“No, it can’t be!” I vividly recall the red passion pulsing through my veins when I found out animals are factory farmed, hunted, killed for their skin and experimented on alive. I was about 12 and found it incomprehensible. I knew I had to do something about it. It was a lonely journey at the beginning but over the years have built amazing and supportive friendships – and now there’s a global vegan community!
Being who I am I decided very young that I had to see the truth of factory farming for myself. I visited a pig farm. There were no cosy sties, no wallowing contentment, just row upon row of individual concrete stalls, each pig separated from its neighbours, unable to touch them despite being only centimetres away.
These pigs were the breeding stock, the pregnant sows who would provide piglets just to be torn away and killed for meat.
In the same shed was a huge boar, his huge head hanging low towards the barren floor. He dragged himself towards me on lame legs. He looked straight at me. I saw in those sad, intelligent, penetrating eyes a plea, a question to which I had no answer: ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ I kept repeating: ‘I’m sorry, so sorry.’ I went vegetarian and didn’t know it at the time but it was that moment that led to me eventually forming Viva!.
Later, I talked to a farmer about what he was doing with a calf he was carrying away from his mother. “For veal” he replied. I went home and poured the milk down the sink.
I founded Viva! in 1994 in my garage in a little village called Church Minshull, Cheshire with almost no money but a lot of help from those close to me (especially Tony Wardle).
Within two years we relocated to Brighton and then Bristol in 2003. In Poland we launched a campaign against live horse exports and the factory farming of pigs and have never looked back. We have a vibrant, dynamic campaigns team – and an animal sanctuary – based in Warsaw. Me? I am as passionate as ever, more so, about campaigning for a vegan world. Join us!