I was born in Liverpool in 1957. I grew up with my family eating a ‘traditional’ animal-based diet, but I think innately I just wasn’t ‘wired’ to eat animal foods. I never enjoyed eating meat.
It horrifies me now, but I would only eat lamb and chicken; I hated the taste of fish and crustaceans – and eggs, I could just about muster an omelette!
In 1970, at age 13, my older brother John (who was 15) became a vegetarian. I followed suit shortly after this when I watched a TV documentary showing an Amazonian tribe sacrificing a cow by slitting her throat. Still alive, the poor animal fell to the floor and the tribesmen proceeded to jump up and down on her throat to drain the blood from her body. With knives to hand, they then proceeded to chop up the cow to cook her flesh on the open fire. This was the first time I’d ever been exposed to the cruelty of animal slaughter. I was shocked by the sudden and stark realisation that meat was actually the flesh of a once living being. I decided at that moment I no longer wanted to eat animal flesh.
In 1974 I signed as a professional footballer for my home town club, Everton (I was actually born just 100 yards from Everton’s football ground!). My life was good living as a vegetarian in the 1970s, eating fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds – and of course milk, cheese, yogurts, and eggs. I was very happy with my vegetarian diet and it didn’t affect my football fitness performances whatsoever. And what on earth could be wrong with eating milk, cheese, yogurts, and eggs anyway? As far as I was aware, there wasn’t any cruelty or suffering involved in the production of these foods. How very wrong I was.
Early in 1980, my brother John again took the initiative and became a vegan. He told me all about the dairy industry and the unnecessary suffering and cruelty inflicted on the animals. I was trying to rationalise it all in my head thinking about whether adopting a vegan diet would affect my football career. I needed to know more, so I wrote to The Vegan Society for information and read all the literature they sent to me. I concluded – if I was to continue with my moral stance that eating the flesh of animals was wrong, then so too was consuming milk, cheese, yogurts, and eggs.
Going vegan was a breeze and it actually enhanced my football fitness performances for the last 10 years of my professional football career!
I’m just as passionate now, more so in fact, about promoting a vegan lifestyle and I actively encourage people to adopt veganism from an ethical standpoint, because being vegan is not only about food – it’s about promoting a lifestyle of non-violence, compassion, tolerance, empathy, and peace. And being vegan is great for HEALTH too, on three counts:
- Our own Human Health – a plant-exclusive diet is highly nutritious and research has shown it to be effective in preventing heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and other illnesses. AND feeding plant-foods directly to humans instead of to the animals, helps to solve the global hunger problem
- Planet Earth’s Health – animal agriculture is destroying our environment
- Animal Health – the slaughter and cruelty against fellow sentient beings will end.
You can learn more about Neil Robinson on his Great Vegan Athletes profile