Compassion and kindness; not what we need to ask for

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality

The words ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion’ are not what we should be asking for when advocating for the rights of our victims. I can almost hear the gasps of indignation and keyboards warming up already, but please bear with me.

Let me just be absolutely clear. There is nothing wrong with the words ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ or their related adjectives and other parts of speech, when they are used in the correct context. Kindness and compassion in response to others’ suffering are qualities to be encouraged and admired and the world could do with seeing a lot more of them.

However. When we are advocating for the rights of those annual 74 billion land individuals and almost 3 trillion aquatic creatures whom our species persecutes and slaughters without cause or conscience, it is vital to ensure that we use unambiguous words when calling for recognition of their rights. Words that mean different things to different people (subjective words) are the first words that we have to leave out of advocacy. This is not because I’m pedantic; rather it stems from an acute awareness that what we think we’re saying is often far removed from what our audience thinks we’re saying.

So for a start,  the words ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ are completely subjective. My idea of being ‘kind’ and yours are probably completely different, as are my idea of ‘compassion’ and yours. And for every person we meet that is likely to be the case; different things to different people. In addition to this, both words skirt right round the heart of the issue and as such, are words best left well out of our advocacy. I shall return to this point in a minute but first I’d like to share a story.

Crying out for kindness and compassion

This evening I read an article about a man who was homeless. The article described how, in the early hours of a bitter morning with the temperature 16 degrees below freezing, the man had sought refuge in a metro station for himself and his beloved canine companion. He was desperate and panic-stricken because they had absolutely no place to go to escape the lethal cold. The metro was closed but two staff who were there, refused to let him in. Some hours later, his much loved companion, wrapped in blankets and cradled in his arms, succumbed to the freezing night and died.

I’m sure most of us would agree that it would have been an act of compassion for the staff to have given shelter to the pair. It would have been kind for them to have helped. We can all anticipate that they would likely have got into trouble from their employers for breaking  the rules and indeed the article goes on at length to seek to exonerate the decision of the staff and the authorities whose rules they were obeying. But I’m confident that every one of us likes to think we’re the kind of people who would have done the decent thing in that life or death situation, and to hell with the consequences.

In this situation, instead of turning their backs, the staff could have just taken the pair in under cover, or they could have provided some heat, maybe a cup of tea or soup, water for the dog. They could have provided more blankets, something to eat for the two of them and so on. Again we all are likely to have our own ideas about what would have constituted kindness and compassion, because the words mean different things to each of us.

But equally, although we may be critical of their judgement, it is very unlikely that the employees concerned actually did anything that was technically wrong in terms of their rules and regulations. The staff in the metro had not caused the predicament of the man who had no home or that of his beloved companion. They were not responsible for his desperate situation. They were just there in a place at a time when they could have made a bad situation a whole lot better.  But when all is said and done, no one is likely to prosecute them for what they did, particularly considering that the law regarded the individual who died as the ‘property’ of the man who was homeless in the same way as the blankets he was wrapped in. Here we have a situation where no actual wrongdoing occurred despite the fact that we all have an idea what we would have liked to see happen.

So why aren’t calls for ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ enough in advocacy?

So why is compassion and kindness okay in that context but not in the context of animal advocacy? The first point is that the staff who could have shown kindness and compassion had neither caused the situation nor were they responsible for it.

I mentioned earlier that both words skirt right round the heart of the issue, so what IS this heart of the issue? As advocates for the victims of our species, we are speaking to the very people who are actually causing the situation that our victims are facing and are directly responsible for it through their consumer demands. By simply asking for ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’, we avoid pointing out this most obvious of truths.

We also reinforce the narrative we all used to cling to at one time in seeking to justify our imaginary right to use the lives and broken bodies of other individuals. We all used to think that the problem was being caused by someone else, somewhere else. By asking for ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ without addressing this, we are allowing our audience to remain in denial as to their own pivotal role in the horrors being inflicted on their victims. Not only that, but we are using subjective words that do not specify what form this ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion’ absolutely must take.

So what form must this action take? The first thing we should be asking those who are directly responsible for the brutal use of members of other animals species through their consumer demands, is to stop doing it.

‘Compassion’ and ‘kindness’ do not lead to the understanding that every individual has the right to live without being intentionally harmed for our trivial interests at catastrophic cost to their own; they avoid mentioning that when we are not vegan, we are the ones who are doing this and that we need to STOP.

‘Compassion’ and ‘kindness’ do not lead to the realisation that members of other animals species value their lives as much as I value mine or you value yours, they avoid mentioning that that we are the ones who are using and taking those treasured lives in milking parlours, egg farms, slaughterhouses and labs when we are not vegan and that we need to STOP.

‘Compassion’ and ‘kindness’ fail to highlight the profound atrocity of exploiting the reproduction of defenceless mothers for their breast milk and eggs, the obscenity of slaughtering innocent families, the monstrosity of trading in corpses, in eggs and in body parts when every single thing that we do is unnecessary; they avoid mentioning that we are the ones who are demanding the death and violence through our consumer choices when we are not vegan and that we need to STOP.

‘Compassion’ and ‘kindness’ are words that focus on ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves and others without addressing the underlying responsibility for the actions that our shopping choices are demanding. As a non vegan for decades who was brimming  over with ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’, I know for a certainty that they are words that do not lead to veganism, only education about veganism does that.

So what words to use?

As advocates we are defending the most fundamental rights of our species’ victims; the right to live unharmed, the right not to be regarded as property and a resource simply because they differ from us. Because we have brute force and technology on our side and a horrific predisposition to violence, first and foremost, on  behalf of our victims, we must ask those who brutalise them to realise what they’re doing. And then we must ask them to stop.

‘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

The bloodbath needs to stop because it’s deeply unjust. It needs to stop because our victims are sentient inhabitants of our shared planet who have as much right to live unharmed as we do ourselves; whose lives matter to them every bit as much as our own matter to us.

Whereas ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ focus on ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves and others, words like ‘justice’ and ‘rights’ are words that simply focus on the big issues of right and wrong. These are words that focus on those who are being persecuted. They’re humble words that speak to our conscience rather than our ego. They’re sincere words, honest words, and they shine with truth.

Truth is our greatest ally in the battle against the tide of gore and misery that nonveganism causes. Our first task is to shine a light on the truth so that those who are demanding the bloodshed can appreciate the role they are playing in the nightmare. Our second task is to be absolutely clear that the outrage of nonveganism is an affront to the values that every single one of us believes that we hold.  Having done that, we need to ask for it to stop, while still remembering that most of us were not always vegan; offering others any guidance and support that we might have appreciated ourselves when that lightbulb moment happened to us and we decided that we could not live another day without becoming vegan.

‘I am not well-versed in theory, but in my view, the cow deserves her life. As does the ram. As does the ladybug. As does the elephant. As do the fish, and the dog and the bee; as do other sentient beings. I will always be in favor of veganism as a minimum because I believe that sentient beings have a right not to be used as someone else’s property. They ask us to be brave for them, to be clear for them, and I see no other acceptable choice but to advocate veganism.’

~ Vincent Guihan, vegan author

We can do all that and we can still be kind and compassionate people throughout.

Be vegan.

 

 

Compassion is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
Kindness is the quality of being gentle, caring, and helpful.

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On trusting experts

When we are new to the world, parents and carers feed and clothe us. Most of us have little idea what we are eating, drinking, wearing or using. As children we lack even the ability to grasp the brutality of the systems that provide us with dead animals, the breast milk of four-legged mothers and the eggs of small hens bred to lay themselves to death. If we ask, the question is evaded or answered with half-truths. I’m a mother who was not always vegan so I know this. We get out of the way of questioning, because we are constantly reassured.

Looking up to our elders and the vast knowledge that they seem to have, nature programmes us to trust them. They are not always right but they do what they think is best because they want nothing more than our well being, care for nothing more than our health.

Comforting our concerns

When we grow and become adult, most of us STILL have little idea what we are eating, drinking, wearing or using. As adults the world has taught us concepts that allow us to grasp the brutality of the systems that provide us with dead animals, the breast milk of four-legged mothers and the eggs of small hens bred to lay themselves to death. We understand the concept of injustice when applied to our own species. We identify with it, and with the view of ourselves as ‘good people’.

But our use of members of the other animal species is so widespread that we doubt ourselves when we contemplate what is done to them to facilitate our use. ‘Such horror simply cannot exist; it’s inconceivable’. And as our thoughts fill with snatches of words that we’ve heard without understanding, words like ‘laws’, like ‘humane’, and like ‘welfare’, our momentary questions subside as we go back to the comfort of days when our mothers reassured us that all was well.

All grown up?

And now as adults, if we ask, our questions are still evaded and answered with half-truths – or even lies. This time they come from the individuals, the advertisers, and the vast businesses that provide us with dead animals, the breast milk of four-legged mothers and the eggs of small hens bred to lay themselves to death.

Professing expertise and arcane knowledge, chiding us for daring to question them, patronising our ‘foolish’ concern, the vast, powerful and influential industries that trade in slaughterhouse-tainted atrocities, deflect our enquiries with the deft skill of long practice.

And we fall into old habits of trusting those who tell us they know best, the ‘experts’. ‘Yes, experts know best’, we nod, reassured.

Only this time, we are trusting those who need to deceive us; those whose sole concern is their own commercial interests. This time, our ‘experts’ are those who are making an endless supply of defenceless victims to sell to us. We are trusting those who want nothing more than our money. We are trusting those who are committing atrocities in our name. And most tragically of all, we are trusting them to do what they do in a way that allows us to still feel good about ourselves.

Follow the money

It’s past time to ask questions. It’s long past time to challenge. For the sake of our trillions of annual victims, for ourselves and our beautiful planet, it’s time to stop trusting those who trade in brutality in return for our money. We cannot turn our backs on the things that are done in our name; the things that are done so that we can buy dead animals, the breast milk of four-legged mothers and the eggs of small hens bred to lay themselves to death to put in our shopping trolleys.

When we stop paying for dead animals, the breast milk of four-legged mothers and the eggs of small hens bred to lay themselves to death, there will no longer be money to be made from this sickening bloodbath and it will stop.

We can do this. We have to because everything depends on it now. Be vegan.

Posted in Awakening to veganism, consumer demand | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Halloween – a spooky tale

Here comes Halloween again, with putrefying corpses, clanking chains and the tormented screams of the damned. Adults and children alike, scream and giggle with spooky delight, their nervous shivers of horror heightened by icy frissons of fear and chilly unease while ghouls and the unquiet dead leave their mouldering graves and strike fear into all.

But wait. Why should anyone need to confine this thrill of excitement to a single night of the year, when we can have it every single day and night, throughout the year? All it takes is a slight shift in perception and it’s all there waiting for those who enjoy that sort of thing. Just think on this…

All day every day, defenceless and terrified creatures whose only desperate wish is to live unharmed, are trucked on transports and in crates to the slaughterhouses that ‘prepare’ them for our shopping trolleys. Every week of the year over a billion terrified innocents, their legs scarcely able to hold them for fear, are manhandled and goaded into pens and lines, to wait in gut-churning horror for their turn with the chains and the blades and the saws.

Because they are sentient, as we are, they know only too well the peril of their plight, blood pounding in terrified hearts as they listen to the high pitched screaming; screaming so desperate as to be almost soundless with the sickening pain of their bleeding, their seared and scalded, electrified flesh, screams distorted by the gurgling of blood in hacked throats, screams of mind-numbing terror, screams wrenched from the panicking hearts of their friends, of their family, as the grating torment of their agony weaves a cacophony in counterpoint to the dismembering saws and machines.

There is the sound of despair, of liquid terror gushing and spurting down legs that are quaking too hard to stand. There is the clamour of frantic pleading, of whimpering, of sobbing, of hooves on metal walkways, feet kicking and scrabbling for purchase, struggling to go back, to get away, to hide, to be anywhere but in this place that smells of death and blood; this place that smells of hell.

Yes, every day behind the scenes of our non-vegan ‘choices’ are the clanking chains, the tormented screams of the damned, and very much more besides. There is more horror than a lifetime of Halloweens encapsulated within every single non vegan choice.  And for what? The putrefying body parts, the fluids, the breast milk and the eggs that are marketed to us as ‘fresh’. They are indeed fresh – from Hell.

So when we are not vegan, we are paying to have Halloween, not the phoney consumer extravaganza but the real horror of Halloween, inflicted on defenceless innocents every day. To savour the spooky thrill, all we need to do is simply walk through the mortuary aisles of any supermarket. The chill in the air, the smell of death, the miasma of putrefaction – it’s there all the time. All we need to do is close our eyes and breathe deep, to find ourselves there in that slaughterhouse.

And on the day the ‘thrill’ just gets too much to bear, we do have a choice. We can make the decision to stop paying for the torment of innocents and can say, ‘Not in my name’.

That’s the day we become vegan. Be vegan. Today.

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Twelve years. Twelve.

With the latest reputable science predicting a maximum of 12 years before climate change becomes completely unstoppable no matter what we do, there is literally no time left to mince words.

The use of sentient individuals for ‘meat’ (their dead flesh), ‘dairy’ (their breast milk products), their eggs and other body parts, is not some community-spirited labour of love which should be propped up and subsidised by governments using the public purse.

Bringing defenceless creatures into the world for the sole purpose of making money from using them to death, an activity euphemistically known as ‘farming’, is a business; it exists to make money, wields breathtaking political and financial influence and is unscrupulous in its advertising and self-promotion.  Despite this, at its heart it is driven by consumer demand as all supply businesses are.

Science has clearly shown that we have no need to consume other individuals and that such behaviour is associated with disease and ill-health. Environmental alarm bells have been ringing for years, but finally the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet, has clearly demonstrated that we simply must stop our irresponsible and unsustainable activities or face the dire and inevitable consequences.

No need to panic ..?

We belong to a culture numbed into apathy by a media where propaganda mouthpieces broadcast their vested interests alongside reputable journalism; a world where popular ‘newspapers’ are owned by the wealthy and privileged and used openly to shape and influence public opinion; a society that eagerly snaps up all forms of media that provoke interest and sales by false sensationalism. The result of exposure to the endless and unfounded sensationalism is that many of us now find it difficult to recognise true peril when we hear of it.

Yet here we are, as the year 2018 draws to its close. Along with every single member of our species, we have all reached a crisis point in our lives; a time when our own future, that of our children, and of the entire planet  as we know it, is hanging in the balance. Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, we are facing what may quite literally be the beginning of the end of life on this planet.

It begins and ends with us

Our species is needlessly killing 74 billion land-based and an estimated 2.7 trillion aquatic victims every year. As individual consumers, we are responsible for this bloodbath with every purchase we make and we no longer have time to wait for those who make money from animal use to hold up their hands and admit what is destroying the world and endangering us all. In another few years it’s truly going to be too late and I can guarantee there will be no comfort in blaming corporations and industries for what we should have acted upon ourselves. Indeed, it all comes down to us in the end.

So what do we need to do?

This is the age of Google. We all need to check out the facts and then act – as individuals.

There’s no denying that we need to be more responsible in almost every area of our lives but the single most significant step is the one we all say we believe in anyway; the one that allows us to live in line with the values we all claim to have. We all like to think of ourselves as decent and honourable; people who take a stand against injustice and defend those who are defenceless and innocent. It makes us feel good when we consider that these values apply to us. However, when we’re not vegan, they don’t. It’s really that simple; being vegan is simply becoming the people we actually think we are already.

By rediscovering the humanity that we lost as a species so long ago, and by respecting our needless victims and becoming vegan, we may yet save ourselves and our world, but time is running desperately short.

Be vegan.

So much depends on it. Everything, in fact.

 

For all the most accurate information on the planetary crisis, see: https://www.truthordrought.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/truthordrought

Global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report
Huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown
Avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

 

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On living our values

It is not necessary for human animals to use other animals for any reason, and only those unaware of the science, or those who have a vested financial interest in keeping us from realising the truth, will tell us different.

Does it change them?

When a declaration is made that an individual was ‘bred for eating’, or ‘bred for eggs’ or ‘bred for milk’, does that change something about that individual?

How could it? Although WE may decide that our conscience is easier if we think of them as nothing but a thing and a resource, they remain who they are; still unique, still sentient, still experiencing their existence through senses that match our own; still sharing bonds with their family and friends just as we do ourselves. They think, they breathe, their hearts pump the blood round bodies that seek to avoid pain. They feel.

Does it change us?

So if it doesn’t change our victims, does the declaration change us; does it mean that we cease to be responsible for our own actions? Most of us would be quick to claim say that we are our own masters, and would never be manipulated to act against our own deep-rooted values of fairness and decency.

So what does it change?

So although it is completely unnecessary for us to harm other animals in any way, does the declaration that an individual was ‘bred for eating’, or ‘bred for eggs’ or ‘bred for milk, make it mean that using, mutilating, and slaughtering that individual becomes the right thing to do? Does such a declaration make it mean that we can betray our victims’ utter dependence on us for their well being and protection by using, mutilating, and slaughtering them, without needing to feel any guilt?

Of course it doesn’t. Certainly it’s much easier not to even think about the consequences of our actions. Possibly it’s more comfortable to pretend that those who sell broken bodies and lives to us are making sure that our values are respected while they are doing all these things that we’ve decided not to think about. However it’s the stuff of purest fantasy if we really imagine for a moment that their aim is any more noble than to get hold of our cash – by any means necessary.

Declaration of intent to hurt and rob others of the life they love, the life that matters to them so very much, can never change the responsibility each of us has to live true to our own deepest values; that we have no right to cause needless harm to those who are vulnerable and defenceless.

Our choice; their lives. Be vegan.

Posted in consumer demand, Sentience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The property status of animals

Today I’ve been sharing posts and images about the aftermath of the latest hurricane in Carolina; sharing the stark aerial photographs of what have become flooded tombs for millions of defenceless individuals whose lives and bodies were being ‘farmed’ to satisfy the consumer demand for their broken lives that is regarded as ‘normal’ in this world of ‘animal lovers’.

It’s clear that for many these images are a real shock. There is horror and outrage and grief. There is frustration and anger and demands to know how this could be happening, as the toll of the dead creeps upwards from the 3.4 million (3,400,000) chickens and turkeys, and 5,500 pigs acknowledged in the media some 18 hours ago.

The post on social media read as follows:

I understand the frustration expressed by so many that the imprisoned animals who are still drowning as I write, were not given even the dignity of being released to at least try to fend for themselves.

The reason this doesn’t and will never happen is because these individuals are business assets and resources in the view of those who use them to make money. They are property in the eyes of the law and the insurance companies.

That’s what we are buying into when we use our consumer power to demand broken bodies and broken lives. Our use of them is a declaration that we do not consider their interests to be worth recognising. We do not consider them deserving of their own lives.

Those who own the sites where the animals drowned will be able to make insurance claims for ‘assets’ lost ‘in production’, just as any of us would make a claim for property damaged or lost in a flood. And in the same way that our claim would be invalid if we had moved our property out of our house, those who use sentient individuals to meet consumer demands would invalidate their claims if they set their ‘assets’ free.

It’s all about money and consumer demand. We can buy into that, or we can be vegan.

Giving meaning to the words

The phrase that sits in the pit of my stomach and makes me feel sick, is ‘the property status of animals’. And it occurs to me that many – even amongst those who are vegan – had never before fully appreciated all the terrible implications of this phrase. It’s one that many activists, including myself, have used – but it’s clear from the stunned reactions I’m witnessing that not everyone has recognised the true meaning of the words; what it truly means to be ‘property’ in a disaster.

This, then, is the reality for 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 accord themselves in this world that our species is destroying with greed and ignorance.

‘The property status of animals’ is a phrase with very real and utterly predictable consequences that are as sickening as they are inevitable. These consequences lead directly from our commitment to eat flesh, eggs and breast milk, to use and enslave other beings as resources and commodities for what – as it is completely unnecessary – can never be anything more dignified than a trivial and superficial indulgence, no matter how we seek to justify ourselves with talk about being ‘humane’ and ‘compassionate‘.

But they shouldn’t be hurt! Be ‘humane’ and ‘compassionate’!

Such words mean nothing at all once we have decided that the life of another sentient being has no value other than to indulge our non-essential interests; once we have decided their desperate wish to live unharmed and in peace is an irrelevance. Words that seek to make us appear concerned about the treatment of our unnecessary victims are at best an attempt to salve our conscience while we keep our eyes averted from the queues of defenceless young individuals in our slaughterhouses to satisfy the demands that we are making as consumers.

‘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.’

Property – what it means and where it leads

The fact that our victims are property – like trucks and furniture and machines – in the eyes of the law, underlines and emphasises that whatever the rhetoric of feigned love and concern that we hear from those whose businesses may lose money because their assets have been abandoned, starved, deprived of fresh water and ultimately drowned before their commercial value was recouped from the slaughterhouse, those whom our consumer demands have designated as resources have no protection in law whatsoever.

The following link to a talk by Lesli Bisgould, Canada’s first animal rights lawyer, provides a succinct explanation about why the ‘laws’ that we fondly imagine to protect those unfortunates within systems that are designed to use them to death for profit, do not, can not and never will provide any level of protection. Ms Bisgould also provides an explanation why, as long as their ‘property status’ remains, our victims will remain victims.

Keeping it in context – what can we do?

So here we are today as the horrific images unfold. I agree wholeheartedly with a comment by a fellow activist:

It’s really important to contextualize it all, though, because focusing simply on the drowned victims is a small part of the larger story here. The greater tragedy is the system that would have killed them anyway, and the continued demand for their dead bodies. Any time the general public is forced to stop and think about what these farms are–which I think is going on now, to some extent–is meaningful. It needs proper context, though, to reveal the larger problem.

~ Striving with Systems

It needs to be emphasised that horrific as this latest tragedy is, it is a symptom of a greater ill. In this world that our obsessive and inappropriate use of others is rapidly bringing to its knees, science tells us that these extreme weather events will continue to occur with increasing frequency. We can’t legislate away the problem that is causing our planet and her miraculous diversity of life to falter and die; it’s gone way beyond that, if indeed that option ever existed, which I doubt. The answer needs to be much more effective and much more creative.

And surprisingly, the answer is within our reach – yours and mine. The answer that can bring this hideous nightmare to an end is one that needs each of us as an individual to act upon. Only by becoming vegan and working for a vegan world can any of us cling to a hope of this beautiful world having any future at all.

Be vegan.

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Feet of Clay – no need for heroes

Feet of clay: a weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person

Without any effort at all, I can think of a number of high-profile persons who are hero worshipped for their claims to represent the interests of animals of various species, but who, by their own admission, are not vegan. By definition, this means that they support and fund brutality and violence in their consumer choices. This is simply a fact.

On social media, as soon as the fact that they are not vegan is mentioned by anyone who is, there is an unseemly rush from apologists ready to defend their heroes on the basis of what is shrugged off as inconsequential, coupled with a barrage of what can only be termed vitriolic bile being levelled towards the one who had the audacity to mention it.

Today on social media I had the misfortune to witness one such exchange on the page of a staunch animal rights advocate who lives by every single word that they say. The thread unfolded in the sadly predictable pattern that results from any naming of names; the same way in fact that this essay would, if names were named. However the names are not important; what these non-vegan ‘heroes’ represent, most definitely is.

Today, apologists, non-vegans and the ‘can’t all be perfect’ brigade weighed in to accuse, contrast and condemn on the basis of what in this instance was proclaimed to be the ‘wonderful work’ done by their hero, with scathing remarks demanding to know ‘What are you doing compared to that?!’ According to critics, only a ‘zealot’ would consider that self promoted ‘good works’ do not grant a free pass to at least some brutal and exploitative behaviour. According to the defenders, the predilection of the hero for consuming cheese made from nonhuman breast milk, and the slaughterhouse-tainted nightmare that the practice inflicts  annually on millions of defenceless mothers and infants, should not only be discounted as a mere trifle, but the vegan ought to be ashamed for even mentioning the matter.

So before I continue, let’s step back and consider this phenomenon in a human context. Such an exercise is always useful to reveal aspects of our view that may be speciesist. I use it frequently.

Thinking about human rights

If you will, I’d like you to think of a high-profile, human rights campaigner, past or present.  I’m sure we can all think of at least one such person whose shining example has inspired our admiration. Now, still thinking of this person, imagine that you have just been made aware that this icon was, by their own admission, a supporter and promoter of something incompatible with their stance, such as – say – child pornography.

Would this revelation that they were saying one thing while doing something completely contradictory, affect our perception of the chosen hero? For the sake of those who may, at this point, choose to deny any change, we can try taking this a step further. What if, when the stash of child porn was uncovered, we were to discover that our own children were amongst those whose innocence had been violated for a thrill?

Would we see on social media a spirited defence of this human rights paragon on the basis that their ‘good works’ outweighed their predilection for sexualising infants? Would we see derision, scorn and vitriol being levelled at anyone with the audacity to point out that no matter how ‘good’ the ‘works’, it is impossible to dismiss and forgive on behalf of their victims, such a fundamental betrayal of every human rights issue ever? Would we see scathing comments of ‘So what? Nobody’s perfect!’?

I suspect we wouldn’t. Because it’s not so easy now, is it?  By defending those who harm other animals, we’re saying that collateral casualties are a reasonable price to pay as a scientifically unproven route to some imagined ‘greater good’. However that sort of high ideal is fine only when we’re talking about someone else’s loved ones. Or in fact for some, preferably some other species and their loved ones. It’s always easy to sound magnanimous about situations that are never going to touch us personally.

Heroes as influencers

So, to return to the conversation that I mentioned at the beginning, what we have to ask is what is the message being sent out by these high profile animal users?

My merciless memory raises its hand at the back of the room again. Until 2012 I was not vegan and I admired and aspired to emulate many other non vegans who claimed to represent the interests of animals. I was influenced by what they said. And what I heard was a vindication of my own efforts to be ‘compassionate‘, and I felt reassured that I was doing the best anyone could reasonably do. I already thought that the use of members of other species for any and all reasons was a ‘necessary evil’, and so from these non-vegans my impressionable former self learned that there was a ‘kind’ and ‘caring’ way to deprive my victims of their lives and of every single thing that made those lives worth living. Through such teaching in my decades as a non-vegan, my ‘awareness’ was not even slightly ‘raised’ above the corpses, the eggs and the breast milk products on my plate. Only vegan education did that.

With clay-footed heroes elevated onto pedestals by those who either don’t know any better, or by those who see in the failures of their ‘heroes’ some vindication of their own inconsistencies, a message is proclaimed to a non-vegan world only too happy for the reassurance, that some animals matter but there’s no need to be extreme. They don’t all matter equally and it’s perfectly fine to harm and kill them as long as we are ‘kind’ and ‘compassionate’.

On the cult of celebrity

It is dismaying that there is an escalating media circus surrounding vegan advocacy, with the inevitable result that the victims of our species are so often becoming eclipsed by the clamour of ‘celebrities’. We don’t need to be looking for ‘heroes’ to put on pedestals. We don’t need to be hanging onto every word of ‘celebrities’.

The decision to be vegan is a personal one, made in the silence of our own thoughts and guided by our conscience. Once we understand the inevitable consequences of our consumer choices to use broken lives and bodies, the decision to be vegan is a line that we draw as an individual where we say ‘Enough. Not in my name.’

Yet for as long as the message that ‘heroes’ are broadcasting, ignores or trivialises the need for veganism as the absolute least we can all do, the rest of us will just have to work twice as hard to defend their victims.

Be vegan.

 

In memory

Let’s be mindful of the following in the single year 2016:

  • 74 billion land based individuals killed in cold blood in regulated slaughterhouses, and the uncounted individuals who were not even important enough to count
  • 2.7 trillion (estimated) aquatic individuals killed in cold blood and the trillions whose deaths were dismissed as ‘by-catch’
  • The global flock of 7.4 billion egg laying hens
  • The estimated 7.4 billion male chicks who were regarded as worthless
  • Hundreds of millions of dairy mothers of various species killed because they could no longer produce enough breast milk
  • The 800 million dairy mothers (including 264 million cows) worldwide, trapped in a system where they are used to death
  • Uncounted individuals used and tortured in laboratories
  • Uncounted individuals used for ‘sport’ and ‘entertainment’
  • Uncounted billions used for their skin, their body fibres and for a myriad other purposes.

 

 

Posted in Advocacy, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Staying true – more thoughts on ‘reducing suffering’

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

More and more often I see comments from those who for some reason identify themselves as vegans, comments in which they are approving the most astonishing levels of violence and brutality to the defenceless individuals that veganism is sworn to defend. I shared an article this morning, that pointed out that the ‘lab grown meat’ industry uses fetal bovine serum, a substance derived from the hearts of calves, cut from their heavily pregnant mothers in the slaughterhouse.

I think too many vegans are thinking of this as the Holy Grail, which may subtly be taking pressure and urgency off of other modes of action and analysis.

~ John Sanbonmatsu

Please see this link where the points raised by philosophy professor John Sanbonmatsu closely match my own perspective. The subject of lab grown meat is a fertile source of controversy amongst those who are unaware of the grotesque reality it involves, however, this essay has been fermenting for a few days following the reading of a particularly shocking number of comments by apologists for the continued use of nonhuman individuals.

Virtuous pragmatism?

My thoughts here are applicable in far too many situations. Whenever any article of this nature is posted, there are invariably several who announce that ‘anything that reduces suffering’ is ‘okay with them’, as they scramble to commandeer a shaky patch of moral high ground, while seeking to cast critics as ‘extremist’ and ‘unrealistic’ when compared to their own ‘virtuous pragmatism’. I have several issues with this.

First and foremost, in seeking to make a virtue of ‘reducing suffering’, an unwinnable ‘numbers game’ is being played. This quality termed ‘suffering’ is not scalable.  As I have noted before, with regard to our unnecessary victims, we fail them all if we fail to recognise them for the individuals they are. They are not a quantity that we can cut down on like our sugar, fat or alcohol intake. We are talking about individuals here.

To illustrate this, and this is mainly for those who find themselves leaning towards the ‘less harm’ / ‘reducing suffering’ idea as being good in theory, I’d like to suggest a brief thought experiment.

A thought experiment

We all have people we love; children, parents, siblings, friends so let’s focus on them (the human ones, in this instance, leaving aside our nonhuman companions just this once). Let’s think about those whom we love the absolute most. For example, I have two sons, grown men now but still inspiring in me the fierce love that all mothers know so well, the sort of love that would stand unhesitatingly in front of a bullet, would gladly lay down its life to keep them safe. I’m thinking of them here and no doubt everyone has someone in their life that inspires protective love.  Now. Look at these beloved faces in your mind’s eye while considering the following question.

If a circumstance arose where they were threatened with some completely unnecessary harm but, rather than fighting to protect them all, you decided that ‘reducing suffering’ would be good enough, which ones would you consign to torment, incarceration, mutilation and an agonising and unnecessary death, and which ones would you consider as worth sparing? Would it be your youngest child? Your eldest? Your mother? Really think of what you’d be agreeing to on their behalf; the terror, the gore, the whimpering and begging for the hurt to stop.

It’s not so easy now, is it?  After all, when we’re promoting ‘less harm’ and we strip it all down away from the rhetoric, this is what we’re saying about some other mother’s children, parents, siblings, partner. We’re advocating that collateral casualties are a reasonable price to pay as a scientifically unproven route to some imagined ‘greater good’. However that sort of high ideal is fine only when we’re talking about someone else’s loved ones. Or in fact for some, preferably some other species and their loved ones. It’s always easy to sound noble about sacrifices that are never going to touch us personally.

What we think we’re saying vs What is being heard

When we promote ‘less’ harm, a strategy that often accompanies the ‘I’m good with that as long as you’re trying’ approach, we’re completely overlooking something. Despite seeking to claim brownie points for pragmatism amongst extremists, we are actively promoting all the horrors of non veganism. Whatever we may fondly imagine we’re saying, what our audience is hearing is that it’s perfectly fine to not be vegan.

In saying that we’re ‘okay’ or ‘have no problem’ with this nebulous and highly subjective  idea of ‘reducing suffering’, the message that we are conveying to a non vegan audience that, let’s face it,  wants nothing more than to have their own current behaviour vindicated is this: ‘Veganism isn’t all that important. Yeah, there are some extremists out there who go over the top but hey, people like me are realists and as long as you’re trying, I’m good with it. Every little bit helps.’  I even saw a conversation with almost these exact words on a thread recently.  Some self-identified ‘vegans’ were falling over themselves backwards to condone harm and bloodshed in their efforts to be seen as ‘reasonable’ while those who were not vegan were swapping anecdotes about why their own brutal choices were perfectly fine – and no doubt would seem even more fine having had a ‘vegan’ seal of approval.

Accept that the message isn’t popular

And here we have another point to note. Promoting veganism to any audience that has normalised animal use, harm and slaughter – and every dietary permutation and position short of veganism falls fairly and squarely into that category – is never going to be popular.  As I said earlier, because people want their behaviour to meet with approval from their peers, the last thing they want to hear is unsolicited information about the harm that their actions have been causing, and facts about how totally unnecessary it is.

Every one of us, when we were not vegan, had a ready set of justifications with which we had studiously avoided recognising the consequences of our actions. An advocate who promotes veganism is going to run headlong into that wall every single time. Unless of course we take the tack that, ‘yeah, that’s all fine, I’m good with that’, in which case, the wall of excuses has once more served its purpose, deflected the challenge to our carefully constructed narrative and dismissed consideration of veganism.

It’s going to hurt

That moment when we finally open our minds to veganism is painful. Always. It doesn’t come gently at the end of a long period of having our awareness ‘raised’ whatever that means. It’s not a gradual and sweet progression of enlightenment that allows us to feel good about ourselves all along the way. At the point where we have to decide one way or the other whether to embrace veganism or ignore it, we feel sick with horror, chilled with the heart-stopping realisation of exactly what we’ve been paying for.

And for the purpose of this essay, the final major issue I have with the ‘I’m good with that as long as you’re trying’ idea is this. Who the hell gave us the right to sanction a bleak existence being used as a resource, violation and slaughter on behalf of another sentient individual? Surely being vegan is defined as an acceptance, an internalisation of the fundamental injustice of taking the life of any individual because we know that it’s all unnecessary?

A false dichotomy: being realistic or being unequivocal

If we hold true to ourselves and unequivocally champion the defenceless victims of non-veganism, it’s naive to even hope we will be liked and we must learn to accept this.

Often presented as ‘unrealistic’, unequivocal vegan advocacy does not mean being drawn into mudslinging, anger and aggression, even when that is the tone adopted towards us. The truth speaks for itself. It is my experience that providing facts, calmly, honestly and without compromise, does work.  When a critic seeks to ridicule veganism, or justify their own abusive choices, they are seldom in a mindset for having a reasonable discussion. The fact that they invariably choose to do so in a public thread emphasises this; when cheered on by their animal-harming contemporaries who are similarly seeking justification in the comfort of numbers, it becomes almost unthinkable for them to back down. That is why I consider that leaving a link to information and making a strategic withdrawal is often the best policy.  But somewhere, someone lurking on the post may click on our information and it may start to plant seeds.

Never lose sight of what’s at stake

In 2016, 74 billion land based individuals each endured an existence as a resource and a death so horrific that we shrink from even thinking about it. The number of aquatic individuals subjected to our unspeakable brutality far exceeds that number by many multiples. They all deserve nothing but our best efforts to defend them, to bring down the whole vile commercial edifice that has been built up to support the consumer choices of those who are not vegan; that massive industry in which sentient individuals are no more than business assets.

And those who are queuing, trembling in fear and horror in the slaughterhouses at this moment, as well as the innocent and defenceless individuals who will continue to comprise that queue every day into the future until the madness ends, are relying on us to defend them without compromising a single one of them.

We can do that. Believe it. Be vegan.

 

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Inspiring veganism

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to yearn for the endless immensity of the sea.

~ Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Today I read this quote and I found myself reflecting on how it applies to vegan advocacy.

To me these words convey that before we can gain commitment from others for any undertaking, we must first inspire them; we must make them see and feel from the most basic of principles why this undertaking simply must happen; we need them to long for it as we do ourselves. We need to make our own goals into a mutual desire that determines and dictates actions that we can undertake together. Having done so, everything that needs to be done to achieve our shared passion, will flow from that desire.

Scattering

Applying this thought to advocacy, to champion the defenceless victims of our species, I found myself considering that it is not sufficient to assign what may seem like disparate tasks to others. In the absence of a cohesive motivation, making suggestions about menus, clothing, toiletries and entertainment, inciting protests about the treatment of other animals during our unnecessary use of them, can all too easily be seen as separate issues, a pick list from which to choose. Similarly, listing the health benefits of plant-based eating or the environmental impacts of ending the practice of ‘farming’ the lives of other creatures are often the subjects of a completely separate focus. Within each of those areas there is a world of subjectivity, a myriad compromises and trade offs that each of us may make to appease pangs of conscience. ‘I do something about X so I can relax a bit on Y’; I’m sure we all know that internal dialogue.

However there is one thing that circumvents all the compromises and all the trade offs, one thing that unites all the issues that I mentioned earlier and it is this.

Motivating from first principles

Once we know in our hearts that our defenceless victims, as sentient inhabitants of our shared planet, each has a life that matters to them, a mind that responds emotionally to life and living; that creates memories, bonds and relationships with each other and their environment, then we start to see, reflected in them, how we would feel were our positions reversed.

Once we are motivated by this deeply felt understanding of what our casual, thoughtless demands as consumers have been inflicting on our victims, we become vegan in that place deep in our core that drives every action, every choice for the rest of our days. We no longer need a tick list because we see the big picture.

Seeking to inspire that profound understanding of what veganism means, is to me what advocacy is all about. It is the only way I can try to make amends for my non-vegan past. Be vegan and work alongside me, asking others to be vegan.

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Nothing less than veganism

Last night was a landmark for There’s an Elephant in the Room on Facebook.

Becoming vegan

August 2012, when I first became vegan, began a time of discovery; a new age in an unfamiliar landscape. Most new vegans will have had a similar experience; we have lived our lives to that point, thinking we had a grasp of the world and our role in it, both as individuals and as a species. In many ways, much of our life and living has happened on autopilot, running along tracks that were set for us in our childhood with the behaviours we were taught as infants. It had been comfortable; safe and cosy.

Then over a short period, everything changes. Nothing about the world itself changes, but our own perception of it shifts on its axis, so utterly that we feel disoriented, lost and adrift.

‘Information’ about our actions towards all other species, ‘facts’ that we have lived with for years and never challenged, are suddenly shown to be fabrications and fairytales, akin to the tales of Santa and the Tooth Fairy but infinitely more sinister. When we pull back the screen of the carefully constructed myths and peep behind it, we discover a rotten black heart behind the façade. Becoming vegan means that we have opened our minds to the grotesque reality of our species’ brutal tyranny. At first we have all been incredulous.

I remember that as realisation dawned, the truth was so unbelievable that it was as if my thoughts squirmed and writhed, seeking an escape as my morbid quest devoured Google. ‘This can’t be real, it can’t be true. It just can’t. That can’t happen. Surely not..? Oh please, no. No. Please make this not true. Please…’

Yet it was true. I was devastated. I was broken. And my life would never be the same again; people, places, actions, everything had to be re-examined in the harsh and bleak light of my new understanding. Gladly taking upon myself this new label, ‘vegan’, I realised that I could no longer accept anything I had been taught. In essence it had all been either completely false, or else tainted with the lies that half a century of speciesist conditioning had ingrained into my world view.

elephant-2796511_960_720crop

Spotlight on the elephant

I decided to start a Facebook page to document the thoughts which were beginning to flow from an unused and rusty place; that place where I questioned, and challenged, and looked for the real truth about those who are the defenceless targets of the orgy of gore and violence that our species inflicts on those others who share the world with us.

So ‘There’s an Elephant in the Room’ came into being. It landed uncertainly, wobbling rudderless and new in a turbulent sea; half formed and not yet focused, just as I was. There was so much to learn and I was lost for a time in the clamour of petitions and protests, recipes and consumer goods. It would be some time before I recalled the advice that I should write about what I know, and realised that the real reason for us all to become vegan is, was, and always will be, as the recognition that every individual, whatever their species, has an inherent right to own their body and their life.

I recall the first time someone I didn’t know ‘liked’ the page. I felt ridiculously elated. Suddenly I knew I was no longer alone. When 100 ‘likes’ happened, I was thrilled; who were those 100 people out there that I had never met? However as time went on, I began to realise that a numbers game could and should never be my goal. Every one of us likes our behaviour to be validated, our actions to be approved by our peers. There are hundreds, thousands of pages out there sitting on the fences of Facebook; a myriad pages endorsing, supporting and encouraging the torment of humanity’s innocent victims either overtly, or through a speciesist, treatment focus cloaking the refusal to state the unvarnished truth: that veganism and only veganism is the way to stop being the cause of the bloodbath.

Asking people to open their eyes to horror, appreciate their role in it and stop causing it is never going to be a welcome message; it’s never going to be a popularity contest. It’s said that one has to be realistic, pragmatic, because the ‘world won’t go vegan overnight’.

We’re doing it!

Well last night, Facebook announced that 20,000 people had ‘liked’ There’s an Elephant in the Room. Twenty thousand. Numbers may very well fluctuate and nothing is certain but you know what? Today I’m feeling a bit emotional about that 20,000 and it has nothing to do with anything that I’ve done personally.

I feel emotional because I know that out there in the world somewhere are 20,000 people who have decided to keep tabs on a page that tries never to compromise, never to sell out the defenceless and innocent victims of our species by asking for anything less than veganism; a page that doesn’t use ‘pragmatism’ as an excuse to betray those who are depending on us.

And it gives me hope and happiness that you’re out there, helping create the vegan world that is the only hope for our victims, for ourselves and for the planet. I’m so very glad to know you. Here’s to the next 20,000!

Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism, Festivals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments