It was a Friday in March, 2013. I had spent much of the last few months with my gaze pointing inward, my mind acutely focused on my own inner growth. In December I had had some heart-wrenching, life-changing news, a loss that still aches a little even to this day. I had distanced myself from a lot of what I thought I knew, it was the period I now see as the time I woke up.
When I was young I recall a summer when I tried to go vegetarian. My family found it comical, as I was one of the big meat-eaters in my family. A lover of a good barbecue, it was quite obvious that I would not succeed in this endeavour, and of course I didn't. The reason for my attempt at vegetarianism was simply because I could not understand the lack of disconnect I had with meat. I so wanted my brain to compute that this rasher of bacon was in fact an animal and that I should be disgusted by it; but in all truth, at that time the deep unease of consuming animals hadn't yet clicked with me.
On that Friday morning in March my friend had tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was a video of a pig, a short clip of an animal in desperate need and dire pain. I watched it as tears started rolling down my cheeks. I clicked on the link that led me to a site, I don't recall what site it was but I will never forget the video I watched that morning. It was real footage from the meat and dairy industry, not some extreme case or footage taken from an illegal factory, but the normal practise that happens to animals daily so we can eat them and steal their milk. I was sobbing, completely disgusted by human beings, but honestly more disgusted by the system that allowed me to believe that eating animals was normal.
I went vegetarian instantly. Unable to see meat as anything but what it is, the flesh of a dead animal. I quickly became so aware of the absurdity that surrounded me. I remember being in Cornwall at a National Trust house, in the grounds there was a pen filled with a mother pig and her piglets, there was a crowd of people watching them with happiness as the little piglets oinked and followed their mother wherever she went. Right next to the pen was a big sign saying 'BBQ THIS WAY'. It was absurd. To watch grown human beings showing their kids the cute animals, only to walk into the next field and eat them with ketchup in a bap.
Fast forward a year. It was summer and I didn't want to leave the house. Not because it was too hot, or because I had no where to go, but because I was an insecure 20 year old with really bad acne. It had come on quite slowly but grown progressively worse as the summer wore on. My face was a deep red, filled with large spots that hurt to touch. I went to a doctor who prescribed me a topical medicine. To be totally honest, I have never really trusted western doctors and have always attempted to find alternative therapies. My body was born in nature and nature has a way of healing many of my ills if I re-align myself with her. All treatments prescribed by a western doctor made my skin worse, it was very painful and I felt disgusting; like my skin told a story of my inner health, of a girl who had not been looking after herself. I know there are so many reasons for someone to get acne, not all can be understood or treated, but I also wondered how my skin had gone from naturally clear and healthy to suddenly filled with acne.
When I went vegetarian much of my diet switched from meat to dairy. I would eat salads with goats cheese, pasta with feta, brie on bread for lunch. I didn't realise how much dairy I was actually consuming until my acne flared up. Since going veggie I had been researching veganism a lot, idolising those who could take the big step to go fully vegan (in a time when being vegan was still pretty weird). After the treatments from doctor's didn't help, I took matters in to my own hands. I am blessed to have a supportive mum who loves to experiment with natural remedies. Together we made our own face cleanser and wash and I decided to cut out all dairy to see if it helped.
Over the next few months my skin radically changed. In short, my acne disappeared and I re-gained my confidence. For me, my acne ordeal was not why I went vegan, it was simply the push I needed to take that step, even when I knew I would be treated differently and I would have to stick up for my food choices often. My skin has now been naturally clear for the last four years of being vegan and I haven't had another acne break out since.
Thankfully veganism is seen as pretty cool these days. It's weird to not see a vegan option on a menu anywhere in London, or for a non-vegan place to have a whole vegan menu. I am excited and amazed every day by the rapid pace of growth this amazing way of life has had over the last few years, it is true testament to the consciousness that is growing in us. We don't want to hurt other beings, we cannot live with the injustice of stealing resources that are not ours to take. We may still have a way to go but I am proud to be vegan, and so thankful for my beautiful friend who helped me wake up all those years ago.