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Archive for the ‘dog and cat advocate turned vegan’ Category

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

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

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

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

~Samantha, high school student in southern California

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My path to veganism and animal rights activism began when a vocal black cat entered our lives in 1987. At the time, I worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It was late fall and I often arrived home after dark. As I prepared my dinner, the black cat would appear on the sill outside the kitchen window and meow relentlessly. Over the course of an evening, I would move from room to room, and she would follow along outside, moving from window to window, still meowing.

 After two or three weeks of this, my boyfriend said he would take her to his house, and that’s what he did. We’d both anticipated a loud and chaotic car ride for both him and the cat, and loud and chaotic it was.

 When Roy called me at work to say they had arrived at his house, and he described how she had carried on using a whole range of voices, I said, “I know her name! It’s Diva.” As time went on, Diva became an even more perfect name for her, as it took on a number of other appropriate meanings.

 In the ensuing days, Roy would call me to say what a character the cat was, and how much he liked her. At first I attributed it to novelty and change, but I learned differently.

 About five months later, Roy got a new job in Phoenix. We married, packed up Diva and our stuff and settled in Scottsdale. I spent those early weeks fixing up our apartment, which meant I now had steady interaction with Diva. She was fascinating. I had lived with cats for most of my life, but she emanated a power and mystique I’d never sensed in my other animals. I began to think about black cat lore and witches and familiars. I started reading books on mythology and history, starting with Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Roy and I had a great many conversations about Diva, conjecturing, searching, trying to understand her powerful presence.

 I happened to pick up a Yoga Journal that featured an interview with John Robbins. Robbins had just published Diet for a New America. Moved by the article and his stories about dreaming of pigs, I bought a copy of Diet and shared it with Roy. Coincidentally we traveled to San Diego, where we ate at a Govinda’s restaurant. The signs making note of their karma-free food got plenty of our attention.

 We were vegetarian from then on—summer or fall 1988—always intending to go vegan but somehow still not making the necessary connections. I became an activist even so.

 I think it was in 1997 that when a colleague asked me if I ate eggs, I answered yes, and at that very moment a voice spoke to me which asked, “Why are you still eating eggs?” I went home and told Roy I thought it was time for us to go vegan.
 So we did. In the early days I missed the taste of cheese less than its convenience as I realized it had become my most relied-upon fast food. Gradually we learned to substitute for the things we were used to, and that was that. Many new vegan foods and cookbooks were coming on the market, and Roy and I were both motivated from our hearts, so I think our transition was about as easy as it gets.

 Diva died in 1995. I divide my life into long phases—Before Diva and After Diva. There’s little comparison between my sense of the world before she came along and after she came along. Three precious cats share my home today (they are named Pablo, Fergus, and Neruda). Each is unique and magical as Diva in his own way, and we owe an enormous debt to her, who opened us to the sacred and ineffable riches of interspecies relationship.

Cathleen in Oakland, CA

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Susan in Pacifica, CA

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