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Never Too Late to Change the World: Why I Became Vegetarian at Age 86

By Visiting Animal — December 09, 2012

My grandmother is my hero; she always has been. She taught me how to play fair, how to be confident enough in myself so that idiots wouldn’t matter, and how to put on eyeliner. She showed me how to consistently strive for greatness (she thinks I’m great!), and gave me the self-assurance to tap into my talents in a way that would do good in the world. When I was 14, she taught me how to drive, how to memorize Frank Sinatra lyrics, and how to curse in Yiddish. She continually demonstrates compassion, kindness, generosity, and humility. Even now, at age 88, in the wake of losing her ability to walk, she keeps her head held high and her sense of self strong and unwavering. My grandmother is my favorite person on the planet, and she’s about to become your favorite, too.

xo jasmin

Me and Grandma

Never Too Late to Change the World: Why I Became Vegetarian at Age 86

By Sherrey Reim Glickman

I want people to know who I was!

Born in 1924 into a Jewish immigrant household in Brooklyn, I was raised on chicken soup, meatloaf, pot roast, gefilte fish, hamburgers, hot dogs, and steak. I loved them all, never questioning what the source of my food was. Everyone I knew lived and ate the same way. Thanksgiving was for eating turkey. Passover was for eating chicken or pot roast. There was no strong meat industry in those days, not like today anyway. Factory farming hadn’t yet boomed. Perhaps animals were treated better, but then again, they were still slaughtered for food. And who even thought about that anyway? Eating meat was the norm of the day.

There were no supermarkets then. Meat was purchased at butcher shops. I still remember the neighborhood butcher, Mr. Young, who was a real jokester (well, he thought so). When we’d stop by Mr. Young’s shop, jokes would often arise regarding life in a butcher shop. Most of them were not very funny. One joke I remember was about a consumer who asked to smell the hind section of a chicken she was about to purchase (that’s how you knew how fresh the carcass was – why I didn’t go vegan then is beyond me). The joke goes that the butcher responded, “Could you pass that test yourself, lady?” Awful, isn’t it?

When I got married to George, I was 18. I continued to cook like my mother had, except I added more vegetables to our diet. George was a very open-minded, progressive guy, who always questioned assumptions. He marched with Martin Luther King, an experience that forever changed him. He was the kind of partner who encouraged me to follow my dreams. He was not the sort of man who would be embarrassed by a working wife – though that was the thinking of many at that time. As a result, I led a happy, fulfilled life. The reason I bring this up was because had we known about the exploitation of animals then, and about veganism (a word that was not even coined yet), George would have become a vegan, and embraced animal rights activism. I’m sure of it. Too bad we didn’t know about that lifestyle. Maybe he would have lived longer. My George died way too young, of a fast and furious cancer that took his life in a matter of months.

My second husband, Murray, loved animals. He took more pleasure in talking about his dog than about his children. When we would visit my daughter – Jasmin’s mom – who had a cat named Rocky, the cat would immediately jump onto Murray’s lap, where he was pampered and petted. Rocky stayed on Murray’s lap as long as he could. Who wouldn’t? Had Murray been alive when Our Hen House started, he would have been an activist for the cause.

So how did I change, and why? How did I become who I am, instead of who I was?

I had always been an activist for women’s rights. I lived life as a woman who moved to the beat of her own drum. It seems like a natural extension that animal rights came next.

But I never had any pets. I never even thought about animals, to be honest. As a teacher, I did keep them in my classroom – which I see now was not the best decision, when looked at from the point of view of the hamster or turtle. The schoolchildren cared for the animals, considering it an honor to take them home on the weekends. I must admit, I became enamored with one particular turtle whom I thought had more spunk than his comrades (let alone some of the humans in my life).

When my darling granddaughter Jasmin went to work for Farm Sanctuary, I became a little involved. I bought Gene Baur’s book Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, and I went to Princeton to hear his lecture. I attended the NYC Walk for Farm Animals, and marveled at what a movement this cause had become. I attended meetings and workshops where they showed films documenting how animals were being abused. These films were very graphic, and not easy to swallow. I did not realize how much I was being affected.

I shared my feelings with my friends. Their reactions were mostly sympathetic; they realized that animals were not treated humanely. One of my friends decided to become a vegetarian. The others told me it was too late to change their eating habits. I had not yet declared myself a vegetarian, although I was eating differently and didn’t realize it. When I joined my family at restaurants, I discovered how tasty vegan food is.

Then, when I read a letter to the editor that Mariann had published in the New York Times Magazine, regarding how deeply we as a culture are impacted by the massive denial our society has when it comes to consuming animal products – consuming death, really – it had a profound effect on me. That letter was, I see now, my last straw, the final step in making a decision regarding the path I must take. I declared myself a vegetarian, putting an important label on a behavior I realized I had already adopted. I now knew, without any doubt, why I could no longer eat meat. It was a declaration for my future, and for the future of the planet. Meat made me sick. At long last, there was simply no way I could continue to support the cruelty of animal production. The world evolves, and so do we.

So who am I at this point of my life? I was 86 when I made such dramatic changes. I no longer join my friends for lunch, because even the smell of meat cooking makes me ill – and not just physically.

I am now an 88-year-old dame living in a vegan home. My daughter cooks colorful, healthy, decadent, delicious meals for me. I eat better than I ever have before. I am happy to have changed the way I eat, and the way I think. I am angry that society accepts the way we treat our animals, and I will continue to espouse the rights of animals. I like who I am now!

***

Sherrey Reim Glickman

Sherrey Reim Glickman is an 88-year-old retired schoolteacher with a penchant for winning at mahjong. When not busy on her iPad, she can be found catching the latest indie flick, doting on her great-granddaughter and great-grand-dog, reading mystery novels, or singing old show tunes, perfectly on pitch. She lives in Marlboro, N.J.


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(36) Readers Comments

  1. December 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Very inspiring, Sherrey! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Blueorchid
    December 11, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I think she is my hero now too! Love her <3

  3. December 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this story. What a smart and cool person Sherrey is. Rock on!

  4. Joyce Wood
    December 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks!!! I loved your sharing your story. I just turned 65 and just became Vegan this year. I grew up eating meat and dairy and never ever even thought about or knew what cruel abuse the animals endured to feed us. As soon as I connected the dots I became Vegan immediately. Now, I am working to share this news with my family and friends. They think I am crazy. I don't care. Better late than never to realize I was stupid, ignorant and wrong!! I was contributing to the abuse of animals, destroying the planet and my health!

    • Jasmin Singer
      December 13, 2012 at 1:52 am

      Keep on keepin' on, Joyce! You're an inspiration! xo

  5. December 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

    You two are like twins!!

    • Jasmin Singer
      December 13, 2012 at 1:51 am

      That's a very high compliment to me! Thank you!

  6. Mark Wilton
    December 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    That is an interesting story and good to see that no matter how old you are you can change. It is very important that we do start treating our animals better and that is why I always know where my meat comes from and I think it is important that everyone should. I would say though that there is probably a reason she has lived so long and is still so active at her age. I just hope that if you see her health changing you are open minded enough to realize that some people will be healthier with meat. (I would say everyone with some meat, there is a reason the average time a person is vegan for is 7 years and the most common reason for switching back is health problems). There are certain things B12, EPA, DHA, Vitamin A etc. that are either not in plant sources, not bioavailable or not in high enough amounts. You can try to get around this with supplements but even many of the supplements are not bioavailable, which is why it is always best to get your nutrition from real whole foods.

    • December 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Human's bodies were not made to digest meat. There is much research I've seen to prove this. However, I have not seen convincing research to prove humans "need" meat. Eating cooked meat is not natural, therefore, not needed. And while some vitamins and minerals are not available in plants and fruits alone, they are available in nuts, seeds, oils, algae, legumes and nutritional yeast. If a vegan / vegetarian knows how to eat correctly, they will thrive! If you want to see women who look amazing for their age and thrive on a (raw) vegan diet, look up Mimi Kirk and Annette Larkins.

      • Mark Wilton
        December 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm

        So much of what you said is wrong. Saying "I have seen the research" is not an argument please show some research. Humans were not made to eat only meat but we were made to eat some which is why humans are classified as omnivores, which is why we share some traits with herbivores and some with carnivores. Anyone can pick traits from one side or the other to try to "prove" their point (for example our intestines are longer than say a lion a carnivore but shorter than a deer a herbivore so people use this for both sides of the argument and it is a very weak one). Also picking a person and saying they look good doing it so it must be right is terrible proof. I know elderly people who eat terrible diets and yet look good, this does not mean this diet is right. Look at Mark Sisson for what you want to look like at 55 (see I can do it too) or here is a good one for you http://www.tvthrong.co.uk/2011/11/photo-gillian-mckeith-vs-nigella-lawson/. As with the picking of traits picking of people is terrible "proof" you can use it for whatever argument you want. The fact that it takes so much effort to eat this way and stay healthy should be an indication it is not natural for you. You should not have to eat "nuts, seeds, oils, algae, legumes and nutritional yeast" because I don't think our ancestors were running around making sure they ate all their algae or nutritional yeast to stay healthy. If all our ancestors relied on this for their nutrition we wouldn't be here. Also just because a "food" contains something (vitamin. mineral, etc.) does not mean we can absorb it. If you are using algae for example for your b12 you will be in trouble because it contains b12 analogs so we can't absorb it. We know this because people were fed spirulina and tempeh and their blood levels for B12 were measured and they did not change (Scheer, James. Health Freedom News, (Monrovia, CA), March 1991, p. 7) Also for those who say it is made by bacteria in our gut B12 must be bound to intrinsic factor in the stomach so anything made lower will not be absorbed. Here is an interesting article you may want to take a look at http://www.livescience.com/23671-eating-meat-made-us-human.html So when you say we don't "need it" we certainly did to get where we are today. A vegan diet can be good for detoxing but is not healthy to maintain long term. I suggest you look at research and not just to what people say or you have heard. Also be a critical thinker just because you don't want to eat meat don't just accept anything which goes against eating eat, see if it is actually accurate or makes sense. I know you won't like it but this is a good article explaining some of the points. I know Mercola may not be liked by many here but in this case he is right and has research to back up everything he is saying. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2000/04/02/vegetarian-myths.aspx

        • January 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm

          I am vegan. It is not difficult to eat vegan. What is difficult is to be surrounded by the non-vegan population feasting on decaying flesh and suffering. There are indeed many "experts" out there tryin to sell their method of the day whose primary function is the slimming of our wallets. I tried them all and after multiple failures resorted to the expert of all experts: my own instinct. I have zero carnivore or ominivore instinct. Observing the omniovre crow feasting on the decaying corpse of a rat I salivate not. Observing the omnivore bear tearing strips off the freshly caught salmont I salivate not. I possess no apparatus to catch the squirell when hungry. Even if I could I have no teeth to rip her fur and dig into her steaming intestines. I have no taste for her warm gelatinous brains and her warm blood. In the past I was brainwashed to believe flesh and dairy is good for me. Being an adult I choose to be brainwashed no more. Now following my inner expert I feel awesome, radiate energy and joy, have no health problems, not even a cold. To be able to reduce suffering on this earth is a fare that is as delicious as fried portabella mushroom with carmelized pecans on quinoa. I LOVE it! However if you are the mythical omnivore beast I would be most interested in viewing your prowless in killing, disembowelling and devouring. That would be the entertainment of the year. Buon appetite.

        • Michelle
          January 19, 2013 at 12:14 am

          Mark Wilton, please delve into some of the material on the PCRM website if you really think we're meant to eat flesh. http://pcrm.org/health/ As for dairy products, humans consuming the milk of non-humans is patently absurd.

        • November 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

          no one would argue that cows are herbivores and yet they are often fed meat on factory farms (usually other dead cows). Just because we CAN eat meat doesn't mean its good for us nor that its how our bodies were designed to thrive.

  7. December 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Lady, you rock big time! Thank you so much!

  8. Vonnie Thomasberg
    December 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Right on! I am 82 years old and became a vegetarian and then a vegan about 40 years ago. And I am still here in spite of the warnings from my friends that it would not be a healthy way of eating. My eldest daughter introduced me to a book on the way animals that were raised for food were treated. Then and there my 3 girls and I became instant vegetarians. The boys were a harder sell. I attended vegetarian conferences in upstate New York which made me aware of the animal movement in this country. A long story short I founded an animal rights group in 1980. It is still going strong - making a difference not only in animal lives but in human lives also. I believe that there would be much less violence in the world if veganism was the norm.

  9. YurtGirl
    December 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Jasmin, I think it would be great if you could make a video starring your grandma with this same title and you put it on YouTube. I think it could reach and inspire an even wider audience than it already has. Everyone is sharing this article and I think it would be the same with a video, plus it gives YouTubers the opportunity to stumble upon this amazing story. If it comes to fruition, I'd love to submit it to my local news station for one of their feel good segments (or even somewhere like The Today Show or Ellen; I know she messed up, but I do believe she has a good - if not fully educated - heart and still can be an amazing advocate for animals with her tremendous reach.) People could even show it as a short intro film before screenings of movies pro-vegan/vegetarian movies to amp people up and show them it's never too late to change the world for animals, the planet, and one's health. And selfishly, I'd love to see and hear Sherrey in action. Just a suggestion. :)

    • December 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      I love your suggestion, YurtGirl -- just as much as I love Sherrey, who I hereby adopt as "my" grandmother, too! Thanks for sharing your story, Sherrey; I'm going to send it to lots of my friends, who will be as inspired by you as I now am, and as Jasmin always has been!

  10. January 10, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    You are lovely! We are always capable of change, at any point in our lives. I've been vegan for about 7 years (admittedly, I have cheated here and there during that time), and know that I will never go back to eating meat, or animal products. I feel better physically, and emotionally, I can no longer handle the fact that my choice to consume animal products leads to such suffering on innocent, sentient beings. I'm so proud of you, me and the rest of those who truly get it!

  11. March 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Absolutely amazing! Anyone would be lucky to know her; I feel lucky for having read this piece.

  12. August 28, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    You are an inspiration! I've been a vegan for a year for ethical reasons. I was vegetarian for 20 years then I became enlightened to the horrors of the dairy industry and instantly gave it up. It's can be hard, I don't know any other vegans, and I encounter so many snide comments. I find the connection between women's rights and animal rights interesting, particularly with regards to the forcible impregnation of cows for milk. There is no doubt in my mind, that this is rape of an animal. And the process of immediately taking the calf from it's mother, breaks my heart. It is easy for omnis to 'other' animals, as people did to women, non-whites, we can justify anything if we dehumanize the other group to exploit them. People scoffed at the idea that children had rights, that women had rights, that non-whites had rights. Just keep that in mind and don't let the majority get you down. While I don't believe we need animal products, even if we did, I still wouldn't do it. We do so many cruel and inhumane things to each other, human nature is cruel, but we don't have to accept it. I don't need to justify my choice with studies, when the people who do them will be biased anyways. I know in my heart that what we do to animals for food, is wrong.

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