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Victoria and My Vegan Guides

The following article originally appeared on PETA Prime.

After 20-plus years as a vegetarian, the choice defines me. Eating with awareness is so instinctive that I often forget there was a time when I did not eat consciously. I am almost humiliated to recall the past—a time when I simply didn’t “get it.” Thankfully, I crossed paths with guides who showed me the way—enlightened ones who taught the truth through their actions, their words, or simply their beings.

The first was a coworker. I was attending a company-sponsored lunch, and as I was filling my plate with the typical meat choices, I noticed a young woman with a plate filled simply with vegetables. She seemed to be garnering a lot of unwarranted attention. When I glanced quizzically at the person next to me, the person replied, “She’s a vegetarian.” To which I thoughtlessly remarked, “That’s strange. Animals are here to be eaten.” I had never met a vegetarian and wasn’t even sure what one was, but I knew that this woman was obviously uninformed.

A few years passed, and I took an interest in environmental issues. During a trip to the library to research alternative housing and energy conservation, I stumbled upon a book titled Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. I picked up the book and thought “Really? Food choices affect the environment?” With a little basic math, Frances easily proved that growing food to feed animals so that we could then eat the animals was illogical. Armed with this new knowledge and the memory of that vegetarian coworker, giving up meat was an easy decision for me.

For a couple of years, I was quite content with my meat-free, although dairy-filled, diet. I felt great and, honestly, a bit smug. After all, I was making sacrifices for the environment. Then another lesson came my way. A vegetarian friend shared an article by John Robbins about the link between veal and the dairy industry. It never dawned on me that the milk I was consuming really belonged to a baby cow. I was devastated to learn that during all my self-righteous vegetarian years, I was actually supporting the veal industry. So, no more milk, cream cheese, or yogurt for me. But as hard as I tried, I could not give up ice cream. (For reference, this was years before Soy Delicious and Purely Decadent came on the market!)

Then I met Victoria, my bovine mentor. She had been thrown on the side of a farm’s road and was expected to die before the rendering truck came. Fortunately, a kind soul swept her up and took her to an animal sanctuary. She required care, 24/7, and I agreed to help. She needed encouragement to eat, and she needed oxygen. She quickly captured my heart with her beautiful eyes and gentle spirit. She was struggling, but she had a strong desire to live. To the dairy industry, she was simply a commodity not worth the time to save. To me, she quickly became a friend.

Within a few weeks, she was standing and soon joined the other fortunate cows at the sanctuary. She behaved just like a really large dog. She knew her name and loved to be scratched under her chin. She recognized my car when I visited the sanctuary and would trot over to me for hugs and attention.

I easily gave up ice cream after that first night with Victoria. I vowed never to support the dairy industry. To this day, I don’t understand why it took so long for me to understand the pain and destruction caused by my diet. Thankfully, I encountered teachers along the way to lead me to the obvious conclusion—that being vegan is the only moral, environmental, and compassionate choice.

Occasionally, I get discouraged when family, friends, and coworkers just don’t “get it.” Then I consider my own journey and hope my words or actions may influence others to do the right thing—if not immediately, then hopefully down the road.

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  • Mary says:

    Amanda, I am so excited for you that you want to take steps towards eating with intent and compassion. PETA has so many great resources for those ready to make the change; my first suggestion to you would be to order a vegetarian starter kit. It’s got some great information, along with suggestions to alternatives! As for your parents, I think the best thing you could do is sit down with them and explain WHY you want to become a vegetatian. Back it up with research-be thoughtful and patient, and answer their questions. If your family is anything like mine, my mom was crushed when I made the switch. Making and watching her children enjoy her food equated to an expression of love for her, and she took it personally. Show them recipes and be enthusiastic about how it’s so much healthier! Anyone who chooses to eat a plant based diet statistically has 20% less body fat than the average American, cuts their risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many many other diseases that cuts life short. Finally, my advice to you is to teach by example! I believe that being a vegetarian or vegan is a VERY personal decision. Those in your family might not get it and continue to eat meat. They’ve been your family all of your life, and they’ll continue to be until you’re gone from this world. Family means loving each other, regardless of their flaws-don’t try to change them if they aren’t receptive to a more compassionate way of living.

    Amanda, I hope this helped in some way. Good luck and I’ll be rooting for you!

  • Amanda says:

    I really want to be a vegetarian but I don’t know what to eat. Also my parents won’t agree that I should be a vegetarian because they don’t think it’s healthy. What should I do?

  • Martinho José de Souz says:

    I thought…I had “sucked” after the calves be totally satisfied … as in the past. Terrible. So … I’m going to weaning.

  • concerned says:

    To MAATII-

    I don’t think you really get it or you would of become vegetarian the instant you read this article. I think you should view some of the videos peta has on farm factories, that is what did it for me. Good luck with school and I wish you the best.

  • a proud VEGAN says:

    I love being vegan and I am shocked at how much of America’s food source is dependent on animal flesh and animal secretions. It is really gross to me to see commercials of fastfood places or any commercial trying to sell animal products. I am very disturbed by the desensitization of America towards animals. I have found a whole new world of delicious food by becoming vegan and I always get a clean bill of health from my doctor.

  • Kathy says:

    After learning what goes into the production of human food from animals sources, my belief is that people who support these industries do so out of either ignorance or indifference. What kind of society have we become that so many can be indifferent to the suffering of the vulnerable?

  • Madelene says:

    I went from vegetarian too vegan on Sunday:D I couldnt give milk up but i found the right soymilk from Alpro and i switched. In Norway the industry of milk isnt so bad as in America and other countries but i dont want to contribute with my money.First i was a flexitarian then a lakto ovo vegetarian and now a vegan.My body feel so great since i have a proteinintolerance (found that out for a month ago).Im allegic to eggs to so that i didnt need to cut out but still there is eggs in everything these days:( I grew up with cows outside my window and i think we should respect the nature and the earth.

  • a proud VEGAN says:

    I loved your article. I knew that cows like Victoria were smart but I have never read or heard a personal story about a relationship between a cow and a human. It was lovely and touching. Thank you for sharing that with me.

  • J says:

    Great story and fascinating to hear all the different steps people take to being vegan.

  • Diane Dimperio says:

    Although I am off of dairy products, I still purchase ‘Clover’, a humane farming company here in Northern California for the rest of my household, it is a kinder choice, otherwise they’d be buying these products at food chains. I find it most difficult to live with meat-eaters, I was one and my mother’s 87, so I shop for her. There is also a pizza restaurant in Danville, California, their cheese supposedly from humane dairy farming. But all in all the milk is for the calf, and the goat’s milk too, it’s young. There seems to be a ‘goat milk’ trend around here…..all in all, it’s all the same……when it comes to how we treat our fellow creatures we are surely still in the Dark Ages!

  • Maatii says:

    This is a very interesting article it make me want to become a vegetarian which I might do very soon when school starts

  • Daniella says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I especially appreciated your candor and honesty about your journey. I believe this is what helps others.

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