I am not ‘radical’ I have always been a middle of the road, fairly liberal person. Yet when I look back at my teenage self I am amazed. I was shy and quiet but very determined. I made the decision to be a vegetarian at 19 when it wasn’t that common and I became obsessed with animal rights. (I didn’t go to any demonstrations because I was always a bit too scared but I secretly wanted to so did everything else I could think of.)
When I first turned vegetarian I had no idea what I was doing and simply cut meat out of my diet. This resulted in me eating some odd meals seriously lacking in vitamins. My mum refused to let me stop eating fish and would feed it to me every time I came home – much to my disgust. A couple of years on I stopped eating that. A few years later I discovered animal products were in different things – gelatine in jellies, sweets and some desserts for example so I cut them out of my diet. Then many years later, to my horror, I found out wine is not always vegetarian. But I made the decision that, because fish scales are part of the process and not part of the actual product, I would try not to worry about it. Plus, it’s wine! Does that make me a bad vegetarian? Possibly, but I have veggy friends who eat Haribo and I know which I would miss more.
From when I was a teenager I was very keen on animal rights. I think it started with Grange Hill. I vividly remember one character joining an animals rights group after a demonstration outside a chemist selling make up which had been tested on animals. I was a member of the British Union Against Vivisection, I only shopped at The Body Shop (pre L’Oreal takeover) and I wore ‘Against Animal Testing’ t-shirts as often as my Red Dwarf ones. (I was a student in the early 90s don’t judge me.) I refused to use any product if it was tested on animals – which at that time really limited my choice! And I was constantly signing petitions against animal cruelty. But over time my views, not exactly changed but I suppose I grew up and realised it was not always realistic to be like that all the time.
For example when you are in a relationship there has to be give and take and my insistence on supermarket own brand non biological washing powder was not doing wonders for my boyfriend’s work shirts. So we moved to a branded one, which I hated, but most of the other household products are non animal tested so I kind of hope that makes up for it. That same boyfriend, now husband, spent ages trying to find me cruelty free perfume one year – going into every shop and department store and asking the assistants if their products were tested on animals until he found one – so lovely! Fortunately these days it is much easier to find out what is and isn’t veggy or cruelty free. Thank God for Google!
I know I’m not radical, and I never was, I’m a 40-year-old (gulp!) woman who took a small stand as a student and is doing her best to keep it going, in her own little way.
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