Farmer Goes Vegan: ‘I Made the Change Because I Didn’t Want to Keep Slaughtering Pigs’
“As a vegan, I found that I didn’t have to lie to myself any more, and I no longer had to turn off my feelings,” writes farmer Gustaf Söderfeldt.
On World Vegan Day, he shares his story in a powerful op-ed published in Aftonbladet, a major Swedish daily newspaper. He explains that if people care about not harming animals, the answer isn’t to buy “humane meat” – a vegan diet is the only one that truly guarantees kindness to other living beings. Read the full version of his article, translated from the Swedish, below.
How I Went From Pig Farmer to Vegetable Farmer
By Gustaf Söderfeldt
People go vegan for many reasons. I made the change because I didn’t want to keep slaughtering pigs.
Myself and my partner, Caroline, left the city for the countryside in 2006 to get into small-scale farming. We were tired of city life and wanted to become proper farmers – and everyone knows that real farmers keep animals, right? That’s what we thought, too. We wanted a farm that was run like in the old days. Our aim was for it to be a better alternative to the horrible factory-farming industry. Our animals would be happy. They would be raised and slaughtered humanely.
Our idea was in keeping with the times, and people loved it. We had many different animals on the farm: sheep, goats, hens, ducks, and lots of pigs. Very few farms ever let their pigs go outdoors, so we found a niche that proved to be popular and lucrative. A few pigs became around 30 at a time, and we sold a lot of meat. We ended up opening a shop in the city that sold meat from our farm and others.
The shop attracted plenty of customers. But something was happening inside of me – the idea of “humane meat” was starting to fall apart. In the beginning, I had run the farm as a small, local operation and had really got to know the pigs I raised. Now, the more pigs we bred, the more I found myself doing it for the money. After all, the business had to keep turning a profit.
Our customers loved to hear that the pigs had had “a good life”. But of course, they didn’t want to hear about the ugly side of raising the animals. If I’d told them that a mother sow didn’t want to be separated from her babies or that the pigs screamed with anguish as they were loaded onto the lorry bound for the abattoir, I wouldn’t have kept a single customer. No one wants to know about the nasty parts of the meat industry. Everyone just wanted to hear about how “good” and “humane” our meat was.
Most of our customers bought meat from us to silence their own consciences. People don’t want to admit to themselves that they’re supporting an industry that treats animals horribly. That’s why they buy so-called “humane meat”: that way, it’s easier to feel better about eating other meat, too.
The “humane meat” from our farm was expensive – the kind that you could afford only once a week. The other six days, our customers would eat factory-farmed meat and still feel good about it because they were buying our meat that one time.
Acting as an advertisement for the meat industry felt more and more troubling to me. None of our customers were interested in learning more about the ways in which animals suffered. I was only “allowed” to discuss the nicer aspects of raising animals. The only way I could continue in my profession was to hide the truth, and my life as a pig farmer and meat retailer felt less honest with every day.
The change that subsequently came was total and unexpected. My little village was obviously devoid of vegans. But Caroline had started watching videos about veganism on YouTube, and as soon as I’d seen a few of them, my whole life changed. It turned out that vegans wanted the same thing that I did: for animals to have a good life. This was what mattered to me as a pig farmer. But vegans had gone one step further than I had in their thinking: if you really care about animals, you shouldn’t breed them at all!
This is worth repeating: if you care about animals, the answer isn’t “humane meat”. The right thing to do is to stop breeding animals for food. This realisation was life-changing for me as an “ethical” animal farmer.
I got to know more vegans, both in real life and on YouTube. I realised that a vegan lifestyle was healthier than eating animals. As a pig farmer, an important argument in favour of animal-derived foods had been that “humans need meat”. Now, I know that the opposite is true – we feel better without it! With this insight, the last excuse I’d had for breeding and slaughtering animals was shattered. What I’d been doing was completely unnecessary.
I had to rethink everything that I’d built up around our farm. We stopped raising pigs, went vegan, and closed down our shop. These were difficult times, as it’s never easy to realise that you’ve been living a lie and been ignorant. But then everything got so much better!
I started feeling better almost straight away. My body felt better – before making the change, I’d been eating lots of meat. Now, it felt lighter and functioned better, and I looked much more refreshed. But above all, I felt good emotionally.
There’s nothing fun about raising animals to kill them – even the most ardent meat farmer would agree. You do it because you think you have to, but inside, you feel awful. You learn to switch off your emotions.
As a vegan, I found that I didn’t have to lie to myself any more, and I no longer had to turn off my feelings. It felt amazing! Having a clear conscience is truly the best feeling there is.
Myself and Caroline are now dedicated to growing vegetables. It’s extremely satisfying and gratifying. The food that we produce on our farm is great in every way – it’s good for animals, for human health, and for nature and the environment. Intensive vegetable farming is highly productive: you can grow so many vegetables on a small piece of land and produce many more calories than that same terrain would have offered through animal farming. It’s lucrative for the farmer in an entirely different way.
There’s every reason to believe that veganism is the future of farming. It is kinder, healthier, more efficient, less wasteful, and more climate-friendly. There’s now a growing community of vegan farmers around the world who are spreading the message that there’s a better and smarter way to farm, and they’re developing knowledge and methods to enable a revolutionary shift – to vegan farming! It’s a journey that has just begun, and we need many more passionate people to join us.
November is World Vegan Month – a great opportunity to switch to vegan living or to let others know why and how to make the change.