Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Daniela (Dani) Pichler – I Don’t Want Others to Wait as Long As I Did to Go Vegan.

I am a native of Innsbruck, Austria and moved to the US  19 years ago. I was teaching German for 9 years and I also have been a Paraeducator for different Special Education programs in Vancouver, WA for the past 18 years.  I never really wanted to cook meat but felt like I needed to for my children and former spouse.  I bought the humanely raised, organic fed lie and thought I was doing the right thing by trying to only buy these animal products.   I am so sorry now, that I blindly believed what a multi-billion industry wanted me to believe. I remember how I conveniently turned my back on the torturous truth, desperately clinging to the fabricated reality I had been programmed to live without question. I feel like we all have been lied to and brainwashed since birth, because unless our parents raised us to be vegetarian or vegan,  everyone was a meat eater probably for most of our lives. 

Every ethical vegan I know, including me,  loved animals and still ate them until we “woke up” from being conditioned to believe that it is ok to pay others to torture and murder animals for us as long as we don’t have to watch.  We just buy neatly packaged pieces of animal flesh in the grocery store or order a meal in a restaurant containing animal corpses and we never have to think about how the meat got on our plates. 

When I met my husband Tim who had been a vegetarian for 18 years, I realized for the first time that we didn’t have to eat meat to be healthy and that the opposite was actually true. I was so happy I finally had a partner who didn’t require me to cook meat for him. I loved cooking vegetarian meals with my husband, but for a few months, I would still order meat when we went out to eat. Tim  always showed me cute baby animal pictures after I ordered, which made me feel bad, but apparently almost 50 years of brainwashing, didn’t make me feel bad enough to totally quit eating meat back then. Only when we went to one of my favorite restaurants back then (Beaches) and I ordered a pork shank, and Tim again pulled out his phone again and showed me a picture of a really cute piglet, did I realize what I am contributing to. I looked down on the piece of meat in from of m and realized it was the leg of a tiny baby pig. That suddenly convinced me never to eat meat again. 

I don’t  really recall what made us consider going vegan. I remember a post on Facebook about Esther the Wonder pig. Someone mentioned or asked in a comment if  they were all vegan. I wasn’t really sure what it exactly meant to be vegan,  so I wanted to look it up. The only time I ever heard someone was vegan, was when my husband told me, he had a student that was vegan. Unfortunately he was not the best example for veganism, because he was a very unhealthy vegan,  whose mom constantly complained, how very concerned she was about his heath, because he only ate very limited food items. I remember thinking how extreme some people are. 

During my research, I saw some video clips and read how horrible the dairy industry actually was. I learned how healthy a vegan diet can be and  I told Tim that going vegan was the right and ethical thing to do. When we did, it suddenly wasn’t easy anymore meeting with friends and family. Gathering together with family at the dinner table for holidays or a night out on the town with friends, they saw our “personal” choice, to perhaps eat a salad or a veggie burger,  as a meatless meal with nothing but vegetables. When they made fun of us or told us that’s a bit extreme, I first politely zipped my lips, smiled, and let others go on their way,  out of fear of losing their friendship or them thinking lesser of us. Keeping their wishes in mind, I’ve chosen my words wisely when talking to them about why we are now vegans. Also when sharing content on veganism via social media, I censored myself, scrutinizing my language, backspaced, and re-wrote my words to fit in their box of what it means to “respect their choice to eat animals.”

It’s been a journey. The last non vegan item we consumed was honey from  a co-worker. He had a hive in his backyard and promised he harvested it humanely. After learning though that the health of bees and their offspring was being sacrificed so we can eat their honey,  I  didn’t want to consume honey anymore. 

I never intentionally killed any animal except mosquitos and horseflies actually in the act of sucking my blood. Wherever there was a bug in my house, I tried to catch and release it. I never intentionally wanted to harm any animals that didn’t harm me either. I can’t believe that for so long, I  never realized,  that I was paying for people to exploit, abuse and murder animals for me. I guess one of my excuses was: “What difference does it make if I don’t buy and eat it, they are killing it anyways.” When I hear this statement now from people it sounds so small minded, so I always have to remind myself what it was like to being them and how easy it was to ignore the facts, to turn away from the slaughterhouse whistleblower videos on the news. “This doesn’t happen all the time”, I told myself.  

I even justify my actions  when my daughter did a report in Middle School on factory farms. Her report just slipped through the cracks of my conscious awareness. I conveniently turned my back on the torturous truth, desperately clinging to the fabricated reality I had been programmed to live without question. 

I didn’t want others to wait as long as I did. I wanted to do more than just being vegan. I felt like it was our duty now, to do more. 

When I saw a post on Facebook about the animal rights march in CA, I commented on the thread and one of the  organizers replied.  I told her I wanted to help spread awareness and educate others also. 

I was totally surprised when she told me there were several animal rights groups in Portland and she then connected us with Portland Animal Save who got us in contact with AV. 

After joining our first Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV) event three years ago, my husband and I never stopped being active. 

After seeing hours of video footage of abused and tortured animals, it finally got too painful to eat with people who still consumed animals in our presence, even still after we tried to educate them about everything that happens in the animal industry. We decided to tell everyone that we no longer would sit with them at a table of they eat animals. 

That sadly weeded out a lot of friends and family members and it was hurtful realizing that they rather didn’t want to see us anymore than just eat a plant based dish when we got together to share a meal once in awhile. 

I was also bullied by my supervisors and a co-worker in my last two jobs, once they realized I was an ethical vegan now,  because I  spoke up when they talked about cooking or eating animals. I was never rude or judgemental, I just gave them the facts and tried to educate them. 

They didn’t want me around, because seeing me,  reminded them that they are contributing to so much harm, but nobody was willing to change something on their lives. 

After asking for a transfer twice, because these people made it so miserable for me to work there,  I was not going to put up with it a third time in yet another job. 

When the bullying started again at my current job,  I quickly put a stop to it. Luckily I have a great supervisor,  who unfortunately is not vegan and probably never will be, but she is very supportive and respectful to my stance on eating animals. She even started to really like vegan donuts after I introduced her to them. 

There are still some passive aggressive people I work with who cover up my plant based magazines and brochures in the staff room with hunting magazines, but as long as I don’t directly have to work with them, I try not to let it bother me. 

I eat by myself and also don’t attend any after work functions because not everyone in our department is willing to go to a vegan restaurant so I just don’t join in. 

As long as the non vegans I am interacting with on a regular basis don’t speak about cooking or eating animals I don’t bring up anything either.I most likely already said what I wanted to say a long time ago. 

What they are going to do with this information is up to them. I usually recommend the documentaries Dominion, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Forks over Knives and now the Game changer once I give them some information about the impact of their food choices on animals, the environment and on their health. 

Luckily we met a lot of new vegan friends these past three years and  it’s been nice getting together with like minded people. So in a sense we gained a big new family. Portland has an amazing vegan community. 

We love trying out new restaurants with our vegan friends. As for all Vegan food and drinks, Modern Times and No Bones Beach Club are one of our favorites. Departure is not 100% vegan, but they have great vegan food and the view is fantastic. 

We are incredibly lucky that there are over 40 vegan restaurants and over 75 restaurants with Vegan options in the greater Portland area. I also love to cook for my husband. His favorite food is Cuban Picadillo and I love Indian and Thai food, which I never ate before going vegan. 

I try to cook as healthy as possible at home, so we don’t mind splurging when we go out. 

There are some amazing vegans here who do great things to raise awareness and to make it easier than ever to be vegan and to be active in animal rights. 

My husband, who by the way was voted PETA’s Sexiest Vegan over 50 for 2019, and also made the news several times these past three weeks,  always goes along with anything I suggest benefitting animals. We are active with most vegan and animal rights groups in Portland and Vancouver. We attended potlucks, fundraisers, meet ups, film screenings, demonstrations, outreach events and we are also the Organizers of AV: Vancouver. 

We volunteer where we are needed the most. Be it for farm animal sanctuaries, VegFests, or any other events that benefit animals, raise awareness and animate others to go vegan.  We also donate monthly to different sanctuaries and animal rights groups. 

I have a hard time saying no when I am asked. We do as much as we can,  besides working full time and still having enough time to take our two doodles for daily walks and hikes in the weekends. Even though we spend our summers  in Europe with friends and family we never stop advocating for veganism. It’s a great feeling to know, that because of what we do and say, so many animal’s lives are saved. 

As for anyone new to Portland or who is interested to meet other Vegas and to get active, I suggest to join several different Facebook groups like Portland Vegans and Portland Animal Activism.

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