Petra Sindelarova, Prague, Czech Republic
I grew up as a “normal” child. I used to like other animals just like the people around me. They were cute and fun to play with. During the summer holidays, which I would spend at a cottage with my grandparents, we would be given rabbits, chickens, or geese. I remember getting very close to them; playing all day long with my best friends. When the day came for them to be killed, I was crying, angry, but then I accepted it, and forgot about it with time. I ate what was given to me and did not think much about it.
When I was 13 years old, I accidentally saw a TV programme about factory farming and the slaughter of animals for food. I was horrified. I just could not believe what I saw. All that screaming, blood, fear, violence and the whole machinery of treating animals as if they were products. It broke my heart. I could not understand how we humans could be so cruel. Why had no one ever told me about it? Was it a taboo? I cried the whole night and said to my parents I could not eat meat anymore.
I started to research more about factory farming and the use of animals in general. There was not much literature available back then. I was the only vegetarian I knew. Then I decided I had to improve the welfare of animals, so that at least they could experience less suffering when being used by humans. I went to study at the University of Agriculture in the hope that I could learn more about how to help. What naivety. Instead they were teaching us how to make good profits by using animals.
When I was 27, I did an internship at a farm sanctuary in California which shifted me to another level; from being brainwashed about the necessity of using animals to a clear realisation that other animals are not ours to use at all. The direct contact with rescued animals made me go vegan without a second thought.
My understanding of the exploitation continued to grow. In 2012 my friend and I started a Czech branch of an international movement that aims for freedom for all animals. Now we have thousands of supporters and many great activists who help us do demonstrations and inform the general public.
We are also opening The Farm of Hope; the first farmed animal sanctuary in the Czech Republic. I believe there is hope. I look back and see where I started; watching one short documentary on TV as a small girl, not knowing anyone who would understand. And now I see thousands of devoted activists, hundreds of vegan restaurants and ethical businesses. People are opening their minds. There is a big change going on. And I believe one day I will be telling my grandchildren stories about times when humans used to exploit and eat animals. And they will listen with eyes wide open in amazement.
Special thanks to Butterflies Katz for including this as one of 100+ entries in her short essay contest and the resulting published collection: Why I Will Always be Vegan.