People often ask vegans why they made the choice they did, but often it’s a pretty loaded answer. I thought I’d share the details here about my personal journey for anyone who wants to know.
I have never liked meat, and went vegetarian when I was seven years old. Before that, I was forced to eat all my dinner and wasn’t allowed to get down from the table till I finished everything on my plate. I would chew on bits of chicken, or whatever, and just sit there for hours. I would basically chew my dinner for about two hours until I was told, “OK, now it’s bedtime”. Eventually, my mother got the message and stopped feeding me meat, thankfully.
It was even suggested when I was in foster care at age 10 that my vegetarianism was a manifestation of the trauma of being abused and separated from my mother. Vegetarianism was a very misunderstood concept until about five years ago, and still is by many people. When I learnt about calves being taken from their mothers for dairy later in my life, it really struck a chord with me. I can relate personally to those babies in a way others can’t.
Things changed when I was at university and I met Ed. He was a “nose-to-tail” chef who prided himself on sourcing the best quality animals he could, butchering them himself and using every part of the flesh with nothing going to waste. I began introducing the occasional chicken or seafood option into my diet – mainly because it made eating out more accessible. Ed was never a total “meat-head” though, he happily ate mostly vegetarian with me whenever we cooked at home. I lost my way at that time, caught up in my own suffering and blinding myself to the suffering of food on my plate.
Around 2012 or so, there was a chef in England called Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who was a farm-to-table chef, certainly not a vegan or vegetarian, but he had a television program about chickens and like how they’re farmed industrially. Hugh was encouraging people to avoid caged chicken and eat free-range.
Seeing the conditions of how chicken was produced on that program, I began to address my cognitive dissonance, realizing that even being vegetarian might not be that good because of the way birds are bred and farmed to produce eggs.
I actually went vegan though when I was working in Whistler Kids Ski School. I was the first cook cooking for eight hundred kids and ski instructors every day. It was the first time in my life I had ever cooked wieners! I looked at the labels of the food we were serving up to children every day, which read unappetizing and alarming ingredients like “reconstituted pork”. I wondered was the hell that was.
By the end of the season, I started going to a juice bar eating salads and smoothies, where I met all these super healthy vegan people that were just glowing. My job was soul destroying from feeding children so much crap. I spent my free time learning more about healthy eating and veganism.
When winter was over, because everyone at ski school had been eating cheap food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they were all fat, spotty and depressed. I saw two sides of the coin. I went vegan because I wanted to feel good about what I was putting in my body. Once you’re on your journey, you start learning more and all the movies were coming out: Cowspiracy, Earthlings, Forks over Knives, Food Choices, to name a few.
I had woken up to all of the aspects of animal agriculture, environmentalism and health, and was a lot more knowledgeable than I ever was as a vegetarian. If you identify with the term “vegan”, then it’s a lifestyle choice and it’s an ethical one. There is no way that you can make a profit from the suffering of animals. That will surely lead to more suffering for you.