September 20, 2014

60 WINNING short essays ~ Why I will Always be Vegan

After seeing one too many posts from "ex-vegans", this campaign was born in contrast to make a public statement. From the worldwide vegan giveaway event comes this compilation of 60 winning short essay selections from around the globe offering insight into the perceptions of a committed vegan. In 400 words or less, each entry explained why they will always be vegan and most won a giveaway gift being offered by the participating vegan businesses. ~ It was not an easy task to select winners from many hundreds of possible winners! At some point it boiled down to whether I had a prize offered in that region. I was given comic relief when – not one, not two, but three - self-proclaimed non-vegans sent in their essay on why they will always be vegan! Tee-hee...I kid you not! Many of these essays and many more were compiled in actual book form and sold on - Buy the book here (only $4.00) ~ Or the paperback here -or- on Here, in random order, is the compilation of short essay winners from around the globe:
One day in March 2007, when I was 13 years old, I decided to go vegan. Simply because I knew it was the right thing to do. Why should I participate in horrible violence towards other animals when there was absolutely no necessity to do so? It just didn't make sense to me. So, overnight, I became a vegan and stopped participating in animal use for food, clothing, testing, entertainment and any other purpose. Seven-and-a-half years later, I am still vegan. And I can say with absolute certainty that I will always be vegan. Because it isn't about me. ~ Veganism is the recognition that other animals are sentient individuals, just as we are, who deserve to live their lives free from enslavement and exploitation. They are the victims of our non-vegan choices. And when there are victims involved, a choice is not personal. It is not something as simple as choosing what music to listen to or what colour t-shirt to wear. Whether we want to believe it or not, the simple fact is when we purchase non-vegan products, we are actively participating in the harming and killing of others. ~ How could I ever go back to that? To deciding that the small, personal benefits I might get out of using animals is more important than their lives? I have seen the fear they feel when they are about to be killed. I have watched them struggle and fight for their lives. I used to disregard that suffering and push my feelings away.To do what everyone else was doing. But I refuse to do that anymore. Using nonhuman animals may be the norm, but that does not make it right. Those lives matter. They are not ours to use and do whatever we like with. I will always be vegan. It is who I am. It is not a diet. It is not a lifestyle. It is a stand for justice. ~ Emmy James, Waikato, New Zealand

“True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.” Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being ~~ Have you ever looked into the eyes of a sow? Do you truly think that we lack the means to communicate across species? She is not the “mere animal” you think you know. She senses and smells your presence. She can see your silhouette cast against the light. She advances, timidly, and seeks your eyes. Her orbs measure you, depose your shield of solid convictions and seek the empathic spark that is dormant within you. Indifference ceases where eyes meet: we are drawn to the deep moonlit wells of the other, burrowing deep in the psyche as we disturb the murky waters of ourselves. This introspection, this deep instinctive soul-searching is the galvanising spark that tears off the blindfold of our self-centred existence as we can lie to ourselves about the other, but we cannot do so without betraying the feral emotions that surge within us. It reminds us that, on this precious planet, we share our paths with other beings; beings gifted with the primeval urge to pursue an existence free from pain and humiliation. ~ To some veganism may just be a label, a passing fad, a radical extremist statement against sensible norms; to others, common earthlings like ourselves, it is the promise of social justice made to the eyes of the sow and to many others. It is an oath, a pledge to recognise that all eyes are a window to a sentient being but also mirrors reflecting back the suffering that we, as a society, inflict on the defenceless. I have looked into her eyes. I have not seen the raw mechanics of Descartes’ automata. I have not seen the acquiescent victim of the Dominion contract. I have seen dread, confusion and demoralization. I have seen questions asked of myself and of my people. And that is why I will always be vegan: to restore the light to those eyes, to restore the promise of life and to fulfil the one universal value we can build a new planet upon. That value is empathy. ~ Jan Claus Di Blasio, Rome, Italy

It’s been nearly 14 years since I had my vegan epiphany and vowed to never again partake of or participate in anything offered by the machine of violence that we call the animal industry. Since that time, my understanding of veganism has continued to grow and deepen, until it has become such an integral part of my ethics and my values that I can no longer imagine being able to separate from it, and still be able to look at myself in the mirror with a clear conscience. To no longer be vegan would mean to deny the most obvious truth I have ever learned, and to turn my back on every single animal who is counting on me and others like me to advocate for them in a world where they are seen as disposable objects rather than sentient individuals. To no longer be vegan would mean to pretend that I do not know what is really going on – on the farms, in the hatcheries, in the slaughterhouses, in the laboratories, in the oceans, and everywhere else on this planet where animals are treated as resources for us to exploit. To no longer be vegan would mean to deny my true nature as a person who can feel for the pain of others, and who aspires to live as peacefully as she can in this far from peaceful world. To no longer be vegan would mean to return to a world of darkness, for it would require me to close my eyes to the light of moral progress that illuminates the way forward to a better world for us all. But perhaps an even more saddening thought is that it would require me to extinguish the light of my own integrity, which is the source of my faith in myself, and which I count on to show me my own next steps on my way to a better self. ~ Angel Flinn, Hawaii

I will always live vegan because, ever since the moment my eyes were opened to the horrors and atrocities of the culture of animal exploitation pervasive throughout our current global community, I refuse to participate in, support or encourage the system of animal slavery, torture, rape, mutilation, deprivation and wholly unnecessary and unjustifiable death I see all around me. Humans do not kill and eat animals for necessity, though that is the myth to which many cling. Rather, humans slaughter billions of land and sea animals each year for habit, tradition, convenience and taste, none of which would hold up in court as worthy defenses were we to use these as justifications for having killed even one human animal. ~ The moment I realized the animal holocaust of which I had been a participant, a light turned on inside me that cannot be turned off. I immediately understood that since I would not knowingly support the terrorism, bullying, rape and murder of members of my own species, I also couldn't justify condoning such behavior across species. As one person elegantly put it, when my heart spoke louder than my stomach, I changed forever. ~ Because it was the normal, accepted way of raising a child in the United States (today I know "normal" is just a setting on a washing machine), I was forced to consume products of animal exploitation and indoctrinated into an animal-product addicted culture before I was able to make my own choices. Once I knew the truth and learned I had other choices, I made the compassionate choice to live a vegan lifestyle. ~ A plant-based diet is far healthier for humans and the planet than one involving the raising and killing of non-human animals for food. As any of the millions of vegans - and non-vegans - around the world know, consuming products of animal exploitation is unnecessary, gluttonous and cruel, as well as wasteful and environmentally damaging. It comes as no surprise that a way of life linked to such internal maladies as cancer, heart disease, impotence and diabetes would also have adverse effects on our external environment. ~ I will always live vegan because I am no longer selfish enough to require that another sentient being should suffer and die for my convenience. I live for the day we no longer have to create humane societies but instead simply choose to live as one. ~ Keith Berger, Co-Founder, South Florida Vegan Support Group

Now that I am awake, I cannot go back to sleep. Awakened from a culturally induced slumber, I have made a pledge to myself – but more importantly have taken an oath for the animals. I am now their caregiver, witness and companion—and will never be able to justify their exploitation. This connection is now embedded deep within my being and there is no going back. I will stick with being a vegan because it is the tougher road to travel. It would be much easier to stay asleep, and blissfully unaware of what happens behind the walls of the slaughterhouses and testing facilities. Becoming a vegan connected the dots for me and I can no longer claim ignorance or indifference. Making the connection removes the veil and exposes the reality that society has gone to great lengths to conceal. As a vegan, I view the world through a lens of compassion and empathy. I can now see through the walls and will never again allow myself to be blindfolded or misled by the masses. For me, veganism is not a fad diet, social club or some kind of life-crisis, attention-seeking hipster ideal. It is a moral philosophy and lifestyle with a foundation of certain principles and tenets. Not all that dissimilar to other “isms” that denote a specific practice, system or philosophy. It is not temporary or just a phase; it will be a lifelong journey of progress and learning. Vegan for life—and for their lives. Sincerely, Clinton V., Brisbane, Australia

I will always be vegan:
* Because of the bear trapped in a tiny cage, continuously drained of the bile so prized by humans. The elephant whose family was shot so she could be used in a circus. The lobster who had been guarding her children when she was trapped and boiled alive. And the ground nestlings who were crushed when hay was harvested to feed “happy cows” during winter. ~~
* Because of Fasier; the Siberian tiger, mascot of a university. He lived at an accredited zoo that spearheads international conservation and educational programs. Fasier paced several steps to the end of his cage every day. Then he turned and paced back. ~~
* Because of Anthony, the beloved young goat in a small dairy herd. His legs shook with terror as he was carted off to die. His caretaker cried as the trusting Anthony bleated his bewilderment. ~~
* Because of the mouse who was force-fed laundry detergent until her organs finally failed and she died a miserable death. And the mother and baby macaque wrested away from each other, to study the effects of a human anti-anxiety drug.
* Because of the first male chick of the morning to tumble from the conveyor belt to the grinder below. His sisters will live in a backyard and be called "happy chickens" until they are slaughtered. ~~
* Because of Oscar, Lucas, and Petuna, who escaped the grisly fate of millions of pigs. They would have borne their torture in completely different ways, because they are different individuals, with their own personalities.  ~~
* Because of the human child who died from dehydration and starvation because the water and land that once sustained her family are now used for cattle, to feed other humans. ~~
* Because of the calf who lived next to a sanctuary and daily tried to push through to freedom and companionship. Every day, the farmer carried him back to the reality of his life (and death) on a "humane farm." ~~
* Because I have been told that the saddest sound in the world is a dairy cow calling to her stolen child. ~~ I have literally billions of compelling reasons to remain vegan all my life. I may falter at times, but exploiting animals deliberately? It’s unthinkable. ~ Susan Cho, Chicago, USA

Becoming vegan has been one of the biggest defining points of my life. We all search for them - these defining moments - through our relationships with others, through religion or spirituality, through enduring physical challenges on our bodies and in our environment. Every one of us is on a different path, but I think most of us want the same thing: to leave this world knowing that we lived a full life, and that we have grown into a better person during our time here. I've experienced two different religions and my fair share of relationships so far in my life, including motherhood. I have spent the first half of my life in one country and the second half in another. I have done quite a bit of travelling. I’ve got some life experience in my 54 years. As a result, I feel that every step of the journey has helped me discover my truest self in veganism. ~ Even as a vegetarian for 17 years, I knew deep down that I could do more, and that feeling stayed with me until I finally chose veganism seven years ago. Veganism offers a spiritual fulfilment that transcends any experience of oneness with the Divine that religion could offer. It is true compassion, true selflessness and brings an incomparable feeling of wholeness to know that I am choosing not to engage in violence against any sentient creature. I can look any animal (including human) straight in the eye and feel a connection to that being that I never felt before I was vegan. It’s almost indescribable, but it is a fullness of heart that other vegans will understand and recognise. It’s not “praying” for a better future. It is BEING a better future; right now. I get to be the best possible example of humanity in THIS life. ~ The rewards of veganism go deeper. I have discovered that my food choices have not diminished, but expanded. I am trying new things, I have learned to cook and love it! I now spend my Sundays volunteering at an animal shelter, and it is the best job I have ever had, because the feeling it gives me is better than money. Committing to veganism has made me FREE to explore life unfettered, causing the least harm possible to our planet. Veganism is a gift that I would never trade. It’s the secret to a happy life. ~ Lisa Bennett, Maidenhead, England

I will always be vegan because "it's the Golden Rule thing to do." This moral and ethical precept teaches us that we should behave toward others as we would have others behave toward us. Non-vegans conveniently take the word others to mean other humans. Vegans consider others to include ALL members of the animal kingdom, both humans and nonhumans alike. Generally, humans know that the non-human beings we call animals have characteristics, and rights, that are fundamentally similar to those of the human beings we call people. It therefore makes logical sense that the spirit of the Golden Rule should also apply to non-human beings. Non-vegans conveniently permit there to be a disconnect -- a barrier -- between human rights and animal rights. However, elemental logic suggests that there is no real conflict between these sets of rights. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are mutually inclusive. Humans should be "for" both. I often use the term "animal wrongs" instead of animal rights. This makes it easier for people to see that they simply do not have the right to perpetrate "wrongs" -- either directly or indirectly -- against the other sentient beings known as animals. It is morally "right" for humans not only to stand up against wrongs, but also to take personal action to end them. Americans took such action during the civil rights movement in the 1960s; to eradicate the abomination of racism. Today, we should create a national/international "social justice movement" that focuses on eradicating the abomination of speciesism. It is speciesism that is THE underlying cause of all the exploitive injustice that the human species wreaks upon the non-human species. We're at a point in our human evolution where we must recognize that fact, and DO SOMETHING about it. Consider this compelling quote by Henry Spira: "If you see something that's wrong, you've got to do something about it." Most vegans understand that the practice of speciesism permits abject cruelty against, and causes the undeserved death of, other sentient beings by human beings. Vegans know that speciesism is wrong. Vegans make a morally and ethically based "crossover." They become "humaneitarians" -- humans who live as humanely as they can -- in the true spirit of the expanded application of the Golden Rule. Because I so wholeheartedly believe that the vegan lifestyle represents the "Golden Rule way to live," I will always be a vegan. With peace, non-violence, liberty, and justice for ALL, Craig Cline; ardent animal advocacy activist, Salem, Oregon, USA

Prizes that were given away
Be the change you wish to see. The magnitude of wisdom contained within that short sentence is sometimes too overwhelming for people. It can be difficult to stand behind your convictions in a world of complacency and evasiveness. It’s easy to go with the flow, not call attention to yourself or your beliefs, not advocate for a seemingly lost cause. Fielding ridiculous questions can sometimes be exhausting, I admit it. In a day and age where you can educate yourself at the click of a button, I tend to wonder why I’m still being asked where I “get my protein from?” Despite the constant questions, raised eyebrows, behind the back snickers, in your face jokes, and anything else that comes with the territory, I will always be vegan. Some might ask why. The reason is both as simple and as complex as that first sentence. I am being the change that I wish to see. I wish to live in a world where we don’t hurt our friends for personal gain. I wish to live in a world where everybody is considered a friend. I wish to live in a world that values a symbiotic relationship. All of these wishes extend beyond the human race. They include every living creature. They even include the limited resources that we are responsible for treasuring and sharing. There is a reason we are all here together. I don’t know what that reason is any more than the next person. Deep down, I’d like to think that walking around upright with an air of false superiority and an affinity for greed is not the reason. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m not. It’s what I believe and it’s the change I would like to see. I will always be vegan because I don’t find it easier to go with the flow. I find it easier to stand up for what I believe in and make sure that everyone I come in contact with knows how I feel. I will always be vegan because I want to pass that gift on to the next generation. I will always be vegan because I am healthy and strong and I did not have to harm a single living creature to obtain that valuable commodity. There are a multitude of reasons that I will always be vegan. The more pressing question is, when will you start? ~ Julie Hammond, Columbus Ohio, USA

I have a T-shirt that says ”I am vegan because I love life”. That is how simple it really is to me. I deeply love the idea that I can live as respectful as possible by being vegan. I think of it as releasing as much empathy into every corner of life as possible. Veganism is common sense waiting to be common because to not contribute to the suffering and death of others is common sense. I have my senses as a human. Everyone who is not human have theirs. Their lives are without a doubt as invaluably interesting an experience as mine. To become vegan is to acknowledge that the arrogance of demanding a human template for non-human life in order to deem it worthy is a kind of madness that will perhaps mean that humans will self-destruct and kill so many other species while doing so. However I have real hope that the opposite will happen because I see it. Many people try in various ways to make that change. And I think many people will understand that message because it is a message of hope. We as humans are not outside of nature because nothing and nobody is outside of nature. And nature wants to celebrate life. That is very obvious when one can see it. Veganism is a very important thread in that celebration. And it is based on rights that everyone should be born with: rights for nature to be nature. The destruction of an artificial human-made hierarchy threatening to destroy so much should be replaced by equality in every possible way. We are here right now. Let us enjoy it and let others enjoy it as well. Love life! ~ Rune Kjær Rasmussen, Odense, Denmark

To most people the idea of knowing that you will always do something is childish and immature but with veganism it is quite the opposite. One day you realise that the idea of using non human animals in any way is morally wrong. One day a light bulb comes on in your head and you know it never will go off. A lot of people call themselves vegan but never actually make the connection, they never realize exactly what veganism means. To be vegan means non humans are not ours to cause unnecessary suffering to, ever! It doesn't mean that you eat plant based but occasionally consume fishes, it doesn't mean you are plant based but you know if your friend *really* wants you to go to an animal park, you do. To be vegan means that using non humans isn't up for discussion. It is as morally problematic as non vegans (and vegans) see child abuse. The day the light went on in my head was the best and most scary day of my life. I knew I would never be the same and I would always strive towards a world where being vegan is the norm not an exception; where those who use animals would be seen as extreme; a world where people would see that it is the non vegans who push their views on others, the animals (both human and nonhuman) they exploit. ~ Ruth Sanderson-Dredge, England

It is simple, really--once you respect the rights of others, how do you stop respecting them? Just like almost everyone else, my potential for compassion was hobbled at a young age. I grew up on a mountain, around hunting, and went to school with farm kids. I saw the victims on farms in herds and flocks, their individuality ignored. I even personally murdered some animals. I have a lot to feel guilty about. It was not until I met my husband, Shelby, that I started to understand compassion for those who are not human. Shelby’s experience with other-than-human persons growing up was more compassionate than mine, and his knowledge of them through reading was extensive. Listening to him I learned so much about the sentience and majesty of other animals, and I grew to respect them a little. It took a bumper sticker to jolt us: “If you love animals, why do you eat them?” It took us three months to stop eating their flesh and wearing their skins. Over the next three years, I learned a lot of details of all forms of animal exploitation and other avoidable harms. I became an activist, unlearned speciesism, and I finally became vegan. I did it so gradually, thinking the entire time that I could not do it, that I don’t even know for sure when I was vegan, but I have decided it was the fall of 2004. Unlearning speciesism is the foundation of veganism, connecting one with the world in an amazing and complex way. I now know that everyone has an equal right to live free from exploitation and other avoidable harms, including a right to their share of a healthy planet. How could I ever feel differently? ~ Lisa Qualls, Reston, Virginia, USA

This is the first irrefutable truth I discovered in my life; that eating and using animals is, no matter how you look at it, an act of abject cruelty. When we eat or use animals, we are hiring the butcher or dairyman or furrier to kill or abuse the animal for us. We are, in effect, guilty of murder for hire. ~ I became aware of this fact personally when I witnessed the slaughter, by sledgehammer, of a screaming bull. I felt at the time as a German citizen might have felt in 1943, had he suddenly become aware of The Holocaust. ~ Imagine what a life-changing awakening that was for the German and for me! We both discovered we were living a lie; the lie being, in each case, that there was no holocaust going on. ~ My soul made a promise to that bull and to all animals. I gave my word that I would do all I could to end the horrific human treatment of animals. My first course of action was to stop my own eating and using of them. I later learned that the path of Ahimsa or harmlessness I had embarked upon was named VEGAN. I made that promise 44 years ago. I will never go back on my veganism or my word. I trust that, by now, the animals know that they can count on me. ~ Light, co-founder Gentle World - Hawaii, USA

Since I was a little child, I have always loved animals - well, I thought I loved "all animals", but in reality I only loved and respected dogs and cats. I ate meat, dairy and other products of animal exploitation. I didn't know better, I didn't make the connection between what was on my plate and the lives that were ended for those meals. But as I grew and found more information, I quickly had a shift in my perspective, my way of life, and I slowly started to realise that this was going to be my calling - that I would devote myself to help animals. I realized it's not enough to volunteer at dog shelters, I wanted to help ALL animals and I realized the first step to do that was to start from myself and my choices - so I made the choice to stop participating in every way of animal exploitation. I became vegan when I was 13 years old and shortly after that I became an animal rights activist. Although I was really young, I remember that the only thing I was regretting was why I didn't do this earlier - how could I have claimed to love and help animals while I was consuming the products of their suffering? I knew that there was nothing I could do to change the past so I focused on the future - I knew that being a vegan and animal rights advocate would be my purpose. I devoted every minute of every day to help animals. I will always be vegan because that is the least I can do for the animals - it's the moral baseline for humanity, it is the only non-violent, egalitarian way of life for both human and non-human persons on this planet. When I was 13 and just started as an animal rights activist, I had a vision that the whole world will be vegan if I continue spreading this message - most people called me crazy and of course - young and naive. Well, 9 years later, I still have the same vision, but now I don't care if most people think I'm crazy, because it's not about them. I look into the eyes of pigs, chickens, cows and I'm reminded why I do it. And in those moments, those moments of friendship and respect between a human and non-human, I'm sure we can achieve this "young and naive" vision of a vegan world. And if you still think it's crazy - go on and spend some time on an animal sanctuary, look into their eyes and try telling THEM a vegan world is not possible. ~ Mariana Cerovečki, Croatia

I was raised to eat animals, just like most children in our society. I spent 58 years condemning sentient beings to lives of ruthless exploitation that would end in brutal death. For a few years I was vegetarian and then lapsed back into my old habits. I have no excuses for any of this and will make none. I am guilty. I paid people to kill animals so that I could eat them, just as my parents taught me to do. Like most people I did not question it. Now I am vegan, I have to make up for lost time, make amends, try to educate other people. There is not a second to lose. This is the most important moral revolution in the whole of our history. ~ I have been involved in the environmental movement for many years but not once have any of the organisations which I support encouraged veganism. Friends of the Earth will campaign tirelessly for greener energy, more recycling and fewer roads but never once mention the contribution animal farming makes to climate change and resource depletion; never once profile its unsustainability. Similarly - world hunger. Not once have I been advised, by any of the Third World Aid charities I support, to go vegan and free up more food for people. This, despite the fact that 40,000 children die every day for lack of food while the privileged eat animals who have been fed the grain that could have fed these children. It is a scandal that few seem willing to confront. I have always wept over the suffering of neglected horses and abused dogs, despised 'country sports' and been horrified by vivisection, fur farming, whale slaughter and so forth. I see now, at last, that there is no difference between all of this and farming animals. All of it is horribly wrong. I will always be vegan because now, at last, I understand that other animals are not, and never have been, a 'resource' for human use. We have committed a crime against them. It is time to evolve away from this way of being. The future has to be vegan, or there can be no future. This is nothing more -or less- than Truth. ~ Carol Williams, United Kingdom

Being vegan is the baseline for living a compassionate, healthy, sustainable life. If humans are to survive on this planet, we must learn to live in harmony with all other Earthlings. The exploitation, enslavement, and slaughter of sentient beings is a blight on our health, our environment, and our spirits. Animal agriculture is closely linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gasses, groundwater, river, and ocean pollution, deforestation, and mass species extinction. Using animals for food, clothing, research, and entertainment results in a life of confinement, suffering, and torture for billions of innocent Earthlings. We all deserve to be happy and free. The liberation of the most exploited among us liberates us all. ~ Isabella La Rocca, Berkeley, CA., USA

I am vegan because I do not believe humans can justify on any grounds the eating or using of animals. We are one part of an ecosystem in which all life is connected and therefore the daily choices we make in terms of how we live affects more than ourselves. The idea that we are all connected is based on the concept of the oneness of life. All religions and many cultures make reference, at least historically, to this oneness. As we are all “one” then to hurt another is to hurt everyone, including oneself. Pollution from animal industries is an example of this – it adversely affects us all, and not just those who participate, either as producers, or consumers, or both, in these businesses. ~ With the advent of “civilisation” humans began viewing themselves as separate from both other living beings and the earth itself. Yet we are no more separate from each other than a wave is from the ocean. This belief that we are separate has led to many people acting in ways they perceive to be in their best interests and with little regard for others. We see this in man's treatment of animals. Each year seventy billion animals, bred to produce a range of “products” for human consumption, lead short and tortured lives. Animal industries also create food shortages for many of the world's people and impact negatively on human health and the environment. Were we all to view ourselves as citizens of the earth, or earthlings, and our lives connected we would not knowingly harm any other living being. We would be vegan. For me, to not be vegan would mean living without a conscience and life would become meaningless and without joy. As George Bernard Shaw said, “There is true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one” and “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.” Vegans view animals not as inferior beings with whom we can do as we please but as individuals very like us, whose lives matter, and who should have the right to live free of exploitation. Animal rights has become a strong unstoppable social justice movement. I wish to continue playing a part in this force for positive change and therefore will always be vegan. ~ Cathy Duffield, Whangarei, New Zealand

"I once believed I was an animal lover, yet I had no idea what love really was. I never saw the cruelty I had inflicted by what I eat, use or wear; causing so much suffering without a thought. I followed blindly what I had been told, by parents, teachers, governments and media. Then one day I woke up. I couldn't bear to be part of the problem anymore. I saw who we really are and the pain we caused. I will never go back to who I was because this is who I am and will be forever more. Where you see meat and eggs, I see the lives of others butchered and ground up alive. Animals suffocated, their babies dragged from their mothers, or imprisoned and ill without hope. Your glass of milk or slice of cheese screams rape, abuse and abduction to me. How can I take a bite of that when every mouthful screams of suffering in my head? When you wear the skin of another, I see animals screaming in pain while their skin hangs off. Why would I wear their skin when I have my own? Trillions of insects used for a multitude of purposes when none are needed to the human race. When you ride another animal, I ask, how would you feel if someone treated you like that? There is no difference between any of us, as we are all animals. When you want a feathery down quilt, I see geese standing in pain and blood. You want to look pretty and unreal; all I see is others needlessly tested on for the sake of vanity. We are killing all others, ourselves and our planet. So why would I choose this when there are so many other options to not cause any more suffering and death? Why would I put others through that unnecessarily? Yet, in my mind, I would rather see all this than know I am part of the cause. Once you know, really know, there is no going back. So keep in mind that no matter what you say, I have the facts on my side. I am on is the side of truth and justice and for them I will always be a vegan." ~ Amanda Beatty, England

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: We need no introduction to the accused. They are sentient dwellers of this world (like you or I). They are unique, varying in shape and size; in the manner which they move; or how they interact with this planet. We dub them: "animals". ~ Humankind acknowledges our coexistence on this Earth, our home, with these beings, who neighbour us across this great expanse. And as humans, we acknowledge our distinction, our uniqueness from these creatures. Yet, through some misguided notion, we as a species believe we are entitled to this Earth more than the other Earthlings; and, these creatures and their experiences in life must be guided by our hand. We determine their fate... and question of our own humanity. In our species' existence, we have thrived from these creatures, exploiting them for their sustenance and warmth in clothing. Justifications of survival were the norm for a long time. In this modern day and age, amongst civilizations interconnected, we are beyond the days of survivalism, and can flourish without cruelty for our foods and our garments. Despite the call for empathy and freedom for animals, nutrition through kinder plant-based sources, and release from our exploitative holds, the atavistic notion of superiority still reigns as a majority - the belief that we are the ones to shepherd these animals. Under this premise, we may touch their existence with compassion or cruelty. We have a choice; they never had one. If humankind has assumed the role of guardian of this planet and all who call it home, then are we not to enrich their lives, or leave them be, instead of consuming them for all their worth? We deduce their value from how we may use them: to be confined in captivity for our entertainment; bred for slaughter and food; killed for sport and fashion, and to be specimens in our experiments. We spread suffering instead of compassion, and needlessly harm and condemn these animals and our home with these horrible practices. Once upon a time, I stood trial to my conscience and pleaded guilty for my participation in this immoral system. Knowledge of these horrors cannot be unlearned, and cruelty, to creatures who experience the world feelingly like you or I, cannot be supported. My pathway is a Vegan life, which I wholeheartedly embrace. ~ Peter Smith, Vancouver - British Columbia, Canada

There was a time when I was unconscious, wrapped up in superficial wants. My mind was fixed on my materialistic needs. I existed purely in a little bubble of simple self, warm in the comfort of my easy ignorance and unable to see the horrific truths of the world through the walls of my self-inflicted coma. I never knew I was ignorant. In fact I prided myself on being intelligent and knowledgeable, believing I was well rounded and in tune with society because I watched the news. I thought I was an environmental activist because I cared about the planet and attended street rallies. I thought I was an advocate for animals because I disapproved of abuse and neglect. I thought I was a humanitarian because I took part in the 40 Hour Famine. I thought I knew all there was to know about life. ~ Something I have always known, however, is that I want to ‘save the world’ but it wasn't until I awoke from this coma that I realized what saving the world actually meant. ~ Some vegans describe their moment of awakening as a ‘spiritual’ experience; others as a ‘light bulb moment’. For me it was like getting whacked in the face with a shovel, having my heart and soul ripped out and my mind detonated into a million little pieces. It was like being pushed off the edge of a cliff into a black hole I thought may be there but never truly acknowledged. It was violent, frightening and traumatic and it was heart breaking. Suddenly you are aware of the animal holocaust happening right now and the mass destruction humans are inflicting on the Earth. Suddenly you become fully aware of the impact your decisions are having on innocent beings and you can't look the other way. There is no choice but to change. You are filled with a passion friends and family don't share, fully understand or appreciate. You are labeled ‘radical’, ‘difficult to feed’, ‘eco-terrorist’, ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’. But the pain knowledge brings you, the labels they pin on you and the misconceptions they have don't worry you because you are vegan. You are fully aware of what is happening in the world and you have the courage, insight and the heart to acknowledge the facts and to actually do something with them. ~ Becoming vegan means adopting a philosophical lifestyle that extends beyond the dinner plate. Being vegan means accepting the transformation as an obligation rather than a choice. When you have your ‘awakening moment’, you become aware of the duty you have to create change. This transformation has allowed me to see that willful ignorance is death to the soul and that living in truth is the only way to exist. I can never return to seeing the world through childlike, ignorant eyes. That’s why I'll be a vegan until the day I die. ~ Alannah Quinn, Brisbane, Australia

In the heat of the summer of 1966, revolution was in the air. Black people were revolting against the injustice of whites, women against the domination of men, and young people everywhere were expanding their minds beyond the restrictive perceptions imposed upon them by their parents, teachers and governments. Like a hurricane, the winds of change swept through the world, blowing away centuries-old dogma, and leaving in their wake a higher consciousness than had ever been known before. ~ It was during that summer that Light and I forged the bond that has held us together through all the years since. In the spirit of the time, we took a vow to ourselves, each other and whomever else was listening, to pursue not the lies we saw being exposed all around us, but the absolute truths that we had been told didn’t exist. We vowed to discover those truths and to hold each other to the task of living them. ~ Our test came soon after, when we saw a movie in which was depicted the slaughter of a bull. Three men were standing in hip boots, ankle deep in blood.  They were all hitting the bull on his head with sledgehammers, but the huge animal did not die with one blow. He screamed louder and louder each time, until he fell to his agonizing death at the men's feet. I will never forget those screams as long as I live. ~ We walked out of the theatre horrified but resolute in our decision to never eat another animal again. Over the next few years, as we learned that no animal product (whether for food, clothing or anything else) could be produced without some form of cruelty and violence, we veganized our lives, without yet knowing the word. ~ Because it embodies the values we had always believed in, such as justice, kindness, gentleness and compassion, veganism became the foundation of our higher selves. In its light, we were able to recognize and evolve aspects of our behavior that were inhibiting the growth of our noble nature, and to eliminate them, one step at a time. If we were to forsake the vegan ideal, that foundation would crumble, toppling our higher selves, along with our cherished values, until there was nothing left of us of any value. Perish the thought. ~ Sun, Co-founder of Gentle World

Without pretension or any sense of disingenuousness I am a vegan. This is not something I will change because it is not a choice, it is something I am compelled to do by my nature. Who I am morally rejects living in a different way and as such I found it natural to become vegan. Changing would feel extreme and would stop me from feeling at home in my own skin. If feeling out of place in society is sometimes the price for feeling at peace with myself then I am more than willing to compromise. ~ In regards to the criticism from others who think this life choice will not make a difference I quote Helen Keller 'I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.' This is the way that I will live. In hope that others will also see that they can make change. That living contrary to your belief is in itself a contradiction to living. ~ People can numb to what is ordinary or common, it is the nature of our species. I hope that when someone who has numbed and perhaps never considered the question on their moral conscience will begin to contemplate it upon meeting me or others who live life in the same way. I will not numb to witnessing anyone in a state of suffering or death. And so, for as long as I have life, I will live it by my nature as a vegan. ~ Rachel Lena, Peeblesshire, Scotland

We live on a beautiful, abundant planet, gifted with bodies that are able to survive and thrive without the death of other sentient beings. Veganism is my way of honouring the gift of life and returning this gift by honouring all other life. Once I was able to fully embrace that animals are beings and not things, that they have their own interests and purposes, I could not un-know this truth. Like learning that Santa Claus is not real, it’s like I always knew, and there’s no going back. Being vegan has allowed my mind to grow and flourish, no longer encumbered by blocked connections, blocked intuition, blocked compassion, and the series of rationalizations and excuses needed to maintain these blocks. I've developed an increasing openness and appreciation for life, a gratitude that I was not able to fully embrace when I was still within the mindset of taking and reluctantly harming. I rejoice in grasping the beauty and uniqueness of other beings and becoming more completely who I already am. ~ To others, veganism can appear as restriction. But for me and other committed vegans, living according to our values is no restriction, it’s a joy. Like those who don't feel restrained by not hurting, killing, or paying someone to hurt or kill a dog or a hamster, I can't feel restrained by veganism. Veganism is about abundance and inclusion. It’s about living according to who we really are as human beings. ~ Understanding that this is what the world needs - to overcome separation and violence, from and toward each other, animals and the earth - draws me deeper into veganism. It is a wonderful thing to live my values so fully with no compromises. It is a wonderful thing that the longer I've been vegan the more I see that there are no compelling arguments against living according to the principles of nonviolence, causing fewer animals and people to suffer, and minimizing our resource use and environmental destruction. I will always be vegan because veganism represents our attempt to take care of each other, the planet, and ourselves. I will always be vegan because it’s the first fundamental step toward creating a more truthful, compassionate and just world. I will always be vegan because it’s the least that any of us can do to respect our fellow earthlings and this beautiful paradise. ~ Patti Nyman, Toronto, Canada

Veganism isn't a fad. It isn't something that I do to be trendy. All life matters. All life is precious. I am vegan because my life is not any more important or valuable than any other living being on the planet. I have NO need to harm another for my survival, so why would I? I listen to my heart and soul. I wish to live my life by love and compassion. All animals feel the same emotions as I do- love, joy, as well as fear. They all feel pain like I do. I don't want to be a part of their suffering. I don't want to support or have anything to do with any industry that sees living beings as mere commodities with which to make a profit. When I look into the eyes of a non-human animal, I see myself. I see a soul. I see a sentient being who only wants to live his/her life free of suffering. Humans are a part of the environment, not above it. We have no right infringing our will onto others, especially those who cannot fight back. I want to make this world a better place for all who live here. Therefore, I will always be vegan. ~ Tumeria Langlois, Maynard, MA. USA

I don't need 400 words to explain why I will always be vegan. For me it boils down to the simplest of reasons: I CAN be vegan, therefore I am. I am a thinking person. I have choices. I have opened my heart to the plight of non-human animals being bred and raised for purposes that are not their own. I recognise that being vegan is a powerful force to combat climate change. I have empathy for the Third-World child who starves while we in the affluent West gorge ourselves on food that is not only unnecessary, but which is making us sick. I do not need meat, dairy, or eggs. I do not need leather, silk or wool. And I never have needed them. Waking up to that fact was like seeing the sun rise to illuminate a beautiful future of compassion, nonviolence and love. I CAN be MY question would be: "Why wouldn't I?" ~ Angela McAninly, Australia

I can state with utter certainty and sincerity that I'll always remain wholeheartedly vegan. Yet in a climate where there have been those who have made similar statements and subsequently forgone their promise of compassion towards all, that is sometimes difficult to believe...The reason I know this truth so unequivocally, is because I remember not being vegan for 33 years before I "came to". I remember what it was to be still asleep; I repeatedly awaken to the sadness of having put aside such a vital part of my consciousness. I know the ignorance that pushed wisdom to the recesses of my mind; and it serves as a reminder that I was once only partially living. ~ I was one of those non-vegans who genuinely thought that I knew all about compassion, but I was judgemental about vegans, and I didn't understand how animals suffer, every day, in such deep and all-encompassing ways, that to be any part of it - no matter how distantly - made me an unwitting torturer. ~ A torturer of those who I can now honestly claim to love from the depths of my soul. ~ Being a mother, daughter, and wife - knowing the love of another so deeply and intensely; gave me insight into the love these other beautiful beings can feel... No matter how human or non-human, I do not need to be a scientist or doctor to realise that these wondrous, sentient, precious creatures can experience pain and love like I do. However, I didn't want to embrace that idea, I didn't want to see that I was hurting others unnecessarily. ~ Once I was brave enough to look at the truth square in the eye, and feel the grief, anger, and shame of being a party to such suffering - as well as to feel something akin to the pain these others were feeling - I was able to finally realise the subsequent truth that followed...Being vegan has brought with it the truest joy I have ever felt besides giving birth. It is just as beautiful to give life as it is to truly honour that which exists without my interference, it is truly wonderful - and right - to deny my hand in harm towards others rather than denying their life or happiness itself. Just as I was hardwired to do when I was born to life myself; and it's the most alive I have ever felt! ~ Sarah O'Toole, United Kingdom

When you consider what is the most ethical impact we can make on the lives of animals, the environment, fellow humans, and ourselves, veganism is the ultimate crossroad. Being vegan is a way of life that minimises harm while promotes equality, wellness and respect. In other words, veganism is an essential part of being harmonious with the earth. I will always be vegan because I have made the decision to stop being naïve. There is no turning back from the moment you come to the realisation that ‘meat’ was once the muscle of a living sentient being. And from then I began to see the injustice of a massive industry born of the exploitation of animals, branching from meat to milk to eggs to leather to cosmetics and the list doesn't just end there. How can we justify the cost? I will always be vegan because I made the decision to stop saying “tomorrow”. The most important time for activism is the present and even one voice is strong enough to make an impact. That one voice plants a seed, and a thousand voices starts a movement. I want to be a part of this “radical” shift in thinking today, in which people will come to terms with veganism as the norm. I will always be vegan because I see a future of freedom. Companions don't belong on dinner plates anymore. I hope that by the time I die that humans will be pushed off the top of the food chain, and abattoirs and factory farms will be a thing of the past. So I'll spend the rest of my years educating our friends, children and strangers. That’s part of the reason why I will always be vegan. ~ Seyfan Lederman, Australia

Vegan isn't just a word to me…it’s a state of life. To be vegan is to be everything I have always wanted to be. Compassionate. Thoughtful. Brave. Strong. Loving. Respectful. Protective. Nurturing. Once you've learnt how to be these things, it’s impossible to go back and unlearn them. I could never again look at meat and not think of the beautiful life taken or the suffering said life entailed. I could never again look at milk or eggs and not think of exploitation and cruelty. When I picture an animal, any animal, I picture them surrounded by their families and friends, at home in nature. ~ To be a vegan to me, is to have strong moral purpose and ingrained honour. It is to live up to my own high standards and regard all life as sacred. Whether it be a tiny ant, an Asian elephant, or everyone in between… I could no longer stop caring for them than I would for my own family. To be vegan is to link yourself to the earth and all the creatures upon it. This link could never be severed, for I think in a way, it’s almost paternal. The love I have for animals and the world I live on, is the love I hope to have one day for my future children. Strong, enduring… unchanging. ~ I hold out hope that, soon, enough people will take a stand for what's right. I hold out hope for a future where no-one has meat on their plates, where animals are treated as equals, with the same thoughts and feelings as ourselves. I hold out hope for a world without killing, cruelty or victimisation. To be vegan is to want to make a difference. To be vegan is to want to embrace life, not throw it away. Killing costs something; it costs people a clean conscience, and animals a full, happy life. To be vegan is to want peace. Peace is, and always will be, free. That’s why I will always be vegan. ~ Jodi Ford, Rowley Regis, U.K.

There is, for better or worse, a righteousness associated with being vegan. Four years ago when I told people- good friends, even - that I had decided to become vegan, some replied with a shocking bitterness that bordered on resentment. “Well, I guess you're perfect now,” I heard more than once. Needless to say I am far, far---far from perfect. It hurt me that people I thought knew me so well would think that of me, that I had placed myself on some self-righteous pedestal and now looked down on them. When I thought past my own hurt, it occurred to me that committing to being vegan is such an obvious force of good and that most people know this even if they're not ready to take it on themselves, so they tend to be defensive. If I had those moments to do again, if I wasn't so caught off guard, I might reply (albeit maybe a little cheekily), “you could be perfect, too! It’s fun and easy! Come on, join me.” ~ The truth is, I do feel enlightened. But not in a holier-than-thou sort of way. I know and understand the world in way that I didn't before, but much of that awareness is heartbreaking. The abject cruelty of factory farming, medical and cosmetic testing, fur farming, etc. has seared in my mind images of defenseless animals punished by unspeakable suffering. Knowledge of far reaching, damaging health and environmental repercussions of these industries of pain, I can't forget. Rather than make me feel better about myself, they serve to remind me how flawed I am, we all are, what dark things we are capable of, and how much work there is to do. Knowing, I cannot forget. Seeing, I cannot close my eyes. Opening my heart to all creatures, I cannot stop it beating. There is righteousness but it comes at a cost and the only way to repay that debt is to live a life of kindness and compassion. ~ Fortunately, that part is easy and fun, a joy to do! I have no illusions of becoming Tolstoy, living a life of ascetic privation. I have never lived so abundantly and gratefully as I have since becoming vegan for now I reverence and celebrate not just my own life but the lives of all animals, solaced by my choice to ease the world’s suffering in my small, flawed way. ~ Martha Readyoff, USA

I will always be vegan because it is part of who I am. I have spent more of my life living, breathing and eating as a vegan and I am so very grateful to all the people I met and articles that I read in the late 1980's that changed my way of thinking and led me to veganism. Once I learnt about the inherent cruelties of the meat, dairy, eggs, fish, honey, silk, leather, wool, fur, etc industries - I could no longer eat, drink, wear any of these by-products. I will always be vegan because I raised 2 babies to adults who are life vegans; Jarius; 19 and Khadi; 23. I have a very deep connection to them. I nourished them via breast feeding till they self weaned and made them strong in heart, hands and health. I have led my children along the path of compassion, animal liberation, ahimsa, vegan wholefoods, equality and environmental awareness within in a world of carnage, destruction, war, slaughterhouses, speciesism and racism. I've shown them through my lifestyle and parenting with my husband Stephen (also a longtime vegan) that they are part of a positive, life affirming way of life. And that is why I will always be Vegan. ~ Elizabeth Wolf, Newcastle, Australia 

As a child I was convinced there was something wrong with me. I loved animals in a way nobody else did. I had many life companions: cats, dogs, rabbits, birds... While everybody just considered them as inferior beings, I considered they were equal to me. I strongly believed they had the same right to live than anyone of us humans. I wondered, "Why can't people understand it?" ~ From an early age I disliked zoos, circuses, bullfighting, barbaric festivities in which animals were abused and killed, hunting, fur industry, even movies in which animals suffered and died. Nevertheless, as a child I was taught to eat animals and I did it for many years. I lived a dichotomy between the love I felt for animals to whom I was emotionally attached and the lack of compassion for those I consumed. I knew they were animals who suffered but I was not brave enough to take the definite step towards true compassion. Moreover, as a child, when I cried because one of my beloved companions had passed away, my mother tried to comfort me by saying "They're only animals. They're not like us. They don't suffer the way we do." She did not comfort me though. ~ I remember exactly the very moment when I went vegan. It was my birthday. Previously, I had been reading some information about the dairy industry. Information on how baby calves are separated from their loving mom since birth (she is not even allowed to caress them). On how these babies die alone while their mom grieves for them. Suddenly, I felt as if I was a mother cow in a factory farm (I am not a mother though). I could feel the deep sorrow and pain she experienced when her baby was stolen from her. I determined I could not be an accomplice of that anymore. ~ As a vegan I have found my purpose in life: to fight for nonhuman rights. I have restored my inner peace. I have understood there is nothing wrong in loving animals. On the contrary, the wrong thing is to contribute to their exploitation and death. Veganism is not a diet, it is a way of living. The ONLY way of living rightly. That is why I will be vegan for life; for nonhuman persons. There is no better reason to be a vegan. ~ Dunia Arcos, Barcelona, Spain

I will always be a vegan because the vegan lifestyle is the one most consistent with Jewish (and other major religions’) teachings on treating animals with compassion, preserving human health, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, helping hungry people, and pursuing peace. I will always be a vegan because of the widespread, horrific mistreatment of billions of animals. I will always be a vegan because I have many pleasant ways to spend time without hunting, attending circuses or rodeos, or being involved with other activities that abuse or kill animals. I will always be a vegan because I can be comfortably and stylishly dressed without wearing clothing that involved the mistreatment of animals. I will always be a vegan because animal-based diets contribute significantly to heart disease, several forms of cancer, strokes, and other killer diseases. I will always be a vegan because animal-based agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, deforestation, water pollution, rapid species losses, and other environmental threats to humanity. I will always be a vegan because animal-based diets require far more land, water, energy, and other resources per person than vegan diets. I will always be a vegan because, at a time when an estimated 20 million people worldwide die annually of hunger and its effects and almost a billion of the world’s people are chronically hungry, 70 percent of the grain produced in the U.S. is fed to animals destined for slaughter. I will always be a vegan because in an increasingly thirsty world, with glaciers melting, aquifers shrinking, and lakes drying, it takes up to 14 times as much water for a person on an animal-based diet than for a person on a plant-based diet. I will always be a vegan because it is my way to protest against the “madness and sheer insanity” that animal-based diets represent. I will always be a vegan because it is arguably the most important thing I can do for my health, animals, the environment, the efficient use of natural resources, hungry people, and efforts toward a more peaceful, just world. I will always be a vegan because only if many people become vegans will we have a chance to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. ~ Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.; Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island, New York, USA

We share this world, with so many creatures. Hands, feet or wings, we all have our own features. ~ They too feel love, for their daughters and sons. They walk this earth, we aren't the only ones. ~ Through time we have swelled, and taken what's theirs. Forests are now cities, yet nobody cares. Their homes have been robbed, by the beasts we have become. We've stolen this planet. We must be numb.

The animals body, through time evolved. An amazing creation, no niche unsolved. ~ Yet we tear flesh from these beings, to satisfy our lust. Steal milk from their young, we abuse their trust. ~ A gentle creature, now no more than food. The flesh of another, how can we be so crude? ~ Their dignity ruined, by the beasts we have become. To indulge our gluttony. We must be numb.

With keen senses like us, they feel as we do. We like a gentle touch, and they do too. ~ They hurt if stung, and ache if they fall. But we use them as toys, like a bouncing ball. ~ For pretty perfumes, and shiny hair. Is animal testing, worth their despair? ~ Pushed and pulled, by the beasts we have become. Are they not equal? We must be numb.

Fur, skin and feathers, so many designs. Worn proudly and beautifully, by the animal it defines. ~ From the stripes of a tiger, to the wool of a sheep. An individuality, that goes more than skin deep. ~ Yet we strip these creatures, of their precious hide. Fur coats and leather bags, how can we feel pride? ~ Now used for pleasure, by the beasts we have become. How do we ignore this cruelty? We must be numb.

We make them suffer, for our own greed. Through their screams of torture, we let them bleed. ~ Their lives are lost, for our selfish desire. We crush their emotions, why let this transpire? ~ I feel this affliction, that I refuse to ignore. I embrace compassion, so they will suffer no more. ~ I have broken free, from this beast we have become. I have chosen veganism. I am not numb.
~ Karra Rothery, Warminster, Wiltshire, U.K.
  Prizes won by most of the selected winners
I will always be vegan because I am sharing this planet with a variety of magnificent creatures. ~ I will always be vegan because this is the least I can do. I will always be vegan because I respect the rights of others even if they are disregarded by the majority. ~ I will always be vegan because I know - everyone matters. ~ I will always be vegan because I have a heart and a brain and I am not afraid to use them both. ~ I will always be vegan because I deserve to know the truth. ~ I will always be vegan because I should not be forced to dominion over the powerless. ~ I will always be vegan because I believe in rational morality. ~ I will always be vegan because otherwise I would not be able to respect myself. ~ But most of all, I will always be vegan because there is no need for a ‘good reason’ to not destroy someone else’s life. ~ Marina K., Estonia

I will always be vegan because of the simple fact that each and every individual who can experience suffering and joy, and who would continue to live out their natural lifespan if left to do so, possesses the right to live free from oppression, and this right deserves respect. If this right is not respected, where is the line of basic respect drawn for anyone? What then would constitute having the right to be respected? Where sentient individuals are concerned, I see that injustice to some of us ensures injustice to others of us. For the sake of all, there needs to be justice for all. ~ Upon discussions about veganism, I've had a member of my family tell me I'm selfish to think that they ought to be vegan too and a friend tell me I only want them to be vegan for the sake of having my way. My being vegan is the furthest from being selfish that I can be, because it involves the recognition that I am that family member, and I am that friend, and I am every being experiencing oppression or respect, and each of them is me. When it comes to being oppressed or respected, we are all equal. To me, to include and consider the well-being of those animals who are not human is part of considering the well-being of anyone and everyone since, essentially, we are all the same. If I were to witness my aforementioned family member or friend being mistreated and I decided to stand up for them, to acknowledge the injustice that was being done to them, to decide to not be complicit in the lack of regard shown to them and to expect others to do the same, would I be viewed as selfish and as only wanting things to be my way? No, I would not. This is why I will always be vegan. All of us, no matter our perceived differences, share what matters, and what matters is sentience. We, all of us human and nonhuman animals alike, feel. Having sentience is the basic criteria for being allowed to live free from oppression, and our right to not be oppressed must be respected. To respect means to be vegan. ~ Rhonda Anderson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I will always be vegan because vegan is not a diet. For me, being vegan is about making choices that align with my most loving values. I love all animals, I love the beautiful natural world around us, I love caring for my own health and I care about all people. The best way I can show that LOVE is to practice veganism everyday, every moment. Sometimes I wish there was another word for VEGAN because too many people think it is a fad or a diet. I want a word that expresses how it makes me feel like I am a walking heart and that I can make my choices from that most loving place. I will always be vegan because I do not need to eat animal products or wear them, I do not need to use any products tested on other species, and I can easily entertain myself without supporting industries that imprison animals and display them or make them do tricks. When I make these choices I feel GREAT physically and emotionally and spiritually. My life is joyful, healthy and rich and I am surrounded by other compassionate community. I am almost 60 years old and I feel like I am still in my twenties….Thank you healthy vegan choices! ~ Rae Sikora, Santa Fe, NM., USA

We will always stay vegan because freedom is the right of all sentient beings...because we are passionate about animal cruelty, because animals deserve the respect and Love of all humans. They were not put on this planet to be beaten and abused or to be slaughtered or to be tested on. Animals are beautiful creatures with hearts, nerves and feelings as we have and this is their home too. We will always stay vegan and try to teach people that we are all one; we just look different. ~ Barbara and Darren Wilton, Salisbury, South Australia

Graduating 8th grade should have been one of the happiest times of my life. Instead, my best friend died and I was heartbroken. She was a basset hound named Sadie. I had a connection with her that I could never put into words, until I saw the posters of a dog and pig that read, "Why love one and eat the other?" I became a vegetarian after she died. Then in 1994, my junior year in college, I took an Animal Behavior course and we took a field trip to study abnormal behavior in farm animals. I saw the female cows lined up with their heads barricaded into their feed while their teets were being suctioned by machines. The cows that weren't in that situation were in the front of the barn crowded and jumping on each other. I was disgusted and decided, I am not contributing to this, and stopped consuming dairy that day. I didn't know there was a word "vegan", or dairy substitutes, and didn't care. I never missed it either. I just knew I wasn't contributing to the treatment of animals I saw in that barn, or eating animals that I knew had the same feelings that my best friend Sadie had. ~ I was a typical city girl, grew up minutes from Chicago. I didn't know any other vegetarians, just that I could not eat another animal, or after that college course, consume dairy. I then moved out west and met environmental and animal rights activists, and learned many more reasons to be vegan, (a new word too!). I couldn't understand why so many of these activists weren't vegan knowing what they knew, while I was just learning! I went to Buffalo Nations and found out why the native wild buffalo were being slaughtered. The livestock industry was lead agency in the slaughter, and many of those activists weren't vegan, huh? I went to work at a farm sanctuary and found out veal was a direct product of the dairy industry, saw what "free range" and cage free meant. I couldn't understand why everyone I talked about it didn't immediately go vegan. I learned about the air and water pollution, and the land consumption it takes to raise the animals, and remember dear Sadie, who I see in all other animal's eyes. This is all why I will never stop speaking up for the rights of all animals, and of course, why I will always be vegan! ~ Jennifer Nitz, United States

I will always be Vegan because I have a choice: I choose compassion over cruelty. I don't want to be a person who is content with how things are. I want to be heard, be different, create change. We can make the world a better place, where all beings are equal, as it should be. Being Vegan really is the least one can do and when you look at what billions of innocent Animals are going through every second of every day, it doesn’t seem difficult at all. ~ I always say everyone has a mission in their life; you just need to find out what it is. Mine is to fight for Animals exploited for food, used for clothing, entertainment, in experiments or abused in any other way. No one deserves to suffer, especially those somehow ‘weaker’ than us – those without a voice. ~ People don't want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed. It’s so much easier to stay ignorant and selfish, isn't it? ~ Life’s most persistent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’. If you’re not giving the world the best you have, what world are you saving it for? People may doubt what you say but they will believe what you do and this is my motivation never to stop screaming my heart out for what I’m passionate about and getting involved in animal rights. Veganism is part of me I can’t live without, just like my heart or my head. It’s what I’m most proud of about myself and I want the world to know that. I've dedicated my life to saving animals and I’m perfectly happy with it. ~ They say one vegan won’t make a difference but I know I do make a difference every single day. Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”. And this is why I never doubt that a small group or dedicated, passionate people can change the world. Of course not everyone understands why I do this. But that's okay. One day they will. One day they will look back and wish they'd been doing the same. ~ One day they will all be free, in a world without cages. ~ DominiKa Piasecka, United Kingdom

I will always be vegan, so I can stand strong and proud and say that the animals screaming for the torture to stop… are not tortured and murdered in my name. ~ Rowena Poitras, Brisbane, Australia

I will always be Vegan because, its my duty to be so. I have no right to kill any other living being who can sense pain and emotion as I do. If I have the rights to live and not be harmed by anyone else, so do all animals.  Being Vegan helps me to feel better and good. I turned Vegan when I was 26 years old. Im now, 30. I feel bad for the 26 years of my life when I have harmed animals in different forms, though I turned a vegetarian when I was 11 years old. Vegetarianism harms particular species of animals like cows and hens. ~ I should mention about my three dogs Ruby, Benji and Simba who were with me when I turned vegan. As soon as I stopped dairy products, I stopped it for my dogs too. I gave them soy milk. They looked at me, as though I was weird! Slowly they started to take it with cashew powder and then even without it. Their transition inspired me. I used to be irritated during lunch, as I couldn't have curd rice (yogurt), an Indian item. My dogs showed me that there is nothing to worry, if we cannot have some of the food items that we are used to. There is much more happiness and fun in life! ~ My family also consisted of four other human beings apart from three dogs! They stopped dairy too, when they saw slaughterhouse videos. My dogs were again an inspiration! So, living in a family where all were Vegans, I was not aware of the daily problems that a Vegan has to face, living in a non Vegan family – seeing animals killed everyday. More than a year ago, I got married to a non-vegan, who has turned vegetarian. I had to see milk everyday in some form. But my husband is more open to change and I am hopefully waiting for that wonderful moment when he will realize what he is doing. I’m happy he doesn't judge my principles, even though I’m pregnant now. I have been vegan and WILL ALWAYS BE! Veganism is the only RIGHT option we have on earth. ~ Pintu Logasaraswathy. K., Chennai, India

Around age thirteen, I began learning more about factory farming. Though I had been vegetarian for years, I was just beginning to fully grasp the connection between the animals themselves, who I did not want to hurt, and the “products” that I was consuming that came into my life only through direct exploitation. Through articles, undercover video footage, interviews, and books, I learned that all systems of oppression are interconnected. I learned that mothers do cry when their calves are taken away, and that billions of birds live their entire lives without once seeing sunlight or feeling grass. What startled me most was learning the fate of male chicks. The industry I was supporting literally threw living babies away as garbage because of their sex. Learning this solidified my already growing resolve that I no longer wanted any part of it. ~ Upon graduating high school, I had the privilege of spending a few months living and volunteering at a vegan-run animal sanctuary. Though I was already vegan, my time at the sanctuary gave me a rare window into the lives and personalities of the survivors of the industry that I had vehemently opposed for so long. One with whom I developed a particularly close friendship was Petunia, a then two-week-old piglet who had been discarded because she was small. She would have been left for dead because her body was not considered profitable, but with surgery and patient care at the sanctuary, she bounced back to thrive as a friendly, curious, and wildly intelligent youngster. ~ Years before, I had decided that there was already plenty of suffering in the world without my adding any more to the mix. Looking into Petunia’s eyes, I saw a dignified individual, never an object to be consumed. She was one of the lucky survivors, but when I see any animal’s body on a plate today, that animal is no less “somebody” than she was when she was alive. That realization is an integral part of my being, and I cannot imagine existing any other way. You don't need to be an “animal lover” to be vegan, just as you don't need to love kids in order not to take part in child abuse. All we need is to develop an awareness of the acute suffering being inflicted upon hundreds of billions of innocents around the world, and make the conscious choice to stop taking part. ~ Madeleine Lifsey; Chair, Animal Advocates of Smith College, USA

As a man of logic and reasoning, it was a natural choice for me to go into the sciences. I moved towards the fields of medicine. It seemed natural to watch someone be fillet open and having body parts removed, and then go to lunch and have a big burger or slab of animal muscle laid in front of me to eat. The science had taught me that we were meat eaters and that was the most efficient way to get the 100 grams of protein a day that we needed. It also taught me that the greatest source of calcium and other nutrients were in the lactose bovine solution from the udders of cows, and that if I didn't have at least 25% of my daily intake from this source I would become somehow deficient and possibly put my life at risk. These were facts! So we were told. Back then I didn't connect the dots to see how much money influenced all these so called facts. I believed in the science and science couldn't be wrong, it was science! As I reached the almost 300lb mark on my scale, and suffering from an array of maladies, I had an epiphany. The logical side of me said the science isn't working right. ~~ My sister a long time ethical vegan had touted for years about the moral and ethical side of veganism, but I brushed her off because she didn't have the science to back up anything she said. I called it the "fluff", when people play to your emotional side rather than the reasoning side. But a change did need to happen and I didn't know what, or even where to turn. Then I met my mentor, my friend, and the person who opened my eyes to the truth, Dr. Michael Klaper. He pulled me through the looking glass and I've never turned back. He showed me the science was biased because of the economics. We studied the true anatomy and physiology of the human body and realized all the numbers were skewed because of the animal industries. Years of scientific research have now shown us that humans need way less protein, get way too much fat, and have absolutely no need at all for that substance called "dairy". We have learned that most of the harm done to the body is from what we put in it. The strange thing was that I found myself in an almost Darwinian evolution. I found that as I no longer had to kill an animal for food, the need for the rest of the body parts also seemed less logical. To just use an animal for it's skin or glandular fluids seemed wasteful. Then it happened. It was such a natural progression that I didn't even realize it. I found myself in touch with not only the animals, but the environment, and water conservation, global warming, health issues, and worst of all, feelings! I started feeling for anyone and everything. It was like something had moved me to a different level of awareness. Like I had climbed the next rung on the evolutionary ladder. So why will I stay vegan the rest of my life? Because I continue to move up that ladder and going backwards is not my direction or a possibility. As I approach my 30th year of veganism, logic still dictates my mind, but compassion now rules my heart. Thank you to all who helped make it happen.  ~ Brook Katz, South Florida, USA 

I grew up in South Africa and experienced things like trying to bargain with a female witch doctor who worked for my parents, when she wanted to slaughter some chickens she had 'procured' for her magic - in our garden. The chickens were afraid and one of them escaped onto the roof of one of the tool sheds. I offered her my blood instead and I even cut myself to convince her that I could provide her with an adequate substitute immediately, but she wasn't interested because the blood had to be from a chicken. There was an advertisement  for 'beef' on the radio station that my mother used to listen to while she cooked, and one could hear the sound of cattle on it, while they were advertising how delicious it was to eat these creatures. That always freaked me out completely!  It culminated into an immediate decision to give up eating non-human animal body parts when I witnessed the slaughter of a lamb that had been happily prancing around across the road from my father's factory. The workers grabbed him, took him to the factory premises and slaughtered him on the concrete floor of the factory compound, directly in front of me, and from one moment to the next this poor creature's abdominal contents were being removed and then I smelled his flesh being barbecued. It was surreal and I was sickened to the core! I became vegetarian on the spot and was severely traumatized, despite my mother's protests that she wasn't going to allow me to 'mess up the order in her kitchen'. I was 14. Ironically, my father had given me a huge toy lamb when I was a young child that looked quite similar. That seems quite symbolic in retrospect. I am ashamed to say that I therefore spent most of my life as a blundering hypocrite, dismissing vegans as being 'too extreme and unhealthy'. It is only when I saw all the postings on Facebook that explained why it was hypocritical and ethically necessary to go vegan that I was forced to grapple with the gaps in my logic and I realized what an idiot I had been all those years! I went vegan last year and it was one of the very best decisions I have made in my life! It was also extremely easy and I literally feel like the person in the film Matrix who was offered the choice of the blue or red pill: totally transformed in a way that even being vegetarian cannot achieve! It goes without saying that I will never reconsider my decision. I finally feel as though I have found my way 'home'. ~ Anke Hagen, Hanover, North Germany

The well known cliché states: Once you know, you can never forget. Yet, many vegans do forget as knowledge becomes inconvenient, problematic, or simply gets between them and a coveted hamburger. This essay is about why I'll never forget, and vow to remain vegan forever. In the grand scheme of things, it's easy to think one person makes no difference. In my lifetime, how many cows will be saved by my not eating them; how many shampoos not sold because they are not cruelty free and vegan so I won't buy them? And the answer is—not many. Out of the millions of animal based products produced each day, my non-participation is barely going to make a dent in the machine. It is easy to see how some look at this scenario and figure one little scone made with heavy cream isn't going to matter—I'll cheat this once. Those cheats then grow in number as the person makes this excuse and that until they are vegan no more. I will suggest this is the wrong way to look at things. To think we are too insignificant to matter is the timeworn strategy used against people to quell dissent and we need to be aware of its use against vegans. We need to realize that everything starts with one and then grows. And in our lives, that one is us. And eventually, one by one by one, we will be powerful enough to effect change. I live daily with this knowledge. Both the knowledge of the horrors involved in using animals for food, clothing, entertainment, testing, and pleasure, and the knowledge that just one person can make at least some difference. I read a story once which remains imprinted in my mind: a little boy is walking along a seashore strewn with beached starfish which are slowly dying. He walks along and throws them back into the sea. He throws back as many as he can, but there are too many to save them all. A man approaches and asks: Why bother? There are just too many to save. You can't make any difference. The little boy bends over and picks up another starfish and flings it into the sea and says: I just made a difference to that one. This is why I'll never cease being vegan. Everyday, no matter how large or small, my choices matter. ~ Sharon LeMayEast Bethel, MN., USA

At the age of four I made the connection between the meat on my plate and my beloved animal friends. Much to my parents dismay, meal times became a battle for many years. “I will not eat my friends!” I would say. By the age of 11, I was vegetarian and had finally gained my family's support. At 16 my Grandmother said “this isn't just a phase is it, dear?” During my teenage years I started writing to cosmetic companies asking if they tested their products on animals. When the reply said “yes” I would write another long letter explaining my disgust and vowing to never buy their brand again. By the time I was in my mid 20's the internet was very accessible and I started to discover the awful truths about the leather, egg and dairy industries. I must admit, of all things, I found cheese difficult to give up. That is until one day when I was in a small country town on my way home from holiday. We were filling up the car when a ute pulled up; it was pulling a trailer filled with small terrified baby calves; their sweet faces were full of fright and confusion. Tears sprang to my eyes. Must these creatures suffer for a moment on our plates or for a macabre fashion statement? I vowed to be vegan from that day on. I no longer think of my lifestyle and diet as restrictive or a sacrifice, I feel liberated! I feel healthy and I feel full of love. For the rest of my life I will be spreading the vegan word, for our bodies, for our planet, for our souls, but mostly for our fellow earthlings. ~ Rohana Norgate, Melbourne, Australia.

I will always be vegan because to me, being vegan isn't a lifestyle what many people consider it. It might be a trend at the moment to eat vegan in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, or to help fight ecological problems that occurred in the course of the past decades. It might be convenient because store shelves seem to burst over with plant based products, so I would say it is a nice side effect to access alternative products easily. But being vegan is more than that. Just how people back in the days fought slavery because it was simply unjust, or people trying to achieve equal rights for women, today we have to stand up and raise our voices for animals who can't speak for themselves. We can raise our voices and make an effort by boycotting animal derived products, be it food, leather or fur, or cosmetics tested on animals. They're not ours to use. They're not objects, but sentient living beings. If I got the chance to ask somebody who lived in the 18th century why they were treating black people in such a bad way, they would have told me because they're from a different color, therefore worth less and that this is just the way it is. Today, most people's excuse not to include animals in our morals, is that they're from a different species. Isn't the species argument just a random one as the color argument used to be? I think it is. So if the awareness will rise and, hopefully, one day a change will come, what if our grandchildren or their grandchildren, got the chance to ask us: 'Why did you treat animals the way you used to?' - what would you tell them? At least I know I wouldn't have to admit that I have been part of the cruelty in today's world. Compassion is one of the most important emotional components human beings have. Why do we make such little use of it? ~ Ines H., Germany

About 25 years ago I was trying to change the direction of my life by taking the Lifespring self-improvement course. How could I have foreseen just how this goal was going to manifest itself? A woman who was also attending the seminar introduced me to the idea of being vegetarian for ethical reasons. From there, through a number of experiences and insights over several years, I became vegetarian, and eventually vegan. ~ The challenge with veganism isn't the diet . . following a healthy, plant based diet has been easy for me. The difficult part is that as we learn more about the insane cruelty inflicted on other animals by humans, it overwhelms our consciousness. We begin to feel the pain of every animal killed on a factory farm, shot by a hunter, or subjected to painful product testing. We become aware of the suffering of every fish caught on a line or in a net, every bull tortured by a matador, every cat and dog put down because there just aren't homes for them, every mother cow having her newborn calf stolen away, and so many more  horrors. . . we feel it all personally. We know that every one of these creatures had a life, had feelings, had a sense of self. We know that as that fish was struggling for breath, as the pig was waiting to have his throat slit, as that rabbit was having caustic chemicals put in her eyes . . they all were desperate for rescue, for relief, and wondering “why”? ~ Being vegan isn't only about food, it’s about kindness and compassion. As vegans, we cannot go back to being a part of a system that inflicts deliberate pain and death on billions of sentient animals every year. Rather, it falls upon us to do everything we can to change it, to raise human consciousness, to strive for a day when every person will understand what we have already come to recognize. We envision a day when the cages will be open, when non-human animals will be valued for the individuals they are, and not only for whatever value they might have as a 'product' for human consumption. I am vegan, and will be for life. ~ Neil Kaplan, Florida, USA

I will always be vegan for ecology. Say what you will about the United Nations -- and I know you will -- they did release a report or two saying that animal agriculture was the majority cause of greenhouse gas emissions. If you're reading this whilst in a country which has a slaughterhouse economy, this may be news to you. Not that your country has a slaughterhouse economy (you probably knew that already), but that the U.N. released this report and your government took one look at it and then used it to line the birdcages at your capitol building or parliamentary house rather than let you see it. ~ I will always be vegan for economy. As a professional musket fill, I don't make a lot of money. A musket fill is the feller who goes round all the other fellers on the front lines and refills their muskets with shot. If it was good enough for my great-great-great-great-grandpappy Ezekiel Segal, it's good enough for me. Almost, anyway. I mean, there aren't a lot of musket wars in my neighbourhood anymore. I have to moonlight as a typewriter repairman to make ends meet. Even when Bill Gates, et al, perfect their test-tube meat, and land-and-water issues and animal-suffering concerns are gone by the wayside, I reckon it'll still be cheaper to eat plants than eat the new “Star Trek” diet -- especially when ol' Bill realises he forgot to figure in the cost of all those test tubes. ~ I will always be vegan for laughs. Why would I ever want to give up the kick of telling people I'm vegan and then getting back that they're vegan, too, and, yeah, they eat some fish once in awhile? ~ I will always be vegan for my love life. How else could a short, funny-looking, penniless, middle-aged man have any hope of attracting vegan chicks? Vegan men are that much in demand -- for now. Nothing wrong with my social calendar, OK? It's got all the days of the week on it and the days are numbered nice and big so you can read them easily. Most importantly, I will always be vegan as long as nonhuman animals have brains and nervous systems -- even though my own species seems to lack the brains. Taking the life of an innocent sentient being? Now, that's extreme! ~ Billy Leonard, Whangarei, New Zealand
My vegan lifestyle is in my soul...One way to explain my reason for being vegan is by telling the story of the cow. This is an analogy that I feel represents my reasons. A person once asked me about a picture of a black and white image. He asked me, what do I see? When I initially looked, all I saw was lots of black spots, In my eyes it was a picture of a black and white image. I could not see anything else. The person said to me to look deeper. I looked again and tried to focus on the image. They encouraged me to look again. It may have taken me a while but I finally saw the cow. I feel that I saw the cow only because they inspired me to keep looking and to stay focused. Had I been left alone to analyze the photo I am not sure I would have seen the “cow”. I will always be a vegan because once you have seen the truth just like the “cow” image, it’s impossible to not see the reality of animal cruelty. I believe as a vegan I feel the same way. The “cow” represents animal suffering, and once I made a shift in consciousness that animals suffer needlessly it is hard for me to ever go back. I see the injustice when the animal suffers, when we take their babies away. I see the softness of nature when the baby animal is searching for his/her parent; they cuddle, kiss, play and enjoy each other’s company just as humans. Or perhaps when a baby animal learns to walk it looks the exact same way human babies learn. It must be the way baby animal teeth grow in just as adorable as human babies teeth, they have the same innocent look. Honestly, they all ask why I am a vegan - it is very simple, I've seen the “cow”. I don't see a black and white image anymore. I feel I have a responsibility to be a role model. I want to show the world that we are capable of living a cruelty-free lifestyle. We do not need to hurt animals for any purpose. This is why my soul will always be vegan. My wish is that one day all of humanity will see the “cow”.~ Helen Liakopoulos, Montreal, Canada

I grew-up in a non-veg family with hunting and fishing as part of our lifestyle. Many of my extended family were farmers. Non-veg was my diet for approximately 35 years. In college I was introduced to a meditation program and undertook the daily practice. I mention this because I think (in retrospect) meditation activated the change of consciousness that resulted in later adopting a vegetarian, and short time later, vegan diet. While in college I attended a lecture on Jainism, which was my introduction to vegetarianism, ahimsa/non-harming, and reverence for all life. Vegetarianism was intriguing and with the help of the Seventh Day Adventists, the diet was adopted. A trip to India and further exposure to Hindu-Jain cultures of ahimsa practice motivated attending grad school, which resulted in my Ph.D. entitled: “An Ethic of Reverence for All Life as the Basis for Human Development”. The thesis argues that non-harming and compassion toward all living beings are characteristics of one’s Soul. As the Soul is “purified” veganism will be the natural disposition. And conversely, veganism is a necessary disposition for the Soul to reach its full potential. ~ My interest and always commitment to veganism is basically selfish. I am selfish for the joy that vegan living brings: - Joy that I am no longer part of the “horror” involved in the production of so-called “meat”. I have been to the slaughterhouses and witnessed the horror that occurs. My self-righteousness is softened by the fact that in my earlier life I participated in the killing of chickens, pigs, rabbits, groundhogs, etc. These memories still cause me to cringe. - Joy that occurs with vegan/ahimsa-“live and let live” lifestyle. It is joyful, fun in fact, to avoid exploiting other creatures big and small. - Joy (and freedom) that the fear of diet related health problems are eliminated. As proof, I am 70 years old, been vegan for 32 years to date, and still have great health and vitality. - Joy that I (along with a larger community of other vegan/vegetarians) am trying to minimize the adverse affect of my existence on the environment of our deteriorating planet. ~ For me veganism is an aspect of Ahimsa consciousness which involves Awe and Reverence for the mystery of existence of which all living beings are a part; and a natural disposition to "do no harm" in all aspects of Life. ~ Balabhadra Bruce Costain, Canadian living in Nashville, Tennessee

I imagine there is a planet that looks very much like Earth. It is inhabited by creatures that are exactly like human beings, except that they are far more gentle, intelligent and civilized than most of us. They are the only species of living creature on their planet. In their quest for greater knowledge they travel to Earth to observe us. They are amazed to see how similar our planet is to theirs, and surprised to see the humans who look just like them. Within the first few hours of their visit they discover the nonhuman creatures. They are awestruck by the beauty and diversity of the various creatures. The human beings living here are extraordinarily lucky! These nonhuman creatures fly, swim and hop. Some are brilliantly colorful, some have bodies that are masterpieces of engineering design, some make unique and lovely noises, and some are absurdly adorable. Whoever created these creatures was surely an artistic and comedic genius! This place must be the realization of a god's fantasy. Within days, they come to some peculiar realizations. The humans here eat the creatures?! They also steal some of them to keep as companions against their will, force them to perform various difficult tasks, use their live bodies for scientific experiments, strip them of their skin, feathers and fur, and shoot at them, among countless other strange atrocities. A few of the more fortunate animals have somehow eluded the humans. A few others seem happy under human care. However, for the most part, the humans appear to have little or no regard at all for these beautiful earthlings that are different from them. This place is not paradise, but some sort or cruel nightmare. The aliens are so utterly perplexed by this situation that they leave in despair and confusion. They cannot imagine an explanation for the frightful situation on planet Earth. What separates us from the animals? The animals are not motivated by greed. Of all the offensive and hurtful words: the "N" word, the "R" word.... For me the most horrible is the "L" word: livestock. What could be more blatantly evil than breeding living beings for the purpose of using them like things? I am vegan because I'd like to believe that I have more in common with the nonhuman animals than I do with human beings. I will always be vegan because the animals are my family.  ~ Gina Seraichyk, Rhode Island, USA

Love and compassion -  I believe they are two things that keep this universe surviving, and being vegan is a part of it. Knowing about veganism and being a vegan myself, where veganism is uncommon in my country except for religious reasons - is such a great blessing the universe gave me. Since I became vegan two years ago, it seems that I've been awakened from a long sleep and reconnected with the universe. I see the world in a different way, as I am a small part of it and that all living beings are connected.  ~ Being vegan taught me to live in peace with my inner being and with every living creature around me. I see life in everything - in trees, in flowers, in pets, in farm animals, even in insects, and there is no right to destroy it. Apart from the health benefit from being vegan, it brings me more energy to be positive in mind and share it with people around me. My friends and family realize that somehow I became more calm and peaceful after being a vegan. ~ Since being vegan changed me to a better person and give me more peaceful and meaningful life, I will never trade it for anything. Be vegan is not a choice, it is the only right way to live and that’s the reason I will always be vegan. ~ Sylvia Irawati, dr, M.Gizi, Indonesia 

Very simply, I refuse to participate as much as possible in the institutionalized exploitation of sentient beings. Their lives matter to them as much as mine does to me. My being vegan makes a very public and political statement that compassion and justice for all beings is imperative if we want to live in a morally evolved society. ~ Russell Tenofsky, Vegan for over seventeen years and still going strong...CA., USA

There are millions of animals in the world, thousands of varieties, each creature home to an infinite amount of unique characteristics.  By exploiting animals for human gain, we affect every animals' existence through a startling chain of events; forests are brutally mutilated for farmland, excessive agriculture causes droughts, and animal breeding is manipulated to achieve human goals for production for clothing, food, and entertainment when superior choices are easily available. Every animal that is used in farming, entertainment, and clothing was a potential companion, best friend, interesting creature to observe the actions of. To lose the opportunity to see the mannerisms and interactions of any animal is to lose a whole culture, bound and processed into the grey monotone of exploitation. The twisting of an animal's nature in zoos and circuses simply distorts the beauty of their natural ways. It is absolutely illogical to see prisons, torture, and death sentences as disgusting and inhumane, while the way animals in human industry are treated is seen as a completely acceptable occurrence. Among the most deplorable aspects of the exploitation of animals is the utter inefficiency of animal industry. Humans are not obligate carnivores and do not need animal-based clothing, therefore, the massive amounts of water used in the dairy and leather industry that causes droughts and the swathes of farmland used just to grow food for domesticated animals is absurd. A simple biological fact is that, as animals eat animals that eat plants, energy is being lost in the process, so alternative resources are more efficient. If humans lived vegan and did not devote so much energy to dominating animals, less land would be wasted, more food and clothing would be produced cheaper, and animal abuse would be significantly reduced. Veganism is the superior economic choice. Notably, the typical human's deepest fear is of discovering a superior, unconquerable animal; we fear someone more powerful than us, someone that could eat, enslave, or use us without consent. Most extraterrestrial or paranormal stories are based in this fear of the omniscient. We do not seem to realize that our deepest fears are the reality animals live in on a daily basis. I will always be vegan because it is fundamentally hypocritical to fear the destruction of our human civilization, when those who exploit animals are doing the same to every other living being; Veganism is the most sensible option. ~ Max Stewart, Tucson, Arizona, U.S.

I committed to vegan living before any known health benefits to the dietary aspect of being vegan – and I've lived vegan for 36 years. It's safe to say I will always be vegan. I know that I'm never going to change my mind and want to participate in harming animals. I feel repulsion for all animal exploiting industry and their “insane” products derived from animal abuse; milk meant for the calf of another species who is killed so humans can steal his milk, the skin of other animals who need their skin far more than I, eating a rotting corpse, being entertained by animals stolen from the world they should live in, wrongfully imprisoned, and forced into demeaning (and unhealthy for them) acts, tricks and labor, products that are tested in the eyes of rabbits, stealing the food bees make for themselves... I am not drawn to that mentality. I have zero desire to be violent to anyone sentient; human or any other animal. If one is not vegan, they are directly paying for animals to be violently assaulted on their behalf. Long term vegans are proof we can live vegan; thereby making it an imperative; a matter of justice. I will always want to do my part in advancing the human race to a more harmonious, reasonable, and civilized species; one that does not intentionally and needlessly harm conscious beings who also fear death, who desire to nurture their newborn, have families, have eyes, are communicative, have pain receptors, a brain and nervous system; giving them the capacity to suffer. I will never want to be complicit in the objectification of feeling animals. I never believed the lies that humans have a right to breed, enslave, exploit, and kill animals and will always find it unethical. I won't ever want to be a rapist or a pedophile. I won't ever want to be nonvegan and support harming animals. Through the decades – I've come to see that there are far reaching ramifications for planetary healing, and for a more respectful and less violent society - that will come when humans adopt vegan living. I will always want to be a pioneer of humanity's next evolutionary step. I live guided by the universally accepted but not actually practiced: Golden Rule, the principles of nonviolence, and “doing the right thing”, therefore I have no choice but to be vegan. ~ Butterflies Katz, New Zealand/USA

I am a vegan for life because above all reasons, my heart is in it.  Having been vegan for quite some time now, there’s no turning back. There are no obvious excuses for wanting someone to die unnecessarily to become a meal. A video showing how the cows are treated on dairy farms and how their babies are torn away from them proved me guilty in consuming dairy products. Life has always seemed fair to me since I entered this world. Being born into a vegetarian family, I was used to dairy products, honey, wearing and using animal skins. It just never occurred to me that I was unintentionally participating in the misery of thousands of farmed animals, until I came across this video of a dairy farm. Was life indeed fair to everyone? Searching for non-dairy alternatives led me to veganism. I learnt more about the suffering and misery our animal brothers and sisters face due to the meat, dairy, egg and fur industries. Never had I thought of such unimaginable torture inflicted on these innocent beings. I became vegan for the animals, and now I do my best to help other people open their eyes and hearts to their pain – because I agree that many participate in their suffering unknowingly. No taste in the world can be worth someone’s life, and the couldn't-live-without cheese is now a piece of blood to me. I will always remain vegan, because I know that the animals have done nothing for mankind to inflict such pain onto them. I will remain vegan to help our mother, the Planet Earth to replenish and to blossom in beauty. I will always be vegan, because I know that by taking this one step, thousands of people may be saved from starvation. It is only after being vegan that I realised how beautiful the word ‘vegan’ is, and how beautiful the world would be, if everyone was vegan. ~ Oorvashi Panchoo, Republic of Mauritius

Allow me to introduce myself, I am Faris Said Nassoro; I am a male living in Mombasa Kenya, in Africa. My English is not that good so you will excuse me for any miss-understanding of the meaning. I choose to be a Vegan because when I was a small boy, I had a Rabbit as a pet; I loved her, proud of her and boasting to my friends about her. I took good care of her, cleaning her place of sleeping, bringing food from our small farm. In fact she was part of me and the closest friend of that time. One day when I came back from school, I didn't find my rabbit friend; I run everywhere looking for her, she was nowhere to be seen. I cried asking my mum where my rabbit was, she first asked me to cool down, then she explained to me that while I was at school my aunt (dad's sister) came to visit us, she didn't have money to entertain her, therefore she decided to slaughter my rabbit and fry it for my aunt. I was helpless, couldn't do anything, went on crying for two days, mourning and thinking for my lovely and close friend who was turned to be food just only to entertain unexpected guest. I swore on that day not to eat any kind of meat or fish, and I had stuck to my oath ever since. Am now proud to be a vegan, there are a lot of benefits of eating vegetables than eating meat or fish. In vegetables we find a lot of vitamins, minerals and medicinal attributes, all comes in favour for our health. I argue all humans to try even for one month to be a vegetarians and experience what comes out of their health. You will one in a million true vegetarians suffering from cancer, diabetes or even abnormalities of blood pressure. That's goodness for being a vegan. We have to protect animals, they have rights to exist and they have purpose to be here among us. It hurts a lot to see poachers here in Africa and especially here in Kenya shooting and killing elephants and rhino only for their tusks. Let us unite from every corner of our planet and stand together in one voice, let us choose Vegan to be our way of life. Being Vegan, our planet is going to be a peaceful and harmonious one. Vegan is the right choice. ~ Faris Said Nassoro, Kenya, Africa

To ask why I will always be vegan is like asking why I will always not be racist. Why will I always be against sexism? Why will I always be against discrimination? Injustice is injustice. We can forgive those who have been racist or sexist in the distant past, but that doesn't mean we're not critical of them. Even with the social standards of the time, we still talk about how heartless it was and how atrocious they were. I want to be among those who can say 'I didn't stand for it. I wasn't impassive to evil.' There is an infamous poem about WW2 by Martin Niemöller which finitely defines the dangers of indifference.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

However, in this case, indifference is even more dangerous because the Socialists had a voice, the Trade Unionists, and the Jews had voices for which they could speak up. The animals have only their distinguished cries of sorrow, which translate both universally and into no language we speak at all. ~ Happy meat isn't happy. It's dead. I can't say I've met many optimistic dead people. Exploitation is exploitation. Abuse is abuse. Until the day comes when we no longer accept such exploitation, we must not only be vegan, but persuade others to be vegan. To say it's a choice to be vegan is forgetting a certain individual: the animal. It's not just compassion. It's justice. I won't just be vegan. I will be an animal rights activists. I will be the voice for the animals. ~ Michael Bowman, New Hampshire, USA

Always vegan...for all of the years I wasn’t...for all of the suffering I've witnessed in photos and footage that has turned my stomach. ~ Always vegan...for the lives of so many; for the suffering aplenty...for the madness on this planet continues. ~ Always vegan...for the millions of those who are voiceless...for the millions with beauty that’s stolen...for all the pain that goes unaccounted. ~ Always vegan...for now my eyes are opened...they always see what’s often unspoken. Always vegan…always! ~ Anastasia Lipapis, ACT, Australia

L is for Lamb so soft and sweet
The alphabet book made no mention of meat
But 'Eat your lamb, it's so delicious’
Made my young mind quite suspicious.
Surely it's not really a dear young creature
that our Sunday meal has as the main feature?
But you must eat your meat or you will die
My mother repeated the well-worn lie.
So like many others I became complicit
in a system where violence is implicit.
And when I later saw how animals are abused
My heart was heavy and my mind confused.
As in my vet studies they'd clearly said
without meat and dairy we'd  all be dead
So often was this lie repeated
The truth was hidden, and I felt defeated.
But then I chanced upon a woman, clearly alive
who said without animal products we can live and thrive.
She looked not sickly, but healthy and strong
And I already knew animal use was wrong.
So from that day on to my beliefs I became true
And the products of animal use I will always eschew.
For like us, animals want to be free to live their own lives
And not end up on our forks and knives
So for many hours I studied human nutrition
as part of my plan for total abolition
I wanted to kill that convenient lie
that on animal products humans must rely
To take away every single excuse
that people make for animal use.
I vowed to be both clear and strong
in helping to right a terrible wrong.
I'm vegan for life because it's in my soul
And liberation for all - my ultimate goal.
~ Amanda Benham, Brisbane, Australia


Endnote: Quite a few people have written and suggested this become a book. I don't have book publishing software or money. If a volunteer wants to help make a book happen, contact me. There are many others that can be included and added to this compilation.  


Craig Cline said...

Dear Butterflies, and everyone who wrote to express their feelings about "their" vegan lifestyle:

I want to especially give great THANKS! to Butterflies for undertaking this task. I'm sure it was a TON of work, inspired by the heart for veganism that she has clearly shown for so many years now.

On that note, I particularly liked Rae Sikora's statement that "I am a walking heart...;" and Angela McAninly's "I CAN be vegan, therefore I am." Well said.

Don't you writer/participants feel that this exercise was very, very meaningful? It brought us together, both nationally and internationally, speaking to a subject that typically gets short shrift in societies all over the world.

I want to encourage Butterflies, having gone to a great deal of effort on this labor of love, to consider sending these writings to all the animal advocacy organizations throughout the world, with the request that they put them on their web sites. They deserve to be seen and shared with countless others, and should certainly help the vegan cause.

Again, THANK YOU Butterflies! You have lead us in a unified direction and we SO appreciate all your work.

Peace, non-violence, liberty, and justice for ALL,

Craig Cline
Salem, Oregon

Elizabeth said...

Heartfelt ����thanks Butterflies for bringing this together, each individual has their own unique journey into and along the path of veganism........

Elizabeth said...

Heartfelt 🙏💚thanks, Butterflies for gathering this together. We all come to veganism from different perspectives and what bunds us and keeps as along the journey was great to behold.

Cheers Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Saint Butterflies:

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! for what you have done with this project. Craig Cline has expressed eloquently what all of us must feel in appreciation of what has been accomplished by you sweet efforts. You indeed have brought us together worldwide.

I also express my gratitude and praise for all those who submitted their engaging testimonies. Beautifully inspiring and invigorating. The submissions do need to be further shared.

Namaste (I bow to you all and the Divine that you exemplify.)

Nashville, Tennessee