Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My bleeding heart story about animals and being a kid.

I haven't always been vegan, or vegetarian. In fact, I spent the first 20 years of my life on a mini farm where we ate our sheep, cows, pigs and eggs.

When I was about 3yrs old I got a little pink plastic comb and mirror set from Santa because I was such a good little girl. And Mum found me in the paddock one day sitting with a calf combing his hair and showing him in the mirror how well I had styled his quiff.

And as I got older I was responsible for feeding the new calf we would buy each year for the freezer. Morning and evening I would be out there feeding him, letting him suck my fingers gazing up at me with those gorgeous eyes.

And then I would get served up roast beef and steaks and I knew where they came from and I hated it. And I still ate it whilst threatening my parents with vegetarianism.

When I was about 8 I adopted an unwanted, sick lamb from one of our sheep and called him Smiley. The farm vet told us that Smiley probably wouldn't make it through the night but I sat with him in his cardboard box full of towels in the laundry and sang him songs out of my piano lessons book and cuddled him. He made it through and was one of the few sheep that didn't get buried in our freezer. Even when he got huge and old he would come running up to me in the paddock - I would have a moment of anxiety wondering if he was running to say hi or running to bowl me over. It was always to say hi and get a pat and a cuddle round the neck. He died of old age and I never had to farewell him on my dinner plate.

Whenever Dad went out to the farm with his gun, and with a particular knife and bowl, I knew what was about to happen and I dreaded hearing the gunshot. I would make sure to stay on the other side of the farm until I knew it was all over. But I was horrified to come across Dad one day, straddling a terrified kicking sheep whilst trying to cut his throat yelling at me to go away. That disturbed me no end. As an unreligious child who had attended but a couple of bible classes a year at school I actually wished I could be the animal Jesus so no more animals would have to feel pain. What a martyr child. And a hypocrite. I still ate meat. As a teenager I moved my bedroom into the shed. The same shed where the sheep's carcass would hang for a couple of days, outside my bedroom. I had nightmares about it's ghost coming into my room.

When I was 9 I saved a baby sparrow from the jaws of a cat while we were on holiday. Inspired, I called him Tweety (look, I was 10, ok?) and brought him home to look after. Tweety was great. When he was big enough we would let him outside on our 4 acres to fly around during the day and at night he would come back to sleep in his birdcage. I could call him from anywhere on the farm and he would come sit on my hand. I could even recognise his tweet out of all the other birds. It sucks but eventually Tweety ended up mauled by my own cat. Sob! Mum and Dad did surgery on Tweety's leg and put a little bandage on it and I prayed and cried myself to sleep. He lasted a few days looking thoroughly miserable and when he died Mum threw him into the trees without telling me, to be kind no doubt. But I spotted her from the window and put two and two together and made a little cross out of icecream sticks and put it in my diary with his tearfully written obituary. After Tweety I rescued a few more birds who eventually stopped coming returning at night but would still come visit us on the farm.

This doesn't even touch on the 'traditional' pets, the cats, dogs and rabbits I have loved in my life.

Sometimes I'm a glutton for punishment and I go ahead and read the ignorant and uneducated anti-vegan comments at the end of various relevent articles and the like. And I wonder how on earth these commenters can even be the same species as me, and how some of the things they say I could NEVER fathom thinking or feeling as far back as I can remember. I always ate meat but I also always felt bad about it. It NEVER sat ok with me and I wonder how there are people who go beyond defending eating meat to being unaffected by animal abuse, or worse, find it fun.

Are some people just born that way?


  1. I felt much the same as you when I ate meat. I always felt bad about it & was ashamed to eat meat in front of my vego friends, but I liked the way it tasted & thought it would be too hard not to eat meat. I am getting omni cravings for the first time now that I am pregnant, but there is no way I could give in to them - the guilt would kill me, besides the fact that I would probably be really sick.

    I think a lot of people refuse to make themselves aware of what happens to animals before they get to their plates. But I also have no idea how people can know what animals go through & switch off to the fact that animals have feelings. It just makes me really, really sad.

  2. This is a great post. Combing the calf made me smile.

    Compassion is a product of our evolution as a social species and not every individual has it. You have it in buckets, as do most vegans. I think many people are incapable of caring for animals, and many more do not allow themselves to because they would find it hard to live in this world while doing so. But if we want everyone to think the way we do, we'll just become another religion. Humans will always disagree, it's in our DNA.

  3. Vicki - it's so nice to know there are other people who feel the same, feeling eating meat is not right but thinking it's too hard - and that we DID manage to change. I hope I don't get the omni cravings if I get pregnant, no way in hell I would give in either! And people know animals have feelings, look how much people love their cats and dogs. Yet they can draw a line and pretend that 'food' animals don't. It's so sad.

    Thanks Grey! I find it strange how people can draw the line for compassion, most people have some but switch it on and off (eg. pets vs meat). Compassion being a product of our social evolution does seem to ring true - look at the most obvious cases of what was once socially acceptable and is now considered unacceptable: slavery, racism, sexism, rape and pillage! Bring on the day we abolish treating animals as commodities.

  4. You forgot to tell them that the calf was called "Pepper".