I didn't feel empathy for animals then, I was too busy being petrified of them. I think the fear was passed down from my mother who is deathly afraid of dogs. Even mine. Yes she's scared of this little poppet:
What a lunatic! But don't worry I'm totally helping her get over it by putting Cecil on her lap at every opportunity and saying ''oohhhh look Cecil - Nanny loooves you! Yes she does! She loves his fuzzy wuzzy bum and his button nose! Don't you?! You love him don't you!'' ''Nicola! Get him off me!!'' ''Tell him you love him!'' ''I love you Cecil'' ''Yayyy she's cured!''
But even with my lack of empathy, the nagging feeling was still saying to me ''do you really wanna eat that corpse?? Gross!'' I ignored it, and shoved the thought deeper into the back of mind. Shoved the meat into the back of my greedy gob.
Six years ago, I met the love of my life. Turns out he'd had these pesky little veggie voices in his head too. We promised that when we ate together, we wouldn't mention it to one another and ruin our meaty meals (I know, I'm ashamed of myself). But because we'd said it out loud, it became too real to ignore. There were several times when we were enjoying our favourite dinner of chicken curry at our favourite Indian restaurant when we exchanged knowing glances and wondered, why are we doing this??
By then we'd begun to love animals too, I wasn't the crazy dog lady that I am now, but I was well on my way. We'd start watching David Attenborough documentaries and realised how magnificent animals were. We had our Lord Wallace and we'd loved and lost our two delightful little hammie girls, Pokey and Pamplemousse.
That part when you become vegetarian, where you really allow yourself to fully understand and accept what meat is, fascinates me. In the past whenever I had seen any animal rights campaigns, I would switch off, I didn't want to know, because knowing meant admitting I had been wrong all my life and contributing to horrific cruelty for 23 years. That disconnect, when people 'know' but they don't really know...if only we knew how to break through that barrier.
That evolution of meat eater to vegetarian, it feels like it's happening again. I have been recognising many of the same feelings and thoughts creeping in...
Vegan voice: ''Do you really wanna drink that milk?? Do you know how much suffering has gone into making that little glass? *nag nag nag*''
One of my other voices: ''No! I don't actually, I actively seek out articles and campaigns about animal rights while managing to avoid ones that talk about the dairy industry and I want to keep it that way thankyouverymmuch''
Veggie voice: ''Come on Vegan voice, give her a break, she's a vegetarian, that's way better than most people''
Vegan Voice: ''Ok, well,if you're sure you can live with yourself''
Other Voice: ''FINE!! I'll read your crappy articles on dairy and eggs, happy now?!''
*reads articles* *goes to buy some soya milk*
So here I am, drinking my soya milk banana shake, becoming vegan, and feeling pretty darn pleased with myself. And completely free.