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Your podcast has changed my life. I am so grateful that you dedicate so much of your time to this work. It is so very important. I love to hear you read the letters written by listeners whose lives you have helped transform. I hear myself in so many of them, and that is part of the reason it seemed possible for me to transition to veganism.

I am in my late 30’s, and until recently, a ‘foodie’ and ‘compassionate omnivore’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one), but part of me could never reconcile the fact that my beloved pet chihuahuas were the same weight as the chickens I was consuming. Not only that, but I love chickens, their personalities and behavior. I think they are remarkable creatures. Why was I eating them?

These concepts were not new to me. I had been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for many years in my 20’s, but began eating meat again several years ago. 2 months ago I decided to once again stop eating animals. That decision felt so right! However, even though I knew of the horrors of factory-farmed dairy and eggs, I allowed myself to feel comforted by the fact that I was able to buy free-range eggs from the hens running around in my neighbor’s yard, and dairy products from the small Jersey cow herd on a local organic farm.

Then I accidently purchased a copy of the magazine VegNews, not knowing it was about all things vegan. Now, I have had vegan friends for many years, and have cooked many vegan meals for them, but for some reason, despite my passionate love of animals and abhorance of all suffering, I never made the conscious connection between my choices and the lives of the creatures whose animal products I was consuming. Veganism just seemed like a quirky dietary anomoly, and I enjoyed the culinary challenge of creating tasty meals my vegan friends would enjoy.

The VegNews issue I bought had your podcast listed in one of it’s articles. I found ‘Vegetarian Food For Thought’ on iTunes and listened to it–for 3 days straight! I could not stop, and still cannot. You helped me see that it is ridiculous not to transition to veganism! Veganism benefits not only the animals, but the spiritual and physical health of us human animals and of our planet.

I have long understood the health benefits of a vegan-diet–I am a medical clinician and have a special interest in nutrition and fitness–but alas, I was addicted to yogurt and cheese. No longer! I have been plant-fueled for 2 weeks now, and I feel fabulous! What is interesting is the response I get from my medical colleagues. These people, “experts” entrusted with educating patients and helping them make important health decisions, do not understand my decision. They mock it. I believe, as you and many of your wise listeners have pointed out, that when we discuss our decision to be vegan, we are holding up a mirror up to others and reflecting back to them the unhealthiness of their own food and lifestyle choices. Thanks to your wise words, I feel supported in my decision, and have the knowledge I need to continue with (what I believe is) the only sustainable way of eating and living available to us. I also have access to the ‘joyful vegan’ language that you utilize, which makes discussions about veganism much less antagonistic.

I have never in my life felt such inner-peace.

Thank you Colleen, for helping me to become a better person.

~ Christine in Colchester, VT

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I was raised in a carnivorous family. When I was a senior in high school we moved to a farm that had cows, chickens, pigs, horses, and rabbits. I stopped eating chicken when the family slaughtered 100 “old” egg laying hens in one day. It was really disgusting.

Lacking knowledge and support, eventually I did return to eating chicken.

I read John Robbins, May All Be Fed in 1993. I became a vegetarian for several years then went vegan in 1995. I moved to a new city in 1996 and began attending a church. I did not know any other vegans in the church. I was ridiculed about not eating what the Lord had provided. Eventually, I did return to eating animals again.

In May of 2007, I began another attempt at losing weight. This one was a bible study at my church. It was based around the food pyramid and food group exchanges. It wasn’t working (the yo-yo effect 5 pounds on – 5 pounds off). So in July I discovered food combinations – eat protein with starch and vegetables with starch – but don’t mix proteins and vegetables. Also, don’t mix fruit with any foods. The author recommended eating only fish (no milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, beef, pork, ect.) So that is how I lost 30 pounds. In January, my church began 3 day water fast followed with 18 day Daniel fast (vegetables only). That is when my sister recommended I watch “Earthlings”. Normally I can not watch cruel things. But I prayed for strength to be able to bear up. I wanted to be able to influence my husband to become a vegan. He is so tender hearted and loves animals. I can not get him to kill things like spiders and roaches. If I find one in the house, he catches it and releases it outside. I was able to watch the movie twice, once alone and once with him. What a tragedy in epic proportions! I know God did not intend the world to be so cruel. As a Christian, we have the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 10:6

” Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Every time an image from the movie comes into my head I cry out to God with that prayer. The great news is that my husband agreed to become a vegan! Although I was a little upset with him when he took both our leather coats and donated them to the clothes closet for the needy without consulting with me. Ouch! Oh well.

I’ve listened to the pod casts; they are so inspiring and empowering. Thank you! I now believe I have the knowledge to enable me to stick to my convictions.

I thought about my journey and the revelation that God has given me in regards to being a Christian Vegan. I did want to share this information to equip fellow Christians with biblical support for vegans.

Some Christians will refer to God’s covenant with Noah after the flood in order to justify eating animals. According to Genesis 9:3 God said,

“Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”

We only have to recall that this was after the fall. The world was not in God’s perfect will. You have to go back to the beginning of Genesis to find God’s perfect will (when God had his way). God created a garden in Eden for Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1:29, God said,

“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it – I give every green plant for food.”

In God’s perfect will, all mankind were to be vegan. Not only that, but in the next verse, Genesis 1:30 , God makes it clear that all animals were vegan.

“And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food”.

Some people will argue that killing animals is godly because of the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. But, Jesus made it clear in Hebrews 10: 7-8

Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God. First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made).

In Matthew 10, Jesus told us to pray that God’s kingdom will come. We know what God’s kingdom will be like. We know there will be no more death. In Revelation 21:4

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In Romans 8:19-22, it is clear that creation is crying out for a future glory.

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope hat the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

I hope the above biblical references will empower fellow Christians to stand strong in their convictions to stop the suffering in this world and possibly influence other Christians to become Vegan!

~ Deb

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Each time I have altered my lifestyle to omit the consumption or use  of an animal product, I have felt a certain brightening of my spirit. I’ve wondered about the cause of this, and I can only assume that I  must have felt a certain subconscious guilt about consuming animals  all along. Throughout my transformation, I have felt the gradual  lifting of a weight off me.

When I stopped eating animals, I noticed that I felt a bit more at peace, and that when I saw a picture or image of a cow, chicken, or pig, I could smile and feel a kinship with the animal that I lacked before. As children we are raised to find these animals cute and we learn to mimic their oinking, mooing, clucking, and gobbling.

At some point, though, in order to become comfortable with the concept of eating them, we cease to think of these animals as having any special merit, and in my opinion that is a great loss. When we stop eating them, however, we can recover the sense of joy and wonder we had as children upon contemplating them. Their lives become no less meaningful than a dog’s or a cat’s or a horse’s or maybe even a human’s, and it feels wonderful to be able to appreciate them again as the lovely, comical, peaceful, and fascinating creatures they are.

Upon becoming a vegetarian, Franz Kafka wrote, “Now I can at last look at you in peace. I don’t eat you anymore.” I know exactly what he meant. Of course there is also pain associated with waking up to the animals’ suffering and seeing others continue to consume them, but this is balanced by the pride and peace of mind I feel from knowing that they no longer suffer and die for me.

My sense of peace and harmony with the earth and all her creatures has intensified as I have learned to omit all animal products from my life. Not only do I not eat animal products anymore, but I have also stopped purchasing clothing made from animal products, and I have stopped buying personal care products that were tested on animals or that contain animal byproducts. It is difficult to explain, but the knowledge that I no longer mindlessly support businesses that profit from animal suffering has really changed me.

I know that many other vegans have experienced this same phenomenon. I encourage you to read some of the stories of transformation [here] at joyfulvegan.wordpress.com.

~ Rachel, Brooklyn, NY 

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THE FIVE STEPS OF MY VEGAN JOURNEY SO FAR

There were several steps in my becoming vegan, which I’d really like to share with others. Like many, I’ve arrived to this transformation in middle-adulthood, and I’ve largely arrived at it alone and on my own.

The process (so far) for me could be roughly broken down into five steps: emotional, intellectual, educational, “spiritual” and communal.

First, emotionally: I felt guilty and sad about what happens to animals in order to provide me food. The worse I felt, the worse all of it tasted, until I just couldn’t eat meat anymore. But this wasn’t enough to really push me from “lacto-ovo vegetarianism” into a more solid veganism. (By the way, I hope that someday the word “vegetarian” is reclaimed to mean what it originally meant, and what it sounds like. Eggs and cow milk certainly don’t sound “vegetarian” to me.)

Second, intellectually: I read a couple books. The most important for me was Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. I know that the title of that book is going to sound extreme to a lot of people who have not read it yet, conjuring images of militant action, breaking into laboratories, etc. But, in fact, the book is about more about the liberation of human morality than anything else. It may as well be titled, “When Is It Okay to Cause Suffering To Others?” or “What Is Morality, Really?” or many,many other titles. The book — as many others do — provides a very solid philosophical argument that gives you some basic ideas and tools by which to judge one’s own behavior on such basic moral grounds that even a small child (perhaps especially a small child) could understand. You may feel that something is wrong, but how can you KNOW that it’s wrong. This book can help. Basically, if you can survive and thrive without needing to cause suffering to another being, then to knowingly cause them to suffer is immoral, and it behooves you to change your ways. Do I need eggs and milk (whose production requires chickens and cows to suffer) to survive and be really healthy and satisfy my taste buds? No, no and no. Professor Singer ‘s book helped me clear out the eggs and cow milk from my diet.

Third, educationally: I began to learn HOW to live vegan — this really began at Colleen’s site and through her podcasts. Through her podcasts, it was the first time that a human voice explained to me patiently how to live a vegan life. And that made all the difference in the world. The human voice — we must all remember — is perhaps the most powerful tool we have! It’s the one thing or nonhuman friends need of us most. In my book, people like Colleen are bodhisattvas. In order that the rest of us might also see the light, they tirelessly share what they know. The good news is that, as time progresses, I believe it WILL become easier, not more difficult, to live a vegan lifestyle. People like Colleen are almost like secular rabbis or independent teachers, and as more of them become available to the average person, this process will become easier.)

Fourth, spiritually: I visited Farm Sanctuary — farmsanctuary.org — a place where rescued farm animals get to live in peace with humans for the rest of their natural lives, and for the first time in my entire life I felt that I was standing on sacred ground.

I’m an agnostic, but I’d use the word “spiritual” to describe those kinds of experiences which seem to tie into intelligences that are greater than any single person’s individual mind and experience, or connections to greater and more complex forces than those we can easily grasp intellectually. I’ve been to hundreds of churches and temples all over the world, all of which felt and seemed ‘sacred,’ but that little sanctuary in Orland, California, was the first time I felt with all my body and mind the sense that a place was really sacred. I kid you not, as I left that place, I broke down in tears. Bittersweet, overwhelmed, joy mixed with sadness. I’m not sure what St. Paul experienced on the road to Damascus, but I can tell you for sure, it could not have been more powerful than what I felt on the road home from Farm Sanctuary to San Mateo.

I don’t believe in heaven, but I’ve seen a small corner of what it might look like in Orland. I do, however, believe in hells — they are called “factory farms” and “slaughterhouses.” So, here’s the deal you get at Farm Sanctuary: You get to meet sentient beings who have literally escaped hell and are now in the care of human angels.

I dare anyone to really absorb that reality and not be moved.

If you’re unsure of your veganism or feel threatened by peer pressure, then plan your next vacation to spend a day at one of these places. Visiting a place like Farm Sanctuary is like seeing the future. (Hey, and put it this way: A vacation to Farm Sanctuary can save you a lot of money. Instead of flying off to some exotic, expensive locale, or Disneyland, just spend a day or two with animals who just got back from hell, and the wingless angels who watch over them. Adopt a turkey or burro before you leave. It will make your seemingly boring, unexotic hometown seem like the “happiest place on earth,” because you will come home with a lot of joy in your heart, and new connection to a place otherwise known as Planet Earth.)

Farm Sanctuary truly “closed the deal” for me, and I can never imagine returning to a carnivore lifestyle ever again. Wouldn’t give it a second thought. I’ve been transformed, and I can feel my whole body and mind changing as the reality becomes more “natural” to me.

These first four stages add up to a sense of basic integrity in my life. I have all the other problems that everyone else has (trust me on this one, as my friends know), but now there is a baseline of sanity and well-being. For the first time in my life, I really believe in my own “politics”: What I eat, what I wear, and most of the things I use are in alignment with my belief that all sentient beings have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I feel related to the world again, and not just a “consumer” or part of “the marketplace,” but as part of a conversation that really matters, a conversation that literally could change the world. (“Industrial agriculture,” the euphemism for the horrible things we do to thinking-feeling fellow earthlings, is literally killing the biosphere. According to the UN, this meat habit of ours is doing more damage than trains, planes and automobiles! Someone else’s “right” to eat steak, baby back ribs and cow’s milk, is literally depriving all of us the right to a planet.)

If there’s a Fifth stage in my vegan lifestyle, it’s actually happening right now, and it’s about actively building a community of vegans around myself. Why wait? Why feel left alone and misunderstood? Why waste time being frustrated that mainstream society doesn’t “get it”? Be the change.

After all, in this world, no one’s going to come find you and knock on your door and offer you a medal for “being vegan.” (Well, Colleen might, but she’s an angel, and angels can fly and all that sort of thing, and she might have superpowers too.) Again, just “be the change.” It’s a simple guideline by which to organize one’s life.

Anyhow, as a result of the first four steps of this process, two friends and I have started on this “fifth step.” We started a regular weekly dinner (“Vegan Thursdays” is what we call it) in our hometown of Beijing, China, and now have our simple website — the Vegan Social Club of Beijing, at http://vegansocialclub.com. And guess what? We just made seven new vegan friends in the last week alone.

Frankly, I sometimes get very frustrated by organizations like PETA and HSUS, because, despite their monumental work raising consciousness and working for better legislation, they do so little to actually create community. Communities are ultimately far more powerful than the media or celebrities or shocking images or donations. Both Peta and HSUS send strong messages to the media and do wonderful work in terms of fighting for better legislation, for which I’m grateful, but I wish I had their mailing list!


Those members are potentially my friends and why is Peta and HSUS not enabling them to meet each other? I sometimes hear stories about vegans backsliding into meat-eating because of peer pressure. Same thing happens to sober recovering alcoholics surrounded by heavy drinkers. Duh! Humans need community to survive in more ways than one.

Anyhow, nevertheless, I still thank goodness for orgs like Peta and HSUS, and maybe community-making is NOT their job.

Maybe it’s YOUR job — whoever you are who might be reading this right now.

If our little experiment in building a community here works — and it IS working — we’re going to help other people (anywhere in the world) repeat whatever we did that was successful. We’ll make mistakes, I’m certain, but in general it’s so much better than nothing. So much better than grousing about the lack of vegan options. So much better than being silent and alone.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re a lonely or underappreciated vegan, then make yourself a community! MAKE IT. You can do this. If you can’t find one, then, guess what: You’re really lucky, because you have the opportunity to build one yourself. Even if there already IS one, maybe it’s not your style. Well, make another one!

Find a vegan or vegetarian restaurant you like, put up an on/offline classified ad, make a simple website, and watch fellow compassionate humans come out of the woodwork. And, by all means, welcome curious non-vegans to attend! Some of the nicest, most inspiring vegans you’ll ever meet PROBABLY aren’t even vegan yet! Some day, years from now, they’ll be thanking for introducing you to the opportunity to “wake up” and see a new reality. I guarantee you, to be on the receiving end of gratitude is a good place to be. Instant cure for depression or sadness or whatever other unpleasant stuff is going on in your life.

Don’t know how to set up a website or community blog? Well, a vegan-near-you probably does! Don’t know how to organize dinners? Well, do your best to organize the first one and I guarantee some vegan will show up who DOES know how to organize dinners! Too shy to do this kind of thing? Find a partner who’s not too shy, and just get it started. People naturally “make community” — all you have to do is get them into the same place at the same time.

I’m only a month and a half into my community-building phase, and already it’s changing my life. Our last vegan dinner in Beijing had only 6 people (compared to 11 the week before), but four of them were newcomers (people who needed this community and were very happy about being there) and all of them were some of the finest people you’ll ever meet anywhere in the world.

For me, “Thursday” has become the one day of the week I know I’ll go to sleep feeling good about things — no matter how badly the day started. I could be broke, feeling depressed, frustrated, etc, but I know that on Thursday nights, I’m going to be surrounded by new and old friends, and unexpectedly good things will happen or be said. (Which is why we’re already thinking about starting some kind of event on Saturday too.)

Anyhow, I’m SO GRATEFUL TO COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU and everyone who makes compassionatecooks.com possible. You’ve changed my world and indirectly, you’re changing the world for people far, far away from Oakland, California. You have no idea!

Christopher Barden
Vegan Social Club of Beijing
http://vegansocialclub.com

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Ari’s Story:

It was a completely uneventful start to my day. I had some toast, enjoyed my coffee and sat down at my couch to watch The View. It was actually the show where Elizabeth and Rosie would have their final throw-down, but I digress. After the vicious tongue fight, they welcomed their celebrity guest, Alicia Silverstone.

Alicia walked onto the set looking radiant and sat down to speak with the women. One of the first thing Rosie asked her was “You’re a vegan, right?” Alicia responded affirmatively and I thought how nice for her. It’s what she said next that really struck me. She started speaking about how she loved her dogs, that they were like her children and that she couldn’t wrap her head around why it’s OK that we love and cherish some animals, but eat others. She said there was one day she just looked at her dogs and thought, “Why don’t I just eat them?”

Well, I was horrified! My cats ARE my children and to think of them ever being hurt or, heaven forbid, eaten is, well, unthinkable. I had lost my cat Ho’ben a year before and his passing was the most painful moment in my life.

Alicia mentioned on the show that she had been working with PETA. I knew of the organization but never really took time to investigate who they were or what they did. All I knew was that they were the group that occasionally threw red paint on people who wore fur, which I have to admit I think is quite fabulous! Immediately after the show I sat down at my computer and went to their website. What I saw changed my life.

I was so engrossed that I blew off work and, for over an hour, I poured over their “Meat Your Meat” segment, undercover investigations, “30 Reasons To Go Vegetarian” etc. After some time, my partner came into the bedroom where I was still at the computer to ask me what was up. All I could say was “I’m done.”

From that point on I was vegan. I knew practically nothing about vegan fare but I didn’t care. I would eat iceberg lettuce for the rest of my life; all I knew is that I couldn’t contribute to the violence and suffering of all these animals.

Luckily, I quickly discovered that there was a lot more to vegan cuisine besides iceberg. My whole menu was transformed into a delicious, savory, wholesome feast. I tried new vegetables like kale (my new favorite, sorry broccoli) and chard. I tasted new scrumptious delights like seitan, flax seeds, hemp, tempeh, and quinoa. My taste buds were overjoyed… and so was I!

I felt compelled to do research into factory farming, animal testing, and animal behavior. Now my diet was not the only thing changing, my view of the world was. The veil had been lifted. I gave up leather, wool, and down. I got involved with organizations like Farm Sanctuary and PETA. I started speaking my truth (thank you Colleen) to my friends and family.

And now, even after all the pain and suffering and violence I’ve become privy to, I stand strong and know that things can change. Things must change. To my great surprise, one my closest friends, who lives in Texas of all places, recently became vegan as a result of our conversations. For all of you out there who are vegan or vegetarian know that you are beacons of peace and hope. Shine on!

Mikko’s Story:

Today is my first Vegan Thanksgiving. I went Vegetarian this year after my partner Ari showed me PETA’s “Chew on This: 30 Reasons to Go Vegetarian.” After seeing those images of animals being abused and killed in the most inhumane ways, I knew I could never go back and pretend I hadn’t seen what I’d just seen. I’d read about the abuses of the factory farming industry, and prior to this, my partner and I had bought only what we thought to be “humanely raised” meat and chicken. But seeing those images, it became clear: there’s no such thing as humane slaughter. In the end, it’s all the same, and it’s all wrong. I felt like I’d just been unplugged from the Matrix, and stepped into a world where most everyone was still asleep. It took real effort not to scream at people in supermarkets who were buying meat or chicken, or at the store owners for selling it.

And still, for a while, I considered eating cheese. It pains me to remember that I thought: well, no one’s dying for cheese, if I just buy cheese made from the milk of humanely treated cows… but the truth is: cows don’t produce milk without being pregnant, and after reading about the cries of mother cows when their children are taken from them, and the incredible inhumanity of the veal industry, which can only exist through the dairy industry, I was done with cheese, too.

With becoming Vegan comes the sorrow of knowledge, and anger at the apathy of those around you, who choose not to know, who look away, or who simply don’t care. But with becoming Vegan also comes great joy, as this blog so beautifully documents in countless stories. And that’s what I want to think about this Thanksgiving. Becoming Vegan is one of the easiest, healthiest, and most gratifying transformations I’ve ever made. Knowing that I’m no longer contributing to the suffering of billions of animals gives me great peace. But I’ve also learned to experience all new kinds of flavors, my partner and I cook more, and introducing our friends to delicious Vegan feasts is one of our great joys. Non-vegetarians seem to sometimes think the only thing Vegans eat is lettuce and tofu cubes, and it’s been our pleasure to dispel those myths.

The one thing I guess I didn’t expect was some of the hostility my partner and I encountered from friends and even some family members, who up until this point had always respected our opinions. When discussing the moral reasons behind our becoming Vegan, the most infuriating comment still remains: “Well, I don’t want to know.” Well, you should. Because what is unfolding is a crime, and by choosing to look away, you’re participating and enabling it. Sorry if I can’t be more diplomatic about it, or just say being Vegan is just a personal choice. I have two friends who’ve been Vegan for more than ten years. If they’d spoken up about why, instead of calling it just their choice, I myself might’ve been changed sooner.

Some of the remarks my partner and I got often came cloaked in predictable concerns about not getting enough B-12 and protein and iron and such. Thank you, meat and dairy lobby: everyone’s suddenly an expert when you become Vegan, and eating a fat and cholesterol-laden pound of flesh is their nutritious panacea. Well, two weeks ago I had my first annual physical after becoming Vegan. I’ve always had genetically high cholesterol. But today the numbers are down for the first time, and I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. Still, the greatest joy for me from being Vegan comes every day sitting down to eat, and knowing that no one had to suffer and die for me to live. Today, I’m grateful my eyes have been opened, and for that I thank my partner Ari (and PETA).

~Mikko and Ari, California

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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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