She grew up loving animals—all animals. So it made perfect sense for her to one day become a vegan. Now she feels a lightness she never knew before.
Animals have always been a part of my life. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my grandmother's farm outside Memphis. We never saw our animals as objects: They were family members. Henry the rooster was allowed to hang out on my shoulder in Granny's kitchen, and there was even a small horse that could visit in the sunroom. It just never occurred to me that the animals used in the food industry were treated with utter disrespect. So it also never occurred to me that I was part of the problem.

For most of my life I naively lived on cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets; a family dinner always meant steak. Then one day a year and a half ago, it hit me over the head while I was making a hearty breakfast that it wasn't, in the grand scheme of earthly things, intended for me. What would happen to my body, to my soul, if I did not consume an animal or anything taken from an animal? So I educated myself. I relinquished the safety blanket of my ignorance.

This education about health led to a revelation about animals-as-products. It became so clear: I love animals. How can I eat them or make them suffer for something as selfish as taste or tradition?

I knew that the way to be proactive was to convert to a vegan diet (a vegan lifestyle—which means not using animal products of any kind—quickly followed). I found great resources from the Humane Society and from Farm Sanctuary, an animal protection program. I read wonderful books like Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, about the emotional lives of farm animals.

And in making this life change, I've found I have more energy, I sleep better, and my skin has cleared up. My taste buds awoke! I appreciate food in a whole new way. As for my soul, I quickly began feeling a lightness I'd never known before. Now I take responsibility for my actions. I am aware. And it's easy.

Because of veganism, I find myself embracing all living things, even the trees outside, in unexpected ways. I never feel guilty because of what I've eaten or because of the handbag I'm carrying.

When people ask, I always tell them, "I didn't stop eating animal products because I didn't like the taste. I loved the taste! But in this life, I want to inflict as little pain as possible." To everyone who argues that we can treat our fellow earthlings this way and so we should, I like to quote Harry Potter' s Dumbledore, who said: "It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities." I adore that.

—As told to Crystal G. Martin

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