Having moved to Spain in 2010, dreaming of a simple life in the lush green forests of Galicia, my wife and I bought four goats and some hens with the idea that we would have a smallholding for milk, cheese and eggs. I was a meat eater at the time and my wife had been vegetarian for nine years.
Not long after we moved out here, we began to notice that the general treatment of animals in Spain was very different to the UK, and having seen the awful conditions that our own goats had come from, we began to question the process of breeding our goats to create the milk we wanted. In order for the goats to make milk, they have to have kids first, and these kids would have to be sold each year. We didn’t want to sell them to anyone who was going to mistreat them or kill them for meat, and so we never actually bred our goats and decided that they would be our companions instead.
Living with farm animals I soon realized that they were no different to cats and dogs, and that they had their own unique personalities. I had planned on eating some of our chickens as I thought that this was the most responsible way of consuming meat, however once I had done so, something inside of me felt wrong. The experience left me doubting whether I would do it again, and put questions in my mind as to why I had no problem eating meat I had never met, but felt bad about eating a chicken which I had once known and cared for.
In September 2011, I watched a video that literally changed my entire life. I came across a YouTube video by Gary Yourofsky called ‘Best Speech You Will Ever Hear’, which had been causing a big stir at the time and sounded pretty interesting. I watched it one evening, and it spoke to me so strongly that I couldn’t ignore what I had just heard.
My transformation from meat eater to vegan was pretty much instant, as after watching the video I couldn’t look at milk, cheese, eggs, or meat without feeling disgusted at the thought of what had happened to get these things in front of me. Gary’s video did not depict many graphic images like Earthlings, but the sudden realization that the food I was eating was not actually food at all but the dead bodies and secretions of animals, who had suffered immensely during their short lives, had completely altered my way of thinking.
I had woken up to the suffering and pain which was happening all around us every day and felt compelled to do something about it. At first I felt angry and upset about the fact that this was happening and that the vast majority of people were still in the dark about it, and then I started trying to think of ways to help the situation in a positive way.
As we already had four goats, a large amount of land, and we were living in the heart of a farming region in Spain where animals were being mistreated all around us, we felt that the best way we could contribute to making the world a better place for animals was to start our own sanctuary – Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary.