One Saturday in 1942 my Dad, Eric – an industrial chemist - took me to his work at a freezing works. We walked past trucks filled with sheep and cattle, and he explained they were to be killed on Monday or Tuesday. I looked inside. The animals were motionless, heads bowed. They had no water. I could smell urine scalded with fear, and I have an everlasting memory of the total, eerie silence.
I declared that I would never eat meat again.
This was the start of a lifelong journey to learn, explore, analyse and build up insights into the world we live in.
A voracious reader of books that expand the self, I’d say that Women Who Run With Wolves, Iron John, along with the works of Jung, Dawkins, Nietzsche and similar, are books that helped shape my thinking.
Once a friend asked how I could refuse meat but eat fish. I replied that I couldn’t imagine being friends with a fish.
This changed when I went scuba diving and would rest in a sand saucer. Each time the same fish would come and interact with me, exhibiting the same patterns of behaviour. It was as if it were communicating that fish could be friends. I stopped eating fish after that.
Around then, I attended the U.S conference of the Farm Animal Rights Movement, whose goal is to spare animals from abuse and slaughter. I’d come home.
Since then I have been vegan, in order to aid the better treatment of animals, our own health and the health of the planet.
I’m troubled by the viewpoint that 2000 years ago a religious saviour stated humankind was created in God’s image and that humans are more important than anything else. Instead I identify with the view that it is not a hierarchy, and that we all play our part of the great web of life.
We are trained to be intelligent in ways that get us a job, status and spending power, but are not trained to understand how the mind works, to search and explore, and move beyond limiting beliefs to know who we are, where we belong, and what is important to us.
Words of advice
Never, ever stop exploring, being inquisitive, seeking information, insight and an interim answer. Don’t think you have ever arrived. If you are still questioning when you die, you’ll have had a full life and will leave a legacy that encourages others on the same path.
Postscript from Alastair
I’m always happy to hear from you. Email me on email@example.com
Alastair is 81. He lives in Te Horo, New Zealand.