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How and Why I became Vegan (part two) Vegan Views 92 (Spring 2002)

More contributions on this theme. Three have a common thread - the importance of experiences in childhood.

LISA CENERI When I was eight years old my family moved house, and I therefore started a new school. I made a friend there who I'm still in contact with to this day. She was fortunate enough to have been brought up vegetarian from birth - but at that time I didn't go veggie. Many of the kids at school labelled her Carrot Head, and I would half-heartedly join in with them. But deep down I admired her for her diet.

At lunch time she would complain about the smell of my ham sandwiches. I knew there was sense in changing, but I just continued doing what I'd always done because I'd always done it. It's difficult to lose face. Years later, at age 13, I took a holiday with my parents to Italy, as my dad's family were there. They kept chickens, which I used to play with, and even name. Then, one day, when my family weren't around, my dad's sister slaughtered one of the chickens in front of me. I ran upstairs crying and locked myself in the bathroom. I was eventually coaxed out by my mum, and I declared I would never eat meat again. And I didn't.

There was no big event that led me to veganism, although it was also something I did overnight. I guess subconsciously I knew it was right, it was just a matter of time, and I haven't looked back since. I felt enormous strength when I did finally take the step. As if that wasn't enough, I started to learn about the benefits of raw food when I became pregnant with my daughter. Now myself, and Coral, age 4, are on a high raw food diet and loving it!!

MALCOLM HORNE Between the ages of about eight and 14 I lived with my parents in Kenya. For a time we owned a farm which grew pyrethrum (used to make an insecticide). But of course there were a few animals around too. I can remember seeing chickens tied up in the garden not long before they became our lunch, and that probably made something of an impression on me.

More significantly I was given an air gun one Christmas, and of course the most interesting thing to go and shoot at was birds. I don't think my parents either encouraged or discouraged me in that. After the fourth or fifth bird I had to finish off a wounded one, and that was quite enough for me. I stuck to target shooting from then on.

Back in England I can remember not wanting to go into butchers' shops when out with my mother, I would often wait outside instead. Between school and university I had a year or two's gap, and without giving it any deep thought I just felt I wanted to stop eating meat, and so I did, although I continued with fish. I dabbled with semi-vegetarianism for a while, before going fully vegetarian at university. I didn't know any other vegetarians, I just knew that it was possible. My parents were a little concerned, but The Vegetarian Society wrote my mother a reassuring letter saying that her son would be fine provided he ate "plenty of dairy produce"!

It was about three years before I became vegan in 1972. I was only dimly aware of veganism for most of that time. I can remember having an extremely bland "vegan salad" in a Birmingham restaurant, but it can't have discouraged me. Veganism wasn't mentioned a great deal in the Vegetarian Society's monthly newspaper, but the Vegan Society did have a regular advert. I wrote for details and what I got back made immediate sense. Within a week or two I made what I'd regard now as the most important decision of my life, to go vegan. I still don't think I'd even met another vegetarian at that stage! My girl friend wrote saying she was sorry I'd become vegan and that honey was a wonderful food.

It was very much the ethical and moral arguments that persuaded me. I didn't (and still don't) find the health or environmental arguments so compelling - they seem to me to be reasons for eating far less meat rather than for giving it up altogether.

PAT REEVES Regular readers of Vegan Views will be aware that my reasons for eating in this manner are somewhat different from the average person who chooses to avoid animal products.

Because of the strong genetic link with cancer, well over 30 years ago I sought where I could find the nutrients I needed to at least survive, if not truly overcome, the situation I find myself in today. As you know, all the nutrients the body requires are to be found without consuming animal products, and for myself I found these to be far more bio-available and useful in improving my cancer.

As long as the regime includes a lot of variety, and is based upon whole, unprocessed (preferably living) foods, then good health is pretty well assured.

Latterly, I am increasingly convinced that humanely and ecologically a lifestyle of non-animal-eating is truly the best we can embrace.

LINDA BOYLE I am ashamed of how I became vegan. I was only a teenager, about 15 years old, and went on holiday with my parents to Spain. I'd grown up with pets - cats and a dog and two budgies. I loved animals.

Unfortunately my dad decided we should go to see a bullfight. It was horrendous. This beautiful animal was tortured and tormented and he actually was bleeding to death! He gored the matador and he beat 15 men. In the end they had to shoot him. My parents and I left in tears. When we got home I decided to go vegetarian. I joined Compassion in World Farming, and was even more convinced when I saw the film Look out here comes your dinner. I went on marches for the baby seals and even chained myself to the railings to close down "Club row" animal market!

Although vegetarian it wasn't until I met a truly lovely lady Margaret Plöger in the late 1970s that I learnt about vegan food and way of life. I went to Vegan Society AGMs and met Kathleen Jannaway and Serena Coles. I was hooked!

I've had hard times and my strength and compassion has kept me going. I've made many true vegan friends but will always be grateful to my parents in a roundabout way for opening my eyes to animal cruelty and starting me on the road to veganism. I've been vegan 26 years now.

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Cross-reference: Why I'm Vegan