For the first part, look here.
Becoming a vegetarian had been rather easy. I didn't really find myself craving animal flesh and I didn't feel jealous when I saw others eating it. I still believed it was morally acceptable to kill and eat animals, but I couldn't afford the premium, expensive 'happy meat' from the local farmers' markets. Perhaps the fact that I hadn't 'banned' meat from the menu, just postponed it, made it easier to transition.
Avalanchian, on the other hand, was seeing things rather differently. I remember one early conversation, shortly after we had made the switch to vegetarianism, in which I mused that I might go back to eating meat some day. Avalanchian made that 'I don't agree but I'll pretend that I do' noise and said that he wasn't sure he'd follow suit, although of course I should do whatever I thought was right. When pressed, he admitted that he wasn't sure that welfare and 'kind killing' should be the goal and he thought it proably was immoral for us, living in a nation with varied and suitable non-flesh food options, to ever eat animal meat. I wasn't convinced, still clinging to the hope of bacon sandwiches some time in the distant future, and I was rather surprised that he had become the more radical of the two of us, given that I was the one who had initiated this change.
However, I was still surfing the web, finding vegetarian blogs and upsetting videos about puppy mills and slaughterhouses. I found myself being pulled more and more in Avalanchian's direction. One day I engaged in a rather heated debate online with someone who was convinced that vegetarianism was a strange and irrational choice. I found myself trying to justify not why I was vegetarian, but why I wasn't a vegan. I hedged around the issue, played devil's advocate and generally tried to distract my opponent from ad hominems but was left with a rather pressing question - why wasn't I a vegan? I posted extracts from the arguement on my Livejournal and a friend referred their vegan friend to my page. We chatted and she recommended Vegan Freak to me. I immediately put it on my Christmas list, which probably made my mother raise an eyebrow. Christmas came and the book was under the tree.
The Spring term came around and so did the time to submit a proposal for my 'special subject' module. I wrote an application to my department for an essay exploring the moral dimension of eating meat and was very excited when my proposal was accepted. I ran to the library (well, sort of wandered there a few days later) and scoured the ethics section, pulling books by Tom Regan and Peter Singer off the shelf with gusto. I dived onto Amazon and ordered more books - Francione, Garner, Rowlands... Greatly satisfied with my initial efforts, I curled up on the sofa with and opened Empty Cages. Within a few pages, my life started to change.
The more I read about animal rights, welfare and liberation, the more I realised how incoherent my own views were. It was all very well reading blogs and talking on forums but these discussions followed a kind of intuitive quasi-logic. What seems sensible, what seems reasonable. They were constantly derailed onto irrelevent tangents by intelligent and articulate people who nonetheless couldn't get their heads around the difference between 'I agree with this' and 'this is a logically sound position'. Now I was reading relentlessly consistent, disspassionate, ruthlessly rational arguments that were hammering away at my beliefs and assumptions.
I discussed my findings with Avalanchian and we both knew what needed to happen. However, we hesitated. It was too expensive (was it?). It was too hard (was it?). It would cause too many problems (would it?). Maybe we should give it ago, but not yet. We should wait until I graduated, wait until we had more money and were more settled. Still, I carried on reading my books. The weight of my hypocrisy was crushing. The final straw came when I watched a video on Viva! of male chicks ('by-products of the egg industry') being thrown into a grinder. Alive. I couldn't do it anymore. The emotions had finally caught up with the logic.
The time had come to meet with my tutor to discuss my project. I described a rather different assignment to the one I had originally proposed. I was going to lay out an abolitionist case for animal rights and I was going to become a vegan.