Profile of a new vegan: Chris Vandermeer is a student from Melbourne. He became vegan six months ago. Here is his vegan story.
In some sense I was an easy candidate for veganism: for as long as I can remember I adored animals and was fascinated by nature. As a child, wildlife parks were my go-to source of enjoyment, as were zoos and wildlife documentaries, but my interest was framed in the standard paradigm that some animals were just food while others were worthy of our admiration and protection.
My interest in animals and nature lay dormant as I grew older. I was even taught to hunt at 11 or 12 years old and thoroughly enjoyed it. The fact that something had to die for us to enjoy this activity was justified by the rationale that the animals were pests and therefore what we were doing was necessary and a good thing.
It may be true that the foxes and rabbits were classed as pests, but we were doing no public service. It was killing for pleasure, plain and simple, and I am sad that I let my enjoyment of shooting take priority over the suffering and death I inflicted on such beautiful animals as rabbits and foxes.
The hunting outings ceased when I was 14 when I moved to Sydney and we no longer had any relatives with a farm. By then my circle of compassion was small and only included cats and dogs. I still felt concerned when I heard about species extinction but wasn't stirred to act or educate myself further.
My shift towards a compassionate diet and lifestyle occurred recently, just over a year ago. I began to wake up to the terrible state the world was in, to corporate greed and to environmental destruction and I saw how intelligently the media maintains the status quo, appealing to people's innate biases and the desire for a pre-packaged, simple and naive view of the world.
I watched documentaries such as The Corporation, The Four Horsemen, Blackfish, The Cove, Food Inc. and came across some animal rights websites, most notably of which was www.aussiefarms.org.au.
The love for animals I had felt when much younger came back and with it an intense desire to do something to help the world. Not just with my diet but my entire career and life-plan.
I then chose to go vegetarian with the intent of going vegan once I had adjusted. The appeal of vegetarianism over veganism was mainly that of convenience and not wanting to deal with the questions over why I don't consume dairy and eggs as well as meat. I knew my family, and I knew that the extra step would be seen as radical and nonsensical to them.
I stuck to mainly cooking vegan meals at home but cooking vegetarian some of the time and when eating out, to avoid the questions. Though I had a sense of guilt consuming dairy and eggs, it took until I read about the process of veal farming for the penny to drop.
I realised that the whole system is pointless and inhumane and I went right to veganeasy.org and signed up for the 30 day challenge and looked for ways I could volunteer.
I don't believe being a vegetarian is any better than someone who is vegan 6 days a week and then eats animal products on the remainder. Being vegetarian for a little over a year I still contributed to the exploitation and senseless death of many animals in the dairy and egg industry. I wish I went vegan right from the moment I saw that what I was doing was wrong.
Being vegan is satisfying and my reward centres fire up every time I go grocery shopping and realise I haven't paid for an animal to be killed or exploited. The food I cook is tasty and nutritious and I don't think I've missed my old diet once. The vegan community is a supportive one and I've already had the pleasure of meeting many passionate and intelligent human beings, who make being part of the movement such a joy.
The change is far from complete though. Being vegan is one thing, spreading veganism is another, with much to learn:
What arguments aren't I aware of that I should be in case I get asked? What skills do I need to develop that complement my natural strengths that can also help the animals? Who has a philosophy and plan of action which resonates with me and how can I help them? I keep asking myself these questions as I go about my day and studies, and I know I'm not alone in doing so.
Right now I feel veganism is hardly a sacrifice, it is uplifting and provides such a powerful motivation to live life as best you can. I'm also optimistic about veganism's future: I've already seen too much passion in those involved, passion that you simply can't get by being driven by profit or power.
I look forward to playing my part in this crucial shift in consciousness that the world needs so desperately.