In the early 1970s, I was a student in London learning how to run hotels and restaurants. In the summer of 1973, I worked in a chicken slaughterhouse.
Friends at other colleges and universities took jobs there, and since it paid well, would only last ten weeks, and I wanted to buy my first used car, it looked like an attractive option. I cooked and ate chickens without thinking about them, so why not work where they were slaughtered? I spent ten weeks on the post-slaughter section of the production line. I could never bring myself to watch the birds as they were killed. I also couldn’t buy the oven-ready chickens that were offered for sale at a reduced rate as an employee benefit every Friday afternoon. Nonetheless, I continued to eat chicken bought elsewhere—naively believing that, because my plant wasn’t where they were killed, I wasn’t directly responsible for their death.
When I returned to college after that summer, I argued with the only vegetarian I knew at that time. My behaviour toward her was that of a stupid, machismo man trying to upset someone who cared about animals. She subsequently persuaded me that my defence for eating meat was insupportable.
I became a vegetarian on January 1, 1974. I was living at home at the time and believed my Mum should be a vegetarian too. We argued a lot and had to eventually call a truce. Some time later, I challenged her again. She replied, ‘When was the last time you saw me eat meat?’She had become a vegetarian and waited for me to notice. I hadn’t. We both went vegan in 1976.
The moral of our story is that if we can go vegan anyone can. We lived modestly on a council estate. There’s nothing extraordinary about us. My parents encouraged me and my sister to be kind to animals. We had one cat who was called Tinkerbell. There’s no special reason why we became vegans other than, quite simply, once we learned how animals were treated we could no longer eat meat, eggs, and dairy.