I grew up in the south of France, and although I was brought up as an omnivore, I never liked meat and fish. My favourites since childhood were already chickpeas, pasta and fruit. I recall asking my mother as an eight year old child why it was acceptable to kill animals to eat them, and even then I found that her answer – “carrots also hurt when we kill them” – was complete nonsense. I also recall my mother serving each of us what looked like a little songbird, baked and lying whole on the plate, and forcing me to tear off and taste its flesh. Some kind of French speciality I imagine! It was traumatising and I only had a tiny shred of it, after much insistance and tears. And I have vivid memories of my mother showing me how pulling the tendon of a cut chicken leg would cause its fingers to move, and of my father once serving us horse meat. This makes my parents sound awful, but I believe they were acting just like most parents in France at the time, and they always respected my decision when I went vegetarian and (to a lesser extent) vegan. We always had cats, whom I adored.

I never met or even heard about a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, until I spent time in the UK. It was there that I went out with a vegetarian called Sarah, although I did not go vegetarian until after our relationship ended. Like many people, I initially had admiration for vegetarians, and possibly a little bit of jealousy, for it sounded really cool. But initially I somehow felt that also going vegetarian would be copying them, so I didn’t.

Once I started work and had access to the Internet, one of the first things I looked up was vegetarianism and animal rights. What I read made perfect sense to me and I quicky went vegetarian. At the time I also read about veganism and absolutely supported it, but I felt that it was too much for me to commit to. There were no vegan options at lunch where I worked, for example. I was a strict vegetarian (no rennet, isinglass, gelatine-coated capsules, leather, etc.) but it was only ten years later, shortly after meeting vegans for the first time, that I switched to veganism. This was in 2007 and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thanks to all the vegans who gradually made veganism more mainstream, it was an easy transition for me, and for this I am eternally grateful to the vegan community. Going vegan still meant cooking my own food every day and bringing it to work, as I could no longer rely on the canteen for lunch, but this was actually not such an inconvenience. And it forced the respect of my colleagues who could see the lovely varied food I ate as a vegan. Likewise, some social occasions such as restaurant outings or parties mean that there is often nothing substantial that I can eat, but this is not a problem as I can look after my own food beforehand or afterwards and just nibble on a salad while I am there.

For me, veganism fits neatly at the core of the causes I most care about: compassion and justice for all (animals and human beings), concern for the environment, social and ethical progress, peace and non-violence. And health benefits come as a bonus, as I discovered when meeting vegans and while reading the book “The China Study”. Going vegan has shown me that before one can blame society at large, one can and must take individual responsibility. It has shown me that accepted wisdom can actually be completely wrong, and that one should follow his heart and his instincts. Just as Donald Watson did when he founded the vegan movement, at a time when people (wongly) believed that it would be detrimental to health. Or just as Gandhi did when he trusted in the power of non-violent resistance.