Every vegan has their individual transition story. It’s a journey which takes some people weeks, some months and some years. It took me 6 years to go from pescitatian, through stages of cutting out more and more animal products as I digested information and connected to how animals suffer for our use. 9 years ago I finally realised that veganism was the only way I could live by a simple truth that is my central belief: it’s not right to cause deliberate harm to others.
It’s easy to feel guilt when you get to this stage, that you didn’t see things this way before. But every step and slight shift in feeling is significant, as it’s the unlearning of decades of habits, assumptions and beliefs about animals and food which most other people still hold on to without questioning. The information gathered and experiences which trigger the change in attitudes towards animals, are as important as the final decision to go vegan.
The awesome animal rights activist Tom Regan, spoke of each person having a totem animal – one who you connected with, who made you think about them as an individual with their own thoughts, feelings and lives. This animal touched your heart and made you determined to become active in helping animals. Going vegan is the main and most simple course of action you can take to help animals (and only action needed to make a difference to animals!)
My totem animal was a tiny pig who I met whilst studying at a small agricultural collage industrial farm. I’d already had the shock of holding a piglet whilst the farmer chopped bits of his ears off and that was enough to make me give all my (mammal) meat away immediately. But this little runt piglet wasn’t being mutilated or gratuitously mistreated. He was just trying to survive in the concrete pen he was born, alongside his older siblings who would push him off his mother’s teat every time he attempted to drink her milk.
He looked completely dejected and pathetic. A tiny morsel of life who I knew wouldn’t be killed for meat, because he wouldn’t get that far. It was obvious he was too weak to survive and I knew the farm would not be paying a vet to give him the care he would need to stay alive.
I picked him up to show someone cared and he was so weak that he couldn’t even manage the panicked squeals that the healthy piglets would let out when they were handled. He just softly grunted as I held his tiny, soft, warm little body. I connected with this completely innocent and sweet being in a way that wrenched my gut.
That night I cried as I tried to sleep, knowing that he would die, knowing that if he was given care and treatment he’d likely survive, knowing I was powerless to help, knowing that there were millions of other animals just like him, who are utterly disposable, and billions more who survive birth only to live in miserable conditions before being slaughtered.
And what is the reason for all this misery? Taste preference. It’s not necessity or a matter of life or death, it’s preference. This bare fact sent me hurtling down the route of putting my beliefs into actions, albeit much slower than I now wish, but I’m there now and I’m never going back.
Being vegan is THE SINGLE best decision I have EVER made. And I think of that tiny soul often, with regret and sorrow, but also with gratitude that he stirred in me a deep and real love for innocent beings, woke me up and sparked the fire of compassion that has lived on in me ever since.
Being vegan is not only easier than its ever been, its also way better for the planet and your health and a gives a deep sense of personal peace about choosing to avoid harm which, as a decent and kind human, you would never purposely inflict on innocent animals. So thank you tiny piggy for helping me begin my journey, and I’m sorry.