For this piece, I thought I’d revisit the story of my journey to veganism, and how I got to where I am today.
Like most children in middle class Australia, I was brought up in a totally meat-eating household, where animal products were served with pretty much every meal.
Breakfast: Some cereal with cow’s milk, and toast with butter.
Lunch: The usual high processed meat products, ranging from straz to chicken loaf, etc. occasionally ere might have been a salad sandwich made, though that usually contained a cheddar cheese slice and the processed lunch meat.
Dinner: Everything from casseroles/hot pots, and roasts to steak and veggies, along with the monthly weekend barbecue of a leg of lamb.
Animal rights, vegetarianism or even consuming anything less than animal products at every meal was not even talked about.
I still remember the stories my grandmother used to to tell us every now and then of what life was like for her on the farm when she was growing up, and of raising and killing chicken to eat. My father even took us fishing and hunting on a few occasions.
I am still unsure of whether it was a taste of things to come or just my way of rebelling as a kid, dinner on Friday nights was usually a meat pie and chips. This is way before meat pies started becoming fancy, which meant it was the traditional 4 ‘n’ 20 meat pie with homemade chips for dinner. I can’t really remember when or how it happened, all of a sudden, I stopped eating meat pies and asked for pasties instead. Though i do recall that the actual thought of eating a meat pie made me feel queasy, though at was more to do with the texture of the contents, rather than the contents itself.
That was about as close as I got to actually rebelling away from the meat-eating lifestyle of my family.
That was until I actually made the choice to go vegan.
It all began when I was talking to a friend who was telling a group of us why he was going to a chiropractor when there wasn’t anything wrong with him.
Being the curious type, I thought that I would check this thing out and see if it was as good as my friend claimed it was.
Something that most chiropractors do for their new patients is to hold a basic information session where they go over what chiropractics is, what to except, how to get the most out of it, etc.
It was at this information session where they started talking about eating the right sort of foods, equating the human body to a high priced supercar, using the analogy that you wouldn’t put crap fuel in it and expect the same performance as you would if you used a premium fuel. This was when the book Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond was mentioned and the process of food combining.
So I started reading this book, whilst it was/is a diet and health book and didn’t really promote veganism as such, it did mention it.
It was reading about it in that book that got me to sit down and look at my food choices rationally, and from an unemotional perspective.
This was when I realised that following a vegan diet was the way to go. From there I went out and ordered a few of the vegan cooking for one cookbooks that were on sale at the time, and did some more research into what this vegan thing was all about.
Armed with a collection of cookbooks, and the new found knowledge that I had about eating right and staying healthy, I made the decision that when I had finished reading Fit for Life, the very next day I would begin my life as a vegan.
That night, I had my final meal of pepper steak with eggs and veggies. The next morning, I woke up and had weet-bix with Bonsoy soy milk.
My conversion to veganism was, I would say, tolerated as a phase by my family, even though I had never done anything like this before. For quite a few years, my mother was the hardest critic of my choice, telling me what felt like every time that I spoke to her that I had made the wrong decision, and that in a few years time, I would be in a hospital bed suffering from anaemia.
That was 18 years ago now.
At that time that I went vegan I was still hunting, yet the more that I read about veganism the more it seemed to cause conflict with what I was doing. To get this right in my mind, I had to find another vegan to discuss this with.
Luckily, I did know of one other person who was vegan too. One of the teachers at the trade school I was attending as part of my apprenticeship, so I sat down and chatted to him about my concerns.
Like me, he also went vegan for health reasons and was still hunting as well.
After a bit of an in depth discussion on the subject, we both rationalised and justified hunting by saying that we were doing our part for conservation by keeping the number of X, Y or Z animals down to manageable levels.
He also told me that the decision to go vegan was one of the best ones that he had done, and that his health and fitness had improved dramatically since then.
He even gave me an example of himself compared to one of the other teachers at the school who ate quite a lot of meat, and was about eight years younger than him. This other teacher had the slowly expanding waistline, and looked old every time few months that we went back there, whereas the vegan teacher hadn’t seemed to have aged at all.
That was all the convincing that I needed that I had made the right choice.
Justifying hunting in the way that we did, I hunted kangaroo, rabbits, deer, pigs, pretty much anything that moved was fair game. I fully believed the propaganda that was being put out by the hunting fraternity that culls are needed to keep numbers to a manageable level. And that by hunting animals, we are actually saving the species for generations to enjoy and hunt in the future.
I’d even been to a friend of a friend’s farm to help them control the kangaroo population that were becoming a nuisance to their farm, along with hunting stray cats and dogs in the bushland, because they were a danger to the native wildlife in the area.
I had a few, shall we say ‘interesting’ conversations with some greenies while out hunting, and was steadfast in my view that what I was doing was right, and that they had no idea what they were talking about.
Then one day I had an epiphany, I was sitting at home reading one of the hunting magazines that I used to buy all the time.
I had just finished dinner and was starting to clean up, paying more attention to reading the magazine than what I was doing, I cut my finger on one of the knives that I had used, and blood went everywhere.
Sucking my finger as you do, whilst looking for a band-aid and still reading, I turned the page and there was a picture of some random guy proudly squatting by some wild pig that he and his dogs had just killed.
He was squatting there with a huge grin on his face, rifle in his right hand, with his left arm on the dead animal beside him and the dogs in front of him. It was a type of picture that I had seen a thousand times before, and I had even posed for similar ones myself.
Yet this day it was different.
All I can put it down to was that it must had been the taste of my own blood, and seeing my cut finger and seeing the blood that had come out of this animal while it was being chased and harassed by a coward with a weapon and dogs.
From that moment onwards, I realised that hunting wasn’t all that it was made out to be, and that when looked at in the cold light of day, that reasons I used to justify why I should continue hunting were actually excuses that prevented me from giving it up.
If you take nothing else from this article, take a moment to think about the following things; a) don’t be afraid to appeal to someone’s selfish side when talking about veganism, b) don’t be put off by their hobbies or profession, anyone can go vegan if the right triggers are there, c) people DO go vegan overnight.
If I can make the journey that I have that started with reading one book, and not being given a leaflet or told about the baby steps approach, is it too much to think that other people can do the same?