From Farmers To Vegans: 'We Watched Earthlings And Felt Sick'

PBN Co-founder Robbie Lockie inspired his parents to ditch animal products and turn to a plant-based lifestyle. They even launched a vegan yoghurt company
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Robbie and Vera Lockie

PBN Co-founder Robbie Lockie with his mother Vera

For many people, veganism can seem like a radical departure from the animal exploitation which is so normalized in society.

Making the connection between animal consumption and animal abuse can be an even bigger step for those who've been involved in agriculture.

But Plant Based News Co-founder Robbie Lockie's parents Colin and Vera have broken the mold - as former farmers who became ethical vegans earlier this year. PBN spoke to Vera about making the move towards a more compassionate life.

1. How long have you been vegan?

We stopped eating pigs in March of 2017. Then we dropped all animal products during Veganuary this year.

2. What (or who!) inspired you to go vegan?

Robbie Lockie - our son.

Throughout most of our young lives, we were farmers - farming and breeding sheep, ducks, chickens, and horses. We ran a small farm, not a factory farm.

We were bringing up young animals, and culling them - but then eating animals from another farm. What hypocrites!

On one level, we always felt it was wrong, but we were brought up to believe that eating animals was normal and necessary, and it was ok to cull them and drink their milk.

We only recently learned a great deal having Robbie as a son, through his constant brave efforts to show us what goes on in agriculture these days. Things have changed since what we saw on our farms when we were younger.

We had always thought that death was part of life, it was farming - but we were all fooled.

The world is so different and so cruel now. We were shocked to watch Earthlings and other documentaries like Swine. They made us feel ill. We saw that there's no respect for the animals.

We finally made the connection and felt awful, sick and angry.

3. Has it been difficult to adapt?

It was not too difficult to adapt. It was a bit tough to give up milk and cheese - Colin is good and disciplined. For me, if I am out and about I will forget and have milk in my tea (if I forget my soya milk). He never does.

Colin has become a radical and will tell everyone in restaurants that he's a vegan. Neither of us eating animals at all.

4. What kinds of reactions have you had from friends and family?

The reaction hasn't been too bad - we've had a few ugly or sarcastic remarks from the oldies, and we have probably lost a few friends, but that's not serious.

People who make themselves scarce are the ones who aren't really friends. Friends make an effort to understand and try to listen.

We have some wonderful friends - not all vegan or vegetarian - but willing to listen and to be kind and conscious. We are respectful in return. They will change, it just takes time.

5. What benefits have you experienced?

We both feel lighter of spirit and now have a deeper sense of worth, like we are doing something with our lives that matter. No animal suffers for our meals as far as we can help it.

6. Can you tell me a little bit about your new vegan business?

We wanted to make a product that would mean something, so we started an artisan cottage-based yogurt creamery called Cape Creme making almond, soy (non-GMO), and coconut-based yogurts.

We try to be as conscious as possible during every step of the process; we source everything from small businesses and have just started using biodegradable pots.

Its hard work, but there can be hard times when setting up a new business, but now we are in a few shops, the response has been great, and we're enjoying feeling like we're making a difference.

7. Anything else you'd like to add?

The area around us is dairy country. It's been tough to work so far away from the city, but actually the local dairy and cheese factory - Mooivallei - has been very open-minded about what we're trying to achieve, and has helped us with logistics.

The factory owner was open to hearing our story and assisting us with transport ( at no cost!) We have talked with him about the way things are changing, and he's interested in what we say about animal rights and the dairy industry and how it will change.

It pays to be conscious and patient with people. It pays to be kind. Who knows he may change one day to making plant-based cheese and milk.

It's important to remember that not all non-vegans are bad people - many meat eaters just haven't made that connection yet.

As my Dad always used to say - the worm will turn, it takes time, but we can all make a difference if we are patient.

Cape Creme is now available in Spar stores across South Africa