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By Judi Hewett
I first became vegetarian 49yrs ago, when I was just nine years old. I am now 58yrs . It began when I asked my mother why the meat on my dinner plate was called tongue. The truth repulsed me so much I stopped eating meat. However my decision at such a tender young age had nothing to do with the cruelty issues nor the health benefits. I was too young to understand such things. (To enlarge the photo of Judi and the cow, click on the photo or link)
I've always had an empathy for animals, but I didn't take the next step to veganism until the much publicised demo's against live exports at the beginning of the 1990's. I joined VIVA and CIWF and their investigations into the horrors of the farming industry horrified me. But simply being vegan was not enough. I had to speak out and I've been doing just that ever since.
Factory farming, halal and live exports are abominations which are not only tolerated by the public, but are paid for by the public. If the public didn't demand it, the meat industry wouldn't produce it. It is as simple as that!
For me the worst aspect of farming is the dairy industry. According to Professor John Webster, the most distressing incident in the life of a dairy cow, is the removal of her calf within 48hrs of giving birth.. The calf is then fed artificial milk replacer and deprived of its mothers maternal care. Like us a cow carries her baby for nine months, but for cows even while she is pregnant she is still forced to give milk in huge quantities - often as much as 120 pints a day. No other mammal carries this double burden of pregnancy and milking at the same time. Cows can develop painful mastitis and are treated by having antibiotics forced up their teats. (To enlarge the photo of the cows and calves, click on the photo or link)
There is such a blatant disregard for animals which is unfortunate for all of us. Because until we start to show them respect we can never consider ourselves civilised.
I sometimes wish I was still ignorant about the goings on in the meat trade, but once you've had your eyes opened to the truth, its impossible to shut out.
Like VIVA's founder Juliet Gellately, I can't look at a field of dairy cows without feeling the utmost sadness. It is impossible to imagine greater suffering than that imposed on dairy cows - only a tiny fraction I've highlighted here. The worst of it is, dairy isn't even good for you. Far better to get plenty of exercise and a better source of calcium from everyday plant foods like green leafy vegetables.
Being veggie for most of my life and now vegan has certainly had its benefits, as far as feeling fitter and looking younger than my years is concerned. In fact the best compliment I get is when I'm out with two baby grandsons and people assume I'm their mother. It gives me a real buzz to see the look of astonishment on their faces when I tell them my daughter is now in her mid thirties and I'm their grandmother. I then give them a polite lecture on the benefits of my veggie lifestyle, and I guess they probably wish they hadn't bothered! (To enlarge the photo of Judi and her family, click on the photo or link)
Coming from a family with a strong history of heart disease has prompted me to take better care of myself. My recipe for a fitter healthier life is to combine my favourite pastime of 'hill trekking' with my vegan diet. It's what keeps me ticking over, plus its good for keeping blood pressure down.
My advice to all those would be veggies out there, is to go for it! It can only do you good, and each young individual will be saving countless animals from a life of misery.
For information on joining Viva Tel 0117 944 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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