‘Coming a Veg’ is a monthly series which highlights vegetarian and vegan “coming of age” stories. Gary Gill’s story shows how his gradual awareness led him to veganism. He is active as the coordinator for the Juniata Valley Vegetarian Society in the heart of this region. Involved since 1999, Gary was recently featured in his local newspaper, The Lewistown Sentinel.
I always believed that I was a vegetarian/vegan waiting to happen. I sometimes like to trace my diet back to age 12 years old when I was staying for a week or two at my beloved aunt and uncle’s farm. One day my aunt asked what we should have for dinner and someone said chicken and I remember saying happily, “yeah!” I imagined that my aunt would remove the frozen formless bird from the freezer but instead my uncle said, “Come on Gary” and out the front door he went with me following with a puzzled expression. Soon it became clear where our meal was coming from when I saw us walking toward the chicken coop. Inside the chicken coop, my uncle hollered, “Help me corner one, Gary.” But I kept letting her get away, although I knew it was inevitable. Finally my uncle grabbed one and headed for the chopping block. Stunned I followed far behind; then paralyzed and powerless, I stopped and stared. My uncle, showing a flash of kindness toward me at this moment of terror, turned and said as he raised the axe, “you may want to turn your head.” When I looked up again, the chicken was running headless across the yard until her life had been bled out of her. I didn’t eat chicken that night, but I also did not become a vegetarian then either.
I was a typical meat and potatoes, junk food eater until about forty years of age when I became, for some unexplained reason, interested in the food that until that time I thoughtlessly would stuff into my mouth whatever was available. For the first time I found myself drawn to articles in newspapers and magazines about food. The year was 1985 when a vegetarian friend lent me a book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer that furnished the ethical basis for a re-examination of my food choices. In time I learned our food choices affect us in so many ways. Whether it’s feeding a hungry planet, protecting the environment, showing kindness to animals, or feeding the soul, food choices play a major role.
I started as a vegetarian but now I eat a vegan diet. I have been told that it is a radical diet but what can be more radical than a food system that relies on the cruelty of factory farms. At age 68, there is no doubt that I owe my good health to eating a strictly plant-based diet. I certainly have been teased a lot about my diet over the years, but when you know you are doing the right thing it really doesn’t matter what other people say.
The first Monday of every month I feature a new ‘Coming a Veg’ story and would I love to include yours! If you are feeling shy, your story can be posted under a creative screen name, anonymous or at least pass this request along to any other groups or individuals who may be interested. Find more information at this link or send submissions to my email: Pennsyltucky Veggie.