Happy World Vegan Day! When I think about my path towards veganism, I know it started with my childhood guinea pig Kristy. I have always been fat and as a child I was bullied for it. Kristy was my go-to for support. She would kiss my tears away, purr, and snuggle up next to me. I could always depend on her and she never let me down, never judged me and loved me unconditionally. There was no one else in my life I felt this way about or provided me this type of security.
Although she was uniquely amazing, I was able to connect that other animals had their own personalities and could be compassionate as well. I would look at a cow and know they were capable of love. I would look at a bunny and know they cared about how they were treated by others. I would look at a hurt bird and know they needed help. But then I would look at the world around me and noticed so many animals were being harmed by the hands of humans. I knew it was wrong and that I had to do something.
High school I spent a lot of time speaking out against fur and cosmetic testing. It was the larger animal welfare organization’s focus at the time. A close family friend got me memberships to some of them as a gift. I would receive educational materials in the mail and absorbed everything I was reading and did further research. I wrote an article for my school newspaper class titled, “Are you brushing with death?” about products that tested on animals. I thought I was so clever (and still do!) I shared a creative writing piece with my English class called “Humane Trap?” about a fox stuck in a trap from the perspective of the fox. My classmates thought I was weird for my obsession with animal rights.
Luckily my parents were mostly supportive, but were annoyed when I decided to stop eating meat since it meant more work to prepare meals. They allowed me to go Fur Free Friday protests and was excited for me when I was (very briefly) on the news holding a sign. They were still supportive when I become much more involved in animals rights during college, was the director of my college’s animal rights group, and didn’t mind getting into trouble. Thanksgiving was happily all vegan food (as long as I was preparing the feast) and learned the hard way that my goal was to save a turkey and not just have a nice family meal. My rebel ways rubbed off on them. My dad became more liberal with his views and when my picture ended up in national news after being billy-clubbed by a police officer at the WTO (World Trade Organization) protest in Seattle; my dad picked me up from the train station with so much pride.
Today, I still see animals in the same way. When I look at my rat Ezri, besides being the cutest being on the planet, I see her unique personality. I know she loves back massages and prefers sleeping on top of things rather than inside. She’s the sweetest little rat, but is also very dominant and it takes her awhile to accept new friends. Her sister Jadzia is very gentle and loves to give kisses. She’s also highly intelligent and amazes me often, but is also prone to lose her balance trying to get closer to you. I know they are capable of pain, as well as love. When I heard about Impossible Foods testing on rats for their plant-based burger I was (and still am) mad as hell. I do not consider it vegan and do not think their decision was acceptable. All I can think about are the rats just like my Ezri and Jadzia that were killed for the study. That is not the future of food!
Sometimes I wonder if I would still have become vegan if I hadn’t had Kristy in my life. Would I have built the same relationship and understanding with her if I was not fat? How much did the childhood bullying contribute to recognizing the importance of empathy? What I do know is that the kindness of another species got my through a tough childhood and changed me for the better. She gave me to determination to fight for animals and do my best to show others what compassion truly is. I am so appreciative for her role in my life and teaching me to be the vegan I am today.
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