Andrea Busfield is a former tabloid reporter who swapped newspapers and war zones for a quieter life in Cyprus with six rescue dogs and two horses.
What inspired you to change towards a more natural and connected way of living?
I’m not sure it was inspiration, but rather evolution. Many of my experiences over the past fifteen years shaped me into the person I am today. Firstly, I left my newspaper job as a TV critic in 2005 and never switched on a television again. Then, I spent the next three years in Afghanistan witnessing the best and the worst of mankind.
When I left Afghanistan, I took with me a Kabul street dog and my priorities changed. I wanted to be with my dog. I didn’t want to work in an office and pay someone to walk her or look after her should I be sent on an assignment. I wanted her to know that I was there for her, that I would always be there. For the first time in my life I felt a very real sense of responsibility for another soul. Then, when we moved to Cyprus, we kept finding other lost souls, dumped in the hills and on the roadsides, and our family of two became a family of seven. Actually, we’re now a family of nine because I also have two horses.
While I consider my dogs to be the family I come home to, my horses are my passion and they have taught me more about myself than I think any psychotherapist ever could. The greatest gift horses give you is to bring you into the present. You live in the moment when you ride – there is no past, there is no future – you are two heartbeats connected in the now, and once you’ve experienced that kind of bond with an animal, I think it changes you forever.
What were some challenges that came with your focus on your passion of animals?
The only challenge I regularly face is financial. I don’t earn the money I used to, nowhere near it, but I’m more content than I’ve ever been. And, somehow, we get by. But of course, the biggest challenge is grief. When death comes, as it does, there is no easy way to deal with it.
What were some challenges that came with becoming vegan?
Not as many as you might imagine! I changed to a plant-base diet about five years ago simply because I like animals too much to eat them. It was as simple as that. Once I allowed my brain to make the honest connection between the food on my plate and the life that was sacrificed to satisfy nothing more vital than taste, I knew I was done with meat. Then, once I understood the dairy industry was no picnic either, I was done with dairy. And it hasn’t been difficult to adjust, even in meat-heavy Cyprus. In fact, I really enjoyed the transition because prior to changing to a plant-based diet I didn’t cook, well, not in any meaningful way. But I did learn to cook when I became vegan and I love it.
What changes in your life have you found rewarding since you’ve made these changes?
I like the calmness of my life now. I’m more solitary than some people would like me to be, but I’m good with my own company. I’m also healthier – I gave up smoking about the same time I turned vegan – I walk my dogs and ride every day and I rarely drink alcohol. I am also less focused on how I look or concerned about how other people might perceive me, possibly because I’m older and hopefully wiser, but also because it means nothing; it’s wasted energy.
What are your feelings on connectivity between the environment, animals and people?
For the most part, I think the human race has lost connectivity not only with the environment and animals but also with their own kind. I see the younger generation taking quite a kicking on social media for being ‘millennials’ or ‘woke’, but you know what, if the new generation is more compassionate and aware of our impact on the environment or the horrendous cruelty meted out to other living creatures or the hurt we inflict on each other be it mental or physical simply for the sin of being different, then they have my vote.
How do you encourage others?
I don’t actively encourage other people to change. People have to take responsibility for their own lives and their own life choices. Also, people are very resistant to the idea of being told the way they live their lives is wrong! But I do post various animal-related items on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the never-ending cycle of petitions you get sucked into, just in case it makes a difference, and I also post any vegan recipes that might sway meat eaters to find a kinder way of filling their stomachs. Other than that, I share posts that agree with my own political leanings and live in hope that people will come around to a more compassionate way of living, eventually.