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My journey with the animal liberation movement began almost a decade ago, at the tender age of nine or ten. I had not yet been exposed to what animal cruelty really is, but I somehow knew that something wasn’t right in the way we fed ourselves. My curious, naïve mind couldn’t understand why we could care so much for our pet dogs, and could then backtrack and eat a pig. What had defined the line between what was right to eat and what wasn’t? After learning about the sad reality of the slaughter process from my brother, I decided to never eat meat again. I was comfortable as a vegetarian; I felt that it made me unique among my peers, helped me to stand out from the middle school crowd in the best way possible.
All was well until I turned fifteen and took a trip to San Francisco. During my time there, I was introduced to the concept of “veganism.” The thoughts going through my mind were: “what is that? That word sounds weird. How will I survive without cheese? This is too extreme.” Little did I know that, a couple of vegan restaurants and slaughterhouse documentaries later, I would return to my parents as a full-fledged vegan. My poor parents had no idea what veganism was. All that seemed to come out of my mouth for the next couple weeks were things like: “No, mom, I don’t eat cheese. Nope, milk is off the table too. No! I no longer eat eggs!” Eventually, they accepted and embraced my new lifestyle choice.
But the real challenge came when we took a month-long vacation to visit our family in Spain. I remember that the first thing that I saw when I walked into my grandmother’s kitchen was a skinned rabbit, which was being marinated for dinner: not exactly an encouraging first impression. After answering dozens of questions ranging from “what’s the point if the animal is already dead?” to “aren’t you going to die without protein?” everyone seemed to adapt to their weird, tree-hugging family member. I have never been one to force my opinions onto others, no matter how upset it makes me to watch everyone eat duck for Christmas dinner or to see my grandmother order escargot on my birthday. I learned to embrace such differences in culture and actually enjoy educating people about my peaceful, healthy lifestyle.
Currently, I am a raw vegan. In case you don’t know (don’t worry, most people don’t), a raw vegan is one who only eats fruits and raw vegetables. I’m looking forward to my family vacation this winter to see how everyone will react. I know that there will be many more questions and new allegations of impending death, but I will remain calm, factual, and willing to let everyone see and honestly debate what I am up to.
Following a vegan lifestyle has created a deep bond between me and the world of nature, a bond that I am incredibly proud of. I have become more compassionate, my mind is crystal clear, and I more physically energetic than I have ever felt before (not a bad thing during this busy college application season). The connection I have formed with animals, through my time spent at animal sanctuaries and researching slaughterhouse practices, has allowed me to better understand our behaviors as human beings. I don’t blame the human race for what it does to animals, because our practices have been brought about by traditions that are as old as civilization itself. I have made it one of my life goals to spread my findings in a sensitive, empowering way. I hope that by informing people, and allowing them to make their own decisions, I will inspire the sort of change that will make all beings live healthier, more meaningful lives.
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