I believe that we are all born vegan except that somehow throughout life, especially in the first stages of our development and when growing up as children, our love and compassion for other living beings gets indoctrinated and conditioned out of us. We are conditioned to eat meat and taught to forget our love and our compassion for animals.
I was born in Kenya out in the bush, in the savannah where we lived and still live, to some extent today, just like we lived in the olden days. We live out in the rural villages with no television, no electricity, and no running water. Most of us in these villages are in fact vegans or vegetarians because meat is considered to be a luxury item that is "meant" to be eaten by the rich class or by those who can afford it. In many places in Africa meat is only given to men. The women and children eat a vegan or vegetarian diet. Not all villages in Kenya or in Africa are like this but in my village women and children still don't have much of a say in society and are not considered to be as important as men, so the men eat the meat and the women and children eat a vegan or vegetarian diet.
I remember as a child growing up in my village we had both a farm and a garden. In our farm we had cows, chickens, goats, and sheep, but we rarely ate them. Instead, we had them for milk or we raised them to be sold for profit to other villages and to other people. An animal was killed and slaughtered to be eaten perhaps once a month to celebrate a wedding or when a major event was happening, or as is custom in Kenya, a chicken would be given to a new guest who arrived at our village for a visit. Automatically he or she would be given a chicken that would then be slaughtered for dinner. The chicken after having been slaughtered would then be given to the men to eat and the left overs would be given to the women. If there was anything left over, the children would then get small pieces to taste.
I still remember as child running up to my uncle's table where all the men sat and I would beg him for a piece of chicken or for a piece of the goat they had slaughtered. I was mischievous and adventurous and always wanted to get a taste of what the older people were eating. I would run up to him with my empty open hand and he would always give me a small piece then tell me to run back to where the other children were sitting. I felt special because I always got a small piece of what the men were eating. The other children had to eat vegetable soups and rice. It felt like a special treat and seemed enchanting to get just even a small piece to taste.
In our village we also had our own garden where we grew everything ourselves from maize corn to cashew nuts, avocados, oranges, mangoes, tomatoes, paprika, and cabbage. We would go down to the garden regularly and pick our food. We ate all sorts of vegan and vegetarian foods like vegetable soups and salads and beans and foods and dishes that the women usually made up daily depending on what vegetables they had to cook with. The only time we ever spent money was usually on sugar, or rice and cooking oil. Otherwise we had everything we needed on our farm and in our garden. We were a self-sustaining community and had everything we needed. We were all assigned different roles in our small community. The girls took care of the garden, the women did the cooking, and the boys took care of the animals. In those days we still had our child born with love and compassion for the animals around us. We played with the goats; we teased the chickens and always tried to ride on the backs of the cows.
I still remember how the children were always afraid of the butcher. He would come from the other village when it was time to slaughter a cow, a goat, or a chicken for a feast, for a party or for special occasions. We didn't like him very much. He didn't seem as though he was a nice man. There was something odd and awfully fake and strange about him. There was something that didn't seem right about him. Whenever he came, it was like looking at a man smiling at you but knowing that there is something sinister behind his smile. He had dark eyes that felt like as if they could see straight through to your soul and he had a strange smell and a weird grinning laugh that frightened us. We never shook his hand. Instead we would always run away and hide whilst watching him from the bushes or from behind our mud huts whilst he slaughtered one of the animals. The small girls, our sisters and our cousins, never wanted to watch because it was terrifying to watch one of the animals we so loved and played with being killed. Even though we were hiding and watching from afar, as boys we felt like we had to see how he was killing the animal. The more animals we watched getting killed, the more we got conditioned and used to it.
I've grown up now so I know what the strange smell was that came from the butcher. It was that strange stench, the smell of dead meat that can be smelled in all butcheries and that can be smelled even in shops and supermarkets. If you have been vegan for a while then you probably know what I mean. When you walk past some meat sections in shops or when you walk into or past butcheries or past the place where they cut meat in supermarkets, you recognize that it smells awful. You wonder to yourself how anybody can eat this dead flesh. It was that same stench of death, blood, and rotting flesh that the butcher had. I recognize the smell and know now that this was the way he smelled and it was awful. He was always around dead animals and was always killing animals daily for a living. Killing animals was his profession. Somehow as children we intuitively knew that there was something wrong and not right about this man. That's why we would shy away from him and hide. We were literally afraid of him. As a grown up, I now believe that the more someone kills and hurts animals, the more he or she loses a piece of his or her true human nature and dignity. Perhaps as children we knew or could intuitively see this and therefore became afraid and would hide from the butcher.
It was when I came to Europe that I started eating a lot of meat. It was a huge lifestyle change where we could now eat meat every single day. My sister and I were adopted by an Irish missionary woman who had been working in our village on a Christian mission sent by the Catholic Church. She became friends with our mother and took my sister and I back to Ireland with her to educate us and to give us a better life.
Living in Europe was not only a major lifestyle change but also shift in the way we used to think. Imagine coming from the bush in Kenya to live in a more developed part of the world, in Ireland! All of a sudden, my sister and I started eating meat every day. For breakfast we ate the usual eggs and bacon. For lunch we had meat such as fish, chicken or cow meat, steaks or pork chops. Our dinners also consisted of meat. We started eating meat 3 times and day. This, over time, changed our way of thinking. We became more accustomed to eating meat and literally grew "in love" with meat. It became so normal for us as a family to eat meat that we could barely eat a single meal without meat. From hardly ever getting a taste of meat back in our village in Kenya, we now lived in Ireland and ate meat every single day!
We ate meat so much when we were living in Ireland; I still remember how I didn’t want to eat my vegetables unless I was given a piece of meat to go with my food. Back in our village in Kenya vegetables and a vegan diet was the normal standard diet for us. Here in Europe I grew so fond of meat and now had such an insatiable taste for meat that I didn't even want to eat anything else without it. I remember saying, as all children say when we are young, that we hate vegetables. Most of us when we were children always pushed away the vegetables to the side of our plate and only ate the meat, the rice, the potatoes or the pasta. My new Irish Mom would make me sit at the table until I had eaten all my greens and vegetables. It's funny now as a vegan when I think back to those days when refused to eat vegetables and even funnier when I think even further back to Kenya where vegetables was our main diet. I went from being born a natural vegan, to a child begging my uncle for pieces of meat, to living in Ireland and eating meat three times a day. Luckily my eyes were reopened as an adult. I woke up from being conditioned to eat meat and finally became a vegan again. It's a fantastic journey.
I feel that being a vegan now is like being born again. It's like noticing everything in the world that I could not see as a non-vegan. It's like having my eyes and my heart opened once again to embrace all living beings as equal to ourselves. Watching animals in our village in Kenya being killed was, in fact, horrifying. We only became used to it because we watched many different animals being killed and slaughtered. If we had never seen it being done, then we would probably never want to eat meat.
Children do as grown-ups do and want what grown-ups have. If a child is not taught to kill and is not taught to eat animals then all children are born vegan and will grow up as vegans. They would never ever want to hurt any animal or any living being. Now that I have grown up and become a vegan, it's like recognizing that spirit and love I had for animals when I was a child. It’s reliving and embracing once again that compassion I had for the world and for all that is beautiful in nature. A veil has been lifted from my eyes and from my heart. I am now able to see the true spirits and souls of animals once again.