The people I knew involved in animal production were good people just trying to do the best they knew how for what they envisioned were the right reasons — feeding a hungry America. They believed they were providing an absolute necessity: first-class protein. It was ingrained in them from the time they were kids: ‘Eat your meat’.
Howard Lyman is a fourth generation cattle farmer who converted a small organic dairy farm into a massive factory-style dairy and beef feedlot operation with 7,000 cattle. He also raised chickens, pigs and turkeys, farming animals for more than 20 years. In 1990, extremely overweight and facing health problems related to sky-high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, he decided to become a vegetarian. Experiencing a complete turnaround in his health, Lyman went vegan a year later and soon had a profound change of heart about the ethics of eating animals. He converted his ranch into a wildlife sanctuary and since 1991 has been traveling the world speaking and advocating on behalf of veganism, organic farming, and animal rights.
In an interview, Lyman recalls the difficult moment he discovered that he could no longer turn away from the question of killing animals we have no need to harm at all:
“Not, ‘Am I nice to my animals?’ or, ‘Do I feed them well?’ but, ‘My God, should we be eating them?’ … I was in the bathroom and I was looking in the mirror: it was so traumatic for me that I damn near tore the sink off the wall.
That was a door of my soul that I had never opened before. And once I’d opened it, I could never close it again because I knew what those animals looked like when they went onto the kill floor. I knew what was in their eyes, and I was the person putting them there. It was like everything that you believe to be righteous and holy was all of a sudden at risk. Could I actually allow my mind to sort through that?
And did I have the intestinal fortitude to know the difference and to make a change? Do you go to your wife when you have a multimillion dollar operation and say, ‘Wait a minute: I think what we are doing is wrong’? I realized that my livelihood was built on sand. Everything I’d believed in my entire life was at risk because there I was with a business built on killing animals.”
Lyman has written two books, Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat and No More Bull! The Mad Cowboy Targets America’s Worst Enemy: Our Diet. He also maintains an educational website, madcowboy.com. Howard Lyman’s life and work are also the subject of Mad Cowboy: The Documentary, and his story is featured in Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home.