First of all, I want anyone reading this to please be encouraged. You are here reading this now, and somehow a seed was planted by someone or something you read about or saw. I don't believe in coincidences in life. It's your time, and if you should choose to go vegan you will never regret it! Slowly or quickly, just keep moving towards it. It is one hell of a fantastic leap and I'll say one of the very best decisions I ever made.
I grew up in a small midwestern town in Wisconsin with a population of about 33,000. Being in the dairy state, it was a given to always have milk, eggs, ice cream, yogurt, and of course lots of cheese in the refrigerator and on the table. Pretty much every meal had some kind of meat or animal product in it except for some of our breakfast cereals. With five kids in our household, it was understood that you eat whatever was put down in front of you, and we did. Every large family gathering with all my relatives was usually centered around large tables of food awash in animal products. It didn't ever once register that there was anything wrong with this or that there was a different way. It just was what it was. Nothing more, nothing less.
We always had dogs growing up and our family loved them.
I became interested in an array of topics when I went away to college at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. It was a big city compared to where I grew up, and I latched on to new ideas and people quickly, testing the waters. I was really big into everything leather back then and bought everything from leather jackets to bracelets to shoes. I was so disconnected that I even attended my first animal rights group at the university dressed in a leather biking jacket!
I went on to study and get my bachelor's in criminal justice and after graduation moved to Atlanta, Georgia where I became a police officer with the Atlanta Police Department. Once I graduated from the academy, I was out on the streets putting bad guys and girls behind bars, but something curious seemed to be happening. I started seeking out, investigating, and then arresting people for cruelty to animals. The city was rampant with animal abuse and neglect, and I gained the reputation over my 21 years there as the cop to go to with any animal abuse case. I took on hundreds of them over the years. I saw so much suffering in both the animals and the people. It may sound unbelievable, but for my first seven years on the department, nothing changed much in my diet. I still hadn't made the connection.
In 2002 I stopped eating red meat. I think I was starting to move more so in the direction of vegetarianism. In 2003 I was at my sister's wedding post-party, and I was eating a couple brats (unfortunately a Wisconsin staple) and my dad said to me, "I thought you were giving up meat?" Something clicked in me, and I thought yes! I had been talking about it but hadn't yet done it. That was my last brat. Shortly after that, my brother-in-law suggested to me that if I wanted to stop eating meat I should read the book, "Slaughterhouse" by Gail Eisnitz. It wasn't until April of 2004 that I came across that very book in a book store in Atlanta, briefly thumbed through it, saw some horrific pictures, and made the full decision to quit eating all meat. I did that very day. But even then I still didn't give up fish until 2008. I took the long route, obviously.
I had zero intention for several years of becoming a vegan. I had it in my head that being vegan was way too strict, limiting, and extreme. After all, I loved my strawberry, Neapolitan, birthday cake, mint chocolate, caramel ice cream every single night. I loved big blocks of sharp cheddar cheese and a Sunday brunch omelet filled with everything. I loved yogurt and chocolate milk. I, I, I, I, I, I, etcetera and ad nauseam. It was all about my own palate and pleasure at that time. But, the train of consciousness wasn't going to stop, and I felt myself moving painfully slowly towards making the leap into going vegan. I finally made the leap in 2016, one day after Atlanta's annual Veg Fest.
Excuse my French, but WTF? I desperately wish I would have been one of those raised vegan from birth or one who went vegan overnight. But I wasn't. Mine was a very long journey, and I hurt many more animals than I ever should have, but I can't beat myself up for that now. I did it, and I'll never, ever go back. I personally went vegan only for the animals. The health and environment parts are of course a bonus. I shorted myself and the animals not making that leap sooner because I now know that my diet is 100 times more delicious and varied than it ever was before. I don't miss meat or animal products in the least. There are literally tons of meat and dairy alternatives out there. There are millions of recipes using affordable ingredients and interesting spices. Most restaurants have vegan options.
Being vegan for me has opened up an entire world of empathy, light and consciousness that still takes me by surprise. I am evolving into the being that I always wanted to be. I am here right now on this earth to fulfill so many purposes and being vegan has given me clarity with that. I retired from the Atlanta Police Department in 2019. I am now an animal activist, and my values now align with my soul. Who could ask for more in a lifetime?