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When I was 12, River Phoenix died. Most people who were born in the 90s probably know his brother Joaquín better. In some articles that were published in teen magazines, it was mentioned that he was a vegetarian (actually, he was a vegan). I read about the reasons for this and decided that I would stop eating animals as well. I was successful for a few months, but then my mother got worried and told me that until I was an adult I would have to eat what she told me to. At the time, vegetarianism was a bit of a radical idea, so I assume that my mother was told by somebody that it's dangerous to be vegetarian and that I wouldn't get enough nutrients. I was disappointed, but I didn't have the energy to start a big fight about this.
About two years later, I got really into healthy food. Yes, during a time when other teenagers enjoy burgers, etc. I made my own oatmeal and fruit breakfasts. I started learning about different spices and herbs and cooked up all kinds of foods that I heard about.
When I turned 18, the desire to go vegetarian wasn't very strong anymore, but by then the whole idea of eating healthy had become quite influential in my life. I decided to cut out red meat as I assumed it was the most unhealthy meat. After a few months, I thought to myself I might as well only eat fish. I wanted to give myself the option to not be fully vegetarian. However, I soon realized I wasn't eating all that much fish in the first place and decided to cut it out as well. I think that I was vegetarian by 19.
Veganism, however, was never an option to me. A girl I went to high school with was a vegan, feminist, communist, and while I really admired her intellect and activism, I found veganism to be "extreme." I didn't take the time to ask her about it or to research why people went vegan.
After about a decade of being vegetarian, I read that the egg industry kills male chicks because they serve no purpose. I immediately cut out eggs as I had never liked them much in the first place and knew they were not exactly healthy either. Then the term "lactose intolerance" became more and more common. When I saw studies about how many people in the world are lactose intolerant I started to question if dairy was really meant to be consumed by humans. I gave up dairy for a bit to see if I would feel any different but wasn't able to continue as I craved milk and cheese too much. I was so crazy about both that I consumed them pretty much several times a day.
When I moved to Greece two years ago, I started eating eggs again, because I found it much more difficult to be vegetarian here than in Germany. On the other hand, as the cheese here is not very good and there is absolutely no access to good French, Italian, or Spanish cheeses, I had to cut down on cheese.
Even though I had moved across from the only vegan grocery store in Greece, I never went in because I somehow felt uncomfortable. After about one and a half years of me living in Greece, my boyfriend and I simply went because I wanted to see what they had in stock. Up until then, I had gone to an organic store once or twice to buy tofu, because unlike in Germany, here in Greece regular supermarkets don't sell tofu or similar products. From the first time I walked into that store, it took about two or three months for me to finally go vegan. One time we were there we met a couple from Germany who told us about the documentary "Cowspiracy" which really did it for me. Even though I had already watched "Earthlings," "Cowspiracy" was on a different level. "Cowspiracy" is about the impact animal agriculture has on the environment. And when I found out in detail, how much torture is going on in the dairy industry it was done for me.
I like to think that I was somehow just ready to become vegan at that specific point in my life. It took a long time, but there was nothing difficult about it. At that specific point, it just felt right, and it was extremely easy despite being in Greece which is generally not a vegan-friendly country. It seems that before I had just not been ready, which made it too difficult for me. Once I was ready to give up dairy products, I transitioned into veganism very smoothly.
Many people say they regret not having gone vegan sooner, but I believe the fact that it took me so long makes it easier for me to deal with people that are not vegan.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.
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