In December of 2015, on a very sunny spring day, I arrived at this hidden valley in the far north of New Zealand.
My first week in Gentle World passed by so quickly, as I helped with weeding, cooking, cleaning, renovating a caravan, and preparing amazing, soulful veganic dinners every night.
After my first week, I visited town and I went to the beach with some non-vegan friends. On our way home from a hot sunny day tanning on the beach, a nice cold ice cream seemed irresistible to my eyes. I had a cup of caramel ice cream, which is my favorite, but for some reason it didn’t taste as good as I thought it would. I felt like it was only my taste buds that enjoyed it. That night, I called up one of my friends from Gentle World and talked about my ice cream experience and that was the very moment that I became vegan for ethical reasons.
I did not know that drinking milk supports sexual violation, killing baby animals, and the suffering of pregnant cows. Part of me wanted to believe that milk does not cause any killing and suffering because, well… I was one of those vegetarians who said I couldn’t be vegan because I couldn’t give up cheese, until I learned that animal abuse goes far beyond eating meat or even eating dairy, but includes all animal products and businesses.
I became pescatarian four years ago when I had to watch a video at work. Improving the image of American beef and pork in the Japanese market was one of the tasks I was given at my very first job after college, at a PR agency in Tokyo. I saw a video of an American farmer who was enjoying savagely abusing pigs, and beating them to death. I was shocked and horrified to witness how heartless humans can be behind closed doors. It did not take long for me to make the connection between what was on my plate and the suffering, torture, and murder of innocent beings. These beings do not have the ability to speak in human language, nor the power to defend themselves. I came to realize that consuming animal products means supporting the exploitation, slavery, and murder of billions of animals.
The more I got to know the truth about animal farming, the more I started to feel strange when I had meat on my plate. I began to wonder where the animal was born and how they spent their lives and how brutally they were treated. Still, I kept spending eight hours of my day working hard to sell more American beef and pork in the Japanese market. The harder I worked, the more animal suffering I caused. I felt completely hopeless, because in Japan, your first job is very important for your career path and I happened to choose the wrong place. One of the managers told me that Japanese consumers do not like to think about what actually happens at these farms because it makes them lose their appetite. They just like to see nice and clean packaged meat at the supermarket. When they see beef, pork or chicken on their plate, they only see it as food, not as cooked dead bodies.
It took me about four years to realize that being a vegan and eating a plant-based diet are two completely different things. For me, being a vegan means to see all animals equally, and to make my existence the least harmful for this earth. Once you say no to causing any sort of animal suffering, your decisions will be much easier. Once your eyes are opened and you become a vegan, you can instantly see animal products are not for humans.
Just because animals cannot speak our languages, that does not mean they do not feel the same way as we do. The animals we eat know exactly what happens to them. Can you imagine what goes through an animal’s mind when their families and friends are screaming and being slaughtered right in front of them while waiting for their turn? There is so much anguish, fear, and pain when you consume/use animal products, and this energy becomes a part of you.
My goal is to establish an educational center, or a sustainable permaculture veganic farm, or an animal sanctuary in Okinawa, Japan. Veganism in Japan is slowly but surely developing. There are many vegan restaurants in Japan, especially in Tokyo. Traditional Japanese cuisines were originally vegan food, consisting of brown rice, miso soup with tofu and seaweed, seasonal veggies, and pickles. However, sadly, the current population of vegans in Japan is still very low and many Japanese people still have never heard of the word “Vegan.”
Everything changes after you become vegan, saying no to being the cause of suffering, whether it be toward humans, dogs, dolphins, fish, cows, pigs, or chickens… With every action you take, you are more conscious of others. I love myself more than ever now that I am evolving every day to be a more gentle, free, caring, conscious, loving human being.
This is my choice for the rest of my life, and I am purely thankful to Gentle World for opening my eyes and giving me a light to a new path.
by Mimi Yoshiyama