The first thing I should say is that I am an animal lover. I don’ t think I’d function without animals in my life, being in their company makes me very happy. My husband would tell you that he has often felt second fiddle to various members of my animal family over the years and I would be unable to argue.
I was brought up on a farm, where cows, sheep, pigs, horses, cats and dogs were part of my every day existence. There was milk on the table every morning from the small herd of dairy cows and I loved taking left overs to our pair of pigs Bubble and Squeak. My family ate meat, lots of it, we weren’t allowed to leave the table without finishing it. Even as a small child I was fussy about food, specifically meat. It looked wrong to me, it was brown and lumpy and had strings that I didn’t like. My family ate everything, liver, kidneys, heart, tongue. There was a paticularily bad experience with some brain that I won’t go into.
This didn’t go down well. I spent many hours sitting in front of a plate of food I simply could not stomach. However it wasn’t until I was 6 or 7 that I made the critical link.
I went to feed Bubble and Squeek. But Squeek was no longer large and pink with wiry blond hair and a big snuffly nose. Squeek was small and had brown patches on his back. I asked my father what had happened and was told that pigs grew differently to people and sometimes they get smaller. I’ve asked my parents about this lie recently and they said that they guessed how things would go if I understood the truth and wanted to stop it for as long as they could. They also appreciate that this was wrong. Unfortunately for them, I have 7 older siblings and the truth came out almost immediately. I understood that I had been eating my friends and would be continually asked to.
I won’t spend too long dwelling on this. There were battles over food, over meat for years. There simply weren’t vegitarians in my family. Everyone shot, hunted, fished. I became anxious about food, I didn’t trust where it came from. As soon as I was old enough to become vegitarian I did. I found it easiest at school where vegitarian food was readily available. In school holiday at home I lost lots of weight because I simply ate the vegitables that were offered alongside the meat. My best friend was vegitarian as was her mother. I loved staying with them, no anxiety, no suspicion.
I was not perfect, I went through phases of eating fish, chicken and at one point (and I cringe saying this) bacon.
This brings me to Summer 2014. My husband (not vegitarian) had been working abroad for 6 months so there had been no meat in the house for a while as i had not need to buy any for him. I began to look into veganism. What took vegans that step further than vegitarians? What was I missing? So I asked the question: What is wrong with dairy? The cows and chickens don’t die so it can’t be that bad. I was overwhelmed with horror when the anwers came flooding back. I was heartbroken. How could I have been so ignorant? I cried for days and decided that I would bear witness to the suffering so I would never go back. The suffering and abuse that animals go through because of human greed is unacceptable. Dairy cows are inseminated every 14 months to keep them pregnant and their milk flowing. Their calves are taken from them at birth and either killed on the spot or taken to be raised for veal. Their mothers scream for days. After 4 or 5 years the cows produce less milk and they are then slaughtered. Chickens have a similar fate. I don’t need to labour the point but there are no happy endings here. There are two films that made a huge impact on me: The Ghosts In Our Machine (http://www.theghostsinourmachine.com/) and Earthlings (http://earthlings.com/).
So that was it. The leather shoes, belts and wool hat and jumpers went out the door. As did the milk, butter, eggs.
I was concerned about how my husband would react to the change when he got home. I didn’t need to. He was interested, and did his own research. He now eats vegan too.
Life is made far more simple today due to the internet. We can educate ourselves on any subject. We can research food, recipies and ingredients. There is no need to be afraid of the unknown because there will already be millions of people on that journey ahead of you waiting to give you a helping hand.
I have more energy, my eczema so rarely rears its scabby head that I sometimes forget I have it. And my food hang-ups are gone. There is no looking back.