Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Turning Vegetarian

I love the flavour of meat! I have always salivated when there was a roast in the oven, or lamb chops on the barbie. But I can't do it any more.

The Four Corners Live Animal expose started me off, and it horrified most Australians with the brutality and cruelty in Indonesia. I couldn't even watch the footage, as I knew it would be burned into my brain forever. The stubbornness of the government refusing to work towards putting a full stop on this dreadful trade opened our eyes to the all-mighty dollar taking precedence over the welfare of sentient beings under our care.

I, and local animal welfare activists campaigned heavily in Baw Baw Shire, writing letters to our local MP Russell Broadbent, and further afield to Canberra. We held a petition signing on a Saturday morning, gaining over 500 signatures in only a few hours. People were furious, even local cattle producers.

Nothing helped, apart from the short term ban, and weak promises made about controlling where the animals went and how they were treated. Nothing was done about mandatory stunning before slaughter, and still hasn't. 

Sheep are currently being sent to many middle eastern countries and undergoing horrific slaughter practices, not to mention the 2 - 3 week trip where many are starving or dying from stress and illness.

In the meantime, I remained a determined meat eater, and our lambs produced the year before were being slowly fed into ours and our family's freezers. We knew that their last day on earth would be a worrying one for them, but we took them down Sunday night and they were dispatched by 8am the next morning. 'End of life' is a problem for every sentient being, us included, just our lambs lives would be somewhat shorter than usual.

The last time we went to the local abattoir, my thoughts were changed forever.

There was a very young ewe in the race, with a tiny lamb. It was Sunday evening and it looked like they had been there all weekend. No food or water. The mother had no milk, and the baby was very distressed. I looked around, hoping there might be someone nearby who could do something to help her, but the place was deserted. I looked for CCTV to see if I could take them home without being caught. I could see none, but I thought I would be charged with theft if I did. On reflection all these months later, I should have rung the RSPCA. At the time, I could think of nothing I could do to resolve it. For a long time afterwards, the imploring look the little mother was giving us was etched into my brain.

Next, a huge truck came in, heavily loaded with sheep three tiers high. I stood by it and waited for the driver to unload it and watched the sheep. They were exhausted and distressed, some lying down with others standing over them, all jammed in tight together. Urine dripped down onto them from the load above.

The truck left after discharging its load and we offloaded our two animals, herding them up the race to their allotted pen. My last sight of them was of their woolly rear ends and skinny little legs trotting into the unknown, ears swiveling in confusion and fear.

The whole episode was very difficult, far more than the times before, just topping off the horror of the Indonesian hell.

The final nail in the coffin was the expose of the extreme cruelty to pigs in the Giles Abattoir in Trafalgar. That was our abattoir!

I have not eaten meat since.....

Since then, I have been plunged into a world of animal suffering. Animals Australia, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (whales in the Southern Ocean), PETA, and groups fighting against Fur Farming and China's unbelievably ruthless fur trade have become my heroes, fighting endlessly to stamp out animal cruelty.

I feel wonderful about not eating meat, and am slowly building up a supply of terrific recipes that work for us. Sadly, Mr Bliss wants to continue as a carnivore and we have had some tussles over the proportion of meat free days allotted to each. We settled on half a week veg for him, and the other days I throw him some meat to go with my veg dinner. I don't like handling meat anymore, because I see each piece as where it came from the animal, but I have no choice or there will be a ruckus in the household. He does enjoy our veg meals nevertheless. So long as he's fed....

My final step is to try and phase out milk products. We live in a dairying area, and often see tiny calves who have been wrenched off their mothers at birth being transported off to market, and sold to be killed. Boy babies don't make the cut, unfortunately.

I love cheese and milk, but had soy this morning on my cereal and in my tea, and it was fine! Not a problem. I will buy some soy cheese and see what that's like next.

One of my daughters has turned veg, and the other is nearly there, without any influence from me. I try very hard not to lecture or judge others, as there's nothing worse than a sanctimonious vegetarian. It is very surprising how many people I know eat little or no meat, some confirmed vegetarians for years!

We will never stamp out animal cruelty or meat eating, but I am doing my bit.

Our ewes are now retired and munching grass contentedly out in the paddock.


Andrew said...

You should be proud of yourself. I wish I had the motivation to do more than just eat less meat. Irrelevant but I worked in Trafalgar in my teens and I remember Giles Snr, who I suppose would have died by now. He didn't come across as a person who would care too much.

BlissHill said...

The oldies were still there, but I don't know which one you were talking about. There were creepy guys working there.... you know, the druggy, scrawny, tattooed smoking sort of guys? But maybe they are the only types who will perform the grisly tasks that need doing.

Maybe in time, you will feel the motivation. I have taken my time and will continue on my chosen path as I find alternatives.... of which there are plenty on offer these days. I will miss ice cream and yoghurt.. and butter.