When I was 19, and in possession of no particular ethics or sense of the wider world, I drove past a lorry transporting sheep to slaughter, and my girlfriend of the time (who was a vegetarian) asked me, “How can you see that and still carry on eating meat?”
I had no logical answer to that question and from that moment on became a vegetarian. Despite my parents assurance that it was just a phase I was going through, this ‘phase’ lasted for 16 years. I cut out eggs and milk from my diet as it was all too easy to visualise the industrialised cruelty that produced these products, but it was only when I started working as a volunteer at the Bristol-based charity Viva! (www.viva.org.uk) and I read their excellent literature about dairy farming that the penny finally dropped
I could no longer justify eating cheese, butter, or the occasional cream cake as a guilty pleasure – Guilty? Certainly, but no longer a pleasure, not with the knowledge that every drop of milk was essentially stolen from animals that were hidden away from the public’s gaze; living creatures that were tortured, slaughtered, disregarded. And all for a substance that was an unnecessary, unhealthy, hormone-filled addition to our diets.
It was a decision that entirely changed my life. The unresolved issues of health, the environment, animal welfare, corporate ethics (or lack of), excessive consumerism, and overpopulation that had been floating around in my mind for years were immediately consolidated by the simple fact of choosing to be a vegan. Such a little word, yet it had such a huge effect. It was a pleasure to realise that I had finally discovered the ‘correct’ way to live – a kind, compassionate, ethical life, enjoying wonderfully healthy food, and being fully cognisant of the interconnectedness of all things in the undeniable fact that we are part of the natural world, and as such, can all choose to live in harmony with it, or adversity to it. And so my course was set: to inform without criticising, to educate with facts not opinions, and to lead by example. (A bit of a tall order, admittedly!)
I’m now a full-time member of the Viva! Team, and have been constantly in awe of the intelligence, kindness and resilience of the people I work with. I am so proud to be a part of an eclectic group of amazing people who use their individual skills to campaign against barbaric farming practices, to offer comprehensive advice on all aspects of human health, and to promote a vegan lifestyle via books, leaflets, cookery demonstrations, lectures, chocolates, Roadshows… by any means necessary!
As a professional artist, I found that my artwork changed overnight when I learned of the truth behind the public face of food/cosmetics/fashion thanks to Viva!’s arrival in my hometown of Bristol in 2002. I was greatly influenced by both the despair at the inhumanity of man, and also by the hope and inspiration of all the possible changes that we can make, individually and collectively, to create a better world.
Over a decade later, I can say wholeheartedly that most of my writing, videos, and artwork now tend to be animal rights/vegan based (‘The Green Man 2014’, ‘The Ghost Camera’, ‘All that remains’, and ‘The Ghost Camera’)
My aim from now on is to compliment the health advice and campaigning work of my colleagues by using my art to educate anyone who is willing to think, to change as I did, and thereby to live more fully and honestly as part of our shared, natural world.