Facebook Activism

Anyone who is Facebook friends with me knows that I post a couple of animal rights links or make a status update each week. I am very selective about what I post and I am always very clear about my intentions when I do post to FB or respond to a comment from someone else. My intention is only to speak for the animals, to raise awareness about the suffering of animals and to speak my truth.

I know I have been defriended by some on Facebook as these posts irritate them in some way. I am sure many others have hidden my posts from appearing on their feed, I just KNOW that these posts do make a difference and they HAVE changed people’s feelings about animals. Sometimes, it will be a blog post that I have written about my context that a fellow vegan doesn’t know about which will get some support or encouragement. Sometimes it will be a behavioral omnivore that likes a good discussion. Surprisingly for me, there are some people that will comment out of nowhere and these people would be the last people I would expect to hear from. In some cases it is people that I only knew for a very short amount of time several years ago. I am sure, for most of the people on my FB friend list, I am probably the only animal rights’ activist that they have popping up on their feed.

Sometimes my posts get no likes or comments and I used to get a bit upset about that, but I don’t now. Because I know there are people that read them, and for those people, this might be the piece of information that resonates with them and they might start to make some changes. This post is about one of these FB friends seeing stuff that I have posted. It planted a seed and if you read to the end you will see where there thinking is at now.

So… I received an email from someone I used to work with. We only worked together very briefly and I think we hardly socialised together during that short time. We became FB friends and since we no longer work together I don’t think we had any actual interactions virtual or otherwise between that time of nearly 5 years ago and now.

What follows is an email conversation that we have had over the course of several months… She originally contacted me with a couple of questions regarding diet and digestive problems. You can see over the course of the conversation how this person’s perspective changed. I think it is quite unique.

Right now, she is about to embark on a 30 Day Vegan Challenge with the intention of continuing afterwards. She is honest about the challenges she thinks she will face. I especially like the part where she calls me crazy and idealist! 🙂 Ha ha…

I have blanked out her name and other distinguishing parts for confidentiality reasons. She gave her permission for me to reproduce our conversation here.

I have not edited it, so forgive our probably rushed writing. Neither of us were intending it to be published to the interwebs.. I will write my friends in BLUE and my replies in GREEN

Hey Brighde,
It’s been a looong time! How are you? I am happy we remained FB friends since living in Hanoi. Being connected on FB has allowed me to read some of your posts on nutrition. I’m not sure if you remember or even how much I’ve shared about my living with irritable bowel syndrome. I have been suffering with many of the common symptoms of IBS for years and I have struggled with making dietary changes necessary to be healthier. I’ve recently taken a step back from making the minor changes that haven’t made a huge difference and looking closer what would be helpful to make an overall change with my health. 
I started with having a Meridian Stress test done to look at sensitivities and imbalances in my body. i have been reading the book Eat Right For Your Type. I am also researching various perspectives on grains vs not grains, vegetarianism and veganism for pros and cons. I have seen some of your posts and I wondered if cutting out some or all animal products would be something helpful for me. Then after reading the book Eat Right For Your Type, or least the section on Type O blood I found conflicting information. Type O’s thrive on a high protein hunter-gatherer diet. I realize we don’t live in ancient times any longer however, it sounds like information worth taken seriously in my pursuit for the ideal diet and lifestyle for my well being. I read some information on grains vs no grains and how gains are harsh on our digestive systems and how they are not necessary. 
There is soooo much information out there and sooo many perspectives. I plan to read a lot more and find a holistic nutritionist or naturopath to support me. I also wanted ask you about your diet, how you decided to make changes and what information you might have that could help me in my journey. I am wondering if you have thoughts on a blood type diet, grains or no grains diet, how eating a vegan diet benefits you? You seem to be a guru on veganism. I assume you got there by seeking a lot of information. I have a lot of questions so please let me know if you are open to sharing your insight, experiences and resources with me. 
Thanks, hope all is well with you.
XXXXXXX

Dear XXXXX,

So lovely to hear from you and thank you for getting in contact! This will be a very long email with lots of links. I have a lot to say about this issue.

There’s lots to say about a lot of different topic.

First of all, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am an animal advocate which means that I really want to speak for the animals because they have no voice. I believe that if we can not only survive but also thrive on a plant-based diet that causes no harm, then why shouldn’t we? From a health point of view then basically the more we move to a plant-based diet the lower risk we are of some diseases like cancer, heart disease etc. There are some doctors that I respect like Colin T Campbell, Michael Gregor, caldwell esselstein who promote no animal foods at all, some others like J Fuhrman suggest a minimum amount.

So, regarding the blood type diet. I have to say, I don’t agree with it at all and would go so far as to say that it is a ‘fad diet.’ When I saw that I mean it is a mixture of psuedo science and mixing factual information with far-fetched assertions. I especially think the idea that we should be eating MORE protein is really terrible because, protein is not a nutrient that we need more of, in general we are having too much and that puts us at risk from all sorts of things. When you are talking about high protein hunter gatherer we are essentially talking about the Paleo Diet. This has become very popular of recent times and it is essentially a fad diet. To listen to a very good criticism of the paleo diet, then have a listen to this….

http://www.compassionatecook.com/writings/podcast-media/the-newest-diet-fad-paleo-2

The woman who produces this podcast is excellent and should you want to look more deeply at all the issues surrounding the transition to a plant-based diet then consider listening to all the podcasts which you can find on itunes. She also has an online program available very cheaply which will help you make the transition.

www.30dayveganchallenge.com

In regards to seeing a holistic doctor, hmmm…. I am not a huge fan. I am not convinced of their validity. I wasn’t always this cynical, but after I read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, I became quite critical of pseudo science. That’s my opinion. 

If you are interested in finding out more about IBS on a plant-based diet and want to speak to someone with veg friendly agenda consider this list of wellness practioners.http://www.compassionatecook.com/resources/vegan-wellness-practitioners

I don’t know much about IBS actually, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggest IBS symptoms can be relieved or disappear on a plant-based diet so I certainly think it is worth giving a really good go. Here’s some info by the excellent dr mcdougall.http://www.drmcdougall.com/med_colitis.html

If you do decide to do that, you will want some help. Cooking a plant-based diet does require climbing a learning curve and it can feel a bit scary at first as you have to relearn everything you knew about cooking. As I said, the online program is very good as is the podcast I referred to above. However, there are plenty books that have more information as well meal plans to help you make the transition. if you decide to stick with it, then you will need to relearn a few things on how to cook in a plant-based way. There are so many wonderful cookbooks and blogs these days. I assure you that eating a plant-based diet is not one of deprivation. Look at the blog post I wrote the other day..http://howtolivecompassionately.com/2012/08/24/a-victory-for-baketivism/

Basically, I won a baking contest at school against lots of accomplished bakers using regular ingredients.

Try one of these to find our more. They also have health plans and shopping lists.

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman
Anything by Dean Ornishhttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=dean+ornish

Anything by Dr McDougall and Rip Esselstyn or his dad, Caldwell Esselstyn.

Watch : Forks Over Knives or Read The China Study to understand more of the research behind the benefits of a plant-based diet

I should remind you, that you can be vegan and unhealthy. French Fries are vegan! I am advocating a wholefoods plant-based diet one very rich in vegetables (especially green leafies) and the grains that you do eat should be whole grain and fantastic wholefood proteins like beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh. Those expensive vegetarian meats that you can buy in the supermarket are great for transitioning to a plant-based diet when you aren’t skilled at plant-based cooking, or as a special treat.

I hope that helps you a little bit. Please let me know if you decide to go down this road. I know this stuff inside out and can help if you have any further questions.

All the best,

Brighde

Hi Brighde!

It’s been awhile since last emailing. I have been crazy busy with starting a new position at my school year. I am back into the classroom after being out for 8 years. xxxxx has suffered huge financial cuts to education. Our majority government is trying to balance the provincial budget in an unreasonable timeframe. Yuck. It has been a lot of work to transition back into a classroom. I haven’t gotten too lost in my work that I haven’t been still thinking and reading about nutrition, diet, animal products, etc.

Oh my…I am CONSIDERING doing the 30 day Vegan Challenge…I have been going back and forth and ALL around with my thoughts on the idea of attempting to see if it possible. Damn I am hating teaching Social Studeies it mays me wanna do what I say…ha!

As well, I’ve called you crazy, idealist, and many other labels as I have been processing some of the information I’ve been listening to and reading. I’ve prided myself on being able to think and act outside the box for most of my life. I like being challenge and have always said that when you are challenged on your understanding and opinions, either you can come out stronger in your beliefs or you are able to see another perspective that has made you consider changing your thinking; therefore acting. Great…lol…again I’ve been really challenged to put my ‘money where my mouth is’. I’m up for challenging other ways of thinking/acting but this one has me struggling.

I am still unsure how I may be able to maintain a vegan life. I can see the potential of become a vegetarian, however, veganism is very restrictive. I get it but because animal products are in so many foods one wouldn’t think it is very difficult. I know, that doesn’t justify continuing to act with the masses but this change requires radical change. Oh my, as I type I realize how this sounds. I seem to how found a true challenge that requires more consistent action then some of my other challenges. 30 days is not a significant amount of time so worth attempting to make a conscious change for that time. It also gives me time to either figure out how not to eat turkey at Christmas or a reason to dive into the whole turkey…lol…(maybe a bad joke to you as a vegan but humour helps me)! I guess I am trying to say that doing a trial gives me a temporary commitment with an open mind.

Ok…let’s see if I can really do this and when. Thoughts please??

From XXXXX

Hi XXXXXXX,

Thanks for your email and for thinking about this so much! There are so many things I want to say.

I know this must seem like a daunting prospect making this change. I thought exactly the same.. Giving up dairy?? I thought I could never do that yet I did.

I am detecting your motivations for trying a vegan diet have changed. Is that correct? Let me know because that will help me advise you. At first you were keen to do this for dietary reasons. is that still the case?

So…. I sense that some of your concerns is how to cope socially and also during special occasions like Christmas? IT can seems difficult at first, the solution is to replace the animal products with something else. I have a delicious nut roast with vegan gravy. I doesn’t feel like deprivation at all. I never feel sad that I am missing out on anything. It took a while though.

This podcast might help with the social situations….http://www.compassionatecook.com/writings/podcast-media/10-tips-for-eating-vegetarian-in-social-situations-2 and there is lots of information within the challenge to help you.

The reason for 30 days is it takes 30 days to change a habit.

These podcasts also by Colleen are very good.http://www.compassionatecook.com/category/writings/food-for-thought-writing It was this podcast that made me a committed vegan from a blah vegetarian.

Many people think that being vegan is extreme and it is about saying no. Yes it is extreme…. It is about extreme kindness and unlimited compassion for all sentient beings. You will probably find that you care more about many other social justice issues when you become vegan. I did…..And about vegan being about saying no? Yeah…. It is about saying no to violence. There are 3000 edible plants in the world. There’s really no shortage of amazing foods to eat. I love the quote ‘If you look for lack, that’s what you’ll find. If you look for abundance that’s what you’ll find’. regarding animal products in foods, I assume you are talking about those funny ingredients in lots of processed goods. Well, we should not really be eating those highly processed foods anyway. Don’t worry about those ingredients at first. That’s something for later.

I’d say the only time it is especially annoying or difficult is on the very rare occasions when I am travelling in a rural asian area. There’s always something (like fried rice) and I might have to eat that a few meals in a row but I always tell myself, that eating fried rice a few times is just a little boring. Nothing compared to what the animals go though. I just suck it up…. It happens rarely. For you it might mean a green salad and a tomato based spaghetti at the least veg friendly place. I never have a problem because I always go to veg restaurants that I like where I have lots of choices. All vegans do that.

The interesting thing is, I eat an incredibly varied diet much more than before I was vegan. I eat incredibly healthily and well. In Canada you have a huge selection of regular vegan stuff you can buy at the supermarket and even more that you can buy online. I rarely eat those because I have learnt the skills to cook from scratch. It took me a while to do that though but you can use these foods to start with or in case of emergencies.

You might be interested to know that there are 34 listings on Happy Cow for XXXXXX, but you can eat something anywhere.

Does that help a little? Let me know if you have some other questions. We can talk on SKYPE if you like.

Brighde

Hi Brighde,

I’ve been wanting to reply, however, life has continued to be busy, hectic and even difficult lately. I still, however, have been able to read and listen to more of the information you have suggested.

Yes, my motivations for changing my diet have morphed from being solely about my physical to becoming more about ethical choices. The information you have shared really hit me. The podcasts were awesome. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau made me laugh and cry. I related a lot to the use of language when it comes to animals. I OFTEN use the same kind of dialogue with students when it comes to discrimination and harassment in schools. Language has a lot of power, both helpful and hurtful. I also often share the historical meaning of many sayings we use in everyday that many of us don’t know or make connections to.

I really enjoyed the way Colleen presents her information. I felt like she was sitting in my living room having a chat. She is informative without preaching or casting judgement. I went away from reading and listening feeling like I made even more connections to things I already knew but didn’t connect with when it comes to animals. I peeled another layer of stupidity off me. The more I learn, the more empowered I feel about living a value based life. I must admit that at times I feel life would be easier if I lived under a rock and didn’t know anything. But mostly I am grateful to be in a place to learn and make choices on how I want to live my life. I tell my students that “when you know better, you do better”.

I’ve been working on aligning my values with my thoughts and actions in other areas of my life so this information comes at a time in my life that it fits. I ate chicken recently and it tasted like an animal rather than the food I knew it to be for many years. I remember when XXXXXXXX first put together that ‘chicken’ was actually a chicken. I remember saying “yes hunny it is a real chicken”. She cried and wondered why we were eating it. I thought something similar when I was listening to Colleen talk about eating chicken vs eating chickens. It is amazing how much disassociation we do when eating. I don’t know how I wasn’t able to make these connections before now. Maybe I can now because of all the personal growth I’ve done in therapy in the last couple of years on dealing with past baggage and moving forward to a value based life.

I was chatting with a vegetarian friend recently who doesn’t eat animal meat but does eat fish and foods with animal products. She says she doesn’t eat meat because she thinks of the animal. I wonder why people who are vegetarian continue to eating other animal products and get disgusted when thinking about eating meat. To me it seems logical that if you give up eating animals for compassionate and/or ethical reasons that you wouldn’t eat any part of an animal.

Without trying to sound hypocritical, I have been cutting more and more animal meat and products out of my diet, but not completely. I have been reading more and more labels and buying more and more products that are vegan. I do have a lot of choices in XXXX. I have been still eating things I already have in my fridge, have on my shelves and in my freezer that have animal products in them. My thinking there is related to financial reasons since I already purchased them.

I am struggling with the holidays coming and giving into family and friends but I am working on that by buying vegan recipe books. So having said all that I get the idea of transitioning. It is the best way not to fall back into old habits of eating comfort food because of disassociating from what it really is.

One thing I don’t see myself doing yet is throwing away my leather boots, shoes and jackets. I don’t see myself buying anymore leather footwear or clothing but giving up my Birkenstocks would be very hard.

I guess it’s not as cut and dry as I suggested in the beginning of this message. I do, however, see myself thinking differently about dietary choices since I first messaged you months ago.

I’ll like to take you up on a Skype chat sometime soon. It may be helpful since I have made a shift in thinking and working on the rest.

Thanks for continuing to support me on my journey.

XXXXXXX

Hi XXXXXXX,

Your message absolutely made my day!  I am so pleased you are considering making changes and that this vegan thing has resonated with you. I truly do believe that most people would make changes once they know this information. Some people cut out animal products overnight, some take a bit longer and that is absolutely fine.  I did exactly the same as you in regards to the food products in my fridge. Throwing them away doesn’t help the animals, not buying new ones does! The same goes for leather. Many vegans will wear their pre-vegan leather until it runs out. Seb gave me a lovely leather (and expensive) handbag just a couple of months before I became vegan. I didn’t want to throw it out. I thought that was wasteful. I did finally give it away when I just couldn’t handle the thought of using it anymore. Probably after about 18months. In regards to your Birkenstocks, I think there are vegan ones available. When your ones wear out, you can get vegan ones if you’d like to…http://www.birkenstock.co.uk/index.php?m=catalogue&a=vw_prodlist&pgr_pgrid=12

In regards to the upcoming holidays, yes… this can be a difficult time. I have attached a recipe for my absolutely favourite Christmas turkey substitute and gravy. It does have egg in it, but I substitute for egg replacer and it works perfectly. My family have been making this every year since I was 12 and it is a winner of a recipe. We’ve only been veganising it for the past 4 years though. The gravy is outstanding.

Colleen also just released a lovely video on a vegan thanksgiving which can also be applied for other holidays too. here’s a link…http://www.the30dayveganchallenge.com/fe/34108-thanksgiving-video

In regards to your friend who is vegetarian yet eats fish and some animal products. You are absolutely right. It is strange. I know… I was one of them for many years… I am not sure if I gave you the link to my story…. Apologies if I have… here it is…http://howtolivecompassionately.com/2011/10/29/my-story-my-awakening/

The fact was, I was vegetarian for 20 years and I just didn’t realise about the impact of livestock production on dairy cows and egg laying chickens. It was a terrible shock knowing that by drinking milk, I am contributing to the veal industry, the terrible rape racks and or course the slaughter of spent dairy cows not to mention the terrible conditions most are kept in. I honestly had no idea. Perhaps your friend is like that too.

Many vegetarians eat fish. I think people think that they do’t feel pain when they are caught. Fish are also soooo different to us, it is hard to empathise with them but once you realise they DO feel pain and that they want to live (there are over 600 studies that say that they do feel pain) then you don’t want to eat them anymore… Well, I don’t anyway… Colleen has an excellent podcast on the fishing industry and by catch you might want to recommend to your friend if the time is right.

Of course, if you have any other questions let me know… I am happy to help.

Keep listening, reading and learning XXXXXXX. I am so filled with hope! 

Would you mind if I put our emails in to a blog post? Your thinking is so unique and I think a lot of people would be interested to read it I would take out all details that could identify you. Your choice. I would never post it without your permission…..

Take care,

Brighde

Hi Brighde,

Hope you enjoyed your holidays.

I started my 30 day vegan challenge today and have registered online tonight. I don’t start receiving day 1 messages until tomorrow. December turned out to do pretty crazy and I felt that starting a completely animal free diet would have been very difficult. I am committed now for the 30 days and aiming for beyond.

I’ll keep in touch with questions and updates if you still don’t mind. I am thinking time won’t lapse as long as my previous messages with this challenge.

BTW…I don’t mind you posting our messages. I am a little curious on how my thinking is unique?

Happy New Year!

XXXXX

Hi XXXXX,

This is fantastic. I wish you all the luck with the challenge and your future intentions…. You are very welcome to contact me at any time if you have questions concerns or comments….

About your story, thank you so much! Hmmm… I guess it is unique in that it is incredibly honest. I love how your thinking is changing over the emails and how you are open to such changes and the fact you are prepared to question what you and society have done.

I will publish them to the blog making sure they are anonymous…

I applaud you for giving this a try. 

Best wishes,

Brighde

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Farm Sanctuary – Making the Connection

I have been following Farm Sanctuary’s work for quite a while now and I am completely enamored with them. Farm Sanctuary is such a wonderful organisation and I believe was one of the first sanctuaries for farm animals. Since Seb and I heard of them, we have supported  them by sponsoring animals, usually hens (larger animals are expensive). Our first hen called Wendy passed away about a year ago and we received the most touching heartfelt letter telling us of her last few days in the sanctuary and the impact she had had on those around her. We knew that this place is a special and that we wanted to include a visit to the farm on our once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Having met my dearest younger  brother the afternoon before, we drove part of the way to Farm Sanctuary to a town called Vacaville (Vaca is spanish for cow which seemed rather apt given our visit the next day). We got up early in the morning and headed off for one of the farm visits that they do every Saturday morning. As we were walking around the place we were struck with many things.

1. Just how incredibly clean the place was. I was lying on the ground in the pig shed with my head on a pig’s belly and there was no pig poop anywhere to be seen. They told us how with only 600 animals they are able to manage the waste generated from the animals on the farm without having to take it off site or put it in those terrible holding ponds that cause such pollution. I love this!

2. Just how friendly and relaxed the animals were.  I grew up in a village near farms so I have seen plenty of farm animals, but I have to say that I was never able to approach sheep or cows. Obviously this is because most farm animals will not have  the love and affection and time spent with people that the animals have at Farm Sanctuary so it was so special to see the bonds that CAN exist between farm animals and people given half a chance.

3. How knowledgeable the guides were about the individual animals, their knowledge of farming as well as their ability to communicate with their tour guests (we had some who were NOT yet vegan).

4. I was really astounded as to how big cows and steers are when you get up to them. I was able to get up close with a 16 year old steer called Yugo and I was moved by how huge he was. Such a wonderfully gentle animal with the most beautiful dark eyes.

5. We were all particularly surprised to find out about the care needed for the older animals. There are several animals at the sanctuary who are now middle aged or elderly and there is very little known about how farm animals age and what to do with them when their do. Farm Sanctuary are working with Cornell university to try to work out how best to deal with animals that have arthritis and other aliments considered with aging. I found the fact that no-one knows what happens when animals age is incredible. We have manipulated turkeys to have such large breasts that they can no longer reproduce naturally or cows to produce such a large amount of milk yet we wouldn’t waste the time to research animal arthritus considering animals are nearly always slaughtered when they are still so young.

Here is a list of common farm animals, their natural lifespan and their ‘actual’ lifespan from Humane Facts. Essentially nearly all animals are killed when their are babies. Babies! No wonder we have no idea on how to deal with aliments concerned with getting older.

Pigs
Natural lifespan: 15 years
Killed for food: 5-6 months

Cows 
Natural lifespan: 20-25 years
Killed for food:
Cows raised for beef: 6 months
Dairy cows: 5-7 years
Veal calves: 4 months (don’t forget the veal industry is inextricably linked with the dairy industry. What else can we do with the male calves?) Drink milk? Condem a calf. 😦

Chickens
Natural lifespan: 7 years
Killed for food:
Broiler chickens: 5 weeks
Layer hens: 2 years 

Male chicks hatched as byproducts of egg industry: 1 day

Turkeys
Natural lifespan: 10-12 years
Killed for food: 3-6 months

Farm Sanctuary or any other farm animal sanctuary is a great place to take people and your children who want to connect with the animals that might be on their plate and to find out more about factory farming. I love the work they do. Working with politicians to try to introduce laws to help animals. Their promotion of a vegan diet for our health, the environemnt and of course the animals. Their events like Thanksgiving FOR the Turkeys, the documentaries they have made like the heartwrenching Peaceable Kingdom and their incredible rescues. The animals are wonderful ambassadors for their species and highly recommend a visit. I am not sure of an exhaustive list of sanctuaries on the internet, but this list is a good start. or just google sanctuary and your local area. If you want (or you want your child) to connect with animals, consider visiting a farmed animal sanctuary.Petting zoos and zoos generally are not great places to do this as they are exploiting animals not helping them. Most sanctuaries have open days or will do a private tour for a donation. Unlike a zoo, this is one excursion that could change your life and that of your child’s for the better. Who doesn’t want to have a child whose heart is full of compassion and love for all beings? 

Jack with one of the goats.

Jack and I with a wolf dog ambassador. ****

Petting the Wolf Dog ****

Aww.. So cute..

Such a content pig.

I love this picture!

Jack with one of the lovely pigs.

Letting him sniff me before I go in for a belly scratch.

With the hens!

With Yugo

We also were lucky enough to bump in to the manager of another sanctuary in California called Lockwood Arc and sanctuary for wolves and wolf dogs. Fantastic work they are doing helping war veterans to rehabilitate with help from the beautiful animals from Lockwood.

Why Do I Blog Here?

I have been so lucky in recent months. I have been lucky enough to be working in an extremely innovative and exciting school. Technology and collaboration is one of the school-wide goals. I have attended an EdTech Conference in Shanghai, we are a 1:1 laptop school, I have been thrown in to the world of a Mac (and survived), and attended a short 6 week course on digital citizenship organised by our school to get ready for a school blogging program. Each student will have their own blog as well as each class, so all of the staff have to be know about how to blog and our responsibilities to ourselves, our students and our community. While I have always been OK with tech and enjoyed gadgets, I think my enthusiasm for tech and sharing has increased substantially in the short time I’ve been at my new school.

At the moment, I am lucky enough to be participating in a Blogging Bootcamp where a few of us aspiring bloggers are being advised by Stephanie for the next few weeks. One of our homework tasks this week is to write about the point of this blog. It’s forcing me to really think about why I am doing this. One day, I’d like to make a living doing something with promoting plant-based cooking and a vegan lifestyle. Right now, I am content showing the people that I know about what animals have to endure to get on our plate and show them what society doesn’t want to talk about.  I also want to show how wonderful it is to eat a healthy, wholesome plant-based diet even in Indonesia and how it can be a choice that generates peace and enhances compassion to all.

My Story, My Awakening

It has become about time that I talk about my story, my transition on becoming vegan.
When I was a child back in the UK, our family would often go walking to the local woods and we’d enjoy the nature and peace of the area. Our final destination was a small lake with wild ducks. We’d take bread, coax them over and feed them. I was completely fascinated with these creatures. Like all children, I loved animals and the duck’s gentle quacking and their little squabbles over the bread was so fun to watch. One day, as we were all walking back home (I think I was about 7 years old) shots rang out. I asked mum what was going on and she told me that some people were shooting the ducks. The ducks I had just been feeding.  To say I was inconsolable is an understatement. My mum recalls how it took her so long to calm me down. I was completely distraught. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would do that to those ducks. It was that day that I made the connection and decided to become a vegetarian.
I was extremely fortunate that my family was so supportive even at such a young age. My mum cooked more vegetarian food for the family and made me something different at those times when meat was served. I continued this lacto-ovo-vegetarianism. I had a few slips, partly due to being young I suppose. In my teens I was a bit of an activist. I really wanted to tell people about this issue but this seemed to dwindle as I got older. I think part of the reason was because as I grew older I realised deep down that because I still ate dairy and eggs, I still wore leather, I was actively contributing to the killing of animals. I knew that if I talked about the issue of animal rights, people would quite rightly point out that there was something a little hypocritical about what I was saying if I still wore leather, ate cheese etc so I just stayed quiet.
In my twenties I became a tour guide. I took people through south east Asia, Europe and Morocco. My job was to expose my clients to the culture and a big part of that was food (usually a lot of meat). I enjoyed learning and teaching others about these different cultures and began to feel  that I was really missing out on something delicious by being vegetarian. I would take my clients to a duck farm (for foie gras) in France. We watched how fish sauce was made in Vietnam. I’d take them to the local camel meat sellers in Morocco where the clients would buy meat and we’d then take it next door for grilling in to camel burgers. We’d walk through fascinating markets with corpses hanging everywhere. I’d reason that at least people can see meat for what it is, rather than being packaged up without a face in the supermarket, that it is such a large part of the culture here.  I think I became numb to all of it. While in Asia I didn’t worry too much about the fish sauce and in France I ate loads of cheese but still stayed vegetarian.
I left the ‘road’ in 2005 and moved to Vietnam where I became pretty sedentary. I didn’t seem to care much about anything and I gained a bit of weight, ate lots of dairy and lots of cheese. You know what it’s like.  Every new year, resolutions would be made to embark on a more healthier lifestyle and then it would fall by the wayside a few days later. I wasn’t inspired.
When I was given a smartphone as a gift, I discovered Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast early in 2009 (during my New Year’s enthusiasm phase). I downloaded the episodes and I listened… and listened.. and listened… I cried in bed when I heard how the feathers are ‘ripped’ from live birds (an official industry term by the way)  as my head rested on my duckdown pillow, I reveled in the realization that I could get all my nutrients from plants. I was flabbergasted to realize how easy it would be to make the change to a vegan lifestyle. I slowly got rid of all the animal products from our fridge (there’s still a bit of leather and feathers floating around our house even today but it won’t help the animals if I get rid of them now.) but I made the transition. I started cooking. I couldn’t believe how delicious it was. The weight fell off me without doing much exercise and I felt so much more at peace, became a nicer person to other people and my connections with animals and the world have deepened to such a level that I sometimes look at my cats and just want to cry because they just so amazing. The joy I get from living my life according to my values of compassion and non-violence is an incredible feeling and the knowledge that my choices are really helping the environment too? It can’t be beaten.
Being vegan in Asia is so easy. With such a huge range of cheap fruit, vegetables, beans, tofu and tempeh I have a very varied diet. Much more so than most meat-eaters I know. I exercise, and feel better than I have ever felt; physically, mentally and spiritually.
Anyone who knows me know, know that these are my values now and I do not compromise on them at anytime (what’s the point in having values if I don’t manifest them in my actions?). I am now passionate about raising awareness about the suffering of animals. I am an activist for the animals because they have no voice. I try to be a good vegan role model and hopefully seeds will be planted through my interactions with others. Sometimes seeds grow.  I’m just livin’ my truth.
I have had some successes though. My incredible boyfriend listened to what I told him about the animals and also the wonderful podcasts and became vegan shortly after I did. Sharing our vegan journey  is one of the most wonderful parts of our relationship. My family came to visit us one Christmas in Bangkok. We kept a vegan household throughout their visit. By the end of their trip and lots of dinner table discussions, my brother and his girlfriend became vegan, my mum has eliminated 99% of animal products from her diet after reading Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live and my dad seriously cut down. I have friends and other family members who have also become vegetarian or even given veganism a try. I have been amazed at how open they have been to it. If we set the bar high, people will rise to it.
So… That’s it. That’s my story so far. It’s only been 2 and a half years since I woke up, but they have been wonderful years. The best years. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Why Do You Care So Much About Animals?

I became a strong advocate for animals two and a half years ago. Since I ‘woke up’, I’ve taken every opportunity I have had to speak for the animals. This has sometimes been a big challenge for me and I continue to learn how to effectively to do that. Throughout my life, I had always been sensitive of pushing my opinions on others. I felt that everyone had the right to their opinion and that I should respect their rights to do what they want. I rarely spoke up. Now, as anyone who has spent any time with me in recent years knows that I will speak up on this issue, trying to start a dialogue with people to show what I see, as the biggest injustice in the world. While I have to say, most people will listen respectfully to what I have to say, and I have had some wonderful dialogues with people, I am sure that the following thought must go through people’s minds: “Why does she care so much about animals? Why doesn’t she care and spend so much time working on the plight of landmine victims, battered women, fill in the needy cause here.

The fact is, I do really care about people. I really do. I have always been very sensitive to the plight of the powerless and the voiceless. I studied Peace Studies at university and the economies of developing countries. I learnt about the power of non-violent action, helped friends suffering with domestic violence and always felt a great deal of empathy and compassion towards those who were suffering.  I organised sponsored walks for Oxfam whilst at university and felt very strongly against going to war. I have to admit, I was mostly all mouth and no action. I don’t really know why. I guess I didn’t have the direction and the motivation in those days. Not now. It is pretty much on my mind every second I’m not working.

These days though, I have found my voice and I feel strong enough to speak for those who are unable to do so. I will never stop doing that and I will never apologise for that. I will never stop speaking on behalf of the poor, the unfairly imprisoned, children, women and of course on behalf of the animals; the hundreds of billions who have tortured short lives and needlessly and violently have those lives cut short every year.

In case anyone ever wonders why I waste my time with animals, when I could be spending my time doing something else, I’d like to say these things:

  • There is a lot of violence towards humans in the world. There’s no doubt about that. But the scale of suffering of animals, for turning beautiful beings in to pieces of meat to satisfy our tastebuds, is unlike anything else that is going on in this world right now. This violence and suffering could stop tomorrow. We just have to stop eating these sentient beings.  We just have to choose other foods from the thousands of different plant foods out there. It’s easier than trying to stop a war or human traffiking. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try and stop these issues too, but, never has it been so easy to make such a difference to the hundreds of lives that the average person consumes each year. I see incredible suffering that gets so little airtime in our media, so little conversation, that I must speak up to raise awareness.
  • My heart is large enough to hold everyone who suffers. I find that the more compassion I give to the world, the more I have to give. My compassion can envelop not only my own sex, but my race,  my own species and to all living feeling beings and even our planet. I think unlimited compassion is a trait that should be valued and maybe even admired, not ridiculed or undermined.
  • Any work that focusses on creating non-violence and kindness in this world affects all different kinds of social justice. All social justice advocates have the same goal: to eliminate violence, exploitation, cruelty and oppression. Violence breeds violence, and research has shown many times, the link between violence towards animals and violence towards people. This has been well documented in books like Slaughterhouse which examines the link between slaughterhouse workers and the domestic violence in their households. “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test consists of its attitude to those who are at his mercy; animals, and in this respect humankind has suffered a fundamental debarcle, so fundamental, that all other debarcles descend from it.” Milan Kundara I believe this to be true.
  • There are a lot of problems in this world. A lot of work needs to be done, and a lot of people don’t do anything about these problems at all. Criticizing me for doing something to try to make the world a better place when there are plenty of people who don’t do anything at all seems rather unfair. Let’s make people accountable for what needs to be done in this world.
  • Most vegan advocates including myself don’t just limit their actions to helping animals. They often try to buy sweatshop-free clothes, fair trade, buy organic and local when possible, recycle and give regularly to many different charities and try to address all issues of the oppressed. I admit, I am not perfect, I make mistakes, I could do more, and there will be times when I am a bit of a hypocrite. I’ll just keep trying my best.