I became a vegetarian in 1973 as a result of seeing a television programme which had scenes of hens being thrown alive into the back of a lorry. I was eating a meal at the time which had meat in it and made the connection between what I ate and where it came from.

I had had no education either from my parents or in school about this connection and at the time I knew no vegetarians. At first I continued to eat as the rest of my family, except for flesh, but after a while I was influenced by macrobiotic philosophy and was careful to balance my diet in terms of acid and alkaline properties.

I had still many years to go before I was forced to think of the morality of using non humans for human ends. At this time in Dublin there was only one “health food” shop, “Green Acres” and I knew of no vegetarian restaurants, although it’s possible “Cornocopia” was already in existence.

I remained vegetarian until 2008. My family and friends were understanding and eventually my diet was taken for granted by everyone including myself. I had heard the word vegan but never thought much about its meaning. I thought it a little eccentric not to drink milk or eat cheese and assumed it was purely for health reasons that people followed this diet. I still made no connection to the morality of animal use.

Over the years a vegetarian diet became more popular in Ireland and there was a greater variety of shops and restaurants catering for vegetarians around the country. I continued on blissfully unaware of the facts about dairy and leather production until in 2007 my dog companion died and I felt I wanted to do something to repay all the love he had given me.

So I began to look around for an opportunity to become involved in Animal Rights and campaigned with ARAN for about a year. A year in which I never heard the word vegan nor little else about Animal Rights from my fellow campaigners. There was plenty of talk about animal welfare however and slowly I began to think about the philosophical implications of being a vegetarian.

It was not until I met the people from ALiberation that I had conversations about a vegan diet, Animal Rights and the inconsistency of being a vegetarian for moral reasons. When I looked at the facts of the dairy, leather and fur industries I had to concede that there could be no moral justification for continuing to be vegetarian and I had to follow to their logical conclusion the feelings and ideas that had started 30 years before, namely the recognition of the sentience of the hens on the television and the fact that all animals including human animals care about what happens to them and their loved ones in the world.

At first I missed cheese and the opportunity to go into any cafe and have a pastry and a coffee, but that soon passed as I began to meet more vegans and got better at cooking vegan food. It’s still difficult when I travel where vegan food is not easily available but really there are nearly always opportunities to get or make simple meals of vegetables and fruit. From my own point of view I would say that if a vegan diet was not entirely healthy (and I do believe it is) I would still continue to live this way as my impetus is moral and not dietary.

I don’t believe vegans are special people who can take the moral high ground in relation to the rest of humankind but are simply people who have looked closely at the implications of animal use and abuse and decided not to participate any more in actions that cause suffering to animals. It took me 30 years to look at the facts but in the end I did and for that I thank my vegan friends.