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A Week in Cornwall

May 27, 2016

For the seventh time in 3 years, I went to stay recently at Michael House, which is a vegan guesthouse in the tiny hamlet of Treknow, near Tintagel in Cornwall.

It’s a treat to stay somewhere that is totally vegan. You know you will not be forced to sit with people who are eating animals, and there will be no unpleasant smells coming from the kitchen. You are very likely to also meet some lovely fellow vegans – although not everyone who stays at Michael House is vegan. My husband, for instance.  He eats mainly plant based meals, because of me, and is happy to take me to vegan places to eat and enjoys the food at Michael House, but – alas – he’s not vegan. He simply seems to fail to get it, really, despite being an intelligent man. It’s one of my greatest sorrows that he isn’t and doesn’t appear to believe he should be vegan.

The weather is always a bit mixed in Cornwall. You can often get 3 different weather systems happening in one day!  We love walking the rugged and often very steep coastal paths – the views are breathtaking, and the wild flowers are truly gorgeous. Sometimes up on the cliffs you hear larks singing high above you, or see a buzzard hovering. It’s lovely to be away from the crowds and be surrounded by Nature on all sides.

The sad part about our holidays there, however, are the cows and sheep we meet. I know they are someone’s property and that they are just there to make money for some farmer. I know that this is all funded by people like my own family – my mother, my brothers, my nieces, my cousins, my in-laws – people who are ordinary, and not particularly bad – but who fail and fail and fail again to ever see the animals who are behind the slabs of stuff on their plates and who hate me reminding them.

I find myself apologising to all the Daisys and Buttercups and Blossoms I meet – those lovely, gentle creatures with the long eyelashes, wet muzzles and soft, brown eyes who do no harm to us and are solely in our power and who do not deserve the fate that waits for them in some abattoir somewhere after a stressful journey by lorry. I’ve given them these names, because they all deserve a name – they are individual beings, consciously aware and sentient, intelligent and playful -yet to the farmers they are ‘stock’ and have ear tags displaying their numbers. None have horns, because they were sawn off when they were young – without anaesthetic, most likely, as happens to the teeth of piglets.

The sheep have their wool daubed in red or blue to denote their status as owned slaves of humanity. I saw many lambs skipping after their mothers in the fields around about, and on Bodmin Moor. To think of them taken away to become a roast dinner for someone is heartbreaking. They are so full of life, and want to live, and humans take all that away from them, having simply created them to die brutally and be turned into lumps that go in packets to supermarket chillers and freezers. This is appalling. I can find no adequate word for the hideousness of this entire system.

In Cornwall I am confronted, as nowhere else that I go, with the animals that, by being vegan, I am fighting to save. I know I can’t save the ones I’ve met – I just hope to help pave the way for a world where fewer of them will be brought into existence to be used and to suffer as these will.

My vegan advocacy takes many forms – one of them is to go and stay at vegan guesthouses – to support vegan businesses. Another is to eat at vegan restaurants and to ask for vegan options in places that are not vegan – to create demand. I keep getting new ideas for outreach.  I’ll try anything that’s within my power to do.

The main industry of rural areas nowadays ought to be tourism, not animal farming. People want to stay in beautiful places and walk the country lanes and coastal paths. I would love for animal farms to become places of sanctuary that we could visit for an entrance fee, and for no more of these animals to be bred to be killed or bought and sold. l

I’m tired to people telling me that animal farming is the only way to use some of the land in the UK. Before the invention of agriculture,  our country was thickly forested. There is no reason we can’t return to that use of the land – for timber, nuts and fruit. Wild deer, rabbits and wild sheep like the Soay sheep which Wildlife Trusts borrow to conserve meadow habitat ought to be our only grazing animals. Beavers ought to be on our rivers again, all the birds of prey returned, as well as the lynx and pine marten, and wild boar roaming free in the woodlands. Without the self interest of animal farmers, this all might be possible.

Badgers are persecuted because of dairy farming, and no wild predator is welcomed by any landowner who has chickens, pheasants or sheep on the land. In fact, in my opinion, animal farmers are a nuisance, not a necessity. We need food, but we need plant foods, not dead animals and dairy and eggs.

Visits to Cornwall refresh me and restore me in soul, and the encounters with the farmed animals remind me poignantly of why I am vegan and why I will never shut up about veganism. I don’t care who I bore or offend with my passion to turn the whole world vegan. It is much more important than anyone’s trivial sense of entitlement to a taste they are used to and don’t wish to give up or anyone’s outrage at being required to rethink their eating habits, cater for vegan friends or hear unpleasant facts about how animals suffer to become food.

I can hardly wait to go to Michael House again and apologise to some more cows and sheep, and enjoy the wonderful food and sea air and amazing countryside. Our next visit will be later this year.



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One Comment
  1. I too often wonder at the argument that we have to have livestock on the land. Here in Australia the argument is usually about the benefits of grazing to the pasture, which is probably true, but I’m not so sure it’s that critical. As you say, before we did livestock the land seemed to get along just fine.

    Interesting about your husband. My story is that my wife was vegetarian when I met her and has since become vegan. We talked about it a lot over the years but it took a long time for me to get my head around the idea and I’m no dummy. I probably offered up all the usual excuses but what changed me was actually coming to realise that what we do with farming is not natural. Mostly we raise and kill animals because we like their taste which really just boils down to hurting them for fun…

    The problem is of course it’s a distant harm – when we sit down to a roast lamb it just has no meaning at all beyond the enjoyment of the meal. The death of the animal is a remote thing and easy to rationalise away. It seems it takes a special person to not only make the connection, but decide to do something about it. Which is such a shame, it should be something we all do naturally I’d have thought.

    If you are interested, here’s my thinking in a nutshell.

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