Vegan For My Health
by Syd Barnes
‘You can’t love animals and eat them too’
Take my hand and accompany me on a trip down Memory Lane. Can you spot me sitting on my mother’s lap in our old Victorian house in cold, rainy Manchester? Of course you can, but I wasn’t really there! I was buzzing with the bumblebees; running barefoot through flower-filled meadows and playing hide and seek in ancient forests as mum’s stories transported me to the enchanting land of make-believe. In this magical world of blue skies, fluffy white clouds and bright yellow buttercups, my playmates were the gorgeous baby lambs, adorable moo-cows, friendly chickens and clever piggy-wiggies.
You don’t have to be a wise owl to understand that there wasn’t a pussycat in hell’s chance that I was going to scoff animal flesh. No amount of coaxing could get me to eat my friends. My mother eventually realized that there was absolutely nothing she could do that would persuade five-year-old me to eat meat. Finally, her trying ceased and I was permitted to wolf down vegetables, potatoes and fruit instead; while the other members of the family pigged out on sausages, bacon, eggs and steak. I continued gobbling up cheese because I thought that it wasn’t cruel. I thought the poor cows must be milked daily otherwise their udders would explode, who would know any better?
I was the lone vegetarian at school which was a hot topic with the dinner ladies. “You won’t grow up to be big and strong”, they would warn. I didn’t swallow their
propaganda which usually resulted in a fair amount of
exasperated head-shaking and eye-rolling as I walked
away with my plate. I didn’t end up a feeble wimp either.
I was one of the healthiest kids in the school; excelling at all sports, including cross country running, rugby and
I grew up into a handsome devil on my veggie diet (even though I say so myself). I had no shortage of admirers. When I romanced my latest femme fatal at a restaurant, I would invariably end up with a plate of chips and beans. No vegetarian options on the menu in the bad old days! It wasn’t easy observing my dishy partner chewing on a dead bit of animal flesh either. Though my teenage hormones and one-track mind conveniently forgot about her corpse-munching and focused on my own cruelty-free version of sins of the flesh.
From a young age, I had been concerned about animal welfare signing petitions and joining anti-blood sports groups. I recollect when air rifles were all the rage on the council estate where I grew up. I was 12 at the time and used mine to fire pellets at a target in the garden. My friends invited me to join them in the local woods shooting rats, frogs and birds, but I refused, explaining that it was cruel to kill innocent creatures. They laughed and called me a sissy and a puff! I stood my ground calling them cruel b*st*rds. I couldn’t understand how anyone could get pleasure from killing a defenceless animal and not feel any empathy. They laughed in my face and I cried inside when I thought of the poor innocent beings that were about to be murdered just for kicks.
My parents eventually took notice as they and my two younger siblings became vegetarians. My mum and dad went on Animal Rights marches and protests about
fox-hunting and fur. After my father died my mother opened the first vegan guest house in Blackpool; it was very successful. I eventually ditched the cow’s milk and drank soya instead but still didn’t give up cheese; I still didn’t think it was cruel.
I have been married twice, had partners and lived across the world. Looking back, each of my partners professed to love animals: they would rage, crying if they saw a dog being abused, a bull being slaughtered, a dolphin killed, or an elephant being shot by a big-game hunter, yet they licked their lips at the thought of a bacon sandwich. It just didn’t make sense. So many people are upset by animal abuse and killing, and yet they all continue to eat dead animals. Why can’t they open their eyes?
Why can’t they open their eyes?
In 2012 I was living the dream in Laos. Married, two kids in international schools and I had bought my own house and top of the range SUV. Life was perfect. I ate mainly a healthy plant-based diet devouring vegan curries, fried rice and tropical fruits. And yet I still ate chip butties, beer and four-cheese pizza.
Then I got Cancer. I was diagnosed with stage four mouth cancer and it was terminal. The prognosis was six months to live. I stared at the cream wall in the hospital as the silence drowned the screams.
Just a few months ago, I was sporting a deep golden tan employed in the tropics as a filmmaker and now I was as white as a ghost on benefits in bloody Blackpool with one foot in the grave. My bag of bones was sprawled on my sick sofa; high on morphine as I poured yucky liquid into my peg tube to try and keep me alive, despite the fact I was dying. Then my mum died. Next, my wife abandoned me and the kids. I was alone with two young children aged 14 and 4 as I battled for my life. The loneliness was overwhelming – I felt like the loneliest person on the planet!
After researching health; I realised that my only hope was to become a raw vegan. So I cut out all processed food and ditched cheese. I discovered how dangerous dairy was for our bodies, I had never realised! During this research, I also discovered the cruelty and the horrors of dairy. From that moment in time I knew I was vegan for the animals first and foremost. Since that moment I have been to bear witness, protest at animal circuses, and been to outreaches, and more.
In November 2017, I was given the all-clear much to
everyone’s astonishment and am now a happy cancer free being. In that same year, veganism became mainstream. There are now, so many vegan products in the supermarkets and almost every eatery has vegan options. The latest figures reveal that 7% of the folk in the UK have adopted a vegan diet! That number is set to grow, so now we need to be vigilant in promoting all aspects of being vegan: for the animals, our health and our environment. The fight continues!
What about me? I didn’t defeat terminal cancer for a life on benefits. I have written my first book; The Death and Life of Psycho Syd which will soon be published. It covers my journey of fighting the big C, despair and depression but also my love for my children, my new vegan lifestyle and my refusal to die. My eldest son is now finishing his second year at university, me and my youngest and our rescue staffy will be relocating back to the tropics. There I will be running vegan tours to wild places, visiting animal rescues and sanctuaries, amongst other ideas. I hope to educate tourists against the exploitation funded by paying for elephant rides, swimming with dolphins and taking snapshots with primates.
Once an animal activist, always an animal activist!
Love Syd xx