EVERY picture tells a story

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

A common criticism of the images I show on the majority of my blog and social media posts, is that the individuals portrayed are seldom ‘obviously’ suffering. I’m often told we need to show individuals who are clearly hurt, distressed and in the kind of environment that many associate with being ‘worse’ than others; that only those individuals in ‘factory’ farm environments should be shown because otherwise no one will understand the message.

I’ve even faced many accusations of using ‘photoshopped’ images of individuals that are ‘made to look as if they have expressions on their faces’. That’s a comment that reveals a lot about the one who makes it…

Just for the record, it’s not the case and I would never knowingly use such an image. There is no need to falsify images that show the response of our victims to the brutality of our use of them. What it takes is for a gifted photographer to see the personality behind the numbered tag and the camera has no need to lie. The fact that these are not the type of images used in the media by peddlers of body parts, eggs and milk is hardly to be wondered at, when their trade relies on consumers remaining oblivious to the real feeling individuals behind the ‘products’ on sale in the mortuary aisles of our supermarkets.

So in this blog I’d like to share thoughts about images, and explain why I choose as I do.

The horror show

First of all, I am well aware that there are a great many pages and sites that share horrific images and there’s no shortage of sources of these to choose from. At any moment of the day, previously seen photos and videos can pop unbidden into my thoughts, pictures that break me every single time I stumble across them. These are the images that come to me in the early hours when sleep eludes me; the ones that make me howl tears of rage at the darkness, the ones that swamp me with despair for my species and lift the lid from the simmering shame in my soul at the knowledge that every nonvegan choice I ever made was an atrocity.

Did these images shock me when I first saw them? I thought I was an animal lover so yes, definitely.
Did they make me want to do ‘something’? Oh yes. They made me want to protest and complain. And donate. Definitely donate, because so often that was the whole purpose of the image – to solicit donations.
Did they teach me that all use of others was unnecessary and harmful? No.
Did they make me realise that the only way to avoid being the actual cause of the horrors I was seeing, was to become vegan? No. They absolutely did not. And therein lay a major flaw.

A reminder of prejudice

I’d like for a moment to remind readers of the word ‘speciesism’.  Speciesism, in the simplest terms, is a prejudice whereby we modify our attitude and behaviour towards other individuals depending solely on their species. In practice, speciesism results in the denial or withholding of rights to other individuals, based on this arbitrary distinction. In the same way that racism differentiates unfairly on the basis of race, sexism on the basis of gender, ableism on the basis of physical ability, speciesism differentiates unfairly on the basis of species.  We’ve all seen the convoluted explanations that are dredged up; ‘intelligence’, ‘less awareness’ ‘bred for eating/eggs’milk’ , ‘human superiority’ etc. Regardless of whatever complex explanations we invent to attempt to make our own behaviour sound acceptable to others, and significantly to ourselves, they all boil down to the same thing. We are asserting that our interests – whatever they may be – are more important than theirs, and we have brute force and technology on our side.

Most of us don’t consider it acceptable to inflict unnecessary harm on our fellow humans under any circumstances. We would certainly be disgusted and outraged to find someone who considered it acceptable to harm and kill other people simply because they seemed less intelligent, or because their physical or mental abilities were somehow compromised, or because of their nationality or gender and so on. Yet every one of these is a frequent ‘justification’ for animal use expressed by apparently intelligent people who seem completely unaware of the slightest trace of irony in their words.

However no one needs to read my explanations to know the truth of speciesism. All any of us needs to do is examine our own thoughts. All we ever need to do is imagine a human in the place of any nonhuman individual under discussion, and whatever prejudice we have is illuminated in the spotlight of our own conscience.

Speciesism in action

Anyway, to bring this back to the subject in hand, I hope that there are certain behaviours towards humans that we can all agree are absolutely wrong. Behaviours that spring to mind are the many varieties of physical, mental or sexual violence, deliberate harm and killing perpetrated against any other human individual.

Now imagine if I were to make a social media post about humans saying ‘Killing is wrong’ or ‘Rape is wrong’. Would readers find it impossible to relate to the truth of the statement unless confronted with a graphic image of someone dying in a pool of blood or perhaps a person desperately attempting to fight off a rapist? I think we all know the answer to that.

To continue the analogy, if the chosen illustrations for this imaginary post were to show people engaging in normal activities, going about their lives, would there be a clamour of comments pointing out that as the victims don’t look hurt or distressed, it’s clearly wrong to make sweeping statements about violence, killing or violation? Would everyone conclude that in some cases it’s probably fine and does no real harm? Would we see remarks about humane killing and humane rape, comments about ‘everything in moderation’ and those seeking support for their own ‘occasional’ killings and rapes? I think we all know the answer to that one too.

And yet, when images that illustrate the individuality, the emotions, the facial and body-language expressiveness of our victims, qualities that are there for any who care to look, are shown alongside words that explain that our actions towards them are both unnecessary and harmful, it is not uncommon for these images to be criticised. This criticism frequently concludes that as these individuals don’t look hurt or distressed, it’s clearly wrong for me to make sweeping statements about violence, killing or violation; in fact ‘in some cases it’s probably fine’, and ‘everything in moderation’?  There are always comments from those seeking justification and support for their own particular variety of use. This is the reality of what happens, as I know only too well from what now amounts to several years of observing online reactions.

The path where our speciesism leads us

When harm to a human is being discussed, we don’t need to see a graphic illustration of blood, pain, terror, grief, distress, despair and devastating loss to be able to understand that causing another to experience any of these reactions is unacceptable. We have no speciesist barriers to our understanding that these reactions will be the inevitable consequence of certain actions towards humans.

When harm in the form of these same actions towards an individual of another species is being discussed, and despite our knowing full well that the individual shares with us the quality of sentience that renders them capable of emotion, pain, and a desperate desire to avoid pain and continue to live, many not only demand to see their degradation and distress, but more worryingly, in the absence of blood, gore and pleading on the part of our victims, conclude that there’s no problem with what’s being done and take it as vindication of their participation in it.

This one is a no-win situation for the victims in any case, because even when presented with imagery that illustrates that degradation and distress, blood, gore and pleading, there is a tendency for many to dismiss it as coincidental and not indicative of the same experience that would affect a member of our own species in the same circumstances. Or alternatively it’s shrugged off as an exceptional or extreme case that deviates from the norm. A norm that we assume is perfectly fine. Why? Perhaps because to recognise this truth would make us monsters in our own eyes, and our conscience would demand that we review our own role in the nightmare.

So, on seeing these horrific pictures and videos, the conclusion that many people arrive at, is that the problem is about how these victims are being treated; that the problem wouldn’t exist if they were being treated in some way ‘better‘ or if they were accommodated in some other kind of environment.

This view that many of us held, and which is hard to completely shake off, reveals the speciesism inherent in our perspective. Probably as a result of our shared upbringing, our delusion that we ‘love animals’ and the cultural norm that ignores the horrific brutality of nonveganism, it unfortunately does not seem to be a natural conclusion for people to reach; that it is the fundamental use that is the problem, rather that the where when and how that use takes place. Again I’m drawing from my own experience here. I was a nonvegan ‘animal activist’ (yeah I know, and I wasn’t alone) for years before I had the light-bulb moment that made me vegan. That moment happened as a result of becoming educated and aware that all use is unnecessary and harmful to our victims and that there was only one way to stop causing the things I was fighting against.

Faces and eyes and the message we must learn to understand

So yes, the shocking images MAY awaken a spark of awareness and interest in those who see them, but they don’t tell the whole story by any stretch. It is not necessarily enough to see the gore because that seldom, if ever, leads to veganism. In the majority of us, it leads to an assumption that things wouldn’t be ‘so bad’ if they were done in a ‘nicer’ way. We see this ‘awareness’ enacted everywhere, by throngs of people who have never heard of veganism but consider themselves to be conscientious animal lovers while unknowingly paying, as I did, for the very things that they are fighting against.

What is needed is education about veganism. It seems to me that the only way that we can achieve a real and lasting end to our unnecessary use of our fellow earthlings, is by becoming aware of their interest in their lives and the complete absence of any necessity for us to deny them their right to that life that is theirs by birth. In order to clearly understand our shared sentience, and to be able to understand the trauma of other sentient individuals in the same way that we do with our fellow humans, we really need to see past the faceless statistics that they represent to our nonvegan eyes.

And this is why, in the imagery I use, I seek always to show the individual behind the utter degradation of the circumstances in which they have been placed as the defenceless and innocent victims of our self-interest. Once we look for the personality in the frame, its hard not to see the dignity that is there so often, despite the crushing reality of an existence where no one cares who they are, but only about the commercial value of what use can be taken from them.

We see some faces that depict their abject despair, their soul destroying misery. In some faces we see hope in a gaze shining with innocence, or we see bewilderment and sadness. Once we see our victims as individuals, once we can look into a face where we can clearly see an expression that each of us can recognise, when we see body language that we can easily identify, we can begin to shed the speciesism that has blighted the life of each of us. For me, in all honesty, a face full of futile hope on a slaughterhouse truck can break my heart. I ask others to see that same face and feel that same grief.

Once we shed our speciesism, that’s the path that leads to veganism. When we look and automatically see members of other species as unique individuals with minds and hopes, thoughts and fears exactly as we do ourselves, harming them becomes unthinkable;  participating in and paying for their misery becomes a distressing memory that we are only too glad to leave in our past.

Look into the faces. Look behind their eyes. They are not ‘voiceless’, they are talking to us with their eyes and their body language; they are screaming, we’re just not listening. Be vegan.

 

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In a nutshell: why all egg use is inhumane

The problems faced by all egg-laying hens are not caused by their environment, but by the very bodies that have been created by humans. Their bodies are the result of years of selective breeding to maximise egg production for human interests. This selective breeding has escalated egg laying by each individual bird to 250 – 300 a year from the original annual total of 12 – 15 by the wild relatives from whom she has been developed.

Hens, like all of the victims of our every nonvegan consumer choice, are sentient individuals, each one with her own mind and thoughts, her own individuality, her own unique personality and preferences.

The prison than none can escape

Yet every single hen is locked within a prison.
That prison, that none can escape, is so much more insidious than the battery, the cage, the barn, the shed or the free-range, feel-good, family farm in which her use as an egg-layer takes place.
Every single hen remains locked within her individual prison, even in the ‘backyard’ setting; that ‘backyard’ so often extolled and promoted by those who continue to take the eggs from these gentle little birds; that fairy tale place that is mentioned in comments by those contradicting explanations of why eggs can never be ‘humane’ on every social media article I’ve ever read.
Her prison is completely inescapable, no matter how ‘loved’ she is, no matter how ‘free’ she is mistakenly thought to be, no matter how ‘wonderful’ the life that even her users would undoubtedly wish her to have.
For every single egg laying hen, her own body is her prison.

We hear from time to time that “happy hens lay eggs.”
No, all hens lay eggs. They lay eggs in cages, they lay eggs in ammonia-filled sheds, they lay eggs on their very deathbeds, because they have been genetically programmed to do so.
And we humans are still working on breeding ever more efficient egg-laying machines. Hens who lay earlier, with smaller bodies; Who require less food to pump out even bigger eggs. Hens who don’t take even a single break to renew their feathers (a natural and healthy process in birds–but one which requires the cessation of laying). We are still trying to squeeze every last penny we can out of their broken little bodies.

~ Eggs Hurt

The heartbreak of sanctuary

There are vegans who rescue hens from use as egg-layers, who offer them sanctuary and a life free from harm, with the freedom and the companionship of their own kind so enjoyed by these sociable birds.  Time and again, each rescuer faces the inevitable heartbreak of helplessly witnessing death part them from those whom they care for as the special and valued friends that they are.

Each rescuer faces a battle they know they’re unlikely to win. Despite feeding her eggs back to her to replace her body’s depleted nutrients and despite providing the best medical care that can be found, few if any rescued individuals will be unaffected by the consequences of our genetic meddling; few if any, will enjoy the health that should be their birthright. Most die young, their pitiful little bodies ravaged by disease and wracked with pain.

I have seen the light go out of too many eyes. Every one of them struggles to hold onto their precious only life, right until their last breath. A vegan world is only the starting point; our goal must be their freedom from us.

~ Sandra Higgins, Director, Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary and Go Vegan World

Not ours, not food

Every egg that is consumed by humans, regardless of where it was laid, perpetuates the use of eggs as an appropriate ‘food’ for humans. It is neither appropriate nor necessary.
Every egg use in which we participate, regardless of where the egg was laid, is predicated on a mistaken assumption that we have a right to take what is clearly not ours, no matter how we seek to justify and excuse that action.
Every egg use in which humans participate, is a statement that we consider it acceptable to use other sentient individuals as nothing more than a resource, and is a stamp of approval for others to do so.
Every egg use in which humans participate, ensures that because eggs are viewed as an appropriate ‘food’ for our species, there will continue to be a demand for these defenceless little individuals to be born into the treacherous bodies that humans have created for them.

Human nature being what it is, it doesn’t matter how individuals seek to claim ‘exceptional circumstances’ to cover their own personal exploitation, egg production will continue on the current commercial scale because this is most economically advantageous for a supply industry driven by consumer demand. That demand will continue until consumers, as individuals, take responsibility for their own actions and decide they no longer wish to participate in the unspeakable practice of egg use, with the unthinkable violence and atrocities that are an inherent part of the whole concept.

Will current breeds become extinct?

Often used as an attempt to justify the continuation of current use, will current breeds become extinct when egg use by our species stops and a vegan world dawns?

Do we truly need to ask whether these innocent victims, these man-made creations who are powerless to escape the atrocity of their self-destructive bodies,  should be allowed to die out?

But since the question is frequently asked, I’ll answer. Yes. I hope with all my heart that our victims will one day be allowed to become extinct. It’s the only way they can ever escape the agony of what we have done to them and for me the day cannot come quickly enough.

Be vegan.

 

Links for further information: –

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False hopes and misunderstanding ‘welfare’

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

All the regulations that lay down ‘welfare’ requirements for animals being unnecessarily used by humans (and all uses fall into this category) are designed with a single purpose. So what is that purpose? All we need to do is use common sense and think critically about it.

Just to clarify what ‘welfare’ means

As a species, the indisputable reason for all our breeding, raising, milking, egg taking and killing of these sentient individuals is for us to use them. This use is predicated on our assumption that our trivial interests are more important than their rights to live unharmed. In other words, the basic premise is that they simply don’t matter enough to be allowed to live. They are regarded as resources, commodities, commercial assets and nothing more. In order to do what we do without seeming like monsters in our own eyes, we have to delude ourselves that they have NO importance, NO feelings and NO interest in their lives.

Given that this absolutely must be the case in order for all our use of them to occur, it is at best naïve to think that any regulations, including those that misleadingly use the word ‘welfare’ in their description, are in ANY way designed to protect the feelings, wellbeing or individual integrity or autonomy of these ‘resources, commodities and commercial assets’. Indeed, any lessening of the level of torment to which our victims are subjected is purely coincidental because the purpose of ‘welfare’ regulations is to safeguard the commercial value of those who are deemed to be resources, commodities and assets. It’s not about the animals. It’s about those who consider themselves to be their OWNERS, those who have a financial interest in their exploitation. These ‘owners’ change as our victims go though the processing that converts each one from living, breathing individual to an assortment of packages on shelves somewhere, but essentially all ‘welfare’ regulations are designed purely to protect the interests of these owners.

Pause for reflection

Before I continue, I’d like to share a memory of my own that occurred just as I was writing this.  It dates back to the days before I was vegan yet considered myself to be an aware and ethical consumer. I look back on that time with complete incomprehension; what on earth was I thinking?! My ignorance would be laughable if it were not for the tragedy that every single non-vegan choice that I made in my everyday life was actually causing horrors as bad as and worse than the majority of things I so vociferously protested about. But anyhow. I digress.

I used to follow – and contribute to – a number of groups that used issues such as  CCTV, fur, circus, live export (opposition to which I’ve since heard appropriately referred to as being in favour of ‘kill ’em and chill ’em’) to raise funds. These funds were apparently used partly to pay their career activist staff, and partly to create images and films of breaches in ‘welfare’ regulations.

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

During this time before I was vegan these groups fed me a constant diet of horrific imagery that led me to seriously believe that these breaches in the regulations were not only commonplace but were what we should all be fighting to oppose. And oppose them I did, while I also wore, used domestic and personal hygiene products, and consumed a diet consisting of the torment of these same victims. These groups never even mentioned veganism or if they did it must have been on a back page somewhere or at the end of a long list of possible options that I might like to consider after coughing up cash for their coffers. If they mentioned veganism I honestly never took note of it. My use and consumption of animals, their milk, eggs and body parts continued unchecked, and in some areas increased, so reassured was I by the praise and gratitude that these groups sent my way for ‘all that I was doing to help make the world a more compassionate place’. In no way did it ‘raise my awareness’ in a manner that led me to become vegan. Only vegan advocacy did that. Now I feel ill to think I fell for such a transparently cynical line.

When I write of the danger of misinforming consumers and encouraging them to feel ‘ethical’ without stressing that the only ‘ethical’ use is NO use, and ‘no use’ means veganism, I’m talking from personal experience. I’m relating the experience of the many other vegans who share this memory; the many other vegans who, like me, would give anything to go back and find out about veganism on the very first day they realised that nonhuman animals are harmed by human ones.

The purpose of monitoring

So to continue, once we shift our focus away from the idea that ‘welfare’ means anything to do with concern for the feelings, wellbeing, or autonomy of our victims, we begin to see things in a totally different light.

The recent announcement of compulsory CCTV in English (as opposed to UK)  slaughterhouses is a classic example of a measure that may be considered to be an attempt to reassure ‘concerned’ consumers (like I used to be) about ‘welfare standards’.  I have no doubt at all that those who do not think critically about this strategy will be duped by what I see as a cynical ploy, and the only predictable effect of such a measure will be a likely increase in consumption of animals, their eggs, secretions and body parts.

I cannot for a moment imagine what anyone could possibly think that CCTV in slaughterhouses might be used for. Apart from anything else a recent article quotes a Food Standards Agency rep as saying, ‘We see CCTV as an invaluable management tool for business owners to help with compliance with official controls and to improve animal welfare standards across the industry.’ In this, at least, they are being honest. It’s a management tool.

Regulation breaches lead to ‘damaged goods’ which costs money.  Regulation breaches may result in unhygienic practices where there may be health risks to staff and consumers leading to lost revenue and costs.  Regulation breaches increase the considerable risks of personal injury to staff and operatives, as well as equipment damage. Costs. Breaches of regulations can lead to prosecutions by food standards inspectors and others, and the availability of CCTV footage may permit longer time periods to be monitored and inspected by, I’d guess, fewer staff resulting in cost savings. Breaches of regulations can lead to unfavourable publicity that results in loss of consumer confidence with potential loss of revenue. And the list continues. Follow the money.

What CCTV is absolutely NOT, is any sort of ‘awareness raising’ mechanism installed by the animal harming industries and their governing and partnering bodies, to show the general public the enormity of the processes that they are carrying out and thus discourage consumption.

False hopes

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

From reading the ‘step in the right direction’ and ‘raising awareness’ comments, it seems that there is some idea on social media that people will be able to tune in and view slaughterhouse footage, and that this will, in some unfathomable way, ‘raise awareness’. Apart from the fact that this is not the intent of these systems and there is scarcely the remotest possibility that they will be available for public viewing any more than the security CCTV of your average factory or parts warehouse, what on earth would anyone hope for others to see on the CCTV?

Even the most unaware consumer of animal derived substances must surely be ‘aware’ that animals are killed in slaughterhouses. There’s no need for CCTV to prove that.

Is it hoped that CCTV will reveal wall-to-wall breaches in regulations? I was certainly encouraged in the past to believe such a thing was most likely the case. Now I don’t consider that, and I realise we have no knowledge of the statistical frequency of regulatory breaches. I have no doubt that they occur as in an other industry, however the issues that I discuss on a daily basis seek to address the fundamental atrocity of all use and all killing.

Even done by the book, slaughter of sentient individuals who don’t want to die and fight with every ounce of strength they possess to stay alive, is a messy, violent business.  It doesn’t look nice. It is noisy, gory and stomach-churningly horrific. Who in their right mind would want to sit glued to a real-time-slaughter-cam? If they were looking to view ‘nice’ killing; compassionate’ slaughtering; placid, unperturbed individuals cheerfully raising their heads to offer their throats for slitting; calm, unconcerned children of other species tranquilly gazing at the camera whilst being stunned, they would definitely be disappointed.

Maybe some are hoping for close-ups to confirm that individuals are actually dead while their hooves are being sawn off, while their bellies are being sliced open so that their steaming organs and still-trembling entrails can slither out; that they’ve actually stopped struggling while their hides are being torn off?

To think that we have such a thing called a slaughterhouse, where people are employed to grab an animal, use electric prods to force it (he/she) to go where they want, to jam bolts in their heads, to slice their throats, hang them from chains and watch them die as blood drips out of their throats and legs kick desperately.  To think that even exists – in the numbers that it does – we’re not talking about a few ‘bad people’ that do that… we’re talking about this is the norm!  If we can’t stop and look at that and say ‘Holy crap! What have we done?’. If we can’t face that we will not be able to face anything.

~ David G Coles, author of The Insanity of Humanity

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

The point that I seek to make is that it is extremely unlikely that the advent of industry systems to enforce industry regulations are going to help our victims one little bit.

The fundamental atrocity is that we consider that slaughtering other individuals is acceptable.

In the end, defenceless individuals go in to a slaughterhouse, they die, they come out in pieces in a refrigerated vehicle.

That won’t change and that’s the problem. We harm or we don’t. We kill or we don’t. We use or we don’t.

It is that situation on which we must focus. As advocates, we are betraying those billions who need us to be clear on their behalf every time we suggest there is a grey middle area where the fundamental atrocity may be enacted in a more acceptable way.

Be vegan.

 

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A vegan parable

If any one of us were to encounter someone who considered they were a nice person, but who liked to drown puppies and kittens, who had done this all their life and was clearly going to carry doing it for ever more, what would we do?

Would we say, ‘Why not try to drown fewer puppies and kittens?’ or ‘don’t drown puppies’, or maybe ‘don’t drown kittens’? Might we even suggest they find a different method to kill puppies and kittens; or do it in a different place? Might we campaign for better regulations to deal with how puppies and kittens should be killed?

OR

Would we say, ‘Stop this! There is no need for you to drown puppies and kittens. In fact there is no need for you to harm any other individuals because they are exactly like us in every way that matters. Stop because it makes them suffer pain and fear just as we would. Stop because there is nothing that we need that can justify taking the lives of other individuals who value those lives and don’t want to die.’

Having heard our words, would our audience stop drowning puppies and kittens? Maybe. There’s a chance they would do exactly what we asked. There’s a chance they would carry on exactly as before. There’s equally a chance that they would seek to rationalise their actions in their own mind but would cut back on their destructive behaviour in some way.

The point is that, on being asked to change their behaviour, while the actions they would take depend entirely on the character of the individual, when we clearly advocate veganism, we ensure that those who inflict harm are made aware of the reasons why their actions are unacceptable – even by their own standards as people who think of themselves as ‘nice’. This knowledge may plant a seed that will inspire change in the future.

The species harmed by our actions when we are not vegan are no different to the puppies and kittens that we would instinctively seek to protect.  Our victims are sentient, unique individuals and they value their lives. They share bonds with their families and friends. They do not want to die and yet they are defenceless against our brute force, technology and the implements by which we subjugate them to our will.

Only if we clearly call for an end to unnecessary harm, is there is a chance that the harm will end. Only if we advocate and educate about veganism will those who harm nonhuman animals be aware that their actions are unnecessary and harmful. And we owe every single one of our desperate, defenceless victims nothing less.

Be vegan and ask for veganism. Because asking for anything less is a sell out.

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‘I think animals should be humanely treated’

It’s what everyone says. They say it while eating their flesh, drinking the milk they made for their infants, using the eggs they laid in their desperate and futile attempts to be mothers. They say it wearing flayed skins, body fibres and feathers, freshly washed top to toe, with sweet perfumed toiletries of corpse parts and ingredients for which helpless, despairing creatures were tortured in labs.

‘Oh, I think animals should be humanely treated.’ Have you ever wondered why we say these words?

Because if we really thought of animals as the objects, the things, the commodities and resources that our use of them is built upon, we wouldn’t even consider being ‘humane’. We’re not ‘humane’ to furniture; we’re not ‘humane’ to machines.

The words ‘I think animals should be humanely treated’ are a clear recognition and an absolute admission that those whom we use are capable of suffering harm and distress as a result of the practices we fund with our consumer cash.
While we continue to pay for and support using the lives and bodies of members of nonhuman species, with our own words we’re admitting either that we don’t know the facts, or else we’re admitting we know and don’t care. But if the latter is true, isn’t it curious that we don’t want others to know this about us?

Our victims value their lives and they don’t want to die. Our every use of them reinforces the unjust and extremely violent position that our self interest – no matter how trivial –  is of greater importance than our victims’ most basic right to live. Every use we make is unnecessary, causes them harm and sets them on a path where their only escape will be a premature and horrific death.

So the next time we hear the words, ‘I think animals should be humanely treated’, why not pause and reflect. Is the speaker saying that they don’t know the facts? Or are they saying that they do know the facts but that they don’t care?

Because the only way we can make the words sincere is by being vegan.

Find out about veganism today.

 

https://www.goveganscotland.com/
http://goveganworld.com/what-is-veganism/

 

 

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What will happen to the animals when the world goes vegan?

Some of the family at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary
Image by Ula Boyle

What will happen to all the animals if the world goes vegan?
You do realise that they’ll become extinct?
Will the planet be overrun with animals?
Who will pay for looking after the animals if it becomes illegal to eat them?
Where will the animals live while they re-adapt?
What industries will absorb the workers suddenly left without jobs?

Variations on these questions appear so often. This essay started out as a single paragraph for a cut-and-pasteable FAQ I plan to compile and I’ll no doubt condense the key points for the ‘in a nutshell’ series, but it turned out I had more to say than I realised.   As it happens, it’s been an interesting topic to consider, so apologies in advance for the length.

You do realise they’ll become extinct?

Humans first domesticated other species about 12,000 years ago. A mere blink of an eye in evolutionary terms, it’s important to realise that the duration of the industry of exploitation that humans have created is relatively recent and does not reach back into the prehistoric mists of time as many imagine. During that time almost every breed of animal we use for any and every purpose worldwide, has been adapted by selective breeding to optimise commercial production of whichever aspect of their lives and bodies we want to utilise, regardless of the impact this has on the health and well-being of the hapless individuals themselves.

A frequent attempt to disparage veganism is that when the world becomes vegan, the breeds we currently use will become extinct. This is said as if that were a bad thing. Apparently a species bereft of conscience, humanity created the species that we use in their current forms by selective breeding for our artificial purposes. We confine them in unnatural environments, feed them substances that they would never consume without our intervention, accelerate and boost their growth / lactation / egg production far beyond what their bodies are designed to bear, and are even working to develop further grotesque mutations by genetic modification for a variety of ‘reasons’ that all boil down to maximising profit. Like ourselves, our victims are a long way from the natural animals they once were.

With many breeds manipulated in ways that inevitably shorten their lives and no environmental niche to occupy outside of our hells and prisons, the almost inevitable extinction of the pitiable creations of our unspeakable species is a totally different issue from the extinction of those wild creatures who were quietly minding their own business in the aeons before we came along, and whose habitat we have destroyed by our industrialisation and urbanisation, not to mention the usurping of their land on the industrial scale that has been necessary for us to cultivate our victims in unimaginably vast and increasing numbers.

Joy, rescued by Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary from a FREE RANGE facility.

Hens, the persecuted individuals behind what we are taught to think of as the disembodied protein source ‘chicken’, are a prime example of a species that has been developed in various directions to maximise whatever aspect of their bodies we require to exploit. Those individuals required to maximise egg production, have been bred to lay such an excessive number of eggs that they are almost guaranteed to develop prolapse (where their internal reproductive tract is pushed through the opening where their eggs leave their bodies), or cancer, Marek’s disease or any one of a number of agonising and fatal conditions at an early age. Their productive lives last less than 1.5 years before they are bundled off in crates to a slaughterhouse to face the final horror of death, making way for new victims.

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Those whose corpses are sold for consumption are required to put on the maximum amount of weight in the shortest possible time. The individuals crammed into the slaughter trucks, barely able to stand or breathe under the crushing weight of their grotesquely overweight bodies are approximately 42 days old. 42 days. It’s not a typo.

Do we care about illness,  discomfort and disease as it impacts the affected individuals? In a word, no. We may claim otherwise but words are cheap and our actions tell a different tale. The stark truth is that they are regarded as short-term, expendable, commercial assets; we don’t need them to get old. They are sent to be slaughtered as soon as they reach target weight or as soon as productivity declines, depending on the use we are making of them.  

The weight of the law?

I’d like to address another point here. The suggestion of ‘if it becomes illegal’ is often slipped into a question with the rather unsubtle hint of adding insult to injury by potential infringement of ‘personal’ choiceI recently came across the following quote that says it all. I can attribute it only to an unknown law professor.

‘Law has no meaning or relevance outside of society. It both shapes and is shaped by the society in which it functions. Law is made by humans. It protects, controls, burdens and liberates humans, non-human animals, nature, and inanimate physical objects. Like the humans who make it, Law is biased, noble, aspirational, short-sighted, flawed, messy, unclear, brilliant, and constantly changing. ‘

In short, it is society that must change in a way that begins at the level of the individual, and as this must happen long before any legislative change can occur, the suggestion of animal use becoming illegal before then is a non-starter.

More questions than answers

There is a popular misconception of veganism as a menu option, a misconception fuelled by an increasingly sensationalist and mendacious media. It is frequently claimed that the ending and dismantling of the industries of nonhuman exploitation and use, is a massive and unnecessary inconvenience being proposed by a minority.  Let us be clear here. Whilst my focus is and will always be the injustice that we perpetrate upon those who are like us in every way but species, the adoption of veganism, or at least the plant diet that is a part of the ethic, is widely proclaimed by scientists and health authorities to be the only way that humanity and planet Earth have even the remotest chance of survival into the next century. Far from being an inconvenience, it is an escape route for a species that is in dangerous denial about its catastrophically destructive path.

Setting aside for one moment the health and environmental disasters directly attributable to animal use, questions frequently seek to gloss over what everyone knows and accepts about the way the world of supply and consumer demand actually works. 

Does the fact that it is convenient to do something automatically make it ethical or desirable?
Of course it doesn’t and no one would realistically claim otherwise.  With the wisdom that comes of hindsight we can now look back on massive institutions that at one time seemed unassailable. Opposition to them started out small and vehemently opposed, truth and rightness eventually swayed everyone to the cause and ways were found – as they always are – to cope with whatever challenges were faced in the dismantling of the institution. The slave trade was one such; so seemingly ingrained and entrenched in white culture that those who spoke against it were ridiculed and reviled. Opposition to nonhuman animal oppression and use, like opposition to human animal oppression and use, is a matter of justice and a rejection of the systemic violence that is inherent in any situation where one group dominates another by dis-empowering them and denying their inherent rights as sentient individuals.

Should progress and advancement due to technology, science and knowledge be discouraged, given that any such change is guaranteed to cause shifts in the industries that make their revenue from meeting consumer demand for currently available products?
Of course it doesn’t and no one would realistically claim otherwise. The development of the internal combustion engine in the 18th century is a prime example of a development that caused massive upheavals in industrial mechanisation, agriculture, transport and almost every other area imaginable. Although at the time there was, not surprisingly, opposition, resistance and suspicion amongst those whose livelihood depended on ‘the old ways’, development in this area continues and will continue, with the market adapting as required.

Should changes in consumer demand be restricted to ensure that workers in waning industries don’t have to seek alternative jobs?
Just in case it needs to be stated here, consumer demand is what drives industries of all kinds to supply products to meet that demand and in doing so they make money. That’s why suppliers do it – it’s not out of benevolence.  To see some of the comments about existing processes and procedures – particularly those in the animal exploitation industries – that are an essential part of meeting consumer demand, one could easily be excused for thinking that propping up unsustainable industries was somehow a civic duty, regardless of the ethics of unjustly ‘farming’ and butchering billions of sentient individuals, the cost to human health or looming environmental/climate destruction.

Smoke screen and health issues

The tobacco industry, with its roots reaching back into the 1500s, presents very close parallels to the animal use industries, both supplying substances harmful to humans, one in decline and the other teetering on the brink. Despite the availability of medical evidence in the form of thousands of reports and studies, the greatly diminished tobacco industry limps on, long after the direct link was made between smoking, lung disease and cancer. At first it fought against decline by a range of strategies that we see being re-enacted in current times, where conflicted interests sow confusion and doubt. The plight of our victims is not helped by the undeniable truth that even medical professionals, just like the smoking medical professionals of the mid 20th century, are slow to acknowledge the catastrophic harm that animal substances have on the human body.

If social media had existed during the mid-late 20th century when smoking was falling from favour and people were catching on to the fact that it causes cancer, I have no doubt that exactly the same prevarications would have been presented. I grew up during the 1970s and I have memories of hearing the ‘personal choice’, ‘everything in moderation’ and other declarations of resistance to change, from my contemporaries.  Many, including some who were very close to me, are now dead, having steadfastly exercised their ‘personal choice’ to early graves with lung disease, heart conditions and cancer.

Although I stopped long ago, smoking exacerbated my own undiagnosed health issues and only a transplant brought me back from the brink of certain death. Having experienced disability while juggling full-time work as a single parent with the looming prospect of leaving my children motherless, planning everything round my oxygen tanks and a grim prognosis, I learned an important lesson that few survive. Those who shrug and smile and say ‘something’s got to kill you’, who ignore the writing on the wall about their own health and take massive and avoidable risks with the health of their loved ones, have never really understood and internalised what it’s like to face imminent death.

As individuals, being reckless with our own lives is one thing but when the lives of others are at stake our responsibilities change.  If we include sentient aquatic creatures, trillions (yes, trillions) of lives – both human and nonhuman – are needlessly taken or jeopardised every year due to our obsession with harming other species, unnecessarily using and consuming their corpses and secretions, and shrugging with casual apathy as we increase the risk of killer diseases for our loved ones.

The world won’t go vegan overnight

A frequent question is based on the idea of an unthinkable number of animals who will ‘suddenly’ find themselves unwanted and apparently homeless because demand for their services and body parts has dried up overnight. So let’s address that next.

The world won’t go vegan overnight.

Yes, it’s true, and it’s the mantra of everyone who seeks to excuse continuing to harm members of other species. So, as the world won’t go vegan overnight (really, it won’t), falling demand will result in a reduction in supply. That’s what happens.

The global marketplace changes all the time. The development of computers signalled the end of the road for comptometers (remember them?), typewriters and other machines but we’re not inundated with unused ones that no one needed.  Air travel signalled the demise of shipping and rail for freight and intercontinental travel but the docks and train stations aren’t overflowing with unwanted trains and ocean-going vessels. Then there’s  the sophisticated electronic gadgetry we all love so much. Whole industries have died as a result of consumers keenly grasping the newest technology, tiny increasingly inexpensive gadgets that do away with our need for cumbersome and frequently expensive systems. We’re not struggling to know what to do with all our old games consoles and mobile phones the size of bricks from which technology has long since moved on. That’s the way demand and supply works. People move to something new, someone spots a market and supplies that demand. Someone else goes out of business and they seek out some new way to be profitable. It’s happening every day.

Who can predict the opportunities for new industries that will arise as the world shifts to veganism? We see the beginnings of this process now, with foods, clothing, toiletries, cosmetics and fabrics being aimed at the booming vegan consumer markets. We are an inventive species. We will always find ways to make money.

Just as we’re not inundated with supplies of every product that preceded the ones we currently use, the number of animals bred for our use will diminish. To suggest otherwise is a rather significant insult to those who farm the lives and bodies of sentient individuals. It implies that they would be insufficiently aware of shifting market demands to cut back on ‘production’ and diversify as demand tails away, and not for a moment would I suggest such a thing.

‘What do you think’s going to happen to them all?’

There’s a suggestion implicit in the idea of vast numbers of unwanted ‘farmed’ animals, that their reproduction is somehow a natural process and our use of their bodies for eggs, milk and body parts is some kind of fire-fighting that’s essential to keep down numbers and prevent the human population from being overwhelmed.

Stop interfering

588f493b63843-detail JAM AE

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality This image depicts the customary method of inseminating a cow. She is tethered and an arm is thrust into her rectum to hold her uterus steady so that the insemination rod in her vagina may be targeted accurately.

Unlike the cats and dogs that humans habitually abandon in their millions every year to fend for themselves, the reproductive processes of farmed animals are very tightly controlled. Unless specifically required for ‘breeding stock’, and even if they are to die at a young age, males of most species are castrated (without anaesthetic); much of insemination is done artificially, and at no time are males and females permitted to be together unless they are required to copulate to produce offspring as a new generation of commercial resources for the industry. With the advent of veganism, there would be no heroic measures needed to keep down numbers. All that would be required is to stop interfering, inseminating and controlling the reproduction of our victims whilst maintaining the segregation of males and females as numbers decline. A recent excellent and comprehensive work on the sexual exploitation of nonhuman animals by Karen Davis PhD is linked here for any who wish to explore this topic further.

Slaughtering

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Another subject that even those who are aware of the true scale of the bloodbath we create, find hard to get our heads round, is the number of individuals we slaughter every day. It’s impossible to factor in the trillions of aquatic creatures who are suffocated, clubbed, stabbed and gutted to death because statistics exist in terms of ‘weight’ rather than numbers.

However recent estimates of land animals place slaughter numbers at around 70 billion a year which is more than 7 times the entire global human population. That’s almost 192 million a day, almost 8 million an hour, over 133,000 a minute, over 2,000 per second. Can you imagine? Think of how many screams of agony have been ignored while you’ve been reading this. Think how much blood has flowed, how many have begged for their lives.

Taking the numbers as a purely mathematical exercise, these tell us that in order to sustain existing numbers of individuals ‘farmed’ to meet consumer demand, 2,000 per second are being brought into the world with their dates in the slaughterhouse planned in advance. Given that the world won’t go vegan overnight, reducing this number would rapidly erode the existing ‘stock’ of victims if slaughter rates were maintained.

Sunrise on a vegan world – the survivors

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.

~ Thomas Paine

Tied into how balancing interference and slaughter numbers would rapidly decrease the number of victims in existence for us to harm and kill, is the question of how long those dwindling few would be expected to live in a world where animal use at a lesser rate was still continuing.

Once again, it must be pointed out that no one realistically would have demanded a business plan for the next few centuries at the time of the industrial revolution, and it is similarly unrealistic to expect that the shift to veganism will be mapped out fully in advance of its occurrence. It needs to happen, so a way will be found. Having said that, it does no harm to remind ourselves that the members of nonhuman species whom we currently persecute are, without exception, young; and some are extremely young.

Species Slaughter age Potential lifespan of wild breeds
Male chicks (egg industry) 1 day Up to 8 years
Veal calves 1-24 weeks 15-20 years
Chickens (meat breeds) 5-7 weeks Up to 8 years
Ducks 7-8 weeks 6-8 years
Rabbits 10-12 weeks 8-12 years
Goats 12-20 weeks 12-14 years
Geese 15-20 weeks 8-15 years
Turkeys 4-5 months Up to 15 years
Pigs 5-6 months 10-12 years
Lambs 6-8 months 12-14 years
Beef cattle 18 months 15-20 years
Egg laying hens 18 months Up to 8 years
Pigs (breeding sows) 3-5 years 10-12 years
Dairy cows 4-6 years 15-20 years

For interest, I included in this list the original potential lifespans of the wild breeds from which our current victims are descended. As discussed earlier, most of those victim breeds have been tampered with to such an extent that their ability to survive for a period much beyond the age that we habitually slaughter them is greatly in doubt, a fact that every sanctuary provider who fights so heartbreakingly for the lives of their residents, knows only too well.

Either way, it seems very unlikely that significant numbers of former victims will live to find a vegan world agonising over how best to care for them.  Those who do will find they are valued for the individuals they are, rather than the cost per kilo of their secretions, eggs and body parts, and ways will be found to give sanctuary to them.

That day is the one that every vegan is living for, and come it must because if it does not, we, they, and the planet we share, are doomed.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Dairy: thoughts on motherhood, cultural conditioning and hope

Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality A new mother warily watches the humans while defensively standing over her newborn.

When we are not vegan and we hear the word ‘dairy’, what do we think of?  We think of milk and cream, of yogurt and crème frais, of butter and cheeses, and of ice cream and chocolate. We think of ingredients and commodities, divorced from their source, vaguely but cosily wrapped in feel-good ideas like ‘harmless’ and ‘humane’, ‘free range’, ‘grass fed’ and ‘organic’.

We are encouraged to think of dairy as a harmless substance and millions of pounds, millions of dollars are spent by a heavily subsidised industry every year on the most skilled marketers money can buy, who use high-profile advertising to keep us thinking that way. Once we become sensitised to the prevalence of the advertising promoting and normalising dairy use, it is truly breathtaking to note how widespread it is.  The advertising is carefully crafted with cheerful cartoon animals alongside bucolic depictions suggesting a ‘natural’, ‘healthy’ commodity, never mentioning that it is unnecessary for health, seemingly unperturbed by any trace of conscience regarding the disturbing and ever-increasing weight of medical science that tells a completely different tale.

Motherhood corrupted and sold

The irony is that none of the substances in the first sentence that we associate with the idea of ‘dairy’, are what dairy actually IS, and simply understanding that one piece of information has made so many of us turn away from the very concept in revulsion. So what’s dairy?  In a word, ‘motherhood’.

Many of us are mothers ourselves, and most of those who aren’t, belong to a culture where the status of motherhood is valued, and mothers deeply respected. Which makes it almost unbelievable that ‘dairy’, this commodity that so many of us use with casual disregard for its source, is nothing other than motherhood, exploited, corrupted and sold for profit.

Dairy is the impregnation of female mammals followed by the removal of their infants so that the lactation their bodies produce for these infants may be pumped out and sold for use by humans.

That is the fundamental principle of dairy. All the feel-good words in the world can’t and don’t change that fact, they can only cover it up or cloak it in apparent benevolence. We can set the practice in a factory farm, a ‘family’ farm, an organic, free range feel-good farm; it can take place in barns or in feedlots or rolling pastures. We can feed our victims grass or any substance that keeps them alive until we’re ready to send them to the slaughter house that will be their only escape, but the fundamental principle remains. That is what dairy IS.

When as consumers we pick up that carton of milk, butter or cheese, we have been taught from childhood to see only a faceless commodity. We can, however, choose to reject that cultural conditioning, can consciously look past the ‘product’. If we were to do so, we might see in our mind’s eye, the two pairs of despairing eyes whose grief, terror and traumatic separation was the unseen and unavoidable cost of the pristine package in our hand. Acknowledging these faces, every single one of whom is condemned to death by our personal demands as a consumer, is a sobering experience.

There are two pairs of eyes because dairy is the exploitation of motherhood followed by the destruction of the bond between mother and infant. No matter how those with vested interests seek to justify their actions, it is anything but ‘natural’ and the truth goes against everything that most of us already believe in. Yet every one of us has, at one time, been keen to accept the ‘justifications’, no matter how contradictory they are, in order to make us feel comfortable with our own status as consumers generating demand for ‘products’ that we want to buy and use without feeling guilt.

The justification of vested interest

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.

~ Thomas Paine

Those who make their living from harming animals for us to consume as a completely unnecessary ‘food’, even if they are aware of it, are not in any way motivated to acknowledge the sentience of our victims, the injustice of what we are paying them to do and the very real risks they pose to our health. Just as consumers have been raised to be oblivious to the moral implications of their choices, it seems clear that the majority of those who supply these consumer choices are similarly oblivious. Livelihoods depend on everyone remaining that way.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

~ Upton Sinclair

By those who perpetrate the interventions, there is a soothing ‘explanation’ for every single practice that is carried out. There is likewise a swiftness to dismiss and close down any probing, accusing the enquirers of being ‘out of touch’, ‘unrealistic’, ‘ignorant’ and so on, the forcefulness of the retaliation depending on the insistence of the enquirer.

The justifications are many and varied, and just like the arguments against veganism, it would really be impossible to list every one.  However it is not necessary for any one of us to know them all, just as it is not necessary or even desirable for anyone to provide us with details of what to think about any given subject. One of the greatest gifts that any of us can give to another, is to point out the mechanisms by which their views are being manipulated and then stand back and let their own thoughts unfold and untangle, freed from the restrictions placed on them by marketers, cultural conditioning and commercial interests.

Whilst the separation of mothers used for dairy and their infants (cows, goats, sheep and others) is a fact that is never broadcast by those who make their living by participating in the industries that meet consumer demand for substances predicated upon this process, there are a number of standard responses that I’ve seen wheeled out to quickly shut down any who seek to question the reasons for it. I’ve heard many of these in my sixty years, and to my shame as a former consumer, I not only used to find them reassuring , but they used to be effective in switching off my concern. Now that doesn’t work. Once we know something it becomes impossible to un-know it. From a variety of sources, I’ve heard and read things like:

Cows are terrible mothers /they don’t even notice they’ve had a baby / they might stand on the calves/they are separated for hygiene
Except that statistically, a cow defending her calf is amongst the most dangerous of farmed animals. Except that in keeping with all the other species that we habitually use for unnecessary ‘food’, the circumstances of existence as a commercial resource whose rights as a living, sentient individual are not even acknowledged, necessitates conditions that are completely unnatural, and that – not surprisingly – place them all at high risk of disease and injury. Drug use to counter risks and boost production in all areas of nonhuman use, is increasingly well known and documented, as are the grave risks posed to human health by antibiotic resistance and cross species transmission of disease.

It should also be noted that research confirms that separation is deeply traumatic for both mother and infant, and in the case of cows is greater the longer they are together, due to their strengthening bond. Terrible mothers. Clearly.

Cows want to be impregnated, they mimic mating behaviour
Except that in keeping with all other female mammals, mothers used in the dairy industry experience cycles affecting their reproductive systems. Unlike humans who participate in recreational sex, every few weeks a female mammal of many other species will experience a short period when she may be responsive to the mating advances of a male of her species. The notion that these biological cycles indicate that she ‘wants to be impregnated’, is completely anthropomorphic and there is no evidence to suggest that any ‘wanting’ takes place. Neither is it morally justifiable to inseminate her for the commercial use of her reproductive process, either by introducing her to a male or by the more common method of restraining in order to use arms and implements in her vaginal and rectal passages to inject semen obtained by an equally interventional procedure** from a male.

The infants are given special/individual care /they are loved like family.
You know, it always amazed me that so many calves were orphaned at birth – which is what I used to think long ago when I saw the images of bottle feeding. Such naivety was so much more comfortable than the truth.  If we were talking about kittens or puppies, our ‘favourite’ species, being taken from their mothers at a mere *24 hours of age instead of the recommended  8 – 12 weeks, we would be incredulous.

And on the other point, well, they say you always hurt the ones you love, but I do make a point never to eat them.

Talking about ‘natural’

As someone who has actually given birth, I know about the process at first hand and it’s a messy business, but it’s also a time when primal instincts that I was unaware of possessing, seemed very close to the surface. Supported by hospital staff, I was glad for their help, but also aware that at a deep level, my body already knew what to do.

Dismissing the competence of nonhuman animals to mother their own infants now seems to me to be an extreme arrogance for a species that first began to domesticate other animals a mere moment in time ago, from an evolutionary perspective. 12,000 years of gradually increasing exploitation has built to a crescendo in recent decades, an unholy orgy of bloodshed, brutalising other species, laying waste to the planet we share with them, and killing ourselves with the diseases caused by inappropriate ‘food’.  It beggars belief that our species now postulates that many other species, despite managing absolutely fine in the eons that their ancestors lived wild and free without our aid, are now so hopelessly inept that they allegedly require our midwifery and childcare for their very existence. We’re told it’s about ‘welfare’ and ‘compassion’, but when we really stop and consider it, all we need to do is follow the money and apply common sense.

Once again in the case of our dairy victims we have the benevolent midwife scenario. Following the money and applying common sense leads inescapably to the realisation that both mother and infant are commercial assets (the mother more so than the infant who was in fact just a tool to induce lactation); they are business resources being used to make money and generate profit. Medical treatment is costly and undesirable as it reduces potential profit.  Any and every business will risk assess and maintain the assets required to optimise their financial gains. No one would claim to ‘love like family’ a fleet of vans, machinery on a factory floor or the contents of a warehouse. To those with interests in making money from their use, ‘livestock‘ (there’s a clue in the name) are in this same category and while ‘caring’ talk undoubtedly softens up some uncritical consumers, ‘love’, from the perspective of the helpless victims, is in very short supply.

To quote the late Tom Regan, in his work The Case for Animal Rights,

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.

Believing what we want to believe

Why is it that we are so quick to accept without challenge or critical thought, almost anything we are told about those species that we wish to continue to harm, to exploit, to kill and consume for no reason other than self interest? Why is it that if we were told the same thing about humans or any species that we consider to be ‘pets’, we would immediately spot the self-serving inconsistencies?

The truth is that not one of us actually likes to think of ourselves as inflicting devastating and gratuitous violence and death on innocent and defenceless creatures and we strongly resist any suggestion that we are.  What we are on the look-out for is reassurance that appears to legitimise and excuse the actions we currently take. Reassurance makes us feel good about ourselves, and means we don’t face any moral conflict that might render us obliged to face the trivial inconvenience of changing our behaviour. When we find that reassurance, no matter how unlikely it is, no matter how inconsistent or illogical it is, many will grasp it with relief. It’s a phenomenon called ‘confirmation bias’. For many, the finding of confirmation that apparently supports our own opinions, ends our search. We reinforce our personal barriers to truth, self-congratulate and carry on with our past support of use and harm. The only difference is that now we are reassured and convinced that what we’re supporting is ethical.

Are we worth it?

For our defenceless victims, hope comes in the form of campaigns such as Go Vegan World.  In posters and words, with links to a comprehensive website, this particular campaign in the UK and Ireland is presenting the unpalatable truth to consumers in those venues and media that were previously the unrivalled domain of those with something to sell, but here we are witnessing the advent of a new era.

Social media is awash with information, ***with a number of excellent sites and pages providing links to superb quality information, explaining in detail why, and indeed how, we can all be vegan. In the age of Google, it has never been easier to seek out and find information.

With nothing to sell and nothing personal to gain except justice for humanity’s victims, vegan advocacy is setting new precedents. Unflinchingly calling for an end to our needless use of other individuals, such advocacy in the form of campaigns, pages and websites offer everyone they can reach, the opportunity to inform themselves about the heartbreaking reality that underpins their nonvegan consumer choices, offering the chance to make informed decisions about how our shared values are reflected in the way we live. We are invited to consider whether our new awareness of a twilight world of nonhuman misery fits with the vision that most of us have of ourselves as people who stand against oppression, who believe in justice, and who are strongly opposed to anything that inflicts needless harm on the defenceless.

In the end of the day, the question we must each ask of ourselves is, ‘Am I worth the terrible and unavoidable consequences of my nonvegan choices?’

My answer to that question made me become vegan. Let yours do the same.

Be vegan.

 

 

Links for further interest:

*In the UK separation 12 – 24 hours after birth is the time upheld by industry’s highest ‘welfare’ standards for cows (other species have different standards, as in fact do other countries where in some cases immediate separation is the norm, before a mother may even lick her infant).

**Interspecies Sexual Assault, a superb analysis by Karen Davis  of the exploitation of other animals on which all use of them is predicated https://www.animalliberationcurrents.com/interspecies-sexual-assault/

***Suggested sites to check out
Go Vegan Scotland
South Florida Vegan Education Group
Vegan Starter Kit
How To Go Vegan
Legacy of Pythagoras

 

Posted in Advocacy, dairy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

This wonderful life

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurattsalliansen

So often, I see claims that in causing our victims to exist by our contrivance and intervention, we are bestowing some gift on them that they would otherwise not have. When I hear this, I think of the 60-70 billions each year of innocent young individuals whose violent, slaughterhouse deaths are timed to meet consumer demand for their corpses, for their milk, for their eggs, skins and body parts. Reduced to resources, without rights or respect, nameless and unloved, they are regarded as no more than cogs in a wheel, the measured moments of their existence commercially calculated, financially optimised well in advance of the forced violation that conceives them. This is not life. We impose an existence to be endured for our self interest, but it is not life or any kind of ‘gift’.

For ourselves we all know that life is so much more than the measure of time, the breath moving in our lungs and a clock ticking down until we die.

Think of it, this one precious life that each of us has, its length unknown, into which we must fit all of our experiences, our achievements, our times of happiness and joy, our bonds with family and friends, the loves of our lives and the griefs of parting and loss. We each cling to life, desperate not to miss a single moment, grieving when our close ones can no longer walk alongside us on our path, hoarding our glittering memories of the good times, so that we may take them out and remember them once again in times of solitude or sadness. It is impossible to place a value on how much our lives mean to us. Each life is beyond price, beyond measurement. It means everything to each of us, as too, do the lives of our children, our partners, our friends. Without life, we have nothing.

We are not unique, this is part of our sentience, of our self awareness, of the way we relate to the world through our senses and our relationships with others. Each one of us is the same, and when a life is taken that we have no need or reason to take, we have no word that expresses the enormity of our outrage.

Yet every nonvegan choice is a decision to take life from another individual who values that life every bit as much as we each do. We do it casually through our choices as consumers, while claiming that we care for our helpless victims to shield us from the truth of our brutality. We excuse ourselves with a smile and a shrug. They’re not like us. It’s okay. Everyone does it. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.

But we are lying to ourselves. We all know that difference alone is no justification for needless harm.  And it IS needless. We can thrive without doing it, a fact we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge.

To truly value and respect life is to refuse to continue using the lives and bodies of defenceless mothers, fathers, infants, friends of other species. The ONLY way we can recognise and respect their right to life as we understand it, is to be vegan.

Why not start today?

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What’s the point? A personal reflection.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Sheep looking through a fence in a sale yard.

‘What’s the point of going vegan? One person can’t make any difference.’

Familiar words that attempt to justify continuing to cause devastating harm to those around us who are defenceless against our brute force and technology. It’s also an attempt to ignore the fact that each of us, personally, is unavoidably responsible for the inevitable consequences of our demands as consumers.

Every one of us likes to think of ourselves as an individual, as our own person; as someone who determines their own values and behaviour. We all strive to be someone who can hold up their head and feel good – not necessarily by comparing ourselves to others – but by meeting our own expectations and standards. For most of us, it is unlikely that we will change the world. I definitely won’t and probably neither will you. However that does not define who we are.

Once we become aware of the deep injustice that is the basis of all our use of nonhuman individuals, when we acknowledge the sickening violence, the unspeakable horror and the heartbreaking misery that are the inevitable consequences of our unhealthy and unnecessary obsession with harming and slaughtering defenceless and innocent individuals, there is one thing each of us can definitely do. We can draw a line in the sand. Each one of us can say, ‘That’s enough. I will not be part of that nightmare for even one more day’.

We may not be able to change the world but we can change ourselves. Each one of us can stride beyond that line in the sand, meet our own eyes in the mirror and know that we’re doing our best to live up to the standards we set for ourselves. One person CAN make a difference. One person can make a difference in the way they live their own life by becoming vegan.

And from there, the future is up to each of us; we can spread the vegan message in every way we can devise, or at the very least we can stop condoning and approving the destructive behaviour of others.

Each new vegan is a victory for our persecuted victims, the only kind of victory that carries hope of a future where they will be valued for the unique individuals they are, rather than for the pitiless use we can make of their lives and their bodies. That is definitely worth something.

Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Who are the REAL victims?

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

It a simple statement of fact that our victims are sentient, that they value their lives and that we have no need to use them because every use requires that their right to live unharmed is overruled in favour of the convenience and indulgence of our species.

Today, reading comments. opinion pieces and articles on social media, a thought occurred to me. It seems that any statement of support for animal rights, the moment it is articulated, becomes an ‘attack’. Not only does putting nonhuman animals front and centre become an attack, but the ‘victims’ of the perceived attack are all desperate to draw attention to themselves as the one(s) subjected to the worst degree of offence.

Suddenly there are editorials and comments reacting angrily that this is anti-freedom-of-choice, anti-farming, anti-animal-consumers, and ‘getting at’ those who wish to continue to unnecessarily harm animals in various ways. Apparently it’s even anti – people who identify themselves as vegans but are facing challenges sourcing various consumer products.

The thing that needs to be said is that being pro-nonhuman animals does not automatically mean being anti-anyone. Because guess what? It’s not about us. Any of us. The humans and their organisations and institutions clamouring and waving their hands in outrage at the back of the room are not victims.

The position of ‘victims’ has already been filled more than adequately by almost 70 billion sentient land based individuals each year, with additional uncounted trillions of aquatic creatures. The position of ‘victim’ comes with an automatic death sentence after an existence as a resource, a commodity and a commercial asset. All our species faces, at the worst, is the inconvenience of re-learning how to live and to make consumer choices that align with the values that we already think we have. In the grand scheme of things, I know which role I’d rather fill.

Perhaps it should also be noted that if we consider that the first paragraph of this essay is a personal attack, then it may well come from the voice of our conscience. When I was young, there was a saying, ‘If the cap fits, wear it’. Be vegan.

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