Oink, oink! I'm Piggles the Pig and my favourite thing to do is to run around outside and play with my friends..while sniffing for food obviously. I also love getting a good old belly rub by humans who visit me, which makes me grunt with joy! I'm a very lucky pig as I live at a loving animal sanctuary with some of my besties, Lucky and Millie.
Some people say that seeing pigs like me in real life inspires them to become vegan and say "bye, bye bacon" for good! It makes me so happy to hear that the vegan movement is growing stronger by the day. Stories like the one below give hope to all of us farm animals that one day our suffering will end.
It's been a few months since we last saw you, we hope you are getting plenty of belly rubs! We wanted to share with you our personal story of why we became vegan.
Our transition to vegan happened as a result of several events in our lives, which made us change our perspective and beliefs. A critical turning point was when we both experienced serious health issues. Laura had tongue cancer in 2012, which was removed through a complex operation and Jon was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2013. Our perspective changed dramatically from then on, realising just how fragile life is. We began to rethink what was truly important to us in our lives and question some of our core values. Our search for a healthy diet, our love for ALL animals and our passion for nature led us eventually towards a vegan lifestyle.
Over the years we came to realise that there are predominantly three factors why people become vegan. For us it was a combination of all three.
Ethics: Becoming aware and realising that the unnecessary exploitation and suffering of animals is unethical and unjust.
Health: Experiencing chronic or serious health issues and discovering the powerful healing properties of wholesome plant-based foods.
Nature/ Environment: Understanding that becoming vegan is one of the most impactful ways we can reduce our ecological footprint.
1. Living closer to nature
Moving from the city to a small suburban town we found ourselves living much closer to nature and farm animals, especially cows. We observed them in the fields peacefully grazing, calfs playing and chasing each other and mother cows lovingly nurturing their babies. We quickly established a deep sense of empathy and affection for our gentle neighbours and gradually realised how distorted the connection between the animal and the product on our plate had become. Up until that point we knew very little about the lives of cows and how they are treated, except that eventually they are used for meat and dairy products. Find out more about the lives of meat and dairy cows here.
Our feeling of empathy quickly transposed to all other animals commonly bred and raised for food and consumption such as pigs, chickens and sheep and we stopped eating meat altogether.
Pictured below: a 4-day old calf enjoying the sunshine at a farm outside Zurich, Switzerland. Her mother was just a few steps away, lovingly looking after her baby.
2. Watching documentaries
Our growing sense of responsibility to educate ourselves and learn more about the realities of the mass-scale animal farming and agricultural industries, led us to watch excellent documentaries such as Empathy, More than Honey and Food Choices. These documentaries highlight the hidden truths about the mass production of meat, fish and other animal-derived products such as dairy, eggs, honey, leather, fur, feathers and wool (just to name a few).
These films are tough to watch but we felt it was necessary to confront reality. The images of animals suffering, barbaric methods of exploitation and slaughter, brutal separation of mothers and babies, were far worse than we imagined. Considering ourselves animal lovers, we no longer wanted to support such a cruel industry. The crazy contradiction between loving some animals and eating others is explained perfectly by Dr. Melanie Joy in her TED talk on Carnism and her book Why we love dogs, eats pigs and wear cows. The more we learnt, the stronger our conviction was to stop our consumption of ALL animal-derived products.
3. Health & feeling better
In the quest to understand and control the symptoms of Crohn's Disease we tried all sorts of diets including FODMAP, paleo, specific carbohydrate diet, fructose free, lactose and gluten free. It was only when we watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and later read the associated book The China Study, by Dr. C. Campbell, that we discovered the powerful health benefits of a whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) diet.
The China Study is the largest study ever conducted in the field of nutrition and concludes that a WFPB diet can prevent and in some cases even reverse symptoms of a range of modern day diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and many autoimmune diseases. Reading the China Study book gave us a basic level of education in the field of nutrition and reconfirmed our belief that a WFPB diet was the right choice for us.
Since adopting a WFPB diet our general health, nutrition and digestion have improved significantly. It has empowered us to make more conscious decisions about our food choices and enabled us to take control of our own health.
4. Discovering exciting new foods
With an increasing trend towards plant-based foods many new and exciting products have become available such as cashew cheese, creamy coconut yoghurt and ice cream, fruit and nut based energy bites...the list goes on!
At the beginning, we knew relatively little about the wide range of plant-based ingredients available and all the creative possibilities to use them (e.g. black bean brownies, cashew cheesecake, tofu quiche). Discovering new ingredients and inspirational plant-based cookbooks such as the China Study Cookbook, How Not To Die Cookbook and Deliciously Ella opened up a whole new world of food preparation and enjoyment. Once we discovered how tasty and how diverse plant-based foods were, we realised that the connotation that vegan food is boring couldn't be further from the truth. With so many exciting new foods to choose from it's a great time to be vegan!
5. Inspirational stories
We are always curious to hear what triggers other people to become vegan and in doing so we have found lots of inspirational and moving stories. One such example is Esther the Wonder Pig who was adopted by a couple who became vegan when they got to know and love her intelligent, witty and caring personality. The story of Esther has since convinced thousands of people to become vegan.
Also the story of a former dairy farmer in our local area, who had a strong bond with his cows and could no longer cope with the suffering and hardship he was putting them through. With the help of a nearby animal sanctuary, he was able to convert his own farm into a sanctuary for cows ZuKUHnft. These cows now live happily and carefree and people can visit them on special open days.
A similar story is that of Jay Wilde, portrayed in the award-winning short film 73 Cows. He was the first farmer in the UK to convert from beef farming to sustainable organic vegan farming as he came to see his cows as individuals with feelings and personalities and could no longer cope with the betrayal that he felt when they went to the slaughterhouse.
6. The wonder of nature
Every species on earth has an amazing story and cycle of life. Many animals face incredibly tough and unfavourable conditions yet their will to survive remains undeterred. Witnessing unique moments of some of nature's greatest journeys, for example, the spawning of Wild Pacific Salmon and the majestic flight of the Royal Albatross, gave us a new- found respect and admiration for their incredible lives. These encounters imprinted in our minds that we are ALL part of nature, deeply connected as part of one complex, integrated ecosystem.
Pictured below: Royal Albatross mid-flight, the Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin, New Zealand.
7. The environmental impact
Even in some of the most remote places on earth, the negative impact of human interference on the ecology and biodiversity are noticeable.
While travelling through New Zealand, known for its outstanding natural beauty, we found out that there are in fact enormous environmental issues. For example, around 60% of the waterways have been polluted due to agricultural run-off from farms and are designated un-swimmable. These shocking realities were recently confirmed by an environmental report that highlights decades of denial. This is not unique to New Zealand, many other countries face the same problems. Witnessing such disturbing scenes first hand during our travels motivated us to act, starting with an evaluation of our own ecological footprint on the environment.
We learnt through recent studies that mass-scale industrial animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, as well as being the primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction and habitat loss. A study by researchers at Oxford University and ETH Zürich (Poore & Nemecek, 2018), concluded that reducing meat and dairy consumption is one of the most impactful ways to reduce an individual's carbon footprint (up to 73%!).
Similarly global fish and seafood consumption has devastating impacts on marine ecology and needs to be reduced drastically as summarised in this short clip Worlds Declining Fish Stock - National Geographic.
For us, being vegan is about living a lifestyle aligned to our awakened core values and centred around compassion for ALL animals while supporting the restoration of the natural world and helping to conserve the planet's finite resources. Most vegans say their only regret was not becoming vegan sooner, this is definitely true for us!
See you soon, dear Piggles, for more belly rubs and cuddles!
Laura and Jon