From the time I was a young child, I have had a strong empathy for animals. I remember going on a family fishing trip and being devastated when I saw a caught fish being allowed to flop around gasping for water and then cruelly stabbed. To my six-year old self, I saw the light of a beautiful creature extinguished. In my mind the fish was a little person who was someone's loved one-- someone's family member. After that experience, I could no longer eat fish and to this day, sea food repulses me and I won't even eat mock sea food.
I didn't really think about animal suffering any further until I was a teenager and I saw an Animal Liberation Victoria stand in Bourke Street mall in Melbourne, educating the public about the cruelty of factory-farmed eggs produced by hens in cramped cages. After that, I could no longer eat caged eggs. When I was 17, dad brought home a puppy that was to become a family pet. By this time, I was doing some of the cooking for the family and had become proficient at cooking chicken legs. I remember looking at the leg of our new puppy and the chicken leg and I could see the similar shape. I had a light bulb moment and I could no longer pretend that meat came from animal parts; I then knew I could no longer eat the flesh of animals.
Over the next 12 years, I became a stricter and stricter vegetarian. Initially, I started by picking meat out of my meal and pushing it to the side of my plate. Just before I went vegan, I was only eating rennet-free cheese and some dairy. For some reason, I didn't think there was any cruelty in dairy. I mean cows needed to be milked, right?
Wrong! Ironically, it was a friend who had been vegan and decided to re-incorporate dairy and eggs into her diet that educated me about the horrors of the dairy industry. I learnt about the constant impregnation and separation of mothers and children; I learnt that the cows bellow for weeks for their stolen children-- that they're bred to produce so much milk that so much calcium is leached from their bones that they become brittle and break so easily. Mastitis and heavy udders are the norm as they're milked twice a day by humans instead of the multiple feeds from their offspring that relieves them of their milk. Dairy cows have incredibly short lives compared to the natural life of a cow. Beautiful bobby calves, the males, are considered a waste product of the industry and their treatment is abysmal.
Fifteen years ago, I decided to go vegan and have never looked back. I no longer consider animal-based foods... well... food. I find the concept abhorrent. I'm also proud to say that I have been vegetarian longer than I was an omnivore. For the last four-and-half years, I have been the owner of a thriving vegan shoe business, Vegan Style, which has now introduced its own shoe line, Zette. Over the last few years, I’ve seen interest in veganism grow exponentially. It's an exciting time to be on the right side of history!