The Accidental Vegan

"Inspirational Vegetarian Story" The Accidental VeganBy : Elizabeth Donaldson

I was born into the quintessential middle-class American family. We always ate meat at least once a day, never really pausing to think about where our food came from or what exact method was used to acquire it. At the age of 10, I had a babysitter who was vegetarian and health-conscious. She would cheerfully answer any questions I had, and sometimes throw in a few bits of information about how healthy something was.

Over the ensuing 12 years, I gradually became more and more interested in nutrition and general health, reading random articles about sleep, antioxidants, whether the latest fad diets had any merit, etc. (Watching Supersize Me in Human Biology made a huge impact.) Eventually, I began to hear references to animal cruelty. I learned a little bit about debeaking, and when I finally learned what veal was, I swore I would never eat it, because it just doesn't seem right to me to eat an animal's young.

Then, last year, I came across the link for the documentary Earthlings. I was a bit wary of the violence in the film, so I opted to watch the trailer first. Those 2 1/2 minutes alone were more than I could stand.

A few nights later, I had a nightmare that reenacted the cow-skinning clip I had seen in the Earthlings trailer. My brain replayed over and over again that poor animal having its hide torn off while still conscious, as indifferent humans stood by to make sure that every marketable piece of skin made it off. In the dream, I screamed for them to stop, but I was completely powerless.

When I looked in the fridge the next morning, the meat, eggs, and dairy symbolized much more to me than they had before. I kept seeing those clips of livestock animals thrashing about in pain as the life drained out of their open throats, of cows being skinned alive, of circus trainers telling their colleagues to scare the animals they were entrusted with, and the whole thing made me sick.

I literally became a vegan overnight. Though I was living with my omnivorous family at the time, once they understood my reasons, they were both very accommodating and supportive.

When I joined my fiancé in Ecuador, I floundered for a bit, then switched to omnivorism for a few months. (Transparency within agencies seems to be rarer here than in the States. There's a fair amount of information about things like bullfights, pet abuse, illegal smuggling of exotic animals, etc., but not nearly as much about dairy farms, factory farms, and so forth.) Corporations were probably still the bad guys, but the vendors at local markets surely treated their animals better, right? But then I realized that even if the meat comes from an old animal who's been loved and cared for all its life, and will probably die in a few days anyway, it seems so much more ethical and humane to me to just say no. (Besides, I have no real information about how these vendors get their products anyway.)

And so I am lacto-ovo-vegetarian, for now at least. I am still figuring out the right balance between ethics, personal nutrition, our finances, and available goods in a foreign country; however, right now it is my hope to return to veganism. Through it all, I'm lucky to have a supportive fiancé and family, and friends who range from vegan to that-guy-who-good naturedly-teases-you-about-veganism-or-nutrition.

PS. If every one of us inspired ONE person to go meatless imagine the difference we could make in ten years time. I am going to collect inspirational vegetarian/vegan stories to share with everyone. If you think your story will inspire others, please share with me by sending it to I will post your stories on this blog. I believe everyone has his/her own story, I think it must be great when we can share our stories and inspire others. Let’s make the world a better place. ~ Xiao Kang.

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