“I Ate My Best Friend” : A Vegan’s Story

By Sienna Rodriguez-12 Grade, Pa Distance Cyber Charter School    

“It’s not about loving animals. It’s about fighting injustice.” — Gary Yourofsky

For going on almost three years now, I have been living a vegan lifestyle. It is my way to try to reduce the amount of animal suffering that is put out into the world. Through my journey, I have made a friend with common views as me. Erica Traver is a 21 year old college student from Bayonne, New Jersey. She attends Saint Rose College in upstate New York and majors in speech language pathology. While the summer is still amidst, she is a barista at her local Starbucks. Once school returns, she will resume her job as a consultant. While both of us are living a vegan lifestyle, we both have very different stories as to how we got to where we are today. Erica Traver

Erica opened up about her reason as to why she completely altered her lifestyle. She from age thirteen, went back and forth with her diet. From vegetarian to flexitarian, where she ate poultry and fish. That is until the summer of 2013, where a supposed ordinary trip to visit some extended family transpired differently. Visiting the countryside always brought her some peace of mind, especially because she was able to visit her family’s cattle pasture.

Naturally, she felt at home being alongside these social creatures. They were always so eager to greet her, eating apples from her hands. She had a close bond with one cow in particular;  “Out of respect for the cow, let’s call him Drake. Not soliciting any animals here.” Erica jokes, but it could be heard in her voice how bothered she becomes by the events that took place.  It was at Sunday dinner, the first time in four years since she ate red meat. A huge plate containing pounds of steak was brought to the table. Whether it was from the pressure of her Italian family or the pressure of being in strict cattle country, she decided to ingest a steak that weighed more than a newborn child.

Erica's Cow

 

 

“Everyone was just sitting around and then my uncle whispers, ‘Drake was so good.’ I looked at him and asked, ‘Where’s Drake?’ and he says to me, ‘THAT was Drake.’ I excused myself from the table because that made me sick… I did not eat meat for a whole week. I could not look at a cow for a whole week. I was so hurt because I had become so close with an animal and I ended up eating my best friend.”

 

 

 

When coming home from her nightmarish trip, her flexitarian diet resumed.  Turbulence merged itself into her life at this time when she was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy. This caused her eating habits to shift away from dairy and towards meat to compensate for the food she could no longer eat. Though her substitute was not too rewarding. The guilt from eating Drake haunted her, putting her in a position to reevaluate her situation. Dairy was no longer an option for her and stomach was no longer digesting meat. Thus, a turning point arose.

Traver went straight into veganism May of her freshman year, practically overnight.  Throwing tradition out the window and emerging into the unknown world of plant based food. With the help of technology she educated herself on the environment impact the meat and dairy industry make as well as the unjust actions that are being done to these living things. In the beginning it was mainly for health reasons.  These days Erica lives a vegan lifestyle each day for the welfare of the animals, the planet, and for world hunger.

“People say, ‘Can I have a chicken sandwich?’ But we don’t realize we’re asking for a dead animal. It must sound very vegan of me but, free range and humane meat is just a marketing gimmick to make people feel better about what they’re doing. That’s just my opinion. But you cannot peacefully kill something.” She expresses.

Erica Traver Dance

Erica Traver 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erica has been vegan for three years and in many aspects it has benefited her. Not only did she lose twenty-five pounds but she is able to eat a diet that helps strengthen her fit lifestyle. Also, dance has been something that positively influences Erica’s life. She is an active participant in the dance company at her school and has an extensive history dance. With her rare blood disorder, some would think veganism would create a conflict with her health. After her surgery she now has maintained a healthy weight and better than perfect blood tests, she really just feels better from the inside out!

In the beginning of her journey, there was a lack of support from her family. The thought of her not eating meat and dairy was absurd! This tends to be the case for most when they transition into a vegan lifestyle. Erica comes from a background where meat and dairy are staples in everyday meals.  Everything takes time, but eventually her families came around to the idea of plant based diets. They’re even reluctant to try vegan options from time to time but with the people you love it’s all about baby steps.

“Eating meat and dairy is the cultural norm, but no one likes to hear that their bad habits are wrong. Even though eating meat and dairy is wrong, but we tolerate it from our friends and family. That’s because we just want to open the door for them. They can peek their heads in every once and while and take their baby steps. You are your own person and you’re going to do what is convenient for you.”

Veganism is a topic which has many different aspects to it, and they can be discussed upon further. Whether it’s a vegan diet or vegan lifestyle, the intention of making the world a more ethical place starts with you. Throughout life, you can only hope that others come to the realization of the principals you have set in your life. If those around you don’t; it isn’t too hard to find someone out there that does.

“Yes, being vegan has changed my view on the world and myself. I feel like I am more caring and compassionate now. I find that I have a better understanding of myself and of other people.  We work and pay to eat. I understand where people come from for convenience. Meat and dairy is convenient for most people, but being vegan… It has changed my life honestly.”

 

It’s hard having such fundamentally different perspectives of life when living in a mainstream world that is so opposite. No one is perfect. Even I, being a vegan for going on four years now, have accidentally eaten things that contained dairy on occasion. When it does happen as a vegan, you just have to try to avoid that from happening again as best as possible. Reading labels and searching ingredients do at times feel like an inconvenience. For me personally, all I ask is that people educate themselves. If they make the conscious decision on whether or not to continue on, that’s their personal choice. Education on animal welfare, health risks and the environmental effects. The global impact due to the meat and dairy industry is important. It is more than just you and the food on your plate,  that’s why I strongly urge everyone to at least learn about it.  Even Erica who overcame health conditions and completely went into this situation unaware, is living proof of the magic within a plant based lifestyle.

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Sienna Rodriguez is a 12thgrader at PA Distance Cyber Charter School and she lives in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. For the past 2 years she has participated in a program at High Tech (in New Jersey) and they offered photography and journalism. The summer before she participated in the Performing Arts Youth Outreach at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Manhattan, New York. She acted in a showcase and wrote some scenes in the production.

 

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