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Archive for the ‘cruelty in dairy industry’ 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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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’ve always been someone who cared too much. I have a hard time ignoring things once they’re in front of my eyes, no matter who are what it may relate too.

When I was a kid I ate whatever my parents put in front of me and did not question it for the most part. I was oblivious, as most people are, to the suffering that animals endure. As I got older I did begin question things a bit. I remember one night when we had hamburgers for dinner my sister kept on teasing me by mooing. She kept on reminding me I was eating a dead cow. I continued to eat that dead cow though.

I had a slight interest in vegetarianism from that point on, although I was still living with my parents and eating whatever they cooked. When I moved out on my own things changed, however. I always had an aversion to cooking raw animal flesh, so I wasn’t eating as much meat at home. When I did cook meat at home it was always the precooked kind, usually chicken.
I met my husband Matt (then my boyfriend) a few years after living on my own. He was picky about meat and not a fan of pork or beef and really only ate hamburgers when we were eating out. The majority of what we cooked and ate at home was precooked chicken.

My desire to go vegetarian was getting stronger and stronger, but me being the introvert I am, I held back. I was too worried about what my family, friends, and coworkers would have to say. I did not want to inconvenience them in anyway and knew eating out would be an issue. Living in the Midwest (St. Louis), there are not many vegetarian or vegan restaurants in St. Louis or even options at omni restaurants. This did not last too long, however, and one day I just decided to go for it. I had planned on cutting out meat slowly and started going through our cabinets and ridding our apartment of anything that had meat in it that my husband would not eat alone. This plan was quickly thrown out the window when one day I just decided to go vegetarian and did so literally overnight. Everyone, including my family and husband, was better about it than I had assumed they would be.

About 6 months after I had gone vegetarian and about 2 weeks before our wedding, my husband told me he was going to go vegetarian as well. Although he was picky about meat and didn’t eat a lot of it, and was eating mostly vegetarian since I did all the cooking, I knew he was quite picky about vegetables. I doubted him, questioning why exactly he was doing this. I had said in the beginning that I was going vegetarian for myself and I didn’t expect anything out of him. He told me he wanted to do it and it would make it easier on me since I did most of the cooking.

He, too, went vegetarian pretty much overnight. At first I was very worried about what his parents would think since they were hardcore meat eaters (as are my parents) and his dad was a hunter. We had a low-key wedding with just our parents and my sister and nephew present, and went to eat afterwards. We had not mentioned his vegetarianism yet, so I remember his mom kept on offering to share some of her club sandwich with him. Not too long after that he broke the news to them and they were surprisingly cool with it. Matt’s mom even bought and cooked us a tofurkey this past Thanksgiving.

Although going vegetarian was a choice I was proud of and made me feel I was doing some good, I always had a persistent nag in the back of my mind regarding veganism. When someone questioned my vegetarianism I would often point out that I felt guilty for not going vegan.

This nag eventually broke down my resistance and I started doing research and reading everything I could on veganism and animal rights. I realized that the dairy and egg industries were no better and probably worse than the meat industry. I stumbled upon Colleen’s Food For Thought podcast and I have to credit her for pushing me off the fence I’ve been sitting on for so long.

My husband took it well. I have a feeling he will possible go vegan in the future since I’m the only cook in the house and he’ll be eating primarily vegan. If he does not, however, it is fine with me. I’m happy he’s at least vegetarian as it does help the animals.

I have not been vegan for long and I already feel more at peace with myself. It is the best decision I’ve ever made!

~Crys in St. Louis

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Thank you, thank you for your terrific podcast. I have been a vegetarian for about 6 weeks. It has been a slow, long process to get to this point. I’ve always been a picky meat eater, never eating veal or rabbit, more fish than chicken, but I did enjoy foie gras until about 5 years ago when I witnessed jars and jars of enlarged livers at a shop in Nice.

Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation opened my eyes to the evils of the fast food industry, and as an environmentalist who is always looking for something else to do I was very interested in “cost” of raising meat to our environment. I started replacing the protein dishes that I was used to all my life for veggies with a side of tofu, but I was definitely still eating meat. I only started listening to your podcast to get some more vegetarian dish ideas, but instead you opened my eyes and mind. I had no idea the demise of male baby chicks or the conditions at slaughterhouses. I didn’t know any of this.

Of course I started listening to your podcast 3 weeks before a trip to Prague and Budapest. I thought about waiting until I got back to start totally eliminating meat from my diet (my many excuses including: it’s so hard to read an Hungarian menu, they won’t offer me any Vegetarian food, etc), but something you said about “doing something rather than do nothing” made me think. My master plan was to eliminate meat from my diet for three weeks, fall of the wagon and eat meat in Europe and then come back and eat a plant-based diet again. But it only takes three weeks to change a habit.

It was so easy being vegetarian in Europe. Almost every menu had a vegetarian section with wonderful foods to choose from and the waitstaff was always accommodating.  I did not have any excuses, and though as a “newbie” I messed up a few times, almost all of my meals were vegetarian or vegan. I had a wonderful vacation with lots of energy and a clear mind.

On the train from Prague to Budapest I listened to 6 hours of your podcast and now I am completely “up to date” waiting for your next one. And I plan to sponsor your podcast as soon as I have paid off my trip 🙂

P.S. Last week I went to a Chinese Hot Pot restaurant and had the veggie-based soup with delicious vegetables, noodles and frozen tofu! I had never heard of frozen tofu before … you put a firm tofu in the freezer for a day and it creates these little holes that, when defrosted and put in a soup or stir fry “holds in” the flavor .. delicious!

~Debbie

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It all started when I was a young boy, growing up in Miami. My parents did their best to try to find us events and programmes that would let us kids feel like we have a community to belong to. Having immigrated from India, finding such a community was difficult enough, but being (lacto) vegetarian made us feel more alienated still. The norms of the  American culture confused and bothered us. We didn’t understand how people who could keep petted and pampered animals (dogs and cats) could turn around and senselessly, viciously savage and slaughter other beautiful, intelligent
animals, like cows, pigs, and chickens.

In the pursuit of community that would be open and accepting of my family, my mother found a vegan meet up. Because most of the food of South India is vegan already, she had a very easy time throwing together delicious dishes that would get raves from all the vegans at the meetups. For whatever reason, their truth didn’t penetrate my dense skull at the time. They were vegan, and I was vegetarian. In my brain, there was no difference.

In eighth grade, my social studies teacher required each of her students to present what she called a “tracer” in the USA. A tracer, in this case, was a topic of human interest, that could be traced back to  culture in the US. The first one that I chose, of course, was being vegetarian.

A dear family friend of mine was working for Earth Save at the time. She loaned me a book called The Healthy School Lunch Programme Action Guide, which was a pilot programme being run by Earth Save to try to get more vegan options into public school cafeterias. It had statistics, figures, guides on cooking in bulk, and the stories of the animals, and what they suffer. As I stood in front of the class, describing the atrocities that cows are forced to endure, the unnatural ways that their bodies are crammed together, my brain continued to ignore the clear conclusions that the book was saying: GO
VEGAN.

It’s funny how no matter how clear the message, if you’re not ready for it, you will not hear it. On went my senseless exploitation of the animals for my pleasure. On went the consumption of dairy and eggs. I shudder to think of the hundreds of thousands of deaths I’m responsible for with my cavalier attitude towards the suffering of others.

In college, I co-founded a vegan club. Still, nothing sunk in. I cooked for friends in their homes, and at my home. Nothing still. Finally, I stumbled upon Bob and Jenna Torres’s podcast, “Vegan Freak Radio.” They urged their listeners to try to go vegan for three weeks to see how they like it. To see if they could do it. It was a challenge, and I was willing to step up to the plate, and face it. I tried the three week pilot vegan programme.

Boom.

I was vegan.

I began posting recipes on their forums, and Bob approached me to write a book. I was floored. Someone wanted me to write down my recipes? Someone wanted to hear my voice, and share it with others? But I’m such a new vegan! What do I know?

He refused to be swayed by my lousy excuses, just like he refused to be swayed by excuses against going vegan. “Just try it,” he said. So try it I did. I poured my heart into that book, telling the stories of each recipe, describing in detail the whys and the hows of the food. I explained what the recipes meant to me, and how they came into my life. I fondly recalled the
formation of the foods, and loved sharing that part of myself.

And now I’m cooking at a vegan restaurant.

Who knew that in the course of two years, I could find my vegan husband, write my vegan book, and cook in a vegan  restaurant. What a lot of power just a few people’s voices have. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the message before; it was that I wasn’t ready to hear it, or that the messenger wasn’t speaking in terms that I understood. You and people like you are the strongest advocates for the animals (aside from the animals themselves). If you don’t let your voice be heard, you deny the animals their voices, which is what everyone else in this slave-centred society does. Tell your stories loudly and proudly. Proclaim your truths. Be vegan.

~Dino in New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Kerrie in California

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

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

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

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

          it’s not the drink I think I need

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

          from the sound, and the weight, and the history

          that comes from saying “no” all the time

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

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

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

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

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

~David in Colchester, CT

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I have always loved animals. “Kitty” was my first word. I used to gently move pillbugs and other insects off of walking paths so that my parents and friends would not step on them inadvertently. However, it took awhile for me to make the connection between the animals and the food I liked to eat. My paternal German grandmother, while not anywhere near vegetarian, rescued many animals (she even fed a family of opossums living in her garage and adopted an injured rooster). She also supported the HSUS and PETA, so I would read her PETA magazines when I was little. They turned my stomach and made me cry. The veins in fish, the “veins” in shrimp, and dead animals hanging in Chinatown restaurant windows sickened me.

By the time I reached sixth grade (in 1993), I knew that it just wasn’t right to eat animals, and became a vegetarian. My parents continued to put meat on my plate for several weeks after I made the declaration that I would never eat meat again, thinking that it was just a phase. Considering the fact that my my parents are meat-loving people (and “foodie types”), I feel very lucky that my parents became so supportive once they realized that I was serious about my
vegetarianism. If you are a parent whose child has decided to become vegetarian or vegan, I urge you to support them in their decision! It can make all the difference.

I soon stopped drinking milk (but would still eat products containing dairy), stopped buying leather a few years after that, and stopped buying wool yarn a few years after that. I knew that there was something wrong with eating egg and milk products, but sort of hid my head in the sand and chose not to read up on the topics because I didn’t think it was really possible for me to be vegan, mostly because of desserts and because I LOVED cheese.

I read Fast Food Nation, I watched Super Size Me, felt guiltier and guiltier, and noticed that my diet was becoming increasingly vegan. The issue of animal rights/liberation is something I’ve grown much more passionate about over the past months/years, so I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to finally switch over to veganism. (If only I had known how easy it would be.) I looked up information on rennet about a year ago and after that, I would only eat cheese that I knew for sure did not contain animal-derived rennet, which meant no cheese that simply listed “enzymes” as an ingredient, and no cheese in restaurants or from any place where I couldn’t read the ingredient list. this was a huge help on the way to veganism, as it forced me to dramatically cut down my cheese consumption and get used to eating other things instead. (I recommend this as a weaning method for people who are on the fence about going vegan but feel that cheese is holding them back and are having trouble going cold turkey!)

I started listening to the Vegan Freak podcast and to your Food for Thought podcast and to and began really reading in-depth about all of the nasty realities of non-vegan life. I had always had vague concerns about nutrition and realized, once I started looking into what I’d need to do to stay healty, that I would actually be much healthier after cutting out eggs and dairy. I decided to make the switch about nine months ago, and feel so much better than I thought I would, both physically and mentally. I try to get friends and family to think about what they’re eating, and lead by example as much as possible. As a vegetarian (and early in my veganism), I was quiet about it and almost apologetic. I have now become much more enthusiastic about cooking, baking, trying new cuisines, and spreading as much of the spirit of veganism as I can. I don’t shrink back, apologize, or enforce myths and misconceptions about my diet and lifestyle.

I think that knowing the reasons behind the importance of going vegan makes all the difference, and I am certain that I will never go back.

~Lisa in Los Angeles

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