While building the new ‘compassionate living’ section of our website, I started to think about how the respect I had for animals in childhood evolved into the adoption of a fully vegan lifestyle in later years.

Stray cat in the rain.

When I was young, like most children, I naturally showed empathy and kindness towards animals. Between taking home the odd stray cat, dog, or occasional mouse, and speaking out against the use of rodents in science classes at school, I always felt the need to protect them.

The compassion I had for those creatures back then stayed with me, but like most people around me at that time, animal products were a big part of my diet, and where the meat on my plate, or the milk in my breakfast cereal came from was never spoken about. At some point of my life, I did realise that a lot of the food I ate came from an animal who had been farmed and slaughtered, but it was easier to live in denial than to accept the horrific reality.

Advocates for Animals stall in the 1990s.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and animal protection organisation Advocates for Animals regularly had stalls out in the city I lived in. By this time, I had learned a lot about the horrors that animals are faced with; fox hunting, the fur trade, vivisection, bull fighting etc., and I did care, but didn’t really have the courage that I believed was needed, to become involved with the ‘animal rights’ movement and to face up to all those horrors. At that time, I was unaware of the support that exists among animal activists.

Front cover of Advocates for Animals

Eventually I did pick up one of Advocates for Animals leaflets, and it turned out to be a copy of an ‘Annual Pictorial Review’, inside which there was a feature on the treatment of animals in livestock auction markets in the UK. By the time I finished reading those pages, I had decided that I didn’t want to contribute to that cruelty anymore, and decided there and then I would become vegetarian. It didn’t happen overnight, at that time of my life I was surrounded by family and friends who were meat eaters, restaurants and cafés offered very little in the way of vegetarian food and products from veggie companies like Quorn and Linda McCartney weren’t widely available. But bit by bit, I eliminated certain animal products from my diet and a few months later became vegetarian.

At that point I didn’t consider veganism; I had met one or two vegans and admired their commitment to a diet totally free from animal ingredients, but I felt I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about nutrition to make that commitment myself. For instance, where would I get my much-needed calcium intake without dairy products? At that time, I also didn’t realise just how much cruelty was involved in the production of milk, cheese, and eggs – that information didn’t reach the general public as easily as it does today.

Calf in veal crate in Europe in 1990s.


Through time though, I picked up literature from various animal protection organisations and I did begin to learn more about how cruel the dairy and egg industries were; cows being put through multiple pregnancies, losing their calves to the veal industry, (as happened at the time), male chicks that are useless to the egg industry being killed at birth - all for products that we can live a healthy life without.

But the turning point for me was when I took a job in the Advocates for Animals office; I met the nicest bunch of animal-loving people you could meet. Most of the team were vegan, or vegetarians who were on the road to making that commitment. They were all healthy, happy, and very positive about veganism. Every day in the office there would be conversations about a delicious vegan meal, or how a certain shop had started to sell a certain vegan product, recipes were shared, and whenever a staff member had a birthday, we all sat down to tea and vegan cake.

The cruelty of the food industry was often spoken about, but generally there was a positive attitude towards giving up all animal products. I had more than enough incentive to make that commitment myself!

Nowadays, it is so easy to adopt, and stick with, a diet free from animal ingredients. There are lots of delicious, healthy vegan options in supermarkets, a whole range of animal-free alternatives to cheese and eggs are widely available. Cafes and restaurants routinely supply non-dairy milk and cater, or adapt dishes, for vegans, while there is an ever-growing amount of totally vegan eateries all over the world.

Two females modelling tshirts from the VeganHappy clothing company.

Being vegan means more than adopting an animal-free diet though. We also choose to actively avoid animal cruelty in other ways: clothing, cosmetics, household products etc, can all contain animal-derived ingredients and materials, and cruel animal testing is still carried out for ingredients in cosmetics and household products. Lots of animal-free alternatives are available nowadays but it can still be tricky at times to source that particular cruelty-free product you’re looking for. Our compassionate living section gives lots of helpful information for sourcing cosmetics, household products, fashion and more. We provide links to other websites with delicious vegan recipes and more in-depth advice on nutrition. Check it out, spread the word, and if there’s anything you’d like to share with us, please do so in the comments section below.