27 Nov Elizabeth’s Story
I met Elizabeth at Cheltenham’s first Vegan Fair and was so inspired by her journey to veganism. Here it is…
I saw in the 2014 New Year in Orlando Florida; the year had been one of the hardest of my life and so I was really looking forward to some R&R. Like most people I always claimed to love animals, but was suffering from the same cognitive dissonance and social conditioning that affects so many; we are sold so many well packaged lies. I was the type of person who liked their steaks rare and thought veganism was ‘a bit extreme’, I even used to mock vegans…
My love and curiosity for animals bought me to visit Sea World and walking through their Arctic section, I came upon the Beluga Whales. It was love at first sight; I was mesmerised by them. I watched them play in the pool, throwing a ball around; they appeared to be very happy when they got the ball in the hoop. To my delight, you could partake in an ‘interaction’ experience with them. I booked myself in for a couple of days later.
We were suited and booted in our dry suits and were shown around the behind the scenes area. We were then taken to the pool with the Belugas. I had the same feeling most people do when they meet their favourite celebrity: I could hardly contain my excitement.
We all got to sit on the edge of the pool with our legs dangling in and the trainers and whales did their usual tricks. I almost found it overwhelming to be up close to these massive, beautiful beings. The trainers said they were particularly excited and active this session. One of the Beluga’s popped his head out of the water right in front of me. I asked if I could pet him and was given the all clear. I stroked his head and he made a noise. The trainer said he had worked with him for years and he had never made that sound. I knew then that this had been a special moment. The experience ended and I went on my way.
A couple of weeks later I had arrived back home from the airport. Peckish, I popped over to the petrol station and bought a chicken wrap. I sat at the table and began to think about the Beluga Whales. I thought, I love Beluga whales like people love their pets, but wait, people eat whales and hunt them, and that made me cry. Then like a super speed dot to dot, all the connections were made. I love Belugas, some people love dogs and cats and other animals. Their species didn’t matter: the point was they were loved. In that moment I understood speciesism. In loving the whales and connecting with them, the veil was lifted and I understood it all. I had already taken a bite of the sandwich when I thought this. I instantly felt sick and spat it out. Nearly 2 years later and I haven’t eaten meat again.
For 6 months I was a vegetarian. It felt amazing, especially when I was eating more of the whole foods. I listened to my body and how it responded so well to the increase in fruits and vegetables. I had no idea about the egg and dairy industry, when I found out I literally turned vegan overnight. I chose this lifestyle so no being was harmed, and the fact that chicks and calves were dying for these products, it was a no brainer… Is a chocolate bar, an ice cream, a cake worth a life? The answer is always a very strong no.
I found the switch so easy; both choices were made and implemented in seconds. I wasn’t convinced by a friend to go vegan. I didn’t see a video of the horrors that occur, I never claimed to be an environmentalist or a particularly healthy eater. It was a connection with an animal that wasn’t a socially accepted ‘pet’, in a split moment the speciesism I had been conditioned with was broken and in that moment I truly respected and began to love animals.