My Heart Belongs to the Rescued Animals at Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary

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There was a time in my life where I didn't think twice about the souls of animals. Hell, I have even shot at squirrels and turkeys in my youth, having been raised in a rural area and in a family that hunted--and still does.

We even had pets--dogs, cats, fish, and hamsters. At the age of 11, I joined 4-H and decided to show rabbits in the local fairs. When I say the phrase, "breeding like rabbits", know it's no joke. In fact, 3 black satin bunnies soon turned into 58 within a 6-month period!

As you can probably imagine, I was raised a meat eater. There was meat on our table at least two meals per day.Remember all those rabbits? Yep, they made it to our table disguised as chicken. What else were my parents to do with so many of my furry friends?

I continued eating meat through my mid-thirties. Then, when the Meatless Monday movement hit, I started paying attention to what the medical community had to say about the consumption of meat. Eating meat is known to increase your cholesterol and blood pressure. It leads to diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and gout. This limited information I learned was enough for me to drop meat on Mondays, purely for the sake of my own health. Mind you, I had none of these conditions, and I was very fit, healthy, and active. But, I had read enough to make some dietary changes.

The next two years were filled with lots of new awareness around this topic. My husband and I learned how to "re-cook", ensuring that the protein on our plates came from plants, not animal sources. We spent a lot of time watching documentaries and reading books about the factory farm industry, how animals were treated in those conditions, and how the consumption of animal products continues to be a leading source of cancer. Before we knew it, we had replaced meat-centric meals 6 nights a week and would "treat" ourselves to a steak or piece of chicken on Sunday nights.

On one such Sunday night, we looked up across the table from one another and wondered, "Why are we eating meat once per week?" We realized more than anything that it was "tradition". Those Sunday meals now consisted of favorite family dishes we hadn't learned to recreate yet. That particular Sunday was a turning point in our journey to becoming vegan.

Since then, we have both gone vegan--we eat no eggs, dairy, meat, or animal derivatives (honey included). We simply knew too much about what was happening behind the animal industry scenes to continue to partake in the cruelty. It hasn't always been easy or convenient to stick to our principles, but like every big change in life, it takes a commitment and being absolutely clear on your "why".

When thinking about non-profits I wanted to partner with for my new book, I knew that an animal rights organization would be at the top of my list. I reached out to Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary, met the founders Peter and Gabby, and knew this would be a perfect place for me to volunteer and learn more about my vegan journey and commitment to this lifestyle in the process.

Tamerlaine rescues animals from deplorable conditions and gives them the best lives they possibly can. I visited the farm with my husband, Michael. The chickens not only had beautiful spirits, but the most colorful plumage. They crawled into my lap to snuggle, just like my cat, Shakti, does. The pot-bellied pigs rubbed up against me, snorted and laughed, and walked alongside of me, just like my dog used to do. The animals were happy, healthy and living exactly how animals should live--free from the cruelty of humans.