My Vegan Story

Becoming VeganMy Transition to Veganism
― by Linda Kocsis

When I was a little girl I loved animals, or so I thought. For while I really felt a kinship with and a great deal of affection for all animals I hadn’t made the connection between their lives and who it was I was eating every day.

Always An Animal Lover

When I was growing up we always had pets: birds, fishes, hamsters, rats, hermit crabs, dogs, rats, dogs, and many cats. I was an only child and our pets were a big part of our small family of two humans.

I was raised by my mom, who lovingly prepared all of my meals for me. She was a hippy in the 60s so I was more than familiar with health food stores and vegetarianism. We were lacto-ovo vegetarians for a while when I was young but we ended up back on a meat-based diet, a diet that I continued to eat when I moved out on my own.

There are a few meals from my childhood that I will never forget…

When I was 10 I went to a friend’s house for dinner. They were preparing lobster, which I had never had before. I watched in horror as my friend’s father put a live lobster into a huge pot of boiling water. They acted like this was totally normal, but I’d never seen anything like it. Then, a couple of long minutes later, the poor lobster threw the lid of the pot onto the floor in a valiant attempt to save it’s life. One claw was poking out, reaching. It was still alive in there, somehow. The father slammed the lid back on and walked away.

Me And My Mum

I didn’t have any lobster that evening, but I remember being horrified on another occassion while eating a bowl of stew at the same friend’s house. I lifted a spoonful to my mouth and saw that there were big taste buds on the chunks of meat. I was then told that it was cow tongue stew. “Yuck!”, I thought, and I didn’t have any more cow tongue stew. Now I realize that it doesn’t matter what part of an animal you are eating, whatever piece of flesh is consumed contributes to the animals’ death. I think all animal products are awful, but at the time the idea that my taste buds were tasting someone else’s was really disturbing.

After I moved from my home town to the city I was a waitress for several years. I didn’t have to learn to cook because I was allowed to order anything that I wanted from the menu while I worked. My choices were typically eggs benedict, cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, salads with turkey, eggs, and 1000 Island dressing, and such… not a healthy diet at all! When I cooked for myself it was usually boxed macaroni and cheese and bologna sandwiches, maybe a broiled salmon steak if I was feeling “fancy.”Waitressing

Waitressing

Waitressing

One of the cooks where I worked was a vegetarian, and I remember asking her if it bothered her to work with so much meat as a vegetarian. She said that it didn’t. I really admired the fact that she was a vegetarian, although her example wasn’t enough for me to change my ways at the time.

Another time, one of the restaurant cooks kindly read me the ingredients on the box of ground beef that I was eating in the form of burgers. I will never forget the first two ingredients: beef hearts, partially defatted beef fatty tissue. Even as a meat-eater this really made me sick. I stopped eating burgers there right away, although I still ate them elsewhere and I consumed all kinds of other animals’ bodies without giving them any consideration whatsoever.

Our Glamorous Rescue Kitty Minerva

Another day I made the mistake of watching “Faces of Death” with a friend. We thought it would be interesting. It is a documentary that shows real-life incidents involving accidents and death. It turned out that there was non-human animal suffering portrayed as well as human. One clip showed four tourists visiting Japan and indulging in what was considered a delicacy – live monkey brain. There was a terrified monkey in the middle of the room, it’s body in a cage attached to the underside of a table, it’s head poking through a hole in the top of the table. Each person was given a little hammer, and they beat the monkey into unconsciousness by hitting it in the head with their hammers as it screamed and spun around in the cage, trying vainly to escape. Then, the waiter came over and sawed the cap of the monkey’s skull off. The tourists each scooped some of the live monkey’s brains out and ate it. The two women proceeded to throw up immediately. What a waste of precious life.

Another segment showed sheep in a slaughterhouse. They were hanging upside down on the slaughter line by hooks that went through their ankles. They had all been completely skinned, and their entrails were hanging outside of their bodies onto the quickly-moving conveyer belt. They were still alive, bleating in agony.

Leonard ― An Alley Cat No More

It was incidents like these that started giving me clues that the way I was eating really wasn’t in conjunction with my feelings and values.

The first time I heard the word ‘vegan’, it was when a customer asked me if a particular dish on the menu was vegan. I had no idea what he was talking about, and I thought it might be some kind of cult diet or something. I stared back at him blankly as I tried to figure out what that weird word he had said meant. That seems so funny to me now, the fact that I didn’t even know what veganism was and now it is such a huge part of my life.

Then one evening when I was 22 years old I came home from an exhausting day of waiting tables and lay down on the couch to watch some TV. I turned on channel 9 (PBS) because I love documentaries and they show them often. What I saw then changed my life forever. It is such a great coincidence that I didn’t do something more useful than watch TV on that day!

They were showing “Diet for a New America”, the incredible documentary by John Robbins about how what we eat effects ourselves, other animals, and the planet. I watched, amazed, as everything I had been taught about animal products in my life and diet was expertly dismantled by this kind, compassionate person. I sat rapt, with tears in my eyes as he described and showed footage of the conditions on factory farms, and the endless amounts of unnecessary suffering that animals are forced to endure to turn them into products that are so unhealthy for our bodies and our environment.

Adopted Fancy Fantails

Adopted Fish Friends Udo & Aurora

I’ve always empathized with our non-human brethren, finding more similarities between us than differences. I’ve also always hated to see anyone, no matter how small, suffer unnecessarily.

At the end of the documentary they showed that “Diet for a New America” was available in book form. Once I got a copy I read it almost straight through. I could not put it down. The subject matter was sometimes painful to read but Robbins also added lots inspiring stories of animals and their unique situations and personalities which are incredible and uplifting, to balance things out.

I remember how angry I felt that we are so misinformed in our culture about the ramifications of a meat-based diet. The four food groups were even created by the meat and dairy industries to train us as children to eat more of their products. They provide free “educational tools” to schools, like food pyramid (their bogus, self-serving version of it) posters, etc.

Me Today ~ From Vegetate, Vegan Cooking & Food Blog

Me Today

I don’t even remember deciding I would become vegan at that point, it was just a matter of course. With the information that I had been provided by John Robbins my eyes had been opened to what is really going on here.

I went to a local health food store and stocked up on vegan cookbooks. I started cooking my own meals from scratch, which was a lot of fun and quite new to me. It was fascinating to learn about all of the foods that are available to vegans and how to magically use them to create wonderful foodstuffs. As a meat eater I was eating a much more limited diet. As a vegan I learned about foods I had never even heard of before, like tempeh, seitan, nutritional yeast, and all sorts of interesting veggies and grains.

That was more than 20 years ago and I have to say that ever since I “went vegan” I’ve never felt better, on the inside and out, and I’ll never, ever go back!

Thanks for reading. :)
~ Linda

30 thoughts on “My Vegan Story

  1. Some really yummy mouth watering recipes…! Great job..! Even some of the people in my family are vegans, though it’ll take me sometime to get over all the meat fascination, but i have tried to go on vegan streaks for a few months in a go..lol

  2. Nice to meet you and sharing your story…. very inspiring… when you look recognise something so wrong as consuming non-human animals and their by products you cannot live without being a hypocrite. I felt like that for a while when I was vegetarian and then I had to take a good look at myself and not be party to the suffering of sentient beings…. I feel now at peace with myself and knowing that I like every vegan is making a strong statement against any violence to the vulnerable.

    • Wow, thank you for the wonderful and thoughtful comment Thomas, and for reading my very long story. ;) What you say is so true. Once my eyes were “opened” and I could see clearly for the first the atrocities we humans are committing against our other animal brethren all around the world 24/7/365 I had no choice but to become vegan. I didn’t see this as daunting or difficult at all. There was no ethical choice for me but to do so, and I was excited and eager to get animal “products” out of my life forever and to become an advocate for the animals. In the words of Albert Schweitzer, “We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”

  3. Hi Linda! I was very moved by your story. I cringed when I read about the clip of eating live monkey brains. I did not even know about that – how horrible! Thank you for sharing your story and for blogging. I’ve been vegan for a year and a half. I started out for health reasons, but a few months into my plant-based diet I watched the movie Vegucated. This movie opened my eyes to how blind I was to the suffering of animals. I’ve been an ethical vegan ever since. I’m really happy to have discovered your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts. Celeste :)

    • Hi Celeste! Thank you so much for the nice comments and for your support. :) It’s wonderful that you’ve been vegan for a year and an half, congratulations! Isn’t it amazing how a movie can open your eyes and change your life? The same thing happened to me when I happened to turn on my TV and Diet for a New America was on. It’s also great that you are blogging about veganism, and I just love you blog Honk If You’re Vegan (http://honkifyourevegan.com/). Best Wishes, Linda

  4. so glad to have found your blog. great recipes. really makes me think a lot. people with open minds grow, those with closed minds do not [grow]. thank you for your insights and open-mindedness. please excuse my all lower case as i have a broken arm in a cast. i will be following and returning often. please feel welcome to visit my blog.

    • Hi Danice! Thank you for your wonderful comments and for following Vegetate. :) I really appreciate your kind words and your support. I am now following your wonderful blog, Danice’s Eclectic Blog (daniceseclecticblog.wordpress.com) and I look forward to your posts. Take good care of that arm and get well soon. Thanks again, Linda

  5. Although not vegan, I enjoy greatly seeing your work–from the food itself to the photography and design. I’m glad you feel great about your eating, and I wish you spectacular health! I have changed the way I eat, and from my vegetables to my meat, I choose carefully, usually local or homegrown, and try to waste absolutely nothing. It is precious, and I am grateful.

    • What a wonderful comment, HSD! Thank you so much for reading my loooong vegan story, and for your very kind words. :) I am really glad that there are non-vegans like yourself out there who can appreciate my work. After all, you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy fruits and veggies. ;) I deeply admire you for making conscious food choices and for being mindful about wasting food, that is what really counts. I too am grateful; to the farmers who toil in the fields, the animals who pollinate the crops, the sun, the rain, and the soil for providing us with such a great bounty to sustain and delight us. I wish you vibrant health, always!

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. While I lived in SE Asia, the “wet market” was where I did my food shopping. The American and European expats (all except me) would send their amahs (servants) to do their shopping for them because they couldn’t stand to go through the process of “picking out” their animals live and waiting for the slaughter. You could say we were trained to pretty cuts of meat in cellophane.

    The meat and dairy industries want to keep it that way, I’m sure. I had no illusions, and I can’t believe it took me so long to make the switch. (My story is at DirtNKids.) It’s only been a year or more for us — kudos to your 20!! I look forward to having more conversations with you on your journey. Glad to have found you, Linda. :)

    • Hello my dear! Thank you for your thoughtful words and for sharing your fascinating story. Wow, can you imagine if everyone had to personally hand-select each animal that was to be slaughtered for their meals? I have a feeling that many would avoid this at all costs (as exemplified by the other expats in your story) and that a lot more people would go vegan! In the U.S. we are unfortunately so separated from the lives and deaths of the animals that we collectively eat that we don’t even see our cuts of meat as having once been living, breathing, sentient creatures with desires and needs of their own.

      Hopefully with more undercover videos coming out these days from wonderful organizations like Mercy for Animals the awareness of the horrors happening to animals out there every minute of every day will reach and touch so many people that more and more people will choose compassion and veganism, and free themselves from being complicit in these crimes against nature.

      Your story is amazing, too!: http://dirtnkids.wordpress.com/confessions-of-meat-loving-vegetarian/

      Thanks again Shannon, and I look forward to following you! :)

  7. Linda, I was fascinated by this page.
    I probably will not become any type of vegetarian, although I love all vegetables, but I thank you for pointing out the senseless cruelty of the meat industry.
    I wonder if you by chance know if kosher meats also are produced this way? Of course it has been years since you thought much of meats…
    Anyway, thanks, again, and may you enjoy great health! :)

    • Hi KatherineTrauger! Thank you SO very much for your lovely and thoughtful comments, and for reading my long story. It is really nice to hear from you.

      I also genuinely appreciate your question regarding animal welfare when it comes to kosher animal slaughter. Kosher animal slaughter is supposed to be a more humane method than is generally used, but the animals are still hung up (fully conscious and terrified) in shackles by their ankles, have their throats sliced open, and bleed to death into buckets, which doesn’t sound like much fun to me. These poor creatures (as well as those slaughtered using non-kosher methods) also have no choice at all when it comes to their natural needs and desires to live out a rich and fulfilling life of their own while they can here on earth. They are enslaved, imprisoned, abused, bred, and killed by people at our will.

      Here is a great article from PETA that I found on kosher animal slaughter that I hope you will find informative: http://www.peta.org/features/agriprocessors/

      To me it is not worth it to use animal products knowing that by doing so I am creating a “supply and demand” chain for animal products, animal cruelty, and the murder of billions of innocent creatures. It is also surprisingly easy to switch over to a vegan diet. ;) I would recommend using your wallet to vote for more humane food options by purchasing vegan rather than animal products to cook with. I think you would soon find your health improving greatly and your spirit soaring with the knowledge that you are no longer contributing to such cruel an dunnecessary practices. I know that this is only my opinion, and it is not for everybody, but I highly recommend it to anyone, especially my fellow animal lovers. :)

      I am grateful to you for reading Vegetate and for considering the animals’ welfare regarding kosher animal husbandry practices, KatherineTrauger. Please stop by again soon and often. I am wishing you the very best!

      Kind Regards,
      Linda

  8. I can see your point and I thank you for clues to resources I did not know about! We grow all our own vegetables, so it wouldn’t be much of a vote for us, to vote for veggies with our wallets. ;-) It would be more like not voting at all. :)
    Thanks, again!

    • Wow, that is so wonderful that you grow all of your own veggies, good for you! I am seriously impressed. :) Do you have a lot of land to grow on, or have you set up some great planter beds in your back yard for this purpose? Also, did you have much gardening experience before you started growing veggies? I would love to start growing more of my food myself, too. this year my husband and I tried our hands at growing potatoes, carrots, radishes, and lettuce, which was a blast and very productive. Also, nothing tastes better than freshly picked produce. Thanks so much for sharing, Katharine!

      • Experience! Oh yes! My parents were poor and grew their own from necessity and required us kids to weed and to pick off bugs such as potato bugs. That all sounds so non-chemical, but they were too poor for chemicals, except…well…they gave us little juice cans–which back then were all metal, no cardboard–with gasoline (!) in them to drop the bugs into. This was before gas was unleaded, too. Who knew?
        Anyway, my folks always called me their best weeder, which totally fueled my love of the simple act of weeding. My husband grew up the same basic way, but on a farm, with everything in the basement coming out of the earth, via their own labor. No one romanticized it–it was hot, buggy, dirty WORK, but it meant although we were poor we were able to eat, back then, without taking from the government. Times have changed..
        When we married, during Nam, we both knew we wanted to have a bit of land and to grow our own food. So we aimed at that goal and achieved it. We own 30 acres, mostly in woods, but about 3 acres is garden, outbuildings, house, lawn, etc. When all our children were still at home, our corn rows totaled 1/4 mile! Now we’re too old to tolerate all the carbs in corn, so we grow just a bit for eating fresh, and freeze some for Thanksgiving. And we have learned how to grow and love others, such as eggplant and pumpkin, which we can have.
        Well, I could write a book, but you get the idea. :) Lots of canning! Hot work in the Deep South. :) I love the simple rhythm and honesty of it. :)

        • Wow Katharine, thank you so much for sharing your incredible story! :) I really enjoyed reading about how you and your husband have been growing your own foods for almost your whole lives. That is amazing and something that I would definitely like to do more of myself.

          I also feel that the world would be a better place if people were more connected to their food and where it comes from. I have probably eaten thousands of potatoes in my lifetime, but I didn’t even know what a potato plant looked like until my husband and I finally grew some potatoes ourselves this year (http://vegetate.us/2013/10/01/potato-tire-harvest/), talk about a disconnect!

          I love the idea of being as self-sufficient as possible, too. When you can take care of your needs at such a fundamental level as by growing and canning your own food you have much more control over your own destiny. Congratulations on the previous purchase of your land, as well. It sounds like an idyllic, wonderful place to live.

          Thanks again for your great comments Katharine. I hope to hear from you again soon. Until then, Happy New Year!

  9. Okay, after reading the post you sent the link for, I learned this was a story about only one processor, a shock to all in the Kosher community, and the owner has been imprisoned for 27 years.
    I realize that doesn’t answer the objections to killing, itself, but there is oversight and in a perfect world, that does answer the question of cruelty.
    Thanks, again! :)

    • Hey there, Kataharine! :) Thank you for your excellent comment and for reading that PETA article about that kosher processing plant. I know that PETA called out only one kosher processor in the write-up, but it just goes to show you how people can so easily abuse their power when it comes to raising and killing animals for food. You just never know how the animals are treated behind the closed doors of a slaughterhouse until you witness it for yourself. As Paul McCartney once said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Even in the best-case-scenarios animal slaughter is not a pretty picture. I do sincerely appreciate your questioning of all of this and your seeking of a “kinder” meat source, Katharine. I wish that everyone shared your curiosity and concern about this important matter. Thanks again!

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