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My Way Home

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Anke Hagen, Hanover, North Germany

I grew up in South Africa and experienced a number of transformative, life-changing events at an early receptive age, like trying to bargain with a female witch doctor who worked for my parents when she wanted to slaughter some chickens in our garden, whom she had “procured” for her magic. The chickens were afraid and one of them had escaped onto the roof of a tool shed in the back garden. I offered my blood instead and even slit my forearm dramatically to convince her that I could provide an adequate substitute on the spot, but she wasn’t interested because the blood had to be from a chicken.

This culminated in an immediate decision to give up eating body parts when I witnessed the slaughter of a lamb that had been happily prancing around across the road from my father’s factory. The workers grabbed him, took him to the factory premises and slaughtered him on the concrete floor of the factory compound, directly in front of me. From one moment to the next this poor creature’s abdominal contents were being removed, and then I smelled his flesh being barbecued. The transition from life, vitality, to this familiar smell was horrifically fast! It was surreal and I was sickened to the core!

I became a vegetarian on the spot and was severely traumatized, despite my mother’s protests that she wasn’t going to allow me to “mess up the order in her kitchen.” I was 14. Ironically, my father had given me a toy lamb when I was a young child that looked quite similar to the lamb that had just been slaughtered on his factory premises. That seems quite symbolic in retrospect.

It was only when I saw all the postings on Facebook that explained why it was hypocritical to continue to consume animal products and ethically necessary to go vegan that I was forced to grapple with the gaps in my logic. I realized that—ethically speaking—I had been lulled into a sense of complacency about the amount I had been doing as a vegetarian all those years, and that it was now time to wake up completely!

I went vegan in 2013 and it was one of the very best decisions I have made in my life! It was also extremely easy and I literally feel like the person in the film The Matrix who was offered the choice of the blue or red pill: totally transformed in a way that even living as a vegetarian cannot achieve! It goes without saying that I will never reconsider my decision. I finally feel as though I have found my way “home.”

Special thanks to Butterflies Katz for publishing this as one of 125 entries in her short essay contest and book: Why I Will Always be Vegan.

Image courtesy of Peter Haken at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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