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I have eaten (loose) vegetarian off and on for fifteen years.  Last year, I stopped eating land animals for good, due to factory-farming practices.  As I have heard you mention on your podcast, before going vegetarian, I sought out meat from locally raised, authentically grazing animals.  This is not hard since I live in a remote area of Colorado where ranches are abundant and I can go directly to a ranch to buy meat. Even so, I was conscious of still supporting a vicious and tortuous practice.  By maintaining the practice of eating meat, I would find myself in restaurants where I could not be certain of the animal origins and at the houses of family and friends who might not have the opportunity or awareness to buy humanely raised meat.   Explaining why some meat is okay to me and other is not was fuzzy, grey, and felt hollow.  If most meat in this society comes from tortured animals, why eat it at all when there are so many other options?
 
For the year I was eating no meat but still milk, eggs, and cheese, I avoided thinking about the conditions in which animals who produced these products lived.  These animals had not yet gone through a horrible slaughter and finally, hopefully, rested in peace.  The animals producing milk, cheese, and eggs, were still suffering, living in unbearable conditions as they produced the organic milk and cheese I consumed each day. 
 
As I listened to your program, I finally went there.  I thought about the conditions the animals lived in and that my life was being sustained by their suffering.  There are so many other ways to sustain my life than animal products – so many wonderful ways.  The big things I have gotten from your program are being exposed to the horrors of factory-farm practices, which I had avoided; hearing nutrition issues addressed in a clear and factual way; and considering the importance of being joyful about embracing veganism.  Right now, sorrow for creatures who endure unthinkable suffering is large for me.  But I am grateful for the sorrow, which is real, and is part of awakening further to life. It is a relief to no longer open the refrigerator to see eggs and cheese and feel my mind close to their origins.  Bringing plant-based foods to the center of my life and to meals that I share with family and friends is nourishing physically and spiritually.
 
I am happy I encountered you on my path and I am grateful for the work you are doing on behalf of creatures who suffer unbearably and needlessly.

~Victoria in Colorado

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When I was young, my Grandparents kept a pig in their backyard. I thought he was the most interesting “pet” anyone had ever had. I named him Stinky because “he smelled like he needed a bath” – but not enough to keep me from cuddling up with him everyday, after school, for a nap. Stinky was my friend… playful, kind, and a wonderful listener. 

One Sunday morning, over breakfast, I noticed everyone watching me – anticipating. When I finally tried the bacon, there were giggles and smirks all around, as my Grandfather asked me “How does Stinky taste?” 

I was devastated.

We continued on to Church, where my Grandfather proceeded to preach a sermon on how God gave us the animals to eat and to dominate – that it was our right, if not our duty. I tried to accept it, and I vowed never again to love an animal in the same way.

I was a meat eater and “that’s the way God made me.” 

As the years went by, I began to question my religion and its inherent cruelty. I was angry and frustrated with a world that seemed so rooted in violence. And I found no comfort in the idea of a creator that not only allowed, but required such behavior. 

So I distanced myself from all that I had known, I began to make decisions based on my own logic, to follow my own moral compass…

In search of a broader understanding of the world and my place in it, I read all sorts of things, from Taoism, to philosophy to natural health, and then I stumbled onto John Robbins book, Diet for a New America.   I instantly became a vegetarian, and it stuck – for 6 years. Until one day, I did something that, to this day, drives me insane. I started eating meat again.

I’m not sure why… I think it was because I had decided to be vegetarian for health reasons and not for the animals. But I never felt quite at ease with my decision. I would cringe at certain things, and flat out not be able to eat others.

Still, through all of that, for some reason, the book stayed with me, and years later, my husband and I sat down, and in tandem, read it aloud. This time it was different – I remembered how much I had loved Stinky and how I had avoided all the animals that came after him. This time, I “got it.”

My husband and I cried and laughed and cleaned out our kitchen that weekend and have been vegetarian ever since. I’ve been a vegetarian a total of 11 years now (5 for the sake of the animals) and I’ve always felt so good about that decision. It’s allowed me to look at animals again and actually see them -To love them, to cry for them and to hold them. 

My husband, however, recently became vegan and (in my mind) was pressuring me to do the same – loudly listening to podcasts, that threw around phrases like “Joyful Vegan” which just made me roll my eyes. I felt angry at him for “judging me” and accused him of not acknowledging the good choices that I DO make. I used all kinds of excuses. And I was getting pretty comfortable with my lie – telling myself I was still a good person – that most people weren’t even vegetarian, let alone vegan…

Then I listened to several of those podcasts on my own and realized that my husband was doing something not for himself, but for the animals, and certainly not TO me. So in a humbled state, I finally understood that you can’t claim “personal choice” if it affects someone else –  that if given a choice the cows would choose not to be milk machines as surely as they would choose not to be killed. (And let’s not lie to ourselves and say they aren’t killed…)

 I’m newly vegan now, and this lifestyle that for so long seemed too restrictive and extreme is something I’m so excited about. There’s no more guilt, no more excuses. It’s freedom.  It’s amazing – the relief you feel – the calm that sits inside you – the absolute joy that sometimes overwhelms you. 

I still giggle at the name of this website “The Joyful Vegan”… it just seems so appropriate.

~Michelle in Panama City, FL

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I can’t tell you what a JOY it is listening to your podcasts.  I have listened to all of them since I began listening in December. It was my first vegan podcast and it is by far the best.  I am a vegetarian but thanks to your approach and your information, I am becoming more and more vegan everyday.  Your approach to human change is as compassionate and encouraging as your approach to animals.  
 
I live in Pennsylvania and my background is Pennsylvania German, commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch.  Some people think that makes someone Amish.  In reality it means that my German ancestors settled in PA in search of religious freedom in the 1700’s.  The Pennsylvania German culture, like many, is full of meat and all of its by-products.  I grew up on a farm where pigs were slaughtered once a year, usually around my birthday. I remember burying my head with pillows so I wouldn’t hear the screams.   Not surprisingly pork was the first thing to go from my diet. 
 
On the other hand, there were indeed many wonderful things about growing up on the farm.  Two of them were my mother’s garden and my grandmother’s garden.  I can go on and on about the wonders of fresh picked strawberries, still warm from the sun, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce……My mother started a big garden because my dad ate NO green vegetables and no fruit.  Basically he ate corn, potatoes, and tomatoes – as ketchup.  She didn’t want her kids to be like that, so she hoped that if they had fresh veggies, they would learn to like them.  I tease my mom at how much her lesson worked on me.  Even my brother, still an omnivore, has a huge garden and lost a great deal of weight a few years ago.  Sadly, my dad died when he was only 56.  Technically, he died of complications following surgery to remove a brain tumor but I have to think that had he had a healthier diet, he may have been able to overcome that illness.
 
My niece can’t understand why her grandfather, who she never met, ate no strawberries.  She LOVES strawberries.  I pray that I can meet her children and grandchildren and that they can see first hand Aunt Wendy, who stopped eating meat and animal products, but was passionate about fresh, wholesome food. 
 
I am so crazed for raspberries that I went hiking in the intense summer heat very soon after having surgery last summer.  I needed those berries and I tried to pick them before my surgery, but they weren’t ripe.  Why would I want to eat meat and other gross things?  I prefer to save my calories for the truly wonderful things like blueberries, peaches, kale, tofu with broccoli….
 
You are such an encouragement.  Keep up your wonderful work.  I look forward to hearing the voice of someone I consider as a role model, as a friend on the west coast.
 
~Wendy in Pennsylvania

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