On World Vegan Day, we celebrate how far veganism has come, reflect on the movement’s success, and uplift and encourage those beginning to embrace a plant-based lifestyle. Among the global citizens choosing to keep animals off his plate is fourth-generation Texan Jack Castle.
A hunter for decades, Castle learned the tradition from his father, who owned a large cattle business in Texas and Montana. Together, they travelled the world hunting for birds and big game, and Castle went on to run his own 900-acre cattle ranch where he continued to slaughter cows for food. Today, he’s a vegan and a shining example that even the manliest of hunters and meat-eaters can make a lifestyle change for the better. Castle put his former cattle ranch property into conservation to benefit the surrounding wildlife. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Castle challenged other hunters to go vegan by inviting them to his home for lavish, six-course “Hunters Dine Vegan” dinners.
This Word Vegan Day, because there’s nothing quite as powerful as the conversion of the most unlikely of the unlikely, here are seven reasons why Castle made the decision to let go of hunting and ranching and go vegan for the animals.
1. He didn’t want to support factory farms.
“I was startled to learn of animal factory farms,” Castle told VegNews. “That’s how I began to understand animals differently. Those animals live in a severe state of misery. There is nothing majestic about breeding animals in filth, steel, and cement and putting them in cages for their entire lives. Understanding this treatment of animals bridges the connection to what we put on our plates and then to their land, true nature, and hunting. That is what did it for me.”
2. He realized that killing animals for sport was irrational.
“When I hunted birds and big game it was for sport and I normalized it,” Castle said. “Now, the power not to kill is a greater power. The power to withdraw from hunting is power. I have a need to be a caretaker and to be a steward of the land. I have always loved animals, but I was a sport hunter and I was not emotional. I rationalized it as a challenge. But now I wish to awaken other hunters to feel what I will forever feel. It is very gratifying.”
3. He saw a greater appreciation for all life.
“I treat all animals equally now,” Castle said. “When I look an animal in the eyes, I see their soul; I am looking into their eyes and reconnecting with them very differently. I have always loved wildlife, but now I am more connected, more in love. Being vegan gives me a greater appreciation for life, really. I love the animals more. And it has made me realize that animals have the same emotions as me—the need to feel pleasure, to play, to care for family.”
4. He realized the animals on his plate were no different than his cats and dogs.
“I am already guilty of disturbing animals’ lives before, from eating them to hunting them,” Castle said. “Putting a steak on a plate is paying someone else to kill the animal and bring it to you wrapped in plastic. The tragedy of factory farms can be stopped with one choice and that is to eliminate meat, dairy, and eggs from your plate and go with—as my wife says—phytonutrient-dense foods packed with fiber. And those are not in animal tissue. These factory-farmed animals deserve equality and should be treated the same as our cats and dogs, at minimum. Love and respect has no boundaries.”
5. His wife, simply put.
“The passion and love my wife Shushana Castle [who is a vegan advocate and author] shows every day for the animals and for our earth inspires me,” Castle said. “She taught me to respect all life without judgment. She helped me accept that the pig, the cow, the chicken, all living beings deserve the same respect as our family dogs. That love has no boundaries and equality extends to the caged and wild animals, too.”
6. He wanted to nurture animals’ natural habitat and transform his ranch into a wildlife sanctuary.
“From this newfound awareness, I extended my love for nature and wildlife to the ranches, so I created a sanctuary for wildlife,” Castle said. “The lands are vastly enhanced with enlarged lakes, streams, and ponds from underground water and the animals feel safe and protected. My lands are now a safe haven for the animals. They intuitively know when it’s hunting season and now they flock to the land for safety. This new relationship with all the big game and birds has intensely given me so much fulfillment. Sometimes big game stares at me. It’s the other way around now. We look into each other’s eyes and I feel like I can see their soul.”
7. A vegan diet gave him endless energy.
“It’s total fulfillment not participating in the suffering of animals, not taking away life,” Castle said. “We live in nature, so it’s my duty to renew the earth the best I am able. I have a lot of energy from dropping all the meat and dairy from my meals. Making a contribution of peace in a caring manner, to not kill for a sport, just feels right.”