Editor’s Note: Mo Orr is an organizer for Vegans in Toowoomba, in Queensland, Australia, where she lives with her husband George. She is an Elephant Ambassador for Elephant Nature Park and co-moderates several vegan groups online, including Vegans, Vegans in Australia and Vegans in Queensland Australia (QLD). Mo is one of the most passionate vegans we have ever met, always speaking out for the animals and always willing to help people on their own journeys towards veganism.
A fleeting glance at a cattle truck, destination slaughterhouse, and my life changed. I saw the cows inside, looking out. This was the first time I had seen a cattle truck. I had always considered myself an animal lover, a compassionate person, yet I had never questioned food, where, or who, it came from. I had never connected the ‘meat’ I ate with the animals I professed to love.
I stopped eating animals and became a lacto-ovo vegetarian. And sadly, again I didn’t question: what happens to male chicks? and male calves? What about the chickens and cows, confined forever, killed before their time?
The decision to holiday at the Elephant Nature Park (outside Chiang Mai, Thailand), founded by Lek Chailert, was another life-defining choice. Listening to Lek speak had a profound impact on me. I realised that cruelty to animals isn’t only in the manner of their deaths, it’s also in their lives, that animals don’t willingly give their lives to us to use, not for food, entertainment, clothing, experimentation. We take from them their life’s purpose.
Still I resisted becoming vegan. It seemed like such a big step to take. What would I eat? How could I give up cheese and eggs? I decided that when I figured out the answer, I would become vegan. Time went by. Then one day a chance post came up in my Facebook newsfeed: “what vegan meals are you making for Thanksgiving?” and I could no longer hold back.
I became vegan.
For me being vegan has always been easy, maybe because it took me so long to grow from vegetarian to vegan. It may be frustrating, inconvenient, and difficult in social situations, but never hard. I am have never been tempted to ‘cheat’, or missed eggs or cheese or dairy milk chocolate. Now, when I smell bacon, or hear the crackle of eggs frying, I feel the suffering of someone who wanted to live. It hurts.
I was, and still am, lucky to have a supportive partner. George wasn’t vegan but was happy to learn to cook vegan for me (he did then, and still does, most of the cooking!). He shared in many of those vegan meals.
I would forget he wasn’t vegan and speak to him about animal issues, I would share with him video clips, images of battery chickens and pigs’ gestation crates.
I remember buying ‘free range’ eggs for him at the supermarket, bringing them home, slamming them down on the counter saying: “what a crock! The carton says “Now with a perch and room to scratch themselves””. And with not a word being said between us, George became vegan.
He sometimes found it hard, he felt that meals weren’t always satisfying, that something was missing, and we worked through those days together. I had taken so long to become vegan and for me it was easy; George moved from meat eater to vegan in a matter of months and sometimes found it difficult. It was a lesson to me, I needed to be more tolerant, we all reach veganism in our own way in our own time.
I started speaking out about veganism.
I soon realised that being vegan wasn’t enough, I had to speak out. And I had to learn how to use words effectively. Saying from the heart: “but it’s just wrong” wasn’t enough.
I went into a reading frenzy: Prof Tom Regan, Gary L. Francione, Melanie Joy. I learned the difference between welfarism and rights, that: “Welfarists seek to reform current practices of animal exploitation, while retaining such exploitation in principle, rights advocates oppose all such exploitation in principle and seek to abolish all such exploitation in practice.” ~ Point / Counterpoint by Tom Regan and Gary Francione (Jan/Feb 1992)
I learned that advocating for welfare reforms may help me feel better, but it is the biggest harm we can do to animals. It allows people to feel comfortable with their food choices, believing them to be ‘humane’, ‘free range’ and ‘cruelty free’ without having to change their behaviour. To believe that the best we can do for animals is to improve the conditions of their exploitation, to not ask for justice, is in itself an injustice.
Slavery and the Holocaust?
I flinched the first time I heard our treatment of animals compared to slavery and the holocaust. It felt wrong to compare human and non-human animals, thus the beginning of my understanding of speciesism.
But there is one fundamental difference between the human holocaust and the animal holocaust: the human holocaust was to eradicate the Jews and other races, whereas animals are purpose bred, billions of them. It’s in the horror that is their lives and deaths that the similarities live.
Veganism is an end and a beginning…
I thought that being vegan was an end in itself, now I realise it is but another beginning.
44 thoughts on “Becoming Vegan – A Personal Journey by Mo Orr”
I enjoyed your first ever blog Mo. I love reading people’s aha moment. Looking forward to sharing your blog journey. Oh yeah & yay for George!
What a great blog Mo! I hope many many people read it is it is filled with so much honesty and emotion. I wish I had of read something like this when I was a meat eat eater!
*blush* thanks Renata
I really enjoy reading your first entry. It was very informative. Great to have such a supportive husband! Keep up the great work.
Thanks Liz. It was interesting to write, being where I am now and looking back at how I got here!
I loved your Blog! Non-Judgemental of folks who are eagerly trying to make the transition from Vegetarian to Vegan. I am one of those people ~ Having been Vegetarian for many years. I am finding some aspects more difficult than others! Never Fear ~ Like George I will soon be a Fully Fledged Vegan xxx
Woohoo, good on you Julia, I hope the transition goes well. I love the term Fully Fledged Vegan!
Beautifully written and with such a gentle tone. But, there is no doubt you have a loving yet fierce passion in your heart. This is a new journey for me, but I refuse to go back. Looking into the eye’s of these animals and seeing the fear, the horrific living conditions and their slaughter leaves a heavy ache in my heart, and I am ashamed for the part I played.
Wow, Diane, those are beautiful words you have written, thank you. And please don’t be ashamed, be proud that you are awakening, enjoy the journey
Thanks mum. Still taking me to school.
Lol! Hope you enjoyed it, Rob.
What a wonderful article Mo. We must meet up in person one day! 🙂
I’d love that Greg. And thank you.
Beautiful insight into a very kind person. It’s people like you and George that make a difference truly inspirational – thanks for sharing.
Awww, thanks Maree. I appreciate your kind words
Well done on your excellent first blog entry Mo.
Thanks, Marcus. It was you who broadened my horizons to include the environment, I hadn’t made that connection before hearing your podcasts on The Species Barrier.
Great blog post from someone I am blessed to count as a friend.
Thank you Mo!
Oh and George? Yaaay!
Thanks, Nik, and back at you!
Nola Joyce W Wabbit
WOW! How very impressive dearHEART MooMoo <3
Nola my friend, thanks for your kind words!
Awesome blog Mo! Thank you for sharing…beautifully done! ❤
Thank you Diana. I sincerely appreciate your feedback.
I loved this. Thank you for sharing your journey and for your honesty!! I would LOVE to read more from you. Peace to you and George!! XO, Julie
Peace to you too Julie, and thank you!
I’ll never be vegan or vegetarian but I can appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post.
Thanks Ayngelina, I appreciate your comment.
This is an incredibly wonderfully told story about your move to a vegan lifestyle. It is inspiring. Thank you for sharing, Mo! <3
Thanks Diana, so pleased you enjoyed it
The first time I heard of speciesism was in the movie Earthlings, which changed many of my behaviors. Though I doubt I will ever be vegetarian and know I will never be vegan, I love that movie for how it inspired me to change.
Your’re braver than I am Alex, I have never had the courage to watch Earthlings.
Thanks for sharing your perspective in such a thoughtful way!
Thanks for your kind words, Angie
Giselle and Cody
Wonderful guest blog. We stand right beside you in who, and what you stand for.
It all comes down to justice, and there is absolutely no justice in the way we treat those who have no voice, and are at our mercy. There is no reason to eat earthlings who long for life and freedom as much as we do. “But it tastes good” is no justification.
The more we learn, the more we speak out whenever we can.
We are for the complete freedom of every animal. Until every cage is empty.
Until every cage is empty, yes! Thanks Giselle and Cody.
I’m meeting/ hearing more stories about vegans and veganism. It’s certainly an interesting way of living. Beautiful insight too. I don’t think I will be a vegan myself in anytime soon, but I respect those of who are so strong and truthful about what they believe!
Thanks, Juno. I’m not sure I am strong, nor even disciplined. I guess I no longer see animals as good or resources, and that makes being vegan comfortable!
Thanks for sharing your story Mo…it was great to read how you came to be Vegan. 🙂
Thanks Kaz, so pleased you enjoyed it,
Mo your a mover and a shaker, keep fighting the good fight! Loved the blog!
Thanks, Ida. It was great to meet you at ENP. Hope we get to catch up again.
Thank you Mo for sharing your story. I’m between the steps I’m going to try to do it and I can do it. Just need to get organized and make a menu plan and to stick to it having enough variety or enough of what satisfies me. …
Good on you Esther. And I’m always here if y have any questions.