Eating and behaviour change

Bright light bulb on red ceiling.Do you ever find it really strange how 2 people can watch a movie (or read a book or hear a story) about animal cruelty in food production, and each have totally different reactions? I do.

While one will immediately swear off all animal products, the other will say, “I wish I hadn’t seen that, it’s almost put me off my dinner”.

I’m not judging either of them; after all, it’s taken 47 years for me to finally have my ‘light-bulb moment’ about what’s happening to animals.  Surely somewhere, deep down, I MUST have known but my brain just didn’t let me ‘get it’.

I was lacto-ovo vegetarian for almost 20 years, and used to proudly claim that “I won’t eat anything that’s had to die for me”.

I don’t know what I thought happened to all the boy chicks and calves, or why I thought people had the right to take calves from their mothers or keep cows producing MASSIVE volumes of milk over long periods. (Hell, I’ve breastfed, and when your breasts become engorged it’s hot and uncomfortable and sometimes painful. And I couldn’t bear breast pumps at all.) Imagine living your whole life like that!

I’d heard bits and pieces about the egg and dairy industries, but I’m embarrassed to say that nothing had really sunk in.

The tipping point

dairy and soy milk containersThen one day I saw a video that showed a week-old, black and white calf, wobbly-legged, terrified and stumbling in the metal chute that would lead him to slaughter.

Hearing an abattoir worker yelling abuse at him to “wriggle your f***ing arse up there you bastard!” and “Up you go you f***ing c***!”…

THEN watching calves tails being painfully yanked, and seeing them being lifted and dragged by one skinny, calf leg, or thrown on top of other calves…

I’d reached my tipping point. FINALLY I GOT IT!

I tried to show the video to others, but they said it would upset them too much, or that they already knew about it…and went back to sipping their lattes, eating their ice creams and nibbling their cheese—just as I’d been doing only a few hours earlier. I just couldn’t figure out why they would react like that, and it got me thinking.

Stages of change

I’ve read a bit about the ‘stages of change’ used by psychologists when they want to bring about behaviour change in a client, and I think it holds true in this situation too.

To change behaviour, people move through the stages of:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance.

All my years as a vego were probably my ‘contemplation’ stage, and I didn’t even know it.

People who acknowledge the issue of animal cruelty, but don’t act on it, are probably in the contemplation stage until something—perhaps a convincing movie (like the dairy calf cruelty video mentioned earlier), an advertising campaign (like Make It Possible), a story (like that of Edgar Alan Pig)  or an event (like ‘Animals are not ours’)— jolts them into preparation and then action.

Anyone can do it

Those who are worried about spoiling their dinner are probably in precontemplation. It may take them a bit longer, but they could still get there. After all, if Howard Lyman, a 4th generation meat and dairy farmer can do it, I reckon anyone is capable of having their ‘light-bulb moment’… eventually.

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One thought on “Eating and behaviour change

  1. Pingback: I couldn’t give up my cheese | The Lentil Institution

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