Lies, damn lies, and statistics*

Summary (for clear image)

February is the month that FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations) publishes the annual global statistics of the number of land-based individuals slaughtered in the latest statistical year, which is currently 2019. This is the fourth year that I’ve looked at these figures and blogged about them. 

First of all I’d like to express gratitude to my friend, committed activist Markus Bøhning whose many vegan projects include tierrechtsaktivistenbuendnis. This year, he was the one who crunched the numbers from FAOSTAT’s raw data, examining the statistics back to when they were first published in 1961. It’s thanks to him that we’re able to look confidently at patterns and trends from year to year. But before diving into what the latest numbers tell us, context is vital; there are several things that need to be said.

Those who have read my blogs in the past will have observed a sense of  increasing urgency, summed up in my ‘statistics’ blog of March 2019;

‘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. We no longer have options. Anyone who tells us differently, has a vested interest in lying to us.’

So where do we hope we are now?

If you’re reading this I’d like to start by asking you a question. I’m not expecting – or even wanting – an answer, but whatever it is just hold the thought in your head once you reach a conclusion. Okay. Here we go. One question, two parts:

Q – a) Judging by what you hear and see and read on social and mainstream media, and taking into account advertising, publicity and the availability of plant-based and/or ‘vegan’ options in shops, restaurants, stores and manufacturers, do you think that plant-based consumption /veganism  is on the rise? 

b) If you do think it’s on the rise, and if like many you think it’s taking off in a big way, what would be your conclusion about the consequent impact on nonvegan animal use and exploitation? 

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  You may think it’s a no-brainer and I’m going to help out a bit here. Here’s what I would answer if I wasn’t so determined to look behind the hype. I’d say that plant based options are definitely on the up and up although not fast enough for my liking. However I’d also conclude that if that’s true, then logically the use and consumption of other animals should be either reducing or holding steady, taking into account the increasing human population. And I’d be wrong.

Slaughter numbers per head of human population

Now take a look at the numbers – I’ve included a link to an Excel summary which is clearer. The first thing to notice is that slaughter numbers have INCREASED between 2018 and 2019 by over 3.5 BILLION.  Now I’ve seen lots of patronising and even dismissive comments about the increase being accounted for by an increasing population. For this reason, a new number has been included with this summary that indicates the number slaughtered for each member of the human global population.

And that number is going UP.

Which means that all the feel-good hype about plant based diets is just wishful thinking until that number starts to fall. 

And for those who claim that breeding, eating and using our fellow animals to death is just what humans have always done, here’s a horrifying snippet of information. In 1961 when these records first began, that number was 2.70 per person. The number of defenceless creatures slaughtered per human has gone from 2.70 to 10.34 in 70 years. It doesn’t require any particular insight to realise that on a finite planet this is unsustainable in terms of land use, species extinction, climate collapse, human health, pandemics and zoonotic disease, antibiotic resistance, need I go on?

Chickens. It’s always chickens.

Here’s another thing the statistics tell me. The numbers of most individuals tend to fluctuate – some go up, some go down. But in keeping with last year where the bulk of the 2.2 billion increase on the previous year was accounted for by slaughtered chickens, we have the same pattern repeating itself here. Of the 3.5 billion overall increase, 3.3 billion of the victims are chickens.

The enormity of this outrage is impossible to express. It certainly should be rocking the boat of complacency, and the wishful thinking about  the uptake of ‘plant-based options’; screaming out to all who will listen just exactly why we are in such dire peril from a predicted Avian Flu pandemic that could leave COVID19 looking gentle by comparison. Incidentally, millions of defenceless birds are currently being slaughtered as I write this, in what are predicted to be futile attempts to stem the jumping of the species barrier to humans, but I know – and if you’re paying attention, you know too – that it’s only a matter of time. We may already be out of time as a species.

The take-home message

It’s hard not to feel discouraged as I know only too well. The situation is clearly getting worse rather than better and the monstrous brutality of our species is accelerating. 

One thing is for sure. We are fooling ourselves if we embrace the capitalist consumer extravaganza of plant-based options aimed at nonvegans as a solution to the demise of planet Earth. The statistics show that these are supplementing rather than replacing the use and slaughter of defenceless creatures.

I’ve written before about why it’s important to realise that veganism isn’t a diet. The statistics emphasise that ‘eating plant based’ without a moral commitment to becoming vegan, to stopping all use of other species, is having no visible effect on the unfolding catastrophe. 

We have to wake up and realise that our job as animal rights advocates is just being made a whole lot harder by a media circus spinning fantasies of a ‘vegan revolution’. The fact is that although more nonvegans may be supplementing their diets with plant-based products, veganism ISN’T on the rise, and we can’t even think of easing off.  We owe it to the victims of nonveganism to promote veganism and absolutely nothing less.  

It remains to be seen whether the impact of COVID19 upon humans will result in their finally realising that unless we change our ways radically, we truly are sunk. We can live in hope but I, for one, won’t be holding my breath until the statistics are released in 2022 and 2023.

 

 

Notes

NB

1 – The numbers above do not include numerous other groups including:

  • Marine creatures – estimated deaths 2.7 trillion annually. 
  • Male chicks killed by the egg industry (which is currently celebrating an increase in consumption) – currently estimated at 7.4 to 8 billion annually;
  • Bees in the honey industry;
  • Silk worms;
  • Frogs, snails and other amphibians;
  • Insects such as crickets executed for ‘novelty’ and ‘alternative protein’ markets;
  • Dogs, cats and other species slaughtered in ‘small establishments’, ‘backyards’ or slaughterhouses not contributing to FAOSTAT;
  • Wildlife dying from loss of habitat and climate change caused by farming other species;
  • Laboratory test subjects.
  • Members of all species who die before slaughter for a multitude of reasons including disease and injury, having been discarded by the slaughterhouse because only healthy animals are ‘fit’ for meat production. Depending on the species, this number may be up to 10% of the slaughter total – in this case over 8 billion more deaths than are recorded.

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

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

3 – Please note that FAOSTAT’s statistics for each year are amended over the course of that year. That is why, for the purpose of this blog, the statistics used are those released in February rather than the amended (increased) numbers from the end of the statistical year. 

4 – Just for interest, the following are the links to previous blogs on this subject

2020 re 2018 stats – Slaughter numbers jump by 2.2 billion
2019 re 2017 stats – Ending life as we know it – humanity on the edge of the abyss
2018 re 2016 stats – Statistics: a list of individual tragedies

*The further I looked for the origin of the title phrase, the less sure I was of the attribution. I didn’t make it up but it seemed an appropriate title for this blog.

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Looking at language: Pests

I recently posted about fireworks and the devastation they cause, illustrating the post with a tragic picture of countless dead birds on a city street following new year fireworks. 

It is well documented that fireworks terrify all the living individuals in their vicinity. Those who share their homes with dogs or cats are, for the most part, acutely aware of this and there’s even a lucrative trade in consumer items to soothe and calm nonhuman family members who experience the sickening panic caused by fireworks. However these are far from being the only species affected. For some creatures who live outdoors, the terror is so extreme that their panicking hearts simply fail. Others fly frantically into obstacles, killing or injuring themselves, while yet others bolt in mindless panic, frequently becoming lost, injured or killed.

Besides being antisocial and causing distress and anxiety to many humans, fireworks are an extreme form of noise pollution and result in widespread toxic litter, polluting the habitats of every wild creature who depends on the environment for food and shelter. In many places – my homeland of Scotland included – there are ongoing and widely supported campaigns calling for the practice to become illegal. 

Celebrations

On reflection, the setting off of fireworks is one of a vast number of ‘celebratory’ practices in which our species participates casually and carelessly; practices that cause death and destruction to innocent creatures, and which constitute wanton vandalism, environmental littering and pollution on a breathtaking scale, while perpetrators adopt an attitude of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and choose to remain oblivious to the consequences of their behaviour. Examples that spring instantly to mind are balloon releases, sky lantern releases and setting free flocks of captive doves, often as part of a wedding.  As a species, surely we can celebrate without destroying innocent lives? 

Anyway, against that background, I noted a comment on a share of the firework post that remarked how, in that particular city, there were people walking about with megaphones to create noise, being paid ‘to scare these pests out of the trees to try to get them away from the city’. The implication was that the dead birds had only themselves to blame for not being appropriately scared away, and the term that rocked me back on my heels and made me feel slightly sick, was ‘these pests’. 

Pests. I get the same feeling when I see the word ‘vermin’, but in this case. it was ‘pests’.

The assumption that only humans matter

Now if this comment had been in any way unusual, I might have been able to shrug it off, but it very neatly epitomises a whole way of thinking that is depressingly common amongst our species. With our unchecked hubris and supreme arrogance, humans persist in regarding their own species as the only one that matters, with the struggling planet and her persecuted life forms ours to do with as we will. Without regard for the consequences, we continue to carve blood and brutality across a burning, melting, disease-racked globe, laying waste to all in our path in the most sustained and destructive regime of oppression that has ever been unleashed.

In so many ways we usurp the natural world with our sprawling, ever expanding urbanisation and with the poisons and toxins we pour so liberally onto the land and into the oceans.  We destroy ecosystems and natural habitats, displacing the rightful occupants of ancient communities.  As our population rapidly increases, we are crowding out the wild creatures for whom planet Earth is their rightful and only home, every bit as much as it ever was for humans. 

Then, when they’ve nowhere left to go, when they try to eke a living where they have always been, we condemn them as ‘pests’ and try to justify scaring them out of the spaces we’ve claimed, eradicating them with agonising traps and guns and poisons, designing buildings to ensure that birds are denied perching spaces, waging war against innocent lives.

Every day we read of foxes, bears, coyotes, raccoons, pigeons and other displaced species reduced to scavenging for scraps in our streets and our rubbish bins. Recent articles told of desperate elephants foraging landfill sites in Sri Lanka, and starving polar bears raiding bins and dumps in northern climes. Our species has taken their wild places from them, while wrecking the balance of the climate that provided for their needs. And then, adding insult to the worst of injuries as we always do, and assuming that our species’ possession of any given space is of prime importance, we call them ‘pests’ and seek to wipe them out.

Getting rid of unwanted lives

It must also be noted that ‘animal agriculture’ with its consumer-driven requirement to accommodate rapidly increasing numbers of victims, is swift to categorise both indigenous and introduced species as pests, often with the flimsiest of ‘justifications’, in favour of those species whose lives and bodies are used to generate profit.  Foxes, badgers, rabbits and many others all pay the ultimate price for their very existence, often in the falsely benevolent guise of another related word; a cull.

There are many avenues that lead from this self-importance.  I would suggest it’s related to the same callous conceit that labels cats and dogs who have been betrayed by humans and find themselves homeless, as ‘strays’ to be rounded up and ‘disposed of’ in shelters. And meanwhile any insect, any bird, any rodent or mammal seeking to carve an existence in the meagre spaces between the areas claimed by our species, instantly becomes a target, instantly becomes vermin, is instantly reviled as a pest.

I don’t intend for this to be a long blog, so I’m going to leave it here, with a thought for the day.  The next time you hear or see the word ‘pest’ or ‘vermin’, please give some consideration to the deeper implications that exist, and the way words betray our speciesism.

Be vegan.

 

Pest (noun)
a destructive insect or other animal that attacks crops, food, livestock, etc.
an annoying person or thing; a nuisance.

Vermin (noun)
wild animals that are believed to be harmful to crops, farm animals, or game, or which carry disease, e.g. rodents.

Link to Spanish translation with grateful thanks to Igor Sanz of Lluvia Con Truenos (Rain with Thunder)

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On taking things at face value

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

I’ve written short posts in the past about my extreme discomfort at seeing animal videos on social media being presented as ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ or ‘funny’ and ‘hilarious’. They are clearly very popular, very widely shared, and the comments range through the entire social media repertoire of cutesy emotes, to the most inane and sentimental of comments.  As an animal rights activist, it is rare for me to consider that any of these are actually funny once I stop to think about it.  I’m sure you know the kind of things I’m referring to.  How often do you find yourself witnessing what is clearly an individual in distress and thinking, ‘For pity’s sake, put down the camera and help them’.

I still have a stark memory of a video that was going viral, of a group of capering, bouncing, baby goats in pyjamas . Closer inspection of the source revealed it to be a PR video from a goat dairy, presumably making money from the babies before they were sent to slaughter.

I’ve also seen videos of ‘fainting goats’ attracting great hilarity (and consequently many shares) but it turns out that the fainting is due to myotonia congenita, a hereditary condition that causes the affected individual to collapse as a response to fear.

Mocking and finding humour in the misfortune of defenceless creatures, even breeding them to have defects that we find ‘cute’, is not funny. Not even slightly. It’s a demonstration of the ugly prejudice known as speciesism that our species learns from childhood.

Sweet little monkeys being bathed

This all came to mind today when a video was shared in a group I follow. It depicted two tiny monkeys being bathed by a human. They were presented as a mother and child, rescued from exploitation, being cared for by a kind woman. Tender music was playing as a soundtrack.  Predictably, many seemed to take that description completely at face value.

So what’s my problem in this case?

Even in a group where many are aware of the widespread exploitation of members of nonhuman species for human indulgence and financial gain, few who commented on the video looked any deeper than the carefully crafted ‘script’.  However the person sharing the post on the group pointed out that the ‘mother’ was in fact a male and that the infant was starving. This piqued my interest and my own closer inspection suggested that when the two monkeys were not clinging desperately to each other, the older individual was trying to leave the scene and was being subtly compelled to return by means of gestures and possibly vocal commands. This latter, of course, is speculative because as I’ve said, the entire soundtrack was a romantic piano track and the face of the ‘kind woman’ was never shown, only her hands, the monkeys and the tub.

The infant was certainly much too young to be away from their mother. As always in such situations, my internal commentary immediately wonders why the baby is alone. No mother would willingly leave her child so there has to be a back story. The bathing seemed completely unnecessary as the two looked spotless and it was clearly not welcomed by either of the monkeys.

In fact all things considered, I’d go as far as to suggest that while the infant was probably too young to be trained (yet), what I was witnessing was a performance by an adult prisoner trained to act out a part; being exploited in the same way as any circus performer and one can only speculate about the reality of the existence both the individuals were enduring.

A bit far-fetched?

So what motive could anyone possibly have for presenting a contrived video designed to pull at the heart strings of an uncritical audience?

Social media is a powerful force, where for many groups and organisations, whether legitimate or dubious, site traffic is the critical element in building their influence and trade and high traffic sites are in a strong position to advertise products and services.

We’ve all heard the term ‘viral’. It’s a word that describes content that spreads rapidly online through website links and social sharing, and anything viewers find particularly appealing or relatable has the potential to drive more traffic to the source. Sites that advise on this sort of social manipulation, specifically recommend avoiding any content that’s likely to cause debate or discussion. The message is keep it light and humorous.  For content to go viral, it is essential that people want to share it to reach the maximum audience, and videos that people latch on to as ‘cute’ or ‘funny’ or ‘adorable’, particularly depicting members of other species, are a particularly effective means of achieving this end.

And so we return to the video of the monkeys.

There is a remote chance that the video in question was what it seemed – a woman washing rescued monkeys. My bet, however, is that it was not; but rather a cynical and staged exercise in exploitation created for a purpose related to human financial gain. It may not be so easy to spot as the image at the top of the post, but it’s every bit as offensive.

All I can ask is that when you see this kind of presentation – please look deeper than the saccharine façade. It’s extremely likely that you are being offered a window into tragedy; a glimpse of innocent creatures existing in misery and exploitation. At the very least, refuse to play along by sharing the videos and pass on your knowledge about this sickening trade to any who will listen.

Being vegan is about a lot more than what we eat. One of the things we rapidly discover is that the world is a much darker place than we ever imagined.

Be vegan.

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Eggs – careless talk costs lives

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

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

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

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

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

 ‘Time to quit eating eggs.’

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

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

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

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

‘Unless’

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

‘your local farm … actually see how the chickens live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally

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

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

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

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

Be vegan. Oh and STOP using eggs.

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Splitting hairs about speciesism

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

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

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

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

Is there a difference?

Well, is there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being vegan means rejecting all speciesism. Be vegan.

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About a goose

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

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

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

Wild geese

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

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

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

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

Flesh

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

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

Foie gras

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

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

Feathers

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

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

Eggs

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

‘Happy Goose Day’

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*Note about slaughter

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

About home slaughter, English Government rules state:

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

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

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

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

turkey or geese – at least 2 minutes’

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

Learning lessons

 

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

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

~ JRR Tolkein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be vegan.

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

Taking a break

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

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

Stay well and keep safe.

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

‘To finish’; looking at language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Dress rehearsal for the apocalypse

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

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

Why indeed

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

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

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

Racism and xenophobia has to stop

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

‘Farming’ of living beings is problematic

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

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

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

Slaughtering wild creatures and destroying habitats

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

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

Be informed, be educated and tell the truth

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

Be vegan. Everything depends on it.

Recommended links and articles

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

How Wildlife Markets and Factory Farms Guarantee Frequent New Deadly Diseases

Eating Animals Will Be the Death of Us

About factory farming – straight talking 

Coronavirus should make you reconsider eating meat: 

Why are we ignoring the root cause of this pandemic?  

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

Zoonoses : Taken from: Christian Koeder: Veganismus 2014 

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

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

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

Coronavirus is our future: Alanna Shaikh. Predictable, inevitable, preventable

The COVID-19 Pandemic May Just Be a Dress Rehearsal

Covid and farm animals: nine pandemics that changed the world

Posted in Global disasters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments