My path to veganism was very much like that of Mom2vegan. My wife and I had a wonderful few years looking after goats and hens until the reality finally sank in. Please see post number 6 under
Roger, I read your thread. It looks like we did come to it the same way and have a lot in common with the hobby farming. I'll bet we came to hobby farming from different directions - what were you doing before that?
I come from a long history of meat cutters. My dad's grandparents immigrated here from Bavaria - they were meat cutters and processors in Bavaria and brought their traditions here and have passed the meat business down from generation to generation, and opened steak houses etc. My dad owned a small town rural meat market where the cattle and pigs were bought and processed from start to finish by my dad and a couple of employees. My mom and siblings and I worked in the meat market with him, and we spent very much time there. Most of my friends were farmers' daughters and everybody raised their own meat. My friends were in 4-H, etc.When I was 16 my dad sold his business and we moved back to the city where our larger family lives with all of their businesses. I worked in the meat department of a grocery store all throughout high school. My extended family now owns a huge ranch where all the cows are grass fed and well cared for and they sell gourmet meat....which is definitely a step up from factory farming and much more humane.
My highschool sweetheart's little sister was vegetarian. She'd been vegetarian since the age of 7, when the family was at a KFC next to a small family farm. My sweetheart was 9 and his sister was eating a chicken leg and watching the chickens outside. He pointed at the leg and said "That is the leg of a chicken - see those chickens? You're eating one of their legs." That was it for her, she never ate another bite of meat. Her parents supported her decision 100%, her dad became vegetarian for a long while. They provided her with everything she needed and I think she was in college when she became vegan. I always felt a bit intimidated by her and judged.....considering our vastly different backgrounds. It was hard for me and I felt defensive but at the same time some bells way in the back of my head started going off very quietly. I managed to ignore them for the most part, but tried vegetarianism here and there throughout the years.
The bells kept going off louder over the years and I'd try this and that. Finally, when I was in my 40s and living in Michigan, I decided I'd stop eating anything factory farmed or killed at a processing plant. We would raise all of our own meat, eggs, and cheese and be self-sufficient. If we couldn't kill it ourselves, we would not eat it. We raised meat chickens as well as the milk goats, and we tried turkeys.
I told myself our chickens had a better life than those on the factory farms. They were Cornish Rocks. "Frankenchickens." Chickens that grew to eating size by 6 weeks and by 10 weeks would supposedly be dying of heart failure due to their extremely rapid weight gain. We raised them in "chicken tractors." Moveable pens that were brought to fresh grass every day, where the chickens could scratch and look for bugs. The chickens were "lazy" and just laid around all day, rarely scratched for bugs. They seemed to be very stupid - as if they did not have any thoughts at all. I thought maybe they really were just live meat with the instincts to eat and drink and the ability to poop and that was it. So - I thought it was OK they didn't have more freedom and didn't feel bad about raising them. Clearly they didn't like to walk around, right? We gave them a more humane death than factory farmed chickens get.....but death is not humane. We raised the chickens for 3 years in a row and really did enjoy the meat and the broth and all the canning and the family time. Not one morsel went to waste - we learned to pressure can all of the bones and organs, etc. for the dogs (the bones turn chalky in a pressure canner and are safe to eat). We felt good about not wasting. My teenage son met his now wife while we were raising the chickens......which I believe is probably one of the reasons neither of them speak to us at all anymore......I regret inviting her to the chicken processing party but she's now vegan and so are my son and grandchildren so - good came from evil.
Anyway. The third year we were raising the chickens, one of the chickens was too small to bother with and my son asked if we could give it a pardon. I said "sure - maybe it won't get so big that it won't be able to walk, and it can live with our egg chickens and be happy." That chicken did get huge and it was still able to walk, and it was a very active chicken. Not at all "lazy". It was active like our egg chickens and scratched around and enjoyed life and I realized the meat chickens aren't any dumber or lazier than the egg chickens, and we loved our egg chickens and treated them a bit like pets. Everything you read says if you let a cornish rock live more than 8 weeks it's at very high risk of breaking a leg just from it's heavy weight, or of having a heart attack. That chicken was very healthy and did not break a leg or have a heart attack, and it showed us that cornish rocks do indeed have thoughts and feelings. It was a sweet, affectionate chicken.
I don't know if we would have stopped raising the chickens or not, or if I ever would have made it to going vegan, if tragedy had not struck. My husband (whom I meet in MI) and I had to sell our hobby farm and move back to my family. My husband still misses raising the chickens and we both miss milking the goats and making the baby formula, doing all the canning and being self sufficient. Now that we don't have the hobby farm I've been able to think things over and decide it's really not what we want to do again. It is so very easy to buy everything you need to be vegan here. My husband will never stop eating animal products. We live next door to my dad, who still works at the family business. We're having a 4th of July party today and he's doing the traditional Bavarian barbeque, we have about 50 people coming. I'll be the only vegan here and nobody knows I'm going vegan and I'm not telling them!