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March 3, 2013

A Compilation of Long-Term Vegans; Our Powerful Message

Joined together in this compilation, are people who have been living vegan for decades, which is a powerful statement proving that humans CAN live vegan. My short questionnaire was  responded to by an assortment of: prominent activists in the movement, the youngest Alpine Ski Racer in Olympic history at the age of 14, a medical doctor, PhD's, a sociologist, an animal-rights lawyer, people raised vegan since birth, owners of vegan businesses, political party leader to anarchist, vegan marathon runners; including an Elite Marathon runner who also cares for 400+ rescued animals. Responses from long-time vegans from all regions of the globe were combined in this moving historical document. If you have been vegan for 20+ years as a stance of non-participation in animal exploitation and want to be added, send me an email: veganpoet (at sign) hotmail.com


Light and Sun – are the co-founders of Gentle World. In response to my questions: Q: How long have you been vegan? A: We have been vegan for 43 years. Our decision began with an epiphany, while attending a movie in which the slaughter of a bull is shown. Q: How and when; the details of your "aha moment" of becoming vegan  A: Our "aha" moment came in 1966, with the realization of what was being done to make the meat we were eating. We knew then and there that we had to change our eating habits. Our other lifestyle habits then changed over the next few years, as we came to see that there was no need for us to use anything that came from exploiting animals. We didn't know that there was a word "vegan" at the time. There were no health food stores, no tofu, and no animal rights movement that we knew of. All we knew was that we could no longer be responsible in any way for the murder of animals for any reason, because for the first time in our lives, we knew the certainty of an irrefutable truth; a truth not determined by one's opinion, but by the basic human tenet that cruelty is inherently wrong and must not be tolerated. Q: Please describe some changes you have seen through the years in the movement to spread the vegan ideal  A: We have been spreading the word since we knew there was a word to spread. If we kept silent and that silence allowed more animals to suffer, we would wonder if our words could have saved their lives. It was literally a matter of life and death. The vegan changes we have seen during the past 43 years are the most encouraging aspects of this less than encouraging world situation. The word has gone from total obscurity to common place, although, sadly losing  its meaning, as people find it easier to change the word to fit their lifestyle, rather than changing their lifestyle to live up to the true meaning of the word. We have witnessed the transition from tasteless food to whatever a vegan tummy could want; from delicious ice cream and treats to gourmet cuisine; from a media joke to a 10 course vegan meal at the academy awards to serve the growing number of actors who are choosing to eat a plant-based diet, or as in the case of Joaquin Phoenix, have always been vegan. We were told  by the medical experts when we began to eat a vegan diet that we would die from lack of protein, calcium and whatever. Now, people are told by the medical experts to eat that way for better health and longer lives. Q: Are you healthier than before you were vegan? The same? How did it affect your health? A: We were four decades younger when we began, so in scientific fairness, we will compare our health to those nearer our age, and with that comparison in mind, we would say that our health is unquestionably better than the health of most, if not all the people we know…one more reward for the right choice all those years ago. Q: Have you been unwavering or off and then on the bandwagon? A: Our life's dedication to abolishing these atrocities will never waiver. Once you have seen the truth of "animal agriculture" and of all "animal businesses", there is no going back to the darkness of apathy. There is only going forward toward the light of compassion. Q: Any tips you can offer for others to stick with it or that will inspire others to continue on the path? A: Fortunately, it will not require everyone in the world; just the number of people necessary to shift and lift the consciousness of the rest of humanity… those who listen with their hearts, as well as their ears will be the first. If you need to defend your position to others, you can do so with three words… it is cruel! To treat other living beings as though their well-being and their lives mean less to them than they do to us - is cruel. I know my heart and I trust your heart, too, when it tells us that there is no excuse for cruelty. Q: A statement to the world pertaining to the vegan ethic: A: Living the vegan ideal is no less than the evolution of Humankind; an evolution that is imperative for the survival of the animals, ourselves and for the planet we all inhabit. (Gentle World on Facebook)

James Gorman - is co-founder of Evolve Campaigns, U.K. - I have been a vegan for most of my life, over 50 years, having been brought up this way by my mother. I wasn't aware of all the issues as a child - I only really understood that I was different to other children due to the plant-based foods and natural remedies my mother gave me - but since adulthood I have been vegan for one simple reason and that is the cruelty and violence that is inflicted upon animals at the hands of human beings. Once I learned about that - through reading an animal rights magazine in my youth - I was resolute in my views that I didn't want to be a part of it and I certainly didn't want to fund it, in any shape or form. Since then my commitment has been unwavering. I make it part of my daily routine to talk to as many people as I can about being vegan, I am proud to speak out for the animals and I will do it till my dying day.~  I have noticed a BIG change in the past three decades. Years ago nobody even knew what veganism was but these days I find that when I talk about it on a one-to-one basis, the person I'm conversing with not only knows what it means, but invariably also knows (or knows of) somebody who is already vegan. It's great to be able to point new people towards all the great cruelty-free products that are available these days. For example, where once upon a time, years ago, there was only one soya milk - Plamil - available in health stores, there are now over a dozen choices of plant milk freely available in supermarkets. And all the time new cruelty-free alternatives to using animals are emerging. There's no excuse anymore. From fashion to beauty there's a plethora of ethical wares easily available. I lecture on advanced nutrition but my personal motto is this: while the health benefits of a plant-based diet are many, they are to me merely a bonus because I would still choose to be vegan even if the diet was as unhealthy as eating meat and dairy. Veganism is about much more than just food, it's about rejecting violence towards animals and protecting the innocent. It's the way we need to evolve. It's the future. Evolve Campaigns on Facebook.

Michael Klaper, M.D. – has been vegan for 32 unwavering years. ~ After dealing with so much violence in the emergency rooms of Chicago hospitals, the Viet Nam war and observing the effects of violence in people's daily lives in my medical practice, and after reading and hearing so many teachings of spiritual leaders about the power and truth of non-violence, I had reached a point in my life where I knew I had to make a serious effort to rid my own being of violence - my thoughts, words, and, above all, my actions. I knew I wanted to become not only a peaceful man, but a Man of Peace. One evening in late 1980, while at a restaurant consuming a steak dinner, I was expounding on my desire to rid my life of violence when my dinner companion pointed out that my peaceful goals were all well and good, but if I was truly concerned about reducing the level of violence in my life that I both experienced and caused, I should begin with that piece of meat on my plate. He clearly stated that it was my desire for the taste of flesh in my mouth that directly caused the death of an innocent animal - and, indeed, my money actually paid the slaughterer for his killing. As much as I did not want to face that fact, I heard a small voice within me saying, "You know, he's right." And that started my serious journey toward becoming a vegan, beginning with the cessation of my consumption of flesh foods, and soon extending to dairy products and then to my leather wallet and belt. Soon, the vegan principle of "ahimsa" - especially the adage I had received in my medical training to truly "do no harm” - became the guidepost for all my subsequent decisions, words and actions. ~ There is an old saying that "you can't keep a hat pin in a cloth bag for very long. The point will come out." I have been impressed and encouraged that the truth of the vegan ideal has increasingly found its way into modern culture, especially in the media and among the youth of our society. The media references to being vegan, once rare and usually tinged with derision, are becoming more frequent, and now more often presented with seriousness and respect. The vegan ideal is becoming especially popular among this internet-connected generation of young people who seem to have a greater concern for the animals and the Earth than did their parents' generation. They see the societal violence and environmental degradation all around them and many know that the chance for a more peaceful and sustainable future begins with their own being and efforts, and especially with their own food choices. The vegan word is out - and spreading virally. ~ Since becoming a vegan, my body has assumed a leaner configuration, which makes it easier to exercise and maintain a high level of fitness and to keep me out of the clutches of doctors - like ME! ~ Anyone with a conscience who is tempted to eat the flesh of an animal should conjure up the image I saw on a poster from the Farm Animals Rights Movement. It was the image of a beautiful, but pathetic, baby calf, chained by the neck in a veal crate, lying in its own manure, unable to clean him or her self, and looking back at the viewer with sad, baleful eyes. The caption under this soul-searing image read, "Are you really THAT hungry?" That image snuffs out any temptation in me to pay for the death of any animal. ~ Every decision you make matters - including what you have for dinner - because each decision will make your world either more violent or less violent. A vegan world is a healthier, more peaceful world, and you can begin to create that world for yourself, today, by making vegan choices in your diet and your lifestyle. ~ www.doctorklaper.com ~~ Dr. Michael Klaper is a practitioner of preventative and nutritional medicine. He graduated from the University of Illinois College Of Medicine in Chicago, in 1972. He served his medical internship at Vancouver General Hospital in British Columbia, Canada and under took additional training in surgery, anesthesiology, orthopedics, and obstetrics at the University of California Hospitals in San Francisco.

Will Tuttle, PhD. – has been vegan for 33 years, since 1980. In response to my questions: “I remember very clearly the “aha moment” when I went vegetarian – it was in December of 1975 and I was at The Farm in Tennessee, and had the inspirational and educational example of 900 people being vegetarian and radiantly healthy. I was only there a few weeks, and have never eaten meat again in my life. The aha moment was a combination of learning about animal suffering and simultaneously having the experience of an entire community of 900 people who were all thriving. My transition to veganism was around 1980, and by then I was in San Francisco, and it was just a gradual thing – I heard about the suffering of dairy cows and layer hens, and learned about vegans, and went vegan, but it wasn't abrupt and public like going vegetarian was for me. It was more gradual and private. ~ I remember in the early days of the Animal Rights movement, not everyone was vegan. Gradually, in the 90s, veganism started becoming imperative for anyone claiming to be a proponent of animal rights and animal liberation. One of the big changes is veganism moving from being weird and extreme to being chic, healthy, hip, and respected, and the profusion of vegan cookbooks, blogs, meet-ups, and especially foods that are even better than the animal foods they are replacing. Also, in the early days there was a feeling that the vegan/AR revolution would take decades or centuries; now I think there’s more optimism that it could happen much more quickly. Additionally, I think there is more willingness now to bring in the spiritual dimension of veganism and compassion for all life, and evolve beyond a strictly rational and mechanistic approach to spreading the vegan message. Finally, there’s the big pushback with Low-Carb, Paleo, Blood Type, and other diets to justify the need to kill animals on the one hand, and on the other, there is the whole pro-small-scale animal agriculture (anti-factory farming) movement that helps people justify eating animals foods as well. ~ I was always quite healthy overall, and went veg at the age of only 22 and vegan at 27, but I have to say that today at about 60, I feel in many ways as healthy as when I was just 22! I love to go out on long runs and hikes and have lots of energy and enormous gratitude for the blessings of a human life. For me, the fabulous, radiant health I experience is a “side blessing” – a natural, no-big-deal consequence of doing my best to be kind to others. ~ From the very beginning, I have felt the need to be a vegan advocate. Back in the 1980's, fresh as a vegan, I was teaching college classes, and chose Peter Singer’s 'Animal Liberation' when it first came out as a textbook in my Ethics classes, and other books promoting compassion for animals in my other classes, and attended protests against vivisection at U.C. Berkeley, and so forth. Being a vegan advocate has created a lot of conflict in my relationships in certain ways over the years, but I’m absolutely happy that I've done it. Wish I’d done more! In fact, it just keeps growing over the years, and the rewards keep increasing, in terms of living a life of meaning and happiness. ~ I offer a 4-week and also an 8-week online training that helps people to thrive as vegans and also to be effective as advocates for vegan living – The World Peace Diet Mastery Program and Facilitator Training. ~~ For me, a spiritual foundation has been essential, in the sense of a regular practice of meditation every morning, as well as scriptural study, and deepening self-inquiry into the nature of my own mind. This is actually the most important dimension of my life, and vegan activism is an outgrowth and expression of that. I just made a short video that speaks about it a bit.  ~ Veganism is nothing to be proud of. It is simply returning home to our true nature and looking with eyes that see beings when we look at beings, rather than seeing mere commodities as we've trained to do by our culture’s relentlessly violent meal rituals. The vegan ethic is a living spirit of radical inclusion, and liberates not just animals, but our Earth and all of us from the essentially toxic program injected into us by our culture. Vegan living is our bright future calling us to wake up and live our lives authentically and according to our values. As an expression of the primordial spiritual teaching of Ahimsa, or nonviolence, veganism calls us to ever-greater levels of understanding and illumination, so that we can more fully live our lives as expressions of joy, freedom, abundance, sustainability, harmony, and wisdom. There is nothing preventing us from embracing vegan living and the sooner we do so, the better for everyone! It is the foundation of everything life-affirming and worthy of respect and support. ~ http://worldpeacediet.org; http://worldpeacediet.com; Circle of Compassion; World Peace Mastery Circle

winner: North Pole marathon
Fiona Oakes – has been vegan for 37 years. “I became vegan at the age of 6 when my Mother could not answer truthfully that the dairy industry was not cruel. Previously to this I had been vegetarian since I was able to make my own decisions. My stance on veganism has always been borne out of a love of animals – not myself or health issues. Before the widespread use of the computer, I remember it being a very rare thing to meet another vegan and very difficult to buy dedicated vegan products. Veganism was always considered unusual, almost alien, and my Mother was given an exceptionally hard time by family, friends and my schools for allowing me to follow the path. I can only assume being vegan has affected my health in a very positive way as I am currently leading the most active and physically demanding lifestyle I have ever had. I wake at 3.30 a.m. and care for my 400 rescued animals through the day – and night if necessary. I am a retained fire-fighter and Elite Marathon runner. After years of top placings against professional athletes as an amateur runner in the biggest Marathons in the world and winning many smaller ones, I have turned my attentions to ‘super’ endurance events. In 2012, I was the first vegan woman to complete Marathon des Sables – the toughest foot stage race in the world – and this April I will be the first vegan to compete in the North Pole Marathon – the toughest and most extreme Marathon in the world. (She came in first place for the women and third all around.) ~ I have been absolutely unwavering in my commitment to my lifestyle over the years. The thought has never once entered my head to diversify from it in any way, shape or form. If anything, my commitment has grown in that my passion to share its benefits with others has become stronger. ~ My only tip for those who may be tempted to stray from the path or reluctant to join it - is for them to consider the suffering that goes into the things they are tempted by. Nothing is worth the pain of another creature. For me, veganism is not just sensible, ethical and viable it is also totally logical – simple as that. ~ In 2012 I was nominated by the Daily Mail as Inspirational Woman of the Year for my efforts and Charity work worldwide. ~ I have several social network pages a well as a website where details of all my running and Charity work can be found: www.towerhillstables.com ~ Fiona Oakes on Facebook ~ Tower Hills Stables on Facebook ~ Marathon Fiona on Facebook

Virginia Messina, MPH, RD - www.TheVeganRD.com - has been vegan for 22 years. Responding to my questions, "I had two "aha" moments, once inspiring me to go vegetarian and then another inspiring me to go vegan. The first was in 1983 when I read the dedication in the cookbook Laurel's Kitchen: "This book is dedicated to a glossy black calf on his way to the slaughterhouse many years ago, whose eyes met those of someone who could understand their appeal and inspire us, and thousands of others like us, to give the gift of life." I went vegetarian on the spot. Seven years later, when I went to work for P.C.R.M, I found myself immersed in an animal rights culture that opened my eyes to the injustices behind all animal use. That inspired me to go vegan. ~ I see veganism becoming so much more mainstream, although it certainly has a long way to go. Efforts to spread messages about veganism have become much more sophisticated and get more media attention than ever before. ~ I was young when I went vegan, and already pretty healthy, so it didn't have any effect on my health. I assume I'm healthier now than I would have been if I hadn't gone vegan--but have no way of knowing that for sure! ~ I was on and off the bandwagon, in the beginning. It's just so much easier to avoid that now, with a more vegan-friendly world, plus years of experience in finding vegan food and fashion. ~ This article sums up my recommendations for helping anyone stay successful with a vegan diet. ~ As long as we view animals as commodities--even well-treated commodities--they will never be safe from abuse. Knowing that vegan diets are healthy and adequate, and given the always-growing availability of vegan food, fashion, and personal care products, we truly have no excuse for using animals.”

Seba Johnson – has been vegan her entire life; since she was born, nearly 4 decades. “Well, many years before I was born my Mother vowed to never eat another animal again. She was in college and her art teacher told the students to paint a picture depicting misery/pain. My Mother; always an animal lover since she was a kid and always knowing deep down in her heart that eating animals didn't seem right, decided to visit a slaughterhouse. There she would find the objects of her painting. It was in the eyes of the cows that she could see their fear and deep sadness, it was in the sight of blood trickling past their hooves that she could feel their distress, as these beautiful cows with their long eyelashes stood in cramped corridors. My Mother saw their faces as they inched closer to their fate ahead of them. Cows hanging upside down - jerking until they reached lifelessness. And it was THAT day that my Mother vowed never to eat another living being for the rest of her life. She felt that misery/pain and created a painting that changed the rest of her life. Once my older sister and I were born, she carried that love of animals through us. As youngsters, my sister and I saw the animal-rights pamphlets that were mailed to the house. We were educated/taught at a young age where "meat" comes from. I never imagined eating the flesh of an animal and likened it to eating flesh of ANY sort, a person perhaps, my sister’s arm even, I couldn't imagine it! I wondered how and why was that necessary, to eat animals, when we were just fine and actually got less illnesses being raised vegan than my friends in school. My "aha moment" was inherent. I truly believe it is inherent for every human being. But most choose to disconnect emotionally from the source of flesh on their plate. ~ The products we have on the market today are great advances. For instance, when my sister and I were kids we had to pour "imitation milk for babies" on our cereal for breakfast. It was always a bit embarrassing as a kid to be drinking "babies' milk" from a tall tin cylinder (with a white label which had a face of a baby on it) in front of my friends after sleepovers. But heck, it didn't come from a mother cow's utter meant for her calves! We are the only species that drink the milk of another species and the only species that doesn't know to wean ourselves off milk after infancy. Think about it, you never see a giraffe drinking the milk of a cat, nor an adult cow drinking the milk of another cow. And the foresight of my Mother, as I look back, makes me want to call my Mom right now and say THANK YOU for instilling compassion at such a young age. These days, we have a choice from a wide variety of milk alternatives. If you look into the horrific production of animal milk, the undercover videos, it would make you never want to sip on the mammary gland secretion from any other species - ever again. We also have plant-based alternatives to almost every meat product you can think of. And as a movement itself, I find that people tend to respond more to the health benefits they'd gain from a vegan diet. In my almost 4 decades of being a lifelong vegan, most of my converts have been because they wanted to eat healthier and live longer. I pray almost every day that we as a species will evolve into full-fledged vegans - for the simple fact that every sentient being has the want to LIVE. Every soul on this earth or every spirit born into the various species of vessels that occupy this world, whether it be the body of a pig or the body of a human, should not have their life cut short at the hands of a human. We are not true carnivores. Why take a life of another to sustain our own? Compassion is key. There are many groups educating the public about the issues surrounding the meat and dairy industries. There are many medical reports confirming the benefits of a plant-based diet. The information is out there - don't shy away from it. ~ The biggest difference I noticed growing up vegan was that we hardly got sick. My friends seemed to always be sick with common colds and stomach issues which were directly related to dairy and meat consumption. There were times my Mom called me into school "sick" but those were days I was actually on the ski slopes training or simply enjoying a sunny day skiing. In fact, I attribute my vegan lifestyle to the honor of becoming the Youngest Alpine Ski Racer in Olympic History at the age of 14. I went on to compete in two World Alpine Ski Championships, several Woman's World Cup Downhills, and a second Olympic competition all by the age of 18. It was at that young age of 18 when I quit ski racing, the love of my life, because I could no longer take the racism I endured as the first black female Alpine Ski Racer in Olympic History. Just as racism is a learned trait, so is speciesism. With "compassion," once again, both of these human flaws can be eradicated. As an ethical vegan, I also do not wear animal derived products such as leather, wool, fur, silk, etc. I was once disqualified from a World Cup ski race because I refused to wear a ski suit with a tiny patch of leather sown into the pant legs. Because of my ethical beliefs and moral refusal to wear said animal skin, I received more press attention than the winner of the ski race! ~ Be creative, there are so many vegan cookbooks and raw food books that provide tons of healthy meals bursting with flavor and great nutrients. There is no other greater inspiration than the fact that you are lessening the pain inflicted on billions of animals per year. If each of us took a stand to become vegan, it would change the way animals are treated. There would be no need to artificially inseminate these animals, and eventually factory farms and animal-farming will be a thing of the past, alongside other outdated atrocities we as humans have finally graduated away from. Getting away from animal flesh and all the violence surrounding the production of it will be a great step towards human civilization. And with civilization comes true peace on earth for all species. ~ www.SebaJohnson.com  ~ Email: Contact@SebaJohnson.com - 

Doris Lin - Website: http://animalrights.about.com/ - is an animal rights attorney. Doris holds a B.S. in Applied Biological Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a J.D. from the University of Southern California Law Center. She is Director of Legal Affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and a member of the steering committee of the League of Humane Voters of New Jersey. She has been vegan since 1988. From her website bio: Society is evolving to recognize that animals are sentient and deserve to be treated as more than just property. We have the power to create a better world in which animals will be guaranteed certain rights. In the meantime, everyone can do their part by speaking out for animals and making lifestyle choices that do not support animal cruelty. ~ “I've been vegan since the summer of 1988, so almost 25 years. My "aha" moment came after being vegetarian for 3 years. I knew that going vegan was the right thing to do, but I thought it would be too hard. I was in college, and I was in Washington D.C. for a protest against whaling, and a vegan friend took me to visit Alex Herschaft of F.A.R.M. In that office, chatting with Alex and surrounded by all those books and posters, I knew I had to do it.  ~ I see society becoming more polarized. There are more vegans, but also more people who think that because they're not vegan, it's okay to wear fur and abuse animals any way they like. I *love* that most people have heard the word "vegan" and understand it to mean some kind of vegetarianism, although few nonvegans truly understand that things like gelatin, silk, and lanolin are not vegan. ~ It's so much easier now to be vegan! There are vegan restaurants and vegan bakeries popping up all over the place - even in the suburbs! Vegan websites and catalogs make it easy to be vegan and cruelty-free, when you used to have to go to the health food store and read the tiny print on the packages to find vegan products. I also see more ardent advocacy for veganism. I love the passion, but I hope we're not scaring off more people than we're attracting. There's a difference between making an impassioned argument and telling people they're evil if they're not vegan. ~ I think I'm healthier than I would be if I weren't vegan. Like most people, I'm heavier than I was 25 years ago, but I think I would have gained much more weight if I continued eating eggs and dairy. But I didn't notice any change in my health when I went vegan. ~ It really helps to see fellow vegans face to face, and talk to them about recipes and local restaurants. Share stories about vegan-phobic relatives and how to deal with Thanksgiving. ~ We don't have to choose between saving the child and saving the dog. Veganism saves people, the animals and the environment." 

Roger Yates – is a sociologist in Ireland, and has been vegan 3 decades, since 1979 - 34 years. Website: On Human-Nonhuman Relations - In response to my question about his “aha” moment: “I don’t think I had one. I was never a vegetarian but I was boycotting the eating of fishes (while still eating other animals) due to what I learnt about a seal kill in Scotland. I realised that such a position was silly and I moved rapidly to veganism but with no “aha moment” that I recall.” More responses: “The most important development in my view has been the recent concentration on veganism as the movement’s moral baseline. Although some animal advocates do not put veganism at the centre of their activities and outreach, and some even mock the idea of veganism as the baseline position, there has been a growth in advocates including vegan messages as part of their central claims-making about human-nonhuman relations. This means that some single-issue campaigns (and better still, single-issue events) are not as problematic as they once were. ~ I’m healthier. Veganism has been good for me. I used to suffer bad migraine headaches as a child and these stopped once I went vegan. My general fitness level is pretty good, although I am slightly overweight, even as a vegan. I still play sports to a decent level at 55.” When I asked if he’s ever been on and off the bandwagon with veganism, he replies “Never – and I think that’s due to the ethical thrust of my veganism.” ~ There are several reasons why some vegans may find themselves struggling. Social pressure may be one of many possible variables – or perhaps a feeling that they are depriving themselves. Some vegans have been prepared to break significant familial and other relationships due to their feelings about being vegan. However, such moves are harder for others and perhaps they should seek out contact and support from other vegans. ~ There is more urgency than ever before for people to seriously consider veganism for all its benefits for other animals, the environment, food security issues, and health. We also need more ethical vegans to help address the harms and deaths that veganism itself causes. Unless there is an increase in vegans that will give them socio-politico-economic influence, they will not be able to alter the structural reasons (for example, the way crops are farmed and harvested) for vegans causing harm to other animals and the environment."

on a night-time rescue 
Achim Stößer is the founder of Maqi - for Animal Rights, Against Speciesism  - I have been vegan since April 1992. It was a slow transition which began when I was 17. Not willing to learn how to kill (until recently there was compulsory military service for males in Germany), I had to sue the Federal Republic of Germany to be allowed to do "alternative civilian service" (euphemism for forced labor). Soon I extended my aversion against killing to non-human animals (eating their corpses or wearing their skins), but it took more than eight years till I finally understood that veganism is necessary. The internet still being in its infancy then, there were no websites on this subject, but newsgroup discussions helped a lot. Yet I lived three years as a vegan before I met another one. ~ Hardly anyone even knew the word 'vegan' then. Now, no day passes without at least one newspaper article mentioning it. In the late 1990's, I coined the term "antispe" (analogous to "antifa" which is a very common acronym for anti-fascism in the German language area). Today many people use it, most of them unaware of its origin. When the first vegan cats in Germany (who lived with me) died (they suffered from FIV) there was a rumor that I "starved them" because I "force-fed them vegan food". Today those who do not use vegan cat food are rightly attacked (and similar people spread the rumor that I feed cats with "meat"). When I published "PeTA - an Organization Against Animal Rights" in a magazine in 2001, that started a chorus of outrage; now nearly everybody involved in AR knows enough to execrate PeTA. When I wrote "Vegetarians are Murderers" in 2002 ("The time has come to put an end to the false dichotomy, the division that puts the non-vegetarians on one side of the fence, and the vegetarians and vegans together on the other. In actual fact, vegetarians are on the wrong side, on the same path as the corpse-eaters: on the side of the animal exploiters, all those that imprison, mistreat and take the life of animals - so that they may consume parts of their bodies, the products of their menstruation, or their glandular secretions.") in spite of the fact that this article made multitudinous vegans, most people, including vegans, opposed it. One decade later the acceptance of the article is far from being ubiquitous, but way more people use it. Since 2010 an English version is available. There are also drawbacks. These suspect organizations are like a Lernaean Hydra. For each head cut off they grow two more, especially now, when veganism seems to become mainstream and you can make money with it when you are unscrupulous enough. Welfarists mislabel themselves as animal rights advocates, vegan-foodists and pseudo-vegans claim to be vegan (and start ranting as soon as someone tries to explain the difference). Newspaper articles and TV reports are full of "lifestyle vegans", vegan store owners and vegan athletes telling how healthy and yummy vegan food is - but the only relevant aspect, ethics, if mentioned at all, is drowned in all that babble. ~ I am two decades older than before I went vegan, I am gaining weight and losing hair, have several little ailments, heck no, I am not healthier. Healthier than I would be as a non-vegan, I guess, or so says scientific evidence, but I don't really care, I am vegan for ethical reasons; actually health is a no-no when it comes to advocating veganism or animal rights, just as nobody would seriously try to stop someone from beating children by mentioning that the perpetrators could hurt themselves when hitting too hard. ~ I cannot understand how anyone who has seen the results of non-veganism would ever stop being vegan. I never did and I never will (unless I end up in a plane crash in the Andes and have to eat some of the dead passengers to survive, or someone performs a lobotomy on me). I never had a problem to stick with it, but if I had I would remind myself of the victims. I have seen pigs and hens and turkeys decaying in fattening facilities and egg production. I have seen a cow hanging down from a hook in a slaughterhouse looking at me who tried to scream but could only breathe stertorously because a stream of blood ran out of her cut throat. That is what non-vegans cause. Veganism is an ethical imperative. Anything else is murder.

Butterflies (Katz) – has been vegan 35 years. “At age 12 (4 decades ago) when my brother told me that 'meat' was a dead animal, I stopped eating animal flesh, disguised or not. I began to prepare my own food. I had never heard of or knew another vegetarian or vegan back in those days. I was completely alone, yet was self-assured in the knowing that this path was right. I wanted to live without harming other animals who were obvious friends. It was more difficult to find information in those pre-internet days. I didn't know then what I do now, or I would have been vegan. Being vegan is the first step, and one you honestly can't get around, to showing basic respect for ALL animals. I started living vegan at age 21 – inspired by the writing of Jay Dinshah; the founder of The American Vegan Society; who had brought the concept over from the U.K. where it originated. After reading about the horror of the dairy industry, I immediately committed to living vegan; rid my closet of leather and began purchasing products that were not derived from animal exploitation. In those days of no "vegan marks" on product labels and learning which ingredients were animal-derived - I had to phone companies all the time. It was less convenient than today, though our convenience is of no consequence in comparison to the violation of birth-rights that other animals endure at the hands of humanity. At age 24, I met up with Gentle World where my "over-standing" of the vegan ideal was heightened. ~ More and more advocates are using the internet to spread this social-justice movement throughout the world. Our goal is to reach a tipping point where the collective consciousness "gets it" about how vegan living makes sense on so many levels. Most significantly though, it addresses the lack of empathy and desensitization of the human spirit to the misery we (unnecessarily) impose on others with the capacity to feel. We can improve ourselves, live more gently upon the earth and towards all others - by adopting the vegan way of life. It's our greatest hope of animal liberation, but also human liberation, and for the survival of the life-sustaining planet we all share. ~ Upon turning vegan, my allergies all went away. I'm 56 and have rarely needed to go to a doctor. I have only taken a pharmaceutical on very rare occasion; as they are tested on animals. ~ When I first realized I had to give up dairy cheese and ice cream; it seemed so hard to do. There were no replacements back then. Now, I find consuming the milk or muscle of another species of animal - perverted and repulsive; the exact opposite of how I initially felt when becoming vegan. If we can reach the truthful perception that other animals are perceptually-aware, and literally have the capacity to feel pain much like we do - then there is no other choice but to be vegan. I could not harm, kill, abuse, kidnap from, or sexually violate anyone. (All those things are routine in breeding and farming animals.) I believe in non-violence towards all. Thirty years ago, the founder of Gentle World said "Do unto animals as you would have them do unto you." I have based my way of life on this theory, and with it – vegan living has become second-nature. There’s an initial re-learning of which products to buy and which practices not to support; because we don't want to use our dollars to demand animal exploitation. Where there's a will; there's a way, and the way to stay vegan is to grasp that all sentient animals have rights. In one very important way, all sentient animals; both human and nonhuman - are equal: in the right NOT to be enslaved, owned, violently assaulted, objectified or considered a thing, a commodity for human use. Veganism is not a fad, a diet for your own health or weight control, it is an ethical position; a Great Truth - that we live every minute of our lives. It's something we can actually do to protest the violent and oppressive state-of-the-world. Veganism is a Truth whose time has come!  My blog: http://thevegantruth.blogspot.com ~ Vegan Education: Gentle World  ~ http://veganpoet.com ~Please "like" my Facebook Page to stay connected.

Rae Sikora  - has been vegan 36 years. “I had been vegetarian for 5 years and was renting a cabin from a dairy farmer and he lived about 1/4 mile away on the same land. He had a small operation and supposedly one of the more humane. He wanted to show me how big one of the females was who was about to give birth. She was lying on the ice cold concrete during a Midwest winter. He kicked her hard to get her to stand up. I grabbed him and told him to stop and that I did not need to see her stand up. For some reason, that still didn't make me give up dairy. Then, I heard a sound that I had never heard; sounded like the cows were hurt. So I got on my bike and rode to his place. When I got there, he and some guy were loading calves onto a truck. I asked what he was doing. He told me that the calves were all males and they were going to a veal facility. He said they either go there or to slaughter. I had never even considered what happened to all the male calves who were born each year. When I asked about the loud cows, he said they were behind the barn and I could go see them, but, he added "Don't get all upset. They will get over it". I rounded the corner of the barn and the moms were screaming for their babies. Their mouths were wide open and many had bloody chests from pushing at the barbed wire fence and trying to get to the boys being loaded up. My first thought was selfish, "How will I not eat pizza?" My second thought was, "Never again. I will never eat dairy again." I told my landlord that as I was leaving and he told me that I would get over it. I had never heard of a vegan, but never ate animal products again. Eventually I learned about other industries and I began my practice of ethical veganism and stopped supporting any use of animals for food, clothing, experimentation or entertainment. ~ The changes in the growth of the vegan movement are HUGE!  More and more people are beginning to understand that rather than blaming and fighting, it is more effective to invite people to a compassionate possibility. I used to think I knew every vegan in the country, but now I cannot keep up with all the vegan activists, celebrities, books, blogs, magazines, etc. I love how far we have come. You can find non-dairy milks in pretty much every area of the country and in most parts of the world. ~ I was always healthy and I have remained healthy. I am 57 and if I don't look in the mirror, I still feel like I am 20! I have no health issues at all and can do any physical activity I want to. I backpack, swim, hike, bike, do yoga, run, etc. ~ Once, in my twenties, I ate fish. I justified it in many ways. But, since that slip, more than 35 years ago, I have not wavered at all. I have seen the suffering with my own eyes in my personal investigation of animal ag operations (including those that call themselves humane, free-range and organic) and believe that most people would not support that kind of violence if they witnessed it directly. I have led talks and workshops called "I Used to Be a Vegetarian". What I learned in those sessions is that most people who do not stay committed to compassionate living, slip back for one of all of these reasons: *No local community or social network of people making the same types of choices * Hard to get vegan foods where they live * Going into denial about the realities. To counteract that and to stay committed, people need to: * find or create a local group of friends, who support their compassionate choices and are on a similar path, * live where there are lots of vegan foods available or start a buying club or request the foods at local stores. * Stay informed of the violence in the industries. (by watching films, reading books, magazines, joining Facebook pages, etc.) ~ Vegan is not a diet. It is a path of choosing non-violence and compassion in all of our daily actions whenever possible. It is love and caring in action. Clarify your values. Who and what do you care about? Now bring your actions in alignment with your values. It will change your life.” Rae Sikora has been a spokesperson for animals, the environment and human rights for over 30 years; initially being co-founder of the Institute for Humane Education. She holds degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Environmental Education from the University of Wisconsin. She is co-founder/co-director of Plant Peace Daily and co-founder of Vegfund.

Helen Williamson - I have been vegan since I was 17 (nearly 33 years). I became vegetarian at the age of 11, when I looked at the "roast" meats we ate and they were so clearly part of a sheep, pig, cow, etc. that I said to my mother - I don't want to eat meat any more. I haven't eaten it since. I gave up eggs when I was 13, it felt "wrong" to eat them for many reasons. Then when I was 16/17 I read about the dairy industry and I was horrified; I realised how much the meat industry and dairy industry relied on each other. I couldn't believe the cruelty of removing and often killing calves to enable humans to have the milk that wasn't rightfully theirs in the first place. I knew I would have to stop eating/using all animal products. When I became vegan I stopped wearing wool, leather and bought cruelty-free cosmetics, etc. Things have changed dramatically since 1977 - vegan food is much more accessible in shops and restaurants, and people tend to know what a vegan is! I used to have to explain it far more than I do now. I need to be around other vegans at times, otherwise I can feel isolated as none of my immediate friends are vegan. The internet has also really helped with finding out about local groups. ~ It's hard to know if I'm healthier because I was relatively young when I became vegan. People say I look very healthy and look younger and fitter than I am (53 in May). My doctor told me my blood pressure is that of an 18 year old...so that says a lot too. ~ I have never wavered. I am lucky (for want of a better word) that I didn't have to apply any will-power. I did not want to consume those products and I felt a natural aversion to them - as such "stopping" felt relatively easy and natural. ~ I like cooking and eating interesting and varied food. It helps to find recipes you like and to experiment with them, and to keep lots of ingredients in the house so they are there when you need them. I always prepare a fresh lunch for myself to take to work. I love to cook for friends, and they proudly tell other people about their vegan friend who is a really good cook! I love that. I make sure that my diet is 90% + "healthy" but I allow myself a 10% treat option! i.e. lots of fresh fruit, veg, wholefoods etc., with some chocolate or cake if I want it. ~ My message to the world would be that we can only be truly evolved if we follow a vegan diet and lifestyle - We are here in the earth to share it with our fellow beings; they are not here to be used and abused by us.

Barbara L Thompson, Founder Choosing Compassion Over Cruelty - has been Vegan since 1973 – that’s 40 years! ~ “I actually stopped eating dairy and eggs in the late 1960's. My "aha" moment came when I was 4 years old. I was at a poultry store and had made friends with a chicken in a wooden crate. When the butcher asked which one we wanted, I pointed to my new friend, thinking that she would come home with us and be the new family pet. Well. It just so happened that at my height I was at the perfect vantage point to see what happened to her as she was being slaughtered in the back room. I felt totally, and utterly, responsible for her death. Later, that evening, when we were served "chicken" for dinner, which I refused to eat, my father asked me if I knew what chicken cost, I truthfully answered "yes" I did know what it cost the chicken. I did however; have to wait until I grew up to completely stop eating meat. ~ In the 1970's veganism was almost an underground movement, something practiced by hippies. There was very little effort to get the word out. Now, there is more out-reach and information about the movement in movies and mainstream media. ~ I was healthy when I became vegan and I continue to be generally in good health. The only health problems that I have, is that in 2010, after about 2-3 years as a raw vegan, I developed hypothyroidism, and have had to take a small dose of medication for it. I have been mostly, not 100%, raw since. Once I became Vegan, I stayed Vegan! It is simply wrong to cause any other sentient beings pain and suffering once you get that, really get that, you must live Vegan. It is only speciesism, the last major form of un-addressed discrimination, that allows people to call some animals ‘friends’ and other animals ‘food’. It is 2013, and it is time to put an end to all forms of slavery and discrimination.”

Summer Kirson - has been vegan 33 years. "I became vegan upon meeting Gentle World. The cruelty was explained to me and was simple to understand. Basically, animals have rights and feelings just like we do. I had just bought a $90 pair of leather boots in L.A. and they were very hip at the time. My friend Light pointed out that since the boots were animal skin, an option would be to bury them. This was a way for me to leave my meat-eating days behind and give the animal a proper ending. He said that if I took that step I might later be rewarded with a pair that were not taken from an animal's skin. Sure enough not too long after I buried them, I went to a flea market and found a pair that were really nice and cost much less. This was a great feeling and just increased my new found understanding. Animals' lives have been taken over and over again for our pleasure. There has been a slow but steady increase in vegan awareness and it seems to actually be picking up speed due to the Internet. Even local supermarkets have some vegan options. Large magazines and newspapers have something about veganism and animal cruelty daily. The word is out! ~ I am healthier in many ways. I cured bladder problems and my whole reproductive area became healthier. My energy increased and in general I gained a lighter more confident feeling. I lost weight naturally instead of always having to diet." In response to my question: "Yes, unwavering, and my understanding continues to grow. ~ I just recently had an experience with someone who seemed to have understood the cruelty to animals. He watched films like Earthlings, and read the best books on the subject. He tasted incredibly delicious vegan food. He actually wrote a blog about the horrible things he had done to animals and buried his leather shoes and non-vegan items. But, then something happened and he didn't have the courage of his convictions. This incident has made this question even more difficult to answer and I have been giving it a lot of thought. All of us have been taught to numb ourselves from a very young age. We have done it with alcohol, cigarettes, TV, consumerism and on and on. So I think a key to those that want to continue on this path should make a commitment to stop numbing themselves and start to tune in more to their real feelings or their conscience, the only true guide we have. This is where our compassionate self lives and there we can see the truth of the animal torture and slavery that is perpetrated on billions of animals daily. ~ If we want a saner, healthier, happier existence then we must stop eating and using their bodies. The planet and all of us would heal. Violence never changed anything. How much more suffering will it take to see the truth? It's time to make this change. I think this is the step that will stop all violence in the world since what we have been doing has not made the difference."

Bianca Rose - tells us “I have been vegan for 35 years. At 18 years of age I was at a party, and I was eating a turkey leg, when a man I’d never met before came over and said, “Do you realize you’re eating a dead animal?” He handed me a small book titled “What’s Wrong with Eating Meat?” That evening I went home and read the entire book. I was shocked at the realization that I was indeed eating dead animals. I became a vegetarian overnight. I also began frequenting health food stores, reading books and learning all I could on the subject. Two of the books that had a profound impact on my life are ‘Radical Vegetarianism’ by Mark Mathew Braunstein and ‘Survival into The 21st Century’ by Viktoras Kulvinskas. I am forever grateful for this new understanding, which continues to be life changing for me on many different levels. ~ The greatest change I have seen in the vegan movement has come with the advancement of technology and the age of the internet. Thanks to the ability to get the word out with lightning speed, we now have more people becoming vegan than ever before in history. These are exciting times. We can actually have a vegan world in this lifetime, peace on earth, a paradise, a world where all beings are free and at one, a world where love prevails and where non-violence is a reality... what a wonderful world. ~ Yes! I am much healthier and happier as a vegan. I was not the healthiest person growing up, by any means. I regularly had colds and flu; I was absent from grade school at least a day or 2 every month due to menstrual difficulties. Emotionally, I was depressed and unhappy much of the time. After becoming vegan, my entire life changed and my health has greatly improved. I go years and years without as much as a cold, certainly not the flu. I have become a happy, gentle and loving person, with a positive outlook on life in general. ~ There was a period of time in the beginning where I occasionally ate fish or ice-cream. Then, I was told I needed some sort of animal protein and that raw goat cheese was a good choice, so I did some of that. Eventually I learned the truth, and became absolutely unwavering in my conviction to live a life of Ahimsa (harmlessness). There is nothing now that could ever make me put animal flesh or bodily fluids into my mouth. Thank God! ~ Educate yourself... experiment... see the difference... feel the difference. Then no one can scare you into making the mistake of believing you need to eat dead animals or their bodily fluids. Every nutrient required for healthy living can be found in the plant kingdom. For instance, pernicious anemia - B12 deficiency - is found in meat-eaters 90% of the time! Watch films such as Earthlings and Meet your Meat. Read books that advocate a vegan diet and lifestyle. Learn great vegan recipes. Is there a favorite meal that you crave as you begin this adventure? Use the same herbs and spices and make a nut loaf, or a protein-rich grain pilaf - such as millet / quinoa / amaranth. You'll satisfy your taste buds and more. Learn all you can! You will be healthier by avoiding animal products. Above all, remember the great suffering that is caused by choosing animal products. ~ In a world governed by greed, we must make conscious choices... waking up to the truth... recognizing the absurd lies we’re being told. All life is precious; all beings are sacred. Animals are not here for us to use or abuse in any way. Like us, many animal species are conscious mammals - having feelings. The other animal species, while not mammals, are conscious in their own way. I remember a friend saying: "I avoid eating anything that has eyes"... indeed, the eyes are the window to the soul. Go Vegan! Live and let live!

Vanessa Hudson - has been vegan for 16 years, and leader of Animals Count; a U.K. political party for people and animals, based in London. “When I was 15, a speaker came to our secondary school to give a talk on factory farming - focusing mainly on dairy and egg production. I had already turned vegetarian at the age of seven and, by the age of 15, I thought I was pretty wise about how animals suffer in factory farming. Perhaps somewhat smugly, I thought that by being vegetarian I had no involvement in that kind of animal suffering. I was shocked to learn that day in school how ignorant I was. I had no idea that cows needed to be pregnant to produce milk and I had no idea that there was a baby produced as a 'by product' of this process. I'd certainly never given any thought as to what might become of those babies. I was horrified to learn how they were taken from their mothers so young, often killed and, if not, then suffering a fate perhaps worse than death. I vowed to turn vegan that day. However, I struggled for the next 8 years with maintaining a vegan diet - not because I found it hard to deny myself certain foods but because, socially, I found it awkward. I disliked the idea of upsetting or offending people by not eating certain things. Eventually, at the age of 24, I realised that the feeling of not living up to your own ideals is a much worse feeling than that of unintentionally upsetting people by not eating certain things. I decided that if I wanted to be true to my own principles, I could and should be able to live with that and have never looked back. I think it's much more socially acceptable now to be a vegan - it's maybe even seen as 'cool' in some circles and vegans are certainly better understood and catered for here in the U.K. than they were back in the 80's and 90's. ~ It's hard to say if I'm healthier than before I was vegan, as I was pretty young and healthy when I first started cutting out animal products. Certainly I lost about half a stone (7 pounds) within the first few months of becoming vegan. I don't feel veganism has had any negative impact on my health. I'm in a vegan running club - Vegan Runners UK. I've run two marathons in the last 10 years and several half marathons. People often comment that I look younger than my age and I feel pretty healthy. My GP says I have the lowest cholesterol levels he's ever seen. ~ At the end of the day, the only person you ever really have to answer to is yourself. Your opinion of you is the only thing that counts. Once I had made the decision to be vegan and not to worry about what anyone else thought, it was incredibly easy. I missed nothing and actually enjoyed the process of learning how to live without animal products. I've traveled to many countries around the world as a vegan and, although it's been harder in some than in others, I've never once been unable to find something to eat. ~ I agree with others who think that one day we'll look back at this period in time and be horribly embarrassed by the way we treated animals in the farming system and all for no good reason. Animal products are not necessary to sustain human life. Consuming and using them is to prioritize pleasure and convenience over the right of animals not to suffer. Modern day factory farming is the product of a speciesist mentality and one that will eventually be recognised as being as abhorrent as racism and sexism. ~ Vegans today have much in common with those forward thinking souls who stood up against slavery in the 1800's and those who fought and continue to fight against sexism. 

Amanda Benham - Human Herbivore - "I have been vegan since May 1983 - 30 years. I became vegan after going to an Animal Liberation office to donate money, after hearing a representative speak about vivisection on radio. I got chatting to a woman there who asked me if I was a vegan. I asked what that was and she told me and said she was one. At that moment I went vegan, and was very excited to know that something I had thought was a necessary evil (consuming animal products) could actually be avoided. For many years I rarely met or heard of another vegan, but lately that has changed. I meet new vegans almost daily. I think it has become much easier for people to be vegan and every healthy happy vegan helps shatter the myth that humans cannot be vegan. I think vegans are more confident now, as the arguments put up against veganism are starting to be seen for what they are - flimsy excuses for living selfishly. I am definitely healthier as a vegan, both physically and mentally. I am no longer plagued by eczema and gastrointestinal problems and I have had the burden of guilt lifted, knowing that I am doing my best to avoid causing animal suffering. People say I look younger than I am and I don't have the health problems common to people my age in Australia. Of course being a dietitian/nutritionist helps, as I choose to eat healthy whole plant foods and generally avoid vegan "junk" foods as I treasure my good health. I have never wavered as a vegan. When I have had to miss meals (rarely) I think about how my tiny bit of discomfort is nothing compared to the miserable lives of battery chickens or other farmed animals. ~ Stay strong! Don't let the brainwashed majority make you feel you should apologize for being vegan. It is THEY who should be apologetic for supporting the slaughter and torture of animals. And don't be swayed by the ridiculous myths that are propagated to keep people exploiting animals. Find some vegan friends and get involved in promoting veganism as there is no better way to make a positive difference to animals and the planet. Veganism is about justice, about doing the right thing. As humans have no need to use non-human animals for any purpose, to do so is completely indefensible. Imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering other sentient beings for our own trivial wants (like to get a certain taste in our mouths for a few seconds) is an act of oppression and violence and it is time for the human race to evolve beyond this. Some would say that veganism is about "kindness" but I disagree. If I DON'T murder you or steal from you or keep you captive am I being "kind" to you? No, I am just behaving in a civilised manner, which is how I believe we should behave towards other animals: let them live their lives free of human interference and treat them with the respect they deserve. I believe that it should be made illegal to kill, harm or imprison an animal (other than in extraordinary circumstances or for the animal's own benefit) or to buy or sell animals or their products or in any way profit from the use of non-human animals. I believe that this is what vegans need to campaign for until it is a reality. 

Karl G – has been vegan for 27 years. “I was veggie for 2 years first and then learned the truth about milk. ~ The vegan landscape has changed since the 1980's, more awareness, more products, more acceptance and more vegans. However the milk and meat industry is a vile beast and they have used their influence in the media and authority generally to spread the old lie that vegans are weird, unhealthy dropouts. This will continue for as long as we threaten their business model by telling the truth and exposing their lies. ~ I don't know if I'm healthier, I hope so. Being vegan doesn't guarantee good health. E.G a vegan could live on bread and chips for a year but would die of scurvy. I know a lot of unhealthy vegans that drink and smoke and don't have great diets, and vice versa. But generally speaking, cutting out meat and dairy is a healthy step and I am careful with what I eat, i.e mainly organic - but I do it for ethics, not health. ~ Vegan for 27 years, not wavered once, not looked back once. It’s a simple matter of belief. If you truly believe in something, why would you want to go back on that! People that stray from the path never truly believed in the cause, controversial I know, but I am a fundamentalist and my views are as strong now as they were on the day I went vegan. I have no time for people who make excuses. So, think of the animals that suffer. When we have a vegan government, you will all be executed! That's a joke, (I'm an anarchist and don't believe in government).

Gabriel with girlfriend Jessica; also vegan
Gabriel Figueroa - I have been vegan since the Fall of 1990 - 23 years. My “aha moment” happened after about 10 months as an ovo-lacto vegetarian who chose not to eat animals for ethical/spiritual reasons. I started to learn more about veganism through reading and realized that all animal products require that animals be enslaved and killed, so one day I decided that I could no longer take part in hurting animals. I didn't know if it was healthy, but I knew it was the right thing. I have never looked back from that day, and I have never been tempted to make any compromises in my lifestyle even in rare difficult circumstances. ~ Veganism as a whole has grown incredibly. I’m pleased to see that so many people care and want to stop exploiting and killing animals. While the general public is often confused about what a vegan is, they have at least heard the word.  When I first became vegan, I didn't know any other vegans personally, and most people I met had never even heard the word. Today, most people have heard the word at least. Unfortunately, the idea of veganism is still confusing to people because many promote veganism as just a diet-style, rather than a complete lifestyle. Celebrities become “vegan” for a short period of time and later drop it just as quickly as they picked it up. Often, they talk about how deprived they felt or how they were having health issues, and the general public eats it up. It’s sad really that we are so dependent on what celebrities do. On the other hand, some celebrities are real vegans, and it does seem that they can have a great deal of influence on people. I never hold my breath when I hear that a celebrity is vegan, although I am always hopeful that they are actually vegan and will stick with it. Of course, I wish this for anyone who decides to be vegan. I really think that people need to remember why they are vegan, especially if it’s a recent change. It always seems that those who quit being vegan are people who were never fully vegan (those who were following a vegan “diet” only) or those who lost sight of why it’s important to be vegan. We need to get back to sharing the total message about veganism. I think it’s okay to say that veganism can be very healthy, but the primary message should always be the ethical one. Otherwise, we are just peddling another temporary diet and animals are not even considered. ~ I was 19 when I became vegan, and I was pretty healthy already. I was pleased to see my seasonal allergies disappear shortly after going vegan. Other than that, it’s difficult to say. I do think that I am healthier today than I would be had I not been vegan all these years. I have had periods of time when I was not as healthy, and I think that has to do with all the vegan convenience food that exist now (donuts, cookies, cakes). Refined carbohydrates are not healthy for anyone and should be used very sparingly. I try to eat a healthy vegan diet like the one advocated by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and I do think that is a key to good health. I still struggle sometimes with all the vegan junk food, but I try to stick mostly to veggies, fruits, beans, nuts/seeds. I notice a big difference when I do. ~ I don’t waver on veganism. From the ages of 19 to 41, I have been through immense changes in many respects, but the one constant is my veganism. I believe that veganism is very easy if you always keep in mind why you are doing it. The best way to do this is to read books by abolitionist vegans. Gary Francione has written several wonderful books. I was first influenced by the writings of the late H. Jay Dinshah of the American Vegan Society. His words always spoke to me, and I credit him with making me realize why it is important to be vegan. I also think that it’s helpful to have vegan friends. I didn't have any for many years, so I helped start a local vegan group and made many friends. Even though I would still be vegan without vegan friends, it is important to have others who share in the vegan vision. There are many good groups out there. Also, I think it’s important to remember that you are ultimately only responsible for yourself. I have seen many people stop being vegan; it’s unfortunate, but I never let that keep me from doing the right thing. I try to set a good example and hope that these people will decide to be vegan again soon. I also think that it’s a good idea to read books on vegan nutrition. My favorite authorities on vegan nutrition are Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Being vegan is the most life-affirming choice you can make. By refusing to participate in the exploitation of innocent animals, you are living your life in a way that truly supports life. It is easy to be vegan. All you have to do is to educate yourself and decide to do it.  It will be the most impact-full in helping to end animal slavery. ~ My website: http://www.vegandude.com

Jennifer Spirakis, N.Y. - I have always loved and respected animals. As a young child I realized some of the foods I was eating were once living, beautiful creatures. I made the decision to become vegetarian. As I became a little older and learned more about factory farming I became vegan. I feel children are more educated now than when I was younger. There are more books and publications on the animal abuse, slaughterhouses, etc... I feel if everyone saw what was happening on farms or in the slaughter houses, everyone would become vegan! ~ I have always been healthy, but know now my vegan lifestyle is the reason!! I never, ever get sick! People always ask my secret for staying so active, young, and always on the go… “Being vegan” I tell them. Lots of friends have become vegan after learning of my reasons. I have several rescue animals at home and do all I can to spread the word~ There are so many alternative foods now that were not available 25, 30 years ago... I would never harm or eat another creature! I tell people if they ask, educate yourself, learn about what you are really eating. Think about the soul that has died on your plate. Learn about the health benefits when becoming vegan!! Try vegan foods!! Start slow, and once you are morally involved, how could you look back?

Bernie Wright - I have been vegan since the 80s. Guess 30 years. It was very gradual. I lived as a child beside a slaughter-house in Dublin city Centre and the pigs used to be jabbed with electric prods and fall off the ramps. I always felt something was not right. My mother worked in a butcher’s, part-time, so we always had meat. However a flyer given to me in the street by the Alliance for Animal rights on the dairy industry; made me - as a vegetarian then to go vegan, many years later. The trend nowadays seems to be to go vegan directly rather than vegetarian first like the 80's. That’s the main change really. ~ I have never really been unhealthy. For 60 years I feel fine, I guess passion for a cause helps, but I don’t drink or smoke either as it never appealed to me. I could do with losing some weight, guess I am the stereotypical exception. I feel if going vegan is done with genuine concern for animals at its core, that it will endure. We have to be the change we want to see. We are trying to live without causing others to die. It is really frustrating that we have to explain and justify why we are vegan, and that so many people just don’t get it! Many do not want to understand as they think it is just easier to stick with their illogical stance. However I feel being vegan is great, but it is not enough to just eat buns and socialise for animal liberation. We need to agitate, liberate and educate. We cannot just sit back and wait for people to ‘get the idea’ - animals need help now, so campaigns are vital. Websites: www.afarireland.org

Golden Rees - I became vegan over two decades ago in 1991. It is amazing to me that even though I grew up in a hip area of California and had been an ethical vegetarian for four years, I had never heard the word "vegan". On a trip to Hawaii in May of 1991, that all changed. There I met Light and Sun; founders of Gentle World, who happened to be visiting an eco-resort where I worked. We met over vegan pancakes their first morning. We sat together and they shared with me the many truths they knew about living a life of reverence for animals and not participating in any form of cruelty. This vegan ideal immediately made sense to me. I wondered why I had never heard of this before or how I had not thought of it myself. For me it was "an a-ha moment" of great proportions. Of course the leather on my feet and the dairy I was eating were a part of the same industry as the meat that I was already avoiding. I decided to try being vegan on that day and have never looked back. That was only the beginning for me and from that time forward my commitment and understanding has continued to grow, starting with getting rid of all of my leather and non vegan items 8 days after I began eating a complete plant based diet. As the years have passed I have found that my ideals and lifestyle have continued to evolve. As for changes, I see them everywhere and growing all of the time, thanks to the many people involved in spreading this awakening consciousness. Contrary to 20 years ago, now almost everyone has heard the word vegan and more and more people actually follow the principles. ~ I have received many health benefits in the last 22 years, from ending periodic headaches that had been coming since my childhood to an overall health boost and greater vitality. Now 22 years later, these benefits have gotten even stronger. I am proud of the fact that during both of my pregnancies at 38 and 41, the mid-wives were so pleased with my health and I could not claim one ailment on their long list that were possible. Our children are vegan from birth and very healthy, often wowing skeptics with their robust strength. I think passing on a good sense of WHY we are vegan has helped our son Soul understand it for himself. He usually is the first one to ask when we're out "is it vegan?" ~ Often people say "I will believe it when I see it" I think the converse might be more true. Maybe if we really believe it is possible, then we will get to see it! We are all aiming for a vegan world and I believe together we could make that dream possible. 

Chris Sanders – “I'm a few months away from my 20th year of being vegan, and I stopped eating meat in 1989 when I was 18. I had come home really late from a punk show one night and was hungry, so I went to the refrigerator and the only thing ready to eat was a bucket of KFC. I grabbed some and sat down to eat it, and while I was eating it, I made the connection. Right then I realized I was eating somebody that was once alive and wanted, and deserved, to live as much as I did. That realization smacked me in the face. I decided right there that I would never eat meat again. I was very active in the punk/hardcore scene, so I was always exposed to new ideas and schools of thought and a lot of people in that scene were involved in veganism and animal right activism. After research and being exposed to the way dairy cows were treated, I knew that if I stopped eating meat because I cared about animals, then I needed to become vegan to be consistent with that belief. I tried veganism when I was 20, but it only lasted a week because I hadn't done any research into what kind of things I could eat. It took me a while before I was ready to try it again, but by the time I was 22, I had done a lot of research, familiarized myself with what was and wasn't vegan, and basically weaned myself off of all animal-derived products. I haven't looked back, since. As far as health goes, I haven't had the flu since before I gave up meat and I rarely catch colds, and if I do, it's very mild and disappears quickly. And over the last two years, since I've started eating more raw whole foods, my energy has increased tremendously. I'm almost 42 and I now feel the best I've ever felt. ~ For those that are new to veganism and are having difficulties, just stick with it, it will get easier and easier and you'll soon get to the point where you won't ever consider eating anything other than vegan foods. It is so much easier to do now than it was 20 years ago. Not only will you feel healthier, you will feel better about yourself because you are no longer contributing to the suffering of others. You will personally be better off, the animals will be better off and humanity will be better off.

Shawn Fosnight - is 41 years old and has been vegan 23 years. “I am a long time vegan. I am also a husband to an amazing, strong, beautiful woman named Jen. I am a father (raising vegan children). I consider myself a lover and a fighter. I am a long time skateboarder and a fan of punk, hardcore and other underground music. I love to cook, read, watch movies, ride bikes, take walks. I work with handicapped adults for a living. I don't trust authority, don't trust any government. ~ I became vegan on June 1st 1990 after reading Diet for a New America and attending an animal rights march. I was already a vegetarian originally as a bet, but later on from hearing the song ‘Meat is Murder’ by The Smiths. I had no clue how animals in the egg and dairy industry where treated, I thought only animals used for meat where killed; how naive I was. One day I was laid up from a skateboarding accident and saw John Robbins, Lisa Bonet and River Phoenix on Oprah; they were talking about being vegan. I went out and got John's book, learned the truth about the dairy and egg industry and never looked back. ~ I have seen the movement go from being about animal rights to a diet fad. I remember a time when people were scared to wear fur because a/r activists would throw red paint on them, vegans are too polite now. Many “vegans” are wishy-washy vegans who wear leather, wool, etc.. because they only care about health. In the town I live in the "vegan" groups are overly focused on health issues, celebrity worship, and debating oil in their food. Every once in a while they will do a protest, but for the most part, they view someone like me as "radical" and "extreme".  I have also seen people doing more to help animals, opening stores and other businesses to help promote veganism. ~ I have been vegan almost 23 years, I honestly don't remember how I felt before. I don't get sick often, I am still really active, I skateboard almost daily, ride bikes, etc…I don't need any medications unlike a lot of people in their 40's that I know. ~ I have never wavered, I live by the saying "never trust an ex-vegan". If you knew someone who went back and forth on racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. - what would you think?? I view speciesism the same way. Nowadays too many people are willing to look the other way when it comes to people being on and off about veganism; I have friends who sold out. I still like them as people though I could never understand why they sold out, and I think whatever the excuse they give me is shameful and lame. ~ Visit a sanctuary, give your time to helping animals (including the human animal), watch the movie Earthlings or ‘Meet your Meat’ if you feel like you are wavering. Never be ashamed of your veganism. Eat well, grow some food, rescue an animal, and most of all surround yourself with strong unwavering vegans. Don't limit your veganism; let it guide every decision in your life, make it about more then not eating animals. When you want to buy something, think about how it impacts the world around you, and support people trying to make the world a better place. Protest, speak up; never be quiet in the name of adversity.

Andy Schulgasser – has been vegan 25 years, vegetarian 2 years before. ~ At about 20 years old, I was at a dog show, and there was an animal rights booth there with pictures and info of animals being experimented on. That was my first introduction to animal torture. I took literature, contact info, and instantly became animal activist as best I could – learned about buying cruelty-free products, etc. Became involved with animal rights groups, protesting against experiments, eventually learned about animals used for food, entertainment, and clothing. None of the fake meats, cheeses, soy milks, etc. existed at that time. I had no clue how to cook, so, it took me years to become vegan, compared to when I really wanted to. I slowly did it.  I finally became vegan at 33 years old (1988). Throughout the years, I gradually gave up wearing animal products, etc. ~ I first learned from a group called Animal Rights Mobilization - I saw hidden videos - horrors of animal experimentation. These were not professionally made, like so much that is available today. Today, there are tons of phenomenal educational materials, and animal rights groups have grown enormously. Veganism has become so popular, that most people know what the word means. Because of the demand for vegan food, people have recognized this as a profitable business and, have created all of the spectacular tasting vegan foods available today. Vegan restaurants have popped up all over the place. Years ago, soy milk was some powder that needed to be mixed with water, and any “vegan” products seemed to taste awful. There definitely was not the spectacular-melting-vegan-cheeses available today, or the phenomenal plant-based meats. ~ Years ago I learned from John Robbins book: Diet For A New America, Jay Dinshah (American Vegan Society), and his family, PETA, Neal Barnard, M.D. (P.C.R.M.), and Chicago Vegetarian Society, etc. Today, the amount of spectacular resources available are phenomenal, and continue to grow due to the amount of vegan professionals in the medical field who now have proof that it’s healthier, and, that it’s absolutely not acceptable to treat “any” animal abusively, or kill them. ~ When I first started I don’t recall if I felt healthier. I recall throughout many years eating junk food, just to avoid animal products and not really knowing what to eat. Fortunately, now I eat extremely healthy. I suspect with the health issues I've had throughout my life, that I would be in horrible condition if I was still eating animals. I feel I’m extremely healthy for my age, and, considering I've lived an enormously stressful life. ~ There’s so much spectacular vegan food available today, that if you do not try it, you’ll really be missing out on a lot. Go visit a farm sanctuary. Get to know these amazing, loving creatures. Also, consider, there are other countries that eat and torture dogs and cats for food, because they were conditioned to believe the same things about them, that we were in our country about cows, pigs, chickens, etc. We were all brainwashed to believe that these foods were necessary, instead of the truth – they are killing us, causing unspeakable animal suffering, and destroying our planet. This has been done by greed – companies only wanting to profit (beef, dairy, egg industries). Watch some documentaries showing the animal farming – Earthlings, Food Inc., and tons more. Love yourself, the animals, people, and the planet enough to make the change. Get lots of support. ~ To be vegan, is to think of peace on earth for all. 

Roisin and Lovejoy
Roisin Gruner – has been vegan since May 21st, 1983, so nearly 30 years. She tells us: “It was in the morning that I read a leaflet which had been put through my door; Eva Batt's "What Happens to the Calf?". It affected me so much that I poured my partly-drunk barley cup (with cows' milk) down the sink. I never again knowingly consumed animal-based food or drink, or used a non-vegan product. ~ The supermarkets stock vegan food, labeling is more obvious, restaurants almost invariably are knowledgeable and helpful, cruelty-free products are widely available, and veganism is an acceptable topic of discussion. I can't imagine having vegan bring'n'share pot-luck events until comparatively recently. ~ I believe I am physically healthier. I feel mentally and emotionally better. There is also a very positive spiritual benefit for me, as veganism is in harmony with my being a Buddhist. ~ Totally committed to being as vegan as I can be. I relinquished honey before the Vegan Society ruled against it. I thoroughly enjoyed all the non-vegan items I used to consume, and have "missed" something every day. Desperate cravings for chicken in 1986 while expecting my youngest were calmed with lots of chicken-flavour vegan crisps and "Cheatin' Chicken". ~ Keep a sense of humour! and guard against making people feel preached at, but privately never forget the reality of how meat, dairy items, and eggs are produced and why you yourself became vegan and will remain so. Enjoy the challenge of being vegan  -  asking companies if their goods are cruelty-free, checking that a restaurant can provide a satisfactory meal, sharing preparation and eating with friends and family, spreading the word by example. By world, I mean everyone who is fortunate enough to have the choice to be vegan. Many do not  - and we are part of the reason that they do not. By persisting in utilising the earth's resources to filter our food and drink through animals, we are being thoughtless and wasteful  - and using non-humans for clothing, sport, entertainment or research is not worthy of a society calling itself civilised. Consider your mental and physical health and spiritual well-being, ponder the lives and deaths of creatures for whom we should have compassion, think of our responsibility to this planet, and for the sake of everyone and everything become as close to vegan as you possibly can. Be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, and make the universe a little better than it was before.  

Paul Jones – vegan for about 22 years, made sure I knew: “I'm vegan for ethical reasons, not health.” ~ I'd gradually turned vegetarian during my final year in polytechnic and hadn't really thought about veganism, even though my sister had been vegan for a few years and I'd also previously had a vegan girlfriend. However, I saw a program on TV that showed hatched chicks being colour code sorted on a conveyor. The females for laying; the males for gassing and then mincing. I lived in the same house as someone who worked with farmers for the government and asked him if this was true. He confirmed it and I turned vegan overnight. It was the realisation that being vegetarian was only "half way there". ~ In general there aren't so many jokes made or cynical comments these days when I mention I'm vegan, so it must be seen with  less fear by non-vegans. Or it may just be that I no longer mix with narrow minded people. ~ I was in my early twenties when I became vegan and was always pretty fit and healthy and have remained so. Any health issues I've had I think would have arisen regardless of diet. ~ With the exception of occasional problems on holiday with "vegan" meals being vegetarian, I've managed to remain vegan. I've certainly never reverted to vegetarianism and definitely not meat. Just like a good boy scout - be prepared and anticipate any problems before eating out or visiting people. ~ The only reason not to be vegan is a selfish reason, no one NEEDS to kill to live. ~ I've never been much of a writer - a software engineer by profession! I'm married with 3 boys. My wife has been in and out of vegetarian/vegan/meat eating so we came to a compromise that the children would be vegetarian. We generally all eat vegan meals as I'm the cook. However the children do eat cheese and eggs. Reading some vegan posts online I think some vegans can be quite harsh on other vegans for having different viewpoints that perhaps aren't as "hard line" as theirs. After all, we all do the best we can, which in the case of a vegan is a whole lot more than the average person.

Jennifer Wood - I went vegan initially in 1980 after been a vegetarian since 1977. I had just learnt about the cruelty in the dairy industry, but I only stayed vegan about a month as it was too hard living with my meat-eating family. At the time I had just met Julia my lifelong companion, who was also vegetarian and who responded to an ad I had placed. As our relationship blossomed we pledged ourselves to go vegan as soon as we could get a place together. In August of 1981 we bought a caravan on a run-down site in Doncaster, moved in and went vegan. We also became highly involved in the Animal Rights movement. At first we were very optimistic about the future (in spite of Reagan and Thatcher) and we dreamt of a world of windmills, steam trains (!) and self-sufficiency, but we became disillusioned. Many animal rights people were strident atheists and viewed us as hippies. They promoted a junk food vegan diet washed down with plenty of cigarettes. As these ideas took over the vegan society (and even Vegan Views for a while) we felt isolated. The Vegan Society even running a lottery and the prize being at a non-vegan guest house that catered for vegans! As the 80's drew to a close our own personal problems were also getting to us and we crashed. We both started eating a lot of non-vegan chocolate and eventually in 1990 we went back to vegetarianism, preferring to be good vegetarians to lousy vegans. In 1996 we returned to veganism with renewed enthusiasm and commitment. By this time the movement had changed so that it wasn't quite as pro-junk food or anti-hippy as in the 80's. We have been vegan, unbroken since then and both our children are committed vegans. In fact our eldest daughter is at university and very keen on maintaining her vegan diet. Through this vegan life we have incorporated major change in our circumstances as I came out as transsexual in 2002, which has led to Julia accepting her own lesbianism. Being trans and vegan poses its own set of problems with hormones being animal-tested and sex-reassignment surgery all conflicting with our personal views of allopathic medicine. However I eventually took the road of HRT and surgery, it was just something I could not deny. I am certainly healthier and at my medical before surgery, all the tests were exceptional.  Particularly good was the diabetes test; all my family have diabetes in some form! I do eat a very healthy diet, though, not just vegan, but also with wholefoods, fasting, mainly sugar-free and plenty of fruit. Also, I neither drink, smoke, take drugs; even caffeine. ~ To be vegan is to enter a world where caring about things is normal, where every living being has a sacredness that I don't believe a meat-eater could ever find. It is to feel part of a new wave fighting for change and a new way of living, and it is the best thing!

Dina Kourda – tells us “I’ve been vegan since April 1994 (almost 19 happy years). ~ My parents  were listening to Dr. John McDougall on his weekly radio talk show. What he said made sense. So, my mom told me that she was going vegan and I could either eat what she was eating and she’d do all the cooking or I could cook for my dad. I told her I would do the one where I didn't have to cook. So, while I tell people I went vegan for health reasons, really, it was sheer laziness. My second “aha” moment was when I met Julie after having been involved in the raw food cult. I was 100% raw-fooder and as I looked around, I saw many people who claimed they were raw vegans - really weren't. I also didn't see a lot of compassion in raw foods. There really isn't time for animal rights because you’re so busy chopping, marinating, dehydrating, blending, and juicing. However, through that movement, I met Julie Curran-Meskell. I saw how compassionate she was toward people, animals, and the environment. As a person wanting to always improve, I wanted to emulate that. I got involved in animal rights through the foie gras and vivisection campaigns. She also helped me to realize that the use of animals in clothing (leather) wasn't ethical. She was gentle, accepting, and not condescending. ~ The most critical change I've seen is with advent of social media, Facebook, in particular. I know I’m having an impact with my non-vegan friends. They see my posts that promote veganism and some of that gets through. I try to mix it up (jokes, graphic photos, sweet animal photos, music photos/videos, etc.). I also try to limit my posts to exclude nonsense. I can name 6 people that I know of who admitted to me that they went vegan just because of my posts on Facebook. The ripple-effect is incredible because I know that these people have family and close friends who have either gone completely vegan or they’re eating less animal products. ~ Possibly the most important change is the acceptance of mainstream veganism. It’s everywhere – supermarkets, chain restaurants, TV, celebrity, etc.  Even though I don’t shop in non-health food markets, I know I can go to Ralphs and find organic soy milk, Tofurky, and So Delicious. ~ Since I went vegan initially (and then raw for two years) for health reasons, yes, I became healthier. Of course it has a snow-ball effect. You exercise, juice, fast, and do yoga. At times, I binged on vegan junk food and stopped exercising due to work schedule and personal life. I feel I’m back on track. Vegetarian Summerfest in 2012 had a lot to do with that. ~ I have not wavered and take my veganism seriously. Fasting (when I was a raw fooder) taught me that I could skip a meal if there was nothing vegan without dying. ~ Bearing witness to graphic videos reminds me why I should be vegan. I encourage people to hold potlucks, do outings, and be active with animal rights. All of that keeps me on the path. I think it’s critical to be kind and compassionate to people and not personally attack them. Many difficult people who ask difficult questions are the next vegans. I’d encourage people to answer honestly, politely, and not get defensive or personally attack. ~ Animal Protection and Rescue League - Meet-up Group

Dr. Andy Mars, Ph.D - has been vegan for about 30 years. For the last twenty years, he has been leading the only totally vegan summer camp programs for kids. He has also opened the first ever totally vegan K-12 school for kids. In addition, he runs the Veg Kids organization that helps veg kids connect with other veg kids. Further, he runs a wide array of vegan programs for the community as a whole. Andy's personal path towards veganism basically began in his early childhood years. When he was six, his dad took him to visit a laboratory at Rutgers University. Andy released the lab mice from their cages. When he was seven, he made the connection that the food on his plate had been a living, breathing animal. As an innocent, questioning child, he asked, "Why do we eat dead animals?" The overpowering physical response he received unfortunately suppressed his thinking until he was in college and moved into his first apartment on his own with his own kitchen. As he entered his new place, he allowed what had been festering subconsciously to surface and declared, "This place is never going to see any meat." ~ He has been pleased to see vegan go from being obscure to relatively mainstream. Even when he moved to L.A. twenty years ago, there were two vegan restaurants there at the time and other restaurants were clueless as to what vegan meant. Now, there are about six dozen totally vegan restaurants in Los Angeles and other restaurants usually have vegan options or some even separate fully vegan menus. While, of course, he would like to see a totally vegan world, he does see the vegan world definitely growing. As a former semi-pro soccer player, he was sponsored by Diadora and the first ever totally vegan soccer cleats were back then named the Diadora Mars. Now, though, a high percentage of soccer cleats are actually vegan (whereas traditional soccer cleats have been made from kangaroo leather). ~ For about thirty years, Andy has been a committed vegan. As he puts it, "I will not compromise on what is right and wrong." ~ While he does believe that it is easier to be healthy on a vegan diet than on a non-vegan diet, he did not notice any particular changes in his health when he went vegan. He was, though, in good health before. When he went vegan, however, there were various family and friends who expressed concern about how going vegan might hurt his health. His response back then was, "Who's to say that my health is any more important than the health of the animals who will not have to suffer or die for me?" While he was not willing to compromise on his values, he did some intensive research to try and see if and how he needed to supplement in order to stay healthy. He was delighted to find that a good vegan diet can be the best for human health. While he is not adverse to vegan supplements if needed, for thirty years he has not taken any vitamins or other such supplements as they have not been needed. He does strongly believe, though, in getting a full blood workup each year to make sure that his nutrient and micro-nutrient levels are good. In addition to advising new vegans to make sure that they eat a variety of veganic nutrient dense whole foods, (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, etc.), he suggests, that they always keep in their minds and in their hearts the animals whose lives they are saving. Deeply believing that being vegan is best for the animals, best for our own health, and best for the planet, Andy is committed to and actively involved in running numerous vegan programs for the community and has helped countless children and a good number of parents and other adults go vegan.  ~ www.VeganCamp.org ~ www.VeganSchool.org  ~ www.VegKids.org  ~ www.VeganDay.info

Cath Ens-Hurwood – from the U.K. has been veggie/vegan for 33 years this March. The first 17 years veggie - and the remainder as vegan. My introduction to becoming veggie was my boyfriend at that time; I saw how he managed quite well being veggie (i'd call him a "quiet" veggie) he was only by example; and I suppose for me that was what I needed - not someone preachy, but someone who lived by example. Anyway, quite locally to us were chicken farms. I was uptown one day and saw the chicken trucks driving through on the main road, with the chickens in crates heading to slaughter. It was a cold, windy, rainy day and there was no protection for the chickens on the outsides of the trucks and many of their wings poked through the slats and had obviously been broken as they were being buffeted by the wind. I saw that and thought I am part of the reason they are there.  And with my partner having given me the example - I thought "...if he can do this, so can I..." I no longer want to be the reason those animals were suffering. I became vegan many years later, even though I knew instinctively and I suppose emphatically that animal product were equally, if not more problematic, long before I switched to veganism. I visited Farm Sanctuary (New York) and seeing the animals directly and having thought about it (for too long) knew it was time to refrain from ALL animal products. In the big picture one can despair, but if you do have the ability of hindsight, I believe there has been more awareness - ie, the fur issue, wildlife issues (particularly with the star species - whales, elephants, pandas etc.,) cosmetic testing, circuses, etc.  And of course with veganism - many years ago, there was a lot less choice for people choosing to become veggie - even that much less for vegans. I have noticed a great deal of change in the awareness of that - so that now, it seems to me that more people are choosing to be vegan and foregoing the veggie step. ~ Certainly my general overall health seems to be better than my peers or for example than friends who are not veggie. My few visits to the Dr. seem to prove that I am in good overall health. I'd say I’m intent on my decisions to how my choices affect other animals, people and the planet, and consequently have pretty much stayed the course. There were probably times that I have consumed hidden products, but i won't beat myself up for it and try to be watchful and aware of what I eat and how i conduct myself. ~ My statement to the world and one of the things that is of concern to me recently, is [that] veganism is more than a diet.

Jeff Walker – has been vegan since 1982 ~ 30 years. Half way through a steak - I had always been into animal rights and suddenly felt a right hypocrite, eating meat. Never went through a vegetarian stage. Didn't finish off the steak. ~ It is a lot easier to get hold of vegan food and ingredients than it was when I first turned vegan, and some products are now even labeled 'vegan'. I also notice that a lot more people know what veganism is, especially in restaurants. I feel much better and healthier - not only physically, but mentally. Coming from a poor working class background, the meat I did eat was always cheap and nasty - I would have been eating horse meat burgers today if I had not gone vegan. My diet is a lot healthier now. Never wavered - vegan for life. I think the horse-meat in beef products says it all. ~ People often say I am strange for being vegan – I find this strange coming from someone who consumes decaying animal flesh. My way of demonstrating I am not strange is to cook them a great vegan meal.

Harvey Larochelle – shares his story: “I have been an ethical vegan since 1983 - 30 years. I became a vegan on compassionate grounds. My "aha moment" came when I read a book by Kirpal Singh and my heart was opened to the fact that animals are sentient beings and have souls. Kirpal Singh inspired me to live a life of ahimsa, or non-violence. I also read Viktoras Kulvinskas' "Survival In The 21st Century" and Hilton Hotema's "Man's Higher Consciousness", which had a profound impact on my way of thinking. When I became a vegan, I was considered extreme and eccentric by family and friends. It was unheard of in those days to be a vegan and almost no one knew what it meant. I have seen veganism become more mainstream, and become acceptable and even embraced. Everywhere I go these days, I see restaurants with "vegan-friendly" options on their menu. I was very sick as a child and suffered from hay fever. I endured years of painful shots in both arms and frequent hay fever attacks. I slept with my mouth open for years, because I was so full of mucous that I couldn't inhale through my nose. I would often have sneezing attacks, even in the middle of the night. I was allergic to dust, smoke, pollen, grass, animal hair, etc. All of my lifelong allergies miraculously disappeared within two weeks of becoming a vegan. My health improved tremendously. I never took antihistamines again. I never went back to my doctor for those excruciating injections. I could now sleep through the night with my mouth closed. I could now lay on grass without sneezing and rubbing my eyes. I could now pet dogs and cats without fear. I could now enjoy springtime and smell flowers without fear. ~ In all of the past 30 years, I have never wavered in my ethical vegan philosophy of compassion and harmlessness to sentient beings and nothing could convince me to willingly eat animal products again. I highly recommend watching "Earthlings" and "Peaceable Kingdom - The Journey Home" and reading "Diet For A New America", for those wanting inspiration to continue on a vegan diet. If you really want to have a good cry and have your heart chakra opened up wide, I highly recommend reading this beautiful letter written by John Robbins about apig farmer. My statement to the world pertaining to the vegan ethic would be: Animals are not ours to kill. They feel pain, just like we do. They want to live as much as we do. They fear death as much as we do. I leave you with a famous quote by Leonardo DaVinci: "There will come a time when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men". Please visit my Facebook page and send me a friend request.

Dallas Rising – shares: “I went vegan in October of 1995, 17 years ago. I was 15 years old. I had stopped eating animals when I was 10 because I didn't want to hurt them. I just didn't know that eating their byproducts also caused agony and ultimately death for animals used in the egg, dairy, and honey industries, too. I was given a leaflet that got me thinking, then I saw a video and that was it. I went vegan immediately. ~ People know what the word ‘vegan’ means and they pronounce it properly most of the time. Also, almost everyone knows someone or at least knows of someone who is vegan now, too. Items are labeled clearly in restaurants, there are commercials for soy milk and ads for veggie burgers in mainstream magazines. It's so much easier than it was 17 years ago. ~ Because I went vegan during my adolescence, I really have no idea - so much was changing at that time, I don't know what may have been due to my eating habits and what was due to hormones. But I practice Muay Thai and I'm very healthy. ~ Unwavering!  I do this for ethical and moral reasons, so consistency is very important to me. If you are vegan for moral reasons, then it will be a lot easier to stick with it. Remember than veganism isn't a diet or a lifestyle or a "personal choice".  It's a value system and a set of beliefs that seeks to challenge abuses of power and values consent in relationships with others. Veganism isn't so much about compassion as it is about justice and simply doing the right, moral thing. ~ I am the program director for the AnimalRights Coalition.

Anne Heritage - has been vegan for about 35 years. I started after ordering a so called gammon steak which arrived oozing blood and I thought "bloody hell, I'm eating a corpse." I decided to stop eating meat and asked two lesbian publishers I knew, that were vegan, about their diets. They gave me some leaflets. I felt a bit defensive initially because they also gave me some about how leather is made. I read the leaflets and went vegan straight away. It was tricky in those days, there were many less vegan products, but I gave it a go. Eating out could be tricky but I learnt to go places prepared, taking my own stuff if necessary. Actually I got a lot of help from animal rights activists that I got to know, and feminists in the women's movement, many of whom were vegan. Basically people showed me the way. I joined The Vegan Society and subscribed on and off, depending how finances were at the time. One thing that was helpful to me as a young woman on a low budget was the low cost of a vegan diet. I found that far from being restricting, a vegan diet encouraged me to try foods I wouldn't have thought of before. The women's movement in the U.K. at the time was a big help. At conferences, often there was vegan food and there were also women's centres which often were staffed by vegan women. I learnt to garden and grew my own organic vegetables for years. My father and grandparents had always grown their own vegetables, so I was used to thinking about providing some of my own food. ~ The biggest change I've seen has been the advent of the internet. This has radicalised the speed at which vegans and AR activists can communicate with each other and spread the word. ~ I went from carnivore to vegan so never did the vegetarian thing - and going vegan was the best decision I've ever made. ~ There is no hardship in going vegan; these days there is nothing a carnivore can eat that can't be replicated in a vegan format; our ice cream is better than theirs, our diet is cleaner and less polluting than a meat-eater's, and the food is delicious these days. Plan your food, if you’re going somewhere mainstream take food with you in case you can’t find any, and of course network and initially, if you feel you need it - find a vegan mentor. Being vegan isn't about hardship; it's about opening a glorious door to your future. I'm shedding a tear as I write this because it's hard to emphasize enough what a fabulous change being vegan can mean to your life. It's something everyone deserves to share but it's necessary to disengage from the meat and dairy industry propaganda and the lies people get fed under the guise of education [sic]. So an inquiring mind is helpful and a skeptical slant on meat industry propaganda. ~ My contribution to the vegan ethic is the diet I constructed for the dogs in my care, which allowed them to live very long lives. Collies; Bramble and Floyd, lived to 25 and 20 years on vegan diets, and I have recorded their diet, care regimes and life stories in my book Bramble; The dog who wanted to live forever - out on 'Kindle' and 'Create Space' soon. ~ If you want good health, long lived dogs, an ozone layer and a planet with plants and wildlife on it, you need to go vegan because staying on carnivorous diets will kill your home, the planet. The other thing is please don't be afraid of going vegan. It’s all good and it will change your life for the better forever. This is a gift to you from nature that you deserve.

Skyhas been an unwavering vegan and a member of Gentle World for 38 years. When I was 20 years of age and a vegetarian, I came up to a friend's sign on his front door that said "No leather on these premises; if you're not going to put it in you - don't put it on you", I had my vegan aha moment. ~ There is too much bickering between the factions in the movement, everyone should get above their ego's and unite for one vegan cause. ~ My heath is great. I live a pain-free and pill-free life and I feel healthier in a lot of ways than when I was younger. You can measure the success of a human being by their quantity of health and happiness. ~ Make your choice for veganism an ethical one, by deciding to not participate with cruelty. Then you will always be unwavering; you won't get talked out of living vegan. ~ The understanding of veganism and how it feels is a standard by which all other decisions can be made, because it is a feeling of Truth. 

Larry and Jeanne at the Ambassador Bridge 
between the US and Canada; doing a leg of 
a transport to get a dog named Cyrus from a 
kill shelter in Missouri to his forever home.
Jeanne Kaiser - My husband and I have been vegan for ethical reasons since Memorial Day weekend of 1990 - 23 years. John Robbins was speaking at the local Unitarian Church (Ann Arbor, Michigan). He gave a wonderful talk about all the reasons for being vegan and asked everyone to just reduce their meat consumption by 10%. I remember feeling electrified by all this brand new information and seized by a desire to be vegan for the rest of my life! My husband and I discussed it endlessly after the talk and immediately read Diet for a New America and everything else we could find. We just didn't feel there was any alternative to living vegan from that time on. I sent away for lots of information from the American Vegan Society and checked out many books and magazines from the library. By Sunday we had eliminated every animal product from the house-  and our lives changed forever more!  At the time we knew no one else who was even vegetarian. About a month later, we connected with the group that brought John Robbins to Ann Arbor and were very involved with that group, attending protests against fur, meat, animal research and hunting. We have attended and participated in many national conferences both for animal rights activists and vegans and visited some farm sanctuaries. Our only regret was not becoming vegan earlier, but we just didn't know. ~ It's gratifying to see that even the word "vegan" which few could even pronounce in 1990 is all over the media and commonly known and accepted. Vegan choices are so widespread now in "regular" grocery stores and most restaurants can provide a vegan meal. Being vegan is just so much easier now. ~ Our health was not a concern back then, we just did it for the animals. The last ten years, we have been eating more whole food, low fat vegan - and it is benefiting our health greatly! Of course a clear conscience is also wonderful for your health. ~ The thought of eating animals products is nauseating. We are very careful to read labels on personal products, food and clothing and have never knowingly wavered from living as vegan as is possible, and still a part of this world. We got into dog rescue soon after (1991) becoming vegan and all our rescued dogs have eaten vegan food, we couldn't stand the thought of feeding them dead animals. They are all currently eating V-Dog and love it! ~ We started a group called VegBoone after we retired, to provide resources and support for vegans and those moving that way. We don't understand how people can turn away after discovering the truth about people's treatment of animals, but do our best to provide whatever people need to stay or become vegan. ~ We prefer to see people be vegan for ethical reasons. If you truly embrace the idea that animals are not here for our use in any way, it's very easy to become and remain a staunch vegan. 

Neil Kaplan - I have been vegetarian for maybe 22 years. I transitioned to vegan after a few years of still using dairy products. It was during all this that I first became aware of animal protection issues. It started 20+ years ago, I was taking a personal growth seminar where I met a girl who, at lunch one day, was eating only french fries and a salad. She told me she was a vegetarian because she didn't believe in eating animals. She and I eventually became friends, and for my next birthday she gave me a copy of "Diet for a New America" by John Robbins. The book explains the connection between a meat diet and animal cruelty, health, and the environment. Reading the book changed my life. The final turning point was this - I was on my way one day to work one afternoon, hadn't eaten lunch yet. I was trying to decide if I should go to Burger King for a chicken sandwich (this was long before the BK Veggie) or get trail mix at a convenience store. I decided to go for the chicken, but at the VERY MOMENT I made that decision, a car drove by with a bumper sticker that said "Love animals, don't eat them". It was certainly a sign! I went for trail mix, and never ate meat again. I've always wished I could find and thank the woman who was driving that car. ~ I have noticed more awareness of vegan issues among the general public, as well as vegan food options. When I became vegan, most people didn't even know what the word meant. However, while a shift in consciousness may be taking place, I can't say that I've really noticed much in terms of a change of PRACTICE. We win a small victory every once in a while, but animal exploitation continues as much or more than ever. And I constantly question why it is that everyone doesn't 'get it'. ~ I am not really aware of how becoming vegan might or might not have impacted my physical health, as I've been vegan for so long. It does impact my emotional health, both positively and negatively. I am content in knowing that, to the extent possible, I am not contributing to the exploitation of other animals. However, this awareness comes at a price, the emotional pain felt when seeing/hearing of such horrible things that are being done to our fellow creatures can be overwhelming at times. Once I saw that bumper sticker, I never went back. Never even questioned it. This is the way things are SUPPOSED to be. ~ I believe you need to focus on the reason you are vegan. The personal sense of peace obtained from knowing you are not causing harm certainly outweighs the minimal inconvenience or the craving for a cheeseburger. 

Louie Gedo – is age 47 and has been vegan about 21 years. He is currently living in New York City. Louie shares, “I’m a part time animal rights advocate, part time animal rescuer, and full time student of life. I’m always seeking to improve myself. ~ I went vegan at 26 years of age after eating vegetarian for several months. No definitive “aha” moment…for me; it was more like the proverbial snowball gathering speed rolling down the hill. As every week or even day that passed after starting a vegetarian diet, I learned new things and my behavior (food choices) shifted a little more from vegetarian to vegan along with that new knowledge. ~ On the individual level of outreach and getting the word out, I think technology has played the most influential role in the changes that I've seen. Keep in mind that in 1992, personal computers were dinosaurs running OS’s that were impudent compared to today’s standards. Today, individuals can design and print professional quality brochures, flyers, and DVD’s right from home….with ease. We can share information about campaigns, protests, and the latest happenings in an instant. The creation of rich multimedia is now in the hands of elementary school children, let alone adults. The ability today to share information in a fast, credible, creative, and engaging way was hardly dreamed of by most people 21 years ago and gives great potential to the individual advocate / activist. ~ I am healthier. In fact, I first went vegetarian to improve my health. I've never felt better than I do today. I am a committed vegan for namely ethical reasons. Because I aim to not contribute to the exploitation or demise of animals in my dietary choices, “jumping off the bandwagon” in my view, is the equivalent of betraying animals. I’m reminded of the quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question 'Is it politic?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”~ The best advice I can give is that after s/he has learned much about the issue and is ready to align their behavior / actions / choices with their thoughts, consciousness, or convictions, is to understand that it’s not about perfection but rather it’s about doing your very best that you are capable…in the most honest way. ~ I am no different than anyone else. There’s nothing special that I have that you don’t, when it comes to widening our own circle of compassion to include animals. The first step for anyone who has questions about a vegan ethic or finds it seemingly too strange to give it a real try - is to seriously challenge your own current perceptions of animals. I did this as a meat-eater and I felt tremendously empowered to be able to allow my perception to shift from where it was - to where it allowed me to be free enough to make choices that gave meaningful deference to the voiceless others who, up until that point, existed in my compartmentalizing mind only as a leg, rib, tongue, or piece of meat.. Choosing to care doesn't cost anything extra….going vegan is free.”

Barry Hartglass - I have been vegan for around 25 years. I remember deciding to stop eating meat after having a Big Mac on the way to a music class at the University of Miami; my last semester there. I don't remember exactly why I made this choice, but I bet my sister Caryn had something to do with it!  Within a year, I was working as a producer/engineer at a recording studio in midtown Manhattan and I always had a runny nose after eating at Ray's pizza around the corner. So I decided to give up dairy and this helped. Also, around that time, Caryn gave me a copy of John Robbin's book, "A Diet For A New America." After reading it I became a committed vegan. Growing up in Long Island years earlier, I remember my Rabbi always saying that it was our obligation as Jews to make a difference in the world.  After reading the John Robbins book, I decided that living a vegan lifestyle would be how I could make a difference. Thanks to many published books, there has been a growing awareness about the impact of our collective food choices on the planet. There are many compelling reasons why I personally have decided to live this way and I have never wavered.  In his book, "Awaken the Giant Within" Tony Robbins talks about how our behaviors are determined by what we associate pain and pleasure to. After reading "A Diet For A New America" I immediately associated the eating of animals with pain and a vegan lifestyle with pleasure (making a difference). But I'm not out to proselytize veganism like a religion. If someone happens to be inspired by my example or is simply curious about my choices, I am always happy to explain and pass on information when asked. Without a doubt, the best resource I know of is the website for Caryn's Responsible Eating and Living (REAL). Among other things on the site, there is a vast collection of informative and inspiring interviews from her "It's All About Food" show.  And my music can be heard in the beginning, middle and end of every show...~ Barry Hartglass - www.barryhartglass.com

Loren Lembke - has been vegan 18 years. She owns: www.bountyburgers.com.au - Bounty Burgers on Facebook - “I went vegetarian in 1987 after an up close and personal stay in hospital in 1985 - due to complications with the epidural I was given at my daughter's birth - which doctors took no responsibility for. The point was to clean up my diet and never have to deal with doctors and hospitals as long as I could help it. Then in 1995, I saw Dr. Neal Barnard lecture at a Vegan Society N.S.W function - they had prepared an amazing buffet after - and I left that night as a vegan. I then joined the committee and had a wonderful learning curve of all aspects of why this is the only way to live - and so had many 'aha moments'. I believe in appealing to meat-eaters' greed, ie, compassion, health or environmental or all of the above. I also believe in seducing them with delicious, healthy food. Although I only gave up eating vegetarian cheese and free-range eggs when I went vegan, I was totally surprised that several weeks later I felt leaner, meaner and keener!! That is the gift of waking up and making the effort to do the right thing!! ~ Back then most people didn't know what a vegan was or a 'vaygan' as they called us - I told the committee that we needed to use the word more often, until it becomes a household word. I believe that festivals, film nights, leafleting, opening great restaurants - whatever can be done to get the message out there needs to happen. Now, I love doing in-store tastings of Bounty Burgers - right in the mainstream, switching meat-eaters onto healthy and convenient vegan soy burgers - I feel like I'm in the front-line and seducing them with a great alternative!! I've never wavered and never will - my dedication and love of all life only grows stronger with time. New vegans should find their point of interest - whether it's compassion, health or environmental or all three - as that's the passion that will drive them and ensure they don't stray. They should also eat healthily - I'm so over people saying they had to go back to being omnivore for their health!! For the world and all life upon it, the vegan lifestyle is the answer. Embrace that and it will be win-win-win for you, the animals and the planet.

Penny Veitch – has been vegan for almost 24 years, since just before my second child was born. My husband and I had been trying to be vegan for some time, but we kept back-sliding. We were already vegetarian. However, we decided to try again and when I explained to our son, who was three, what we were wanting to do, told him about the ‘mummy cows’ and ‘baby calves’ and asked how he’d feel if someone came and stole my milk and didn't let our new baby breastfeed, he was on-board immediately. Since Johnny became a convinced vegan at the age of three, we've been unwavering. And, of course, after the first few weeks it became easy. We would never consider backsliding now, even without him around! ~ Now there’s so many more recipe books! I had three when we started. All I could find. Now I have shelves of them! With the spread of internet communications, it’s become much easier to be in touch with other vegans and also to see what’s going on in the field of animal rights. It’s also great to see the words ‘Suitable for vegans’ on so many widely available products. ~ I used to get very bad flu a couple of times each year, which I don’t seem to now. I also have fewer colds. I think, once you look at some photos or read about what happens to farmed animals, if you've any compassion you just won’t WANT to contribute to that suffering. We used to think, ‘But OUR giving up milk and cheese won’t actually help any animals,’ whereas now we just couldn't be a party to any of the cruelties. Don’t be a party to unbelievable cruelty towards animals. 

Reggie Mackenzie - I was at the store one day flipping through a magazine and found some information on how cows are treated for dairy and chickens for eggs. I was horrified and decided that I would eliminate them from my diet. I came home and looked up some more information on the internet. This was 1995 sometime. I then found a vegan chat group and met other vegans or others on the same journey, and we shared stories and information. I stopped eating meat because I thought it was horrible that any being should die for my appetite. But as I learned more, I became interested in doing more, not just eliminating animals from my diet. I then found out about beauty products, soaps, creams, everyday items. I donated my leather. I bought ethical products for my home and began teaching my friends and family. I found other local vegans and became involved in protests and leafleting and trying to be an animal rights activist. Eventually, I met my husband and we are raising a beautiful 10 year old vegan activist together. Marlie has been vegan since conception and is quite a militant vegan. She is opposed to any animal abuse and loves a good protest. My husband has been very involved in the AR movement for years. We met at a vegan event that he put together here in Australia. He is now involved in the introduction of a new political party here in Victoria; the Animal Justice Party. ~ I am still frustrated when people become defensive and try to argue with me about why animal consumption or use is needed. I am very sad to know that most of the world doesn't seem to care about what happens to animals and how they suffer, so many of them each day. It breaks my heart that this suffering continues and probably will for a long time. I just don't understand how people don't see there is another way; we can live very well without causing the suffering of other beings. ~ I was sick when was I was younger and I was a junk food vegan. Once I became healthier, I felt better. I try to stick to a mostly processed food-free diet and no sugar. When I eat clean, I feel clean. I think that when one is sick all the time, it doesn't set a good example for vegans either. Most of the world is not vegan and sick all the time. We need to eat a variety of fresh whole grains, fresh veggies, beans, some fruits. It keeps me young and happy. ~ I don't think it's possible to cheat on ethics. I will 'cheat' with eating junk food but never cheat with having something that uses animals in any capacity. I don't use any pharmaceuticals. We don't go to doctors; we don't have major illnesses and are very healthy. ~ I think veganism is a broad term which should include care of the entire planet. I'm not perfect, but I try to save as much as possible. We try to buy mostly at the thrift stores, not waste water, sew instead of throw out things, wash out bags, save on electricity, buy bulk foods, share with friends, grow our own, etc. I used cloth diapers on my daughter. We recycle as much as we can, bought a used car.... yet still rely on the bicycles, walking or public transportation as much as possible. ~ I think education is tantamount. I have had friends tell me they could never be vegan and then 10 years down the road come and ask for some help. ~ The world is breaking down and falling apart. We talk of climate change and petrol shortage and wonder why? We have to step back and take ownership of this destruction and learn to tread lightly. Although I'm very happy with my life and happy knowing I don't contribute to the rape and murder of other inhabitants of this planet, I feel I could and should do more. 

John Curran – I stopped eating meat in January 1973, about a month after my 9th birthday. I was eating a bologna sandwich for lunch at school when I suddenly realized (or made the connection) what it actually was that I was eating. I spit out what I had in my mouth and threw the rest in the garbage can. People often comment about how remarkable it was that I made such a big decision at such a young age. But I take no credit for that, because for me it wasn't a decision at all. It was instantaneous. I was so repulsed that there was no thinking about it, no deciding about it. I just couldn't eat it anymore.  A no-brainer. Done. Where did this come from? I don’t really know. It wasn't anything I had read, heard, or seen. Anyway, in those moments, minutes, and hours after my “aha” moment I remember feeling so…removed?...from everyone around me. It was surreal. Am I the only one who knows this? Or feels this way about it? Should I say anything to anyone? The closest thing I can compare this experience to is when I realized that there was no Santa Claus. From Thanksgiving to Christmas every year, everything around me pointed to a real Santa, and everyone around me from my parents and sisters and brother to my teachers to all the kids at school and on my block—they all acted as if he was. And it was all perfectly normal and believable. Moving on, I stopped eating eggs by 8th grade because they grossed me out. At 16, I cleaned out my closet of all leather, suede, wool, down, including my baseball mitt and tennis racquet, and began replacing them with animal-free shoes, jackets, gloves, belts, etc. Finally, at 21 I went vegan. I was looking up books on vegetarianism at the library where I came across “Animal Factories” by Jim Mason. Skimming through, I found out that cheese was made with rennet, and I felt so…betrayed?...by who, I don’t know. It’s just that for those last 12 years I thought I was no longer a part of the whole killing-animals-for-food-business and now it turns out that the one thing that I had pretty much allowed to take over my diet actually had slaughterhouse by-products in it. About a week or so later, I went back to the library to read more of that book wondering “What else don’t I know”. I then read the truth about the whole dairy industry. What life was like for cows used for dairy, and then there was the total abomination of veal. And I felt even more betrayed. I had been drinking huge amounts of milk for all those years and this was what was going on? Same as the day I went vegetarian, I had such a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. And cutting all dairy was again not a decision I “made”. It was instantaneous. It was a no-brainer. No ifs ands or buts. ~ Things have come a LONG way from the mid 80’s health food stores with really awful vegan foods, and vegetarian restaurants with truly awful menus. In the mid 90’s, came more and more high quality vegan products—particularly the vegan alternatives for meat and dairy—and restaurants offering really good vegan options. It became so much easier for us vegans to introduce the non-veg to vegan cuisine, and that it CAN be tasty, satisfying, and more and more, easier to find. Having well-written and high quality leaflets to hand out, pay-per-views of  well done and high quality videos like “Farm To Fridge”, movies like “Peaceable Kingdom” to have screenings of,  DVD’s to share, using websites and YouTube to get info out to anybody with internet access. Facebook has also been huge in enabling us to effectively reach our non-veg family and friends. ~ When I cut dairy I felt a HUGE difference in my health. I had more energy than ever, no more headaches, colds, and sinus infections. And then there was the peace of mind that I had of knowing and being free from that whole evil animal business. ~ I've been unwavering. And it’s not a matter of will-power. It’s just not even a question. ~ I tell people to do the best you can with what you know. None of us are 100% vegan. Some things we don’t have much choice in, like the glue that holds our non-leather shoes together. We all have to draw a line somewhere. I guess you might say that there’s a point of diminishing returns. Where that point is - is going to be different for everybody. ~ It’s about compassion. When you look at these images or watch these videos don’t close your eyes or turn away. Listen to what your heart is telling you. And follow your heart.

Linda Middlesworth - Around 22 years ago, after being a 30 pound overweight aerobics instructor and personal trainer, and a 10 year long cheese and egg eating vegetarian, I moved next door to a vegan. She told me I could reverse my severe heart disease, my thyroid cancer and get rid of the extra fat layer by reading The McDougall Program book. I did and in a matter of a couple of months, I was my correct weight, cancer-free and heart-healthy! After only one week, after starting the McDougall Program, my neighbor told me that dairy cows really suffered to provide milk for humans. I became an ethical vegan by page 10 of reading Animal Liberation. I found out that dairy cows suffered and that all animals suffered if we ate them and or ate their secretions. There was no turning back for me after learning that animals are living in hell every day and that they suffer because of humans. I now devote my life to expose the horror of the animal holocaust. Now, at age 69, I opened a business called VeganMentor, and teach Food for Life Nutrition and Cooking; P.C.R.M., in order to help people regain their health, but also to help them transition to a cruelty-free, and compassionate lifestyle. Wanting to reach as many people as possible, I started Sacramento Vegan Society and have nearly 1,000 members. ~ Veganism is the only way to live in this world if we want to do the least harm, to live in great health and to keep our earth sustainable. My only goal in life is to help humans become vegan. ~ www.veganmentor.com ~ www.sacramentovegansociety.com ~ Linda and David Middlesworth own V-dog; vegan dog food in the U.S. - www.v-dog.com

Liza Moore - has been vegan for 29 years. I was 17, and had always loved animals and had a connection with them as fellow souls. Then a vegetarian friend asked me while I was eating a flesh sandwich,' I thought you loved animals?' I do, I said. 'Why are you eating them?' then she asked. I turned my head, looked at my sandwich and that was my ‘aha’ moment; I made the connection right there and then...my friend went on to explain vegetarianism and then veganism. I turned vegan immediately and went and cleared out all my cupboards...I knew who I was from that day onward. I was a very much alone vegan young woman....I didn't really have a voice then. Then, being an artist, I joined Facebook and was hoping to meet other artists. I never thought I would come across other vegans...what a delight it was and is - to be connected to people all over the world now. I have found my voice. I run an animal-rights group, where we protest and raise awareness. I have also got a 3 weekly vegan menu installed at my son’s primary school. ~ At 17, I was 172 pounds, so obese for my small frame. I constantly battled with spots on my forehead, bad period pains, aches, no energy, and my hair was brittle...I was so unhappy...which made me eat cakes, cheese, sweets. Then I would do the ‘starve myself day’ on a Sunday, totally messed-up eating habits, moods, and self-esteem. Now I feel wonderful and glow the vegan glow. I'm 120 pounds, beautiful skin, hair down to my waist that gleams, I feel full of energy, not an ache pain ever, and I mean ever. I'm mentally saner than I have ever been, and all is in order in my life....I feel alive....I'm almost 46. I have never wavered...nor would I. Someone that was a vegan, then not, then was again - was never a vegan in the first place. To not want to stick with veganism is a selfish thought...and that thought is usually based on lack of cooking skills or basically still craving the hormones, chemicals, preservatives, texture of their previous diet...if one has turned vegan for the love of all beings that have a right to live their life, then there is no turning back. My advice is keep connected with other vegans albeit on Facebook, and share cooking tips, buy a cook book, and ask advice about what foods will sort out the addictions like cheese for example. ~ My saying: "Being vegan takes 3 things, a heart, a brain and a willingness to use them both." Keep speaking for the voiceless, keep educating, never turn a blind eye, and shine like a vegan....the rewards mentally, physically, and spiritually are always OUT OF THIS WORLD...and still we continue to grow.

Muffie Cooper - has been a vegan since 1990 - 23 years. "It occurred easily for me as I am an animal guardian and I saw photos of a downed cow with her baby beside her and it made me so mad!!! This is the evils of the dairy industry. I used to support animal welfare, etc. to protect animals. In university, I began to see how 'they' didn't really do the job to protect and abolish animal exploitation. I wanted work in this area but changed my mind. I then started reading about Professor Gary Francione. His 'belief's' were what I wanted. I am an animal abolitionist -eco-friendly - vegan - feminist. I am so fierce in my beliefs that I constantly bring my awareness to the general public - at work and with family and friends. ~ I have been vegetarian from a little girl to the age of 30. I am vegan - now for 23 years. I am healthier and so so so much happier. I believe it is morally and ethically wrong to exploit all animals. I 'distance' people and make them 'think' about what they do by telling them I do not believe in eating murdered carcasses nor 'milk' that was meant for their babies. I have never been unwavering in my efforts. I just get more determined. If anything, others around me feel uncomfortable about what they are doing and change for the good. My kharma is all positive since I do not exploit any animal! I live a happy strict vegan lifestyle. Being vegan is being morally and ethically correct in living my life. I will NEVER hurt another willingly. So many idiots in this world following mass media about 'happy cows.' WHAT is happy about a mother cow giving a painful birth to her baby, having the calf taken from her, and her sorrow is never acknowledged as her milk is given away. Her babies all die horrible deaths as well. I am about non-violence. Everything BUT VEGANISM is cruel and wrong and despicable in this world." ~ The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men. - Alice Walker

Sam Gerardis the founder & CEO of The Ultimate Life. In response to my questions: I have been an ethical vegetarian since 1979, and vegan since 1981. For the first 20+ years of my life I was a human garbage disposal...I ate almost everything...even things most humans found revolting. But on a particular night in 1979, after reading the lyrics of the song Sheep on Pink Floyd's "Animals" album, I had an epiphany by connecting the dots and decided to abstain from eating or wearing anything that was killed, for ethical reasons...but I consumed dairy and eggs, because “they're not being killed". However, in 1981, when I attended the first animal rights conference in the US (organized by Alex Hershaft), I learned the whole truth, and I instantaneously became a Vegan. I mean that in the true and full meaning of the word, as intended by its creator, Donald Watson. In other words, I abstain from ALL animal products in my life, including what I wear, drive, use, etc. I do this for health, environmental, and most of all, ethical reasons. ~ Regarding changes I’ve have seen through the years in the movement to spread the vegan idea: There are many more organizations, primarily due to Meet-Up and social networking, and the word itself is no longer foreign to most people, and FAR more accepted, but that’s because it’s also far more diluted, misrepresented and abused. That’s why, while I assume there are more true vegans in the world, I haven’t been able to quantify them. Most who claim to be one, simply aren't. ~ My strength, endurance, and stamina haven’t changed much in 30 years... Also, I can’t remember the last time I got sick. Although, a lot of that is also directly attributable to The Ultimate Life products, which I created 30+ years ago for that explicit purpose. ~ I’m unable to comprehend how someone can ‘waver’ on and off the ethics and compassion ‘bandwagon’. I've been a steadfast and 100% dedicated vegan since the first day of that first animal rights conference in 1981. I've been called a ‘Vegan Nazi’ or ‘Vegan police’ often...including from a well-known ‘vegan’ author. I despise the terms, but I consider what they stand for a badge of honor. How would you feel if someone ‘wavered’ on their decision to exploit or kill you? ~ Bottom line: Treat EVERY sentient being as YOU would like to be treated. Period. ~ www.SamGerard.com

Elizabeth Ruiz - has been vegan for 28 years, though for 18 months of those 28 years, she fell off the path. Elizabeth shares "When I was 4 years old, living in Hungary, we had a neighbor who had a pig. I visited this pig every day and he always ran to me to greet me, we played together and I loved him. One day we were eating dinner and my mom mentioned the meat was the pig from next door. I burst into tears and was inconsolable for days. I never, ever got over that and the realization that "meat" was other animals who have personalities and feelings. I tried my whole childhood to be vegan but didn't know what to eat. We moved to America when I was 7 and I basically refused to eat meat and had to be forced. Finally when I was 18, I got a book from a Hari Krishna called a Higher Taste. It was exactly what I was looking for my whole life; an explanation of what and how to eat. That came on the heels of my last meal with meat; my friend, the night before, made me a chicken dinner, which he under-cooked, and I could see the blood and the veins next to the bone. So that, and the getting the book the next day, was the nail in the coffin of my meat-eating. ~ I think, thanks to social media such as Facebook, it is much easier to get the message out complete with pictures to powerfully show the reality of the meat/dairy industry. I also see many more animal rights groups. I am not looked upon as a freak and asked ‘where do I get my protein?’, as often as before. ~ I am much healthier since becoming vegan. I don't catch colds nearly as often. I have yet to ever have the flu. I have more energy than people half my age. ~ What helps me now stay on the bandwagon is the constant reminder of what the animals go through. I can honestly say that since I have been on Facebook and have signed up for every animal rights / vegan e-mails I can get my hands on, I will never fall off the bandwagon ever again. When I see the suffering we humans inflict on other species, I am convinced I was born on the wrong planet. Then I remember that I am here to help change that and to show people how happy and healthy we can be. We can live with a clear conscience; because we harm no living being on any level. Ahimsa is the most beautiful word in the world.

Lisa Shapiroowner of All Things Vegan, a sales and marketing consulting firm that has 30 years experience working with vegan businesses - has been vegan 28 years. I had been a vegetarian for 5 or so years (because of animals) and considered myself an animal activist, but still ate pizza and cheese as if there was no tomorrow and  because I knew no better. One day when I was working at my job as deli manager for a vegetarian market, a customer approached wearing a t-shirt that had a photo of a baby calf behind bars and it said something like "please don't steal my mommy's milk, I need it". I had no clue what it meant and I asked the customer what her shirt meant. From then on I gave up all animal products and became a passionate and committed animal advocate. Up to that time I had never met another vegetarian, let alone another vegan. The Internet has allowed for a very effective and efficient way to spread awareness and information about the plight of animals and our planet, like never before. I meet more vegans every month than I did for the first 20 years of living vegan.There are some incredibly bright, savvy, dedicated young animal advocates that are committing their lives to spreading vegan awareness and all of that gives me great hope. Every state has an animal advocacy group of some kind. More vegan awareness on colleges throughout the country. More vegan classes, mentors, guides than ever before. We are a much more sophisticated movement in many arenas, but we are also very divided and there is no "universal" strategy on how most effectively and efficiently to bring about a vegan evolution. This causes a lot of "reinventing of the wheel" and duplicate efforts, which uses up limited resources, energy and funds. On one hand this is a very positive time for veganism because of unprecedented cultural awareness along with the mushrooming array of vegan food options on the market- both retail and food service. On the other hand, we are nearing 9 billion people and factory farming is being exported to countries like China, India, Brazil, etc. at unprecedented rates, and we are using up resources at unseen rates with many tipping points leading to global collapse being met, or soon to be reached. It is a very precarious time in many ways, but I try to put on a hopeful front and be optimistic. ~ I am almost 50 and rarely get sick. I have a bad back/spine that I was born with, but outside of that I am rarely sick and haven't been to a doctor in decades. I am often told that I look "good for my age", and while I think I look my age, I am happy to attribute looking younger to my vegan diet if it encourages others to eat this way.;-) I have worked in the natural products industry for 30 years and have dealt with people's health, or lack there of, for as long. Vegans (who eat a primarily whole foods diet) are by far the healthiest people I come across. As we all get older, this is even more true. ~ I have never wavered and only feel sad that I didn't embrace this lifestyle when I was a youngster. I caused a lot of animal suffering in my life (before I was aware of my role) and that is something I regret every day. Now that I do know what happens to innocent animals, the destruction of our environment, and the human suffering issues involved in animal agriculture, I do everything in my power to avoid choices that negatively effect and harm animals, people, planet. I do everything in my power to educate the masses about the importance and urgency of vegan choices. ~ Living Vegan  is not a sacrifice on any level. Perhaps sometimes it is inconvenient, and sometimes we need to plan ahead, but never should that be a reason to forsake our vegan values. If you need inspiration to stay on the vegan path watch some videos (Earthlings is a good one if you can make it through) to understand what these poor creatures go through behind closed doors. Know that every time we make a choice in our lives, there are rippling effects we may not be aware of. Secondly and maybe most importantly, surround yourself with vegan-friendly community!! Having vegan support is one of the most important aspects of staying on the vegan path. Vegans in general are seen as freaks of nature (less so these days) and we go against everything that is normal and "natural" in our culture. Often times that is too challenging for people when something they do three times a day is seen as "different". Seeking out vegan friends is vital for us to feel like we belong to something bigger than ourselves, and have a support structure we can turn to when our family, friends, and colleagues don't understand... yet.:) It's never been easier, more delicious or more urgent to make vegan choices. Let me know how I can be of service on your vegan journey. - Email: lisa@allthingsvegan.com

Stephen and Elizabeth Wolf, January 2013
Elizabeth Wolf - shares her responses: "I have been vegan since July 1990 - 23 years.  I was pregnant with my daughter Khadi who is 21 and is a Life-Vegan. I just turned 47 and have been a vegan for 23 years. I became a Vegetarian at 17. When I became pregnant I decided to become vegan. My first encounter with vegans was whilst protesting against the logging of the SE Forests in NSW in 1989. I was about to give a young boy some carob chocolate to eat when his dad came running over and said he is vegan and that chocolate isn't and then he explained why vegans don't have dairy.....It was the first time I had heard about the separation of calf from his/her mother. A seed had been planted. I did not give up dairy then and there - but within a year I had. In 1996 I was involved with the first ever Vegan Publication in Australia; the Vegan Forum which started as a very small grassroots magazine in Nimbin, Northen NSW. I worked in collaboration with Bill Westerman who now actively runs The Vegan World Network Group on Facebook. I worked with such zeal and determination to get The Vegan Forum out to as many vegans as possible so as to create a network Australia-wide, and have the magazine offered to vegans who were only able to access the New Vegetarian and Natural Health Magazine which lacked vegan recipes, values and focus. I contacted every vegan business I could find for advertising which helped with printing and delivery cost. At that time there were a handful of Ethical Vegan businesses for example Vegan Wares (Footwear), Amanda Benham (Dietician), Rambilldeene Farm (Soaps), 20 Thousand Cows (Vegan Cafe), Bio-Distributers (Healthfoods), Continental Guest House (Accomodation). Our first print run was 200 copies in black and white; the last run before the magazine became 'Vegan Voice' was approximately 3,000 in colour. ~ My husband Stephen and I raised 2 children who are still vegan. My daughter Khadi will be 22 soon, and my son Jarieus just turned 18. We lived on a community (multiple occupancy) in a very alternate area where vegetarians were plentiful, but not vegans. It was a constant uphill battle wherever we went socially, as we were in a minority at the time. There were 6 other families who I met through the magazine and in around the area who were also raising their children within a vegan diet and lifestyle. I organised gatherings and camps so we could support each other and be among like-minded people. Amanda Benham's 2 children are the only ones like mine who stayed vegan. My children are one of the oldest 1st generation of vegans born in Australia, and I am very proud to say this. My determination, dedication and tenacity allowed me to keep going with the support from Stephen, Khadi and Jarieus. Melbourne has always been the Vegan Capital of Australia and since moving here 3 years ago I can see why....there is an abundance of vegan cafes, but also vegans are catered for in non-vegan establishments. There are many active groups and social connections which are growing. The only accurate and up to date material in the 1990's was from The Vegan Society U.K.; who I used for reference material for my family and the magazine. ~ The proliferation of social media has allowed individuals and groups to arise, connect, distribute and promote themselves and the work they are doing for Veganism. We are gathering a great momentum; so much has been achieved with more to be achieved. ~ In relation to females my age who are not vegan, I am healthier, lighter in weight, stronger and more fit. I don't dye my hair and I am accepting the the time of my 'silver linings' with grace and dignity. I juice and make a green smoothie at least once a day. I munch daily on raw greens of dandelion, wheat-grass  parsley and kale. I am trying to eat only dark organic chocolate and reduce my black tea with soy addiction. Giving up dairy allowed me to loose excess weight as well as not being part of the cruel business. ~ We had a friend stay with us for a period of time and we negotiated no meat, eggs and dairy but she had cans of tuna she would eat out of the house. One winter's day she opened a can of tuna in the house and for some reason I enjoyed the smell and a craving came upon me. I picked up the can and had a sniff then realised what it was and told her our agreement was to eat the seafood out of the house. I added more seaweed to my diet and had kelp flake on my meals.....I have spat non vegan food out. My daughter Khadi could smell when food was not vegan if someone had put honey or milk in our tea she had this incredible sense of detection....both my children can't understand the concept of vegan cheese....it was not around when they were growing up. Being a vegan in today's world is so possible. Connect with other vegans in person, first and foremost. Human friendship is so important and you will learn tips about food, lifestyle and ethics, as well as extending your vegan family, work in the Vegan and Animal Rights movement, support vegan businesses, make connections online and then promote veganism via FB, Instagram, Pinterest so your non-vegan family and friends can start seeing photos of the food you've made whilst reading information they have never seen before......it will make a difference. I would love to make more friends with Vegans. Find me on FB as Elizabeth Aradia VeganWolf and Instagram as Veganwolf1. ~ From my experience, your feeling life - is what guides you...if you see, read or watch cruelty in any form and to any living being and it affects you, then act upon it and make the necessary changes you see to alleviate, reduce and stop the exploitation...as this is the Vegan Way.

Jeannie Trizzino - I've been vegan since 1987, about a year after I graduated from college. I jumped into veganism for ethical reasons; health and the environment were secondary motivations. I did not go through a vegetarian period. I became a vegan as a result of a career search after graduating from college. I was terribly burned out and frustrated after working for a year in auto insurance. I started seeing a psychologist for some help managing the stress. These meetings turned into sessions on finding a career, not just a job. I loved animals, so I started researching animals. That research led me to my local public library, where, lo and behold, there was a copy of 'Animal Liberation', which articulated a view of the world that I had inside me, but didn't realize. The black-and-white logic and sobering facts hit me right in the heart and in the head. What I learned was what many vegans feel--that we cannot be a part of so much unbearable suffering in the world when there are choices that we can make that do not cause suffering. Singer also established for me the idea that whenever humans place an economic value on a non-human animal, the dollar value of that animal is more important than the well-being of that animal. Animal agriculture does not place a value on suffering and will tolerate it, even encourage it, until the bottom line affected. I was fortunate to encounter books which confirmed for me that if I cared about not only animals but also the environment, then I had to stop eating and wearing animals and animal by-products. These books showed me that it was safe and easy. So, I became a vegan in a very short time--a month or so. The last animal flesh that I gave up was ebi sushi--shrimp. I am of Japanese descent, so sushi and Japanese foods are my comfort foods. I also got rid of a lot of my wool, silk, and leather at that time and gave it all to charity. ~ I didn't know any other vegans at the time--this was a completely solo venture, even though I lived in a big city, except that I had these very good books as my guides. By now I feel like a real old-timer--veganism is a lot more accessible than it was back then. I'm still amazed when I see vegan products in a regular supermarket. The impact of the internet and social media on the spread of veganism cannot be over-estimated, but this rapid spread lies on the excellent and determined work of activists and organizations over the decades. I hope it keeps spreading! ~ My health remained the same after I went vegan. I had no major health problems before, and have experienced none afterwards. I was influenced by vegan diet guru Dr. John McDougall, who was very popular at the time, to follow a very-low-fat diet. I was unable to keep to that restriction, but I have always moderated my fat intake, fry or use large amounts of oil in cooking or baking. If something requires frying or deep-frying, I do not make it at home; I enjoy deep-fried foods when dining out, though! I was at the high end of normal weight before, and I remain at the high-end to this day. I never had and never will have a slender figure! In 2012, I successfully trained for and completed a half-marathon; but for decades after I went vegan, I was not very active. I recently had a blood test and found that my lipid profile (cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides) were all in the normal range, but I was low in vitamin D, so I will need to talk to my doctor about supplements. ~ There was a short period a number of years ago where I accepted (and enjoyed) some non-vegan baked goods from a wonderful co-worker who was a master baker. She said the eggs she used were from backyard hens of a friend of hers. Shortly after that I sat myself down and re-committed to veganism and have avoided awkward, indulgent situations like that. I live with eight lovely cats, all rescues, all of whom eat regular cat food, so I have always been on the horns of a dilemma about feeding them. But as for me, there are some things that I don't have a choice about, and what are you going to do when you have a homeless, helpless carnivore on your doorstep? I have tried feeding them vegan cat food, but felt that they did not thrive on this food. I hope that someday a perfect vegan cat kibble will be available. ~ I am fortunate enough to live near two sanctuaries (Farm Sanctuary and Animal Place) and visiting them is restorative and grounding. ~ My local meetup Facebook page. My mission is less about converting people to veganism - and  more about supporting people who have decided to try veganism and to help them through the hurdles.

Karin Yates -  has been vegan for over 30 years.  She explains: "I had become vegetarian at age 10 for ethical reasons. It wasn't until I started dating a vegan at age 20 that I became aware of ethical problems with eggs and dairy. Animal rights was not a common issue then, or at least one that I had encountered. ~ The word "vegan" is now common, where not that long ago few people knew what vegan was. More celebrities adopting a vegan diet is moving it more into the mainstream." Karin has been absolutely unwavering in her commitment to living vegan through the years. ~ "Find vegan groups and other vegans to be around. Watch documentaries about the meat/dairy/egg industries to etch into your mind. ~ No one has the right to take another's life. The cow wants to live as much as the chicken as much as the dog as much as the child."

Moses Seenarine - is an activist based in L.A. ~ I am 50 years old and have been vegan for over 25 years. I try to stay close to nature now in my effort to raise my own 7-year old vegan. In my early twenties, I became interested in peace and spirituality, and read the autobiography of MK Gandhi, who wrote about being a life-long vegetarian and experiments with various raw diets. This encouraged me to try fruitarian, nut-only diet, etc...Shortly afterwards, I was travelling in South America, and hungrily bit into a rancid burger. I was completely grossed out and resolved never to eat the flesh of nonhuman animals again. I was staying with a long-time vegetarian friend and ate whatever he did - mostly avocado and cheese sandwiches, and vegetable curry with rice. A year later, I visited the New York office of Fund for Animals and discovered literature on the exploitation of dairy cows, and decided to go vegan at age 23. ~ The range, variety and availability of vegan food gradually expanded, especially in larger cities. The few animal rights organizations that existed 25 years ago have ballooned into hundreds, with different aims and goals. Early organizations were focused on letter-writing campaigns, but over the years they oriented themselves more towards direct action. The intersection of feminism and animal rights is starting to gain more visibility, especially among female activists. Within the movement, ecofeminist theorists like Carol Adams, Marti Kheel, Mary Daly and others, are slowly beginning to get the respect they deserve. ~ After suffering in ignorance for many years, when I became vegan I realized that I was lactose sensitive. After I eliminated dairy and cheese from my diet, my quality of life improved significantly, and immediately. My emotional health improved as I felt less guilty in my relationship with non-human animals and the earth, and whenever I am in the presence of nature and animals, I feel calm, relaxed and content, so I have gained spiritually as well. Intellectually, I began to recognize speciesist flaws in academia and society, and realized that I need to reduce my footprint as much as possible. ~ My ethical stance regarding animals did not change over the years, and I have never wavered in my diet. After about five years of being vegan, the smell of animal flesh became too hard to bear, so I started eating in vegetarian-only restaurants. It was important to support vegan businesses and not contribute to companies exploiting animals, and I stopped having nightmares of accidentally eating food with meat. ~ Our emotions have been colonized, and we have to work hard on removing toxic ideas of using and eating animals due to convenience, or maintaining personal health and social relationships. An ethical concern for nonhuman animals, and a spiritual relationship with the earth, is an ancient path, followed by many cultures and individuals. Veganism is part of that wonderful caring tradition, and it can lead to a richer, fulfilling life. ~ The same ideology that supports speciesism is present in ideologies that encourage and justify classism, sexism and racism. Specieism is part of a patriarchal ideology that seeks to transcend women and animals, and an ecofeminist vegan ethic is essential for understanding and transforming individuals and society. 


Linda Furness has been vegan for 45 years. "I initially became vegan the day I received my letter from Leslie Cross re the dairy industry. I've watched veganism become more mainstream due to  health, environmental, and moral reasons. ~ Yes, I am healthier, and I never ever thought about going back. ~ Stay in touch with other Vegans if you want help. I became Vegan because I don't won't to cause any pain or suffering to my fellow creatures. I was given a gift of sight into veganism for which I will always be grateful."

26 comments:

KD Traegner said...

Beautiful and inspiring. Thank you!

mmissinglink said...

Wonderful bios and great reading!

Jc Rodriguez said...

I wish I have done this long ago, but is never too late, I stopped all red meat March 2012, but I was eating fish/and ""Certified Humane"" chicken, but by July 2012, I went in less than a week from meat eater to vegan.... The most important decision of my life... I did it for ethical reasons and with the support of wonderful vegan friends from Peta,ADI and others.

Debby Sunshine said...

What about Victoria Moran of Mainstream Vegan? Great post! Hats off to these wonderful individuals!

Anonymous said...

What beautiful people!

Renard Moreau said...

[ Smiles ] Thank you for sharing another beautifully written vegan article.

Anonymous said...

wow. so inspiring and all look so healthy! well done Butterflies and thanks to all the vegans for sharing their stories

Kittee Bee Berns said...

22+ years and counting here! awesome post, so good to see all these long timers.

xo
kittee

Sharon @BigCityVegan said...

Love learning about these long-time vegans. Thanks for putting this together! Interesting and inspiring.

cherylhugle said...

Thank you. This is a wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I loved this and I'll be sharing it with others.

Michael Lanfield said...

Long, but excellent post.

vegangsterARNP said...

GREAT blog. especially love a few of the people's writings:

will tuttle
barbara thompson
bernie wright
shawn fosnight.... all of you are great.

Thanks for the post

Judy Carman said...

Another amazing contribution to veganism from Butterflies. Thanks to you and to all the contributors. Wonderful, inspiring stories--so much love in the world. There is hope for the animals to one day live in peace. Judy Carman

Anonymous said...

Thank you one and all for sharing your lives with us. I have nothing but admiration and love for you and your chosen way of life.
Pua mai au mai ka po iloko o ka malamalama,

Leeza said...

Kudos! I love this. An empath for our sibling species, I suffer much. These writings by folks who feel as I do have brought a smile to my heart in all of the pain which is not even a smidgeon of what our friends suffer every second of every day of their lives. I thank you for your words, all of you.

shawn said...

vegangsterARNP - thank you!

Vladimir Jevtic said...

I am glad to become a follower of this perfect sight.Although step in the vegan row six months ago, feel like always belonged here.Togethar with me my wife Sonja also step in the line.Our daughter Sanja (27) who is almost 11 years vegan is the most valuable person involved in our life changing way.Thank you Sanja up to the sky, love from V&S <3

Joan said...

Thanks for the introduction to all these long-time vegans. I've been vegan 19 years and my partner has been vegan for 44 years. I was ovo-lacto for many years before becoming vegan because I believed the dairy industry lies about dairy being necessary for bone health and also didn't know about the cruelties of dairy. I wish I had learned these things sooner.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and inspiring. Thank you.

F.A.A.R.M./Vegan Wiccan said...

I'm another long-time vegan; vegetarian turned vegan of 30 years.

Awesome list--thanks for the post!

Samantha said...

great list, good to see there are so many people who have been vegan so long. I've been vegan 19 years and have still met few fellow vegans (and still no twinflame) although there seems to be a growing trend towards veganism which is a good thing

Jane Allmark said...

I am a newbie vegan of 4 months and this is my story.

I thought I had a pretty healthy diet, no red meat, a little chicken, eggs, milk & cheese. I followed the media propoganda & believed I was doing the right thing. I then suffered two bouts of illness & decided to start a "health kick" for a short period to boost my immune system. I followed a vegan diet & after a few weeks I started to notice that my hair was shinier,my nails stronger, my eyes brighter, my skin clear & my immune system balanced again. I started searching out vegan recipes, being an avid cook & found I could bake cakes, cookies & all those "bad for you" treats that as treats are fun to have sometimes.

Along the path I started to educate myself, open my eyes and take off the rose tinted glasses and was disgusted at what we do to billions (even the number is difficult to comprehend) of fellow creatures. I still had visions of daisy the cow wandering in buttercup fields being gently milked by the milkmaid. HOW WRONG WAS I. I watched footage, videos and articles and cried, howled & shouted in anger at how blinded I had been.

I am the only person in my social group who is vegan, it is my choice & I explain my story. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) recently and ALL the alternatives to cows milk have MORE calcium in them.

I just wanted to post this to say that it is never too late to change and start a vegan lifestyle and my aha moment is that I did.

lorettainnz said...

I was so late going vegan did not do so until I was 50 but I have been vegan ever since and am now 63. And now my husband, my son, one of my daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter are also vegan and another 8 are vegetarian and I believe will be vegan one day, hopefully soon. Go Vegan

Unknown said...

Went vegan in my heart at 13 years old after reading A Mother's Tale. Wasn't able to control my own diet until 17, which was in 1975, 38 years ago. Many were lonely years. That is changing fast.

Anonymous said...

Inspiring, interesting, brilliant posts!

But Gary G - I don't think only eating bread and chips would give you scurvy, because potatoes contain Vit C. Plenty of meat-eaters have very unhealthy, malnourishing, diets!