Do Our Shadows Lead To Veganism?


Veganism is more popular than ever, but it can be accompanied by anger, judgement, shaming, or vilification from those pro and anti-veganism. 

Self-Exploration Through Shadow Work

We have seen persuasive text and footage from both sides and demonstrations from the pro-animal angle. It appears to me to be a terrific catalyst for self-exploration through shadow work.

I thought I would use this medium as a framework to illustrate how you could unpack your own shadow or hidden aspects of yourself that stem through a bygone wound. I say bygone because as you will see when I work through my own story about veganism and my shadow it can stem from lifetimes before this one.

Denying An Animal Freedom

I shall start by tracing back to my earliest memories of seeing an animal being slaughtered. For me, it doesn’t seem to be an issue of actually killing the animal but rather restraining it: denying it freedom. I was brought up in Wales where we farmed animals and regularly rode our horses through the farmyards of our neighbours. My first squeamish memory, I was about ten, is a cow’s tongue moving in a glass mixing bowl on the kitchen table—I never ate tongue again.

It made my stomach turn.

The next, riding past a farmer who did things the old fashioned way. There were four sheep tied to a gate in various states of semi-consciousness, blood around their heads; I guessed their heads had been knocked against the metal bars of the gate. It made my stomach turn. I thought it was cruel but I still ate sheep. Injured horses were shot this made me sad because I was emotionally connected to them. Young sheepdogs that were unruly were taken up the valley and shot. Again I was sad but I didn’t question it. We ate a good deal of meat, it was always the hero on the plate, and I remember my parents having a few very large parties with spit roasted pigs, what a treat!

By my mid-teens I don’t think I had actually connected the animal to meat. I have no doubt I would have scoffed if I encountered a vegetarian. I was a farm girl and animals died, animals were killed, animals were eaten. I’m a great disappointment to my father who cannot comprehend why I feel the way I do about animals.

I Felt Nauseous And Shaky

I’ve been thinking about movies that truly triggered and disturbed me growing up. Two left long-lasting impressions: Papillion with Dustin Hoffman and One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Jack Nicholson. Both characters were restrained and severe pain inflicted upon them. When I was older any period drama that showed an execution or torture, particularly Braveheart, made me feel nauseous and shaky. War films where someone was restrained, often against their will, for amputations without anaesthetic had the same impact. Movies where animals were chased and killed in the wild had no lasting impression. I would never watch a horror movie or one excessively violent.

I Could Feel Their Fear 

The trigger that propelled me into vegetarianism came in 1987. I was living in Scotland, and The Sunday Times newspaper ran an explicit double page spread on the treatment of animals in European slaughter houses. Close up photos of cows showing the whites of their eyes and hideous photos of cruelty horrified me. I could feel their fear coming off the pages. I never ate cows or sheep again. I’ve had a rasher of bacon since and it was peculiar. The next step came seven years later, after I had given birth to my first child, I stopped eating all dairy products. The idea that he might be removed from me was more than I could bear. And, I felt, cows that have their calves removed from them at a few hours or a week old must feel the same way.

As I reflect on these memories, it strikes me that I am looking at two issues. The first, a wound connected to restraint or lack of freedom. The second is common: a fear of having a loved one taken away from me. As I hone in further, I realise what I am most upset by is the waiting to be killed: being on death row. I empathise with the animal restricted and waiting in line, sensing what is coming next with absolutely no chance of freedom, or the animal restrained by humans before it is killed.  I don’t feel as triggered when an animal is targeted in the field or bush, having said that I feel a big difference between cows and roos.

Aspects Of The Persecutor Were In My Shadow

Decades ago, I had believed that in a past life I had been executed and that was why I was triggered by killing animals and executions in movies. In past-life readings it had been suggested to me that I had been persecuted for who I truly was—I guessed someone not acceptable to the law of the land at the time—and that I might struggle to show my true vulnerable self, this made sense. But, simultaneously, I was engaged in exploring “who am I?” so I expIored further. I noted that I play out the persecutor rather than the victim within my relationships. As much as I may be known as relaxed and a nurturer I also have an assertive dominant direct style. Aspects of the persecutor were in my shadow; bossy, condescending, and authoritarian, at times they would leap out front and centre when I felt threatened. If it was suggested that I had these traits I would ardently disagree.

I encountered and subsequently embraced shadow work. I learnt to engage with the feelings I had when I was triggered; ranging from anger to anxiety, or bringing out the hollering inner-child who needs their point to be heard. Dominant traits were illuminated, and time was spent reflecting how I felt when they showed up. Integration occurred as I appreciated the now seen traits as order and organisation (rather than bossy); the need, at times, to lead and encourage (rather than be authoritarian or condescending). Now, my focus is on being of service and an inspiration to others.

We Have All Done Things To Others

Was there a wound from my past, which my soul needed me to heal? To realign the energy—karma, some might say—connected to being a persecutor or persecuted. Had I been executed or the executor? The latter had never crossed my mind. Not long ago, an energy healer picked up on threads of a past life, one I’d heard before about being a slave girl (victim) on a ship, but he gave a different perspective. He explained the outcome of my death as an experience for me as a result of my own actions from a life that preceded the slave girl life. A life when I had been a persecutor—an executioner. All too often I hear people reveal what has been done to them, but rarely do I hear past-life readings about what we have done to others. This fresh information from the healer gave me insight into remembering we have all done all manner of things, and judgement serves no purpose. Each soul is here to bring their energies into balance.

I Need To Be Unrestrained And Free

I also find it curious that my numerology number is 5. My soul purpose is about freedom and discipline; to be unrestrained by rules and conditioning set by others; to be true to myself, by digging deep to find inner and outer freedom.

As time moved forward I reverted back to eating poultry, fish, and organic dairy. I never removed free-range eggs from my diet. I found that I didn’t emotionally connect with poultry or fish as I did with the larger animals. At the beginning of this year, 2019, my daughter decided she wanted to stop eating poultry and dairy. Our diet is now 90% plant-based.

What Does Veganism Represent To You?

Veganism is not always associated with shadow; it may be that your gut feels heavy and uncomfortable with meat in it. You may have made food choices based on the environment, although this too can have a shadow influence. My issue was enmeshed in the persecution of others and the limiting of freedom. Veganism may trigger a wound of betrayal or injustice for you. This unpacking is for those of us who are triggered, who have a physical response; their body contracts in response to a concept associated with veganism and what it represents as a catalyst. In spiritual terms it may be the avenue your soul or higher-self has orchestrated to help you to make peace with wounds from this or past lives.


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