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Archive for the ‘connecting with animals’ Category

Five… an innocent age, one during which you’re more interested in coloring books and preparing for kindergarten than making life-changing decisions about your moral beliefs. I wasn’t prepared for such a decision, but it snuck up on me one day, a product of my unrelenting curiosity.

“Mommy, why are the cows crying?”

My parents own 150 acres of Texas farmland, upon which graze about 50 beautiful bovines and a horse or two at any given time. At this moment in my life, many of the old girls are bellowing their hearts out, making my little empathetic self squirm in my seat. What on earth could be the matter?

“Well… their bellies hurt, that’s all.”

“Why?”

“Their bodies made milk for their babies to drink, and now that their babies are gone, they’re just a little sore, that’s all.”

“But… where did their babies GO?”

Now, at this age, these cows are just big dogs to me – as much my personal beloved pets as our two ponies are. What kind of monster would take our baby cows, and for what purpose? Why are my parents sitting there so complacently after such a (to my mind and clearly to the cows as well) horrendous and despicable crime has occurred? Well, it was at this point in my life that they chose to explain to me the prevailing human belief that we are the superior species, and therefore all other creatures are but commodities to our needs… not in so many words, of course…

“You see your hamburger here, sweetheart? Well, it’s made from the cows. We take animals, and we make them into meat so we can eat them, so we can live…”

Whoa. We do.. what? I’m eating… what?? This was quite a shocker to my fragile little mind. Doesn’t making them into meat… hurt them? Why would we hurt them? Aren’t they our friends?

Well, my parents tried to fight the flames of my furious realization and soothe my troubled mind, but they soon found it was too late. From that day on I scrutinized my meals diligently, refusing to put anything in my mouth which my parents (reluctantly) admitted was, in fact, dead animal flesh. Of course it was never named as such, always just called the generic “meat”, and played off as being completely normal and natural. They had hoped that this little phase would end soon enough, that my mind would eventually disentangle the hunks of muscle that everyone around me continued to consume from the love and respect I felt for all the other living creatures which I had until then, and wanted to continue to, believe were my equals.

Now I see that they’re not quite my equals, of course. Almost all nonhuman animals will never even remotely understand how far we can see into the future and the past, or how intimately we understand the chemistry and physics and biology that allow us all to exist. They may not have any clue the complexities that we are able to contain in our minds, but they know compassion. They know a pat on the head from a kick in the rear, and they know that the strange species that walks on two legs is equally able to deliver both. Only we know how wise we are as a species, and only we can make the choice to deliver love and kindness to our fellow beings, rather than a painful and untimely death.

I thank you so much for your role in helping people to awaken to the tragedy of our status quo. For me a desperately depressed and pained chorus of mooing was what it took to awaken the true fervor of my animal activism. For those who haven’t had such an experience, I couldn’t imagine a more enlightening and gentle manner to be awakened to the bliss of compassion than through the practical reasoning, enriching literature, and delicious meals you share with the world via Compassionate Cooks. For this reason I am eternally grateful to you and all the persons and events which continue to support you and make you a success.

I am thankful today and always for all my fellow revolutionaries in the greatest cause on earth – the equality of all living beings.

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As a child, I adored animals. I loved going to petting zoos, small farms, and anywhere I could touch the baby animals and feed them and coo over them. I live in a metropolitan area, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I encountered vegetarianism, and as a sensitive and thoughtful child, each of those instances has remained nearly burned into my mind.

My aunt and uncle, bird fanatics, raise and own geese and ducks as pets in downtown Richmond, VA. When I was little, my uncle half-jokingly made me promise not to eat either kind of bird. I took it very seriously and have not consumed them since. It was a natural decision; after all, I couldn’t imagine eating Peanut or his friends no matter how mean they were to me once I had seen them alive.

At a summer camp I met a “habit” vegetarian who had been instructed by her doctor to go off meat for a while after contracting food poisoning. On the metro, a young man reading a copy of the PETA’s vegetarian starter kit saw me looking over his shoulder and offered it to me; I still have it. Perhaps my most vivid memory is that of sitting at the kitchen counter and looking down at the dead animal on my plate and feeling horrible about it. At this exact point in time I realized that I did not want to eat animals, that I did not believe in it. I loved animals – how could I continue eating them? Yet I still thought that I couldn’t give up eating them. I liked meat too much, I told myself.

Fast-forward a few years. I’m sitting the back of my Animal Science summer class at the Career Center. One of the kittens paws the bag of a girl in the front. She picks it up; it’s her lunch bag. The teacher’s assistant asks what’s in it. She replies that there’s fake ham. It turns out she’s a vegetarian. A discussion follows over her reasons why and PETA’s “agenda” and so forth.

The conversation moved on, but I was still stuck on the fake ham. Inspired, I visited PETA’s website and one of its branch sites, PETA2. Horrified by the violence and cruelty suffered by animals in slaughterhouses, I vowed myself off meat. Though I still consumed marine animals, I erroneously considered myself a vegetarian, but this was still a huge step in a positive direction. Two years ago, I entered high school eschewing public school lunches, birds and mammals as food.

Fast-forward again to last May, when I discovered Colleen’s podcast. It was perfect timing: I had ten weeks of summer ahead of me to listen, and did I listen! I ran several marathons of episodes and developed the habit of listening to her podcast in the morning as I ate breakfast and during lunch when no one else was around, and soon her combination of hard facts, literary works, dietary support, compassion and joyfulness began to work its magic on me. In late July, attending a summer flute institute, I realized how easy it would be to cut out seafood from my diet in a dining hall system, so I did. The next week I began avoiding eggs and dairy, to my parents’ dismay – and (ineffective) “orders” to continue eating them. I understood their concerns were for my health and printed out the ADA’s “Fact vs. Fiction” page about vegetarianism and continue to take calcium supplements to assuage their fears. One of my former au pair’s friends who came over for lunch told me that I would “disappear” if I didn’t eat “anything.” (They are both Brazilians, and if there’s one thing Brazilians love, it’s their meat, followed in a close second by their salt – a bad combination with disastrous effects on their bones and arteries: upper-class Brazilians are acquiring the same SAD-related diseases as Americans.)

Now, I am nearly vegan, or, if one takes Donald Watson’s definition, I already am. The realization just blows my mind away. A few years ago, if you had told me I would be vegan, I wouldn’t have believed you because, really, it sounds so much more difficult, and radical, and strange than it really is. It is so simple and obvious that I can hardly believe it took me two whole years from the moment I decided not to eat land animals to only a few weeks ago when I finally decided that I could give up eggs and dairy just as I had given up meat. In reality, I am far more informed and healthy than I have ever been, except, perhaps, for when I was still a baby.

Oftentimes I am reminded rather painfully of the likely path of my little brother’s eating habits. He is almost three and an absolute sweetie. He loves animals, like all children, but hasn’t yet connected these same animals to the foods he eats. I know I am a very influential part of his life, even though I will be leaving for college when he enters kindergarten, but it breaks my heart to think of all the unknowing harm he will do, and the desensitization that he will undergo as part of a “normal” growing-up experience in this country, because I know there is very little I can do for him right now.

As I move forward and on to my own life as an independent adult, I know I will encounter far more hostility than I have so far, but for now I relish knowing half a dozen vegetarian friends and teachers within my sphere just by happenstance. I have decided to promote veganism within this sphere by improving my baking skills. So far, I have made brownies, blondies, and biscuits, and all have received positive appraisals.

My best encounter so far was a comment from an acquaintance that rides my bus. A few days after I handed out my remaining blondies on the bus ride home, she asked me if I was a vegetarian, and I said yes. She explained her supposition, saying, “There’s something about them,” some aura we have in common that she felt I had, and she admired us for it. Perhaps it is our inner peace, our joy, our connection with animals and all living things? This is what I myself feel, and it is worth a thousand times over any mere satisfaction gained by consuming those who should be our companions and friends on this planet. Truly! I now see the beauty of the world 😀

~Alison

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I want you to know that your podcast has helped transform my life.

I have always been a health nut, and in January of 2008, I was directed to John Robbins’ Healthy at 100, which documents how cultures subsisting on plant-based diets tend to live longer. Robbins’ book, along with Skinny Bitch, convinced me to try veganism. I experienced health benefits almost immediately. Until then, I was an asthmatic who used a steroid inhaler and a rescue inhaler to control attacks. Soon after I went vegan, I gave up both inhalers for good and haven’t experienced any shortness of breath since.

However, although I was vegan, I didn’t want to become one of those “animal rights freaks.” I told all my friends that I was giving up animal products for my health, because I was afraid I would lose friends if I changed my life for the animals. But I soon discovered your podcast on Itunes. At first, I only listened to the episodes on nutrition and avoided the ones that discussed animals. I thought it would be just too painful to listen. But even when you discuss nutrition or your favorite foods, your love for animals shines through. I eventually became brave enough to try other episodes and was shocked by the episode on “what’s wrong with eating eggs.” Finally, one of your podcasts led me to Gail Eisnitz’s Slaughterhouse. And then I opened my eyes. I have never been what I consider a big “animal lover,” because I don’t have pets. But I certainly don’t believe that animals should suffer the abuse of factory farms, and I certainly don’t believe animals should have to die for me to eat.

Now, I speak plainly and openly about animal rights and I tell people we do not need to eat animals to survive. To my surprise, even though I speak up for the animals, I haven’t lost any friends. Your podcasts have helped me find my voice and engage in open and honest dialogues. Before your podcast, I was hesitant to even call myself vegan. I would instead say “I don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs.” Now, I proudly say I’m vegan and even have a bumper sticker on my car that proclaims it. I’m in the process of starting a vegetarian student organization at the university where I work, and I hope that we will soon pass out literature on animal rights.

Of course, I experience difficulties with being vegan. My sister for instance, doesn’t want to give up the “tradition” of cooking a turkey when she hosts Thanksgiving this year. But without your podcast, I never would have had the wisdom or courage to ask her to leave turkey off the table. And I’m confident that my family will enjoy the stuffed acorn squashes I make (from your recipe!) much more than the turkey. Maybe next year we can have a truly peaceful Thanksgiving.

In short, your work has helped me find a diet that fully reflects all of my values – good health, environmental sustainability, and compassion for animals. I hope you are tremendously proud of your efforts, because you give people like me so much sustenance and hope.

~Megan in Mississippi

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I had never really been a particularly healthy person growing up. I guess I ate mostly what everyone else, my family, friends and the rest of New Zealand society ate. Meat and two veg for dinner, plenty of fruit, cereals and grains, a lot of dairy. It was the simple things I remember eating – meals of baked beans on toast, mince & mash or sausages in bread with tomato sauce or cheese and vegemite sandwiches.

As I grew older I was inclined to pay more attention to eating habits and health in general, although seldom was any of my newfound knowledge put into practice. I did however know that there was nothing wrong with lean red meat and dairy in a well balanced diet. In fact, I was quite sure that my iron levels were lower than average and thanks to persistent advertising, more than aware of the vital role of probiotics from dairy in promoting healthy gut flora. I made my own yoghurt, drank plenty of milk, made sure I bought, cooked and ate enough red meat and fish (omega 3!) and sophisticatedly indulged in eating cheese of varying varieties while drinking red wine. Little did I know I was flooding my body with cholesterol and fats and probably a not-so-healthy dose of antibiotics and hormones too!

The plight of animals never really crossed my mind. Sure, they were killed for our consumption. Of course they were; that’s what they were raised for. And anyway, if I didn’t pick up that chicken breast at the supermarket, someone else would, or it would be wasted. The damage had already been done and all I was doing was making good use of the product of an industry, not letting it go to waste. In a land full of farmers you seldom encountered opposing views. In short, you ate what you were given and were thankful.

After graduating, travel led me to all sorts of places and introduced me to a range of cuisines. Seeking desperately to avoid the ‘fussy’ label I had earned as a child I ate all manner of delicacies served for my consumption, including sea snake, puffer fish, raw horse meat, raw chicken, liver and cartilage. Somehow, this made me and my companions feel good. As if we had conquered the dead and lifeless meat in front of us and as if this was cause to congratulate ourselves and boast. None of this bothered me at the time. It is only now, when I look back on myself at those moments that I am saddened.

I have been vegan for a year and a half, vegetarian before that for a good six months or so. It has changed my life completely and continues to do so. I can’t really say that there was a definitive moment in my life that led me to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle, or that I woke up one morning and it all fell into place like the pieces of some terribly sadistic puzzle. But rather, things happened gradually. I was aware of issues surrounding the consumption of animal products in almost a peripheral sense, as if they were always there but I had never chosen to focus on them. It really is amazing what our minds and hearts will ignore in order to maintain the status quo and avoid change.

Most of the peripheral information I was aware of came via my partner, who had a colleague at work recently ‘convert’ to vegetarianism. He would come home with tales of conversations he’d had with his colleague, Matt, while sharing a beer during their lunch break or after work. I didn’t know Matt particularly well at the time, but one thing he was known for was his penchant for logic. He is a very rational and reasonable guy, not to mention patient and tolerant of others’ opinions. And here he was, giving up meat!

Somehow it didn’t quite compute. The stereotypes I had of vegans and vegetarians in my head did not look like Matt. But, hey, we were living in the 2000s and was willing to listen to his theories on a cruelty-free life second-hand anyway. I found my ears pricking up whenever my partner mentioned he’d had a conversation with Matt recently and low and behold I began to realise that I was actually interested. Could I be one of those people who ‘goes vego’, who opts for pizza without cheese..? The more I thought about it and researched things, the more sympathy I had for vegetarianism and the more I came to realise that there was nothing inherently ‘weird’ or ‘anti-social’ about these people. They were simply normal people; normal people who wanted to try and make the world a slightly better place to be in by not eating animal flesh. In just the same way that I recycled my plastic bottles and newspapers, reused my own bags at the supermarket or shared a smile with a stranger in a busy street, they were out to see if their actions couldn’t make life better for all of us.

It seems like a lofty idea and you could be forgiven for thinking I’m naïve and idealistic. But, in truth, I have never seen anything wrong with either of these qualities and much prefer them to pessimism and cynicism. Sure, opting for a salad over a hamburger is not going to instantly transform the world into some heavenly utopia, but it does make a difference. Less demand for meat means less demand for farmed animals who live pitifully short lives of suffering, less slaughterhouse workers who leave for home every night with blood on their white overalls and aprons, less trees and forests cut down to provide pasture for grazing, less habitats lost, less grain fed to animals, less people fretting about the price of food, less starvation, less high-cholesterol, less heart disease, less obesity, less taxes for health care, less resources wasted. Less suffering and death.

I suppose you could say that once I had made these connections there was no going back. Something had changed in the way that I viewed the world and my place in it. I had become so much more aware of how my actions, simple, small and everyday things, could have much greater implications elsewhere and create a knock-on effect. Soon I had decided to stop eating dairy, eggs and then processed foods that contained animal products. I was reading labels, thinking about ingredients and then thinking about them again. I had expected this to happen. But one thing I hadn’t expected was the influence this way of thinking had on the rest of my life. I began to find myself questioning if I really needed to buy another magazine or book or T shirt and wondering where and how and for what purpose these things had been produced. Who was I helping with my money besides myself? Was I making a difference in the world? Was this a positive action or a negative one..?

‘Awakening’ implies that you had to have been asleep beforehand, but I know that I wasn’t; I was fully conscious and considered myself a good human being. However, I chose to blind myself to many of these issues because to acknowledge them made me slightly uncomfortable. Many issues in the world still do. But veganism is not a journey that ends once you’ve completely rid your life of animal products and cruelty, cleared out your cupboards and given your leather boots away to the Salvation Army. It is an ongoing journey and one that you will be able to travel with throughout your life, like a good companion. Veganism is the voice that asks you to reconsider, asks you to live your life in accordance with your beliefs and to aspire to be better.

Even now I am continuing to learn and change and improve the way I tread on the planet’s surface. Do I tiptoe? Do I thud? Do I run? Flit? What sort of footprint do I leave?

Our diets have a far greater effect on the planet than many of us realise. ‘What’s one banana?’ you might ask. But realise you are fundamentally similar to the majority of the population of the earth, with similar needs, wants, desires and the question soon becomes ‘what’s six billion bananas?’. Thinking big is the only way to assess our true impact on the earth and it can only be done when we are able to recognise that our choices matter as much as the next person’s. The earth is our dwelling place and we have a responsibility to be in it and of it and to care for it. It is not up to politicians, governments, or other people in other countries to organise the way we live and the way we treat the world. It is up to ourselves.

In the same way, if one person avoids eating animal products, it really does make a difference. We may feel as though it doesn’t when compared to the large numbers of meat eaters out there, but the world consists of people just like us and surely if we can change, others can too. It really is as simple as supply and demand. No one buys animal products, animal products go out of business. No one supports industries testing on animals, industries look for alternatives. Every circus needs an audience, for without one there is no circus. This is truly exciting and it’s what prompts me to respond with patience and sincerity every time I’m asked about living a cruelty free life.

The only reason I ever even considered ‘cutting out meat’ in the first place was because I knew someone who had adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. Not a family member, or a close friend, just an acquaintance. And one who was particularly rational, patient and open to others’ viewpoints. Just knowing Matt existed and was thinking about these things led me to do a little research of my own. I firmly believe that if he had been judgemental of others or the type prone to proselytising, my curiosity antennae would have curled in on themselves and I never would have found out how much I agreed with his views. It pays to remember this when airing your beliefs in the company of those who still eat animal products. Be open, be humble, be kind and let their antennae roam.

~ Sarah, London UK

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I am sponsoring an episode of Food For Thought in honor of my boyfriend, Brian Kantorek, a compassionate, loving, gentle, supportive, fun, and all-around amazing person who also happens to be vegan. Since meeting him, I’ve gone from eating a bloody steak (piece of dead cow really, but I wouldn’t have called it that then) for the birthday dinner he treated me to (and he didn’t judge me, just asked if I was sure I wanted it cooked more!) to giving up eating all land animals (and since last week, I’ve finally gone entirely vegetarian), not buying leather, purchasing beauty products without animal ingredients, and pretty much only buying vegan cookbooks after years of ignoring the vegetarian cookbooks.

I must admit, my way into veganism was with the food, specifically cookbooks. I really love to eat and when I’m not eating, I’m reading about what other people are eating. I have had subscriptions to foodie magazines, have Gourmet’s massive tome where there are recipes for brains and pigeons and when I read them a few years back, I didn’t flinch. I thought people who were grossed out by “exotic” meats were wusses (although my actual palate was pretty wussy too!) Had I not grown and learn to realize how delicious vegan food is, and more importantly, that I and every other human is at least a little vegan since we all eat fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds at one time or another, my transformation may have taken even longer than it is taking. But once I knew how good the food is, I started reading vegan cookbooks, just so I could find recipes for Brian and I. I wasn’t going to give up meat. I was just going to expand my repertoire.

Of course, one doesn’t read about vegan food without also reading about why veganism exists in the first place. I have always loved animals. I, like so many kids, wanted to be a vet when I was little so I could help hurt and sick animals. I love the dog I share my home and life with beyond all reason. I cannot watch news reports or even fictional movies where animals get hurt. And sure, I always knew chicken came from dead chickens but I didn’t REALLY know, didn’t connect the meals I was eating with the confinement, torture, and death that made them possible. The few, rare moments of clarity I have had in the past about meat and animal cruelty were quickly wiped away with a shrug. What can you do, I’d think. We eat meat. And I’m sure the animals aren’t tortured anyway. Just stunned and then obliviously killed. Well, they are obliviously killed–by human obliviousness. They were and are all too aware of their horrific deaths. And I never, ever let myself know that until this past year.

So, as I read the cookbooks, I had a voice in me, a small one, saying, “I know it’s not right, but…” And I kept eating. And I would sometimes apologize to Brian for eating meat or ask if it bothered him. He never once judged me and never preached. But he didn’t mince words either. When he told me what was really in my lotion, he did so matter of factly, because it was the truth. But I was shocked. Suddenly, I realized there were dead animals everywhere and I didn’t even know.

One day, I brought home a roast chicken for dinner and then opened up my mail. I got the latest issue of the Humane Society’s magazine. I joined after their Katrina pet effort. I’ve given money to them and the National Anti-Vivisection Society and shunned fur over the years. But never thought about the leather I bought or the food I ate. As I ate the roast chicken, I started reading an article about factory farming. There was a big picture of a pig with his nose sticking out of a metal crate. I immediately stopped eating the chicken. I was horrified and utterly repulsed that I could read this material and still eat a dead animal. From that moment on, I immediately stopped eating all land animals.

Soon after, Brian and I started a blog, Mutual Menu, which I thought would first be a way to light-heartedly explore how a “mixed” couple like us could share meals. I thought I’d post some techniques for veganizing recipes but also include meat and fish for those who ate it, talk about “humane” meat. However, as I read and thought more about veganism and animal rights, I knew that slant wouldn’t work. It was through reading and writing and working through my own thoughts that I realized I could and wanted to live a life as free of cruelty as possible. In addition to that, Brian’s willingness to accept and love me for exactly who I am while sharing his life with me made it possible for me to change. When I hear some vegans say they could never date an omnivore, I can’t help but think of what a lost opportunity to change a life that is. I know I would not have changed, would not have wanted to stop eating meat, without Brian.

I have a long way to go. I still eat cow secretions (I’m particularly stuck on that culinary crack we call cheese) and chickens’ eggs but much less so than just this time last year. There are many days where I easily eat vegan without even trying or thinking about it. Also, I know that it has taken me a few months to write and send this e-mail because I feel less qualified to since I am not yet vegan. But I also know that I am working towards that, that my eyes are no longer closed and your podcast and my relationship with Brian has been the biggest influences on me this past year.

Thank you so much, Colleen, for your work. I can honestly say it has changed me to my core. And thank you so much to Brian, for your years of commitment, integrity, and honor to the animals and people. Our relationship has not only taught me how to love you but to extend that love to myself and all other beings. I love you very much.

Thank you,
~Joselle

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Thank you for all you do; you have changed me from a new and uncertain vegetarian to a strong and resourceful and most importantly joyful vegan! I am the other of two wonderful boys aged 27 months and 12 months; before and after I had them I sometimes became quite depressed at the idea that I had brought children into this world that was doomed by human greed and arrogance. I am now positive and joyful and I know that if I can bring my boys up with a solid vegan foundation in life then I will have succeeded as a parent even though, at some stage I will have to let them go into the world and choose their own path. At least, should they stray from veganism and then decide to return to it, the path back will be easy and familiar and not totally unfamiliar as it was for me and many others who were raised eating animals.

I too believe, as you have said so eloquently, that our violence against other human animals is rooted in our violence against other animals. Thus by bringing Zach and Caleb up with vegan values is two small but significant steps towards changing the world.

I became Vegan overnight at the beginning of this year. The catalyst was a series of small events – the biggest of which was watching “Meet your Meat” on the PETA website. My husband wasn’t as easily converted as I was; he was happy to stop eating red meat but still wanted to eat his favorite food which was chicken and especially Woolies Honey and Mustard Chicken thighs. His mother too was very obliging when I told her that we were going vegetarian and she said that she was happy to just cook us chicken! We have pet chickens at home – which neither of us would even consider eating and so, to make my point, I went to a live chicken (for meat) retailer close to our home to buy a chicken.

The public were not allowed in the shed the chickens were kept but as I was insistent that I wanted to choose my own chicken I was allowed in. I was directed by the man who was helping me to go down to the end of the shed and choose a bird from there. Although the chickens were raised for meat, they were all in battery type cages. Each cage probably measuring about 45 cm long by 30 cm deep and 30 cms high. There were 4 rows of cages on top of each other and of course all the excrement just fell down to the cages below. There were 4 or 5 birds to a cage; so small they couldn’t all stand up or lie down at the same time, let alone stretch out a wing or preen themselves. The birds had all had their beaks cut off, they had only a few feathers which were in terrible condition and the smell was terrible. Pretty much standard conditions for any chicken raised for its flesh or eggs world wide I believe.

As I was looking at all the birds the man helping me was making suggestions about which birds were nice and heavy. I explained to him that the chicken was going to be a pet and was not going to be eaten so didn’t need to be heavy. I chose a bird from the end cage that looked like she had given up. She was lying down at the back of the cage and just looked weary and broken like she had no fight left in her. When I told the man that I wanted her he said that no, she wasn’t a good choice and to illustrate why, he put her on the floor and pushed her with his foot and said because she doesn’t walk. I said that she didn’t need to walk and I was taking her. I was quite worried about her beak as the person who cut it off when she was only a day or two old had cut it crookedly, making the top of the beak longer than the bottom. Chickens beaks are like our fingers and I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to function in a normal environment with such a deformed one.

While walking back up the shed I asked why I had to choose from the end of the shed and I was told because that was where all the young, heavy birds were. The ones at the top of the shed were older and thin – the ones no-one wanted; I knew then that I’d be going home with 2 chickens. I asked how old they were and was told that the young ones were about 7 weeks and the older ones about 3 or 4 months! The hen I chose from the top of the shed was the opposite of the first one I chose. She was standing up at the front of her cage, her head pushed out between the bars as if straining for freedom. Her beak had also been cut off, giving her a pursed lips expression. The man helping me with the chickens was adamant that I shouldn’t buy her because, as he made me feel – she was feathers & skin & bone. The bones clearly palpable through her brittle feathers, the bones that I knew how they looked because of all the years I had eaten her kind – of which I was now so ashamed!

We got home in the early evening and all the chickens were settling down for the night. I let Honey and Mustard go at the stables with all the other chickens and then went inside to sort out the kids and dogs and cats and husband. I told my husband that we had two new additions – Honey and Mustard and next time he felt like his favorite chicken dish he could go down and have a look at them!

When I went down to the stables later Honey and Mustard had both gone to sleep in the piles of grass that are put in the stables for the horses. Honey in one stable and Mustard in the other, as far away from each other and the other chickens as possible as if to finally be able to sleep in peace; to actually be able to lie down at night! In a soft bed instead of steel mesh! Without jostling and bumping and pecking and squawking and fighting for food and water and space!

Over the next couple of days it was an absolute joy to watch Honey and Mustard begin to experience life. They walked around, felt the sun on their backs, scratched in the dirt, dipped their beaks in water to drink, pecked at seeds and insects and mud and grass and just anything that they could see or perhaps not see. They always stayed up late to experience as much as they could with each day; while all the other birds were in bed by 6, they were still up and about until 7. Honey was very quiet and gentle, she had quite a bad limp which concerned me as it wasn’t improving but she was happy. She rapidly developed a passion for grapes and would grab one from me and scurry off with it to eat in peace. Mustard was busy from the start, busy and clueless. She was always underfoot of humans, dogs and horses and would try and grab any food she could out of my toddlers tightly clenched fists. She would come running when she saw us and then would hang around determinedly until we went back inside. She would climb on your lap if you sat down, all the while talking continuously. Not clucking chicken sounds but a throaty purr as if she wanted to everyone close to her just how much fun she was having and how great life was!

It was wonderful to see the horses being so gentle with them, they would nose them gently and not move until the chickens were out of range of being squashed.

I took them both to the Vet when Honey’s limp hadn’t improved after about 4 days. He told me that Honey had a broken femur and that was why she limped. He said it was probably quite an old injury as it wasn’t that sore when he manipulated it. Just imagine, living in a cage full of pushing and jostling and bumping, not being able to lie down in peace – all with a broken leg. Mustard was just thin but otherwise healthy. My heart ached for Honey to think of the agony she endured, the days and weeks of suffering only because us humans have a taste for the seasoning we put on chicken flesh. No wonder she just lay at the back of her cage looking broken.

The chickens thrived; Honey became friends and a surrogate mom for some young Bantams we have. They had been weaned by their mother but still seemed to want some older female company. Mustard was friends with everyone! Dogs, cats, horses, guinea fowl and people – anyone who would walk around the garden with her!

And then on Thursday last week it was all over. I went out in the morning and Mustard was lying on her side in her bed. She was still alive, but barely. I stroked her and said my goodbyes and an hour later she was gone. Lying in the early morning sun that she loved. She had soil under her feet and leaves over her head; friends all around her and people that loved her.

She died of old age at 6 months old. Old age that came so early because of the way her kind had been selectively bred to reach maximum weight for slaughter in the soonest possible time – 40 days old; from a chickens normal life span of 8 years. Its all just tragic!

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I wrote the above about a month ago but hadn’t sent it as I needed to finish it. I am pleased to be able to report that Honey is well, her limp has totally gone and she is really asserting herself around our stables. A dog found me about two weeks ago and has come to live with us. Honey obviously doesn’t think much of dogs – especially strange ones and body blocks them if they come too close to the feed room! She is such a beautiful and happy bird, I enjoy her company so much and really feel honoured to have had 2 such special people in my life as Honey & Mustard!

~Paula,  Johannesburg, South Africa

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I’d like to take a minute and sincerely thank you for all you do. I became vegetarian only about a month ago (hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?). Currently, I am well on my way to turning vegan.

It all started after reading “skinny bitch” for me. My roommate told me “this book sounds like you wrote it.” She said this because I am surrounded by heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my family and have watched my parents go down the same road as their parents did without making any changes to improve their health. They make almost no effort even though they are well aware of what faces them. This is very frustrating to me. I am 21 years old and a senior in college and I am already making changes to prevent this, why can’t they?

But yes, that is the book that started it for me. It is very hard to ignore what they are saying. I was one of those people who ate mostly organic food, produce, dairy products, and meat and somehow made myself believe that I was doing the right thing because at least they treated their animals ethically, right? After hearing many of your podcasts, I realize now that I believed that because that is what I wanted to believe. This is one of the reasons I am turning completely vegan.

After reading that book, I’ll be honest, I struggled with the idea of becoming vegan for about 2 weeks. I wanted to, I knew it was the right thing, and it coincided with all of my values and beliefs, but I just kept thinking “I’m really never going to eat meat again?” Well after trying to wrap my head around that for a week or two I visited my brother in the D.C. area and that was the turning point. I promised myself that I would only eat organic meat from then on out (to “ease” my guilty conscience), and since that wasn’t possible when dining in a restaurant I ate vegetarian that whole weekend. After that, after seeing how easy it really was, I kept with it. It stuck.

It was about this time that I started to discover your podcast. I feel it has been you’re inspiring words and truth telling that has kept me motivated. I do feel I could have done it on your own but it is very comforting to know I can just flip on my i-pod and hear words of reassurance and that I am doing the right thing. It has also been your podcast that has educated me on many issues that are crucial to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, such as health and animal rights. I have always been an animal lover and the harsh reality of what they face is heart-wrenching. But as you say, I am glad to know it, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I do feel much closer to my pets and even just the animals that surround us in life. I can look at pictures of these beautiful beings and no longer feel guilty. With the help of this podcast I have learned so much about my health, my eating habits, and my morals as well as the health and well-being of the non-human animals that surround us. Thank you for all your work, it is truly awe-inspiring.

~ Sarah

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