Early in 2012 I started reaching out to vegan friends on twitter to ask them to share their testimonials. My hope was that by getting vegans to share their stories we could educate and inspire others and give people first hand accounts to replace perceptions or stereotypes. I’m incredibly grateful to those that have participated. Their stories speak for themselves! If you enjoy the series please let us know!
Life is an interesting journey and we never know where it’s going to take us. Sometimes what at the time seems like the most innocuous of situations, may change the course of your life forever.
I grew up with animals. We had three dogs when I was little and I’ve always loved dogs, even when I got too close and they bit me in the face. I cried more because the dogs were scolded than from the pain. As I grew older, I accumulated more and more animals–goldfish, the longest living being Garfield, named after my favorite cartoon cat. There was Elvira the parakeet, dubbed so by my neighbor in the Navy who realized he couldn’t care for her when his ship went to sea, and rodents like Bud the Siamese hamster. All of these animals were my family members and I was fascinated by them.
While I loved the animals I lived with, my associations with animals were complex and at times conflicting. We lived in the south of Virginia. As a girl, I’d take to the woods to go hunting with my father. We never shot anything, but we did catch many a fish and crab together.
On the other hand, like many kids, I was averse to eating meat. If meat was on the menu, mine couldn’t resemble it. When the family had fried chicken, I had chicken nuggets. No bones, veins, or fat for me, please. If we had pepper steak, I’d have pepper steak without the steak. Deep down I just felt like there was something wrong about it, but like everyone else, I did what my family and society told me was okay, and I ate meat.
Flash forward to my senior year in college. A marketing professor left an indelible impression on me when instead of saying “meat” throughout the course, she referred instead to “dead animals.” At the time it wasn’t remarkable. Over time, though, each time I’d try to eat a ham sandwich, I’d think not “ham,” but “dead pig.” And I could no longer palate eating meat when I actually thought of it as coming from an individual animal rather than a package. I knew nothing about the scale of suffering animals endure on factory farms. I just knew I could no longer rightfully eat animals. I didn’t know any vegetarians at the time and my family was far from being vegetarian, but it was something I had to do.
Soon after, I started volunteering for an animal rights organization. I recall very clearly thinking I’d never be able to give up cheese. I ate a lot of cheese. But one day Erik Marcus, author of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, came to the office where I was volunteering to give a talk and sign books. I bought a copy of his book and read voraciously. It was clear to me after reading the book that it was my responsibility to go vegan. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Fourteen years later, I am more committed than ever to being a vegan. I work for an animal protection organization and focus on farm animal protection issues. I love to cook, experiment with new foods, and especially to eat! I am married to a wonderful vegan man who shares my passion for animal protection.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes knowledge can be a burden. Once you learn the degree to which animals are suffering every day, every minute, some in spaces so small they can barely move for their pathetic, short lives, you can’t forget that. And sometimes the responsibility weighs heavily on my shoulders to do everything I can do help eliminate their suffering.
But my life has a purpose. Not to get as rich as I can, to have a big house, or a fancy car. I live every day knowing that I’m working hard to make the world a better place. And while I wish the day would come when I no longer had a job because no one was cruel to animals, I feel very fortunate to be able to do the work that I’m doing. So to my college professor, who gave me some real food for thought, I’m eternally grateful.
Feeling inspired? Do you have a story to tell? Please read this post and learn how you can be part of the Vegan Testimonials Project. There are also some interviews about the project that you may enjoy. Kasey Minnis (@veggiemightee) interviewed me for This Dish is Veg. Ashley Flitter also interviewed me about the project on The Unintentional Vegan.