Siew-May Lim is a compassionate writer based in Malaysia. She started her vego diet by pledging for one meat free day a week with Be Kind Be Vego in 2016. She’s now a 100% vego. Siew-May envisions a world without speciesism in her lifetime - this is a world where enlightened humans stop discriminating against animals and exploit them in any means. She tells us why she abandoned an ill-informed diet that spanned over three decades of her existence.
Why do you choose to be a vego?
There are many good reasons as to why one should adopt a meat-free lifestyle.
A whole food, plant-based diet makes so much sense - it is better for our health, produces substantially lower carbon footprint and spares the lives of innocent animals.
In my case, compassion for animals was the key motivating factor. Over the years, my compassion for them compounded - it hit a tipping point when I was in my mid 30s, where I decided to make an effort to cut down on chicken and pork, then transitioned to a vegetarian diet, to now a predominantly vegan lifestyle.
Would you please tell us more about your transition to being a vego?
The seed of compassion for animals was planted when I was a child. When I saw lorries ferrying truckloads of caged chickens to slaughterhouses, I couldn’t help but felt sad and sorry for them. Yet, I couldn’t stop consuming them at that time. Like any kids, I enjoyed my Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hainanese chicken rice and many more meat-based delicacies.
At 18, I met an Indian college coursemate who was a vegetarian. When I asked her why and how she could stick to such a non-mainstream diet, she replied: "You just have to see how they slaughter chickens in the market." I couldn't deny what meat sellers did at the market was cruel, and I knew humans could survive on a vegetarian diet. Yet, I still couldn’t abandon the cruel and irrational food choices that I and many people around me had been making.
Over the years, I witnessed many incidents of animal cruelty either with my own eyes, through mainstream media or social media. It saddened me, even more so at this stage since I bonded with the two stray dogs that my brother rescued and adopted in 2013. Through our two dogs, I learnt that animals and humans have a lot more in common than we are conscious of - they are all individuals with unique personalities, yearn to be loved, have the capacity to love, feel sad, moody and depressed, love freedom, fear pain, suffering and death - just like us.
One thing led to another - over time, I finally woke up and acknowledged that if it's cruel to eat dogs as some cultures do, eating the tortured dead bodies of other docile and defenceless animals like a cow, lamb, chicken, pig and fish are no less barbaric. I no longer want to participate in their untold suffering three times a day.
Do you harbour any regret since you embarked on this journey? What have been your challenges?
I regret that I only made the switch in my mid 30s, contributing to countless deaths and suffering of our beautiful animal friends for over three decades.
Indeed, this is one of my greatest regrets in life. I try to make up now by speaking up against animal cruelty, condemning the horrors of the animal agriculture industry and promoting a plant-based lifestyle among my social circle.
My newfound consciousness is a double-edged sword - while I am glad to be making better food choices, it overwhelms me with sadness when the world at large operates like a giant animal slaughterhouse - I feel heartbroken when I walk past row after row of dead animal bodies, see caged livestock panicking while their peers are mercilessly slaughtered at the market, and so many otherwise kind and intelligent people around me are still consuming dead animal bodies, unaware that they are accumulating bad karma, bad health, as well as contributing to vast environmental pollution and animal suffering.
What would you say to those who are unsure if they should adopt a vego diet?
If you think it is impossible or too late for you to adopt a kinder diet this lifetime, please know that every baby step towards this direction counts. It is not an all-or-nothing approach - you can start small and let consistent baby steps compound into a better lifestyle.
Start by choosing one meat-free day a week, cut down the type of meat you consume gradually, reduce your intake of dairy and eggs, and watch with amazement as your taste preferences change, and new, better habits form over time.
Forming new habits take time - so if you ever give in to meat cravings, don’t give up and revert to your old lifestyle - just get back on track again the next meal.
You will gain new discoveries and learn just how resourceful and creative you can get on this journey - far from being a restrictive diet, you will discover there are so many delicious plant-based food alternatives that you can make on your own. Many eateries also cater to non-meat diners, while plant-based restaurants are mushrooming and upping their ante. You will also be happy to know that there are plenty of easy and delicious plant-based recipes on YouTube!
I would also encourage you to download plant-based dining apps like Happy Cow and join plant-based support groups you find helpful on Facebook. Having a support group to exchange recipes and compare notes is especially important since we are a minority on this planet.
On behalf of other compassionate diners around the world, I warmly welcome you to explore a food trend that is growing in popularity. Remember - small, consistent effort beats inaction everytime! :)