I had been semi-vegetarian for years, always for *health* reasons, always fell right off the wagon. In December 2008, one of my beloved Rhodesian Ridgebacks became seriously ill. Two days later we had him put to sleep, he’d suffered major organ failure and the vets told us their efforts had failed. Knowing if we took him home from the animal hospital, death would be slow and very painful, we made the heartbreaking choice to have him put to sleep, as peacefully as possible, surrounded by my family and the ones who loved him the most. The first vet we had seen earlier that first day had suggested we leave our furchild overnight at the clinic. Unattended. She had told us he was seriously ill, that he needed to go to the animal hospital, but we could elect to leave him there. Stunned and incensed by her suggestion to leave him, overnight, no attendants on duty, in a cage, knowing he was very sick, we immediately transported him to the animal hospital, where we knew he would be attended around the clock. Little did we know the extent of his health at that moment, or that the next day we would be saying our goodbyes. We still mourn his passing. He was followed less than a year later by our other Rhodesian Ridgeback. My house doesn’t bark anymore. Their ashes sit on my mantle still.

Bothered by what I saw as lack of true compassion in the vets we encountered, I happened to look for books on animals. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but was certain that surely there was something out there I could use in the future when dealing with vets. That’s when I found Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn. I had no idea at the time how this book would change my life.

I read it from cover to cover, marked pages, took notes, looked up websites. I vowed in January 2009 I would never eat another animal. If I loved my animal companions the way I did, how could I see another animal as anything other than magnificent. I shared my findings with my youngest son. He became vegetarian, as well. I read more, coming upon John Robbins’ books, devouring them like I once did animal flesh. In March, my daughter was diagnosed with PCOS. Research into that condition showed us that dairy adversely affects patients with PCOS. My daughter had not become vegetarian with my son and me, but she decided she would avoid dairy, so might as well avoid eggs, as well, and become vegan. My son and I had been bouncing around the idea ourselves, and now decided this was the time. The three of us became vegan, and have been since.

My husband and oldest son remain meat-eaters. Since I only cook vegan, they eat the meals I make, but eat meat when eating out, or bring it home. We have two refrigerators – one is solely vegan. I suspect my oldest son will eventually become vegetarian. I am hoping my husband will, but it is a decision that can’t be made for you. You have to come to it on your own.

Surprisingly, despite having never been successful at being vegetarian when I did it for health reasons, once making the choice to become vegan and do it out of love for animals, I have never been even slightly tempted to cheat. The very thought of meat makes me sick – both at heart and physically. I cannot understand how someone can be confronted with animal cruelty, can say they love animals, and yet choose to disconnect in such a way to allow them to eat meat guiltlessly. You cannot call yourself an animal lover unless you are a vegan. Plain and simple.

I created a blog where I share vegan recipes that I have made for my family. I have had a number of friends that have become vegetarian or vegan after reading my recipes, or trying one of my dishes. Little by little, we can change the world.

You can follow Kerry by reading her beautiful blog: The Zen Vegan