I don't know too many vegans in my circle of family and friends. For the most part I just read about them in magazines, use their cookbooks, connect with them through social media or see them in documentaries.
While it's encouraging to hear their stories and feel a sense of connection with those out there who share my dietary beliefs, there is nothing quite as encouraging as knowing another vegan intimately, and to see them live out their principles day in and day out.
I'm happy to share with you one such vegan that I am lucky enough to know personally. She is one of my biggest inspirations for going vegan: my sister, Margaret. From the moment she made that choice, there was no turning back. Her love, care, compassion and commitment for the animals is truly something to admire. I'm lucky to have her on my side. It's nice to have each other to encourage along the way, to share recipes, to understand each others' choices and to get excited over our latest animal rescue adventures. It also sure makes eating carrot dogs at the family barbecue much easier when you're not the only one being teased!
What do you do for a living? Tell me a bit about yourself (married/children/pets, etc)
I'm an accountant that has worked for a CPA firm for the past 16 years. I live in Orange County, New York with my husband and 5 cats (4 of which are rescues*). *It should be noted that my eyes were truly opened to becoming an advocate for shelter animals when we went to adopt a friend for our first cat, who we purchased from a reputable breeder. It's the last pet that we'll ever pay money for, other than an adoption fee! I volunteer at a local animal shelter and I also love to read and watch baseball (New York Mets!).
How long have you been a vegan? What made you decide to go vegan?
This September will be 2 years since I went vegan. I went vegetarian 4 years prior to that but didn't realize the cruelty involved in the dairy and egg industry. It was when we took a trip to visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary that I knew I had to make the next step to veganism. Our tour was led by the founder, Jenny Brown, and she was amazing in sharing each animals' personal story. I was amazed by the individual personalities in every animal there....from the pigs to the goats to even the chickens and turkeys! They had things on display there that I had previously only read about (like gestation crates and battery cages) which left me feeling sick to my stomach. I realized that day that my existence would no longer cause any kind of pain or suffering to another living creature. What ever gave me the right to think it should?
Do you find it difficult to be vegan?
I would be lying if I said I didn't miss cheese and "real" ice cream. But when I stop to think about the big picture, it's easy to stick to a vegan lifestyle. I remember one of my good friends saying to me "It's not fair that there's so many things you can't eat anymore." In my head I thought, "Are you kidding? Not fair to ME??" What's not fair is the abuse and cruelty that millions of farm animals endure on a daily basis for the sake of human consumption.
What kind of reactions do you get from people when they find out you are vegan?
The first question I always get is "How do you get your protein?" It's funny how nobody worried about my protein intake before I went vegan. The first comment I usually get is, "I could never do that....I couldn't imagine not eating meat." Most people are under the misconception that vegans eat "weird" things, which couldn't be further from the truth. It basically comes down to the fact that we're just stopping to think about the effect our food choices have on other living creatures before putting it into our mouths. I think I eat pretty good....so good in fact, that I still stick to counting my Weight Watcher points to make sure I don't gain weight :)
What are your favorite dishes?
One of my favorite dishes is any type of stir-fried vegetables served over rice. I also love my homemade lentil burgers for the summer barbecue season, and salads with all kinds of yummy things added to them (like sunflower seeds, chickpeas, walnuts and cranberries).
What are your favorite vegan products?
I must admit that I don't think I could live without Vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise). I also love any type of "ice-cream" made by Tofutti (especially the "ice cream" cones). Other than that, I don't really buy too many vegan products as far as food goes. For my hair, Surface products are amazing and smell delicious!! I'm always on the hunt for new good vegan products though and will gladly take suggestions!
What would you like to tell people who are considering switching to a plant-based diet?
I would tell anyone who's considering switching to a plant-based diet to give it a shot. You'll feel much better and you'll quickly learn that there are TONS of great things you can eat! You'll also be able to sleep better at night knowing that you've done your part in avoiding the horrendous cruelty that so many animals endure on a daily basis. Research suggests that a plant-based diet is much healthier and to quote Leonardo DaVinci, my hope is that, one day, "the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they look now upon the murder of man."
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I'll leave you with another one of my favorite quotes: "For as long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love" - Pythagoras. In many ways, it seems that man was a lot wiser 2,000+ years ago than he is today. Please, for the sake of the animals and your own health, consider adopting a plant-based diet!
Photo credit: Margaret