By Drew Tapperman
More than 20 years ago, I spent six-years on an Israeli kibbutz—the last three of them as a full-time dairy farmer.
I took pride in it and learned everything except the business side. I was grateful for the opportunity to be offered what was considered a privileged job. Then I witnessed a slaughter.
It was done in the back of a large truck, and the carcass was simply driven away by the ones who did the deed. I saw it just that once.
The slaughter triggered realizations within me about mass farming. Cows were not regarded as sentient beings, but rather as cogs in a money-spinning machine. I learned the only privilege of this job was being part of a profitable business.
Each calf was separated from its mother as soon after birth as possible. The sooner the reconditioning process began (to lower their heads to feed instead of raising them) the better. It involved physical and often violent force. High levels of sickness and infection in the animals demanded ever-increasing amounts of antibiotics to be administered, and it didn’t seem to prevent infections from spreading. The forced recirculation of each animal until it could no longer produce was cruel. I concluded that every phase of farming is lifeless, and then I quit. I was unwilling to participate anymore in such an unethical industry.
One month later, I returned to English soil.
In 2013, I spent about two months on a farm in Spain where I ate a 100% vegan diet, approximately 70% of which was raw. It did wonders for my body. I still now abstain from all dairy products, though I’ve never felt guided to stop eating meat completely. I find my body still desires it from time to time. I don’t eat much of it, and not always organic. I generally go with the flow and have no set rules or guidelines, but my intake has reduced enormously and I tend to go for long periods as a vegetarian.
Rather than fill my mind with the details of a specific diet, I have become more mindful of what my body needs for nutrition. If something feels hard and heavy on my digestive system or other symptoms occur after I’ve eaten something, I see it as a sign to cut it out of my life.
I have known people (unknown to each other) who were vegans on a mission to convert the world. They weren’t so much activists as they were pontificators. To them, the way I ate was a problem—it was wrong and I was guilty. To them, eating animals is the single greatest reason for humanity’s downfall and destruction. If everyone became vegan, animal farming would cease to be, and all the people who were poisoning their bodies with dead flesh would miraculously become saints.
According to them, if one eats meat, one is part of the global problem.
I do not recall ever hearing their message on the health benefits of veganism. If there was one, it quickly got lost in the ruckus of zealotry. Every conversation involved some attempt on their part to cajole, coax, convince and convert the non-vegans they met. In social situations with a militant vegan, the more people present, the higher the soapbox. Perhaps at one stage of their lives they had demonstrated authentic passion for the health benefits of veganism. For all I know they observed positive changes within themselves such as health conditions improving, if not healing completely. That’s what had happened for me in Spain.
But I don’t know, maybe not. Maybe they felt that preaching veganism as the panacea to the world’s ills was their mission in life. I can only speculate. Sadly, it became very difficult to share a peaceful space with them. I took years of it before trudging away from them.
I’m open to inspiration from everywhere, but if there’s an agenda of conversion, of righteousness, of persuasion, of doing the old soapbox dance…I’m gone.
I’ve met so many people who made it a point to introduce themselves as a vegan, wearing the badge of their crusade on their sleeve and gunning for everyone they see. For me an imbalanced person is an imbalanced person. People are who they are, no matter what they eat. There are mean and insecure vegans, saintly meat eaters, vegetarians with anger management issues, cynical pescatarians, and overly-critical organic foodists.
There are also gifted, talented and amazing people in these food groups.
The truth is, I am more inspired by how you live your life as a shining example of your highest ideals and morals—not by your attempt to enlist me into some kind of army. There’s diversity everywhere. The more the better, in my opinion. Crusading in any way, no matter how noble and true the cause, is fighting.
In other words, share your passions. Passion in others inspires it in me.
Drew Tapperman is known in his social circle for writing poetry and expressive prose. Coinciding with a relocation to the coast of Devon, UK, he recently took the lid off of his creative cooker and is currently baking a series of fictional short stories. He has travelled extensively, with long periods in Scandinavia and Israel. His interests include the transpersonal and metaphysical dimensions of tattooing, the psychology of personality disorders, and all things “mind/body connection.” When he’s not in the great outdoors, he cares for the elderly and supports adults with profound and complex learning disabilities.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak & Dana Gornall