I was a vegetarian for 12 years, and although I wasn’t eating meat, I was still consuming dairy and eggs. I didn’t drink glasses of milk or eat omelets, but I did enjoy baked goods that were made with eggs and pizza and pasta dishes with cheese, and I loved dairy ice cream. I somehow rationalized to myself that because I wasn’t eating the actual animal, I wasn’t playing a role in the animal’s suffering or being killed. And I guess I thought “hens lay eggs regardless” and “cows give milk regardless, so what/who does it hurt for me to eat those products?” At the time, I didn’t realize how cruel and abusive the dairy and egg industries really are; so I continued to consume those products, all the while, thinking I was helping animals.
It wasn’t until I was accepted for an internship at a farm animal sanctuary that I came full circle and embraced veganism (this includes diet, clothing, entertainment, etc.). I was ecstatic to be working with an organization that advocates for farmed animals and gives them a safe place to live out their lives. What a dream! Though I must admit, I was a little nervous about eating vegan during my stay and I wasn’t completely sure what to think. How could I ever give up cheese?! But I saw it as a challenge and if anything, I figured I would give it a try.
I spent a lot of time hanging out with the hens and the cows, learning their individual personalities. The hens liked to be petted and they made purring sounds when content. One of the hens would curl up on my lap and fall asleep while I stroked her feathers. The cows were gentle giants who loved chin scratches and to give kisses. I even got to bottle feed a newly rescued calf! To see such happiness in these animals’ eyes, it was hard to believe they all had such dark pasts.
I learned that hens have their sensitive beaks and toes cut off mutilated without anesthesia and the conditions they are forced to live in are beyond atrocious…and once they can’t lay any more eggs, they are killed for soup and other cheap, processed products. I also learned that cows are repeatedly raped – kept in a constant state of pregnancy in order to produce milk – only to have their newborn calves instantly torn away from them and their milk stolen.
Spending time with hens who had been rescued from hatcheries and cows who were freed from the chains of the dairy industry, instantly changed my perspective, and my participation, in these exploitative and violent industries. The experience not only opened my eyes but my heart. Looking back, three years vegan – the only regret I have is not going vegan sooner. I can’t believe I was so silly to think it would be difficult to eat vegan; when in reality, the possibilities of plant-based foods are endless! I don’t miss dairy or eggs one bit, and my heart has never felt lighter! I’ve never been happier, knowing I’m no longer contributing to the suffering and death of billions of animals.
To learn more about the harsh truth of the dairy and egg industries, please click here. For more information on adopting a vegan diet (and lifestyle), please visit LiveVegan.org and be sure to join in the conversation on our Live Vegan Community page.
Maggie Funkhouser is the Communications Manager for FARM. She has a Bachelor of Science in Geoenvironmental Studies with a Minor in Biology from Shippensburg University. She shares her home with her husband and their 5 rescued cats and 2 rescued dogs.