The X Files. An episode called 'Red Museum'. It revolves around a town built on the meat industry. During this episode there's a shot of some doe-eyed cows, destined for slaughter. Although this is just a show, the truth was still in there. That's the moment it clicked. I became Vegan.
Before giving up meat, I'd always felt a sort of hypocrisy when stating that I loved animals. If it were true, surely I'd want them to live their lives free from harm? Whenever I see a dog out walking, a horse feeding her young, a cat crossing the street or a swan on the river, I smile. I love animals. And if anyone were to attempt to slit their throats, I'd do my damndest to protect them. So why should it be different for cows, pigs, sheep, chickens etc? Do they not deserve that same level of compassion? Are they not equal?
After doing my research and seeing what actually goes on in slaughter houses, on dairy farms and in chicken factories ('Earthlings' is a great eye opener by the way, though extremely disturbing to watch), I was faced with a choice: Continue paying for the torture of innocent animals for the sake of a bite to eat, or just give it up. Of course it was an easy decision. I could (and do!) live a happy, healthy life causing the least suffering I'm aware I can and so for that, I no longer feel that hypocrisy when I say I love animals.
So, I was vegeatarian for two months and then I transitioned to Vegan. It was the least I could do.
At first I was worried about how my family and friends would react to my decision. I mean, I was going against 'the norm'. I'd been brought up like most in our society when it comes to food, not giving meat or where it came from a second thought. I was now choosing a lifestyle they didn't understand or even know much about. Fortunately for me, they were really supportive and shortly after my switch, my mum also went Vegan (we've even attended protests together).
5 years on and my only regret is that I didn't do it all sooner.
Animals have always been a constant love in my life, rivalled possibly only by my passion for drawing. Which brings me on to art.
Art is a universal language, so it's a great platform for getting messages across. I've been drawing since I could hold a crayon (or my mum's lipstick. Sorry mum!), so combining this with my fascination of the natural world seemed like an obvious progression. I've been drawing endangered species and lesser known creatures for years in an effort to raise their profile, but for the past year or so, I've been involved with 'The Art of Compassion' project; an international collective of vegan artists raising awareness of animal rights through art.
We've just produced our second Vegan Art Calendar, with all proceeds going to Veganuary, a great organisation offering support and advice to people trying Vegan for the first time. Last years' calendar proceeds went to Hillside Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit charity here in the UK who take in rescued farm animals (amongst others) and care for them from there on.
There's a book due out early next year too featuring amazing pictures from over 100 Vegan artists (myself included) from around the world, again with all proceeds going to animal charities. We're hoping to work on at least one big project a year to raise money and awareness for such causes.
I continue to produce my own wildlife portraits and take on commissions in my spare time though and have found that people are softening more towards animals when viewing my work, with the vegan pieces in particular making people think. If I can get people to question their life choices with regards to how they treat animals, I'll consider this work a success.
A recent commission was to illustrate a poetry book for a fellow vegan, which was a bit of a rush as the deadline only gave me a couple of weeks to get it finished. I enjoyed the project though and can't wait to see the results in print!
Compassion is easy.
What the animals go through is not.
You can also visit her page on facebook Gemma C