The Farrell family were one of the lucky ones in our street…we had an above the ground pool! I loved our pool!! I had just turned 14 and discovering boys. Boys liked surfy chicks to be bronzed so I spent many hours drenched in Reef Oil floating around the pool on the plastic lilo. Being particularly politically incorrect in those days, people started to call me an Aborigine as I would go so dark. Jaws had just been released at the cinema and I had lent the book from a friend. Turns out that even reading about shark attacks whilst laying in a pool is terrifying! I then discovered a book that would open my mind and heart to the atrocities of indigenous people “I Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. I immediately felt such incredible sadness and heartache for these beautiful, proud native American Indians, whose connection to nature and mother earth was beyond anything white people could ever understand. I at last felt that there were once others in this world that felt as I did – that did not take for granted the magic that is nature and her magnificent and stunning animals. I differed only in that I had the privilege of having a choice to not eat them. Sitting Bull became my spiritual guide.
Racing home from school one day, I noticed the blinds in our house were all closed. Mum was panicked and pleaded with me to not look out the windows. Confused and feeling sick without knowing why, I had to witness what was going on or what had happened. The horror was so palpable I thought I would die from the shock. My friends, the chickens, were all dead – their heads had been chopped off and their soft, fluffy bodies were sticking legs up out of several buckets in our backyard. I saw my father pulling feathers from some. I collapsed and my poor mother didn’t know what to do with me. She knew my dad would get upset and angry if he saw me in such a state over “useless animals”. I blurred the next few days and weeks out of my memory. I went through life robotically, jolting back into consciousness each night when mum offered chicken cooked in various ways for dinner. Dad of course was enraged not only with me, but now with my mum for also crying each tea time for the slaughter of my beautiful friends. It sickened her that she was being made to cook my friends. Of course I could not, would not eat my precious animal friends. So even though I was at an age where I thought I was too old to be told to sit at the table for hours after everyone had finished their dinner, any punishment was worth not partaking in what I believed was akin to cannibalism.
A few months later I was offered a catwalk modelling job as I had completed a modelling course in the city. Travelling to the course during school holidays, the train would take us past the slaughteryard. The smell of bodies being butchered was gut wrenching and nauseating. Thousands of cattle skins hung out to be “tanned” in the sun. These smells and sights were the norm and totally accepted by everyone it seemed apart from me. Workers from the slaughterhouse would board the train still covered in blood. I felt like I was living in hell and humans were the devil’s workers.
My father’s fury over my defiance grew each time I refused to partake in eating animals. Starting with him bringing home meat when he was a slaughtermen at the local abattoir years before which would sit in front on me night after night, cooked in any way my mum could find to try to disguise the dead animal it was. He must have felt I was a selfish and arrogant daughter and after he killed my chooks, his ugly temper flared up again. This time directed at my little brother and my mum. Shane was knocked out for no reason other than wanting to play with his friends and mum was chased around the front yard with an axe – the same tool used to decapitate my feathery friends. I still to this day don’t know how mum survived this attempt at her life and have never asked her for fear of bringing up a very disturbing memory for her. As Iv continued my vegan journey, I have discovered the correlation between domestic violence, drug and alcohol dependency and violence towards family members and others is common place amongst those that do the dirty work the public doesn’t want to know about ie slaughtermen. The young girl in me would not predict the brutality inflicted upon my mother that was yet to come.