I was five years old when my teacher told me it was wrong to eat McDonald’s.
I can’t remember what she said word for word, but it was enough for me to go home and tell my mother I didn’t want to eat animals anymore. Knowing what an effort it was to get me to eat vegetables, my mother was not happy and pointed out that if I would no longer eat Turkey Drummers, gammon, Fish Fingers and sausages, all that left me with was essentially carrots, peas and chips. I believe I lasted about a day before I resigned myself to vegetarianism being an unrealistic endeavour.
I grew up considering myself as an ‘animal lover’. I was obsessed with learning about other species. All my time was spent doing something to do with animals. I only enjoyed cartoons with animal characters. I wasn’t very interested in human dolls; instead choosing to play with My Little Pony, Care Bears and Littlest Pet Shop in the 80s and 90s. I endlessly begged my parents for pets of all shapes and sizes and would wake up crying in the night that my fish tank was dirty and that they might be suffering. I was a sensitive child. I tried to nurse injured insects back to health and left the house with handfuls full of sugar to feed to ant colonies.
But whilst I agonised over syringe-feeding orphaned wood mice and rescued injured pigeons from the road, day after day I wouldn’t give it a second thought to then eating an animal for my next meal. It was just something everyone did. It was normal. Necessary.
It was another fifteen years before I would even question it again. The documentary Earthlings was released in 2005, and since I already watched every documentary about animals I could find (namely anything by David Attenborough), it was inevitable that I would see it. Earthlings absolutely changed my worldview beyond all recognition. I had no idea such evil could ever exist on such a systematic scale with up to three trillion animals killed by humans every single year for profit. I learned that animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change, ocean dead zones, deforestation and species extinction. I had been tricked my entire life into supporting the killings of those I claimed to love. I learned that every single health organisation in the world states that having a diet free from animals’ dead bodies or their bodily fluids can be healthy at all stages of life. The only reason we continue, as far as I could see, was for the sake of taste, habit, tradition and convenience. Why did I accept the reality of cows being hung upside down and stabbed in the throat to bleed out for burgers, but considered the thought of the same thing being done to any cat as abhorrent? My lifelong brainwashing was starting to come undone.
It was nine months before I started eating meat again. For nine months I had no idea what I was doing when it came to a vegetarian diet. For some reason, the fact the dairy and egg industries are worse than the meat industry had completely escaped me at the time and I covered most vegetables in melted cheese. I found it easy to revert back to cognitive dissonance at will, eating meat off of friend’s and family’s plates so I could taste flesh without directly supporting murder financially. I didn’t know anyone else who had made any kind of connection as to why we shouldn’t use animals as we pleased. It felt hopeless and I didn’t believe there would ever be any kind of change. I became depressed. It was like waking up in a nightmare and wanting to get back to sleep. Everything was backwards. So I tried to forget.
It was another ten years before I even let my mind revisit the topic. For a decade I described myself as a ‘guilty meat eater’, almost certain that I was happier trying to force myself into ignorance. My school friend Gemma had been having thyroid issues and had been on a plant based diet for a year or two with success. I was amazed that it was not only possible, but that she was healthier for it. The only exposure to veganism up until that point, had been to the reputation of vegans being pale, sickly and weak individuals. Eventually Gemma’s fiance Paul, who some of you may now know as Hench Herbivore, also started a plant based diet. I asked them so many questions. Where do you get your protein? What about iron? Apparently there’s this thing called B12? What do you eat? Aren’t humans omnivores? Don’t we need calcium in cows’ milk? (For the answers to all these frequently asked questions click here). To this day I remember how patient they were with me. Not once did they utter a single hint of frustration and I can’t thank them enough for that.
I never intended on going vegan. I simply thought I would try it out for 22 days and see how I felt. But after two weeks in I knew it was for life. I now had support and knew others that could help with cooking tips and advice, where to shop and and how to make new recipes. What I never realised until I tried it, was how… liberating it is to be able to live in accordance with your own values. My beliefs have never changed, the only difference is that my actions now align with them.
Now I experience so much that I never would have tried otherwise. I love finding new cruelty free cleaning products to use. I visit animal sanctuaries instead of zoos. I celebrate when I discover new cosmetics that aren’t tested on animals. I now experiment with cooking and baking and share treats with friends to promote the realisation that no animals have to die for them.
I am now the person I always should have been.
The post How I Realised That Being a ‘Meat-Eating Animal Lover’ was an Oxymoron and Went Vegan appeared first on Anticarnist.