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Why a former avid hunter became vegan

HunterCameron Blewett came from a meat-eating household and for a time was a keen hunter, killing kangaroo, rabbits, deer, pigs, and other animals in the name of conservation. A cut finger led to his epiphany and journey to vegan activist and educator.

I was brought up in a totally meat-eating household. There were animal products served with pretty much every meal. Breakfast has some cereal with cow’s milk, and toast with butter, lunch was the usual high processed meat products, ranging from straz to chicken loaf and so on. Dinner ranged from casseroles and roasts to steak and veggies and the monthly weekend barbecue of a leg of lamb.

Animal rights, vegetarianism or even consuming anything less than animal products at every meal was not even talked about. In fact, I my grandmother used to recall stories every once in a while of what life was like for her on the farm when she was growing up. My even father took us fishing and hunting on a few occasions.

Now, I am not sure whether it was a taste of things to come or not, though Fridays at home were usually pie and chips night, where we would have the traditional 4 ‘n’ 20 meat pie and homemade chips for dinner.

I can’t remember when it happened that I stopped eating meat pies, and asked for pasties instead.  That was about as close as I got to actually rebelling away from the meat-eating lifestyle of my family.

Going vegan for health reaons

That was until I actually made the choice to go vegan.

That all began when I was talking to a friend who was telling us why he was going to a chiropractor when there wasn’t anything wrong with him. Being the curious type, I thought that I would check this out and see if it was as good as my friend said it was. 

Being a new patient to the chiropractor, they like to hold basic information sessions and let you know what to except, etc. It was at this information session that they started talking about eating the right sort of foods, and the book Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond was recommended.

I started reading this book and while it was/is a diet and health book and didn’t really promote veganism as such, it did mention it. It was that book that got me to sit down and look at my food choices rationally, and in an unemotional state.

This was when I realised that following a vegan diet was the way to go, and I went out and ordered a few of the vegan cooking for one cookbooks that were out at the time, and did some more research into what it was to actually be vegan.

Armed with the cookbooks that I had purchased and the new found knowledge that I had about eating right and staying healthy, I made the decision that when I finished reading the book, the very next day I would begin my life as a vegan. 

That night, I had my final meal of pepper steak with eggs and veggies. The next morning, I woke up and had weet-bix with bonsoy soy milk.

My conversion to veganism was, I would say, tolerated as a phase by my family, even though I had never done anything like this before. For quite a few years, my mother was the hardest critic of my choice, telling me what felt like every time that I spoke to her that I had made the wrong decision, and that in a few years time, I would be in a hospital bed suffering from anaemia. That was about 16 years ago.

Eating vegan, but still hunting

At that time that I went vegan, I was hunting and had joined the Army Reserve a few years earlier. The more that I read about veganism the more it seemed to conflict with what I was doing, so I had to find another vegan to talk to about it. 

I did know one person that was vegan, of the teachers at the trade school that I was attending as part of my apprenticeship, so I sat down and chatted to him about my concerns.

Like me, he also went vegan for health reasons and was still hunting as well. So we both rationalised and justified hunting by saying that we were doing our part for conservation by keeping the number of X, Y or Z animals down to manageable levels.

He told me that the decision to go vegan was one of the best ones that he had done, and that his health and fitness had improved dramatically since then.

He even gave me an example of himself compared to one of the other teachers at the school who ate quite a lot of meat, and was about eight years younger than him. This other teacher had the slowly expanding waistline, and looked old every time few months that we went back there, whereas the vegan teacher hadn’t seemed to have aged at all.

That was all the convincing that I needed that I had made the right choice.

My next dilemma came when I started riding a motorcycle. Being a poor struggling apprentice, I wasn’t able to afford the new synthetic body armour that was coming onto the market, so I settled for a full set of motorcycle leathers.

When I went shopping for them, I mentioned to the store owners that I had just gone vegan and that wearing leather was in conflict with what I was starting to believe about the use of animal products. 

They both told me that they were vegetarians themselves and that the leather that they use came as a by-product from slaughterhouses, and that it was making full use of the animal so that none of it was wasted.  There was also the added argument that leather was still far more superior to anything that was on the market at the time, and that it was my safety that I was talking about.

Being in the Army Reserve at the time hunting trips became more frequent, as it was the ‘blokey thing to do’.

I hunted kangaroo, rabbits, deer, pigs, pretty much anything that moved was fair game. I fully believed the propaganda that was being put out by the hunting lobby that culls are needed to keep numbers at a manageable level. And that by hunting animals, we are actually saving the species for generations to enjoy and hunt in the future. 

I went to a friend of a friend’s farm to help them control the kangaroo population that were becoming a nuisance to their farm. I event went hunting for stray cats and dogs in the bushland, because they were a danger to the native wildlife in the area.

I had a few, shall we say ‘interesting’ conversations with some greenies while going out hunting, and was steadfast in my view that what I was doing was right, and that they had no idea what they were talking about.

An epiphany

My epiphany came one day while I was sitting at home reading one of the hunting magazines that I used to buy all the time. 

I had just finished dinner and was starting to clean up. Paying more attention to reading the magazine that what I was doing, I cut my finger on one of the knives that I had used, and blood went everywhere. 

Sucking my finger as you do, whilst looking for a band-aid and still reading, I turned the page and there was a picture of some random guy proudly squatting by some wild pig that he and his dogs had just killed.

He was squatting there with a huge grin on his face, rifle in his right hand, with his left arm on the dead animal beside him and the dogs in front of him.  It was a type of picture that I had seen a thousand times before, and I had even posed for similar ones myself.

Yet this day it was different.

All I can put it down to was that it must had been the taste of my own blood, and seeing my cut finger and seeing the blood that had come out of this animal while it was being chased and harassed by a coward with a weapon and dogs. 

From that day forward, I made the decision not to hunt another animal again.

A few years later I quit the Army Reserve and became a vocal and passionate animal rights activist and vegan educator, which I remain today.

Cameron Blewett is associate editor of The Scavenger.


0 #5 M.R 2013-11-30 23:32
Thank you for sharing and writing this article Cameron. There's a great grass roots anti-hunting non profit whose founder was an avid hunter himself. He has since gone after and exposed the immense cruelty in Rodeos ,pigeon shooting,bullfi ghting and all other forms of hunting for animals. Please show your support by liking their Facebook page and frequent their website on how you can help.
+1 #4 Chris 2010-08-12 09:16
I grew up in a rural area where I didn't know a single vegetarian myself. I probably would have laughed at them if I had. I had to educate myself and it was really about reconciling my cognitive dissonance; I claimed to love animals and yet I ate them. This didn't occur until I was 21 (although I had the mentality to stop - and I did cut down - years earlier).

I'm glad to hear stories like this of avid meat eaters and hunters changing for compassion. It gives me hope that even the most ardent meat eaters can change.
0 #3 Tim Gier 2010-08-11 05:48

Thank you for writing this. I can't help but wonder how things might have been different for you had you been able to meet others who shared your own convictions early on in your vegan life. It's a shame that so many, like the vegetarian motorcycle shop employees, continue to accept and facilitate the abuses against some nonhuman animals even while they stop eating them.

0 #2 Sue 2010-07-23 06:49
Wow Cameron. Your journey to veganism certainly is an interesting one! Brilliant that you are able to now look at hunting as the cowardly act it truly is. I wonder how your family now feel about your outspokenness on animal rights? Hopefully they now accept that this isn't a phase!
0 #1 Katie 2010-07-21 03:11
Thanks for this article. I love being able to read such open and honest accounts of people's experiences in becoming vegan. And wow, what a dramatic change!

I see the similarities between Cameron's and my own experiences. Regardless of what point we start from, the difficulties lie mainly in our own minds. Once we understand why we don't want to use or harm animals and the role we have mindlessly play in doing so, being vegan (i.e. not just following a vegan diet) is the next logical step - and that's when it becomes easy.

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