At three years old, I first questioned the ethics of eating animals (in a way that a three-year-old can). By ten I went vegetarian.
For the next 15 years, I was happy about my choice and didn’t see the need to do anything else. It doesn’t hurt hens and cows to eat their eggs and milk (or so I thought), and leather is just a byproduct of the meat industry, so why not wear it?
I’d met a couple of vegans, but I thought they were extreme. I remember going on a picnic with friends, one of whom had a vegan girlfriend. I made a salad and put cheese on the side so she could eat the salad and others could add cheese later. How thoughtful of me!
I’m happy she didn’t judge. She did, however, recommend a book that changed my life: Diet for a New America, by John Robbins. Robbins was next in line to run the Baskin-Robbins empire and walked away from it all to promote a plant-based diet.
He wasn’t the son of a cattle rancher. It was just ice cream! And I didn’t think cows minded if we used the milk they “gave” us. So I dove into the book to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t expect to change my lifestyle.
The book opened my eyes to the horrors of factory farming, the cruelty chickens and dairy cows endure to produce eggs and milk. Then there was the environmental impact of eating meat, and the heath aspects of veganism.
I switched to soy milk that day, and dropped eggs from my diet. Cheese was harder to give up, and I indulged occasionally. I still wore leather and hung on to my “byproduct” story.
But when I moved to the US a couple of years later, I wiped the slate clean and started fresh–as a full-fledged vegan. Partly because it was a natural turning point and a chance to redefine myself. But I also chose the move as a time to switch because I’d been reading up on rBGH (bovine growth hormone). Canada hadn’t approved it but it was given to dairy cows in the States. So cheese was off the plate.
I also realized that leather is a big part of the meat industry. A big, money-making part. So I started shopping for leather-free shoes. Turns out, there’s no shortage of options! Until recently, I still bought leather shoes at thrift stores, but I’ve stopped that too.
Being vegan is about knowing the truth, being aware, and making a difference. Every time I shop, I vote with my dollars. It truly is a journey. And it’s a joyful one! I absolutely love being vegan. It’s been 13 years now and I’ll never go back. I’m healthy and happy and I still smile every time I eat a delicious, colorful vegan meal.
It’s a peaceful, guilt-free way to live. I’ve never felt restricted. If anything, it’s a fun challenge. Good chefs will make special meals, no matter where I travel, I can find a bite to eat, and my kitchen is a fun place to be. I don’t buy fur, leather, wool, feather (including down) or silk, but I don’t miss a thing. For every one thing I’ve given up, I’ve found three amazing alternatives.
I’ve also connected with a lot of vegans (on Facebook, at work, and through groups like NARN). For people who know the cruel realities of the world, they’re an upbeat bunch. Smart, funny, and fun to be around–and they’re all making a difference in the world.
To quote the slogan on my new tote bag, The future is vegan! Care to join me?