My journey to compassion began in 2009 when we had our dogs Elsa and Cleopatra who were my source of inspiration, and life as I knew it, completely changed thereon. I suddenly found myself devastated after reading about the dog meat industry and I imagined my dogs in one of those awful cages, boiled alive and I kept thinking about how disgusting and awful these people were and how I would never let anyone ever hurt my girls. This made me feel like a hypocrite and a speciesist for loving my dogs, but eating other species of animals, with absolutely no remorse or guilt.
Now, I was the kind of person who could eat meat with every meal and it was also quite a staple at our house. However, one day, my mum made us chicken nuggets and I remember picking it up and then refusing to eat it because I could no longer lie to myself after knowing that this nugget was a life with a heart, who had a family and their right to live was taken away from them because of me. It didn’t look like a nugget anymore, but I envisioned an actual dead animal. When I announced that I turned vegetarian, no one believed that I could actually stick to it because I loved meat and everyone called it a phase (probably because I was just 13 years old) but I made it very clear that my body isn’t a graveyard and I would ever eat animals ever again.
During this time, I tried to watch documentaries and followed activists that exposed these industries. It was so hard to watch that I could barely keep my eyes and ears open because the sights and the screams of the animals left me devastated. I knew in my heart that if something was gruesome to watch, then I ought to not contribute to it. When you look into their eyes you can see them suffering with anxiety, fear, and immense pain while they sense what is in store for them. I could not fathom how they could merely be treated as a number. Can you imagine the day of your execution is decided on the day you are born? It was shocking that we could put a price tag on a priceless life.
I also started working for the welfare of stray animals (rescue and adoptions) and my sister who was already vegan once mentioned how it was an irony that I rescued dogs, but drank cow’s milk when the dairy industry is probably just as bad, if not any worse than the meat industry. I constantly justified that it was okay and I am doing my bit by being a vegetarian and rescuing other animals, although it made me feel awfully guilty. I joined several vegan groups to connect with other vegans to see what they eat in a day and the vegan products available in the market. I again had a moment where I was about to relish a chocolate donut that was right in front of me and I overheard a video of the deadly dairy industry and I knew that I could not go on any longer contributing to their suffering and decided that I would be vegan from that day on.
Personally, I did not set a date or plan too much, but it was just about that one moment where I realised I have been so ignorant and oblivious to what was happening in the dairy industry and it all made sense when I started questioning the process of how milk is obtained. I felt like I was living a lie before going vegan, because all my life I would never condone everything that goes on in the industry but I unknowingly took part in it. There is no ethical way of consuming animal derived products.
“My Life Completely Changed”
After I went vegan, my life completely changed- I suddenly found myself cooking, baking and experimenting with plant based ingredients which is something I would have never done and part of this started because vegan products were not as accessible in stores as it is today. Also, back then vegan food was associated with eating greens and in an attempt to debunk that myth, I found my passion and a potential career by extensively studying vegan nutrition and curating vegan recipes. This gave me an insight into the health benefits of following a plant based diet which was an unexpected added bonus. Consequently, I stumbled upon the documentary called ‘cowspiracy’ which talks about the environmental benefits of veganism as factory farming is the largest contributor of greenhouse emissions. This left me wanting to do more than just saving animals but also being very conscious of my plastic use and reducing the overall damage I do to the environment. In summary, there will never be an end to learning and there is always room for improvement and when we keep an open mind, we learn more and can emulate these practices in our lives which is why veganism is a journey and not a destination. You never know who could inspire through your journey and quite often I have people messaging me to say that they are trying to make the switch or they have gone vegan because of a conversation we shared, which is extremely rewarding and motivating to keep doing what I do especially on days when it seems like a never ending battle with the millions of animals being slaughtered each day. In any case, the fight will stay strong until every cage is empty and I hope you can get a companion along to join you on your journey!
PS- I have been extremely fortunate to have a very supportive family who completely transitioned to a vegan lifestyle although some days were hard in the beginning, please never give up and of course to my sister who blatantly called me out but helped me realise the truth. I had a lovely friend who helped me with my rescues and then went vegan with me and we spent a lot of time doing activism together. Although my dogs are no more, I am so honoured to have had them in my life and they have been my source of inspiration.
What does it mean to be vegan?
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose as far as possible and practicable. This entails, abstaining from animal derived foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, honey as well as not using animal derived clothing such as leather and fur, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment. Veganism is not a diet but a lifestyle with compassion being the key reason for this transition. Initially, it can seem quite daunting looking at the never ending list of things to avoid but often the idea of this lifestyle change is a lot scarier than actually doing it. Personally, I was quite afraid of making the switch and kept convincing myself that I was doing my bit by being vegetarian however, when I went vegan I realised how easy it was once you convince yourself to take the plunge and go for it!
What is wrong about eating meat dairy and eggs?
The animals raised for meat, dairy and eggs are kept in horrific conditions where they are confined in overcrowded areas/cages with little or no room to move, along with their bodily waste all over, making their environment a living nightmare. These animals suffer from multiple injuries, illnesses, cuts, bruises and broken bones that are often left untreated. They are slaughtered in front of their companions causing them anxiety and mental trauma even before their actual death. There is no ethical way to take someone’s life when they have the will to live and have feelings just like you and I.
How do you stay motivated?
There is a massive difference between being on a ‘diet’ where you might have a cheat day or stray due to the temptation and lack of motivation, but veganism is a ‘lifestyle’ that aligns your actions with your core values and beliefs but for this to happen, it is very essential for you to familiarise yourself with the benefits of this lifestyle and the effects animal derived products have on the environment, the animals and your health. Once you open your eyes to learn the truth, it is nearly impossible to go back to your old ways. With that being said, if you make a mistake and have a little slip up, that’s alright. We have all unknowingly eaten something especially when you just transition but it’s important to remember that it was not intentional and don’t let that demotivate your effort. It is also very normal to feel tempted when you just transition but try and remind yourself why you’re doing it, if you happen to give in, be motivated and try again! If you happen to feel lonely in your journey try and connect with other vegans, attend outreach programmes, potlucks, vegan events or even online challenges. Please feel free to reach out when you feel stuck.
What are the benefits of going vegan?
There is a plethora of reasons for how veganism can be beneficial-ethical reasons, health benefits, less stress on the environment, efficient ways to use our resources, and many more. However, there are so many unique reasons someone might choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle and when thinking about it, it is essential to ponder upon your moral and core reasons why you have chosen this lifestyle and connecting with the cause. It also made me feel mentally better knowing that the food I eat is not involved in destroying families, raping animals, murdering them and no one cried and fought for their life to be on my plate.
Plants feel pain too?
This is the most common statement you will hear once you go vegan and many people will ask you this either out of curiosity or to demean your efforts. Yes, plants are living beings but since they lack a central nervous system they do not feel pain. Zero non-violence is nearly impossible but our goal is to simply cause the least violence we possibly can. In addition to this, a tonne of plants and grains are being fed to the cattle for their survival and after they are slaughtered and served as meat, they are eaten with other side dishes made with more plants which is overall consuming more resources.
Why did I choose to become an animal rights activist?
It was always a very uncomfortable sight to watch animals being treated like mere objects even prior to going vegan but once I did my research and watched documentaries to educate myself more about the industry, I was absolutely flabbergasted to learn the truth. I experienced a wide range of emotions during this time but often felt shocked knowing how people could even treat our fellow earthlings like the way they do which made me depressed, angry and occasionally aggressive. Then one day I realised most people are simply unaware of the reality and I need to be the one to expose the truth which helped me channel my emotions into activism. If I manage to even make one person change or even reduce their consumption of animal products, it means one life has been saved and that one life is still a LIFE! If we all just saved that one life, we are collectively making a big difference. Never underestimate the power of one!
Is eating animal products a personal choice?
Eating animal products cannot be considered a personal choice when there is a victim involved in that choice made. For instance, the dairy industry artificially inseminates the cow(euphemism for rape) in order for her to give birth a calf and produce milk. If she gives birth to a male who is considered a waste/burden to the dairy industry, he is either left to die or sold to the meat industry while the female is made to live the very same life like the mother and is eventually sent to slaughter when she is not profitable. In addition to this, the cow is injected with several antibiotics and hormones which in turn affects the normal functioning of the human body making them more susceptible to problems such as PCOS, gynecomastia, type 2 diabetes, antibiotic resistance and many other lifestyle problems. The cow produces milk only for her young one, just as a dog produces milk for her puppies, thereby making humans the only species that drink milk way into adulthood, that too of another species. However, there are many plant based milk brands available in the market that are cruelty free and healthier for consumption.
If you do feel inclined towards this lifestyle and wish to make an informed choice you can watch the following documentaries:
1) Ethics- Earthlings, Dominion Deadly dairy, cruel chicken production in India, 1-minute egg truth.
2) Health- What the health, The game changers.
3) Environment- Cowspiracy, Seaspriracy.
If you’re in need of any assistance making this transition, please feel free to reach out to me @rach22elsacleo or email [email protected] I am so grateful that I had people help me through my journey and I would love to give back in any way that I can.
Let me know your thoughts on veganism in the comments and if you would like to embark on this journey.