Okay so here is how I came to be vegan…
I’m originally from central Illinois. Specifically I grew up in a rural area with expansive farmland that my family has worked since the 1800’s. My childhood was filled with nature and animals. I have loved animals my entire life. As a child, like a lot of little girls, I wanted to become a veterinarian. The family pets we had included birds, dogs, cats, rabbits, fish…on and on. We were also surrounded by cows, pigs and horses in the farms all around us. As a high schooler I decided to become vegetarian after stumbling upon a magazine called Animal Voice. It was a shock to me to see the graphic photos of animal abuse in science, farms/fisheries, domestic life, and pet stores. After all, I had been reading Ranger Rick for most of my childhood! Through the years after that, I fluctuated between a vegetarian and an omnivorous diet.
In 2008 I was working on a PhD and had gone back to an omnivorous diet. Then, in February of that year an undercover video was released to the public showing the horrific treatment of downed cows at a California slaughterhouse resulting in a massive recall of beef. Downed cows are those that are too sick or injured to walk. They are often “coaxed” to get up by beating or electrocution so that they aren’t wasted and can still be put in the food system. (By the way these are the animals that often end up in government subsidized food programs for schools and prisons.) The video was horrifying. I had seen images like this before, but at that point I felt that enough was enough. I was disgusted with what the meat industry was getting away with. I was 30 years old, living in rural Illinois, and consuming the kinds of foods that most of America was consuming. That was when I decided again, and with more conviction than ever before, to be vegetarian.
The next moment in my life that motivated me to take my decision to a new stage happened in October of 2009. I went to a presentation of the film A Peaceable Kingdom at the UCLA campus. The film was about factory farms and the individuals who are trying to make a difference for those animals. It highlighted the efforts of a woman named Lorri Houston and a man named Gene Bauer who spearheaded the farmed animal sanctuary movement in the United States in 1986. After watching the film and talking with some of the vegan advocates who were there that day, I decided to become vegan myself. One of the main factors for this was coming to understand the key connection between the meat industry and the dairy industry. I always justified consuming dairy because gathering milk didn’t require killing the cow. After all, a cow naturally produces milk, right? But I hadn’t connected the dots to completion. Because a cow only produces milk after giving birth to a calf. And where to all those calves end up? They are removed from their mother when they are just hours or days old and are crated and chained in dark warehouses until they are slaughtered for veal. Again, enough was enough for me. It was time to opt out of the system.
The change was relatively easy. There I was, just four months after my relocation to L.A. and I had already noticed all the vegan options and resources that surrounded me. There was an intact vegan community in the city and plenty of vegan restaurants and shops, not to mention the endless information available on the Internet. Now it is 2 years later and I my conviction hasn’t faltered. On the contrary, it has grown! I have entered into a growing movement of animal advocacy and have settled into a passion that was there since my childhood. For me, fighting for the rights of the voiceless animals that we share this earth with has been a calling that was waiting for me to respond. It is a purpose that makes me feel more whole…more like the person I was designed to be. In a later entry, I will describe the reasons I continue to be vegan. For those reasons have expanded and they propel me on.
As an adult, I realize the power that each of us has to drive the movements and principles that we believe in. We can all have an impact in this world, but our lives are very short and each small step not taken is change not made. So I want to take one small step after another. My goal has been to do away with inactivity. I want each day to include something that I am doing for animals. Sometimes the effort might be simply reading a book chapter to educate myself; sometimes it may be something larger. But I want each day to find me in the midst of an effort. Each day of course I will know that my diet is helping to deny the meat, dairy, egg and poultry industry. But at this point, a vegan diet has become second nature…it is not a struggle and there are new challenges to take on. I am not a crusader. I am a normal person. And I firmly believe that my actions, like yours, are making a very real difference.