In my book, Growl, I relate my journey from being a meat-eating student working the summer of 1973 in a chicken slaughterhouse to a vegan working at Compassion In World Farming in 1976. The only vegetarian I knew was Amanda Young. We were both students at what was then called Westminster Technical College in Vincent Square, London learning how to cook haute cuisine and manage hotels and restaurants. As I relate in Growl, Amanda made a big impact.
In September 1973, I returned to Westminster College for my last year. I was anxious to meet up with my friend Amanda, who was in the year below me and the only vegetarian I knew. She was funny and hippyish, and I couldn’t wait to be a macho man and try to upset her, even make her cry, at what I’d been doing. I was obviously so disturbed by the inherent contradictions in my consciousness that I was taking out on Amanda what I couldn’t deal with in myself—and behaving in a way that was almost diametrically opposite to my true disposition.
Instead of being upset at my posturing, however, Amanda didn’t bat an eyelid. Perhaps she saw my behaviour for the ‘acting out’ that it obviously was. For the rest of the year, Amanda and I argued back and forth about how or whether it was cruel to eat meat. I can’t recall the details of our conversations, but no doubt I came up with all the stupid and self-serving reasons for why I should continue to eat animals that I would spend the next four decades countering. Thankfully, Amanda was unassuming and patient, and heard me out. Simply put, she won: Amanda convinced me that eating meat was wrong.
It is thanks to Amanda that I decided to become a vegetarian on January 1, 1974, when my silly tough-guy nonsense stopped, and unbeknownst to me, my life in vegan, animal rights began. What an impact one person can make on another!
Amanda and I grew apart after I left college. But I later found out that she had relocated to Australia and, unlike me, was still involved with professional food services having developed a successful, international career. I found all this out after one of Amanda’s two sisters, Tracy, got in touch with me and introduced herself. It turns out that Amanda had persuaded her two sisters to become vegetarian and Tracy Young‘s doctoral research explored the “complex relations with children, animals and environments providing spaces of ethical inquiry that trouble how ‘Animals’ are politically constructed, socially connected and culturally reproduced in early childhood education.” Tracy teachers at the Swinburne University of Technology in the Faculty of Health, Arts and Design.
In the fulness of time, social media connections were established with Tracy and Amanda where I began to learn more about their lives and they mine. It turns out that all three of the Young sisters ended up living in Australia at different times for different reasons. This past Christmas and New Year they returned to the UK to visit their mother. During their trip they visited my adopted home town of Hastings, as they made a hectic tour of the seaside towns along England’s Kent and Sussex coast.
This is how, some 40 years later, Amanda and I met again on the streets of Old Town Hastings. And, for the first time, I met Tracy and the third Young sister, Sarah. Sadly, our reunion was all too brief, nonetheless, as I think Tracy’s photograph of Amanda and Me testifies, it was a very special moment.