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Sharing My Truth

I became a vegetarian over 10 years ago when a vegetarian acquaintance of mine expressed astonishment at my carnivorous habits after discussing my (many) dogs and cats with her. That same day I filled my gas tank right next to a cattle transport crammed full with loudly protesting and suffering animals. That stopped my meat eating dead in my tracks. Unfortunately I became what you refer to as a junk food vegetarian.

Now my partner and I are raising my 3 grandchildren. They all still occasionally eat/ate meat bought from the coop and we all ate cheese. I never made the connection between the veal industry and the cheese we were eating until listening to your podcast. In the past I have made several unsuccessful stabs at educating the children about where meat comes from but did not want to traumatize them even more. They have suffered through enough violence in their short lives that the PETA information just seemed too graphic.

With your podcast you have given me opportunity to share my truth peacefully with my children and my partner. You have given me words and an attitude that works for me and my family. I told my 8-year old yesterday that we would not be buying anymore cheese and when she asked me why I explained the connection between “baby cows”, milk and cheese. I was astounded when she (the ultimate cheese lover) said “that is sooo unfair that people do that to cows.” Then she asked if there was “fake cheese” (she is familiar with fake meat) that did not hurt animals and I told her that I had already ordered some just for her.

Your podcast has inspired me to eat a whole food and vegan diet and to teach my little family that our appetites do not have to hurt our animal friends. So far, they are listening and enjoying your delicious recipes.

Namaste and thank you again.
~ Lydia

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!

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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

I’d like to take a minute and sincerely thank you for all you do. I became vegetarian only about a month ago (hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?). Currently, I am well on my way to turning vegan.

It all started after reading “skinny bitch” for me. My roommate told me “this book sounds like you wrote it.” She said this because I am surrounded by heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my family and have watched my parents go down the same road as their parents did without making any changes to improve their health. They make almost no effort even though they are well aware of what faces them. This is very frustrating to me. I am 21 years old and a senior in college and I am already making changes to prevent this, why can’t they?

But yes, that is the book that started it for me. It is very hard to ignore what they are saying. I was one of those people who ate mostly organic food, produce, dairy products, and meat and somehow made myself believe that I was doing the right thing because at least they treated their animals ethically, right? After hearing many of your podcasts, I realize now that I believed that because that is what I wanted to believe. This is one of the reasons I am turning completely vegan.

After reading that book, I’ll be honest, I struggled with the idea of becoming vegan for about 2 weeks. I wanted to, I knew it was the right thing, and it coincided with all of my values and beliefs, but I just kept thinking “I’m really never going to eat meat again?” Well after trying to wrap my head around that for a week or two I visited my brother in the D.C. area and that was the turning point. I promised myself that I would only eat organic meat from then on out (to “ease” my guilty conscience), and since that wasn’t possible when dining in a restaurant I ate vegetarian that whole weekend. After that, after seeing how easy it really was, I kept with it. It stuck.

It was about this time that I started to discover your podcast. I feel it has been you’re inspiring words and truth telling that has kept me motivated. I do feel I could have done it on your own but it is very comforting to know I can just flip on my i-pod and hear words of reassurance and that I am doing the right thing. It has also been your podcast that has educated me on many issues that are crucial to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, such as health and animal rights. I have always been an animal lover and the harsh reality of what they face is heart-wrenching. But as you say, I am glad to know it, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I do feel much closer to my pets and even just the animals that surround us in life. I can look at pictures of these beautiful beings and no longer feel guilty. With the help of this podcast I have learned so much about my health, my eating habits, and my morals as well as the health and well-being of the non-human animals that surround us. Thank you for all your work, it is truly awe-inspiring.

~ Sarah

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

I was raised in a carnivorous family. When I was a senior in high school we moved to a farm that had cows, chickens, pigs, horses, and rabbits. I stopped eating chicken when the family slaughtered 100 “old” egg laying hens in one day. It was really disgusting.

Lacking knowledge and support, eventually I did return to eating chicken.

I read John Robbins, May All Be Fed in 1993. I became a vegetarian for several years then went vegan in 1995. I moved to a new city in 1996 and began attending a church. I did not know any other vegans in the church. I was ridiculed about not eating what the Lord had provided. Eventually, I did return to eating animals again.

In May of 2007, I began another attempt at losing weight. This one was a bible study at my church. It was based around the food pyramid and food group exchanges. It wasn’t working (the yo-yo effect 5 pounds on – 5 pounds off). So in July I discovered food combinations – eat protein with starch and vegetables with starch – but don’t mix proteins and vegetables. Also, don’t mix fruit with any foods. The author recommended eating only fish (no milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, beef, pork, ect.) So that is how I lost 30 pounds. In January, my church began 3 day water fast followed with 18 day Daniel fast (vegetables only). That is when my sister recommended I watch “Earthlings”. Normally I can not watch cruel things. But I prayed for strength to be able to bear up. I wanted to be able to influence my husband to become a vegan. He is so tender hearted and loves animals. I can not get him to kill things like spiders and roaches. If I find one in the house, he catches it and releases it outside. I was able to watch the movie twice, once alone and once with him. What a tragedy in epic proportions! I know God did not intend the world to be so cruel. As a Christian, we have the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 10:6

” Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Every time an image from the movie comes into my head I cry out to God with that prayer. The great news is that my husband agreed to become a vegan! Although I was a little upset with him when he took both our leather coats and donated them to the clothes closet for the needy without consulting with me. Ouch! Oh well.

I’ve listened to the pod casts; they are so inspiring and empowering. Thank you! I now believe I have the knowledge to enable me to stick to my convictions.

I thought about my journey and the revelation that God has given me in regards to being a Christian Vegan. I did want to share this information to equip fellow Christians with biblical support for vegans.

Some Christians will refer to God’s covenant with Noah after the flood in order to justify eating animals. According to Genesis 9:3 God said,

“Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”

We only have to recall that this was after the fall. The world was not in God’s perfect will. You have to go back to the beginning of Genesis to find God’s perfect will (when God had his way). God created a garden in Eden for Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1:29, God said,

“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it – I give every green plant for food.”

In God’s perfect will, all mankind were to be vegan. Not only that, but in the next verse, Genesis 1:30 , God makes it clear that all animals were vegan.

“And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food”.

Some people will argue that killing animals is godly because of the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. But, Jesus made it clear in Hebrews 10: 7-8

Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God. First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made).

In Matthew 10, Jesus told us to pray that God’s kingdom will come. We know what God’s kingdom will be like. We know there will be no more death. In Revelation 21:4

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In Romans 8:19-22, it is clear that creation is crying out for a future glory.

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope hat the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

I hope the above biblical references will empower fellow Christians to stand strong in their convictions to stop the suffering in this world and possibly influence other Christians to become Vegan!

~ Deb

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

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