OK, I’m Vegan! Now What?

Today we have a guest post from one of our tour guides, Nikki Rowell. All the photos were taken by her.

Nikki Rowell

I became vegan in May of 2013. A friend had recommended that I watch Earthlings, a powerful documentary about the many ways animals are used and abused in our society.

One of the things that they talk about in the film is how humans have believed for centuries that the value of their lives is worth more than that of an animal’s life. That made an incredible impact on me.
While working toward, what I believed to be, a compassionate lifestyle, I had forgotten that compassion also included the food that was on my plate and what I was putting in my body. I remember thinking, OK … I need to make a change here. I do not want to participate in this type of cruelty any more.

So I wept through the remainder of the film (note: it is a graphic documentary, but very valuable) and vowed that when I woke up the next morning, I was going to be vegan. And that’s exactly what I did.

Now, I recognize that not everyone who becomes vegan does so overnight. And I think each person’s journey to veganism is unique and beautiful … just as we are … just as the animals are.  But I do think that when your heart really understands the suffering that goes on in the animal world and you truly make the connection of how your food choices are directly related to their suffering then you have no choice but to make a drastic change and quickly.

When I woke up the following morning, my first thought was, Great … I’m vegan! Now what?

And so I began to do research. I watched many more documentaries on the power of being vegan. Films like Vegucated, Food Inc., and Forks Over Knives.  They helped me see the awesome health benefits of becoming vegan.  And I began to play in the kitchen. I bought a bunch of vegan cookbooks and experimented with tons of recipes to see what dishes I enjoyed. This is still one of my favorite hobbies!

I also did research on local animal sanctuaries.  I wanted to get up close and personal with the animals that I was “fighting” for. The souls that were moving me to make this change.  And that’s when I was introduced to Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

My friend had gone up for a tour and when he found out that I had become vegan, he told me that I had to go up to meet the incredible animals and people.

Before I even made my first visit to the Sanctuary, I had stalked the website so much that I knew the names of most of the animal residents.  I connected with CAS so much that I knew I wanted to be involved … even before my first visit! So I signed up to be a volunteer.  And when I showed up on orientation day for a tour I immediately knew that my life was changed.

Stencil greeting visitorsFirst of all, I was greeted by Stencil, Arthur, and Sansa which was enough to throw me over the edge and inspire me to set up a tent to live here forever. If you’ve never spent time playing with goats, I urge you to go do it now!  Those sweet trouble-making faces still get me every time I see them. They literally smirk playfully at you. It’s amazing.

That day was so important to me. I will never forget it. Not only did I meet some amazing like-minded people, but the animals! THE ANIMALS!!  They snorted, and neighed, and grunted, and nudged, and cuddled their way right into my heart forever.

I began volunteering as a tour greeter. I loved welcoming all of the families and guests on tour days.  Introducing them to Jailbird & Emmet (two roosters) who are the most lovable guys you’ll meet. Just watching someone who has never been up close to a chicken before hug one of these boys is pretty powerful.

And now I get to see those connections even more first hand as a tour guide! I was asked to join the team a few months after volunteering and was beyond thrilled to accept.

SheepIt has been such an amazing experience to learn about the beautiful species and all of the residents.  And my favorite times are still, what I call, the “Aha!” moments.  When I see someone fall in love with one of the animals, or make a connection to a fact that I’ve shared about the abuse they endure from the factory farm industry. Or answer questions about vegans getting plenty of protein and calcium. We do, by the way! (You can ask my doctor.) It’s those moments when you know you’ve said something or helped to facilitate a lasting change for someone that truly make an impact on me.

I have learned so much and changed in so many ways since becoming vegan.  And I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me. I know for sure that come April, it will lead me back to CAS for another tour season!

And I hope I’ll see you there too.



Your Diet, Our Future


2 replies on “OK, I’m Vegan! Now What?”

  1. I’ve been vegan for 27 years and consider it one of the best decisions of my life (my doctor agrees). I lost 25 lbs within the first few months. Today my blood work and test results are of a man half my age!

    Here’s a short video to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice and why the number of vegans has doubled in the US in less than 3 years.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE

    Also, here’s a link for everyone who wants to join the health revolution: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/step-by-step-guide-how-to-transition-to-vegan-diet/

  2. I’ve been happily vegan for a little over three years now. I find that being vegan, vs being consciously vegetarian, makes a stronger impact in others lives in terms of engaging them with the task of questioning the ethics of their decisions. It’s amazing to hear of the great work you’re doing, Nikki! We should totally trade recipes sometime. 🙂

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