Profile of a new vegan: Freya Ashton is a student from Sydney. She first became vegan during high school. Here is her vegan story.
I have been vegetarian for the past 8 years, and as a 20 year old, this will soon be half my life. I was a vegan first during my time in high school. After some slip ups I fell back into consuming dairy, but now I am proud to announce I have returned to my true diet as a vegan. Since I was a child I knew that it was wrong to eat animals and to consume animal products. My mum raised my siblings and I as Buddhists and vegetarians so becoming a vegan just made sense to me.
In my Buddhist practice, I became aware of the suffering caused by the killing of animals and how all animals and beings are equal and have every right to live on this beautiful Earth in peace. Not locked up. Not taken from their mothers to be used to food, or skinned for someone's shoe.
Since becoming vegan once again, I am now more aware of the impact animal consumption has on our bodies and on our Earth. Mother nature is dying, global warming is almost irreversible. The slaughter of animals and the consumption of dairy products are the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions and the continuation of starvation around the world, among many other issues, although these facts are hidden from the public eye.
I have definitely become more environmental. Only buying cruelty free products. I am more determined to remain healthy and treat my body as a temple. I have seen myself become more compassionate and no longer interested in things such as binge drinking or drug taking. I can feel the positivity in my mind and my body change when I eat more fruit and vegetables, more alive. And my insides feel cleaner. Animals remain in your stomach for four days - that is how long it takes to digest.
When I was in high school and was a proud vegan, my teacher for the English class asked me in front of 25 peers if I had honey in my soy chai lattes. She had seen me drinking this before my class. I thought this was an innocent question. I replied with "Yes, I do have honey in my chai". For the rest of that class, the teacher and my peers interrogated me, questioned me and belittled me about my beliefs. How what I was doing was wrong, how that I as one person was not making an difference in the world. They told me I was not a real vegan because I occasionally had honey in my tea.
This was not the first time I had an argument with my peers about my eating habits. I knew the facts weighed in my favour, but the class and the teacher told me I was wrong and that it was made up propaganda. I never felt so embarrassed in my life. I stopped telling people I was vegan, and eventually went back to being vegetarian. People even questioned me about that.
When I think about this experience now, 2 or 3 years later, I question why these people had said these things. I went to a high school in the Inner-West of Sydney, an area known for its open-mindedness and people exploring and changing their eating habits. People were threatened and offended about my actions.
Now I am a proud vegan and I post statuses, facts and images on Facebook, not caring at all about what people will think or say. Because I know in my heart what I am doing is stopping animals from being killed. Because supply equals demand. One person will make a difference. In grocery stores that is one more BBQ'ed chicken Woolworths will stop supplying. That is another meat ball that Subway won't buy.
Everyone can make a difference, so it's time you did too.