something that I’ve been doing any way.

I see many flaws and vices in our society today. We consume too much – nutritionally-poor, energy-rich foods, products to satisfy the urge to spend, with terrible wastage as a result. I’m relieved to have discovered veganism and its moral principles. Vegans are generally kind-hearted, strong-willed (for being able to stand up for what they believe in!), and conscientious. Veganism is about embracing a compassionate mentality, a way of life for a better future for all.

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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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It was the first time I had ever been so close to an animal so large.  It was the summer of 1992, and I had joined two friends in Pamplona for that annual foolishness known as “The Running of the Bulls.”  This was something I had long wanted to do, and I found myself sprinting up a cobblestone street with hundreds of other people from around the world.  The six bulls easily caught up with us, and they galloped past, their brown heads and sharp horns rising and falling.  They were so strong and graceful. 

After the run, my friends and I wandered back to the bullring.  Dozens of bull-runners were chasing several bulls around the arena, smacking them with newspapers.  These bulls would die in the afternoon bullfights.  The spectators cheered as men poked and teased these noble animals, mocking them in their fate.  Whatever excitement I had felt earlier was now eclipsed by contrition.  These bulls, I realized, wanted to live as much as I do.  Am I the only person to travel to Spain, run with the bulls and then feel shame?  What separated me from everyone else?  I felt isolated, like the only Bing Crosby fan at an Aerosmith concert.

That morning, I began to extend my circle of compassion — though I still had a long way to go.

Later that year I was in Ladakh, India, spending two months living with a Buddhist family high in the Himalayas.  Nearly every meal I enjoyed came from the family’s large vegetable garden, and I realized I had never felt more physically fit in my life.  Then two cows came to visit one day.  It was late fall — time to bury the remaining vegetables to store for the winter.  The cows, who lived with a nearby family, came to feast on any plants that remained.  One cow in particular made a deep impression on me.  She stood still as we looked into each other’s eyes, and I was taken aback by how sentient she appeared.  Clearly, she had as much right as anyone to a life without pain and suffering.  What, I wondered, entitled humans to murder these beautiful animals?  Was this really the way for one species to treat another?  Moreover, was I not enjoying the best health of my life on a plant-based diet? 

Of course, one does not develop an abiding personal tenet overnight.  I gradually gave up eating animal flesh while examining my life and the role compassion played in it.  I looked for opportunities to be more humane … to make choices that reflected my belief that all life is precious.  Upon returning to the US, I worked for and wrote about human rights, which eventually led me to “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins. I was horrified to learn about battery cages and the dairy industry.  I contacted Karen Davis at United Poultry Concerns.  Wouldn’t it be OK if I ate free-range eggs? I naively asked Karen.  No, not really, she replied. 

When I discovered there was a sanctuary not far from my home where I could visit farmed animals rescued from abuse, I arranged for a tour.  Like so many people who visit Animal Place or any other haven for the former inmates of agribusiness, I was profoundly moved by each animal’s story: hens who had been rescued from battery cages, cows who had escaped slaughterhouses and transport trucks, goats who had survived vet schools, pigs who had been surrendered by 4-H students with a change of heart, sheep who had been neglected by farmers.  I went vegan that day and commemorated my decision by getting a tattoo of a rabbit on my arm (not just any rabbit, mind you — the PETA logo rabbit). 

The next step, of course, was to share the joy of being vegan with others.  So I began writing about animal exploitation in magazines, volunteering for Animal Place, rescuing animals and trying to be the best example I could be.  Then something happened: several people I knew stopped eating animals.  I never asked them to; I simply told them about the industrialized abuses billions of animals suffer every year.  I gave people vegan cookbooks and books about factory farming.  I told them about my volunteer work and how much it meant to me.  I created and mailed Christmas cards focusing on animals.  I read everything I could about nutrition and animal rights so I could answer questions about this ethical lifestyle.

This conviction — this reverence for all life — has become my guiding principle.  It informs every aspect of my existence, including my choices about work, entertainment, home decor, healthcare, fashion, and, of course, diet.  I have found my core belief surprisingly simple to adhere to.  Yes, sometimes it means that I don’t buy a certain product because it’s been tested on animals.  It means I buy shoes made without leather and make special requests when dining in restaurants.  And sometimes I spend half an hour in some parking lot after a rainstorm, gently lifting wayward earthworms from the wet blacktop and returning them to safety.  But these are not sacrifices for me.  If compassion is my religion, these are the actions I use to celebrate it.  They are my rituals.  For me, living fully awake means embracing all species with the same level of respect and kindness. 

Being a joyful vegan doesn’t take willpower — just a willingness to try new things and choose mercy over misery.

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When I was a child I loved animals, or so I thought. For, while I really felt a kinship with and a great deal of affection for all animals, I hadn’t made the connection between their lives and who it was I was sacrificing and eating every day.

When I was growing up we always had pets: birds, fish, hamsters, rats, hermit crabs, dogs, and many cats. I was an only child, and our pets were really a part of our small family of two humans. I wanted to be a zoologist or an oceanographer when I grew up. I empathized with worms that I would see washed up on the sidewalk after a rain on my way to school, and I would stop to move them back onto the soil when I saw them. I was really into animals!

I was raised by my mother, who lovingly prepared all of my meals for me. She was a hippy in the 60s, so I was more than familiar with health food stores and vegetarianism. We were lacto-ovo vegetarians for a while when I was young, but we ended up back on a meat-based diet, a diet that I continued to eat when I moved out on my own.

When I was 11 I went to a friend’s house for dinner. They were preparing lobster, which I had never had before. I watched in horror as my friend’s father put a live lobster into a huge pot of boiling water. They acted like this was totally normal, but I’d never seen anything like it. Then, a couple of long minutes later, the poor lobster threw the lid of the pot onto the floor in a valiant attempt to save his life. One claw was poking out, reaching. He was still alive in there, somehow. The father slammed the lid back on and walked away.

I didn’t have any lobster that day, but I remember being horrified yet again while eating a bowl of stew. I lifted a spoonful to my mouth and saw that there were big taste buds on the chunks of meat. I was then told that it was cow tongue stew. Now I realize that it doesn’t matter what part of an animal you are eating; I think all animal products are awful, but at the time, the idea that my taste buds were tasting someone else’s was really disturbing. Needless to say, I didn’t have any more cow tongue stew.

After I moved from my home town of Corte Madera, California, to San Francisco, I was a waitress on Haight Street for many years. I didn’t have to learn to cook because I was allowed to order anything that I wanted from the menu while I worked. My choices were typically eggs Benedict, cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, salads with turkey, eggs, and 1,000 Island dressing, and such… not a healthy diet at all! When I cooked for myself it was usually boxed macaroni and cheese and bologna sandwiches, maybe a broiled salmon steak if I was feeling “fancy.”

One of the cooks where I worked was a vegetarian, and I remember asking her if it bothered her to work with so much meat as a vegetarian. She said that it didn’t. I really admired the fact that she was a vegetarian, although that wasn’t enough for me to change my ways.

Another time, one of the cooks kindly read me the ingredients on the box of ground beef that I was eating as burgers. I will never forget the first two ingredients: beef hearts, partially defatted beef fatty tissue. Even as a meat-eater this really, really made me sick. I stopped eating burgers there right away, although I still ate them elsewhere and I consumed all kinds of other animals’ bodies without giving them any consideration whatsoever.

Another day I made the mistake of watching “Faces of Death” with a friend. We thought it would be interesting. It is a documentary that shows real-life incidents involving accidents and death. It turned out that they portrayed non-human animal suffering as well as human. One clip showed four tourists visiting Japan and indulging in what was considered a delicacy, live monkey brain. There was a terrified monkey in the middle of the room, his body in a cage attached to the underside of a table, it’s head poking through a hole in the top of the table. Each person was given a little hammer, and they beat the monkey into unconsciousness by hitting it in the head with their hammers as it screamed and spun around in the cage, trying vainly to escape. Then, the waiter came over and sawed the cap of the monkey’s skull off. The tourists each scooped some of the live monkey’s brains out and ate it. The two women proceeded to throw up immediately. What a waste of precious life.

Another segment showed sheep in a slaughterhouse. They were hanging upside down on the slaughter line by hooks that went through their ankles. They had all been completely skinned, and their entrails were hanging outside of their bodies onto the quickly-moving conveyer belt. They were still alive, bleating in agony.

It was incidents like these that started giving me clues that the way I was eating really wasn’t in conjunction with my true desires and feelings.

The first time I heard the word ‘vegan’, it was when a customer asked me if a particular dish on the menu was vegan. I had no idea what he was talking about, and I thought it might be some kind of cult diet or something. I stared back at him blankly as I tried to figure out what that weird word he had said meant. That seems so funny to me now, the fact that I didn’t even know what veganism was and now it is such a huge part of my life.

One day, when I was 22 years old, I came home from an exhausting day of waiting tables and lay down on the couch to watch some TV. I turned on PBS because I love documentaries and they show them often. What I saw then changed my life forever. It is such a great coincidence that I didn’t do something more useful than watch TV on that day!

They were showing “Diet for a New America”, the incredible documentary by John Robbins about how what we eat affects ourselves, animals, and the planet. I watched, amazed, as everything I had been taught about animal products in my life and diet was expertly dismantled by this kind, compassionate person. I sat rapt, with tears in my eyes as he described and showed footage of the conditions on factory farms, and the endless amounts of unnecessary suffering that animals are forced to endure to turn them into products that are so unhealthy for our bodies and our environment.

At the end of the documentary they showed that “Diet for a New America” was available in book form. Once I got a copy I read it almost straight through. I could not put it down. The subject matter was sometimes painful to read, but Robbins also added lots inspiring stories of animals and their unique situations and personalities, which are incredible and uplifting, to balance things out.

I remember how angry I felt that we are so misinformed in our culture about the ramifications of a meat-based diet. The four food groups were even created by the meat and dairy industries to train us as children to eat their products. They provide free “educational tools” to schools, like food pyramid (their bogus, self-serving version of it) posters, etc.

I don’t even remember deciding I would become vegan at that point, it was just a matter of course. With the information that I had been provided by John Robbins, my eyes had been opened to what is really going on.

I went to a local health food store and stocked up on vegan cookbooks. I started cooking my own food, which was a lot of fun, and pretty much new to me. It was great to learn that there are so many foods out there. As a meat eater I was eating a much more limited diet. As a vegan I learned about foods I had never even heard of before, like tempeh, seitan, and all sorts of interesting veggies and grains.

I have been really lucky since then. Many of the people who I am closest to have also become vegan, so I have a strong network of people in my life who totally understand.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a fantastic woman like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau out there keeping me informed, inspired, and entertained with her incredible work. Thank you, Colleen!

~Linda in San Francisco, 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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