S: How um you’ve spoken to me about this story before, but relate it here.

C: Um, well look if you, if you, if you think about what my experience was like spending my days like in the sunshine, in the lucerne fields, which were so lush, and feeding the pigs, and you know, noticing how sensitive the pigs were, and uh, how friendly they were and they would come up to me with their little snouts, and they’d investigate me. And uh, uh I always have had a very strong connection with animals from the time I was very, very young. It was never taught to me, it was just a natural connection that I had. So I was spending my days with the living creatures that I encountered on the farm and it was nothing complex, it was the pigs, it was the, the ants and I remember playing with little leaves in the stream and watching the sheep and the lambs gambolling, and the little lambs I remember how amazed I was, they had these little, little long tails. Their tails hadn’t been docked yet.

And then, one morning, we were walking towards, this sort of corralled off area. You know, and I mean the Afrikaans families they didn’t really speak to you as a child. You know, you were seen and not, you were seen and not heard. And I don’t know how much you were even seen. I mean they knew I was there but they didn’t really notice me, except when I was running off with animals and causing havoc. But I remember, we were just walking along, I don’t know why they didn’t warn me or have the sensitivity to think I’m a city child, I’m, I’m young, I must have been nine, maybe ten, I can’t remember, quite young. Um, we were walking towards the sheep and I remember that feeling I had of happiness seeing them, I, I loved their wooliness and um, the way that they were. And they went in and grabbed one and dragged it by its hind legs and I remember just feeling such a sense of brutalisation, it was just I, I was literally riveted to the spot, I couldn’t believe that I was actually witnessing this kind of, I regarded it as extremely brutal to grab an animal by its hind leg and drag it, you know.

And then, the next thing, they took out a knife and they, it was literally next to me, I mean, I don’t know how they actually could have done that, but anyway. (pause) And I remember first of all the mouth struggling to breathe, and the shock in the animal’s eyes I mean, literally next to me. Was, (crying) so overpowering, the shock of realising I’m dying, you know, this is, I can’t breathe, and seeing it struggle and the, the blood is flowing and then just watch the, hear the sounds, the gurgling sounds and watched the light go out of its eyes (crying). (pause) It’s (sigh) it was terrible. You know and it was so bizarre because, look they grew up on the farm for them it’s normal. You know they slaughtered for the table, they slaughtered for commerce, to make money to live. I suppose, so…

S: You said it was the moment that kind of changed your life?

C: Yeah it did, it made me question everything. I mean I suppose I was too young to be questioning things like that, (laugh). Life, and death and animals and their place in the world and human beings and how they interacted with them. It was terrible. (crying)

S: Can I get you a tissue.

C: No it’s OK. I’ll just (laugh) And I mean I remember them taking it to the back of the house and they hung it up. And I saw some parts of that I don’t know why I even looked. And they stripped it and, and then the worst horror is, it was presented on the table. And now what must you do?

S: Did you eat?

C: No.

S: You didn’t?

C: But I had to. Because it was a very strict household and you were expected to clean your plate. So I had a dilemma. And that’s where I learnt to be sly. I cut the meat into little pieces and I fed it to the dog under the table, which was the only way I could survive that moment. I couldn’t eat it. And I never ate (pause) lamb or mutton ever again.

Image Wikimedia: “Point Buchon Trail sheep” by Teddy Llovet – Point Buchon Trail. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons –…

A Lacto-Vegetarian’s Story About Chickens ~ A South African Tale

During a day of corporate training in Conflict Management, in a multi-cultural environment, we were discussing how cultural differences in diet can cause misunderstandings in the workplace, for example, many Hindus don’t eat meat and are vegetarian, or do not eat meat on certain days for religious reasons. See this Wikipedia link about Vegetarianism and Religion. We spoke a bit about diet and I mentioned that in my own workplace in the past, I had been something of an oddity. I am a Lacto-Vegetarian, meaning, the only animal products I eat are dairy. The group gasped, many saying: “what is left to eat?” Yes, this is a strong reaction common in a predominantly meat-eating culture. When asked why I restricted my diet in this way, I said that I wanted to minimize the suffering of animals through compassion and not eating them. Some said yes, they understood because they loved their pets.

I was very surprised, when one delegate stood up, an African male, who originally came from a small rural village in KwaZulu-Natal, said:

“I can understand this. I have chickens on my farm at home. When I want to eat chicken, I go to the store to buy one, I do not want to kill my own chickens.”

In this way, coming from a very patriarchal background, he was able to express his own love for his chickens, whom he had noticed had personalities and loved to scratch around in the sun. I loved that this made him think and that he was able to express himself like this in front of his colleagues.

Here is a wonderful link to a story about the “hensioners”, pensioners, who are helped with loneliness through their relationships with chickens. I love it!

Can’t Watch This – but a Must See for Everyone – Earthlings ~ Shaun Monson

Can’t Watch This – but a Must See for Everyone – Earthlings ~ Shaun Monson

When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?

EARTHLINGS, an award-winning documentary film about the suffering of animals and their use by human beings. It is shot using hidden cameras in places like: animal shelters, pet stores, puppy mills, factory farms, slaughterhouses, leather and fur industries, sporting events, circuses and research labs.

Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. I would say this is one of the most socially urgent issues of our times. It is a multiple award-winning film by Nation Earth.

I recommend that everyone watch all the way through. It is gut wrenching, eye-opening, disturbing and distressing yes, but everyone needs to educate themselves, to open their eyes, to know. So that they can become informed and NOT remain ignorant, so that they can make informed choices. Several times I became physically sick, cried, the pain in my heart a deep physical ache.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian” – Paul McCartney

A MUST WATCH FOR EVERYONE. DON’T LOOK AWAY – BUT VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED. Click below to watch on Vimeo or go to the Earthlings page:


This documentary is known as the vegetarian/vegan maker. See my earlier post Dietary Travail, for my own story on how I first became a vegetarian and then a lacto-vegetarian.

What you Think becomes What and Who you Are

My Grandparents

My Grandparents

My grandparents, standing first and second on the right.

What you Think becomes What and Who you Are

ETutor: Early reflections on who I am 05/03/2014

These reflections form part of my eTutor training with the University of South Africa, (UNISA). I would like to record my journey here. The emphasis of the training is on forming communities of practice, where we can reflect in a safe environment, support and learn from one another. For many the online tutor environment is new.

Regarding my early reflections. I was mostly raised in my early years by my grandparents. My mother was a single mother with two children to support, so it was easier that I lived with my Grandparents. These two wonderful people influenced me in profound ways. They were deeply religious and belonged to the Nederlandse Gereformede Kerk – NG Kerk. They were warm people who accepted all. At the skirts of my grandmother I learnt respect for all. Sometimes we would travel by train to visit far flung family. Some of the family were farmers in the Karoo. The history of my grandparents is: they were sheep farmers, my grandmother was a farm school teacher. The depression came as well as a drought and they lost everything, They made their way to Durban with five small children to support. Times were very hard and they were very poor. My grandfather got a job in Customs at the Railways.

So each December we got a free rail pass, and used it to visit family. This was the first time I was exposed to not only racism but also cruelty. My grandfather’s brother treated his workers badly, swore at them and such. He was cruel to the animals, sheep and pigs, with some horses and cows, also a large black dog. From what I remember I was around 12. It left deep wounds in my being, since I had never before encountered such things. I learnt that racism is taught, it does not come naturally, as is cruelty taught. I became a vegetarian after witnessing the slaughter of a sheep. It was gruesome and horrific and has continued to give me nightmares.

These experiences deeply shaped who I have become. My children were raised without prejudice towards others and they were never aware of differences based on population group, gender, background. They never even described their friends in these terms. Again it affirms for me the importance and power of teaching and providing a living example – on how one develops.

With these formative influences I have come to see how easily people are defined by population group and other group formations. In the workplace I have even been told that I mustn’t think I am privileged because of the colour of my skin. Prejudice is easy. Standing against it is not so easy. At university my youngest daughter sees people sitting together in population groups and it pains her. However, she is lucky enough to be deeply involved in debating, where the mix and balance is more comfortable for her. They accept one another for the commonalities that they share.

Therefore, I am deeply sensitive to the issue of respect for one another. When I did corporate training I was fortunate to train members of the Department of Labour. We were doing Conflict Management and we were talking about difference and how this can lead to misunderstanding. I shared that I was a lacto-vegetarian and how this sets me apart maybe more than anything else. I related my story of what happened when I was a child. Most delegates could not understand my choice, they worried about what was left to eat. It was amazing when one delegate stood up and said: “I can understand this. I have chickens at home. I do not want to kill my own chickens, I am fond of them. I would rather go to the store to buy one there.”  Then everyone had an example that they could relate to.

For me, I work from the premise that we all have more in common than we are different. I view difference as interesting and something to learn more about. I think we all have to watch what we think, because that becomes what you speak and that becomes what and who you are.

Image courtesy of Carol  Knox.

Game of Groans | A South African Braai by any Other Name

Daily prompt: Game of Groans The South African Braai, a National Pastime. By any other name would be just as gruesome. But rock up Bru we gonna have a jol.

Think about an object, an activity, or a cultural phenomenon you really don’t like. Now write a post (tongue in cheek or not — your call!) about why it’s the best thing ever.

It’s Heritage Day. All the women are talking about what they will wear and what they will bring to eat. There is a distinct twittering in the air. The men are grumbling. I am inwardly groaning about the thought of the braai topic, (a South African barbecue), which I knew would come up. My stomach turned because I knew everyone wanted a spit-braai and I already felt the sour taste of nausea at the back of my throat. Get real, we are living in the 21st Century, we are not Cro Magnon men and women, we don’t even have the teeth to tear hunks of meat off chunks of broken bone. I knew the sight of an animal turning on a spit, together with the sickly slightly sweet smell, would be too much for me. I can tolerate a chop chucked on a grill, but an actual whole animal, now that is just too gruesome and to my mind barbaric. In any event what would I wear, I certainly did not want to wear the garb of the Colonialist from back in the day? I settle on the “doek” headdress and outfit of the Xhosa. I look like a cross between Little Bo Peep and Mary had a Little Lamb, an angelic expression and nun like clasped hands. We all looked a bit idiotic, check out the gangster on the right.

Heritage Day at Work

To now turn onto the flip side:

“Rock up Bru we gonna have a jol. Kif spit-braai and all you can drink ‘n all.”

It will be so cool. All the women will huddle over the food, cooked from recipes given them from their gogos, ma’s, grandmothers and oumas, in real South African style. The men will commandeer the fire, tending to their hunt, back slapping, drinking and laughing, squinting teary eyed at one another through the smoke. This is fun, fun, fun. You know mos, we have sunny skies and Chevrolet.

Image courtesy of Carol Knox.

Here is an old radio ad about: braaivleis, (barbecue meat), sunny skies and Chevrolet from the 1970’s:

Dietary Travail ~ The Story of a Young Girl on a Karoo Sheep Farm


…this is a true story of misadventure on a small Karoo, South African, sheep farm. a young girl comes to think about eating, what we eat, and why. i thought about life and compassion. i vividly remember this experience even today. this was the beginning of my journey to a vegetarian and vegan life-style. all living things want to live and be happy…

As a city girl of around 12 years old, (and younger), I used each year, to travel with my grandparents, by train, all over the country to visit family members. This each December.

I love the Karoo sheep farms and the life there in those days. Wide open “stoeps” with gas lamps at night, in some places only candles, and the sound of the milk machine in the cold early mornings “ting tinging” in the dark. I loved to cavort with all the animals, watch the cows being milked, the cats coming for saucers of milk. How I loved watching the sheep and the lambs, the little mice scampering amongst the grain bags in the barn. I lay in lush grasses, played with ants and fed lucerne to the large, lovely, pink pigs. I was struck by how smart and responsive they were.

As it happened on one of the farms, we walked one day towards the sheep. Unsuspectingly I watched. One sheep was singled out and dragged by the hind leg to a place close by where I stood. My idyll began to fade as my sense of shock and horror grew. It was so quick. The blade glinted and passed across the throat of the sheep. I was riveted to the spot. I saw it struggle, I saw its eyes widen in shock, I saw it, so beautiful, struggle to live. The light went from its eyes. I shriveled to a husk.

The process began. The detail I will spare you. A strung up carcass, stripped and fed to the table on plates. Beside myself in this strict household, I could not fathom that now I should eat this living being, who not long before had lived a happy life in a carefree field. What to do? I cut up small pieces and fed them carefully and slyly to the dog under the table. This was the start of my questioning and I never again ate mutton or lamb, nor did I feed it to my children.

So began my life-long questioning, “where would I draw the line”? It causes you to question many things. From what you eat to what you buy for your household, to what you wear and who you support.

Header Image purchased at Creative Market – Huge Nature Photo Set.