Unlike most people, I wasn’t raised eating meat or drinking cow’s milk. I was born into a vegetarian family. The choice not to eat meat wasn’t mine to make; my parents did that for me.
You’d think that growing up in an Italian family, where Sunday meat sauce and sausages are the norm, this wouldn’t be the case. But we’d show up to family gatherings with vegetarian pasta fagioli or lentil soup. And I remember my mom running up to the school during field day to bring me tofu dogs. It required a bit of preparation, but my parents were committed to raising my sister and me veg.
I’ve always been an animal lover, and I truly believe it was my vegetarian upbringing that taught me to care for all beings. We had a dog, but I loved to read books about exotic animals, and my favorite channel was Animal Planet. At eight years old I told my mom I wanted to go to Australia to study marine biology at the University of Queensland. While I did not end up going there, I did manage to use the degree I earned to help animals.
Sadly, we eventually moved away from being vegetarian. I don’t really know what caused my family to start eating animals again, but it was during this time that I started making my own decisions. I don’t need to go into what I ate because, let’s be honest, I was an American teenager. My diet primarily consisted of fast food, pizza, and anything inexpensive that I could get my hands on.
This all changed in college. A combination of events led me back to my vegetarian roots.
One afternoon I put on a documentary that exposed how the meat industry treats animals. After seeing the painful mutilations, extreme confinement, and brutal slaughter, I knew I couldn’t support the industry. Now that I knew the truth, there was no going back.
In addition to learning about factory farming from the documentary, I landed my first internship at an animal welfare organization. While there, I worked on the organization’s farmed animal campaign and learned even more about the horrors of factory farming.
The final thing that pushed me to stop eating meat was rescuing my first cat, Scout. Caring for him and seeing firsthand just how sensitive and intelligent he is made me acutely aware of the feelings of all animals. How could I possibly cuddle with him and eat another animal?
While my family is no longer vegetarian, I myself made the choice to leave all animal products off my plate. I am forever grateful that my parents raised me vegetarian, but the decision to go veg for good was one I had to make on my own.
Thankfully, I now have friends and even some relatives who have decided to embrace a vegan lifestyle. You see, one great thing about going vegan is that it’s never too late to make the switch.
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