It's not that I started loving animals on the very day that I became vegan (I always loved them), but perhaps on that very day, my perception changed. I started seeing animals as things of beauty- individuals that grow up, have a baby, have familial bonds, have friends, feel pleasure and feel fear. Not commodities. Not here for our pleasure and consumption.
I started seeing food as a business- realizing that corporations are food pushers, leaving little space between advertising at the Olympics, on billboards and in magazines for people to even begin to think about having a choice. And within those corporations, I started seeing the dairy, egg and meat industries as some of the worst! I'd sit down to watch a movie at the cinema and find a commercial promoting milk! I didn't sign up for that! It's advertising, it's money, it's industry- they have your dollar at heart.
I started seeing the 'green' trend, hybrid cars and climate change actions as beneficial, but kind of missing the mark. Didn't those people know that factory farming is the largest contributor to greenhouse gasses, more than all transportation combined?* That's trains, planes, boats, trucks and cars! Didn't those people realize that it takes 10 times more fossil fuel to get 1 calorie of animal protein vs 1 calorie of plant protein?
I started seeing that food is the main factor in our top causes of death and illness- heart disease, cancers, strokes, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, obesity. Researching how to 'fight' these diseases is not the same as researching how to prevent them. Why did no one tell me that excess animal protein promotes the growth of cancer?** And that any dietary cholesterol is too much!?
It's hard to learn all of this. It's hard to learn that we've been fooled- that we think there are such things as 'happy cows', or that cage-free means freedom. It's hard learning that cows don't 'give' us their milk. It's extremely hard to know that this food is killing people, and that diseases are passed down through family lifestyle, and very rarely genes. It's hard to realize that most people don't know what's healthy and what's not, and that real food doesn't come from a box or in a package.
The stages of being vegan? Knowledge and power. Sadness, anger, alienation and frustration. Acceptance- accepting that you can't change everyone, accepting that your loved ones may not understand, accepting that everyone is on their own path. Pride- being proud that being different creates change, that vegans are role-models for a diet and lifestyle that contributes the least harm, being proud to be a leader.
So I ask you to imagine being told that black is white and white is black. Now I ask you to understand that we're all somewhere within that spectrum of truth. Everyone is at a different stage of life. For everyone, practicing non-judgment and acceptance will bring us all a little closer, no matter which stage of life we are at in our journey.