Only a few years ago I was 'that' guy. I ate meat because it tasted good; because I believed it to be my ‘only’ source of protein, and because I blindly thought that the animals were being treated in a humane way. However, there were two moments in my life that changed everything for me.
The first was when I got my dog Noah, he’s a Maltese poodle. I had never felt love like the love I felt for him. He became a big part of my life and I began to understand the strong bond we have with animals, how they can love us without expecting any thing in return.
The second was when I watched Earthlings, a documentary that shows the harsh realities of the meat and dairy industries. When I say ‘watched’, I didn't get beyond the first 10 minutes. I couldn’t watch any more than that. I was broken, I couldn’t believe this was going on. As I sat on my bed in floods of tears I turned, looked at Noah and felt like I had finally woken up. I couldn’t understand how we could love dogs so much, but treat these other animals so differently. This was the turning point, I vowed to myself I could not play a part in fuelling an industry that could treat animals in such a disgusting way.
My first step was cutting out meat. I thought it would be hard, but it was very easy. I had little understanding of how far beyond just meat the problem went. I slowly began researching the wider food industry and realised it wasn't just meat that was the problem. I had been eating fish even after I cut out meat, but after some in-depth research I realised that sea life was also heavily affected. Between 1970-2012 there was a 50% decline in marine life due to over-fishing. Reading that blew my mind, so I decided to cut out fish for good.
At this point I was still eating cheese. I thought, like many other people, that the dairy industry must be okay. I figured that the animals MUST be having a great life, at least they don’t get killed right? Turns out, I was pretty wrong. The dairy industry was what shook me most. You can find countless sources on the internet that will tell you how the dairy industry works. But in brief, cows produce milk that is filled with natural growth hormones for their calves, so that they can grow into a fully-sized cow. To take the milk for human consumption, the mother and calf are separated (a very painful and distressing event for both), and the milk that was meant to go to the calf to help it grow into a healthy cow, is taken from the mother and fed to humans. The calf will never see their mother again, and will either be killed or raised by humans for meat or milk. It’s a prolonged torture for them, spending most of their lives locked in a cage. So I stopped eating dairy products.
The number of vegans today in the UK alone is 3.5 million, with the number rising every year. It’s great to see how people are waking up to the realities of this industry, but it doesn’t stop there. Vegans have a pretty bad rep because of the forceful nature of their approach to non-vegans. This also has to change, pushing people into a corner saying “you have to do this, you have to do that” won’t work. It only alienates, and this movement is about love and acceptance, about growing together to be and do better. The journey starts here, and we have to inspire each other to do better.