I never expected I would be here writing this.
For the longest time the idea of veganism or a 100% plant based diet seemed so foreign and even ridiculous to me.
After all, I was a butcher for 6 years in a big commercial supermarket.
We didn’t slaughter the animals, but they came to us whole. Internal organs and skin removed. Looking back I feel a strange detachment from what I was actually participating in -- they didnt look like a living being so that barrier kind of acted as a blinder to me. I was young. I had no other job. I fell into this job as a part time student after school and eventually leaving school young and just doing what I knew.
Bare with me and please read this. This isn’t some plee to convert the unconverted. It is just unusual experience from one side of the spectrum towards the other, and I hope I can share some valuable lessons for you too in your own unique way. So please.. Take the time to read this today. It’s just my own personal thoughts and journey.
Before I start I just want to clarify veganism for the people who might not know.
Vegansim isn’t a diet as people looking from the outside in tend to see. It's not a religion like many think either! It’s more of a lifestyle choice.
A way of ‘being’, that practices, peace, love and compassion -- an inner congruence that is reflected in your daily actions.
A vegan will only eat foods that come from plants. Any animal based products like meat, dairy, or eggs are things vegans choose to remove from their lifestyle for ethical, environmental, spiritual and nutritional reasons -- and to extend to that, vegans generally avoid anything that has come from an animal (leather for one example). Just so you know the basics of it.. and hey I probably even have it wrong too!
So here we go...
I remember that old life. In the butchery. Some days I wonder what I would do if I were back in that situation now. Good God...
The strange thing about an environment designed to kill, break down and process animals into ‘meat’, is the kind of people that fall into that career. I remember many of the guys (and most people in the industry are men) were very ‘alpha’. Or tried to be anyway. They were aggressive by nature, they drank a lot. Smoked. There was a wolf pack mentality about them and the way they all interacted. I wonder if the awful environment changed them? Or were they destined to fall into that job because it catered to their innate ability to detach and be brutal?
I hated that job.
I had been punched in the face while at work. I had been verbally abused. Sprayed in the face with a hot hose used to clean blood and fat off the machines. I had been threatened because I was young and new to the world of butchery and didn't really bend over to the rest of pack. I hadn’t earned my ‘badge of honor’ as someone who was brutal enough to actually enjoy working in those horrible nightmare conditions.
I remember as part of my apprenticeship we had to go to a slaughter house. I remember watching this gigantic pig stuck in a tiny pen. This animal had to be almost 1000lbs -- it was HUGE. It was so abnormally huge and the pen it was in was so tight. I could see it had no room to even turn around -- jammed in there like a sardine. Think about how that might feel.. Not from an animals perspective, but from our own as someone who wants to be free -- the sheer claustrophobia and fear. To have room to roam and live. To experience life and fulfill our instinctual desires. But not for these animals – Their existence on this earth is to do what humans wish with them.
To take their lives. To cut them apart often while they are still conscious. Sell them so cheap 1$ per pound here. 2$ per pound there. Their lives and body’s were so cheap and meaningless. I see now that have been conditioned to diminish them -- its the only way we can do what we do. We don’t look at them as living, but ‘livestock’ a commodity from which we harvest. We forget we are really just like them in so many ways.
I saw a cow going into the slaughter room. I could see her struggling as she came into the bolt room. Foam at her mouth and her eyes were huge. I could see her breathing heavy and fast – I sensed she knew something was about to happen. Animals know these things. And for what? A bigmac at McDonalds. Or a steak on someones BBQ. Why? Is her life worth that little? How far haven’t we come and evolved to think this is even remotely normal. The bolt used to stun her, hit her on the head and she screamed and thrashed around, then a door opened and she rolled sideways down a metal slide.
A guy covered head to toe in coagulated blood wrapped clamps attached to chains around her feet as she thrashed around, screaming and making grunting noises. He ran his razor sharp knife right through her throat. Cutting through skin, muscle, tendons and the arteries leading to her brain that keep her alive. My god it was sickening to watch.
She thrashed and gurgled. Her eyes were so big.
I stood there and watched as her gulps began to slow. Her eyes began to fix and glaze over. I could see the life slipping away from her right before she got pulled down the line still moving to have her skin torn off and begin to get her limbs hacked off her while the life slipped away from her..
To this day I never forget that experience. The smell. The vision of it.
If most people were forced to see what I did they WOULD be vegan.
It was strange because it was all I knew at the time and that was my ‘story’. That’s what I told myself to make myself feel better about it. It was my job to be the guy who cut her dead body up and package it nice and pretty for people to buy – resembling something that no longer looks like a living being, but a slab of flesh. I didn’t really connect the dots.. I didn’t really comprehend that, that was someone’s life. We took someone’s life so we could eat food we enjoy, not out of necessity, but out of choice and believing we are entitled to that.
Years went by, and I had left that horrible job.
But the strange thing was.. I never really truly learned from that experience. It’s sad to say that, no it didn’t change me right away as I know and wish many people would have hoped.
I went home that night and surely ate meat in my unconscious state.
Looking back I feel like I was so unconscious and so detached from what this life is about. I think many of us are too.. Not just you and the next person – I was too. I know that feeling.
We've all be taught things that we consider normal right? But often when we truly look at it -- we realize how insane it all seems.
Over the time between leaving the butchery and becoming a nutritionist and personal trainer I got into bodybuilding. Although I didn’t compete it was my life in a way. I loved to workout. I loved to see how my body changed through dietary manipulation and different workouts. It is like a science and I thrived doing it.
Up until last year year I considered myself a peaceful, spiritual person. I liked to think I wasn’t extreme with my views and that I just wanted to live a balanced, peaceful, meaningful life. For almost 9 years I thought I was on that path. With my seemingly insightful facebook posts that people appeared to value. I would speak in a way that allowed spirituality to come through me and help me grow.
Not once did I ever think I was a hypocrite for how I was living. Not once. If you told me I was, I would have argued with you!
But isn’t that the common story? We never think we are hypocrites or extreme until something we do not know is revealed to us.. then our perspective is forced to shift.
All of a sudden what was 'hidden', was seen the for the first time -- as I realized it had been in front of me, my entire life. That ability to see things beyond our uncoscious programming.
In fact the idea of veganism repelled me when I was younger, like I know it does with many people. I thought it was some weird cult-like ideology. I thought vegans were odd and obsessive. Where everyone who was vegan would post brutal pictures on social media that just disgusted and repelled people from ever converting to another way of life. I thought vegans were sickly looking and weak. That is just my old truth, I would be lying if I told you otherwise.
It’s funny how in our own ignorance we are blind to see anything that doesn’t align with our current paradigm.
With out current way of living. We discredit and demonize it without having any real knowledge about it and will make things fit our current paradigm just to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs. Do you know that feeling? I felt it when I became vegan.
We see what we want to see and nothing more.
We all do it, but only some of us become aware of it. Many people spend their entire lives trapped in this cycle. I’ve seen 30, 40, 50 60, 70 and 80 year olds who viciously defend an ignorant view-point. It reminds me that age and wisdom, insight and the ability to self reflect don’t come hand in hand.
Check out PART TWO, to see where this strange journey goes next. :)
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