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Battle on a herbivorous scale by Anna Sapsford-Francis, Vegan Views 92 (Spring 2002)

It was around 9 o'clock on a Friday morning nearly two years ago....

I walked cheerfully into my first lesson of the day - Food Technology. I caught the words 'new topic' and there followed a feeling of excitement throughout the classroom. Our teacher, Mrs Jones, smiled and gave us all a knowing look. 'Yes,' she explained majestically, 'today we are moving on to a new topic. I think it is something we will all enjoy: meat.' I froze. How could this be? As a vegetarian I had long ago recognised it as a part of the course, but I had acknowledged it in the same absent-minded way most people realise they're going to die some day.

Whilst Mrs Jones jumped headlong into her rousing speech on the British meat industry accompanied by some very gruesome pictures, I rallied myself a little. 'It'll only be for a few weeks,' I told myself, 'I'm sure I'll get through it. They must have some way of getting veggies through the meat part of the course.' That last thought gave me confidence - as if they'd expect me to do this topic! So when she flourished a sheet of diagrams depicting meat carcasses for us all to draw, I decided that now, while the class was busy, would be the time to have a little discussion about the weeks ahead.

I approached my teacher with a winning smile and, alas, the badly thought out words of, 'I don't have to do this, do I?' Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. 'Excuse me?' was her reply. 'Well, I am a vegetarian,' I explained painfully, 'and I think the diagrams are in pretty poor taste.' She answered me with a simple enraged, 'Why?' The look on her face made me step back. She rose slowly from her chair and stood at her full height, a full two inches shorter than me. Obviously she decided to make up for this by asking in a clear loud voice, 'Why won't you draw the diagrams?' This got the attention of anyone who hadn't already been aware of the situation and all around me hurried little whispers tried to catch up with events.

And so it began. Mrs Jones started with the more predictable arguments of, 'It's in the curriculum,' and, 'It's more than my job's worth,' but quickly subsided into ever increasingly bizarre statements such as, 'I was vegetarian once,' and, 'I've taught vegans and they never complained about cheese.' I'm sure there were many more such comments, but it is these two that stuck in my mind. In answer to the second one, with a very solemn face, I asked if there was much call for cheese diagrams. This didn't go down very well, so I tried to calm her by asking how long she had been vegetarian, 'Seven years.' To this I exclaimed, 'Then why the hell did you stop?!' In my experience someone who gives up after seven years is a hypocrite, but I kept this to myself as I could see the danger in her eyes.

I felt a little sorry for her, so I let her tell her little vegan story. There was a wistful expression on her face as she recounted the times she spent teaching the lovely peaceful vegans, who wore no leather or wool. She talked about them in much the same way people talk about there being fairies behind the garden shed. Eventually I agreed to get a signed letter explaining that I wouldn't take part in this topic and I was aware that this might have an adverse effect on my grades, in return for her shutting up. It was a fair deal and I was true to my side of the bargain.

It was later that evening however that her words came back to me. I'd thought of going vegan before, but hadn't had the knowledge to back up my beliefs. The computer beckoned and so it was with a happy face on Monday I gave in my letter and told my teacher how I had decided to become vegan...and all thanks to her!

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Cross-reference: Why I'm Vegan