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Archive for the ‘freedom in being vegan’ Category

I’m a thirtysomething from Japan living in Vancouver, Canada. I started listening to “Food For Thought” about a month ago when I seriously began considering going vegan, and you got me hooked! I just can’t stop listening to your podcast. I also visited your website, checked out some of the pictures, and was fascinated by how beautiful you are… a radiant, self-confident true beauty!

I was once a vegetarian for several months when I was a college student in America in 1994. After graduation, though, I moved to Tokyo and became a meat eater again. To be honest, back then I was not really sure why I chose to be a vegetarian or what I was doing to be a vegetarian. Years passed. I got sick from stress and left Tokyo for Vancouver, one of the most health-conscious cities in the world, where
I have met lots of vegetarians & vegans.

So I’ve always been interested in being a vegetarian; however, I never took any action for a long time… until I visited Salt Spring Island, BC in May, where I spent a cellphone-free, ipod-less, no-TV, organic weekend on this peaceful island. I don’t know exactly why, but when I got back from the vacation, I completely stopped “craving” meat. It was bizarre. I started doing more yoga, eating less meat and more veggies, and then came across your Podcast. I started eliminating right away one non-vegan item from my diet every week. This is my 4th week and I’ve been doing pretty good! I am already feeling healthier, lighter and happier. My boyfriend, family, friends and coworkers are surprisingly understanding, asking me intellectual questions about veganism, cooking vegan dinners for me, etc. I feel very blessed and grateful.

Since I moved from Tokyo to Vancouver 6 years ago, my health has improved dramatically. But I always felt something was missing. Now that I am changing to a vegan lifestyle, I know what was missing. It is the sense of deeper happiness that I have now, knowing I am contributing to the world peace in my own way. I promise I’ll spread the information I have learned from you. Thank you, Colleen, for your hard work, passion and commitment.

~ Miwa, Vancouver, British Columbia

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Megan in Mississippi

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A couple of months ago after many years of eating a limited amount of meat diet, our 7 year old daughter made us realize that we were ready to become vegetarian. She, as well as our son, naturally didn’t have a desire to eat meat. They questioned where it came from and ate so very little of it when it was on their plates. So we decided we would be vegetarian but be ovo lacto as we thought it was impossible to be healthy and to raise children as vegans. Well…that is when I read the book Skinny Bitch, and knew I could never eat dairy or eggs again. My husband listened to the book on CD as well and felt the same way. We threw ourselves into this new-found world of veganism, and I immediately looked for a podcast that could help us out. That is when we found you. Your podcasts were just what we needed to help us along our path toward veganism. Not only do we learn interesting food facts, recipes and suggestions but also the truth to empower us in this lifestyle. It’s given us the power to stand behind our beliefs despite opposing views from family members. We feel like we have a wealth of information now because of you and your wonderful wisdom.

Becoming vegan has awakened a part of me that now loves to cook and loves all things to do with food. I used to cook but didn’t enjoy it as I was a worry wart in the kitchen about cross contamination from meat and meat products (rightfully so). Now I feel so free in my kitchen as I don’t fret about the bacteria coming from our plant based diet. There is no worry about blood on the counter or on a chopping board. I love it and feel so liberated!

Thank you for inspiring us and for guiding us. We are so excited that we also live near you and can attend a cooking class of yours in the future. Keep up the good work and know that you have made a difference in our lives! We are so thankful for you.

~ Megan & Eric, California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Sarah, London UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,
~Joselle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**************************************

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

~Paula,  Johannesburg, South Africa

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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 born in Taiwan but grew up mostly in Africa and the U.S. I have very few memories of Taiwan but one vivid memory I do have is of my mom taking my brother and me to the market to buy turtles. We then traveled to a river somewhere and set them free. This practice of “releasing life” is common among devout Buddhists and we continued to do it on occasion even in Malawi, where we would buy tortoises and turtles and let them go as well.

But unlike Buddhist monks and nuns, we were not vegetarian. In fact, I hated vegetables and wanted to eat only meat. My mom had to force me to eat vegetables so that I would have a healthy diet. For most of my life, meat and animal products were central to my diet. I never saw anything wrong with that.

Even though I would get to know many vegetarians, I always saw vegetarianism as a “preference” or a “healthy lifestyle choice” rather than an ethical practice. In my 20s, I would even tell my vegetarian friends (half-jokingly) that I was going to write a book about how vegetarianism is bad for our planet. How naive I was back then but I loved meat – it had to be part of every meal I had.

In my early 30s, I became more interested in ethics as a secular alternative to religions. I started reading books on ethics, including Peter Singer’s Writings on an Ethical Life. The book covered many issues but there was enough in there about animal welfare to make me give “vegetarianism” a try. It lasted six months – I gave it up when I had to travel to the Philippines and Mexico for work.

Fast forward to May 2006. Peter Singer released another book called The Way We Eat. I listened to the entire book on my iPod within two days. This time, I knew there was no going back. I had to give up meat for good. Not just meat but all animal products.

Having tried vegetarianism before, I knew that this time, I had to learn how to cook. So I bought several vegan cookbooks, rolled up my sleeves, and started cooking in earnest.

I wanted to make sure that my focus was not on what I’m giving up but what I’m eating. The new diet has to be more pleasurable, not less. That wasn’t really difficult, considering I didn’t really cook before. Now that I am cooking for real (and not just heating up food), my meals became more tasty, more adventurous, and more healthful.

A year and half later, I still make new dishes and new desserts every week. I invite friends over for dinner all the time and they can see and taste for themselves what vegan food is all about. No one has made the jump to veganism just yet but at least we’re talking about it.

I remember how long it took me to make the switch and I know everyone has to go on their on journey and it may take a while.

My own journey has taught me the following:

1) People can change.
We may be creatures of habit and we may follow traditions blindly. But from time to time, we do escape the mental cages that society puts us in.

2) Inner strength is key.
Our society, our families and our friends will all dissuade us from veganism. That doesn’t mean we need to argue, fight or struggle. Instead, we should listen… and share… and continue to follow our inner compass.

3) Veganism is not just about food.
Colleen teaches me this through her podcast. I’m still learning.

4) The joy of veganism is felt every single day.
Every time you cook, eat or shop, you are aware of the suffering you are alleviating and the liberation that is possible for yourself and other animals. Our efforts may pale by comparison to the amount of exploitation around us. But we know we are making a difference – that we are “releasing life” every day – and there’s true joy in that.

Thank you, Colleen, for being our guide on this incredible journey. When you become vegan, you soon realize it’s one of the most important things you’ve done in your life. You begin to see life more clearly and more truthfully than anytime before.

~Charles in Vancouver, British Columbia

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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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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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