I grew up on a small subsistence farm. Killing animals for food was part of it. My dad was a hunter. I used to go out with him ever since I was a little boy. Luckily he was a bad hunter, we would more often come back with water cress picked at a pristine stream than any feathered or furry thing. I remember my dad teaching me how to use the shotgun. I must have been 8 or 9. We killed this little sparrow. I remember picking up the small lifeless body. Its beak and brains blown off. The remains consisted of an empty half skull attached to a body of mangled feathers, which felt so soft to the touch...
I didn't like seeing animals killed for food either. I remember closing my eyes while holding the pig or chicken, or skinning the rabbit alive (because "it's tastier that way"). The excruciating human like scream of the pigs, as the 10 inch knife pierced through their throats to their hearts and left to bleed and drown in their own blood, was particularly hard to bear. I was repeatedly told, this is what we need to do to survive. I believed that. Furthermore my family is religious so it was the accepted "natural order". The animals, hell the whole Universe exists for human enjoyment and exploitation. And the animals sacrificed their lives so we could live. It was hard to accept but I conceded that it was a necessity.
In late teens religion stopped making sense to me and I've been agnostic since. Fast forward to mid twenties when I met the first vegetarians. They seemed strange people at first and I was convinced they were living an unhealthy lifestyle since I was repeatedly told that I needed meat to be healthy. I never actually gave them any credit or tried to understand their arguments with a truly open mind (but if you asked me if I considered myself to be an open minded person, I'd have said yes without hesitation).
Fast forward a few more years and I started dating a vegetarian. I was exposed to the reality that a healthy (and tasty) meatless diet is possible. So I became vegetarian also while still believing that some animal products were essential to the human body. Fish for omegas, eggs for protein, milk for calcium. These are the lies that get imprinted into us by society and even formal education.
Fast forward a few more years and I'm now dating a vegan and once more she has shattered the myths I was carrying around. Omegas can be obtained from certain seeds such as flax, protein is available in all sorts of vegetables (heck, the biggest land mammals are herbivores!) - most abundantly in legumes - and calcium is better absorbed from dark green vegetables, such as kales and broccoli alongside a complex healthy cocktail of vitamins, minerals and disease fighting anti-oxidants non existent in animal based foods. After learning that a healthy body was possible without harming anyone (Yes, I mean anyone. Ever noticed how the English language uses s/he for people and it for animals? Human supremacy or anthropocentrism is embedded in our very language.) there was no going back. It seemed obvious to me that a vegan diet is a win win situation. It puzzles me that more people can't see this and that a discussion about eating animals is usually received with defensiveness and often aggressively.
Along the years I have also done quite a bit of research and watched a few compelling documentaries and talks. Eathlings, Vegucated, Forks over Knives, Speciesism, Live and Let Live: to name a few. One thing to bear in mind is that animal foods are addictive. For example, casein is a protein in cheese known to be addictive. So cravings are natural when replacing animal foods. However the will to not harm another creature ever again is way more powerful than any flavour that has ever crossed my tongue. With the availability of an extensive online resource of nutrition info & tools, recipes, suggestions and ideas, it has never been easier to live a cruelty free lifestyle where diet is just the first step. Clothing is an important second.