02 April 2012

Why I went vegan, my 'ah-ha' moment

Growing up, I had always shown an affinity for the weak. Whether it be the elderly, sick, or animals; seeing any form of helplessness tugged on my heartstrings in the worst way. What I was feeling at age 10, I later found out was something called empathy. I remember attempting to turn vegetarian at age 15, but coming from a family of meat eaters, I was constantly ridiculed and told that I would get really, really sick if I nixed the meat. Being impressionable at 15, I succumbed to the pressures of peers and family, gave in unwillingly, and ate meat sparingly.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore; I couldn’t take growing up having dogs, cats, hamsters, and bunnies as pets, but eating chicken, cows, pigs, and fish. Just because some animals live on a farm does not mean they are a commodity, whose only purpose is to become food. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

My meat consumption was decreasing rapidly, and I was well on my way to being a vegan success story. After all, I knew how horrible animals were treated on factory farms, and I wanted absolutely no part of that!

One day, a few years ago, I attended a friend’s wedding. I challenged myself. During dinner, I would not consume any meat. I wanted to see if this was possible for an amateur to do at a large, formal function, where there was no vegetarian entrĂ©e option. Hey, if I could do it at a big catered event at a wedding, where I couldn’t bring my own food, it would be much easier to do in my own kitchen, where I choose the ingredients.

Lo and behold I did it! I ate vegetable stir-fry and mashed potatoes and salad -- oh my! I was satiated and amazed! The exuberance that I felt from being free from the pressures and stigma of meat eating was insurmountable. I could finally live cruelty free; and from that moment on, I did.

I now spend my days educating others on the benefits of adopting a meat-free lifestyle, whipping up delectable vegan meals, contributing to vegan blogs, volunteering with humane societies, and visiting farm sanctuaries.  My biggest joys come when I am able to romp around with the animals who are living out their lives in their natural habitat, where they are treated as the living beings that they are, and not as food! My life has changed for the better in every way, as I have now found what I am truly passionate about.  I can proudly say that I feel a sense of fufillment and accomplishment in regards to my dietary and lifestyle choices.

My hope is that one day I will be reading many other's’ “ah-ha moments!"

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Ashley Shamus | Email
Northeast Pennsylvania Ashley has a psychology degree, and is soaking up tons of knowledge while furthering her education. She has a passion for holistic nutrition, animal rights, and green vegetables. In her free time, she loves to cook, juice, and bask in the sun. She whole heartedly applauds and appreciates all of the wonderful people who strive to make a positive difference in animals’ lives!

Photo credit: Ashley