Melanie's Vegetarian Journey
In the early 1970s, my younger sister who was living
with my parents in Brussels, Belgium, visited a slaughterhouse while on a
class outing. (This was not a "scheduled event," but they had some
free time after a cultural event was cancelled and they happened to pass
by the slaughterhouse). They were allowed to watch the
slaughtering. (Today it is unlikely that such an invite would be extended since
animal rights and welfare issues have hit the public consciousness.)
At the time, I was living in Spain, and I remember her calling me to
tell me how appalled she was and that she would never eat meat
again. To this day she even remembers the terrified look in the eyes of a
flock of sheep who were outside waiting to go in.
My family had always had pets. I remember when I was
about 6 years old and my other sister came home carrying a puppy. She told
us that some people were about to put the puppies in a sack and throw
them against a wall. She said her friend had taken one of the puppies -
and we ended up with "Maxie," who turned out to be the best dog anybody
could ever want. But we still didn't make the connection between
our beloved Maxie and the animals we ate for dinner.
For 14 years Maxie went everywhere with us - while
living in Holland, Belgium and France. We took her on all our vacations
too. Picture this: an early 60's VW Beetle with three kids in the back,
camping gear on the roof, our father driving, and mother in the front
passenger seat with Maxie sitting on a blanket on the floor by her feet. We
always had pets when I was growing up, and later I started visiting the
local shelters where I found some of the best "companion animals,". who
at various times included, cats, rabbits and birds. Then one day in
1990 when I was living in Delaware County and had two dogs, I had
just barbecued a steak ? and I looked at my dogs and the steak, and I
couldn't eat it.
That was that ? no more meat. I had experienced a
life-changing shift in perception.
Several years later, at my first Vegetarian Summerfest
conference, I learned that it takes 10 pounds of milk to make one
pound of cheese. I realized then that I had been consuming, in concentrated
form, a substance I was telling other people "was destined for
Surprisingly, it was not difficult at all to give up
dairy products. But it is not an easy task to fight the powerful dairy
industry: the calves are just a mere by-product of the milk industry. We want
to stop impregnating the mothers so they can produce milk for
If we don't have calves, we don't have milk, and we
don't steal from the calves.
Since giving up dairy, my asthma went away, and the
numerous allergies I was plagued with disappeared. Occasionally during
allergy season I might have an irritating tickle in my throat when I go running
in the morning, but when I was eating dairy products I couldn't even go
outside without loading up on allergy medications.
I also have more energy since I have become a vegan. In
fact, about two years ago I walked "the Camino" in Northern Spain; a
500-mile walk which I completed in 27 days. I had a lot more energy than
most of the people who had to deal with digesting animal products laden
with fat (and who knows what else). I happily explained to others how I
live on fruits, vegetables, nut, grains - and when eating in
restaurants, "ensalada mixta". Very often this is the only vegan item on the
menu. Needless to say, after the completion of my walk I had almost eaten
enough ensaladas mixtas to last a lifetime.
Melanie Carpenter, Saugerties, NY