PAUL MAHONY NEGOTIATES insurance for major corporations. Facts and evidence rule his world. His job is to convert masses of complex data into readable reports and presentations for his clients. It was a surprise to his family, and quite unsettling, when Paul announced he would celebrate a forthcoming milestone birthday by becoming vegetarian. That was just the start. Within weeks of that decision, he was a strict vegan who did not consume or wear any animal products at all. He is quick to admit his only regret: ‘Why have I not always lived like this?!’
Exceptionally fit and healthy-looking, Paul appears at least ten years younger than he really is. Everything about him seems effervescent. Despite knowing the full horrors of modern animal food production as they converge with drastically worsening climate, Paul still seems optimistic and hopeful. He smiles and laughs easily. His beliefs and sense of purpose come from a thorough examination of all available evidence viewed through the lens of kindness and what is best and fair in the long term.
A shocking moment
Paul has always been extremely health-conscious. It’s not surprising: his father had suffered from chronic heart trouble and died from his third heart attack at the age of 55. So Paul has always exercised regularly. For decades he competed in many long-distance running events at the local athletics club, and has run a few marathons. He knew animal fats were linked to heart disease, so he also watched his diet, avoiding meals high in dairy products or meat. On his nights as the family chef, cooking for his wife and three children at least once a week, he often chose vegetarian recipes.
One afternoon, while searching the Internet for a new vegetarian recipe, Paul came across a ‘Save Babe’ campaign video on the pig industry. Seeing that video shocked Paul into a radically different way of life. This was in October 2007.
Watching the video, and aware that his little girl was nearby, Paul instinctively blocked the screen so she wouldn’t be too traumatised by the images.
I felt shocked and angry and ashamed, viewing those pictures of animals confined in prison-like cages on cold, bare concrete floors with no natural light, no natural food, no natural anything.
I imagined what it would be like to spend every moment of life in such a deprived state.
Paul sought more information and was surprised to learn of the massive ecological footprint – that is, the direct impact on the environment, including the climate – of the animal agriculture industry. The discovery that diets rich in animal products not only contribute to heart disease but are linked to other health problems such as cancer, diabetes and obesity was the last straw for him. Cruelty, climate and human health – together they made a forceful argument.