Welcome to this episode of Living Meatless Tales featuring Sarah Claire Gill. Be inspired as you are taken on an adventure of transformation and understanding as our guest shares her experience of making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle and inspiring others to do the same.
Sarah Claire Gill is a part-time Calgary animal rights activist who is determined to fight for the forgotten victims of today’s world until total animal liberation is evident.
Working with organizations such as Anonymous for the Voiceless, The Save Movement, VAoA (Vegan Activists of Alberta) and CARE (Calgary Animal Rights Effort), she spreads a message of peace towards non-human animals, specifically farm animals.
Sarah’s Becoming Vegan Story
Growing up, I was the biggest animal lover ever. Seeing, and being around, animals made me very happy as far back as I can remember.
By the age of five, I had cared for every animal you could think of, from gerbils, to dogs, to horses. And even though I had never met a farm animal I think that a part of me truly innately loved farm animals as well.
Until I watched movies like Charlotte’s Web and Finding Nemo, that contain an underlying message about loving all animals…including farm animals, I hadn’t even thought of farm animals as beings who deserve to live just like dogs and cats.
The agricultural industry does a good job of spreading little lies of happy farm animals who suffer painless deaths to feed us the food we, are told, cannot live without.
I continually saw advertisements telling me how milk makes us grow taller, how we need animal protein to be healthy and how chickens, cows, and pigs are happy and healthy living on small farms eating grass.
The people in the world did everything they could to tell me that eating animals was normal. Even as a child, the industries played with my mind in an attempt to transform me from a compassionate and caring person to a meat-eating consumer.
As a result, I foolishly saw these incredible animals as commodities and objects for us to benefit from rather than the sentient beings they are who don’t deserve to suffer.
Initially, I was extremely confused. I had always believed that animals died natural deaths before we ate their bodies.
So, I began to explore the reasons why someone would choose to be vegan.
I sought answers to questions like:
- How are animals raised?
- Do we kill animals?
- If so, how are they killed?
- Why do we kill them?
- Can we really get protein from plants?
As I started learning more and more about these answers, and getting the wheels turning, my brain was trying to grasp at excuses for why I should still eat animal products.
Looking back at it now, I think I just couldn’t accept how much suffering there was on this planet. I also didn’t want to accept that I, and my loved ones, had been contributing to that suffering, and for what reason? Especially, if we didn’t need to. It just didn’t make sense.
During the next two years, after starting my quest for these answers, I began to ask myself if I could kill and eat my dogs. Of course, the answer was an absolute NO! So, the next questions was… if I wouldn’t kill and eat my dog, why would I pay someone to kill other animals so I can eat their bodies. What’s the difference between a dog and any other animal like a pig, chicken or cow?
Many of us pride ourselves on being animal lovers and even go out of our way to protect and protest violence against dogs and cats but think it’s normal to allow violence, killing and eating of farm animals.
For example, look at the the Yulin Dog Festival in China where over 10, 000 dogs and killed and eaten. In North America, most of us can’t even stomach the thought of someone eating the bodies of our companion animals. However, in China, these animals are nothing more than food.
So, I ask… what makes a dog and a pig so different that we deem one as a companion and the other as worth less than a piece of bacon?
Why do humans think they have the right to establish dominion over animals for our own personal gain?
We humans think we are of such higher intelligence than these animals and yet we have caused so much mass harm and destruction to the planet, which no another living being would ever do.
Besides, does having higher intelligence really mean that our lives are worth more than another living being?
Sometime during the winter of 2016, I started to as a pescatarian. This means I gave up all animal products except fish. I still had not made the connection that fish are also living beings. This was likely due to the fact that I had been taught that these animals are of such low intelligence that it’s ok to eat them.
Around the same time, I still didn’t understand how milking a cow or taking a chickens’ egg was wrong. I mean, it’s not like they need their milk or eggs anyway…right? Little did I know the great suffering these animals go through for us to drink their milk and eat their eggs.
Things really began to change for me when two of my close friends made the choice to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
As I watched what they ate, I saw that veganism didn’t have to come at the cost of my taste buds. The food they were eating was amazing!
After numerous conversations I began to learn more about how milk is truly meant for baby cows, the egg industry brutally exploits the chickens and fish do feel pain. Soon, the lies I had been told for many years began to splinter away and the truth finally started to sink in.
However, at first I didn’t want to see the truth. I had been suppressing my fear that the world was actually as awful as my vegan friends made it seem and I didn’t want to believe it.
To deny these suppressed feelings, and the truth, I began to ridicule my vegan friends. I felt angry and guilty for the part I had played in all of this cruelty towards the animals I said I loved so much. I didn’t want to know the truth about where my food came from. At that time, for me, ignorance was bliss.
It got so bad at one point I had even threatened to throw a piece of chicken, that I was eating, at my friends to shut them up. I told them countless times they were “preachy” and “annoying.”
At the time, I had not even considered, for a second, that the farm animal I was eating had suffered more to get on my plate than the annoyance I endured listening to my vegans friend preach to me about their lifestyle. I didn’t realize, at the time, that my fiends were actually doing the right thing.
My love for animals was clouded with the hatred I had felt at the world, and myself, for allowing this cruelty to go on and by the images and ideas these industries had shoved in my head from such a young age.
On January of 2018, I saw a truck full of animals on its way to the slaughterhouse. The animals were crowded in so close to each other in an open truck unsheltered from the minus 20 degree Celsius weather and the stress and anxiety from these animals seemed to pool out of the truck. This hit a nerve and it all suddenly began to make sense.
The animals I had felt empathy for were the same animals in which I had paid someone to kill so I could eat their flesh and their secretions. I was literally paying for these animals to be on death row.
When I got home that day I was doing some research on what happened to dairy cows and egg bearing chickens after they were done producing and came across a short video called, “Thousand Eyes.” This little video is all about the horrors of animal agriculture.
The horror I saw in that video made me realize I never wanted to contribute to animal suffering again. And if I could live a life that didn’t contribute to the extreme suffering I had just witnessed, why wouldn’t I?
Right there I made the choice to go vegan and I have never looked back.
Since making the switch to a vegan lifestyle, I have made the choice to be an animal rights activist and have learned so much from this experience.
One thing I have discovered is something referred to as the point system. Imagine that at 0 points is your typical meat-eating Canadian, and 100 points is veganism. Little-by-little, people begin to move up the point system by having educational interactions, watching videos and documentaries and looking photos.
My journey to veganism demonstrated this idea well. Through every little experience, from loving animals, to listening to my vegan friends, to seeing the truck full of animals going to the slaughter house to watching videos, I got closer and closer to making the switch. Over time, I went from believing the lies that we need to take another beings life to finally understanding that it’s absolutely unnecessary to eat animals to be healthy.
If you asked me how my life changed after I went vegan, I would tell you that I’ve lived two separate lives. The one when I wasn’t vegan and now being vegan. The non-vegan version of me is off on some distant planet and will never be seen again.
By going vegan, I have regained sensitivity and empathy that I had shielded away through most of my life. I have finally reconnected with the part of me that loves and cares for animals and have aligned my actions with my morals. What a relief!
I’m not going to lie to you by saying that going vegan is easy. Going vegan was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life.
It wasn’t because of the reasons you may expect like not getting enough protein (one of the biggest fallacies people believe about veganism), spending time slaving away in the kitchen over a slab of tofu and kale, not being able to have friend and family dinners, or eat out at restaurants.
Going vegan was difficult because I had to admit to myself that billions of animals were enduring the most incomprehensible amount of suffering for reasons as trivial as taste, convenience, habit and tradition.
I had something to be both proud and ashamed of. I had something to fight for and a reason to fight for it. But at the same time, I was scared. I was scared of what my family and friends and strangers would think of me.
But then I realized that my imaginary demons, and fear of judgement, were no where near what the animals, the forgotten victims of this world, were going through. The animals were afraid, and literally fighting, for their lives. It wasn’t fair.
I started to use social media as a means for spreading the message of living a compassionate vegan lifestyle and to do more I had joined a group called Anonymous For The Voiceless. This is where my activism journey began.
Now that I know the truth about animal agriculture, I am the most annoying and the peachiest vegan because I wish someone would have told me the truth, the whole truth, a lot sooner.
I fight for animals as a way to forgive myself for hurting them my whole life.
If I was in the same position we force animals into, I would hope someone would be out there fighting for me as well.
Wow! What a story!
Thanks Sarah for sharing your “going vegan” story with us. I am sure your story will inspire others to take a good look at where their food is really coming from and find some compassion in their hearts to make the choice to go vegan. The more people we have making the choice, the less suffering for humans and non-human animals there will be.
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Until next time,
Namaste (the soul in me sees the soul in you),
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA
Vegan, Author, Health & Wellness Coach
Read my “From Frog Killer To Compassionate Vegan” story