At the age of 19, I decided it was no longer okay for me to eat meat. I was aware, as we all are, that every animal I consumed was raised to be slaughtered. That no matter what the animals’s experience and awareness, he or she was killed at a young age to be my “food”.

My love for all animals made giving up meat an obvious choice. I had no idea, however, that raising animals for slaughter was only one of the many atrocities the animal agriculture industry wages on this planet. I had no idea that there was so much more I was going to learn.

I opened my eyes to the gruesome details of this industry because I wanted to know the truth. I was furious at the world that I wasn’t made aware earlier on. I blamed my family, my friends, my teachers, my doctors, and the countless advertisements I saw on tv and in magazines telling me that eating animals was normal and was good for me. Why didn’t anyone tell me what was really going on?

I began reading books on the subject and forced myself to watch videos like the one I am posting here. Eating animals, I realized, was not in my nature. It was unhealthy for my body and my mind. I never ate a piece of animal flesh again.

So, I became a “strict vegetarian.” I stopped wearing leather and wool. I stopped buying products that were tested on animals. I gagged at the thought of drinking milk after being forced by my doctor to take in 3-4 glasses of it daily while I was pregnant with my only child at age 18.

But, I was from a big Italian family with traditions around cooking and eating. I was young and I was dumb. I thought that it was okay to occasionally eat eggs and cheese. I thought the animals that these “foods” came from did not have to suffer or be slaughtered. I bought so-called “happy eggs” from the farmers’ market, imagining the chickens they came from had a wonderful life. I bought organic cheese believing the cows were somehow treated well on organic farms. I ignored what was actually happening to these precious and beautiful, thinking, feeling, living creatures.

It took years before I opened my eyes to the truth about eggs and dairy. For years I considered myself “mostly vegan”. Now I know that wasn’t nearly good enough, not for me or the animals I cared so much about. Please watch what the dairy industry does not want you to see in this video from PeTA.

Today, I am proud to say I am a a strict vegan. I love to cook and I love to eat out. I mostly try to eat whole foods that are, of course, 100% plant-based, but I occasionally indulge in the processed snack foods, too. Asian cuisine is my favorite and I enjoy learning how to make new plant-based asian-inspired dishes. And although my big Italian family now spends most of the time miles apart, I host a monthly Sunday dinner for my closest loved ones. The meals are always Italian, and they are always vegan. I’ve surprised myself and my guests once or twice by successfully veganizing a classic dish my Gram would prepare for us growing up.

I also have become a louder voice for the animals. I am a high school teacher who shares my passion for all living creatures, the environment, and people, with my passion for learning. I have students every year try veganism with me as I challenge them to decrease their carbon footprint on the planet as they learn to value all life and the biodiversity Earth holds. I also sponsor an animal rights club, called CHETA. It’s so satisfying to see young people who care as much as I do, who want to promote change and kindness around their school and community.

I have recently been given the privilege to become a member of the Farm Sanctuary’s Teacher Advisory Committee for Science. We are currently working on developing curriculum focused on animal welfare and humane education. This experience will only strengthen the connections I make with my seniors before they head off to college as adults making choices of their own.

The following video highlights some of the amazing work Farm Sanctuary is doing to rescue animals from lives of abuse and terror. I hope to spend a good part of my life doing some type of work like this in the future. I will have links to organizations like this one that could use your support on the “what you can do” page.

Thank you for reading. Now let me explain why I call myself a hummingbird.