Some time at the start of the 1980s, I read a piece in a Sunday paper about how chickens were intensively grown and processed, which utterly revolted and disgusted me. I thought I was going to vomit just reading the article.
And mum had cooked chicken for Sunday lunch…
I could not face, let alone eat it and only just managed to retain the breakfast cereal left in my stomach. From that day, I vowed never to eat chicken or poultry (knowingly) again. As far as I’m aware, I haven’t.
I had difficulty sleeping for weeks after; my dreams were plagued by haunting, terrifying images of upside down chickens, feathers casually ripped from their flesh. Brutal, unyielding machines mutilating beautiful living creatures. Scrawny necks stretched like a rubber band, bleeding to death, never having been outside their prison cage. The pervading stench of avian terror.
Just writing this, I’m suddenly back in our front room in Kingswinford all those years ago and feel nauseous again. Even the smell of chicken crisps makes me want to throw up.
I cannot recall who wrote the piece, however those words had a profound and long-lasting effect.
I am not sure if the fact that I had been into punk rock for years helped me to question accepted norms or whether the fact that I was always getting told off at school for constantly asking ‘why?’ had anything to do with it, but back in those days Tim Berners-Lee had yet to invent the World Wide Web; and if you needed information you had to read books or newspapers; go to the library; ask questions, or write letters. I didn’t have any role models or anyone to ask, so I had to find out for myself.
The more I investigated, the more unsettled I became and the harder I found it to eat meat. Fish wasn’t a problem as we never had fish at home and I didn’t like eggs anyway. I started having just vegetables while my family had the meat as well. My parents thought it was odd and expected me to grow out of it, but eventually, after a long struggle and a lot of research, I managed to become vegetarian.
I had never heard of the word vegan until I left home to go to college, where gradually I progressed from being vegetarian to almost vegan.
This change was inspired not by some weird anarcho vegan noiseniks, such as Crass, but by Don McLean. No really, it was.
The way Don went about his life and did not try to force his views on everyone at every chance eventually resulted in me adopting not ‘American Pie’, but more sort of a ‘Lentil and garlic pie’.
I recently met Don again after an absence of over 20 years and he hasn’t changed much but he has just bought a field and is busy installing a composting toilet. He also runs a Solar Sauna at summer festivals.
Yes, not quite the singer from New York, but my remarkably enlightened and inspiring ex-student housemate and positively good friend from Kent.
I am glad I met him and made the changes to my lifestyle, so as a tribute to Dr Don McLean here are nine reasons why being vegan is ACE!:
- I object to the way animals are farmed, but I am, hopefully, in my own little way helping to reduce reliance on utterly barbaric, archaic production methods. Compassion for sentient, intelligent beings can only be a good thing.
- Farmed animals consume more protein, water and calories than they yield, greater quantities of crops and water are, therefore, necessary to create animal ‘products’ to feed people than are needed for those humans on a plant-based diet.
- Over the last 30 or so years I have evolved as a cook, trying to absorb influences from around the world in my dishes – I love putting together a fabulous meal for people whilst dancing around the kitchen to the Ramones. Or British Sea Power. Or The Clash. So essentially PLANTS ROCK!
- My food shopping bills are lower than the average meat-eater, because the money does not go on expensive products pumped full of water to artificially fatten manufacturers’ pockets. With prices rising between every shop visit, this helps our family budget.
- I enjoy loads of wholegrains, fruit, nuts, pulses and beans, so I get my 5 a day, usually before lunch time and I don’t stuff myself full of processed, chemically enhanced ‘foods’, well not very often (I am only human!).
- I rarely have a hangover because the drinks I enjoy have fewer adjuncts, like bits of fish and other totally unnecessary additives in them - just water, barley, yeast and hops as beer is supposed to be.
- I feel great, have more energy and sleep better; the asthma and eczema which made my life miserable are hardly noticeable these days.
- Beans on toast are great and really cheap! And keep me regular...
- Oh, and Piers Morgan eats meat…