I am vegan. In other words, I do not eat animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey, wear animal fibers and skins, use products tested on animals, or visit places that use animals for entertainment.
But it was not always that way. Six months ago, I made the commitment to live vegan. In this post, I will share the story of how and why I went vegan. It is a very personal story and was difficult to write, but I hope that if you are interested in going vegan, this helps you put your heart and mind in the right place.
I will begin my vegan story in November of 2013, before the idea of going vegan had even entered my mind. My parents were divorced and my sister and I were caught in the middle of a custody battle. I hated that, just because I was a minor, I had no say in what was happening to me. The judges, lawyers, and psychologists who did not know me at all had more power over my life than I did. And no matter what I said or did, I was always told the same thing: I had no choice.
Through these hard times, I turned to music. In February 2014, I started listening to The Agonist, a metal band fronted by Alissa White-Gluz. I loved listening to bands with a strong female vocalist because it made me feel empowered, like for a second my life was in my own hands again.
In addition to being a vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz is a passionate vegan and animal rights activist. Her passion soon began to rub off on me. I looked up to her and decided I wanted to be vegan too someday.
During the spring and summer of 2014, I began to realize that eating animals was wrong. I would feel so guilty every time I ate or prepared meat. But I was afraid to talk to my family about going vegetarian or vegan. I figured I would wait until I went to college that fall to make the change.
But my guilt continued to grow. I began to feel nauseous every time I ate meat and tried to stop. I would cook dinner for my family, eat the side dishes, and then put the meat away once my family had left.
All the while, I was in a constant mental battle with myself, fighting against what I knew was right. What if the animals died painlessly? What if I only ate meat that was hunted, so they weren’t being killed in a slaughterhouse? But deep down, I began to realize that none of the excuses I came up with could justify killing animals.
Then, I had a dream that changed everything. In my dream, I was in a forest with sunlight shining through the green leaves. I saw a deer in the trees. The deer was so detailed, that I could see the sunlight shining through her ears and the delicate veins running through them. She was not just an animal. She was someone.
But behind her, I saw a hunter.
In that moment, animal rights became real to me. I realized that animals have their own lives, families, futures, hopes, and dreams and do not want to die. They deserve to live out their lives free from harm, just like people do. They are not objects here for us to use. They exist for their own purposes. I realized that I should not gain my nourishment from someone else’s pain and suffering if I do not have to.
I still felt shy about talking to my family, so on July 17, 2014, I wrote my family a note about my decision to stop eating meat. They were very supportive and understanding of my lifestyle change. My mom even bought tofu and tempeh for me.
But after doing research on the dairy and egg industry, it quickly became obvious that a vegetarian lifestyle was far from cruelty-free. So I decided to go vegan. July 18, 2014, 6 months ago from today, was my first day vegan.
Since then, animal rights has become my passion. I know with all my heart that animals deserve to live free from harm, usage, and exploitation, and I will never give up until they are free.
After I started college, my painful custody battle finally came to an end. I now use my experiences to strengthen my empathy for animals. Their suffering is a thousand times worse than mine, with no freedom in sight. And until the world hears their voice, I will speak for them:
Please, go vegan. I know that you care about animals, and that you could never hurt one with your own hands. I know that it is difficult to unlearn the idea that animals are here for humans to use. I know that making such a big lifestyle change is scary. But it is beyond worth it.
Living vegan means that the hundreds of animals you use and consume each year do not have to suffer any longer.
It means that mother cows get to feed and nurture their calves instead of being separated at birth.
It means that male chicks get a chance at life instead of being ground up alive by the egg industry.
It means that pigs get the opportunity to show their intelligence and personality instead of becoming a meal.
To you, choosing between soy milk and dairy milk, a veggie burger and a meat burger, does not seem like a big deal. But to them, it means life or death.
It does not take a special person to be vegan. You don’t have to be an animal lover or health fanatic. I was just an ordinary person who decided to care. And I know you can do it too. All it takes is an open mind and a compassionate heart.