Many times I have been told that if I grew up on a farm I would think differently about being vegan. But the truth of the matter is that I have grown up around animals that were alive one minute and then on the dinner table hours later and witnessing that life/death/dinner process had led to where I am today.
As a young child my mother always took us to Puerto Rico for summer vacations and my grandmother raised chickens, and the occasional duck. I used to love getting up in the morning and feeding the chickens. Actually I was a bit afraid of the chickens because I had a slightly older cousin who would chase me with a chicken and threaten to throw it on me. So I would feed the chickens from a safe distance. Well one summer day fresh chicken was on the dinner menu. Three chickens had been selected for dinner. Curious child that I was I went with my cousins to the next door neighbor who was going to kill the chickens. I had never seen this and my mom grew up like this so thought nothing of it. The method used to kill the chickens was basically grabbing it by the neck and twirling it around like a baton until the neck snapped. I was about eight years old and I saw one being killed and that was enough for me. I needed to leave. Well the dead chicken was right in front of the gate that I had to go through. I jumped over the chicken and must have touched it because what ensued was that the dead chicken started doing revolutions and chased my down the block. You can imagine my horror. It was bad enough my cousin would chase me with live chickens but I now had a dead chicken chasing me. I am amazed I do not go vegan on the spot. Not only did I see the chicken killed but I also witness my aunt plucking it and gutting it. Yeah there was no way I was ever going to eat that. From that point on the only was I would eat chicken was to see it coming from a box in the freezer that came from the market. The same thing with eggs. I could not eat the brown specked eggs that the chickens laid. Nope, once again they had to come from a cartoon that had been bought at the store.
My young mind was starting to make the connection between animals and dinner. The chickens I fed were not on my dinner menu but the pieces that came out of a box were okay.
Now my father was a hunter. He would go hunting every year in upstate New York and bring a dear home. One time I saw him gutting a dear in my mom’s kitchen. Blood and guts all over the floor. My paternal grandmother would try and pose the venison off as beef. But it somehow didn’t quite taste right to me. Well I started to figure out that when my father went hunting venison was the meat of choice and I started boycotting meat. That’s right when my dad went hunting I would stop eating beef until I in my child mind had calculated that the supply of dead deer was finished.
Now let me tell you about my pet duck. Yes, I had what I thought was a pet duck. I would come home from school and play with my pet duck. One day I came home from school and the duck was not there. He or she was just gone. Don’t worry he reappeared three days later on the dinner table.
YES, I was traumatized. Even as a meat eater I never ate duck because of this incident.
When I was eleven years old I learned that veal was baby cows. I never had another bite of veal after that.
I was destined to be vegan. My first long-term boyfriend, the photographer was a vegetarian. He was the kind of vegetarian that would actually talk about animals being slaughtered at the dinner table. You could not have meat on your plate and enjoy your meal. So needless to say this started the process of becoming a vegetarian, well at least when I was around him. At my moms I would have meat with him I was a vegetarian. However I was not schooled in nutrition and had a really bad vegetarian diet. I ate mostly pasta and eggs. I would end with a walking pneumonia that almost put me in the hospital. I had gotten down to 85 lbs. I was a walking skeleton. People would ask me if I was anorexic. No, I wasn’t, I was just an uninformed vegetarian. It was at that point that I had started to learn about nutrition. However that vegetarian stint lasted only as long as the relationship , three years. After the break-up I was back to eating meat.
Fast forward years later-thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house. My sister’s mother-in-law is Chinese and makes the worlds best egg rolls. And I am not a big fan of egg rolls but hers are the bomb. And she would make them special for me at thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Well there I was at the dinner table, my mouth was watering as I was about to take a bite out of an egg roll and I just stopped. The egg roll was frozen in mid-air. I couldn’t eat it. The image of a cow flashed in my head and I just could not eat the egg roll.
That was the end of red meat aka dead cows in my diet. The road to veganism was a long road. I was still not vegetarian but cows were definitely off of the menu. According to my ex-husband he claims that he come home from a trip to my announcement that we were going vegetarian. As I was the cook of the family he did not have much say in the matter but I have a feeling that like myself when I was younger he would sneak meat when I was not around. Well we were actually pescatarian. We still ate fish and shrimp.
Now that brings me to my lobster story. You knew there had to be a lobster story.
It took place in Ralphs supermarket in North Hollywood. The person in front of me was buying a live lobster. It’s claws were banded, there was enough water in the plastic bag to keep it fresh and the lobster was frantically trying to find a way out of the bag and escape.
My first instinct was to grab the lobster and run. But setting it free in the Ralphs parking lot was not going to be of much assistance to it. I was literally paralyzed in the supermarket line. Fish, shrimp and lobster were now off of the menu. I was officially a vegetarian. I think I was about 34 years old. When Richard and I got married we had a vegetarian menu. Boy did I catch hell for that one. Seriously people were acting as if they didn’t have meat for one meal they were going to die on the spot. There was so much food at the reception that meat was not missed.
At some point I had become vegan and I had been vegan for two years and then I went to Italy. Eight years ago it was quite difficult to be vegan in Italy. Cheese is everywhere and there were no faux meats like we had in the US. So it was eat cheese or die. That was about six years ago.
This past January someone on Facebook had a post about the dairy industry. You see I believed the myth about the happy cows. I would see the dairy farms in Puerto Rico and you would see the cows grazing out in the fields. I had no idea about factory farms or the realities of the diary industry. I went vegan in January and at the age of 52 knew that I had to take my veganism and animal activism to yet another level.
That is my story of how even as a little girl I was on the road to veganism.
The myth of Old MacDonald’s happy farm was broken. Don’t wait a life time. Learn the truth now.