Eggs – careless talk costs lives

Newly hatched chicks in a hatchery for egg layers. https://andrewskowron.org/hatchery/

‘Time to quit eating eggs unless you’ve toured your local farm and actually see how the chickens live and lay eggs and are they ever abused in any way.’

This was a comment on a post that was shared on There’s an Elephant in the Room recently. The post concerned was a gallery of over 100 photographs and words about hens who were being used for their eggs. Harrowing, tragic and compelling, it left no room for doubt or debate about the monstrous practice that is ALL egg use. 

And then I saw the comment and it left me almost speechless before I reminded myself that there’s always someone who refuses to accept that egg use is morally wrong.  And because it happens every time, I suspect that there are many on the sidelines who are thinking the same but just don’t say anything. And be assured, as far as egg use is concerned, there are clearly many who either want their own continuing use to be validated, or who really don’t get what the problem is.  I’d go as far as to hope that the writer of the comment started out well-intentioned and just made an incredibly poor choice of words. But it’s an example of a point that is crying out to be made.

As advocates for animal rights we can’t afford to be careless with language. Far too much is at stake; too many lives are depending on us

 ‘Time to quit eating eggs.’

Great. They should have left it at that. That would have been an ideal comment with which to share the post on someone’s own page. Okay, it’s never going to be a welcome message, but it’s completely honest. And the gallery contained hundreds of tattered, broken, dying, despairing and dead hens who desperately needed someone honest to share the outrage of what had been done to them to fulfil the demands of consumers for their eggs. 

Yet it’s depressingly common to see ‘advocates’ seeking to ‘soften’ the message of a post. I suspect it might be an attempt to deflect any hostility that their post may cause, a misguided attempt not to be perceived as ‘one of those vegans’. 

It’s essential to remember however, that it’s not YOU personally that the audience is hostile about. It’s your message. Your message must always focus on the victims of nonveganism. Your message is what it is and it’s nothing but the truth. We can’t ‘soften’ the truth without making it fundamentally untrue, and we can’t make our audience any less disgusted at themselves when that truth finally dawns on them. If they take it out on you, well that’s part of the territory. 

So as the impulse to ‘soften’ kicked in, things started to go horribly wrong. 

‘Unless’

Well, that’s sweet, sweet, music to the ears of those who use other animals and want to carry on doing it.  As soon as there’s an ‘unless’ in a sentence, it is taken to mean there must be an acceptable exception.  Evidently if  all the other conditions in the comment are okay then it’s fine to carry on, or at least that’s the licence that this word ‘unless’ is giving here.  And everyone – everyone – thinks that their own behaviour is okay. The problem is always perceived to be what ‘other people‘ do.

‘your local farm … actually see how the chickens live

Ahh – so ‘local‘ farms are okay apparently – or so those looking for a loophole to get their own personal kind of exploitation off the hook will conclude. ‘Why don’t you go and take a look – if it’s local (i.e not a ‘factory‘ farm) it’s fine,’ is the clear suggestion. After all, we’ve already established with the word ‘unless’, that there’s an acceptable scenario here in which egg use can continue and that’s what our egg-using audience wants to happen.

This is the bit where a hundred comments scroll before my eyes, comments about ‘backyards’, about the ‘lovely woman down the road who treats her hens like her children’, and the ‘free range family farm’ where apparently everyone on the planet buys eggs, and the dozens posting hearts about the the way their ‘rescue’ hens ‘pay for their keep’ by ‘giving’ eggs to humans to eat.  It’s absolutely clear that many think that the size of the establishment is the critical element in deciding the ethics of their choices.

I’ve been blogging long enough to see a trend. In almost all other species, readers can empathise with, understand, and decide to reject the violence inherent in all our use of other animals; violence that is epitomised by our brutal exploitation of female reproduction. However as soon as someone mentions eggs, everything changes. Suddenly it becomes all about the type of environment in which they are used and the way they are treated while being used. This part of the original comment firmly reinforces that idea. 

Bear in mind too that those who sell eggs are, like all the victim-making industries, skilled manipulators of consumer opinion. They have to be to be. A few quotes about ‘highest welfare standards‘, throw in a couple of ‘backyards’, mention how ‘happy’ the hens are, and all is well. <Sighs of relief all round and omelettes for tea>.

‘and lay eggs … are they ever abused in any way’

All hens used for eggs, lay frequently and painfully as you’d expect from any female whose species has been selectively bred over decades to lay 20 – 30 times the number of eggs that their ancestors did

Depending on where they’re being used a few may find nesting boxes, others will labour and convulse, miserable and exposed, crowded together without privacy. Wherever it’s happening, they each have that selectively bred body, genetically programmed to self destruct, that will wear out after a short and painful life of over-ovulating.  At that point she will either face the terror of the slaughterhouse or fall victim one of a number of the excruciating diseases which are the inevitable consequence of our tampering with their genes. For any hen, her chance of a peaceful death of old age is close to zero.

So ‘are they ever abused’? I can’t even begin to imagine the writer had in mind.  The decision to violate the reproduction of any unconsenting female, to tamper with their genes to maximise our interests, to effectively use them to death – wherever we do it – is one of the most offensive things that we can inflict upon a fellow sentient creature; it’s the ultimate act of ‘abuse’.  There is no way to use any living individual for what you can take from their life and their unconsenting body, that is NOT abuse. They are used for eggs for human consumption therefore they are abused. End of.

And finally

So here we ended up with a comment that started out so well, but in the end was a complete betrayal of every broken little hen whose dull and desolate eyes gazed out of that post and it would have been better left unsaid. In the end the meaning that would be taken from that comment was,

Stop eating eggs – unless they’re from someplace local and you can justify not stopping.

The importance of the words we use simply can’t be stressed too much. Added to which there is always a risk that what we say and what listeners hear are not the same at all. As I’ve said, it’s not a popular message and the majority of listeners – if they listen at all – are looking for the get-out clause that excuses their own personal kind of use, and confirms what they want to believe; that it’s other people who cause all the problems.

As animal rights advocates we have such a huge responsibility to be crystal clear with our words and to leave no room for doubt. Because the element of doubt is nothing short of a betrayal of those who are depending on us, and it costs them their lives. 

Be vegan. Oh and STOP using eggs.

Posted in Advocacy, eggs, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Splitting hairs about speciesism

A post that I shared earlier described how a young deer named Pala, cared for on a sanctuary, had been shot and killed by a neighbour who was hunting. In the same way that I am not empowered to excuse exploitation and killing on behalf of any single one of the trillions of annual victims of our species, I am not about to excuse what he did.

I also read a post yesterday about a young steer befriended by a vegan animal rights activist from a neighbouring property. For a year she tried to save his life but the human who ‘owned‘ him firmly refused to allow her to rescue the steer who was called Frank. He was slaughtered to be eaten. The posts about Frank were met with much sadness.

On my post about Pala, the vitriol was shocking; calling the hunter a psychopath, blaming gun laws and demanding prosecution were by far the least aggressive comments. One of the most violent and offensive comments about what ‘should be done’ to the hunter was from someone whose own page had photographs of their own plate piled high with dead flesh. 

And I found myself seriously wondering what the difference was between the person who killed the deer and the person who goes into a supermarket and buys ‘venison’, or any other euphemism for someone’s dead flesh? What’s the difference between the person who killed the deer, and the diner who sits gazing at the menu before announcing, ‘I think I’ll have the venison’? What’s the difference between the person who insisted on slaughtering Frank, and someone who sits down to a steak, or a burger, or a pile of bacon, or a fish supper or a prawn salad or who buys any substance that has been taken from a member of another species? It’s all taken forcibly and without their consent. Always.

Is there a difference?

Well, is there?

  • They all involve the harming and killing of innocent creatures who desperately want to be left alone to live their lives.
  • They all involve killing defenceless creatures who in most cases have not yet reached adulthood.
  • They are all equally and completely unnecessary.
  • And whether or not our hands operate the knives and saws, the hooks and the hide pullers, they are all carried out by or on behalf of members of our species.

Is it just easier to be critical the further we can distance ourselves from the actions necessary to meet our demands? For humans to derive some kind of pleasure from the act of killing is no more justifiable than it is to consume the flesh, their eggs and the breastmilk of other individuals.  It’s no more justifiable than it is to wear their skins or body fibres like wool or angora or silk, or to use them as modes of transport, or to force them to act in ways that are alien to their nature and then bet on the outcome for ‘entertainment’.

In fact many of the most common uses to which our species subjects its defenceless victims involve an entire lifetime of monstrous brutality for each of them followed by a death so horrific that most consumers refuse to even inform themselves about what happens behind closed doors in the slaughterhouses that they pay for with their demands.  

So again, I wonder, is there a difference? Because I sure as hell can’t see one.

In every case we have a nonvegan human who considers that their trivial indulgences are more important than the very life of a thinking, feeling individual of another species. 

So the only conclusion I can reach, is that when we try to find differences between one type of harm against an innocent creature as opposed to other types of harm, all we’re trying to do is split hairs about speciesism and I’ve written about some reasons for that before.

Being vegan means rejecting all speciesism. Be vegan.

Posted in consumer demand, Harm reduction, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

About a goose

Having recently come across the concept of ‘International Rabbit Day’ which is apparently on 26 September, I was idly investigating which other species of humanity’s victims had ‘days’ and came across ‘Happy Goose Day’ on 29 September. This puzzled me.  ‘Happy’?  Considering that every single day that passes, nearly 2 million of these defenceless birds are slaughtered to form an unnecessary dietary indulgence for our predatory species, I’m fairly sure it’s not the geese who are happy. 

An obvious association with 29 September, is that it is Michaelmas Day, one of the historic ‘Quarter Days‘.  Falling near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days and in England a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, was traditionally eaten as a charm against financial hardship in the coming year; ‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, Want not for money all the year’. Sometimes the day was also known as ‘Goose Day’.

Geese appear to have had significance throughout recorded history. From the ‘Goose that laid the golden eggs’, to ‘Mother Goose’, and  ‘Goosey Gander’, these birds are woven into our cultural tales and nursery rhymes. In Egyptian mythology, the earth-god Geb was sometimes depicted with a goose surmounting his head. The Celts associated the goose with war and warrior gods were sometimes depicted with geese as companions. In Greek mythology, the goose is associated with Zeus and Artemis. The list goes on.

Wild geese

A number of varieties have wild populations and many of us are familiar with the magnificent sight and haunting sound of skeins of geese strung across the late autumnal sky, as they return inland to their feeding places. Here on the east coat of Scotland this is especially true. From their breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland, thousands spend the winter here, arriving September up to mid October. They roost on estuaries and lochs where they are relatively safe from predators. During the autumn and early winter mornings, pink-footed geese move from these roost sites to stubble fields, where they will feed upon spilt grain. Late afternoon sees the return flight to the roost sites, the birds’ distinctive calls carrying for several miles on still and misty days. 

Many of these wild individuals are hunted by those despicable humans who find it  ‘enjoyable’ or ‘entertaining’ to decoy and blast birds out of the sky for the crime of existing and quietly minding their own business. There appears to be a perverted thrill for some to watch their gentle victims as they tumble to earth wounded and broken in a rain of lead pellets, agony and blood. For myself I can only hope that these innocents die instantly but I know only too well that’s the exception rather than the rule. 

In addition to this barbarity, clearly the wild geese, and all wild creatures, are at the mercy of humanity, subject to all the risks and pitfalls that arise from our toxic habits, rampant ecological destruction and rapidly changing climate which has passed the point of no return as a result of our folly.

But then of course we come to the mind-blowing array of sickening ways that our species exploits this species for human financial gain.

Flesh

The number of 2 million daily quoted above (statistics via FAOSTAT) relates only to those individuals who are slaughtered for their dead flesh to be consumed by our species. Frequently bred by the use of artificial insemination with both the manual collection of semen from ganders and the insertion of the sperm into female geese being terrifying and brutally invasive procedures. 

See the following link to an excellent paper by Karen Davis PhD that looks at the subject of interspecies sexual assault;  a subject that underpins absolutely all of the uses our species makes of our fellow earthlings, smoothly glossed over by the industry and involved individuals who would understandably prefer consumers not to give it even a passing thought. Ask yourself at this point if you’d ever thought about it.  It was only after I became vegan that I looked into and was sickened by that particular perversion.

Foie gras

This is a highly lucrative, multi-million dollar market. While approximately 90% of global production comes from the EU, the other main producing countries are China, the United States and Canada. ‘Foie gras’ means ‘fatty liver’ and is produced by confining and force-feeding ducks and geese twice or three times a day with huge amounts of feed for a period of upwards of 17 days in the case of geese, before they are slaughtered. Force-feeding increases the size of the liver by up to ten times and the fat content of the liver exceeds 50%. 

There are reams written about the issue of foie gras with frequent high-profile protests and bans in various places but it continues to exist. As with all our uses of other species, the details about how and where it happens are a fog that clouds the central issue. The very concept is an obscenity.  Any who can envisage a morally decent way for this procedure to be conducted are welcome to use Google to enlighten themselves. I hope they have a strong stomach.

Feathers

Geese are one of the bird species used for their feathers. While researching this piece I came across numerous articles that, without being specific, nevertheless suggested that the use of feathers is a by-product of the slaughter of birds for their dead flesh and/or body parts. I have no reason to doubt that this is the case; however that means that like dairy use and consumption, feather and down use is exactly the same as using and consuming dead flesh. Milk/flesh, feathers/flesh, eggs/flesh are each two sides of a brutal and monstrous coin.

However, the plucking of live birds remains a thriving trade, to provide the ‘luxury’ bedding and clothing markets with feathers and down. We’ve all seen the adverts for fancy ‘polar down’ jackets and duvets, many of us without knowing what’s involved. When we find out, it’s hard to believe and we are swamped with sickened horror to realise that by buying such items we are complicit in an atrocity that we can scarcely bear to consider.

Eggs

Again we find reams online about the use of goose eggs as a dietary indulgence for humans. The market appears to be expanding – unsurprisingly – but I have been unable to determine a size for the commercial global laying flock. Having said that, there is no doubt that goose eggs are available commercially – often from ‘back yard’ exploiters of various species of birds. All that can be said is that the same applies to the use of goose eggs as to the use of any other species’ eggs. They are not ours, as I recently wrote in a blog entitled ‘What are eggs for?’

‘Happy Goose Day’

So there we have it – while not comprehensive, it’s a brief look at a number of the ways our species uses these lovely birds; always for what can be taken from them without their consent and only if it’s financially viable.

So I return to the words that set me off on this blog; ‘Happy Goose Day’ to wonder again what the meaning can possibly be. Nothing that our species does to geese could conceivably be said to bring them happiness, so it’s not they who are happy.

And any humans who can find happiness in the myriad horrors that we inflict on them is, I’d suggest, in dire need of help.

So I’m forced to conclude that ‘Happy Goose Day’ is just another one of the trite phrases that’s trotted out by humans without thought, without conscience and without understanding; a phrase that’s kept in the same compartment as the one about ‘loving animals’ while they pay for the consequences of the most monstrous suffering to be inflicted on every species on the planet.

What can we do about it? We can refuse to be part of this barbarity by not buying the results. We can say, ‘enough’. And that means we must be vegan. 

 

 

*Note about slaughter

Many geese are, like chickens and turkeys, slaughtered in poultry slaughterhouses and I’ve written frequently about these hell-holes’, however regulations do not prevent home slaughter without a licence if ‘you own the animal and you kill it on your property.’ I’m including this to show just how ludicrous it is for those who continue to use and consume other animals to cling to their fond imaginings about ‘welfare regulations’ protecting anything other than the commercial interests of the exploiters.

About home slaughter, English Government rules state:

‘If you have no other method of stunning poultry available, you can stun birds up to 3kg by dislocating their necks by hand. You can kill up to 70 birds a day in this way. You can mechanically dislocate birds’ necks on birds up to 5kg. If birds weigh more than 5kg you must use another method such as electrical stunning.

After you’ve stunned a bird, you must immediately cut the 2 carotid arteries in the neck properly so the bird bleeds out quickly and completely. You must make sure the animal dies quickly without regaining consciousness.

You must wait until the bird is dead until you do anything to it, e.g. pluck it.

You must wait for birds to bleed out for the following amounts of time:

turkey or geese – at least 2 minutes’

Posted in Advocacy, consumer demand, eggs, Victims in the shadows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning lessons

 

Recently, someone died; someone who was everything to me.

‘How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.’

~ JRR Tolkein

Throughout my social media and blogging ‘career’, without being particularly secretive, I’ve tried to maintain relative anonymity – not for shame or any lack of confidence in what I do – but rather because I have seen far too many advocates go down the road where their ‘brand’ – their ego – eclipses the Animal Rights cause. One needs look no further than events of the recent past to discover examples. At the very start I made up my mind that it would never happen to me and I’ve been genuinely pleased every time that someone I’m speaking to refers to There’s an Elephant in the Room without knowing my connection to it. So having always kept myself to myself, few who know me will know what I’m going to say. Now, although no less passionate about my chosen cause, I’m struggling to find the focus to write, despite receiving so many kind and encouraging messages of support that have meant a great deal to me.

I turned 64 last month and death is no stranger to me. Born without grandparents, I lost both parents before I reached 30 and have wept over the graves of many loved ones of various species in the years since then. From those who were closest to me, I learned that although it never really stops, I could – eventually – live with the pain of their loss. Looking at death from a different perspective, I spent decades with the reduced life expectancy of advanced lung disease and subsequently faced the risk of my own death by undergoing transplant surgery seven years ago, a chance I gladly took in the hope of staying a while longer with the two people I have always loved most in all the world; my sons.

For most of their lives, my world has revolved around my sons, and our bond has always been the most treasured thing I shall ever have. I remember writing so joyfully of the day three years ago when I watched my younger son marry his soul-mate – a day that I would not have survived to see had it not been for the priceless gift given to me by my transplant donor.

So against that backdrop, I’m sure most will instinctively know why this death has devastated me; why this was the horror that I have written about so often as an animal rights advocate; the one thing I always knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could not bear to face.

My younger son died in hospital on 02 June 2020. We had not been permitted to be with him through the 15 long days that we swung between hope and despair, living for the phone calls with doctors and nurses; some optimistic, some not so much; struggling through endless days and nights of crushing dread. Meanwhile, infection, driven by his autoimmune conditions, raged through his pain-racked body and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

My precious son died on a bright day in early summer, while the world was shuttered and locked down because of a virus caused by the brutality of humanity towards our fellow earthlings. His death was not caused directly by that virus, although I can’t bear to think of the loneliness he endured at his separation from those of us who loved him so very much. In the end his wife and I broke the lockdown restrictions. He was alert and spoke to us when we arrived in the hospital, both of us hoping beyond all hope that he did not realise the crisis signified by our arrival.

With breaking hearts we sat with him as the light of his presence faded, both willing him to be reassured, to know that at last he wasn’t alone. We sat holding his hands for 15 hours, counting his every breath, until the final one came gently and then there were no more. A part of my soul died with him. He was 33.

Although I truly have no idea how, I will go on living because I cannot do otherwise. I owe it to him. The life force that continues to move blood through my veins and oxygen through my borrowed lungs is that same life force that he was fighting so hard to hold on to, despite facing a battle he couldn’t win.

On a sunny day in early summer, my beloved son, my dearest friend, the most extraordinary person I ever knew, left me. I’m writing by way of explanation for my absence, not seeking sympathy. My writing has often been called a gift, a weapon for use in the fight for the rights of our victims, so I’m really going to try not to stop. My son would want me to keep writing. He wouldn’t want to see me dissolving in despair when the lives of so many billions are at stake.

It may take some time, but the next time I write of the mothers who are the victims of our species, of their grief and the anguish of loss and separation that underpins every aspect of the monstrous regime of brutality that provides breast milk and eggs, dead flesh and body parts to supply the demands of nonvegan shoppers and consumers, it will be with the raw edge of a new understanding.

What is inflicted on them is indeed the nightmare that every mother dreads, but the agony is infinitely worse than I ever realised.

Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, dairy, Health and plant based eating, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Taking a break

Owing to private family circumstances I have taken the decision to deactivate my Facebook account meantime.

I’m unable to say when, or indeed if, I shall return to blogging but in the meantime I wish well to all followers of this page on WordPress as well as on Facebook.

Stay well and keep safe.

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

‘To finish’; looking at language

Image by Konrad.Lozinski@Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/xsanssoleilx/

‘Finishing’ is yet another of the words with which the animal use industry glosses over the monstrous activities of our species.

‘Finishing’ is part of the practice of making victims out of gentle and defenceless individuals for nonvegan consumers to eat their bodies or use them to death. Largely unchallenged and mistakenly thought to be bucolic and wholesome, the activities inherent in ‘farming’ innocent lives and bodies for financial gain are so inherently brutal that it’s littered with such euphemisms. Every challenge is met by the industry with rhetoric about ‘welfare‘, another glossy euphemism that has zero to do with victim wellbeing and everything to do with easing consumer conscience so they keep on spending.

These are the soothing, feel-good words of a business that absolutely depends on preventing the consumers who pay them from realising that what’s actually happening on their behalf is an affront to all that’s decent; the words of a business that – by its very existence – goes against every value we all think we have; values like the appreciation of fairness, respect for the lives and habitats of other animal species and contempt for those who cause needless harm to defenceless, innocent creatures. 

Finishing. It sounds so cosy and wholesome, doesn’t it? Finished; like adding the final touches to a new garment, plumping sofa cushions and tweaking the curtains in a newly decorated room.

Except that we’re not talking about garments or rooms. We’re talking about the premeditated, violent, gory and unnecessary killing in cold blood of defenceless young creatures, mere infants in most cases. The focus is on maximising the profit that can be made from the selling of their corpses and body parts once their warm throats have been hacked open and once everything that they have has been wrenched from them in terror and agony.

The ‘finishing period’ is when members of such species as sheep, cattle and pigs whose bodies are destined to be eaten by humans, are fed an energy-dense diet so that they will grow rapidly, adding muscle/flesh to their frame and optimising fat cover in preparation for their slaughter. ‘Finishing’ relates to a period of several days or weeks immediately prior to the slaughterhouse ordeal that we inflict on all our land-based victims, and it’s done for the purpose of getting a ‘good conformation of carcass and a favourable price’ to quote the industry’s own words.  As always, follow the money. It’s a business. ‘Farming’ defenceless creatures is a million miles away from being the ‘labour of love’ that we’re indoctrinated to think it is. 

Once we realise that our victims are sentient like ourselves, with friends, families, minds and lives that matter to them; once we accept the science that using and consuming other individuals is unnecessary for our own wellbeing, as well as being ecologically unsustainable, many – like me – can scarcely believe how we’ve been taken in, funding a gore-spattered nightmare for so long without stopping to consider the consequence of what we put in our supermarket trolleys.

So that’s today’s new verb; to finish.

How about making the decision to finish taking part in such horror and become vegan? It makes perfect sense. 

 

 

Posted in Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dress rehearsal for the apocalypse

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

As we look out on silent, empty, streets, watching while statistics of the sick and the dead skyrocket out of control, and the sickening chill of fear clutches at our hearts for our loved ones whom we are powerless to protect, the question that hangs in the air is, ‘Why?’

Why indeed

Surprisingly, there are numerous excellent articles that point uncompromisingly to the reason why. It’s not a secret. It shouldn’t even come as a surprise. We are in this mess because of our unnecessary and deeply immoral disrespect for every nonhuman species on the planet; our brutality and violence to innocent, defenceless creatures to serve our interests at the catastrophic expense of their own. We are in this mess because we have allowed ourselves to be fooled and lulled into a false sense of security by those who create victims for our use; who have been (and still are, despite everything!) willing to tell us anything we want to hear so that we keep paying them exorbitant amounts of money for the bloodbath and planetary destruction that is the inevitable and unmentioned basis of everything they do on behalf of nonvegan consumers.

I decided to do this blog as a reference, pulling together many of the articles that have affected me in recent weeks. Some of the articles I’ve read are decades old, clear-sighted and visionary warnings that the coming of this day was only a matter of time. As a species we definitely had it coming to us. And as a species, unless we learn the lessons that this plague can teach us if we follow the money and rule out the nonsense from those with vested interests, it’ll be even worse the next time. Because there will be a next time, and soon.

A next time for those who survive that is.  Let that sink in.

Racism and xenophobia has to stop

Apart from the usual disgusting racism and xenophobia that any such crisis seems to unleash (because let’s face it, it’s so much easier to blame other cultures than examine our own failings) there’s a lot being said about ‘factory farming‘. As an animal rights writer, I’ve written reams about the fact that the issue is not the environment in which we use our unnecessary victims, but rather the fact that we have victims when it is completely unnecessary. 

‘Farming’ of living beings is problematic

The very concept of ‘farming‘ and/or selling sentient lives of ANY species for the purpose of reproductive violation, forced labour, consumption or any other purpose is an affront to all that’s decent – regardless of the scale, irrespective of where in the world it is done. 

However there’s no doubt that intensive farming (aka CAFOs or factory farms) have been shown to be a perfect breeding ground for the many zoonoses that are mutating and moving into the human population where they wreak havoc. But getting rid of intensive farming operations isn’t the answer. It’s not even a feasible possibility as a simple look at logistics shows.

Rather than being some particularly barbaric choice, intensive farming is the unavoidable consequence of a massive global population with an insatiable demand for eggs, breastmilk and dead flesh. It’s literally the only way that nonvegan demands can be met within the available space.

Slaughtering wild creatures and destroying habitats

Likewise, pointing at the slaughter and consumption of ‘wildlife’ as being the underlying cause is equally problematicEvery country is involved in the brutal culling and exploitation of indigenous – or imported – creatures to a greater or lesser extent. While in this instance the source of the virus mutation appears to have been determined, anyone who takes the trouble to inform themselves about zoonoses will quickly realise that this does not get every other country off the hook. On the contrary. It illustrates how it’s a matter of the sheerest luck that we as a species have not already been wiped out by something that could have started here or anywhere, as a direct result of our disrespect for our fellow earthlings.

By reinforcing the idea that this issue is about one particular country, those whose nonvegan demands are brewing the apocalypse are encouraged to remain in denial as to their own pivotal role in the horrors being inflicted on their victims, and the existential consequences for humans as a species. 

Be informed, be educated and tell the truth

It has always been wrong to harm members of other species. What is happening today as the virus brings us all to our knees will no doubt be viewed by each of us through the lens of our own understanding. Let that lens be an informed one, a perspective that rejects the speciesism that brought our planet to this desperate predicament, that encourages us to share the truth with courage and conviction, and opposes the money-grabbing propaganda of the victim industries as they continue to defy the laws of physics and pretend it had nothing to do with them.

Be vegan. Everything depends on it.

Recommended links and articles

Think Exotic Animals Are to Blame for the Coronavirus? Think Again.

How Wildlife Markets and Factory Farms Guarantee Frequent New Deadly Diseases

Eating Animals Will Be the Death of Us

About factory farming – straight talking 

Coronavirus should make you reconsider eating meat: 

Why are we ignoring the root cause of this pandemic?  

Embracing veganism and animal sentience: the long view on Coronavirus outbreak 

Zoonoses : Taken from: Christian Koeder: Veganismus 2014 

Coronavirus and climate change: The pandemic is a fire drill for our planet’s future

Our Growing Food Demands Will Lead to More Corona-like Viruses

Dr. Michael Greger on Pandemic Prevention | Infectious Diseases, Aids, Climate Change, Influenza

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Thinking of ducks

Pekin ducks being ‘farmed’ for their dead flesh. Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Ducks. As a child I used to love visiting duckponds. It was a Sunday treat and few children of my generation in my part of the world haven’t been enchanted by ‘going to feed the ducks’, clutching a bag of bread scraps, encouraged to be gentle, to stay still and quiet in the hope that they’d come close so we could admire them. These memories linger, visions of a lost childhood when I thought the world was a place of beauty and wonder.

A childhood when, like most of us, I was being systematically groomed and corrupted to respect other species without making the connection between them and the corpses, breastmilk and eggs on my plate. Oblivious to the barbarity of my species, I had no clue what was really in store for the majority of ducks, and the world became a blacker and more sinister place for my knowing.

As with rabbits, almost every cooking series on TV includes some dish(es) made of the flesh of these gentle and sociable birds. Programme participants nibble morsels, seemingly pleased when the dismembered flesh is still red and bloody, their affectations completely disconnected from the terrified, panicking individual who so much wanted to live but was suspended upside down from shackles before their throat was hacked open to bleed them to death. Bleeding to death (exsanguination) is how all our victims are killed. It is violent, gory and agonising. Always.

The small, headless, footless and featherless corpses in the supermarkets were once like these in the image, not living as we think of the word but simply existing; being kept alive in the most economical way until they reach approximately 8 weeks of age and are trucked to slaughter. Although deprived of the ability to bathe, swim or indulge their natural behaviour, the issue is not the environment in which we keep them while they await their unnecessary deaths. The issue is that we have no need whatsoever to make victims of fellow creatures who desperately don’t want to die.

The number of these charming birds slaughtered daily is dwarfed only by the number of chickens who meet our rough hands, electrified tanks and blades. Every single day, almost 8.2 million individual ducks are executed globally.

  • That number does not include those who are imprisoned, held immobile and brutally force fed by means of funnels rammed down their throats until their liver becomes diseased and enlarged, when it is prized as ‘foie gras’ (as also inflicted on geese);
  • It does not include those who are incarcerated so that they may be used for eggs in exactly the same way as chickens;
  • It does not include those who were peacefully minding their own business when they were shot from the sky for what our monstrous species calls ‘sport’;
  • It does not include those who endure a living hell being ‘farmed’ for their feathers and regularly plucked alive.

All of these things that we do as a species, are manifestations of  speciesism; the delusion that all other species exist for our use and that we need have no concern or justification for our actions, however monstrous, however obscene.

All it takes is a moment to decide that no more innocents will quake in terror on our account and say, ‘Not in my name’.  Make that decision today. Decide to be vegan.

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Property – what it means to be ‘owned’

Image by Aitor Garmendia, Tras los Muros. Ear tags in a slaughterhouse, recording assets ‘processed’ to realise financial value for their ‘owner’. Each one represents a broken individual whose entire existence was a prelude to the moment their tag appeared on the shelf.

I’ve written about ‘property’ before but it’s a topic that bears repeating. Maybe I’ll stumble across new ways of expressing the monstrous abomination that owning other individuals represents. As the crushing impacts of widespread climate-collapse increase in frequency, along with disease and other horrors related to our astonishing sense of entitlement to butcher our way through our lives, more and more members of nonhuman species are paying with everything they have for our folly and neglect of the planet we all need for survival.

No room to criticise

While the terror of the latest in an endless series of zoonotic diseases stalks the planet, hate-filled tirades sweep social media, as if every single outraged commenter came from a land where all sentient beings lived in harmony and mutual respect.  How swiftly shoved to the back of the collective mind are the recent camel massacre and the pending extinction of koalas in fire ravaged Australia where licences are still being issued for ‘culling‘ kangaroos; the canned hunting privileges being bought by financially rich but morally bankrupt westerners; the fact that our species has added a further 2.2 billion (2,200,000,000) chickens to our annual voracious orgy of gluttony; the ‘culling‘ of wild horses, of badgers and deer, of crows, gulls, geese, swans, seals, insects and even songbirds that take place on our very doorsteps; the millions of unwanted ‘pets’ slaughtered annually for the crime of being unwanted; the ‘hunts’ where dogs are coached to violence and honed by hunger to chase down and tear apart terrified foxes or hares. And then there are things that are an offence to all decency by their very existence; veal; foie gras; fins hacked from sharks; macerators in hatcheries. The list is endless.

I live in Scotland. Google ‘exotic meat suppliers’, and find for consumption the desecrated corpses of ostriches and crocodiles, alpacas and elks, squirrels, frogs, pythons, snails, crickets, zebras and then tell me how we’re ‘better’ than other places. Western governments are actually paying for the destruction of the world through agricultural subsidies from the public purse, subsidies that deny and ignore science and health in favour of powerful vested financial interest as if they are somehow exempt from the laws of physics.

It’s all legal

Every single country has a closet filled to bursting with skeletons of shame. I could write pages listing perfectly legal standard practice, could make readers wish to vomit with disgust. No nation has room to point fingers at any other and every single thing that happens is driven by the one overarching prejudice that has at one time affected every single one of us to a greater or lesser extent: speciesism; that complete disregard for the rights of any who aren’t human, and the ignoring of the fact that their consent to our abuse and violence is being understandably withheld.

And speciesism has spawned a legal framework that facilitates every single atrocity that the corrupt and fertile imagination of our brutal and violent species is capable of inventing. We have made up laws that designate every nonhuman as our property to do with as we will.

Our property. It’s completely one-sided; our victims’ interests were never taken into account – in fact ‘property’ legislation dates from the 17th century when, in the infancy of humanity’s understanding of our fellow earthlings, contemporary scientists decided they had no interests and in some cases were even incapable of feeling pain. Although we now know this to be completely incorrect, we cling to these archaic laws and have set ourselves up as the grim overlords of the living planet, continuing to rubber-stamp any vileness that suits our flimsiest excuses through loopholes built into every legislative approval.

It never stops

Sensationalist popular media has schooled consumers to be always hungry for new titillation and trivia while serious, journalistic integrity that critiques and informs is a rare thing never found in the popular rags. The fact that the press has skipped on to new topics doesn’t mean that calamities in Australia, or the polar regions, or the Amazon, are over, or that their impact is not still decimating individuals of all their resident species; it just means that it’s not ‘news’ any more and some new ‘sensation’ is selling papers and magazines.

The ongoing waves of social media outrage that are sparked by each new nonhuman-related tragedy that springs up, underline that many – even amongst those who are vegan – still don’t appreciate the terrible implications of what it truly means for members of other animal species to be the ‘property’ of our species; what it means for living breathing, feeling individuals to be ‘owned’.  I know this because of the time I and others spend fielding angry demands about ‘what can be done’ to stop the culling of various wild creatures, demands to know how to ‘rescue’ farmed animals from farms and slaughterhouses, demands to know ‘who to complain to’ when we see the images of helpless innocents who have incinerated or drowned or suffered injury or attack at human hands, while everywhere is repeated the mistaken idea that ‘welfare‘ for our victims has something to do with their wellbeing rather than human profit.  Yet all the outrage is missing the point. The point is that virtually nothing can be done and with only the very occasional exception, it’s all perfectly legal:

‘You see, we don’t treat animals badly because they’re property. We classify animals as property so that we can treat them badly.’

~ Lesli Bisgould, Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and the Barrister at Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Resource Office.

We make it about us – and the law backs us up

And when we do hear about our victims being impacted by human activities, because they are legally nothing more than property and hence business assets and resources, the stories are invariably presented as a disaster for the ‘owner’ of the land or the establishment; their loss of revenue, their inconvenience. It’s all about humans, all a human interest tragedy that they’ll have to claim insurance and ‘re-stock‘.

‘Being born as “livestock” is always a dangerous proposition. You are born to make money and often that profit is only realised once you are dead. During a fire emergency, you are no longer “livestock” — you are just “stock.” You are the things we fill our supermarket shelves with. You will not be shuttled to safety. Your image will not be used to solicit donations. You will become a “biohazard.” If you manage to survive, you will soon be killed anyway.

~ Siobhan O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, author of Animals, Equality and Democracy

Persecution, habitat destruction, forced labour, imprisonment, torture, mutilation, execution and more are the inevitable result of existing as living, breathing, feeling ‘property’. ‘The property status of animals’ is not some legal technicality that prevents every other species from sharing in the privileges that humans claim for themselves in this world that we are rapidly destroying.

Yes, we’ve all seen the ‘wits’ who pour scorn on animal rights with ludicrous ideas about whether members of other animal species should have the right to vote or should be entitled to hold a driving license etc.  It’s common for the scorn of shallow hacks seeking cheap laughs to be weighted alongside scientific studies and analyses as if their words were of equal importance, presenting readers with a pick’n’mix of nonsense that panders to every prejudice and bias alongside (if we’re lucky) actual information.

Nevertheless, a status as ‘property’ has utterly predictable consequences for our victims leading directly from our speciesist commitment to use their lives and bodies as if they existed specifically for that purpose, an intention reflected by what we put in our supermarket trolleys and by every nonvegan purchase of broken bodies, lives and labour that we make.

‘The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us — to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or exploited for sport or money.

Once we accept this view of animals – as our resources – the rest is as predictable as it is regrettable.’

~ Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights

So what can we do?

Legal does not equate to morally right. The solutions are not simple, they’re not quick, no one has them all, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll even be enough to save the planet. More than veganism is going to be needed and I’d never claim otherwise. But it’s not optional. We are now in the midst of the fight of our lives; and it’s a fight for the lives of those who have for too long been our victims, a fight for the very existence of the living world, a planet that we are destroying which is theirs as much as it was ever ours.

If integrity matters to us at all, then as individual consumers we must take responsibility for our actions. We are each personally responsible for every single activity that has been carried out in our name, to meet our demands as consumers. Only by changing our behaviour can we stand any chance of turning back the tide of destruction that we have unleashed upon the world.

I know many are asking what happens if the tide doesn’t turn? Nothing in life has ever come with a guarantee.  Whatever we face in the immediate future, at least we’ll  have the peace of mind that comes of knowing that we have lived true to the values we all claimed to hold.

We need to reject speciesism and become vegan, and there’s not a moment to lose.

 

More links for consideration:

About Emma the dog – what being property meant for her – https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/being-property-what-it-means/

The aftermath of Hurricane Florence: https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/19/the-property-status-of-animals/

Why laws don’t protect our victims – Lesli Bisgould: https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/19/the-property-status-of-animals/

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Slaughter numbers jump by 2.2 billion

Despite the euphoria caused by the proliferation of plant based dietary options in shops and restaurants, the statistics don’t bear out the wishful thinking about veganism taking over the world any time soon. In fact, given the accelerating climate catastrophe with the terrifying extreme weather events in every paper and news bulletin, the numbers make me seriously doubt the number of humans taking our mortal peril as a species seriously.

In the most recent statistics, the total number of land-based individuals whose lives are hacked from their terrified throats in slaughterhouses across the globe has leapt from 74.9 billion to 77 billion – an increase of almost 2.2 billion in a single year.  Even allowing for a 0.1 billion increase in the global human population (7.7 – 7.8 billion), this is a disaster for our victims and ought to be a sobering bucket of cold water for every company and organisation sounding fanfares of ‘victory’ and raising funds on the back of imaginary reductions in slaughter numbers.

Meanwhile, whatever the feel-good publicity says, our species is creating more victims than ever. Examining the statistics, one stark fact is unavoidable. The entire obscene increase is being borne by chickens. At 66.5 billion the previous year, now almost 69 billion of these defenceless creatures are facing the desperate existence we inflict on them for our dietary indulgence and a death that we can’t even bear to contemplate. Add in other birds such as ducks, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl etc and the number is 73.2 billion.

I appreciate spreadsheets may not appeal to many and I intend to write further on this topic but I’m including the raw figures from FAOSTAT here for any who are interested.

The immediate message, however, is crystal clear. We have to stop this. Really stop it. Not just talk about it, not allow ourselves to be lulled into a sense of false optimism by wishful thinkers and those who want our cash because they keep trumpeting about ‘victories’. The statistics don’t lie. *

The only true victory for our defenceless victims, is a new vegan. We must take responsibility as individuals and knuckle down to what needs to be done for the sake of our victims and the planet we share with them. If we’re already vegan, we need to work harder, advocate harder, be more creative but above all, be honest. It’s urgent.

Be vegan.

 

*NB The numbers above, which average at 2,443 individuals per second(!), do not include numerous other groups including:

  • Marine creatures – estimated deaths 2.7 trillion annually. Because ‘catch’ is counted in tonnage that disregards ‘bycatch’ I don’t know of  a source of reliable statistics that details the actual number of individuals who die for our dietary indulgence;
  • Male chicks killed by the egg industry – currently estimated at 7.4 to 8 billion annually;
  • Bees in the honey industry;
  • Silk worms;
  • Frogs, snails and other amphibians;
  • Insects such as crickets executed for ‘novelty’ and ‘alternative protein’ markets;
  • Dogs, cats and other species slaughtered in ‘backyards’ or slaughterhouses not contributing to FAOSTAT;
  • Wildlife dying from loss of habitat and climate change caused by farming other species;
  • Laboratory test subjects;

And that list is attributable mainly to the market for consumption. Numbers skyrocket once we add in those whom we victimise for other reasons, such as:

  • Individuals slaughtered for their fur, fleece or skin;
  • Trophy hunting;
  • ‘Culling’ of indiginous creatures so the ‘farmed’ animal profits may be maximised;
  • Deaths in the ‘entertainment’ industry;
  • Deaths of individuals incarcerated in various establishments such as zoos, safari and water parks etc.

 

As noted above, all statistics are derived from FAOSTAT http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QL

 

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