Archive for the ‘foodborne illnesses’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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I wanted to share yet another story of how your podcast has helped another person become vegan.  I am a university student and when I was extensively researching veganism last year, I ran across your podcast and was immediately impressed by the information you offered. 

I grew up very omnivorous; my favourite foods growing up were cheese, milk, and sourdough bread.  My family did eat fairly healthfully but not vegetarian.  None of my friends were vegetarian (as far as I know), but one of my friends was a committed vegan.  I knew her in high school; she was vegan for ethical reasons and most people, myself included, thought she was a wonderful person but somewhat crazy and “extreme.”  Like most Americans, I was firmly committed to my eating habits and never imagined I could become vegetarian, let alone vegan.

My biology class last semester focused on microbes and human disease.  In conjunction with the spinach crisis, the class touched on treatment of livestock and the routine feeding of antibiotics and growth hormones.  I had never thought about or learned about these issues.  When I spoke to my professor, she did note that one could buy hormone-free or organic meat.  Nevertheless, I knew my university dining hall was not spending the extra money on these special meats. 

Concerned about the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and hormones, I investigated animal agriculture for the first time in my life and was shocked by what I found.  Going vegetarian was quite easy; all I did was request “no chicken” in my stir-fry and indulged in extra ice cream, feeling happy that I wasn’t eating a caged, tortured bird.  The dining hall labeled all dishes that were vegetarian (often cheesy lasagna or potatoes) with a “v” so it was easy to find things to eat.  I enjoyed surprising people when they found out I was vegetarian.

Despite the pleasing surge of complacency, I still felt uneasy with my (rather high) dairy consumption.  I investigated matters and found out that some of the veggie burgers I’d enjoyed in the college café had cheese as a binder.  I stopped eating the veggie burgers.  I put soymilk in my coffee.  I avoided the obviously cheesy casseroles and pasta dishes.  My diet had become mostly animal-product-free; however, there was one area where I strayed: dessert.  Puddings, cookies, cakes, and (plentiful) non-vegan chocolate still tempted me.  I could buy vegan cookies from a local health food store, but that put a strain on my budget.  I kept eating the non-vegan treats and labeled myself vegetarian and thought of myself as an aspiring vegan. 

Now, thanks to the influence of your podcast, amazing recipes for delicious cookies that I’ve found in VegNews and Vegetarian Times, and a resolve to stop being hypocritical, I’ve made a commitment to veganism.  Instead of gorging myself on Hershey’s Kisses (which don’t taste all that great anyway), I enjoy a small square of Green & Black Mint Dark Chocolate.  Rather than eating a dish and wondering whether there is any butter or cheese in it, I ask or eat something that I know is vegan, like brown rice and beans—a new favourite. 

Thanks again for everything you do.  Please know that you are making an impact in people’s lives and I truly appreciate your work.

 ~Caroline in Davidson, NC

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