Imagine being vegetarian and working in a butcher’s shop. Simon Waldram has overcome more hurdles than most on his path to veganism. He works as an Audiologist and also creates socially-conscious music with vegan themes.
“When I first became vegan I didn't talk about the whole journey. I suppose I thought people were going to judge me.” Simon confesses to us. “Now I try to be honest about it.”
Recognise who you want to be (you don’t have to follow the people around you)
“When I was a child, my grandparents had a butcher shop. And it got passed down to my mum and dad while I was a teenager.”
“I grew up in that environment,” Simon explains. “And then, when I was about 14 onwards, they kind of made me work as a butcher’s boy. So I worked in a butcher’s shop on Saturdays.”
“But at the same time, I'd become a vegetarian.” Simon laughs to break the clear upset that this situation caused him.
"Nobody got it.”
“I was in this very meaty environment. But at the same time, I had decided I couldn't eat meat.”
“You think it's kinda gross when you see the counters. But what you see behind the scenes. It’s horrific.”
“And I remember my grandad took me to the slaughterhouse once or twice, as well. When I was little. 11 or 12, something like that.”
“I suppose all those things strengthened my resolve.”
Begin to question more and more and do your own research
“When I was in my 20s for a while, I don't know why, I went back to a period of eating meat.”
“But then I questioned it more and more. And at the same time, I was questioning dairy and eggs and stuff. It all started to seem quite bizarre to me. Like: 'Why do we do this?'
"It was like a realisation of what was on my plate. Where it came from. and what it looked like. I remember thinking: ‘This is disgusting, why am I eating this?’”
Have an honest conversation with a vegan
“In my 30s I went back to college to do a university access course. I met this girl and she was a dedicated vegan. And she was the first vegan I ever met.”
“And we spent hours and hours talking about veganism.”
“I was in a space where I was eating meat. But at the same time feeling uncomfortable about it. And she helped me put the pieces together.”
“The more I looked into animal welfare and how they're treated, you know, it all made sense.”
“I thought: 'Oh my god, what am I doing?'”
“And that was it then.”
Delight in your choice to live a compassionate life
Becoming vegan was “the best decision I ever made,” says Simon.
We ask Simon what he would say to his pre-vegan self. He thinks and replies: “Why are you doing something you're not comfortable doing? You know? If you don't feel happy, there's a whole way of life out there.”
Expect to explain your choice to people
“I did pick up a fair bit of resistance. It was only five or six years ago, but attitudes were less understanding of veganism.”
“I remember being told that I was extreme. I remember, family members of me and a vegan friend compared us to the Taliban. Because the Taliban are extremists, you know, who try and force their way of life on others. We got compared to them which is bizarre!”
Refute the idea that vegans force their way of life
“I mean, all you have to do is go outside and there are billboards for McDonalds or meat adverts on the television. Or you go to a restaurant and we still have to find our little section. Our little vegan section among all the steaks and all the rest of it.”
“For anyone to say we force our views on them is ignorant.”
Channel your emotions about animal rights into your creative outputs
Simon has produced music for 15 years and is incorporating vegan messages into his work. “I want to do what I can to spread the word and further the cause, you know?”
“I spent time working out how to put socially-conscious stuff into my songs,” Simon tells us.
“Without it being crass and beating people over the head. I wanted a bit more intelligence.”
Support and get inspired by fellow vegan artists
“I went back to uni five years ago to train to be an audiologist. And the university library had a music section.”
“Within that, they had punk rock section. A whole fucking section on punk books; which is my biggest love. And I thought: ‘are there any vegan punk bands, is that a thing?’ I had no idea.”
“So I picked up one book and there was a whole thing about it.”
“I started reading about this Canadian punk band called Propaghandi. They're still going now and they've been going since the 90s. They’re a vegan punk band.”
“And I heard one of their songs and I thought: ‘This is it. This is what I’ve been looking for.’”
“They sing about socially conscious and political stuff in a way I’ve never really heard any other band do.”
“The more I listened the more I thought: there's a way to write songs about important topics in a different tone.”
Explore the themes that matter to you
Simon has a single coming out towards the end of the year called Agnes of Rome. It explores some pretty heavy vegan themes.
“Agnes was the Catholic patron saint of innocence and virtue,” Simon tells us. “She was a child, 12 or 13 years old. And she had all these men who wanted to marry her or do whatever to her. And she was like no, I'm a kid I'm not having anything to do with you. And so she got raped and murdered.”
“And to make it not seem like some horrendous thing, they made her a saint of innocence and virtue. And Agnes means lamb. And so when she's born she's always holding a lamb.”
“And I thought: ‘oh shit’, you know? That's kinda what we do to animals too. Like lambs, we always talk of their innocence: 'Beautiful little baby lamb, it's spring.' All that stuff. And then they get killed and eaten.
“So I put those things together.”
Use creativity as a way to tell your vegan story
“I put my own story in Agnes of Rome,” says Simon. “What I was saying about growing up in a butcher’s family. My grandad taking me to the slaughterhouse and all that stuff.”
“I played the song to a friend and she said: 'That was the first time I've ever really heard you tell your own truth.' That meant a lot.”
“When I went vegan, even though there was some initial confusion, everyone is cool with it now. Everyone knows that's who I am. And that's what I am. I will never change.”
“People who at first didn't understand now say really nice things. Or tell me they've been to a restaurant or somewhere that had vegan stuff. And: ‘Have you checked this place out, Simon?'”
“I've had people saying it's inspiring. People appreciate that I'm just trying to live my truth. Even if it’s not always the easiest thing.”
“And I've seen some people go vegan. And I know that's been at least partly inspired by me.”
Our chat with Simon reminds us of something. It’s this. That just by being yourself you inspire people every day.