Updated: Oct 25, 2021
I was blissfully ignorant. I had my blinders on because that’s what society ensured. I did not understand animal agriculture, I didn’t have a relationship with farmed animals, and I had only known one vegan about 15 years ago. If you asked me how cows made milk, I undoubtedly would have said ‘I don’t know, they just do.’ (Cue the sound effect of the car tires screeching to a halt)
The day I brought Bullet into my life, I kicked a wall down without even knowing it. There’s this little unknown fact that when you go Vegan for reasons pertaining to animal exploitation, you automatically inherit the animal advocacy bug. How you go about it can vary in extremes… in my case- my advocacy means running a sanctuary and allowing people to connect with my pigs- not picking fights in a comment section.
My transition to a plant based diet was slow and meticulous. I slowly rid myself of various dairy products as I journeyed towards my ‘knowing.’ Like most people, the departure of cheese was a tough one.
The day I decided I was cutting meat out of my life, I was with my sister. I’ll never forget it. I had just had my last meal with meat (ever)- a chicken shawarma from the BEST place in town; and we were leaving Costco. I said, “Melissa, I think I am going to stop eating meat.” And so, I did. I still ate fish, becoming a Pescatarian, a common stage of purgatory on the way to the Promised Land. That came to a screeching ‘cold turkey’ (mind the pun) halt, with a disturbing display of an off-Broadway musical by the Red Lobster Host featuring a shrimp from the display tank. I felt tears prickle my eyes and I quickly ran out and to the truck. When my partner, Shane, joined me in the vehicle I said ‘That’s it, no more sea food.’ And that was it. Totally meatless, and I felt ready.
I had cut eggs and milk, although I was never much of a milk drinker anyway, and the only hurdle left was cheese. In May 2019, my best friend and I took a trip to New York to enjoy the city and visit two Animal Sanctuaries: Rancho Relaxo and Arthurs Acres. Amber was the first person I had met as an adult who is vegan and I leaned on her in my early stages of eating plant based. The weekend we were away, I ate totally Vegan without a second thought about cheese. On the way out of the state, we stopped at Whole Foods and loaded up our cooler bags full of the cheese products we couldn’t get in Canada at the time. When I returned home, I begun reading labels on the products I often bought and found alternatives for the things that contained dairy. Which by the way, they sneak into the most ridiculous things.
I remember like it was yesterday that feeling I had where I wasn’t sure when I could self identify or proclaim myself as Vegan. I went through a short-lived stage of feeling out of place, like I wasn’t vegan ‘enough.’ Like most communities of similar people, there is still a lot of judgment and high horses to be tamed. I learned slowly over time that this is MY journey and my journey only. Other people are not invited on my path towards Veganism. I can walk on a parallel path to others, but I do not let them cross over mine. To me, Veganism is a mind-set, a set a morals and values, a philosophy, a way of life. You don’t get people to see your side of fence with vinegar; you do it with honey (unless of course you are Vegan, you use a honey alternative)
Whatever your journey is…do it your way, do it passionately and do it confidently. You will without a doubt receive unsolicited comments from people who are not on the same path as you. Do it big, do it small OR if you want, don’t do it all. Our diet is our business, not anyone else’s. I will continue to do what I do with my pigs, regardless. I hope it impacts someone in some sort of way.