Lyra Alves, Belgium (Brazilian living in Belgium for 15 years)
I was brought up in a very carnivorous environment in Brazil. My father strictly made sure my brother and I ate all kinds of foods. I remember my brother crying, looking at his food on the table, saying that the chicken on his plate was his friend and now she was dead. He was forced to eat her anyway. At a certain age, I had learned to enjoy animal foods and ate lots of dead barbecued bodies. They told me we humans needed meat to survive and be healthy. I was also told at school, that if we did not eat animals they would take over the entire planet. By eating them I was in fact helping to restore the natural balance.
I was 16 when I met an amazing and independent woman who told me she had quit eating meat and felt so much better. Her thoughts were clearer, her emotions more stable, and she felt more energetic than ever. I was always very interested in mind-improving things so I decided to give it a try to see if I could understand what she meant. Call it being impressionable, but at 16 we are indeed trying out various paths in life. So I tried not eating meat for a month and I can’t explain what happened but I just could never go back to eating any dead corpse. My view of the world had totally changed, even though I could not say why exactly.
A year later I went to a lecture by a spiritual philosopher who gave inspiring talks. He would speak about things I had never heard anywhere else, but somehow they totally made sense to me. One of his ideas was that if humans were the most evolved beings on the planet, it was our responsibility to engage in higher ethical behaviors. That would include compassion and respect for all living creatures. He talked about the absurdity of taking the lives of sentient beings and torturing them for their products, when we do not even need them. I realized how barbaric my entire education had been; both at home and at school. Since then I see animals no longer as products, but as co-earthlings. I’ve been vegan for 25 years. Once we open our minds and hearts to this reality, there is just no going back.