In college biology lab we needed to dissect a live frog. This was around 1967. The instructress asked “if anyone thinks they will have trouble decerebrating it, raise your hand." I raised my hand. A few students raised their hands. Mostly females (I'm male). The instructress quickly walked to each of tables of the hand-raisers and decerebrated their frogs in quick succession: she put a scizzor in its mouth like so and cut like so (detaching the top, front part of the frog's head, from the rest of its head).
Months later, after smoking a lot of cigarettes, I got a bad cold and cough. The cough subsided after a month or so but my head was stuffed up for months, and wasn’t returning to normal. It was the same area of my head as the part of the frog’s head that was cut off. Then the skin in this area became numb, especially my forehead skin. Then, as the numbness subsided, it began being replaced by pain.
One day, around 1969, I was making dinner for friends. We bought lobsters and killed them the usual way, by dumping them, alive, into boiling water. That was the first time I killed an animal. After that I didn't want to be in the business of killing animals any more. I decided I didn’t want to eat any animals any more.
I couldn’t eat any animal ingredients, either. I read ingredient labels on food packaging. I became obsessive about identifying animal ingredients in all kinds of things and as you know this became my lifelong vocacation and I maintain a web site on the subject.
First, a part of my face had become numb, the same part of my face as the part of the frog's face that the instructress cut off. Then a year or so later it started to hurt. The pain sometimes became agonizing. Quite naturally, the pain caused me to act unusually -- mentally ill, some might think. But perhaps quite normal, for someone in pain. Gradually I learned how to act relatively normal, despite the pain, and despite being upset and unhappy about eating in other people’s kitchens and restaurants if they didn't have a vegan, shakahari, kitchen -- which no-one had.
I had pain that was untreated, or was only partially treated, from 1967 to 1999. From 1999 until now I have been pretty much without pain.
I have 3 kinds of chronic facial pain that are being treated: 1) atypical facial pain believed to be of neuropathic origin, possibly spheno-palatine ganglion related, 2) migraines, and 3) sinus pain. If I take my medicines, do my meditations, eat properly, and avoid certain air pollutants, I can generally function normally day after day without any substantial pain, although sometimes avoiding pain requires I take a nap during the day. However there is no way I can bear to cut off a frog's face, or kill an animal, or eat anything that has any ingredient in it that came from an animal, or use any product that came from an animal or has animal ingredients. Nor can I bear to see animals used in circuses, or harnessed by people to plow land or transport people and things, or to as a personal pet to make them happy. Nor do I like being around people who are intentionally preparing animals to eat and eating them. I don't like that atmosphere.