It all started with a carrot
by Kaitlyn Hickman, vegan
I write to you from a commune I am unsure I’ll ever escape. My skin has taken on a pale green palor from all the spinach I am forced to eat and I have not seen an egg for years. Looking back, I feel nothing but shame. I should have been better prepared. I should have been safer. I should have sprinted the opposite direction the very first time I heard the word “vegan.”
Alas, I am now doomed to a life of reading books whose mention of animal products have been censored, replaced with vegan propaganda. The best I can do is warn the public so no one else succumbs to my same fate.
I remember the day they approached me, carrot in hand. I was hungry and susceptible to the influence of vegetables. I would later learn that they specifically look for people like me, aimlessly wandering through Whole Foods, vulnerable.
They were two men, clad in T-shirts (I would later learn were made from hemp) with peace signs printed on the front. They seemed friendly and approachable, and we struck up a conversation. Entering this conversation was my first mistake. I informed them that I had to get going because I was starving, and one (I would later learn he went by “Father Earth,” a name he gave himself and forced his followers to call him) offered me the carrot. I thanked him and accepted. Little did I know, I was sealing my destiny.
Later that day, I had a Facebook friend request from him. I don’t know how he knew my name, but at the time, I assumed I had casually mentioned it in our conversation. I was wrong; Father Earth knew exactly what he was doing. I was being hunted.
He invited me to an event for a community gardening coalition meeting. I was new in town and thought it might be a nice way to meet people, so I showed up. I entered the meeting with my guard down, no qualms about who the members might be or what they might value.
They called themselves “vegans.” They served food at the meeting, but only vegetables and fruits. I thought this was because it was a gardening club, but later, a member informed me that the group didn’t eat eggs, meat, dairy or any animal products. They claimed it was “good for the environment” and “prevented animal brutality.” Their arguments were so valid that within two weeks, I had abandoned my cheese-ridden diet. I became one of them. I was a vegan.
Before long, I found myself dumping buckets of fake blood over the heads of people I had previously considered to be my friends and family, as punishment for their meat consumption. This was an essential practice of generating awareness for the vegan cause. Later, I also realized it was an essential aspect of the cult I had unknowingly joined; alienating us from our friends and family was a way to prevent us from ever leaving.
The induction process was emotionally and physically exhausting. They tied us to chairs, taped our eyes open and screened documentary after documentary. I learned about factory-farmed cows and the plight of the Bright-Rumped Attila, an Amazonian bird. It was all connected. This was all for the animals and the Earth; it was necessary.
I remember eerie thoughts entering the back of my mind, warning me that vegans were dangerous. I couldn’t deny the shocking facts in the documentaries though, and I had no one to turn to besides the people in the cult. They were my only friends, my only family. They had infiltrated my mind.
The worst part of the process was probably the night of Dec. 7, 2012. They lined up the initiates behind a door. One by one, we went through the door. We entered alone and left alone. No one knew what was on the other side until it was their turn. I stood in line for two hours, anxiously waiting.
Finally, I entered the room. It was dark, lit by a single candle. Members, all wearing robes, stood in a circle, smiling. In the center of the circle, there was a medium-sized cage, big enough for a person, but just barely. “This,” Father Earth explained, “is a human gestation crate.” I swallowed, knowing in the back of my mind what was to come. “Pigs are confined to them for the duration of their lives.” I felt a hand on the small of my back, gently guiding me forward, toward the crate. “No, please don’t,” I said, feeling my breath grow shallow.
“Now,” Father Earth continued, “we must become the animal to empathize with the animal.”
I writhed a little more as I was guided forward, but felt more pressure from more hands. The circle was closing around me. There was no escape. My efforts were futile, so I succumbed to the inevitable and entered the crate. There was no me anymore; there was only vegan.
Father Earth delivered a speech to the members. “We must not ignore the injustices of animal cruelty. It ends with us! We must understand; we must be the change through understanding.” Everyone cheered. Father Earth then pulled something shiny from under his robe. I couldn’t see it until he held it up, allowing it to gleam in the candlelight. It was a fork. Everyone else then followed suit, reaching under their robes and retrieving sharp utensils.
It was Father Earth himself who inflicted the first wound. They seemed to enter a meditative state, chanting, “Go veg! Go veg! Go veg!” as they took turns stabbing and scraping me with their forks, causing me to “fully understand the mistreatment of animals.” I remember the pain of the first wound, and nothing after that. I think I entered a state of a shock. To this day, I’m numb to the pain of that night, and it’s extremely difficult for me to talk about it.
Two years have passed since that fateful day of induction and I’m still a member. I would leave the vegans, but I depend on them for food and companionship. If I left, I would be completely ostracized. Members have attempted to escape before, but the mentality never retreats, as hard as one may try to get away from it.
I can’t be near bacon without instinctively dumping fake blood on the people who eat it. I can’t go to a mall without being drawn to a pet store, if there is one, and liberating all of the animals, even if it means getting arrested. I can’t enter a shoe store without writing “killer” in fake blood on all the pairs of leather boots. I wouldn’t know how to exist in non-vegan society anymore.
What began as an accidental choice is now a lifestyle. Veganism has consumed me, just as non-vegans consume the flesh of innocent creatures. If the vegans ever discover this article, I will be shunned. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing it. I’m reaching out to you, the flesh-consumers, because I need my story to be told and understood.
Please don’t mock me or treat me differently than other people. Isn’t it punishment enough that I’ll endure the rest of my life without a bite of real mac n’ cheese? The last thing I need is ridicule from the rest of society. I didn’t choose the vegan life. The vegan life chose me.