We have a small hobby farm with a flock of chickens, a pet goat, a pet sheep and 4 guinea pigs. We also have 2 small dogs, a cat and 2 fish. We consider ourselves an animal loving family and always treat our animals with love, care and respect. When our hens stop laying eggs, we never kill them or send them to market. We allow them to live out their natural lives on our 5-acres of pasture. I can clearly see from my day to day contact with our farmyard animals that they are essentially no different to our domestic pets. The goat, for instance, loves to play and jump around and get up to mischief. Zoe follows me around and comes to be petted when I am outside. If it were possible, she would sit on my lap! She stands at our kitchen window asking for treats and watching everything we do. It is clear that she loves us in her own way.
Upon completion of my training as a teacher and college lecturer, my husband and I moved to a house in the country where sheep and lambs would come right up to our perimeter fence. We enjoyed watching the lambs play and my husband announced that he no longer wished to eat lamb. So, I followed suit and didn't buy any more lamb. You might think that this would have logically progressed to us feeling the same way about eating other animals but it didn't.
My Journey Towards Veganism
~ Gary Yourofsky
So, knowing that my son was doing the right thing by becoming a vegetarian, I wanted to follow his lead. However, it took me 3 months to gradually wean myself off meat. You see, I enjoyed eating meat. I had never had any problems with digestion; I was not over weight and had no health problems. So there were no external factors to motivate me with this turnaround. It was an internal conviction that it was essentially wrong to eat animals who could easily be my friends just like my own farmyard pets. I became a fully fledged vegetarian in the summer of 2013 or so I thought!
At this time I did a little research on the internet about vegetarianism and noticed that some people went a step further and followed a vegan diet. I briefly looked into the vegan diet but, as soon as I found out that some of these people take supplements for vitamin B12, I dismissed it instantly. As I instinctively knew it could not be a healthy diet if one had to take pills.
Fortunately, we have an organic farm so I am able to grow many salad items and vegetables. This helps to keep down the cost of purchasing them all at the store. Growing them myself also means that I can just pick a few leaves from a growing lettuce rather than pick the whole lettuce and, in this way, extend its growing period. I can also dig up root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots and rinse them without being over sanitary, thus leaving a few grains of soil on the skins as I have learned that vitamin B12 is in the soil. I would highly recommend that you grow your own food to the extent that your circumstances allow.
It was the summer of 2015 and I had given up consuming meat and dairy. Unlike when I gave up meat 2 years earlier, I did feel quite different. I felt much lighter even though I didn't dramatically lose weight; the light feeling was an internal one which is difficult to describe.
It is not your right - based on YOUR traditions, YOUR customs and YOUR habits - to deny animals THEIR freedom so you can harm them, enslave them and kill them. That's not what rights are about. That's injustice. There is no counter-argument to veganism. Accept it. Apologize for the way you've been living.
Make amends and move forward.
Presh Arts - Vegan Coach
My vegetarian son went vegan along with me. He, too, had the feeling that it was the right thing to do but my husband and daughter considered that we were taking things to the extreme and said they had no intention of joining us.
The day arrived in June 2015, when I made the firm decision to give up dairy products. I was surprised to learn that there were so many alternatives to cow's milk, such as almond, rice, soy and coconut milk and they all tasted good. It was a revelation and I wondered why I had never considered these alternatives previously. Upon further investigation I discovered that this is due to the massive push by the dairy industry in the media and the backing of governments and huge corporations which keep dairy products at both the store front and the forefront of our minds.
Giving up cow's milk, yoghurt, butter and cheese also means giving up all products made with these items such as cakes, cookies, pizzas and quiche. Several times I accidentally bought products containing dairy and I soon learned that I needed to read labels very carefully. It quickly became clear that I was going to have to reinvent myself as a chef. So many products were no longer on my shopping list, so I had to find alternatives. I didn't want to go the junk vegan route, so I limited processed foods and started to buy huge quantities of organic fruit and vegetables, lots of different types of nuts, seeds, avocados and prepared my own sprouts. Instead of lasagna, I had nut roast and instead of pizza, I had hearty vegetable soups and jacket potatoes. Strangely enough, I didn't miss dairy products, not even cheese which I have heard many people have difficulty giving up.
My daughter made me a guinea pig cage with a large run in her woodwork class at school. I wanted a large run so they could enjoy living in a spacious and safe outdoors environment. I've always thought that the recommended space for animals was too small. The housing turned out to be so large that it could actually take 6 guinea pigs. So, when I saw a local advert requesting a good home for a guinea pig, I quickly responded and Mumzie was added to the clan.
I had never seen or even heard about the films and documentaries about factory farming. When you don’t follow the latest food fads and diets, you are simply not aware of what is going on. I also do not know any other vegans so information was never garnered via personal contact.
Continuing my investigation into veganism and realizing that the dreaded problem of vitamin B12 was now upon me. I researched extensively into how I could ensure that my son and I were getting enough of this vitamin. I learned that it is a bacterium in the soil and this is why it is in animal products. I am vehemently against taking pills and potions so I had to find another way to ensure we were getting enough of this vitamin. I discovered that the almond milk I was drinking was fortified with B12 and if I drank 250ml/day I would be getting 50% of my recommended daily amount. I found my other 50% in one half tablespoon of Red Star nutritional yeast which I purchase from the health food store. I sprinkle this on my vegetables and in my soups but I don't heat it up since this damages the vitamin. I am happy to have found these fortified sources, along with others, as I believe integrating the vitamin with the food helps with its absorption. This vitamin is also in the skins of bananas, marmite spread and trace amounts in vegetables, the latter possibly coming from soil residues on the plants. If only this had been made clear to me when I briefly looked at veganism in 2013 after the commencement of my journey with vegetarianism as I might have turned vegan 2 years earlier but, as the saying goes, "The teacher arrives when the student is ready".
I have been on the spiritual path most of my life but my search for ultimate Truth has intensified over the past few years, growing ever more deeply since I left organized religion in 2007. So, it is my assumption that these internal promptings towards making changes in my diet were of a spiritual nature. If find it astounding that, despite reading numerous books on spirituality and listening to thousands of sermons and spiritual talks, it had never been pointed out that meat eating was wrong and is actually a breach of the 5th commandment "Thou shalt not kill".
Then, around about May 2015, I began to feel more and more uneasy about consuming dairy products. There was nothing external to make me feel like this; it was purely an internal stirring. I had always been slightly uneasy about drinking milk since it seemed to me that a cow's milk was really intended for its calf. However, I thought that if I had just a little it would be OK. So, I didn't generally have cereals and I didn't always take it in my drinks. I would have a cappuccino only as a rare treat and I would make my hot chocolate drink with water and just top it up with a little milk rather than make it with all milk. In addition, I always bought organic milk, even though it cost a lot more, believing it was the healthiest milk I could obtain. I figured at least these cows had access to organic pasture and organic feed and were not subject to hormone injections and antibiotics. However, my conviction grew that, organic or non-organic, cow's milk is decidedly unsuitable for humans.
I realized, of course, that all milk products would have to be involved in any decision to cut out dairy. I loved the taste of butter and enjoyed cheese and yoghurt, so this was going to be a big step. However, this stirring within was not going away - it just grew stronger to the point where I knew I had to stop consuming dairy products, no matter how difficult it might be. I hadn't, at this point, seen any videos or read any books about veganism depicting the horrors of factory farming methods, so this aspect of it didn't come into the equation.
That is not the whole story though because, being a wife and mother, there are close family members who are keenly affected by my decision to turn vegan. As previously mentioned my husband and teenage daughter are not in accord with my eating habits and this poses problems for me as the chief cook. I thought I would prepare 2 different meals and buy 2 different types of food. I would buy the meat and dairy for my husband and daughter and the vegan items for myself and my son. However, I soon discovered that this was not an easy decision to put into practice. When I went to the grocery store and stood in front of the meat counter it hurt my heart to pick up the animal flesh, put it into my basket and purchase it and the same thing with the dairy products. After a couple of times, I simply couldn't face it anymore. I told my husband about the difficulty and he reluctantly said that he would do his own shopping. It didn't feel comfortable as he had never had to do his own shopping before. Now, things have to change. I know I cannot force him or my daughter into going vegetarian or vegan; it has to be an internal thing. Right now the milk in the fridge has run dry, we have no meat and we are down to the last portion of cheese. What are my husband and daughter going to do? This next chapter looks like being something of a roller coaster so I'm bracing myself for the ride.
I am blessed with 3 beautiful children and when my youngest son turned 16, he announced that he didn't want to eat meat anymore. He wanted to become a vegetarian. I, and the other members of the family, saw this as a teenage fad which probably wouldn't last. I now realize that I was sub-consciously following the lead given to me by my parents when I was a child by ignoring his feelings on this matter. We were proved right though as, after just a couple of days, he promptly returned to eating meat. However, the desire to become a vegetarian never left him and 2 years later, shortly after his high school graduation, he went vegetarian over night and never looked back. In my heart I knew he was doing the right thing.
We were horrified by what Dr Tuttle taught us about factory farming methods, the terrors of the slaughterhouse and the unbelievable anguish and pain that farm animals suffer. Our eyes were opened and it wasn't a pretty sight! All this was going on and we hadn't known anything about it - how could that possibly be? In my naivety I thought that baby calves remained with their mothers whilst they were nursing and that the animals were treated with care and respect. I had wrongly assumed that farm animals were treated with tender loving care and, when it came their turn to go to market, they were killed in the most compassionate and pain-free way possible. What a shock! How terrible that I, as a devoted animal lover, could have been so ignorant as to the dreadful plight of millions of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lambs, fish and others. How dreadful that I could have even considered that it was, in any way humane, to kill animals for the delight of my taste buds. It is all hidden away so that the masses don't get to see what is really going on. It seemed like I had been in a stupor, a kind of dream, totally unaware of what I had done to perpetuate these 'crimes' by my compliance with the meat and dairy industries. I cried and asked for forgiveness but, most importantly, my food choices had changed and I no longer subscribed to this cruel system.
We learned, through the World Peace Diet, that it was also cruel to eat eggs. Hens are seen as nothing more than egg producing machines for human consumption. The vast majority of baby roosters are killed in the most barbaric way as they are perceived as having nothing to contribute to humanity. In addition, eggs are obviously not meant for human consumption. They have the potential to become new life, baby chicks. It became clear to me that, although we had a happy flock of hens, in order for us to have them, I had consented, unwittingly, to the death of many baby roosters. So, that did it for us, my son and I stopped eating eggs and I will not be purchasing any more hens from the factory farmed system when these ones finally pass. I, along with many future baby roosters, thank you Dr Tuttle! I did not miss eggs and had no longing for them but there was one exception - mayonnaise. I used to have mayonnaise with salads, potatoes and French fries and spread it lavishly on my sandwiches. Thankfully, I found a vegan mayonnaise which doesn't taste as good but is good enough.
is on Youtube
Postscript: Just before posting this essay on the net, I must insert an update to the vitamin B12 issue. After doing further research it transpires that, in addition to this vitamin being present in healthy soil and water, it also comes from the bacteria that live in our mouths and intestines. A healthy individual, therefore, will have all the B12 necessary by eating a wholesome, organic vegan diet, not being over-sanitary when washing their vegetables and fruit and drinking fresh water. It makes sense that a vegan diet should not require any supplementation. Sadly, though, many live in places where the soil and water are depleted and, therefore, require supplementation.
On our return home, we decided to do the World Peace Diet facilitator training offered by Dr Tuttle, so that we could help to remove the blinkers off other people's eyes to the plight of millions of farmyard animals.
Similarly, the sheep, Luci, loves to be petted. She is quite shy but her gentleness is endearing. She will drop her head onto my hand as she enjoys feeling my whole hand on the side of her face. She will stay like that for some time, just basking in the loving touch. Her eyes speak and they portray her innocent heart.
My 4 guinea pigs are such gentle souls and I say 'my' because 3 of them were a gift to me from my 3 children for Mother's Day one year; I had specifically asked for guinea pigs. My children thought me to be a little crazy and when my 15 year old daughter told the pet shop owner that the guinea pigs were actually for me and not for her, it was clear from the humorous reaction that this was not the norm! I purchased the first guinea pigs I saw because I felt sorry for them. The pet shop assistant explained that the previous customers had turned down the guinea pigs considering them to be too ugly! It was true that 2 of them, who were sisters, had red eyes and were short-haired, not the fluffy type, but these innocent beings, nevertheless, deserved a good home. I also felt sorry for them in the pet shop environment, housed in a small cage in unnatural surroundings. So, I took them home and named them Peace, Harmony and Beauty.
Being on the vegan route, I knew from my earlier, brief investigation into veganism in 2013, that the lack of vitamin B12 on such a diet was a major issue. However, since I was still eating eggs and honey I did not fall into the category of a true vegan, so I was confident that this was not going to be a problem for me. I would simply eat more eggs than normal and, since we had a flock of chickens, eggs were in plentiful supply and I could eat a 3-egg omelet instead of a 1-egg omelet. I would put more eggs in my cakes and have egg sandwiches. At this time I didn’t see any cruelty in eating the eggs from our own hens. I know our hens are exceptionally well cared for and I enjoy them for who they are not just for what they provide.
In September 2015 my son and I went on a trip to the USA and, during this time, we decided to learn more about our new semi-vegan status. I am an avid reader of spiritual books but not of diet books. I have never followed any fad diets or even been on a special diet. The only foray I took into this world was when I read a book many years ago on the Hay System where it is recommended that you do not eat carbohydrates and proteins at the same meal. It explained that most of us eat too much protein and that you can, in fact, gain all of your protein from plants although it doesn’t advocate a plant based diet. You are also advised to eat more alkaline forming foods, like vegetables, because most people's digestive systems are too acid. So, I didn't know any good authors of vegan books or any titles but I went online and searched through the books with the best reviews. I decided upon 'The World Peace Diet' by Dr Will Tuttle as it had many 5-star reviews and excellent recommendations. I purchased the audio version and my son and I listened to a chapter each day.
I enjoy taking care of animals. I enjoy making sure that all their needs are met and that includes not only food and shelter but paying them due care and attention and showering them with love and affection. This little story exemplifies my approach: What is the difference between "I like you" and "I love you"? The Buddha answered "When you like a flower, you just pluck it but when you love a flower, you water it daily." One who understands this understands life.
Things were moving fast, it was now honey which had to go. My vegan son told me that he had the feeling that we shouldn't be eating honey and, around the same time, I listened to an impassioned talk by Gary Yourofsky, an animal activist and down to earth speaker. He explained that honey was meant as insulation for the bee hive and as food for the baby bees and told of the horrific cruelty inflicted to queen bees. He made the pertinent point that this wasn’t to be used as food for humans. We wouldn't go and put our hands into a wild bees' nest and pull out the honey, well not unless we wanted to be stung to death! It made perfect sense to me and thus honey was removed from my diet. I, along with many future bees, give you our thanks Gary Yourofsky.
I was brought up on the standard, working class British diet which included sausages, minced beef and tinned stewing beef - all the cheaper cuts of meat. The only instance I can recall questioning the eating of meat was when I was a small child and I found out, for the first time, that the meat on my plate had come from an animal. I was disgusted and horrified but my parents were unmoved and responded as though my objections were meaningless. Needless to say I sub-consciously followed their cue and 'forgot' my feelings about eating meat and duly carried on in the same vein.
About 18 months after going vegetarian one of my friends invited me to her house for dinner and I promptly mentioned that I was a vegetarian but fish would be OK. My friend said that I wasn't a proper vegetarian because fish was also meat. I had always placed fish in a slightly different category simply because it was a sea rather than a land animal. However, when I really took the time to consider this, it was clear that the medium in which an animal lived had no bearing upon its sentience. Indeed my own 2 fish would swim up to the edge of their tank 'asking' me for food and they would show fear when I had to remove them from their water to renew it. In fact, they would generally hide for a day in their tank after their water had been refreshed. It took them a while to become accustomed to this 'new' environment. I could see from this behaviour that they, too, had feelings and that it could not be right to eat fish.
Now I realized that, indeed, I was not a fully fledged vegetarian but I was what is termed a 'pescetarian'. After I had come to the realization that fish, too, were sentient beings that deserved to live out their lives without the likes of me killing and eating them, I was now a true vegetarian and I thought that was it - I had arrived! I had given up eating meat or fish for ethical reasons and it felt good mentally. However, I must say that I didn't feel physically any different. My digestion, overall good health and average weight were all the same as when I was acting as a carnivore.