My earliest memory is of my grandfather’s hands. They are submerged in a bucket of water drowning the unwanted, new-born pups of our sheepdog, Flash. I am 2 or 3 years old – too young to know what is going on – so I just stand there, a curious and impassive observer.

Vegan on Female First

Vegan on Female First

Grandad was a butcher, a meat inspector and a farmer. Meat was virtually a sacrament in our family – one which we took three times a day. My other grandfather, although deceased before my birth, had been a farmer too. Growing up, I was a bit of a tomboy. I loved the outdoors, I loved all animals, so becoming a farmer was a natural choice for me.

I graduated with a BSc in Agriculture in 1983. I did not enjoy the programme of study, but I came from the generation who finished what they started. The only field trip I skipped was the one to the abattoir. I knew I couldn’t go. Maybe if I had gone, change would have happened sooner.

I worked on a couple of different farms but then, at age 24, I abandoned agriculture and the UK to live abroad for 28 years.

In 1994, I went to India for nine months. People told me, “whatever you do, don’t eat the meat in India!” – qualifying that it was unsanitary and a fast way to become ill. I didn’t eat the meat (but became ill anyway!). Shortly before returning to Japan which I then called home, I woke up one morning with this thought: “If I say I love animals, yet I eat them, then I’m a hypocrite”. That was the day I became a vegetarian. I had never personally met a vegetarian, but I knew it was the only choice to make.

I thought I was doing the most I could to save animals until fourteen years later, whilst living on the border between Texas and New Mexico, I met my first vegan. I don’t remember his exact words, but he told me that there was terrible exploitation, suffering and murder in the dairy and egg production industries. So, I went vegan.

Upon returning to the UK, five years ago, I founded Vegan Outreach Scotland (VOS). I wanted to reach out to people because I thought “if only; if only someone had told me sooner…”.   VOS aims to help people to make the connection between their lifestyle choices and the exploitation of other species, the damage to the planet, and the impact on their own health with the overarching goal of ending the demand for animal products altogether.

The memory of Flash’s puppies will always haunt me but no less than the suffering of each and every animal we know as food. Many, like Flash’s puppies, will get to live only one day. They come into this world with their own purposes which we brutally take from them. We talk of protecting the vulnerable, we decry unnecessary suffering and yet we pay for it.

I took a long time to wake up. Either I am particularly dense or I am a testament to the thickness of the cultural soup in which I grew up; the cognitive dissonance that says loving animals and eating animals can live side-by-side; the hypocrisy that limits our evolution as a species, because we have betrayed all the others.

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