I am also a recent vegan and will remain so for the rest of my life. I agree with most of what you say about empathy, but also feel that many animals are capable of empathy. We know that seeing eye dogs help blind people and that some dogs have saved babies from drowning etc. This means they also love their puppies the same way. This is just one example. Gorillas and other animal species exhibit empathy. Humans don’t own this trait alone.