Updated: Mar 31
Growing up, I loved animals. At some point in my life I even thought I could talk and write letters to them. I had two pen pals: a squirrel, Ronfo, and a woodpecker, Priscilla. I have to thank my mother’s imagination and creativity for that. Their letters were so believable - they had bite marks or beak stamps, they were dirty with grass and mud - that for some time I thought of them as my only, true friends. They each had their own story and family, and they lived a happy life in the woods close to my house. I’m older now, but deep inside of me I still feel that their life, no matter how fictitious, mattered.
I started asking questions really early in my life, or so I’m told by my parents. The majority of the times, it was just to understand how the world worked and why it was that way, but others I would come up with truly uncomfortable topics of discussion. My family and I remember clearly when I asked them about the origin of meat. I must have been 3 or 4 years old. The answer was: it comes from the freezer. Of course I believed them, that was where we would take it from. I accepted the answer and carried on with my life. However, I guess I wasn’t really satisfied, because some time later, I said: all right, we get it from the freezer, but it must have been a live animal at some point. I was told that all the animals we ate had died of old age. I was okay with that. The real problem came when I started reading at 5. I am one of those people that are self taught. My first reading materials were labels. You know where I’m going with this. When I asked how a calf could have died of old age, my parents said: no, that one was just sick. This time I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t think of eating a sick animal, so they had to tell me the truth about meat. And, to be honest, for the most part of my life I was fine with the concept. I loved the taste and I didn’t question the ethics of what I was doing. In any case, people that have known me since then could have placed a bet that one day I was going to change my eating habits. I’m happy to tell them that I did.
It’s still a work in progress. The easiest product to cut was meat. Then most of the dairies - I’m lactose intolerant - even though I find it hard to quit Parmigiano. Fish was the next, and now that I’ve eaten the last eggs in my cupboard I’m not planning on buying them again. I’m not perfect, but I don’t think that anyone is. It’s taking me a while, not because of my will. For parts of last year I wasn’t able to cook for myself, which made it difficult to eat as I wanted. Luckily enough, now that my living situation stabilised, I’m able to follow my beliefs. Fortunately, my parents fully understand why I’m doing it and they are supportive, cooking extra meals for me when I’m at home. They are cutting down on meat and fish, and my mom follows my diet when she’s here in Southampton. I’m proud of how they changed their mindset. I don’t regret this decision and I haven’t missed anything since I quit eating it. I do have to take supplements from time to time, but there are products such as nutritional yeast that can be added to meals to supply most of the important nutrients missing from a vegan diet. Here in the UK it’s much easier to find meat substitutes and the number of brands of plant based milk and cheese is astonishing. I feel included whenever I go out for lunch or dinner. Most of the restaurants - even pubs - have two symbols, one for vegan and one for vegetarian, which allow me to skim through the menu and chose what I want to eat. And, most importantly, I never feel judged by anyone. I do realise that some people might feel really passionate about their veganism and attack disproportionately whoever doesn’t believe in the same values. However, this is not my case, and I would appreciate if people that don’t share my opinion stopped criticising the fact that I’m not eating certain foods. It’s a choice for them, as much as it is for me. And, to be frank, it shouldn’t be anyone's problem. I’m not hurting anyone or trying to change their thoughts.
I’m not here to school anyone on how or why to chose the same path. I don’t have any right to ask anyone to change their diet. As a matter of fact, only a few people that have eaten with me in the past year know that I’m quitting all animal products. It took me a quick look at the reality of the meat and fish industries - including their derivatives - to have an idea of why to do it. But again, it’s a process that not everyone is ready for, and I respect it, even though I might not agree with it. It’s a personal choice that has to be pondered. If you come to the conclusion that you have a different opinion, don’t worry, we will still be friends. If you ask me questions about my diet, I will give you a direct answer, but I do not expect anyone to follow the same path. What's important is to keep an open mind.