In the inferno – thoughts about selective empathy

As Australia burns, the media shows harrowing scenes of indigenous species like koalas and kangaroos, injured, burned and dying. We see so many human interest stories, individual koala mothers with infants clutching at their fur being rescued and cared for; we are invited to feel the personal tragedy of a single kangaroo joey tangled in the fence where he was incinerated.  Whether mourned or rescued, they are viewed as individuals, and we are united in hope for their survival, watching with bated breath as we are shown desperate creatures under an orange sky, fleeing through the smoke with the inferno roaring at their heels. The estimated number of 500,000,000 (half a BILLION) deaths has remained static for well over a week and has no doubt been wildly exceeded by now* – possibly by several orders of magnitude – and will continue to climb.

I see occasional comments that wonder why no count is being publicised of those individuals who, as the defenceless victims of nonveganism, were always destined to be slaughtered; those innocent creatures whose lives and bodies were being ‘farmed’. Their plight is consistently downplayed and they are referred to sweepingly, only as ‘livestock‘. Live. Stock.

There are no human interest stories about them, no pitiful images of burned and desperate mothers seeking water from passers-by, no heroic bystanders pouring water on their burned fur and bleeding feet. No heartwarming tales of rescue and medical care.

We are not being shown videos of their desperate flight from the cracking, howling flames. Because they can’t flee. They are sitting targets. They are dying en masse. We see the occasional distance shot of cooked, bloated and unrecognisable bodies fallen in the paddocks where they were burned alive; the occasional image of sheep with their coats frizzled by flames. But even the ‘personal interest’ stories that I’ve seen, notably one where a heatbroken animal farmer was shooting cows individually in his fields, are focussed on his tragedy, his loss of livelihood. It was not a story about the tragedy of those unique individuals who were looking down the barrel of his gun, those sentient creatures who had faced hell and terror and were now injured and suffering unbearably.

There is no mention of the fact that the hell and terror of a slaughterhouse was the only route out of their situation in any case. The real tragedy from the perspective of their exploiter was that as damaged resources, they had no monetary value, and the fire-ravaged land may be unable to support the continuation of his profitable trade. Because before any individual can be exploited as a resource for our species, we must first disregard their every entitlement to consideration as living, feeling, autonomous beings. They become resources, livestock, property. They are then discussed in terms of property loss and damage.

The unfolding catastrophe is referred to a ‘humanitarian crisis’. This focus on the human exploiters and the disregarding of the torment of the individuals they exploit on behalf of nonvegan consumers, is a perfect illustration of the mindset with which we are all indoctrinated from childhood. Almost every single one of us will claim to care about members of other animal species to some extent or another. Few of us will openly claim that causing needless harm to the defenceless, the innocent, and the vulnerable is in any way acceptable. None of us would ever admit to being the sort of person that would do that.

And yet here we are, glancing impassively over anonymous corpse-littered farmland and feeling for those whose trade trapped them there, while pouring out concern and sympathy for the wild creatures with whose suffering we allow ourselves to empathise.

Here is our species, continuing to globally slaughter over 1.5 BILLION land based individuals per WEEK to indulge an unnecessary dietary preference, while watching the results of the planetary destruction this is causing, lay waste to a land that may never recover. Surely the irony can’t be lost on everyone?

Be vegan.


*Update: as of 7 January 2020, the number of deaths has been estimated as 1,000,000,000 (one BILLION) and a University of Sydney spokesman is on record as saying that this is an extremely conservative estimate.

Posted in Global disasters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Veganism; ‘strict’ or ‘simple’ – a matter of perspective

Image by Filming for Liberation

I have heard it said that ‘militant’ members of the community ‘scare off’ people from becoming vegan with ‘strict guidelines.’ I have found living vegan to be the easiest, most consistent, most nonviolent way to live that I could possibly imagine, so I have kept coming back to the idea, trying to work out why anyone would say such a thing.

I accept that depending on circumstances and the availability of food types in some parts of the world, transition to veganism may pose a few challenges, even maybe temporary inconvenience, but that’s not the same as ‘strict’. ‘Strict’ denotes something that limits one’s freedom to behave as they wish; it suggests something difficult, rigid obedience to a set of complex rules and regulations. ‘Militant’ suggests confrontation and aggression, and is often used in a derogatory manner to attempt to silence disagreement. So let’s have a think about this.

First principles

  • It’s not necessary for human health to use the lives and bodies of members of other animal species.
  • Those whom we persecute are exactly like ourselves in that being sentient, they value their lives, they share bonds with their friends and families; they have minds, memories and emotions.
  • When we use them for any reason, we ignore our shared sentience, we disregard every right they have and we reduce their individuality, their selfhood, to nothing other than a resource – an unnecessary one – for our use.
  • Their lives cease to be life as we know and value it for ourselves, but rather become an existence to be endured, a means of production and commerce for humans, to be conducted in a way that minimises costs and maximises profits.

Veganism in a sentence

So against that backdrop there’s only one concept that we need to embrace in order to be vegan. Only one.

We don’t need to use the lives and bodies of other creatures so we stop doing it.

If we understand this, and are sincere about wanting to stop being the cause of the reign of terror that nonveganism inflicts on trillions every single year, that’s our one guiding principle.  The rest is simply a matter of educating ourselves about the products and practices that we feel we need to have in our lives, determining whether they have been derived by using other creatures, and if so, finding an alternative. We are literally spoiled for choice these days.

Vegan or not?

And when we come across something new, we need ask ourselves only one question;

Has this been made / obtained by using members of other species?

Don’t know? 
So find out. We have Google. Beware of seeking answers from those self-styled ‘experts‘ who want you to keep buying animal substances.
Great, carry on.
If there’s any way we can possibly avoid using it, then avoid it.

In my own experience, everything, every substance, every item, every practice and activity falls on one side or the other of that one question, a question which enables us to live true to the original and accepted definition of veganism as:

‘A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’

Bear in mind that even trying our absolute hardest, we may not always be able to choose a vegan path. As we are constantly reminded, it’s a nonvegan world and the regimes of exploitation run extremely deep.

Even after several years, I still find myself learning that something I had previously thought was okay – actually isn’t because it has used body parts or some other means of exploitation in its production. The most recent was – of all things – safety matches. Before that it was some brands of toilet paper and kitchen towels. Those who must take medications in order to continue to live, find themselves in a minefield. Apart from the testing aspect, many medications contain derivatives from body parts and secretions. This is where the phrase ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ has to apply.  As someone who takes such lifesaving medication, I know from experience that it doesn’t ease my guilt. Like many vegans I know, I do what I must to survive, while always campaigning hard for the day when there will be no ‘nonvegan’ options of any type and our victims will no longer be persecuted. We each have to try our absolute best. And we do. Because doing so matters to us; it defines who we are as people.

‘Strict’ and ‘Militant’

Veganism has no need of checklists of which species to torment and which species to respect. Veganism doesn’t need to make up complicated dietary rules about ‘by-products of slaughter’; doesn’t need to invent new words to try to justify which species we want to keep hurting. With massive financial vested interests at play, a great deal of misinformation about what veganism is and is not, is circulated in the media, in advertising, on social media and everywhere else.

To quote the excellent Go Vegan World,

‘Many people confuse it with a diet or a restrictive way of living. Others misunderstand it as a means to health or a safer environment, but completely divorce it from its animal rights and social justice origins.’

To bring veganism back to its roots in justice and Animal Rights, is simply being honest and what is ‘militant’ about honesty? What is ‘extreme’ about sincerity?

My eventual conclusion was that only those who either don’t know what veganism is, or who want to continue harming other creatures without being challenged could possibly call it ‘strict’ when it’s suggested they stop doing it. Only those who want veganism to be something that it’s not, could possible accuse Animal Rights advocates of being ‘militant’ and seek to silence them for telling the truth.

Point to ponder

My final point relates to something from my own past that I have written about before. No one ever told me the truth about veganism until I found social media in 2012.

Anyone who tried holding back the truth thinking I wouldn’t be able to handle knowing, anyone (or in fact, any fundraising business masquerading as a ‘welfare‘ organisation) who fed me platitudes that made me think that what I was doing was somehow ‘good enough’ wasn’t doing me any favours.

They were insulting both my intelligence and my values. Had I known the truth, I would have begun to live those values decades earlier, could have raised my children in a morally consistent way.

Our audience deserves the truth and their defenceless victims are depending on us to tell it. Be vegan.




Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

December Days

The festive consumer extravaganza is in full swing here in Scotland. Wandering aimlessly in a supermarket, I see a myriad seasonal items depicting animals; curly-coated lambs, fluffy bunnies, pink piglets, yellow chicks and doe-eyed, long-legged deer delightfully adorning pyjamas, duvet covers and all sorts of consumer tat.

Meanwhile, only a couple of aisles away in the chilly miasma of the mortuary aisles are the dismembered and bloody remains of these very same sweet young creatures, the whimpers of loss, terror and agony that reflect what our species REALLY does, all conveniently swept under the rug of our collective delusions. Meanwhile, we cling to a distorted perception of ourselves as ‘animal lovers’.

A few shelves along, adorned in glossy wrappers and tinsel we find displays of dairy chocolate confections for which despairing and defeated mothers and their panic stricken newborns were torn apart for ever. We are never taught about this as children, are we? We are taught self-serving fantasies about cows being milk machines. We are told that we’re doing them ‘a favour’ by hooking them up to pumping machinery every day. Hens, we are told, exist only as animated dispensers to provide humans with eggs. Some of us, myself included, even reach adulthood without questioning such nonsense, and once habit and custom addicts us to cross-species-breastfeeding, and using other individuals as if their lives were ours, our common sense seems to switch itself off.

In other aisles we find ‘wool‘ and ‘cashmere’, ‘sheepskin’ and ‘leather‘ gifts for our loved ones with luxury labels. We are raised to be ignorant of the slaughterhouse-tainted origins of every flayed skin, of shaved fibres, plucked feathers and fur trims. When we are told of hide pullers and agony, it’s so hard to believe that many reject it outright.

Yet it was those same slaughterhouses that vomited out the body parts and substances  for our glistening festive tables, those slaughterhouses that await the ‘dairy’ mothers and their infants, the egg-laying hens, the wool and cashmere-producing sheep and goats once their life sentences in hell are over; those slaughterhouses that will be the only escape for every individual whose broken body and destroyed life we insist upon to put in our trolleys.

And meanwhile, to the sound of jingling bells, carols and Christmas songs, we buy torment wrapped in tinsel, and the sobbing, agonised whimpers of innocent infants in clingwrap.

We call it a celebration of ‘peace on earth’.

We need to think again. We really do. We need to be vegan or stop fooling ourselves.

Find out about being vegan:

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Actions and consequences. A ‘meal deal’ with a side of honesty .

At some time in our lives we have all tried to shrug off personal responsibility for our behaviour, and sadly I speak from experience. It’s very difficult to acknowledge failings as our own, but if we are sincerely trying to be the people we think we are already, there comes a time when we each have to face the consequences of actions that we negligently decide upon in the face of plentiful alternatives; disregarding our many choices either because we refuse to educate ourselves about them, or because we dismiss them as too much bother.

‘Saving’ victims by being vegan

To start, here’s something I’d like to get off my chest. I want to address the many claims we read about the number of animals we ‘save’ by being vegan. Here’s a shocker. I have never, ever, seen an accurate estimate of this – not even sure it’s possible – and there are two fairly obvious reasons why; technically we don’t ‘save’ anyone by being vegan; we remove our personal consumer demands from the regime of death and bloodshed that services the consumer demands of nonveganism, and if this results in any significant change, it is only that the victims who would have been brutalised on our behalf are not brought in to this hell that our species has created for them. Not one single desperate and frightened victim is ever given the chance to turn their back on the slaughterhouse and go home with their loved ones to a life of comfort, respect, and companionship. Removing our demand for their flesh, if enacted on a sufficiently large scale, could at best mean that our victims will never exist; their parents will never be sexually violated to birth or hatch them. I don’t know about you but I’m willing to be vegan for that.

The second reason is that every single estimate that I have ever seen of the number of creatures that our monstrous tyranny creates, is incorrect. As a former maths student I have struggled to come up with accurate statistics but even I have failed.  How then would it be possible to say how many creatures are spared from existing each year by each human individual who decides to stop being part of the nightmare? 10? 100? My nearest estimate would be well in excess of 350 and that would be based only on land  and aquatic individuals – i.e. it excludes so many statistically unrecognised groups that, while it’s slightly closer to the mark than the oft-quoted ’10’ which is absolute nonsense, it’s so random as to be meaningless. Apart from that, a reduction in demand needs to become an established trend before supply reduces to catch up. That’s economics 101. And it’s also worth noting that the human population is currently expanding exponentially.

Meal deal bargains

Anyway. These thoughts came to mind recently on coming across a ready-made pack containing ‘Honey mustard chicken pasta’. It was in the supermarket section where ‘meal deals’ (a ‘main’ a beverage and a snack) are sold for £3.00 (UK currency – please check it out if you are based elsewhere).  Amongst the many ingredients were listed the following: ‘chicken breast, milk, creme fraiche, yogurt, honey, and egg’. I have a minimal income but by any standards £3.00 is cheap.

If you are not vegan, the chances are that you may not have even read the label – at one time I would have been you. If you are vegan, the label becomes sinister, dark and deeply distressing. And now I can imagine the eyes rolling. ‘Oh ffs – sinister? These vegans never give it a rest! It’s just a wee carton for goodness sake!!’  Nevertheless indulge me while I clarify this to any who dismiss it as ‘just a list of ingredients’.

For that ‘wee carton’, the following defenceless creatures endured an existence that would disgust and horrify every single one of us; an existence that not one of us would consider acceptable for any living creature; an existence that every reader would be very quick to condemn, to protest about and to declare that they would have nothing to do with anyone who felt otherwise.

231053‘Chicken breast’ and ‘egg’:

  • Sexually mature male and female chickens incarcerated in unnatural proximity to each other without possibility of refuge or escape, in ‘breeding facilities’, incessantly copulating, wounding themselves and each other to lay an endless number of eggs until too hurt and exhausted to go on, after which they are slaughtered;
  • ‘Meat’ chicken eggs hatched in these breeding facilities, transported to establishments where they spend their entire 42 day existence, growing as fast and as cheaply as possible uintil they are trucked to a slaughterhouse, slung from shackles, elecrocuted (if lucky) and have their throats sliced open to bleed to death, all without ever knowing a mother, or in many cases even daylight. In what is termed ‘processing’, their pitiful infant corpses are desecrated, hacked apart and packaged generically as ‘breast’ or ‘thigh’, ‘leg’ or ‘wing’ etc;
  • ‘Egg laying’ chickens hatched in breeding facilities, transported to establishments where as a result of our ruthless genetic tampering and selective breeding their entire brief existence is spent convulsing in agony to lay 20 times the number of eggs their bodies were designed to lay (mostly in cages according to statistics, regardless of claims to the contrary by those who continue to use these defenceless little birds);
  • The males of chickens hatched for their eggs, a different breed from those whose flesh is devoured, and who are considered to be ‘waste’ by the ruthless ‘egg’ industry funded by nonvegan dietary preference. An estimated 8 billion of these newly hatched, peeping infants are suffocated or ground up alive each year.

‘Milk, creme fraiche, yogurt’:

  • Bulls forcibly masturbated by hand or by electro-ejaculators wielded by humans to yield sperm for artificial insemination. Bulls are slaughtered when their profitability wanes;
  • Cows inseminated this way who carry their infants in their wombs for 9 months, only to have them taken away as newborns, after serving the purpose of triggering lactation in the swelling udders of their bereft and anguished mothers;
  • Calves taken from their grief-stricken mothers, the males for slaughter, the females to be groomed as replacements when their still-young mothers are too physically and psychologically broken by their ordeal to continue and are sent to slaughter;


  • Honey is a food bees make for themselves and their offspring through a lifetime of hard labour. Bees are sentient creatures who are ‘farmed’; sexually violated, mutilated, brutalised and killed in the same way as our species does to any other creature whose lives we want to profit from. I have no idea how many are killed annually this way; billions, trillions, who knows? Everything bees do in their mysterious, social, cooperative lives is on a scale we humans can scarcely imagine. Each bee produces just a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in his/her lifetime. It takes a combined effort of flying 55,000 miles to visit two million flowers to produce one pound of honey. In order to fill their stomach, each honey bee will visit up to 1,500 flowers to collect enough nectar. 
    Wild species are dying out, unable to compete for food as a result of our species ‘farming’ of those whose honey we steal for our financial advantage.  Honey is definitely not vegan and despite misleading articles that suggest otherwise, it’s not open for debate. There are always going to be humans who want to carry on indulging their taste buds and convenience by harming members of other species, yet still call themselves ‘vegan’. It’s a sad fact. I’m glad I don’t have to live with their conscience. My own is bad enough.

Price vs cost – having the stomach for the truth

So there we have it – the tale of that cheap ‘meal deal’ that comes at an absolutely breathtaking cost.

Uncounted birds; male, female, infants of differing breeds, uncounted bovines; bulls, cows, calves; uncounted bees both male and female; all of them unrecognised and nameless, sexually violated, treated as commodities, as ingredients and as trash by our morally bankrupt species. With every nonvegan purchase utterly responsible for every violation, every trembling newborn, every heartbroken mother, every single victim whose body parts, and whose existence of misery made up that ‘ingredient list’.

Of course each of us does have a choice. Each one of us can look at this horror and decide here and now that this isn’t the way we thought it was, we didn’t realise what we were responsible for and we’re desperately sorry. I’ve been there and so, I’m sure, have many who are reading this now.

If that’s how it is, the answer is easily within our reach. All we need to do is say, ‘Enough. I’m not doing that any more – not even for one more day.’  And then we become vegan.

Posted in Advocacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

About the words we use: ‘waste’

The concept of ownership of members of nonhuman species and every single one of the uses we make of them, stems from the ugly prejudice known as speciesism, a prejudice with which almost every one of us is indoctrinated from birth.  Even once shrug it off and decide to become vegan, we can each find little pockets of undetected speciesism lurking in our minds, and for me as for many others, recognising and eliminating these lingering remnants is an ongoing challenge. The key requirement is a deep and sincere desire to embrace the values that are important to us. In rooting out any remains of our own speciesism, the words we use in unguarded moments can teach us so much about our subconscious attitudes to nonhuman use and animal rights. We need only to listen to ourselves.

I’ve previously written at length about the notion of ‘waste‘ as it relates to animal rights.  Particularly as the reality of our planet’s dwindling resources is seeping into mainstream awareness, ‘waste’ is a word that provokes strong feelings. The topic is frequently raised in relation to animal-derived substances for consumption, but practices perceived as waste avoidance are also defended by vegans and nonvegans alike in connection with wool,  leather, and other substances.

The general justification is that since these ‘products’ are occurring anyway, and since the individuals whose bodies produce them don’t (in our extremely biased opinion) have any use for them, then it’s ‘wasteful’ not to use them. There’s even a related notion of it being somehow ‘respectful’ to use up every part of a slaughtered nonhuman corpse.  Apart from anything else, the idea that substances are ‘just there and needing used up’ totally ignores the fact that in almost every single case, our species has selectively bred our victims, manipulating their bodies to maximise the production of whatever aspect of their lives and bodies that we intend to profit from financially, without any concern or consideration whatsoever for their wellbeing.

However, in this instance, I was reminded of the topic of ‘waste’ because substances we casually refer to as ‘milk and eggs‘ had been left by mistake on the doorstep of a vegan household. A question arose about the ethics of giving them away since the vegan household had no use for them.  I’ve known the phrase ‘to save waste’ to be used in this context many times but I’m never comfortable with it, and once again I found it buzzing through my thoughts all day. So what’s my problem with it, since the avoidance of waste is highly desirable in today’s fragile world? I came to the conclusion that the word ‘waste’ when used in connection with any substance or service that makes use of the life or the body of a nonhuman undividual, is a beacon that points the way to ingrained speciesism, and speciesism is incompatible with veganism.

Looking for answers and guidelines

For various reasons, our ideas of ‘waste‘ are hard to dislodge.  We can easily get bogged down in circular conversations about whether passing on nonvegan items and substances is creating consumer demand in recipients who will likely buy from a store the next time, whether it’s acceptable if the recipients are destitute, or whether we are sending out a message that might leave us open to accusations of thinking ourselves ‘holier than thou’ by passing on to others, substances that we consider ourselves ‘too ethical’ to use. We can get embroiled in debates about what should be done with nonvegan substances that clearly exist whether we want them or not, what we should do with the nonvegan items we still own, and so on.

And these are definitely issues we have to face up to and decide, and in most cases the answers are not simple.  But the answers are personal, reached only after much soul searching, and lie in the heart of each of us. They hinge mainly upon the extent to which we have purged speciesism from our minds. I can’t write a manual for what to do with your old leather boots, or your old sheepskin coat, or that hat with the fur pompom that you have a sentimental attachment to. Nothing that I say can take the place of your conscience, just as nothing you can say will take the place of mine. All I know is that I’ve finally reached a stage where, despite living in poverty, I would rather do without than consume or wear body parts that were not mine to begin with and so any forgotten items that I come across are cremated or given a decent burial. If a package of breastmilk or flesh or eggs were left in my house, I would treat them in exactly the same way as if I were to find a dead wild creature in my garden. They are not food so I have no mental conflict about the matter. I took a while to get to this place of certainty, but it does not in the slightest ease my burden of guilt for the past.

A surprise delivery

It is often written that being vegan means that we stop considering the lives as bodies of others as being for our use. Specifically, we do not see other individuals as ‘food’, but to get a real sense of what this means, I find an analogy helps cut through to the heart of the matter.

Imagine that by mistake, a delivery driver leaves a package on your doorstep from an ‘exotic meats supplier’, who can’t be contacted to re-deliver to whoever ordered it. Closer examination of the package reveals the slaughtered and shrink-wrapped corpse of a *dog who, in life, would have looked exactly like the furry four-legged sweetheart who shares your home and your bed. Picture the scene. What thoughts that would go through your mind?

Would your first thought be about how the meat was going to go to ‘waste’? Would you decide that as this dog was ‘bred for eating‘, it would be only ‘respectful’ to find someone with the appropriate dietary preferences to pass the body on to? Or would you feel sick and shocked and traumatised? Be honest now; no one will know what you’re thinking here but your own conscience.

I admit that I’d be traumatised, but then I frequently experience that emotional response in the mortuary aisles of the supermarket. My instinct would be to cremate or to bury the tragic remains; and for my soul to apologise profoundly for whatever torment had been endured.  I would be swamped with grief and shame for my species, but the word ‘waste’ would never enter my head – not even fleetingly.  I suspect that many readers would share this same revulsion. Very few would be agonising about how awful it would be for ‘meat’ to be ‘wasted’.

So back to the original delivery

So to come back to the original delivery of ‘milk and eggs’; what’s the difference between that and my analogy? I’m sure there will be some who say they’re not the same, but if we think there’s a difference, it can be only because in our minds, we subconsciously still perceive the eggs of small birds selectively bred into bodies that self-destruct, and the breastmilk of mother mammals whose infants we have taken from them at birth, as appropriate foodstuffs for our species.

But cutting through all our justifications, there’s really only one difference between the two tragic packages, and that difference is speciesism. Just as with humans, there are species that we don’t ever consider to be food, although like humans, their flesh, their breastmilk and body parts comprise the same basic components as our victims. But because we don’t think of them as food, we can’t think of their corpses, their body parts and reproductive secretions as ‘waste’ simply because we ourselves have no use for them.

The decision to be vegan is far from being the end of the road; it’s just the beginning of a journey of self discovery. As we travel that road, we won’t always like what we find and there is pain and sadness aplenty, but speaking purely for myself, I cannot regret a moment of it. All I regret is that I didn’t set out sooner. Speciesism. Reject it.



*A dog is the example used here, simply because so many people share their homes with dogs and in the western world the species is synonymous with our irrational favouring of one species over many others who share the exact same qualities and attributes. It should not be inferred from this that dogs are the only species affected by the selective speciesism of humanity.

Posted in Speciesism, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Say ‘cheese’ – but there’s nothing to smile about

Image by Louise Jorgensen is of a mother dairy goat, ill and defeated, still dripping breastmilk as she awaits slaughter.

I’ve just been watching a mainstream TV program in the UK about ‘meat free eating’.  As a blogger and an animal rights advocate I’ve written extensively about the difference between veganism and the various dietary permutations that are adopted so often by decent people who sincerely want to stop hurting and killing members of other species because they have begun to realise it’s not necessary to harm any creature for us to be healthy.

Very often we adopt these dietary permutations because the available information about them is extremely misleading. There are many reasons for this, that I won’t go into in this post (but which you may find by exploring my site) except to stress the primary underlying factor. Those who profit from creating victims for nonvegans are making so much money from doing it that they really don’t want you to stop and your confusion is greatly appreciated by them. As far as they’re concerned, they would love for you to stay completely bewildered – in the same way that I was for years.

However tonight – let me share one clarifying piece of information. The recipe I’ve just watched on this programme that I mentioned contains a vast quantity of butter (easily substituted by nondairy alternatives) and a big wedge of cheese – ‘parmesan’ as a matter of fact. There was a passing reference made to the fact that ‘vegetarian’ cheese is available, but as usual, it was passed off as inconsequential. So here’s a thing. How many nonvegans know the difference between 1) the kind of cheese we were all raised to think of as ‘normal’, 2) vegetarian cheese and 3) vegan cheese?

The differences between these are anything but trivial from the perspective of the defenceless creatures who are paying with absolutely everything they have for our careless  indulgence.

1) The kind of cheese we were all raised to think of as ‘normal’

This is made from the breast milk of mother mammals. These may be cows, goats or ewes, buffalo or camels, we have no scruples and no restraint as a species. These mother mammals were forcibly impregnated for the sole purpose of triggering lactation (breast milk production) and very shortly after their infants were born, often still wet from the womb, they were taken away so that the mothers’ breastmilk could be sold to humans.

The ‘traditional’ manufacture of cheese requires an acidic substance to curdle that breast milk and in the case of what most of us were raised to consider ‘normal’, this curdling agent is called ‘rennet’. So far so good. Show of hands for who knows what ‘rennet’ is?

Rennet is a substance made by the stomach of an infant mammal; a calf, a kid, a lamb, that forms part of the process of digesting the breastmilk of his or her mother. For cheese production, it is obtained by slaughtering the newborn and extracting the substance from their stomach.

So just to recap, for ‘traditional’ cheese, we have a forcibly impregnated mother mammal, her newborn who has been separated from her so her breastmilk can be sold to humans for profit, the same distraught and terrified infant whose throat was hacked open in a slaughterhouse so that their infant stomach can be cut open to extract the rennet so that humans can make ‘cheese’.  I doubt if that’s the way most people think of it, but these are the facts. Check them out – this is the age of Google. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people find that idea somewhat revolting, so surely the ‘vegetarian’ option may seem more appealing?

2) Vegetarian cheese

This is made from the breast milk of mother mammals. These may be cows, goats or ewes, buffalo or camels, we have no scruples and no restraint as a species. These mother mammals were forcibly impregnated for the sole purpose of triggering lactation (breast milk production) and very shortly after their infants were born, often still wet from the womb, they were taken away so that the mothers’ breastmilk could be sold to humans. No difference so far.

The ‘traditional’ manufacture of cheese requires an acidic substance to curdle that breast milk and in the case of ‘vegetarian’ cheese, that substance is derived from a source other than the stomach of a slaughtered infant. There are several plants, types of molds, fungus, and bacteria that have natural coagulation qualities and can be used in place of animal rennet to make cheese. In researching the details for this post, I found that GM nonhuman DNA is now sometimes added to some of these options so the resulting substance more closely resembles ‘traditional’ cheese. I read that ‘no animals are harmed this way’, which rather emphasises my point about misleading information.

To recap, for ‘vegetarian’ cheese, we have a forcibly impregnated mother mammal, her newborn who has been separated from her so her breastmilk can be sold to humans for profit, the same distraught and terrified child whose throat was hacked open in a slaughterhouse. The minor difference in the manufacture of the ‘vegetarian’ cheese did not save the infant from being taken from his or her mother, did not save them from death, but may have postponed the terrifying slaughter until their body was sufficiently grown for their dead flesh to generate more profit for the victim makers and butchers.

I can only wonder whether the ‘vegetarian’ option sounds so good now?

3) Vegan cheese

Vegan cheese is made from plant substances that closely resemble ‘traditional’ cheese and ‘vegetarian’ cheese in both taste and texture. No innocent members of other animal species are harmed in its manufacture, and the available range of such cheeses expands every day and is obtainable in every supermarket. What more do I need to say?

By paying for harm and the death of innocents, we ensure that it will continue to make profit for those without scruples who make money from our ignorance. Is that really who we are? Be vegan.



Posted in consumer demand, dairy, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Victims in the shadows; …And they’re off!

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Image by Aitor Garmendia of Tras los Muros

Today I’d like to offer some points to ponder, as outrage rocks social media about the slaughtering of Australian racehorses whose lives have been used, broken and discarded by the horse racing industry.

Like all other institutions grounded in our abuse of our fellow earthlings, horse racing is a supply industry that works from the bottom up. Bear in mind that it’s not just the wealthy and glamorous wanting to be seen and to socialise with the ‘right people’ in their designer gear, who drive this vile industry.  Every bet or ‘flutter’ (‘Just a pound each way’), every ‘office sweepstake’ (‘Go on – there’s just a couple of numbers left!’) on the latest race, no matter how harmless they seem, are ways that ordinary people everywhere endorse and approve the bloodbath and ensure that it will continue. There was a time that I was complicit. Be honest with yourself and search your own conscience.

And horse use is a global issue although to listen to the howls of outrage one would be forgiven for thinking only one country is involved. The horrors we inflict on this species are not confined to the ‘entertainment’ industry; they are ‘only’ a contributor to an overall obscenity. Did you know that globally, in a single year (2017), 4,772,355  horses were slaughtered to be eaten?

That’s 13,075 individuals every single day, who are trucked to our slaughterhouses, their broken beauty and neglected grace electric-prodded and manhandled into line to meet terrifying and gory deaths with blades and saws wielded by members of our species whose wages we pay.

The countries contributing to these statistics are listed below* and include every part of the world. Just because a country does not appear on the list, nothing can be assumed. Many countries export horses to facilities in neighbouring countries. As an example the majority of those trucked to one European slaughterhouse in a single year were found to have travelled long distances by road from other European countries.

As with other species, slaughter occurs by the cutting of both carotid (neck) arteries which results in their bleeding to death. In some cases horses are hanged by the neck from chains until they suffocate; just one method of subduing the power of a large creature whose utter terror  – even in a wounded and depleted state – makes their desperate fight for life dangerous to their killers and a financial risk to their plant and equipment. It is violent, gory and agonising. Like all our victims, their fear is simply off the scale.

And the reason this atrocity happens? Once again this is the manifestation of the ugly prejudice called speciesism, apparent in our use of these creatures for their dead flesh, as unpaid labourers, as commodities in entertainment industries. And it doesn’t end there, they are used as laboratory test subjects and as imprisoned producers of hormone replacement drugs (using pregnant mares – Google premarin).

In the words of the late Tom Regan,

‘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.’

It’s not the legislation that needs to change; we don’t need more of it, or better enforcement. Every single use that we make of others stems from the mistaken idea that their lives are ours to use and ours to take. And we need to stop that. Completely. No exceptions. This is what needs to change – this arrogance, this ignorance, the sheer brutality of thinking we have the right to ‘own’ other individuals and use them for our interests.

I beg you to look at the individuals behind the brutality of our species. All it takes is a moment to decide that no more innocents will be so afraid that their legs can hardly bear their weight; no more innocents will stand defeated in a slaughterhouse queue in sickened horror on our account.

Make that decision today. Say, ‘Not in my name’ and decide to be vegan. It’s simply the right thing do do.


*Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Réunion, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, China

All statistics via FAOSTAT

Posted in Speciesism, Victims in the shadows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking at language: Cull

Cull.  We see the word applied increasingly to the mass killing of numerous species; to deer and to foxes and to seals, to pigeons, crows and even swans. The word is in the news at the moment, being applied to the mass slaughter of an anticipated 63,000 badgers, an indigenous wild species in England, one of the countries that make up the UK. The stated reason is an effort to curb the spread of tuberculosis in herds of bovine victims being cultivated to meet the demands of nonvegan consumers. In other words, this particular atrocity links back directly to nonveganism.  As nonvegans, the majority of the very people who are so outraged and so vocal about this admittedly outrageous decimating of the population of wild creatures, are the very ones on whose behalf it is ostensibly being perpetrated.

The science about whether this wholesale bloodbath has the desired effect remains controversial. Nevertheless as with everything else in a society that elevates animal agriculture (the practice of needlessly creating victims out of unconsenting and defenceless individuals while destroying the planet and exacerbating the risk of disease in humans) the precautionary principle that would rein in the excesses of hunger for profit in any other sphere, is overruled thanks to the political and financial clout tied into the huge subsidies that the animal use industries reap from the public purse.

‘Cull’ is a word that’s somehow typical of our dishonest species. It’s a word that seeks to convey tones of benevolent husbandry, implying care and bucolic concern towards a natural world that somehow just can’t seem to balance itself without kindly intervention from our species.

Really such euphemistic posturing is just a feeble attempt to dignify the unforgivable, to cloak the brutality, the egotism, the delusions of superiority and the lust for blood and money of a species that has lost all semblance of decency. What’s happening in almost every case is an eradication of one (usually wild) species from their natural habitat, in order to clear the way to make money from cultivating the victims of nonveganism.  It is carried out to perpetuate the profit-making potential of the regime of forced reproduction, of using to death and finally slaughtering in cold blood, of the innocent individuals of nonhuman animal species who have been selectively bred to make money for a brutal industry at a catastrophic cost to their own wellbeing and their birthright to live free from our absolutely needless violence.

If this flagrant destruction of the few wild species that remain disgusts us – and it should – we must begin by stopping our personal participation in the system that drives these atrocities. We do that by becoming vegan. What we do next is up to each of us. Be vegan.

Verb: reduce the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter.
Noun: a selective slaughter of animals.

Posted in Speciesism, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts on the price of folly

Image from 2015 is of a pig tied down in a flooded shed, alive amongst the dead. By Tras los Muros

Planet Earth is experiencing an escalation of extreme weather events. This escalation will continue for as long as we fail so utterly to grasp that one of the main causes – if not the main cause –  is our own brutality; our needless use and slaughter of trillions of sentient individuals every single year to indulge dietary preferences that are entirely unnecessary. Unless we embrace this truth and act, both as individuals becoming vegan, and collectively as societies demanding the end of the institution we know as ‘animal agriculture’, our species will suffer greatly, probably to the point of extinction.

We are no longer vaguely contemplating some distant eventuality that need not concern us as the short-lived organisms that we humans are; the consequences of our failure to act are sweeping down upon us with the velocity and force of an avalanche. You and I may well suffer devastating impacts upon food availability, our homes and our lifestyles, and with the passage of time, our children will suffer even more  than we do. When we are dead and gone, will they ask why we didn’t do anything while we could still have made a difference? They’ll have every right to do that, and I can’t think of anything that could excuse our negligence.

Everybody hurts, everybody loses

As tempests rage across the globe, we have witnessed, and will continue to see, nightmarish images of our captive victims in the hellholes where they have drowned, or have been incinerated by climate-wrought floods and fires. We will be shown the pits where their often still-living selves are being covered with lime and buried in efforts to contain the rampant diseases unleashed by our greed for greater profit in a world already terminally overburdened by the weight of the trillions of lives brought into being by our interference in their reproduction; their numbers raised to impossible levels by human hands as they ‘breed’ and artificially inseminate the innocent for use as the resources of our single, brutal, predatory, species.

Images such as I describe are hard to look at. The blackened ashes no longer indentifiable as ever having lived or breathed, the bloated corpses bobbing alone or in groups on the surface of putrid floodwater, images that echo with the screams of fear and panic that we can imagine only too well. Suddenly, in these pathetic corpses, we can’t avoid awareness of their ordeal and the veil of our own delusion of superiority slips, however briefly. We suddenly recognise just how much we have in common with the tragic, bobbing dead, with their mottled, gas-filled bellies, mouths gaping in grimaces of their dying agony. We would need to be fools indeed not to see ourselves in their plight, not to empathise with their horror and despair as death approached and there was no escape. What would we have done? How could we have endured to see our loved ones share our death throes, each powerless to do a single thing to help the other?

And here, in this brief glimpse that acknowledges our kinship with the dead, our shared sentience, we must try to find and grasp the key that unlocks the myths of our presumed but mistaken need to inflict the inevitable consequences of our violence and brutality upon all other species on the planet.

With the horror, comes anger and disgust

So often the images I’ve mentioned provoke strong reactions in those who see them. Outraged viewers insist furiously that such barbarity should not be permitted; should be legislated against; that it should not go unpunished. The vitriol pours on a tide of righteous indignation. However to free ourselves of our delusions, we must first face a few harsh truths and we must do so unflinchingly.

All of the individuals whom we see portrayed in the nightmarish images were on death row. They were born and they were hatched on death row. They were there because we, as consumers, continue to demand their young and broken bodies for our use and consumption. We do this despite the fact that it is completely unnecessary. By being individuals who use our cash to buy substances and services derived from the unconsenting bodies of others, we make it absolutely clear that we consider them to be nothing other than commodities for our use, at the expense of their own lives and interests. Regardless of the myths of entitlement and justification with which we seek to justify our atrocities, this is the stripped-down truth of the matter.

We cannot logically profess to care about them as living, breathing, sentient individuals with feelings exactly like our own, (or indeed expect anyone else to care in that way) when the only reason they have been caused to exist, is to deprive them of the lives that they so desperately want to live after keeping them alive as economically as possible until the most financially profitable time for them to be slaughtered in cold blood.

Abandonment to disease, to fire, flood and tempest is horrific. No sensible person can deny this.

Who are the real monsters?

However the ordeal that they endure in the legally sanctioned regime of oppression that is nonveganism, in order to be used for their breast milk, their eggs, their flayed skin, their body parts, dead flesh, forced labour or as test subjects tortured in the name of ‘science’ is not in any sense a better option. Yet that is the legally-sanctioned and inevitable reality. From violent conception to slaughter via an existence that minimises costs to maximise profit, our standard practice is a gory and brutal process.  They plead and they whimper in terror and agony but are ignored in the name of industry profit and consumer convenience.

So when we see those horrific images of fire, flood and disease, we need to be outraged; we need to be disgusted. But we also need to be honest about exactly where the responsibility lies. That means that we must stop being the reason that they were in those hell-holes to begin with.

Make no mistake. We are now in the midst of the fight of our lives; the fight for THEIR lives, and the fight for the very existence of our living world. The planet we are destroying is theirs as much as ours.  As we saw off the branch our species is sitting on, we must remember that our victims are sitting alongside us, helpless passengers on our journey to ruin.

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

Posted in Global disasters, Sentience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts about diluting the animal rights message

Image by Aitor Garmendia / Tras los Muros

For a moment, please imagine if you will, that this page were to highlight something horrific being done to humans, something such as torture, sexual violation, or forced labour. Imagine an article describing men, women and children, families and friends torn apart, desperate, degraded, and broken, as they beg and plead for the torment to stop, to be left in peace. What do you think the take-home message would be?

‘This needs to stop and it needs to stop now.’

I’m sure that’s simply what any decent person would expect. Here’s another question to consider. Do you think that a day will ever dawn when all humans will have stopped inflicting sickening brutalities on those whom they decide to oppress? For myself, I doubt it. So since brutality may never stop completely, does that have any effect on the message that it needs to stop and stop now? No, of course it doesn’t. Well so far, so good; I trust there’s nothing controversial up to this point?

Spreading messages via social media

So picture this; a social media post that summarises these points and attracts ‘likes’, ‘loves’, ‘sad faces’ and ‘angry faces’. Again, what you’d expect. It is also shared a number of times which is excellent – that’s how messages spread and how we provoke thought in our friends and contemporaries. We often add a message of our own when we do this, don’t we? So what do you think we should say in this case?  How about:

  • ‘This shouldn’t happen to so many people.’
  • ‘Increase the age limit for separating infants from their mothers!’
  • ‘Support shorter hours for forced labourers!’
  • ‘Please be kinder and cut down on this.’
  • ‘Support more pleasant environments for sexual violation!’

You may be thinking by now that this is some kind of sick humour, and I truly wouldn’t blame you. Such comments are so offensive that they make me queasy. Please hold that thought while we shift back to our victims.

Animal rights and human rights

The main focus of this page has always been and will always be, Animal Rights. This means that instead of horrors inflicted on humans, it highlights the disgraceful practices that are inflicted on our victims, the myriad activities that constitute our unnecessary exploitation of their lives, their reproduction, their forced labour, and the parts of their violently slaughtered and dismembered corpses. The take-home message on every single post and blog, is always the same; always absolutely uncompromising,

‘This needs to stop and it needs to stop now.’

It’s encouraging that these articles are liked and shared, and I often see the sharer add a message of their own – which as I said before, can be brilliant to emphasise the point.

Why is it then, that on the back of a completely uncompromising explanation of why we have no right whatsoever to create victims, do I so often see things like:

  • ‘Try cutting down on meat.’
  • ‘Make kinder choices.’
  • ‘Boycott factory farms!’
  • ‘Try going meatless for a couple of meals a week!’
  • And then the gem that sparked this blog, ‘Try buying free-range’?

When challenged, the response is frequently that the writer of such a message considers that animal use is too entrenched to ever stop, hence their remark.

If it’s good enough for humans, it’s good enough for everyone

However. If the wildly offensive messages about human exploitation were not justified by the fact that our species is always likely to cause harm to each other, why on earth would the equivalent in offensive messages be justified when applied to our defenceless victims? The short answer? It’s not. Wrong is wrong, whichever way we slice it. To post an offensive message about other animals when we would be deeply offended by the equivalent if it were applied to humans, is a perfect illustration of our speciesism talking.

Our victims have no one but us to tell the truth about the grave injustice of the ordeal to which we routinely subject them. We owe that truth to them as they queue in the milking parlours and hatcheries and slaughterhouses; and we owe that truth to every single member of our own species. Those who are unable or unwilling to face that truth must live with their own conscience, but we cannot afford to dilute it.

Trillions of lives are depending on this, and the desperate urgency of their plight is being added to each day by the collapsing ecosystems for which our predation is directly responsible. We are running out of time. Tell the truth!

Posted in Advocacy, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments