The following testimonials explore how all of us (i.e. the guys who maintain this site) came to be vegans or vegetarians.
I actually don’t remember the exact moment – although my husband reminds me it was when one of our cockatiels, Honey, died. I guess we had been making gradual changes to our diet for some time. I’m fairly sure we had already stopped eating red meat and chicken but when Honey died I just thought – that’s it – no more animals in our diet. I guess it was when I really realised how precious life is and then began thinking about the horrors of the way we farm animals and that was it – I just decided I couldn’t be a part of that anymore. That was the 15th of March 2002.
Since then I have done a lot of research and reading about food production. The more I learn, the more astounded I am of how little I knew about the way we treat animals or the food I was eating. What I found most upsetting was that through my own ignorance, I had condoned this cruelty. And so began the journey of an animal free diet. It is a continual learning process and one I find peaks people’s interests constantly. The most common response is one of amazement, usually accompanied with the question: “So what do you eat then?” I like to quote the vegan actress Lynda Stoner who simply states: “The only things we don’t eat are animal products.”
I love animals. That is the main reason I am vegetarian. Why would I want to eat something that I love? I can see emotions and feelings in them, and they can see emotions and feelings in me. I certainly wouldn’t kill an animal, no more than I could kill another human being, or could even watch it being done, and therefore I find the idea of putting it in my body quite repugnant. I acknowledge that scientifically it can be shown that human beings were designed to eat meat, but I feel very certain that God did not create animals to be tortured in the manner in which the meat industry does. When I consider what has happened to an animal between its birth and how it came to be on someone’s table, it is very distressing, especially compared to the life I give to my pets. And what is the difference between the feelings of my cat and the feelings of a chicken, a goat, a lamb? Any of these animals could be someone’s pet and give and receive affection. In Africa, for example, they eat dog; in Australia that is unthinkable to the general population. But what is the difference between eating dog and eating cow? These are the reasons that caused me to consider becoming a vegetarian some 12 years ago, and with each year that has passed, I have only become more strengthened in my decision. When I see a beautiful animal, or have the privilege of being able to touch it, and give and receive affection from it, I have no need to feel guilty that I sustain myself by eating it’s own kind. It is certainly possible to nourish and sustain the body without eating animal flesh, and therefore I am more than happy to not partake of it (no matter how good a bbq smells).
I became vegetarian when I was 18 years old. I would see the chicken trucks and think how awful it would be not only to be crammed into a truck like that, but then to go on to be killed. In years 5 – 7 each year we had to watch a video at school on the killing of chickens for food. I hated the show then and the chicken trucks reminded me of how awful the chikens were treated. I would talk about it with people, I would think about it while I ate chicken and then one day I just couldn’t eat chicken anymore, or any other meat. I continued to eat Tuna for a couple of months because I just couldn’t let a little bit of fish go. But the more I thought about it, that Tuna had a right to live too. So I stopped eating meat and fish. I went on to tell people that I didn’t eat anything with eyes or with a face. I think that the idea of eating an animals body became truly disgusting to me.
Some of my earliest memories include sitting on old wooden crates in a Melbournian back yard and listening to my great grandmother’s descriptions of, and discussions with domestic chickens.
My Mediterranean family had a habit of buying a chicken when it was very young, feeding and raising it, then killing it for a family function. As things go, this was probably more humane than what happens to chickens today, plus the whole family had a relationship with the bird before consuming it. What had the greatest impact on me becoming vegan however was that my great grandmother would often point out how beautiful this creature was and why did my grandparents have to kill and eat it when we had plenty of other food to consume in Australia. In her homeland, you only ever killed your animals if you didn’t have enough other food to eat. Domestic animals provided you with far too many other things: milk, eggs, wool, etc. and it made no sense killing such a valuable resource.
These experiences and her words stayed with me my whole life, and though I continued to live the indoctrinated meat eating lifestyle until my early 30s, my great grandmother’s ideas never lost their impact.
Initially for health reasons, then for ethical reasons and finally for personal reasons, my wife and I cut out meat, then dairy and eggs and finally all animal products. This journey occurred over a ten year period and we’ve been vegan now for more than 2 years. During that time, when ever my conscious and subconscious thought I was backsliding too much, I’d often have dreams like the one of a giant walking fish that would explain to me that if you could see into a creature’s eyes you shouldn’t consume it.
I know these giant fish’s words were really subconscious paraphrases of my great grandmother’s words which encouraged me to look into the chicken’s eyes and identify how similar we all were to each other. She’d often point out how as humans wouldn’t eat each other (she had never heard of cannibalism), why were we eating these other sentient beings.
Thus, the reason I am a vegan today, is very much because of the seeds of compassion (for all beings) which my great grandmother sowed in me while we sat and talked to those lovely white birds in suburban Melbourne.
For that, and for all her other insights which she shared with a shy 7 year old, I am eternally grateful. I should also point out how she loved 1950’s black and white Tarzan TV episodes because they highlighted how humans could in fact live with and look after all creatures! This she genuinely believed was humanity’s purpose on the planet. Unfortunately you wouldn’t know it from the way our species carries on today!
My becoming a veggie was the outcome of a process of thought mainly triggered by the feeling that humans were not designed to eat meat. While there are very strong ethical, and increasingly envoronmental, reasons for taking this step, my initial reasons were to do with health, and I continue to believe that, all things being equal, veggies and vegans will enjoy better health than omnivores. The move to being veggie was very quick. After a few days spent with friends who had themselves taken this step, when confronted with a dish of meat at the cafeteria in the university where I was studying I felt unable to touch it. One day led to another, and after a few days I realised I had become veggie. There have been no regrets.
Becoing a vegan took longer. Another friend gave me a book with the intriguing title Radical Vegetarianism, and I guess it tickled my pride, offering a style of being veggie with more edge to it. I had been becoming aware of what seemed a contradiction between declining to eat animals while continuing to consume their products, and began tapering off. This took some months, omelettes being the last to go. Vegan practice is obviously more difficult to sustain when travelling (looking back I am sorry for being selfish in having sometimes transferred this concern to non-vegan travelling companions.) But I have never regretted it.
So, how did it happen that I became vegan? Well, it’s quite simple really. For me, moving to the UK was a great opportunity to start something exiting and what could be more exiting than becoming vegetarian. So I started the journey through research. Food labelling in the UK was helpful and there was plenty of online information to use. All in all, it was much more convenient in England.
But some how, things did not feel right. After six months of research, struggle and lots of thought I became vegan for the first time. It wasn’t a joyful decision for me at that time. I honestly thought that I would be limiting myself – even with all the health benefits it would give me. (I also discovered that I was lactose intolerant and because of the milk allergy it became more of a health choice than an ethical choice). So, of course, I gave it up after a while. I thought to myself – we Orthodox are vegans and/or vegetarians more then 200 days a year! It’s more than enough for me!
But things were rapidly changing. I’d moved to a new parish and became friends with a wonderful couple, an Orthodox vegetarian couple, and it made all the difference. After a while, I was vegetarian again and as a bit more time passed, vegan – but this time around, more ethically vegan. Talks, literature, YouTube, again lots of research and the example of my friends – who by that time had became vegans themselves – inspired me, to stay on track this time.
Another big part of the story were animals. I am a natural animal lover, so from a very early age I was (in my soul) opposed to consuming suffering (I grew up around animals so I knew the process from birth to death/murder and didn’t need animals rights commercials to reveal what happened on farms) but the culture was so “strong” that I never questioned the meat eating custom of my family. Even in the Cathedral it seemed “natural” back then. But yeah, I envied monks and nuns, they were so lucky to be vegetarian!
So now, I can proudly say that I am an abolitionist vegan, raw foodist to be more exact, happy to oppose cruelty where I can, promote compassion when I have an opportunity and deny consumption of suffering gladly and with no reservation. I am so grateful to God that he led me to this way of life. Now on my raw food vegan journey there are slip ups off course, I can’t say that I am perfect. But I can say, with all my conviction, that I have no desire to go back and participate in the culture of death.
I remember once at the Orthodox Christian Theology School I was attending, there was a discussion about Paradise. One of the things that struck me, was a conviction to the beauty of Heaven, where there can be no suffering and all humans and animals alike are vegan – just as it was in Eden before the fall. In the Heavenly Jerusalem, onto eternity, we ALL will be vegan one way or another. So why not try and get Heaven a little closer to earth by becoming vegan during our earthly life?
Blessed is the merciful, GO VEGAN!
The journey to Eastern Orthodoxy and Veganism began many years ago. I was sixteen, flipping through television channels at 1:00am. Among the random flickerings of infomercials and talk shows was a feature on animal rights. I remember the black-and-white footage of a pig being blow-torched alive, it’s skin being peeled off, and water being poured into its now skinless mouth. I was flabbergasted that such suffering could be inflicted on another living being. I learned that night that “food animals” had very few rights. The next morning I told my mother that I was now a vegetarian. In time, I learned about the conditions of fish, dairy cows, hatching chickens, circus elephants, and others, and became more purposeful with my buying and eating choices.
In response to my vegetarian choice, my pastor asked, “if God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?” His blatant mockery was quite popular among the parishioners of my church. I started to question whether or not any Christians had sympathy for animals or nature or any of these things I found beautiful and worthy of compassion and awe. I started to question my religion and began the search for a belief system that cared about these creatures.
Among websites on Buddhism and other eastern religions, I encountered a quote from a man named “Isaac of Nineveh” that spoke of a compassion that would lead one to pray even for reptiles. I was astounded that this man was a Christian. In time I found more and more evidence of early Christians sharing a love for God’s world and/or choosing not to consume animal flesh. With this new assurance I continued my journey as a protestant vegetarian.
Nearly a decade later I took the plunge to veganism, hoping to improve my health and to distance myself even further from animal suffering. Shortly after, I went back to college where I took a class on the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Our professor took us to an Orthodox church to give us a feel for the religion featured in the author’s books, especially The Brothers Karamazov. It was through Dostoevsky that I began to experience and wrestle with Orthodoxy and God. It was here that I discovered that this “Isaac of Nineveh” from all those years ago was the venerated St. Isaac of Syria, and that his tradition was full of awe and love for God and the cosmos. After three years of sporadic attendance I was chrismated and named St. Isaac as my patron.
For me, veganism is more than pure asceticism, but a gift that reaches into Eden. I think that many of the church fathers, and many monastics today, had and have something that has been lost to many of us – a fellowship with all living things. It is this fellowship that we have available to us, whether that is manifested as veganism or vegetarianism or in the small decisions to be nice to an animal. While a decision to go vegan won’t bring about a relationship akin to St. Seraphim and his bear, I believe that it does help one to progress slightly in that direction. It is only now that I can look into the large eyes of a cow and see it as I might see a dog, as an individual. Let us make St. Basil the Great’s prayer ours: “Oh God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals, to whom you gave the earth as their home in common with us . . . may we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for you and that they love the sweetness of life.”