We asked folks in our community what they marked as an important moment in their journey that helped them connect with their empathy for animals and go veg.
Everyone has a different story, including you, and we hope that their words help motivate you to take the next step in your journey and stick with it!
I had been eating really minimal amounts of meat before this simply because I didn’t like the taste. But, this last summer, I became more and more exposed to vegan environmentalists. I watched a video, by Hannah Shaw, discussing her work in kitten rescue and why society treats farm animals so differently from companion animals. This suddenly made me realize that I had been passively consuming meat my whole life without considering how much I truly loved these animals I had eaten. I sobbed for the horrors that these animals go through every day and what I had done to them. I vowed to go vegan immediately.
I was a vegetarian for many years, and I was drawn to veganism when I learned that cows, like all mammals, only produce milk in response to pregnancy. (I grew up thinking that cows just made milk—because that’s what cows were “for.”) As a very passionate feminist, I was motivated to go from vegetarian to vegan because of my strong belief in body autonomy—I don’t believe that animals bodies exist to produce dairy and egg products, and I believe that it is a gross violation of animals’ rights to have their bodies used and exploited for profit.
I watched the movie Year of the Dog.
Lucia Skinner De Gregorio
In my studies—which revolved around gender, feminism, and sexuality—I explored the nature of hierarchies. The idea really resonated with me that the foundation upon which hierarchies are altogether built is the idea that the human species is inherently more valuable than any and all other life. It so happened that as I was exploring this realization, I was diving deeper into the intricacies of intimacy as they evolve in one’s relationship to an animal companion, my dog Mona. It became quickly apparent to me that I could no longer reconcile my authentic and wholehearted love for her with my consumption of and disrespect for other nonhuman life. The peace of mind that follows taking the steps toward a more compassionate life is a beautiful thing. I’ve been meat-free for two years and vegan for a year and a half, and have never looked back.
My mother told me what meat really is, and that I had a vegetarian uncle. I decided that night to push my meatballs to the side of my plate and become the first vegetarian in my family or school. I was 5.
I would be an adult before I learned the truth of how animals are treated to produce milk and eggs.
Initially, when I became vegan, it was for health reasons. I was overweight, and a person I follow on YouTube ate a vegan diet six days a week to help her stay healthy, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I ended up losing about 60 pounds total over a couple of years! During that time, I was eating plant-based during the week, and eating animal products on the weekends. But as I researched recipes and vegan videos on YouTube, I started coming across videos on animal welfare. I remember specifically watching one called “Farm to Fridge” and I remember being so horrified at the treatment of the animals (especially the pigs really got to me), that I decided I couldn’t ever eat animal products again. I already didn’t have any animal products at home, I only ate them when I went out to eat, so it was actually a fairly simple transition for me.
I think for me, while I’d been interested in veganism long before this, I worked at a farm sanctuary during the school year and summer in college and realized how amazing so many animals are!
After attempting to reason with me for a few months my girlfriend Lisa, who I married, showed me pictures of a goat on a farm in Mexico getting surgery without painkillers. The people were reaching into the laceration they created. The goat was immobilized and held up by metal bars so if he passed out from the pain he wouldn’t collapse or otherwise move too much. I hadn’t realized before just how low in regard animals were held. I started to understand at that point that when animals are viewed as commodities, profit margins would always pose a challenge to proper care or even common decency. I didn’t know it was this bad. Once we read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation I started doing my part to remove the profit motive that leads people to harm animals in the first place by working my way toward a plant-based diet and the rest is history, along with that leather jacket.
A vegetarian friend invited me along to a PETA seminar here in the Cities (nearly 20 years ago). That first opened my eyes to what happens to animals and the choices I can make to reduce suffering. That’s where I connected with CAA! My “aha moment” was very shortly after that. We were visiting friends in Florida and happened to be there for lobster season: a few days when scuba diving for lobsters is allowed. Essentially, a hunting season. I was able to catch a lobster (the guilt is as present today as it was then). When we got to the dock, the idea was to twist the animal in half, separating head (thrown away) from tail (the desirable part to eat). I could not, would not ever do that. That was it. If I couldn’t kill an animal to eat it, I would not have someone else do it for me and pretend that was ok. That up-close experience with an animal headed for the plate made compassionate eating immediate, personal, and real to me. I sometimes say a lobster changed my life! And I’m grateful.
I was drawn to veganism because of its environmental sustainability. I knew I wanted to do as much as I could to reduce my carbon footprint, and I love animals!
I came to vegan through health but realizing how we treat animals, as food, or as pack animals or doing tricks to please us has always been on my mind. As a child, I was brought to the circus. When animals came out a snap of the whip almost made me cry. I kept asking if I could see the animals after and I was taken back and there they were, tethered and in tiny cages. I thought about our family dog, who did sit and lay and shake but had a much larger area to live. I didn’t know who trained our dog, as I was very young. However, I don’t eat lions, tigers, bears or dogs, so I happily munched on whatever my mother served us, hot dogs, hamburgers, meat, meat, meat.
As an adult, I watched a show about a normal family pig farm. In this show, they actually talked to a scientist who talked about how they genetically modified pig muscles to go from pink, to white and back to pink. That show turned me off of pigs. My SO at the time told me if I knew how my food was treated I wouldn’t be able to eat anything. I didn’t realize at the time that my SO was so correct. This was before GMO stuff.
After I gave up pig, I got cancer, and all meat tasted bad. I stopped eating eggs, and finally, let go of cheese. Now I eat plant-based and live vegan.
I was attending the University of Minnesota for undergrad. One of my friends recently went vegan and I was already vegetarian primarily for environmental reasons. My friend for months was talking to me about their moral reasons for going vegan. They were doing this again at an event called sustunes, an event with environmentally focused student groups. I thought their arguments were compelling but also seemed to put them in the back of my mind once our conversations were over. After the event was over, some friends and I were roaming around the Saint Paul campus late at night. The Saint Paul campus has a lot of farm animals since the agriculture majors utilize them. Still being young and hooligans we decided to hop over the fence around where the cows were kept to get a closer look. Looking at the cows through these metal bars they were kept behind was a different feeling than ever before. I didn’t just see an ‘animal’ anymore, I saw a living being.
There were many moments as a young child of not understanding why herbivores were hunted. I always loved animals but the first vegetarian that I knew was my first H.S. boyfriend and Morrissey. Knowing they existed created a path of dedication for me. It was definitely frowned upon in my Wisconsin German family. Living in alignment with my values is the best decision I’ve ever made.
I was reading Diet for A New America and realized I could not nourish myself with the suffering of others.
This is a story my father told me. He was sitting near his mother one evening. A mosquito landed on his arm and started what it does. My father whacked it with his other hand. Then his mother, my grandmother, asked him: “Son, why don’t you let that small mosquito have a drop of your blood. It needs food too.”
It wasn’t a singular moment but happened over time. I chose to reduce meat/dairy for health reasons after watching Forks Over Knives. I had always thought that it was sad that we had to kill animals for our food, but I truly thought it was necessary for our survival, so I didn’t think much about it. The less meat and dairy I ate, the more and more aware I became to animal suffering. I think that when you’re consuming animals, you have to have a level of cognitive dissonance so that you can keep going about your day. For me, it was important to FIRST reduce my intake of meat/dairy before my brain would allow me to realize the atrocities of the animal industry.
One change came for me when I was looking up information online, and learned that the dairy and egg industries also kill the animals they use. One moment was when my dog died, and my sadness over her illness and death didn’t make sense to me in the context of my eating so many animal products. My emotions felt inconsistent.
When I was about four years old and I experienced the first death of a close family member. I realized that all of the meat I had been eating meant that animals had to die like my grandfather, for no reason! It took me another 14 years to turn this moment into a commitment to becoming vegan!
I was vegetarian for over ten years, thinking I wasn’t harming animals. When I said in an online forum “I don’t eat any’thing’ with a face,” a blunt online vegan told me about the victims of the dairy and egg industries. I went vegan immediately.
I began rescuing abandoned chickens soon after. I have five companion chickens, volunteer at Rooster Redemption, and Chicken Run Rescue.
I received a Speciesism leaflet from a CAA volunteer at the Cat Video Festival. I’ve been a cat advocate for years, and all the sudden I felt like a hypocrite. How could I care more about one species than another? That pushed me to start adopting a plant-based diet.
My aha moment came when I became a vegetarian. I was in the Peace Corps and was walking to and from my activities past a market where the animals were alive when I went there in the morning and when I walked past on the way home their dead carcasses were hanging up with fleas on them. It brought home that the food that I used to eat which was sanitized for me in a cellophane package from the store was actually from an animal that lived and had feelings. This was supported by readings I did like Diet for a New America which had a huge impact in the new context.
There were two things that started the process. I’ve always loved animals and had been very involved helping with a pet rescue when I owned my bookstore. One of my staff members one day made a comment (she was vegetarian) something about that she was surprised that I still ate meat considering my love for animals. I think we were looking at vegetarian/vegan cookbooks or something. I didn’t really understand the comment at the time, but it stuck with me. Then a little while later I was watching one of my favorite TV show’s, Bones with vegan Emily Deschanel. They had an episode on there where they talked about how baby chicks had the ends of their beaks cut off so they wouldn’t peck each other to death when they were in such confined quarters when they were being raised to be killed. I couldn’t get that image out of my head. I had already stopped eating pork a while back and now I couldn’t eat chicken. Shortly after that, I made the decision to go vegetarian. At the time, I just didn’t think I could ever give up eggs and cheese. After about two weeks of being vegetarian, I knew I had to be vegan for the animals. I went vegan a month after that. That was 4 1/2 years ago. I could never go back to eating animals. I heard someone say once, that we are eating an animal for the pleasure of one meal and they have given their entire life. That thought haunts me. When people ask why I am vegan I show them my tattoo – For the Animals.