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!
In the early 1980′s, I decided that I could no longer eat animals, so I cut out the flesh and fish and gradually stopped eating eggs as often.
On Boxing Day in 1983, I went on my first Hunt Sab (this means sabotaging a fox hunt by spraying the area they’d hunt for foxes in with a strong smelling scent and trying to prevent them from getting a kill). On the way back in the van after a long, cold and wet day, I asked if anyone wanted one of my sandwiches. “What’s in them?” “Cheese and tomato.” “No thanks, we’re vegans.” This was my introduction to veganism. Yes, the cheese was vegetarian but WHY wouldn’t they eat it. I asked, and as I found out, there was more to compassion than just giving up eating animals. Within a few weeks I’d gone vegan.
Back then, in the UK, it was fairly hard to be vegan. You couldn’t buy ready-made foods or margarine unless you shopped at a specialist health food store, and if you ate out it meant a lot of explanation. Consequently, the price of food was expensive AND I didn’t eat out for many years to avoid the having to explain what I didn’t eat…again. I can even recall making my own soya milk and yoghurt back then.
So, here I am nearly 30 years later, and seeing more and more food ever more easily available, and even more people who know just what a vegan is. Even better is that now I’m no longer alone – I’m not the only vegan in the village, and I now know vegans that are not in the Animal Rights movement, which was back then mostly how we got to know each other.
I’ve gone from the confrontational AR activist when I first became vegan, to the local contact for the Vegan Society as I’ve maybe mellowed, progressed, and learned that we don’t achieve as much by striking at the output but by striking at the underlying belief system. A broken window can be replaced, a rescued animal will be replaced, but a change of diet due to enlightenment and knowledge cannot be replaced or changed. We change the world by changing ourselves, and in that process, we become agents of change for the whole world.
I can now go to a restaurant and get food with ease. I can buy things to eat from my local supermarket, I can get animal-free, non-tested items from the drug store, and I even see advertising of vegan items in mainstream magazines and on TV. A lot has changed in this time. A lot more will change again. What was a leap of faith back then has become my life, my belief. It has gone from solely animal-rights based to encompass eco-activism, the environmental impact of our diet, the health aspect, and now my main focal point is the spiritual aspect of the vegan choice of lifestyle.
One day we will look back on this time as the setting of the foundations to a better world. I’m glad I was there and that I’m still here.
I am so glad to have connected with Neil and to share his story. I mean, in 1983 I had no awareness of animal rights issues and he was sabotaging fox hunts. To quote my friend Gordon, Neil is just ‘epic’. Neil, you are right about looking back on this time as setting the foundations and you are a great part of that story.
You can follow Neil on twitter @cornwallcats.
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. And I just finished an interview with Jamessina on Jamessina.com.