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Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.  ~Bradley Millar

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian. ~Paul McCartney
 

I recall during the run up to Christmas one year while queuing in the butchers feeling very uncomfortable as I thought about ordering a Turkey. It occurred to me that by doing so I was condemning one particular turkey to death. This concept occurred to me more keenly than such would perhaps be felt if I had gone to our local supermarket and brought one straight from the freezer section. But no we always had a fresh turkey for Christmas. I salved my anxiety and indeed my conscience by telling myself that if I did not order a turkey than someone else would. But such thinking was not in the least convincing as of course no matter who else bought a turkey, my ordering a turkey would of course result in the death of a particular turkey somewhere along the line. Nonetheless I am ashamed to say, it took a few more years to finally make the decision to become vegetarian, this delay was mostly due to habit and what I now consider was very shallow thinking or rather not thinking. It seems that Christmas would not be Christmas without a turkey. Thinking it seems is the key or rather not thinking which results in the perpetuation of an omnivorous diet, a diet consisting of meat and vegetables, a diet to which most people in the west at least are accustomed. And I am now ashamed to say it would take some years before I could think differently even about such an insignificant consideration as Christmas.

Right from childhood I had questioned to some extent the morality of killing animals to eat them. My mother told me that once as a young child I was given a book with a story about a turkey, a book I thoroughly enjoyed and one which was read to me over and over and that all through Christmas dinner that year I cried "poor turkey, poor turkey" and would not eat a thing. I guess even as a child the incongruity of books telling stories about animals and sitting down to eat one was obvious and that adults seemed unaware of such inconsistencies seem also plainly bizarre. But generally speaking, unless otherwise informed as in the case of such a book, living in a big city where in those days as children we rarely saw the countryside, the connection with lumps of inedible meat in a strew or minced as Shepard's pie seemed far removed from a living thinking feeling creature. In my teens my thoughts from time to time questioned the rights and wrongs of eating meat, but where to start and how to stop doing so? Moreover as a teenager I became involved with a religious cult, to which I no longer belong and which in retrospect I joined more from a sense of fascination and social need rather than real belief,  considered a vegetarian diet to actually be a sin! When I was younger in the sixties there where few vegetarians and no products on the market as there are now.

There was a gap of many years during which the idea of not eating meat seemed to have completely disappeared and It was not until my thirties that I become increasingly more aware of the unethical behaviour of eating meat. Looking back now I cannot understand why during adulthood I did not question the ethics; the cruelty of eating the flesh of another living being, of wearing shoes made from the skins of these unfortunate creatures, or using cosmetics that contained ingredients derived from animals and tested on animals. I had been in an abattoir when I worked for  a supplier of towels for toilets in factories shops and offices. I had gone in quite by accident, my co-worker a man had not intended for me to go inside. I can still see it now the carcases of cattle, streaming with blood running like rivers on the floor, the smell was awful. Yet once the initial shock had subsided still I continued to eat meat, I did not analyse my situation, I failed to question the ethics of it all or the necessity of such an awful practice.   It was as though there was a block in my powers of reasoning which now in retrospect I cannot understand, yet it was there as though I did not make a connection, I simply did not think it through. Meat eating simply was the way things where much as the sun rose from the east and set in the west. I of course was not alone in such lack of insight; few people in those days questioned their diet.

I think that this lack of questioning the need to consume meat that many people have is the greatest stumbling block in becoming vegetarian; unless you consider the whys and wherefore you can never make the change. People simply need to think differently, but thinking differently does  not always arise spontaneously as indeed was the case for me. And it would take many years before finally I began to see that the rearing, breading and slaughtering of animals is unethical, unjust, cruel, unnecessary and a detriment not only to the poor unfortunate creatures themselves but to other people and to the planet, although the last two considerations have now only recently been recognised; I became vegetarian initially simply because of my increasing awareness that it is wrong to eat meat. To take the life of an animal to sate our appetites, to wear as clothing and use for entertainment, such as horse racing or labour such as sheep dogs is morally wrong.

In my late twenties or thereabouts I became increasingly more sensitive and aware of the sanctity, for want of a better word, of all living things although their is no religious connection. I began with increasingly certainty to consider that all sentient creatures have the right to life. (I include the word sentient to mean all animals, if there was any doubt that any creature was or was not sentient I considered it sentient, after all who really knows?) I recall I felt great distress once after accidentally cutting a worm in half whilst gardening and increasingly an awareness came into play that all creatures have the right to existence and although this was an accident it helped me to consider that the deliberate taking of a life no matter who lowly made me uneasy, sad.  I had been trying to help my husband in the garden. Whilst I was digging I accidentally sliced a worm in half, which was unusual as I normally took great care to void this happening. I was horrified; although it had been an accident I was overwhelmed with remorse. I was indeed sad to have been responsible for causing this creature unimaginable pain and its ultimate death. The pain that I felt for this creature was almost unbearable, I experienced that awful dull ache inside that one feels when one is very sad. I cried quite openly and for some time, eventually I went indoors unable to continue.

Many people may consider that I was and indeed continue to be oversensitive and I had overreacted. I agree in part as it is not usual for most people in our society to be effected by such an incident in quite this way. Nonetheless I could not resign myself to the idea that in some way one should not feel some degree of sadness for such an occurrence, after all the life or a worm is as precious to the worm as ours is to us.  I have an interest in Tibet, its people, its culture and its religion. I have read many books that mention the concern by the Tibetan people for the well being of all sentient creatures. The Tibetans are predominately Buddhist and as such they are not permitted to take the life of any sentient being. In Heinrich Harrerís account of his life in Tibet during world War two, Seven Years in Tibet, he describes that during the construction of Tibetís only main road, how workmen removed the worms from the disturbed spoil and placed them in a safe place before continuing with their work. This continued to be done throughout the long and arduous construction of the road. Overall this was the Tibetan way, it was not considered extreme, eccentric or in anyway unusual and would not have even warranted a mention if the writer had been Tibetan rather than a Westerner.

I had in my younger days squished spiders and other creepy crawlies with little or no guilt, having as a child been very nervous of such creatures and often it was fear that led to such action which I now regret. It was fear and revulsion at the sight of a huge colony of ants crawling up the kitchen wall that motivated me to get my husband to kill them with fly spray, an action I feel sad about now and I will not doubt continue to feel sadness every time I am reminded of what I did, an action I undertook simply because I did not think , acting from fear rather than reason or rationality. Now in such situations we simply vacuum them up and release them into the garden.

My awareness grew ever more intense and whilst studying meditation with a local Buddhist group the subject kept coming up, although as I have already mentioned I had read quite extensively about Buddhism and its beliefs in the sanctity of life through my interest in the country of Tibet, its culture and religion The instructor a lady of similar age was vegetarian as was her family and we had many discussions on the issue. I strongly felt inclined towards vegetarianism feeling continually more uncomfortable about eating meat, after all if I felt it wrong to kill a worm even by accident it was surely wrong to eat meat which was an indirect act of taking the life of an animal. In view of my philosophy of life it seemed incongruous to eat meat. Moreover I was becoming more and more aware of the plight of other creatures and my responsibility toward them.

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.  ~

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was however not until shortly after the still birth of my daughter that my husband, son and I decided to become vegetarians although this painful event was not the precipitating motivation, at least not directly. However it was this event that tainted Christmas as it was at this time that our daughter Pauline was still born at 36 weeks into my pregnancy. For many years after this tragedy we did not celebrate Christmas at all and consequently the turkey issue was not a consideration. Although the decision to become vegetarian occurred long before the following Christmas after the loss of our daughter.

Over a period of several weeks we gradually excluded meat from our diet. Both my son and husband made the decision without pressure from me although it was mostly I who proposed the change in our diet, but both my husband John and my son Kevin thought similarly concerning the way animals are treated and the ethics concerning the eating of meat.

After about ten years of being vegetarian I began to consider that the next step was to become a lacto free vegetarian because of my awareness concerning the way  Cows are treated in factory farms and how this also applied to cows farmed for organic milk. It would be another seven years before finally after learning the fate of
free range chickens that  I become vegan. My son and Husband remain vegetarian, it is their decision and I think in time both will finally take the next obvious step as indeed have many others, including all the staff of VIVA, and become vegan.

Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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