Last summer, I left my career as a livestock vet in the pig industry after four years to join Viva! These four years gave me experiences that will haunt me forever and created an unwavering passion to effect change.
From early childhood, I wanted to be a vet. Brought up in rural England I spent all my school holidays working on farms to gain sufficient work experience to be considered for veterinary training. My weekends were spent riding horses and as a farmer’s granddaughter meat was central to every family meal. Staying within the farming community to become a vet seemed like a natural progression.
During my first work experiences from fifteen years old, I began to realise these farms are where my imagined life as a vet would die. I was disturbed at some of the practices I came across even at this early stage. Filthy conditions, cramped living quarters and neglect seemed to be the norm. Yet I was told these were isolated cases and encouraged to turn a blind eye. Keen to make a good impression, I did as I was told and buried the feelings of discomfort deep inside – something I would later learn was necessary for survival in the farming industry.
Despite these experiences, I was even more determined to become a vet and spent six months working on an intensive pig farm when I was 18. On my first day, we came across a piglet when a broken leg while I was being shown around. The worker picked her up by the back legs and smashed her head into the concrete floor. I had to sit down in shock. This was an exemplary farm that was clean and well-managed and this is an accepted method of ‘euthanising’ piglets up to 4 weeks old. The lucky ones who avoided having their brains smashed in had their tails cut off and teeth cut without any anaesthetic or pain relief. How could this be legal?
It was then that I decided I would focus on becoming a pig vet and work my way up in the industry. I thought I would get to a position where I could directly influence the welfare standards for these innocent animals. The reality sadly fell short.
I was mocked, ridiculed, and even chased off a farm with a shotgun for trying to do the right thing and adhere to the oath I swore as a vet: ‘above all my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care’. Corruption in the industry runs deep, and if the farmer doesn’t like what you have to say about their practices, you find yourself out of a job while they find another vet who is willing to toe the line.
The same goes for Red Tractor accreditation and the National Pig Association. The farmer pays for membership and protection from these bodies, and vets are paid to say what they want to hear.
It was this realisation that made me question why any of this is allowed to happen. Why was I forced to shoot animals between the eyes and scramble their brains with a screwdriver, albeit for disease investigation or to end their miserable suffering? Why were farm workers brutally killing babies because they aren’t big enough? And why do billions of innocent animals have their throats violently slit every day against their will? Because people are paying for it.
After years of working for some of the largest corporations in the UK, seeing every scale and method of farming, spending days standing on the slaughterhouse line, I finally realised it’s all the same. Nothing can prepare you for the fear in an animal’s eyes before they enter the gas chamber or stunning pen, regardless of whether they came from a free-range, organic or factory farm. The only thing that can save them is going vegan.
It took me a long time to contend with the guilt of contributing to this suffering and even longer to realise it’s not something I can change alone. I joined Viva! because I wanted to help show people the truth behind where their food comes from and join the mission to reveal the corrupt lies of the meat and dairy industry.
Our undercover investigations and bold campaigns show millions of people the true cost of animal agriculture. More than 70 billion land animals are killed every year for food, and trillions of marine animals, and each one is unique and as worthy of life as your cat or dog. Viva! is helping create real change in the world by showing people why and how to go vegan, allowing people to choose a kinder path.
We have intense conditioning and corruption from the meat and dairy industry to contend with, but by speaking out, revealing the truth and showing people how to go vegan, a more compassionate world is possible.
To find out more about how you can start living a kinder life, visit viva.org.uk/going-vegan