Veteran butcher Brian Kavanagh on going vegan and the film that changed him forever

“Suddenly the idea of putting something dead inside my body didn’t feel right.”

That’s how Brian Kavanagh from Scotland, a butcher for 20 years, explained his overnight conversion to veganism to The Independent last month. Since then, his story has captured the attention of many and has been shared more than 20,000 times. 

This week, we caught up with Brian to get the inside scoop on his massive, overnight change, and hear about the film that would alter the course of his life forever.

As he tells it, the animal agriculture exposé Earthlings, which he watched thanks to his devoted vegan wifedid in just two short hours what no single argument, or person, could ever do.

“I think some stuff I saw in Earthlings will stay me with forever,” he told Living Vegan.

Kavanagh at Sgaia

“I remember wanting to look away at bits, and feeling ashamed I was contributing to it at all — whether it be by buying cosmetics tested on animals, or eating meat, or wearing non-vegan clothes.”

The day after watching the film, the Glasgow-native found himself overhauling his kitchen and changing his consumption habits. Along with his little girl, and with the support of his wife, he went through the usual throws of vegan transition — including the quintessential why-the-heck-do-they-put-milk-in-potato-chips struggle we all seem to go through.

Chuckle-worthy peculiarities aside, Brian was faced with a harsh reality when he returned to his job as a butcher, and had to handle the carcasses of animals with whom he so sympathized.

“The work I was doing at the time included a lot of boning meat, and slicing meat, and was something I had to get away from,” he said.

“A change needed to be made.”

Sgaia Meats

Well, where there’s a struggling new vegan, there tends to be an army of pros ready to loan a hand — it’s just a matter of finding them. Fortunately for Brian, it wasn’t long before he discovered Sgaia, a Glasgow-based vegan meat brand seeking new employees.

What followed was a transition that not only came naturally, but that he was very grateful for.

“Luckily, I found Sgaia and after a successful interview, I got the chance to work with them,” he said.

“It was so exciting using certain skills I had acquired but to use them in a positive way, and it’s been interesting combining the two. The work I do now is hugely enjoyable and satisfying, and every day is different.”

Kavanagh and Daughter

Now, Brian reports that he and his family are happier and healthier than ever as a result of that one fateful night.

When asked how to inspire others to take the same leap he did, this vegan butcher offered an answer that seems almost too simple.

“I’d tell them to watch Earthlings.”

There you have it folks — and if you have to lure your crotchety uncle Phil in with a bag of (dairy-free) chips and a can of Budweiser, no harm no foul, right? A little bribery never hurt anyone.

Header and body images: Instagram & Brian Kavanagh

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