Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 157
Ex sheep farmer, now vegan JH Burnett shares his powerful story
Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan Podcast episode 157. Sheep farmer turned vegan JH Burnett speaks with me today about his experiences in animal agriculture, his vegan story, and more.
Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to no-BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. If you want two of your very own vegan fitness and nutrition coaches who are deathly allergic to 30-day quick fixes, and instead, we'll work with you to create lifelong habits so you can still be kicking ass when you're 94, we are your team. Check out our coaching options at karinainkster.com/coaching.
Introducing today's guest, JH Burnett. JH is a former sheep farmer and breeder in the dairy industry who after the atrocities he witnessed in these industries, turned vegan and an animal rights activist. He's written a memoir, Ex-Farmer Goes Vegan, offers vegan-inspired coaching programs, and along with his wife, Elle Co-create a variety of vegan children's books. His favourite meal is Lasagna. Now, this is one of the most raw stories that's been aired on the podcast thus far, so I'm really grateful to JH for sharing his story. Here's our conversation.
Hi, JH. Great to have you on the show today. Thanks for joining me.
JH Burnett: Hey, Karina. Thank you so much. Yeah, long-time listener. It's very nice to be in here. Thank you for having me.
Karina Inkster: Well, thanks for tuning into the show. It's always great to have someone on the show who has been listening, so that's very cool. Let's start. Actually, normally I start asking someone about their vegan story, but we're tying that into our conversation related to what you used to do and what you're doing now. What I would like to ask instead is, you're in South Africa, maybe you can tell our listeners a little bit about what the vegan scene is like there, what you've noticed. What's it like being a vegan in your area of the world? Because it's very different, I would think, based on where a lot of our listeners are.
JH Burnett: Yeah, I can imagine. The vegan scene is picking up, but it is fairly small compared to most first-world countries, if I can call them so. We used to joke around here, we joke around, saying that we are like five years behind most first-world countries. I think the same is true for the vegan scene. We're getting there. You have various organizations only now rising up and some very nice local vegan communities.
The restaurants, the menus, are full of vegan options. We are getting there, but we still have a very long way to go. A couple of festivals going on. Give us hopefully not another five years, but another five months or so, we will catch on. Just give us a little bit more time, I guess.
Karina Inkster: Fair enough. Well, you're doing a lot of the work here in the vegan scene, so it's good to have you doing the work that you do, which we're going to discuss, of course. But I think, yeah, there's a lot of areas of the world, including areas of Canada where I am, that feel very behind and that need a lot of work still. We all have work to do, but we're doing it, which is part of the whole point of our conversation today. You have a very interesting past and a very interesting transformation, if that's okay to call it that, that happened. You worked in the meat and dairy industry.
JH Burnett: I love the word transformation.
Karina Inkster: Transformation, it's used a lot in the fitness world. I think in that sense, I'm not totally into it. But in the sense of someone who makes a change based on ethical values, I think it could be applicable. I think it can be used, it can be helpful. You have a past of being in the meat and dairy industry and now you're vegan. What the hell happened?
JH Burnett: Can you believe it? And now I'm vegan. Where to begin? I guess I have to take you back. I grew up in a smallish town down in the Western Cape of South Africa. I grew up on a farm, a lovely place. The stereotypical family farm where everybody knows each other's business. Everybody, all of our family members are working on a farm, mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, their partners, and I wanted nothing to do with it. After school, I moved away. And then in 2012, after a couple of family hiccups, I was asked to move there to the farm and to take it over.
Everybody had left. It was only me and my dad was semi-involved. I ran the farm for about six years, and this was a fairly vegan-friendly sort of place because we farmed olives. This is not the sheep farm where I ended up later in life. I farmed this olive farm. And then I met my wife, got married on the farm. But it was a difficult journey on this olive farm. A lot of employees, about a hundred of them and a lot of HR problems, a lot of financial difficulties importing, exporting various products. My wife and I, we'd say we would escape to the Great Karoo. Picture like a semi-desert place in the heart of South Africa.
This is where my grandparents farmed with sheep in a small town called Kofinya, which is very rural. It's actually 40Ks gravel road from the nearest small town. It's in the middle of nowhere. My wife and I would go there on holidays to just get a break from this olive farm and the factory and all the problems and the financial pressures of it all. Just I guess spending some time there on this family farm and the Great Karoo. It was a special place for us. What made it even more special is that this farm in Kofinya is the oldest family owned farm in South Africa.
There's a lot of sentiment attached to it. We would used to tell one another, imagine waking up here every morning. I mean, there's space aplenty. Our nearest neighbours are like 20Ks down the road. You've got nothing but space and time. It was sort of a dream for us to take over this farm one day and we never actually thought it would happen. But then in 2018, the olive farm was sold off. It was in the beginning of 2018. I was 29 years old at the time and had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
And then the call came in asking, "JH, would you and Elle,( this is my wife), would you and Elle be interested in moving to Kofinya and to take over this family farm?" Man, I was so excited. We leaped at the opportunity. We just so desperately wanted to be a part of this history, so to speak. We wanted to be a part of that story, I guess. To us, it was a very romantic idea. Obviously, we knew we were going to be farming with sheep, but we had no problem with that at the time because we were full-on meat eaters. That's how we ended up going to the farm initially. That's how I ended up in the sheep/meat industry to begin with.
Karina Inkster: Got it. Okay, interesting. You were meat-eating at the time. You had this dream, this amazing opportunity that appeared. You presumably moved there. You started farming. What happens next?
JH Burnett: My wife actually stayed behind in the town where we're from originally in Worcester, because she had a business in town and she couldn't just pack up. I basically left immediately. I was so excited, but she needed a couple of months to transition out of that business and to give her clients some decent... Just some space and time to find someone else to help, because she's a Pilates instructor, something you could probably relate to quite well. She just, anyway, gave them some time, four months.
The first four months of that journey, I was alone on the farm with my grandparents and me and my two Bull Terriers, the two dogs, the English Bull Terriers with the long noses. The three of us moved there. And then as of the first day, I just realized that something isn't right. Looking back now, I call it the vegan connection. I started making the vegan connection, and I actually made a couple of them. Looking back now, there were a couple of them. Various instances that I made this vegan love connection where the light bulb just went on in my head where I made that connection realizing what we're doing to these poor animals.
The first one, I made it on literally the first morning on the job, so to speak, because we went out to dock sheep. Now, I had no idea what that meant at the time, but that's basically the cutting off of the tails of the small lambs. Even just seeing that, just experiencing that, because I was the silent observer standing to the side and I was quickly made to be almost silenced, I guess. I could see the shock in these guys' eyes, the guys who worked on the farm, because farming sheep is almost like in their blood as they would put it. They know the way of the land.
Knowing that I didn't, they quickly silenced me and just explained, "No, this is the way we do it. This is the way we've always done it." But basically what they were doing is they were taking old rustic garden scissors and just cutting off the sheep's tails without the use of any anesthetics. It really bothered me. I was walking with it the entire day just right to my heart. And that evening I drove out to the field where the sheep was sleeping just to check up on these lambs because I just had an odd feeling about the whole thing. Arriving there in the field, there were these two lambs that were so weak they could hardly stand up.
They were bleeding profusely. The rest of the herd had already sort of given up on them. They had already wandered off for the night leaving these two baby lambs to basically bleed out and die by themselves. Geez, man, my heart just broke. I picked up these two lambs and I drove them home. I took them with me in the house, and I made a nice bed for them on the kitchen floor. Put down blankets, treated their wounds to the best of my abilities, and fed them nice lamb baby formula milk. Just sitting there loving on them, looking into their eyes. There was a connection there.
I realized in that moment that these are sentient beings, that they are capable of feeling love and affection and fear. They were so scared, man. They were looking at me almost begging me to help them, and I really did. Sitting there with them, oh, I really tried. My two Bull Terriers, the two dogs, are literally next door in the bedroom. I'm thinking to myself, and I realized there's another vegan connection, another vegan moment, realizing I love these two dogs with all my heart. It feels like I can lay my life down for them. I mean, they've been with us through thick and thin.
But yeah, these two lambs, what is the difference? They are all sentient beings. They don't want to die. They just want to live their lives in peace and harmony. There was another connection right there in that moment sitting with them for several hours. Eventually went to bed, woke up the next morning and they had passed away in the night. They had lost too much blood, and unfortunately, I couldn't save them. My heart was just broken. This is now my second morning on the farm. My heart is broken. I'm walking out with these two lambs and I'm laying them down by the feet of the guys working on the farm.
They asked me what happened. I explained to them this moment that I had, and I asked one of them, "Would you please bury them?" I was wiping away the tears. About 15 minutes later or so, I saw him just toss them on the garbage. It just broke my heart. I rushed there and the wildcats had already started eating away at them. I just took them. I just couldn't do it. I buried them. That's sort of how my plant-based vegan journey started.
I didn't move to the farm with any vegan foundation. At that time, I was 29 years old. I had no vegan foundation. I'd never met another vegan. I'd never seen a vegan documentary, read an article. No, nothing. I literally had to learn on the job, so to speak.
Karina Inkster: Wow, that's pretty powerful. I am very impressed at your quick vegan connections there, honestly. I mean, sometimes that's what it takes for folks is to have pets like your two dogs and make that connection to all sentient beings. I mean, most folks who go vegan don't have firsthand experience of having two lambs die on them. I have to say, that's pretty intense, and I think that would change anyone if they had that experience. That's pretty powerful. How did that then change your thinking? What happened next in the story of JH's veganism?
JH Burnett: I phoned my wife sitting with the two lambs there in the kitchen and her heart just broke. She was weeping and she said, "Oh, I'm going to leave this Pilates business immediately. I'm coming. I want to take care of them." She also made that vegan connection. But in truth, I didn't stop eating meat right away. I remember I stopped buying meat and so too did my wife. But whenever we visited friends or family, we'd still have some meat at their place, but it never felt right. It took another three months or so for us to turn fully plant-based.
At the time, we couldn't call ourselves vegans because now we were in the position where we got paid off of the backs of these innocent animals. We were getting paid by the meat industry. We would just say, "No, we're plant-based. We don't eat meat," but we never called ourselves vegan, because obviously as you know, I mean, veganism is so much more than a mere diet. It really is a lifestyle, a change of heart. We didn't call ourselves vegans. We just lived on the farm. We didn't want to leave it behind. We really wanted to be the change, make the change. Something shifted in our hearts. We immediately started taking in poor suffering animals from the region.
We started, my wife and I started a very unofficial small little sanctuary at the back of our house. We couldn't save the sheep right there entirely because on paper, ridiculous as it may sound, they didn't belong to us. I'm saying ridiculous because, I mean, how can as sentient really truly belong to anybody? But on paper, they belong to people and we were only there to basically govern the farm. I couldn't save them. But what I could do is I could save these fell, for example. We took in a couple of sheep from neighbours and we started taking care of these animals at the back of our house.
Then what followed was actually two and a half years of just witnessing the blood, the gore, and the suffering of it all, but never once we didn't want to move away, although we got a couple of opportunities to do so. But we made the call that we're going to be the change. We wanted to transform it into a vegan sanctuary. There were certain arrangements in place that would see us take over the farm in 2025. Our thinking was we got to stick it out. Fortunately, this farm also had a peak in the vision, and I basically turned all of my attention to that. This was in dire straits, the irrigation systems and so forth.
I immediately put up my hand and said, "Listen, man, I'll take care of it. I don't need any help. I'll do it," because that sort of allowed me the opportunity to move ever further away from the blood and the gore of the meat industry, although I wasn't spared. I mean, I still witnessed the brutality of it all, the slaughter, the poisoning of the wild animals, like the chemicals in the mountains, for example. They would take giblets of meat and put poison in there so that the jackal would rather get poisoned than catch the small lambs and stuff.
Those things really broke my heart, but just continued on that journey and built a model around a vegan sanctuary and took it to some financial experts in the area really to create a self-sustainable vegan sanctuary as of 2025 onwards. That was the dream, what we were working towards.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. I feel like things are now kind of different from that original plan. I think you were in the dairy industry at some point as well, and now what you do is completely different. What happened there?
JH Burnett: What ended up happening is that dream, yeah, it was sort of taken away from us because there was some family disputes. As I said, the farm had been in the family's bloodline for like 250 years at the time. This was now right at the advent of COVID and everybody wanted a piece of it. Everyone was struggling for their percentage of ownership of this farm, the sentiment of it all. By the advent of COVID, they turned to the courts, the shareholders, and they said, "No, okay, they're going to have to fight this out in court."
And then the call was made from the powers to be that it would be best to rent it out and to have all the family members, who was basically at the time me and my wife and my grandparents, rather leave the farm until it's settled in court. Then we can always return. We were stuck in a very unfortunate position at the end of 2020 because that was what kept us sane, the dream of turning it into a sanctuary. Experiencing the blood and the gore and seeing it and having to take sheep off to slaughter, I mean, that really does kill you if you don't eat meat.
You are plant-based for the animals, and the only thing keeping you sane is that, "No. JH, you can do it, my man. You are going to be the change. You are turning it into a sanctuary. It's just going to take two, three more years. You are going to get there eventually." And then unfortunately, as I said, that was taken away from us, and we were in a position we had to find other homes for our very unofficial little sanctuary at the back of our house. Even just thinking about that now really, that was break one. But at the end to the latter part of 2020, we were again in a position as, what are you now going to do with your life?
And then I was chatting to an old friend of mine on Facebook and he had no idea of our situation back in South Africa because he had been living in the States for quite a while. He said, "JH, would you ever consider coming over to the States?" He was helping a local farmer recruit some individuals from South Africa to go work in North Dakota. I said, "Well, connect me with the farmer," which he then did. One thing led to another, the farmer took interest in me or liking to me and he said, "JH, I really need you to come over," because I come from a strong managerial background.
This guy just said, "Listen, I've got some management issues on the farm here where I'm at. I need you to come in and intervene between me and the guys working for me. You look like the right guy for the job." I obviously am very against animal farming, and I think he knew it at the time. I specifically asked him about it if they've got any livestock, for example. I remember him laughing saying, "Not unless you count the dog." I went there thinking, okay, this is a good way just to sort of survive this terrible COVID situation.
This was also at a time where most international borders were closed, but the US allowed certain individuals to come in if they had something to do with agriculture, which I then did. Moved to North Dakota. When I arrived on the farm in North Dakota, lo and behold, there was an enormous feedlot, housing more than 2,000 dairy cows. Talk about a shock. This place made the farm in the Great Karoo look like a paradise. If ever there was a hell, it's your local feedlot. You can take my word for it. If you don't believe me, just drive down there and have a look for yourself.
Arriving there, seeing those poor, innocent beings standing literally knee-deep in their own dung. Can you imagine? It was an absolute shock. I'll never forget, on my first Sunday there I was given the afternoon off. While spending a couple of days in the area, I had noticed that there were several deceased cows lying in the pens, being trampled to semi-mince, basically. I know it's harsh to put it this way, but that was the truth. I asked the farmer, "If you don't mind, if I can at least take them out," because I was told... I asked the guy in charge just to know what on earth was going. When are you removing these dead cows? I was told in so many words, I won't swear on your podcast, but basically we're not taking them out. They can basically F’ing trample one another into the mud.
Karina Inkster: Wow, that's brutal.
JH Burnett: Yeah, it's the stuff of nightmares, and I mean it literally. Literally brutal, brutal. I took them out. That Sunday afternoon, I took out... In my book I write, I took out 22, because eventually I was asked to go back to the grave site of these cows and to go take photos of them. I took 22 photos and they had severed limbs and their skulls had been crushed. It was just brutal. That's how I started, oh man, in the dairy industry, not knowing that I was almost lured into it. Tricked is perhaps a harsh word, but definitely, that's the way it still feels to this day.
Karina Inkster: Right, yeah. I mean, there was only so much you can do about asking questions and making sure you know what you're getting into and maybe not a serious answer from the farmer who probably knew where you were coming from and had an idea how you would respond. That's pretty brutal, having to witness things like that, especially when you weren't expecting them, when this was something that you feel wasn't what you signed up for. That's really rough. Are you vegan at this point? At this point, after you've moved to the States, have you made some kind of decision about veganism or does that come later?
JH Burnett: Again, I had gone vegan, meaning plant-based, in 2018. This is now two years prior to this. I wasn't eating meat at the time for the animals, all right? Wanting nothing more than to build a sanctuary where animals can be saved, loved, and cared for. I was technically vegan, although I never called myself vegan because I was still paid in the sheep industry and now getting paid in the dairy industry of all things. What happened there on this farm, this feedlot, I was working another job.
I was working on a tractor, so I wasn't involved with the feedlot, until I think two weeks into my time there when the farmer called me over and said, "Listen, the guy running the feedlot, he's been doing it for 15 odd years. However, I had just found out that apparently, he's planning on dropping me after 15 years. He's going to go on holiday and he's not going to return." The farmer said, "I heard this via the grapevine, and I'm not going to let him catch me. I'm going to make the first move. JH, you are here. I trust you. I like you. What I'm going to do is I'm going to basically kick that guy to the curb and you are now going to run the feedlot."
I'm like, "No, you do not understand. I am completely against what's happening here. I cannot do it." I remember specifically saying, "I will not do it." I was basically told my way or the highway. You're more than welcome to leave. Keeping in mind that the nearest airport is a three-hour drive from where I was at without a car in the snow, a poor old South African. I mean, I literally mean poor because we had lost all... I don't want any credit for it, but we had given up a lot trying to find new homes for the animals we cared for and paying people to take care of them and buying feed, like a year's feed in advance.
If I didn't earn a salary at the end of that month, we were basically checkmate. There shouldn't have been any excuses, and I'm so ashamed to say it, but after giving it some thought and I think crying myself to sleep that night, I ended up going back and I said, "Okay, fine. This is what I need to do in order to survive basically, in order to put a roof over our head and food on the table. I'll do it."
The worst part of it is that most of those cows were artificially inseminated on a daily... Well, it was not on a daily basis. Artificial insemination took place on a daily basis, but obviously, cows only get in the dairy industry inseminated like once a month. But anyway, I was, again, forced is a harsh word, but I then made the choice believing that I had little others to make. I made the choice to see it through, and I ended up working in that feedlot for like three and a half months breeding cows up to 50 cows per day. That just broke me, man. I was already so depressed. I was already so depressed by the atrocities witnessed in the meat industry. Now the atrocities in the dairy industry just completely pushed me over the edge.
It was so dark within me, and seeing those cows exploited and suffering and knowing that although my heart is for them, I am now a part of the problem. Not only am I a part of the problem, I am the problem. There I was in North Dakota, emotionally and mentally an absolute mess, exploiting animals to stay alive. An absolute horrendous time of my life just thinking back on it now.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, I can only imagine. You know, it's making me think that there are probably more folks than we think in similar positions who feel like they have no other choices. Maybe they don't actually have other choices, who are just trying to put a roof over their heads and are part of the systemic torture system essentially of sentient beings.
I don't want to minimize your experience, of course, because I know that it was extremely difficult to say the least, but I do think that there are a lot of folks in this same position who work in the meat industry or who work in the dairy industry and who maybe feel like they want other options. It's just, I don't know, something random I'm considering, I guess.
JH Burnett: It's true. I really do, I buy into what you're saying. I think it's true. I think they are countless individuals stuck in the meat and dairy industry who don't want to be there. Trust me, you don't want to be there. I can't think of one individual that would want to be there. But because they don't have in their minds at least any other options available, staying is the safer option. Crazy. After three and a half months, I couldn't do it, because I was on the verge of committing suicide.
I just couldn't do it. My heart was for the animals, and I would rather die of starvation than continue the exploitation. I just couldn't do it. I had a, man, I always want to say a supernatural intervention happened to me one evening while I was sitting down at a creek. Now, it's North Dakota in the winter. It's minus 38 degrees south. You being from Canada, you're probably used to that cold. Me, as a South African...
Karina Inkster: Not that cold!
JH Burnett: It broke my brain. It was so cold. Anyway, but I was sitting in the dark of night by this creek, and I was so depressed just by the atrocities I witnessed and being part of the problem. I'm sitting there with a rustic old blade just cutting away at my wrist. I'm literally talking to myself saying, "Man, I can just end it now. I've got nothing left to live for this. This is just killing me." At that moment, an enormous elk... Now, I'd never seen an elk before, only in Christmas tales on TV, but an enormous elk came walking down the slope towards the creek. It had these enormous antlers.
I was sitting there and I couldn't believe it's coming straight at me. If it can't see me, surely it must be able to smell me, at least so I thought. I'm sitting there almost fearful, because what's going to happen if he does see me. The next moment I see that he had been injured. He had been shot and in the face of all places. He had been shot in the bottom lower jaw and his entire lower jaw was dangling by the side of his face, like a wet cloth. Again, that alone, it just absolutely broke me. Now, I couldn't believe here I was sitting looking at what my species, if I can call us, we did this to him.
How cruel. This elk was so desperate for water that he was willing to approach me to try to get some from the creek whilst his jaw is dangling almost in the wind, so to speak. I was backing away, slowly sitting there, can't believe it. He ended up walking away in the snow. I followed him that night, and it was quite easy to do so because obviously, he was losing a lot of blood, red blood on white snow. It was quite easy to follow him. I was following with the torch on my cell phone. I was just walking there and I'm just sobbing. I'm just saying, "This can't be. This can't be. Is there nothing that I can do?"
I realized in that moment, man, I've got to change, man. I got to leave. I've got to leave it all behind. I've got to get out of these horrific industries, and I've got to dedicate my life to the cause of animal liberation. It's not too late for me. I can still turn it around. And so I did. I followed him all through the night. Because surely he was about to die. He wouldn't survive. I knew it, but I lost his track eventually. Ended up going home. Resigned the next morning and never returned back to work. Came home to South Africa.
Just started changing my life around to where we are at now, where we consider ourselves full on full-time animal lovers, vegan activists, and just living, I guess, on the right side of history, because I really do believe that being vegan is on the right side of history.
Karina Inkster: Wow, how powerful is that? That is incredible. That moment of realizing, well, actually I do have agency and I can change, and I can do something different, even though that must've been extremely challenging, to say the least. You went back home and did what? Set up a business, started coaching, started writing books. What did you do?
JH Burnett: All of the above. First of all, I just want to say, you pointed out now that you don't want to diminish my experience in the industry. I just want to say from my perspective at least, it really ain't about me. The little that I endured, although it was tough, it is nothing compared to the poor animals. Leaving them behind, although I was so grateful to leave, but leaving them behind, my goodness. I remember on the morning that I left, I went to them because they are such gentle creatures. They are such gentle, intelligent creatures, those cows, man.
I went there and I played soccer with them for one last time, because I used to do so every morning before I’d go to work. Before the atrocities of the day would start, I would go to them like half an hour before the day start and I would just kick a ball around with them. If you've ever seen joy, it's a bunch of cows chasing a soccer ball. It is brilliant. The morning that I left, man, I was playing soccer with them one last time. I'm weeping. I'm thinking, I get to leave. I get to go live my life. I get to be free, but they are caught in this horrific industry. There is no escape.
There's only pain and torture and exploitation awaiting them. I was digressing. To answer your question, I returned to South Africa. I set up a small coaching business. It was in COVID, helping mainly vegan clients who wanted to shine their light in this dark reality called life. That served us quite well for a time. In that time, I also took the time to write my vegan memoir called, you guessed it, Ex-Farmer Goes Vegan. I tried to make the title as simple and self-explanatory as possible. I found it quite tough writing it, so I took a lot of breaks. In order to stay sane through it all, I wrote various vegan-inspired children's books because it's lighter.
It's portraying veganism in a very gentle light, which it is. But I mean, through the eyes of a child, obviously, it's almost a gentler way of writing than having to experience all the atrocities that we're talking about now. That's how I ended up writing various children's books. My wife also took the time, she's a very artistic individual, she also took the time to illustrate all of these books. Finally, I finished. We knew we were going to start a full-on vegan activism process or organization of some kind, but we were waiting for me to finish writing this book. It took forever because I found it so immensely heart-wrenching to write about these things.
But I finally did, and now we are running a website called veganismhaswon.com. Many people ask me why Veganism Has Won, because it is won in my life and it is won in your life, and it is winning in the individual animals who are getting rescued due to the vegan choices that we make. Veganism is winning each and every day. One only needs to look at the individual life. It's called Veganism Has Won. It has sort of taken on a life of its own. We sell various books from this website. I still do a lot of coaching to clients.
I'm fortunate to be helping clients from all over the world, very fortunate to be doing so, some speaking engagements, some podcasts with lovely individuals such as yourself, and some very exciting vegan collaborations happening with very cool vegan influences. That's what we're doing at the moment.
Karina Inkster: Wow, what a transformation. There's that word again, transformation, and what a powerful story too. I'm interested in the coaching that you're doing. What are your clients working on? Are they already vegan and they want someone who gets it? Are they interested in veganism and they're currently making the transition? What's the coaching like?
JH Burnett: Both, but mostly the former, people who are already vegan and having a tough time of it. Let's say, for example, I'm vegan, but I'm getting a tough time at work. I don't know how to navigate my way through it, or my spouse isn't vegan. I'm getting made fun of. I'm depressed about the whole thing. It's just a safe space to get life coaching, but from a vegan who can easier relate to, I guess, the suffering that you're going through. And then obviously also get clients who want to enter the vegan space, but don't really know how to go about it. You do get both, but mostly the former.
Karina Inkster: Wow, that is interesting. I'm feeling like this could be a good resource for some of our clients because we don't do what we call life coaching. We do lifestyle coaching and fitness and nutrition and things like this. But when it comes to living in a household that's not completely vegan, or having a spouse who doesn't get it, or any number of social situations like the work environment that you just put up as an example, those are things we can have discussions around with our clients, obviously. But I feel like it would be interesting to actually have a connection with a coach who specializes in these things and who is vegan, of course, but who approaches it more from a life coaching perspective. That's really interesting. What amazing work you must be doing with folks from all over the world.
JH Burnett: That is my heart, to approach it from a life coaching perspective, to help you basically shine your own light. I can only help you to almost help yourself. The light is already within you and how can you best shine it? How can you best light up the darkness? Because let's face it, I mean, there's a lot of suffering out there just for any vegan to stay sane in this world being surrounded by the reality of a non-vegan world. It's a harsh reality. That's my heart and I'm so grateful to be doing it on a daily basis.
Karina Inkster: That's amazing. Hey, one more thing I wanted to run by you is something that came up for me when you mentioned Veganism Has Won. I mean, of course, I've looked at your website already, but something that I was just thinking randomly was that name by itself makes it seem like veganism is a fight, or it's something that you need to go head-to-head on with someone else, which is an interesting perspective because I feel like a lot of us can relate to that in a way.
Maybe we don't want it to be a fight. One day we want the entire world to be vegan. Of course, we do because we're ethical vegans. But is that part of your thinking there? Do you feel like we have something to prove or we have something to go up against or we have a fight to engage in?
JH Burnett: I'll never back away from the fight, although it is in my heart to do so. I don't want to fight. I want to approach it from a perspective of just speaking and living my truth to the fullest. Naming the website Veganism Has Won was a massive risk because it can be interpreted in the wrong way, but it was a chance that we took, a risk that we took. We're happy that we did it because we really want to celebrate the victories in individual lives, not the fight that's going on between vegans and non-vegans, although that will most likely never end.
But we'd much rather just explore and celebrate and encourage the individual victories and the individual lives. I think the best way to impact a non-vegan society is by living a very happy, a very joyful existence in clear view of all non-vegan, showing that, yes, man, I am healthy and I get to live a grateful, happy existence as an ethical vegan just from my perspective. From my perspective, it's the best way to go about it because I have such great conversations with non-vegans and they're drawn to the positive message, more so than they will be convinced by condemnation, so to speak.
Karina Inkster: I fully agree, and I know that there are different approaches and different approaches are needed in the vegan movement for sure.
JH Burnett: Of course, of course.
Karina Inkster: Because we never know which one is going to resonate with a certain individual. But I'm on board with the positive approach and looking at the benefits and looking at the ethical piece and living our lives as we do as vegans, as you said, in plain sight of those who aren't. I think that's absolutely brilliant. It was amazing speaking with, JH. I am really appreciative of you sharing your story, probably one of the more intense and raw background stories that we've shared on the podcast. Very grateful to you for sharing that with us. If there's anything you'd like to leave our listeners with, I will let you go.
JH Burnett: Thank you so much for having me. I really do appreciate it. And to all your listeners, thank you for having me. Please be encouraged. If you're an ethical vegan, you are on the right side of history. Be encouraged. Reach out to me, would love to hear from you. You don't have to be a client. You can just pop in with an email and share your brilliant vegan story. Would love to hear from you. Thank you so much for having me. Be blessed until we speak again, I guess.
Karina Inkster: Thank you so much, JH. Love speaking with you. JH, thank you again for joining me on the show and sharing your story with our listeners. Make sure you check out our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/157 to connect with JH and thank you so much for tuning in.