I have never eaten meat. Ever.
When people find this out the reaction that follows is often one of incredulity, mixed with confusion. How on earth can someone be alive, actually living and breathing if they have NEVER eaten the flesh of a dead animal?
Answer: I was raised a vegetarian. From the day I was born, my vegetarian parents put me on a vegetarian diet. While others at school would have fish fingers, I would have vegetable fingers. And when children asked me why I was a vegetarian, the answer was simple: because of the cruelty involved in the meat industry.
Of course, I was not wholly aware of the extent of the cruelty, but I knew that an animal had to die in order for meat to be produced and I liked animals - loved them, in fact. So having a veggie sausage at dinner time instead of a pork one didn't seem like much of sacrifice to me.
It wasn't until I was 18 years old that I decided to become vegan. The change happened after I saw footage of calves being taken away from their mothers so that the milk could be siphoned off and used for human consumption. I also discovered what happened to male chicks that were not useful to the egg industry - it's pretty horrific.
Two industries that I naively thought were exempt from the cruelty involved in meat production were both intrinsically linked to it.
I didn't become vegan over night, but slowly started to substitute my semi-skimmed milk for Alpro, my butter for sunflower spread and so on.
As I soon found out, everyone has an opinion about vegans - and gosh do they like to share it.
So for this year's World Vegan Day, here are 10 of the most common reactions I've had from people after they've discovered that I don't eat meat or dairy.
1. If we don't eat meat then animals would take over the planet
Response: Animals cannot breed at the rate required for human consumption, meaning that many have to be artificially inseminated. Impregnating a cow so you can steal her child, along with her milk, before butchering them both is a bit messed up, don't you think?
2. Eating meat is natural
Response: We no longer live in caves or have to kill for survival. Scientists are trying to find cures for our 'natural' ailments. We sit in offices with central heating to avoid the 'natural' weather outside. We have shunned all 'natural' environments to make our lives more comfortable. Why are we still clinging to this 'natural' argument when it causes so much pain and suffering to other species?
3. You need meat to be healthy
Response: There's a wealth of alternatives to meat, so many that I cannot list them all here. Some of the top athletes in the world are vegan - Serena Williams and Venus Williams, for example.
4. You need to give your children meat to make them smart
Response: I've never eaten meat and I'd appreciate it if you not call me stupid, thank you.
5. I could never be vegan, I like meat too much
Response: Firstly, I wasn't asking you to be. Secondly, just because you like something does not mean that you should keep on doing it. I think the suffering inflicted on billions of animals should outweigh the enjoyment to your taste buds.
6. Vegetables feel pain, too
Response: Stop being an idiot.
7. But what do you eat?
Response: Clearly enough, as I'm still alive. There are so many alternatives to meat, dairy and egg products. I never struggle to find food. As veganism becomes more popular, restaurant chains are starting to give vegans more options, I rarely - if ever - walk into a restaurant and discover there's nothing I can eat.
8. We're at the top of the food chain, it's our right to eat meat
Response: Yes, humans are the dominant species. But just because we are the most powerful species on this earth it does not give us the right to abuse, enslave and slaughter every other species. Human rights stop where another life is affected.
9. Lions kill animals for food - it's nature
Response: Lions and other wild animals know no better, or any other alternative. I highly doubt a lion kills a zebra and debates whether the zebra feels pain. We are more evolved than other animals, let's start showing it.
10. If God didn't want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?
Response: 'God' also made humans out of meat, follow that 'logic' through...Suggest a correction