How I went from one (dreaded) vegan day a week to being fully committed to respecting the lives of sentient beings

Everyday Vegans
A series in which ordinary people talk about living a plant-based life


Having been a committed vegetarian, Talya Lewis went back to eating meat when she was pregnant – but it was through the inspiration of one of her daughters that she ultimately ended up a vegan

Talya LewisThere is an uncanny human phenomenon of promoting the rampant suffering of other sentient beings. Our species considers itself worthier than all the others with widespread abuse not only justified but condoned by the majority of people, and no consideration for the physical and emotional pain of the animals, whom they regard as insignificant.

I entered my teen years before the existence of drones that would catch footage of barbaric animal mistreatment and before the internet where the horrors could be shared for the world to see. It was in that world that I became a vegetarian.

I flitted between strict adherence and lapses into succumbing to the smells that wafted from my mother’s kitchen, settling on my olfactory receptors, then targeting my salivary glands, sparking cravings in to which I would cave. It was in this cycle that I was firmly entrenched until my early twenties when I joined the Anti-Vivisection Society, participated in demonstrations from the 1986 Fur Expo in Madison Square Garden, New York, to Milan, Italy, protesting against animal experimentation, and became exposed to some of the truths that were stealthily camouflaged from public view.

Through my twenties and thirties I remained a devout vegetarian, still blind, however, to the depths of the ruthless and sadistic means to which man could go. I was embedded in the illusion that the meat industry was brutal, but that the dairy industry looked like the cows on the milk cartons and the egg industry housed happy hens clucking about as they joyfully relinquished their offspring by the dozen. I thought I knew it all. I knew nothing.

Time passed; I married and had children. Pregnant for the third time, I experienced cravings I had not encountered in more than 20 years. My hormone-ravaged body screamed out daily words I never thought I would hear my mind utter, “Meat, give me meat!” I resisted and resisted and resisted… until I succumbed.

With shame and guilt as my constant companions, I found my way back to cheeseburgers, steaks, sausages and bacon, of course. The smells that travelled to my nose from my mother’s kitchen now found themselves travelling through my own home to the noses of my two young vegetarian daughters. My four-year-old succumbed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Navigating a world while raising your kids as vegetarian was frustrating. Nannies in the park wanted to give them pieces of salami and hot dogs. Moms, while in charge of my children on play dates, wanted to take them to McDonald’s where they could rejoice in succulent juices of the dead animals that were neatly chopped and placed between two buns before being topped with cheese, mustard and ketchup.

But the worst came from family, where the expectation of respecting my choices should have been granted without fear of betrayal.

My husband and I were at his company Christmas party, entrusting the care of our veggie kids to my parents, sister and brother-in-law. My then youngest child (my third was yet to come) was just shy of two years old. The family was scarfing down steak while my oldest, then four, was eating whatever non-meat items were available.

My almost two-year-old, as the story goes, was toddling about when she approached my brother-in-law pointing to her mouth. Naturally his assumption (remember what happens when we ass-u-me) Continue reading →