Vegetarian of a decade becomes butcher after eating a beef burger

Tammi now tries to farm ethically

According to a 2014 study, 86% of people who become vegetarians return to meat at some point or another.

There’s quite a big difference between having the occasional chicken nugget, though, and ending up breaking your decade of vegetarianism to become a butcher.

Tammi Jonas previously abstained from meat for over 10 years, having first decided to do so after reading Peter Singer’s work, Animal Liberation, aged 19.

The Australian told her local Victoria news station, ‘He detailed the treatment of pigs and poultry in sheds in a way that I just couldn’t, in good conscience, keep eating meat.

‘My immediate response was – I don’t want to participate in treating animals that way and the only way I know how to do that is to stop eating meat.’

Many years of vegetarianism followed, with two children being born along the way.

When Tammi was pregnant with her third child, however, she became extremely anaemic, and found that no amount of supplements or veggie diet changes were helping.

‘I was at work one day and just thought: “a burger would fix this”,’ she said.

Philosopher Peter Singer initially introduced her to a meat-free life.

That one burger would turn out to be a major turning point for Tammi, with her going on to reintroduce beef and lamb to her diet, and eventually pork and poultry too.

It’s not just her eating habits that have changed, however. Her life has done a complete u-turn, as she has since become a pig farmer and butcher.

‘I never thought it was immoral to take an animal’s life for food – I’ve always been comfortable with my place in the food chain,’ explains Tammi.

‘But I thought it was immoral to treat [animals] cruelly, to not allow them to go outside and breathe fresh air and to be confined in crowds in sheds.’

She also loved working outdoors, after her upbringing – in Oregon in the US – gave her a taste of the farm life, and showed her how to raise livestock.

One of Tammi’s sausages

It was the merging of these two things that prompted Tammi’s idea to start a pig farm that treated animals fairly.

Tammi and her husband Stuart moved to a spot of land in Victoria’s Central Highlands, setting up their new life, and their business, Jonai Farms.

Stuart was put in charge of the farm’s infrastructure, and Tammi learnt how to butcher the animals from scratch.

Reducing the animal’s stress is key for Tammi.

She doesn’t slaughter the animals herself, instead opting to send the pigs to an abattoir off-site. She does feel a pang of guilt for this.

‘I think they find all of that stressful and we’d like to take that part of the stress out of our system and be able to walk them to a death they didn’t know was coming,’ the 49-year-old said.

‘I feel the most justified in eating the meat when I know they had no fear, no pain, they were just alive and then they were dead.’

What Tammi doesn’t feel guilty for, though, is going back to meat.

‘I am trying to help people who are choosing [vegetarianism] while also still trying to figure out what is the best way to eat on a finite planet,’ she said.

‘Hats off to you if you don’t want to participate in any livestock production but try not to have too hard a go at those of us who are trying to restore landscapes with livestock and doing a much better job of it than your vegan impossible burger.’

That burger must have been pretty great to change a life, and it appears that Tammi is now more than content with her ‘ethically meaty’ lifestyle.

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