From Farmer to Vegan: Stories From Agricultural Workers Who Turned Vegan

Posted on by PETA Australia

It might sound unlikely, but some of the most moving and influential stories from the animal rights movement in our region come from individuals who have seen first-hand and been a part of the systematic abuse of animals on farms and at abattoirs.

Here are some stories of personal journeys from working in animal agriculture to going vegan for animals.

Jess Strathdee – Dairy Farm Owner/Operator 

It didn’t take long on the farm for Jess to realise this was not the perfect country life she had once dreamed of. During her first calving season, she knew that there was something very wrong.

“The sense of horror was immediate. I saw mothers who had birthed in snow or storms have their babies taken immediately – they didn’t even get to clean them first. The tiniest calves are tube-fed twice a day for four days, a litre of colostrum poured in all at once,” she says.

“I knew, logically, that cows need babies to produce milk, but I didn’t really think about the fact [that] those babies are almost immediately taken away from their mothers.”

Once Jess became a mother herself, she couldn’t help but relate to the mother cows, and it all became too much. After the fourth calving season, she and her partner, Andrew, agreed that inflicting such pain on others made them both miserable and decided to leave the farm and begin a new life of compassion as vegans.

Josh Agland – Abattoir Worker 

Josh’s memories are haunted by images of terrified animals arriving at the abattoir dehydrated and covered with their own faeces.

“One-way gates prevent the animals from backing away in fear. Many get caught as they sprint forward to remain close to a friend for comfort,” he says.

“The kill line can’t stop. … If the daily kill quota isn’t met, workers don’t get the pay incentives that make their wages liveable. Even if an animal falls or is still alive on a part of the kill line when they aren’t supposed to be, the line isn’t stopped – if anyone dares to try, they feel the wrath of their co-workers, who are losing valuable time and money.”

Josh even recounts seeing a steer skinned while still conscious. Even though many of the workers were aware that the animal was still alive, they continued regardless. After witnessing these horrors, Josh is now vegan and worked as an adviser to the Animal Justice Party.

Ian Brothers – Sheep Farm Owner/Operator

When Ian first moved to an acreage just outside Cowra, New South Wales, he kept 500 sheep on the property for wool and meat, then one year, a standard Australian drought left him with no water or feed for them.

“[B]ecause I was growing more and more aware of the innate cruelty of keeping farm animals, I decided to give them away, and not replace them,” he says.

As a science teacher, Ian developed a strong understanding of nutrition, human physiology, biochemistry, and epidemiology and came to realise that “we [humans] are dead-set plant eaters.”

Motivated by compassion, Ian now campaigns for a healthy, humane lifestyle and is a member of the Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland.

Desmond Bellamy – Second Generation Dairy Farmer

Desmond was just a small child when his father bought a dairy farm in Camden, south-west of Sydney.

“Some days, there were lots of cute baby calves gazing at me with huge trusting eyes. Hungry, they would suck on my fingers. Then the next day, they’d simply be gone.”

“I heard the mother cows bellowing all night as I lay in my farmhouse bed, but at first, I didn’t know why they made those haunting sounds.”

As he grew older, Desmond started to learn the truth. He left the family farm but his memories of the cruelty there gave rise to his determination to avoid all foods created through animal exploitation.

Desmond now works for PETA and is the voice behind a recent video exposé showing the horrors of the Australian dairy industry, including footage of a newborn calf being bludgeoned with a hammer, a common practice in the industry for “unprofitable” calves.

“I can’t go back and undo the pain and misery that my family caused the animals on our farm, but I hope that by using PETA’s expose to reveal the suffering that’s usually hidden from consumers’ view, I can help prevent more animals from enduring a similar fate by inspiring others to choose vegan, too.”

The more we learn about animals and come to understand that they feel pain and fear and long to be free, raise their families, and fulfil other natural desires, the more difficult it becomes to accept exploiting them, keeping them confined to tiny cages or crates, and taking their milk, eggs, babies, and lives for a fleeting moment of taste. Be a part of the change by refusing to contribute to their misery.

If you work or worked in animal agriculture and would like to share your story, please contact us.

You can also order a copy of our free vegan starter kit to help you make the transition to a cruelty-free lifestyle:

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