Perhaps it was a spiritual awakening that made you change or simplify your diet. Maybe it was the start of a new relationship. Most of us just want to look better and feel more alive! Maybe someone or something has prompted you to eat in a more ethical or environmentally sustainable way. Most people I talk to nowadays would like their diet to impact less on the earth.
For me, it was a mixture of the latter, plus yoga. I’ve always been interested in nutrition and health, but as an animal lover I first decided to become a vet. During my veterinary degree I spent months on end on sheep and cattle farms, in large-scale chicken operations, in abattoirs and remote country veterinary practices.
I witnessed the husbandry of these poor creatures firsthand. I studied the environmental impact of animal agriculture, and still can’t fathom how mega-tonnes of pig waste and cow manure could be washed into rivers or left to leach into the earth in holding tanks. (Read the FAO's Livestock’s Long Shadow 2006 report for an eye-opening, scientifically validated assessment on the environmental impact of food-producing animals.)
As a veterinary student, I was the giver of countless injections of antibiotics to keep animals alive in over-crowded housing, of hormones to keep cows in an unnatural endless cycle of pregnancy and lactation, and other drugs and painful procedures necessitated by their living standards – for example, castration of male lambs without anaesthesia, tooth and tail clipping of piglets, dehorning in calves too old for such a procedure to be humane and safe, among many other procedures.
Watching a sheep with broken legs waiting for hours to die in the off-loading truck bays of abattoirs is something hard to wipe from one’s memory. I saw more during 2 minutes on a chicken slaughter floor than in watching the movie “Earthlings” and all the other animal-rights activism media I had seen up to that point.
After seeing for myself what we put factory farm animals through, and what we put through them, it became challenging for me to continue to eat the same way I was taught as a child, i.e. meat and three veg.
I'll continue my account of yoga, sea turtles, and what they have to do with human nutrition, in my next blog Lessons from Yoga.