Using bees for honey; it’s not vegan and it’s not ‘conservation’.

Using and consuming honey taken from bees is not vegan. All the latest research suggests that bees are sentient individuals whose lives matter to them. In keeping with the many other species whose lives and bodies are ‘farmed’ by humans, honey bees are artificially-bred agricultural animals.

I know you’ll sometimes read that it’s a ‘controversial’ subject. It’s not. The denial of nonhuman sentience and the disregarding of their interests are familiar tactics in a nonvegan world that values others only in terms of what humans can take from them by force and use to make money. Those with vested interests will always jump on this bandwagon so as to safeguard their profits and attempt to silence criticism.

While the 6th mass extinction proceeds unchecked, the related insect apocalypse is ringing yet another alarm bell in a biodiversity crisis accelerating as the planet’s human population grows. This crisis is increasingly exacerbated by unprecedented recent climate changes and other anthropogenic stressors such as land-use change, deforestation, agricultural intensification, and urbanisation, all of which are leading to widespread and irreversible habitat destruction and loss. 

Recently I’ve come across many excellent articles that all say basically the same thing that’s been common knowledge for a long time: that using domesticated honey bees as a money making resource to produce honey intended for human consumption does no good for the victims, no good for the indigenous breeds, and no good for the environment in general. 

I decided that it’s important to start to compile the best information into a single blog to be added to as further information is published, providing something to share when the subject is raised by those whose self interest blinds them to the facts. Please note that within many of the following links you’ll find even more sources and information.

Is Honey Vegan?

‘Avoiding honey or bee products is consistent with veganism as an ethical philosophy because a bee is an animal. It has nothing to do with perfection or personal purity. As vegans, we cannot ignore the ethical implications and environmental consequences of the bee husbandry industry. Doing so reduces our credibility as a serious movement trying to affect change.

Honey isn’t some magical ingredient no one can avoid. It’s an animal product that has been mass marketed and mass-manufactured for generations, and it’s been tested on animals. With so many vegan alternatives available, honey is not only exploitative; it’s unnecessary.’

Myth: Beekeeping is needed to conserve pollinator populations.

Like dairy, honey consumption is a form of interspecific kleptoparasitism (literally “parasitism by theft”) of food made by/for another species that has been bred and manipulated specifically to be parasitized and exploited by people.

The Truth About Honey Bees

June 1, 2021 ‘Like chickens, pigs, cattle and other livestock, honey bees—not native to North America—are domesticated animals.’

The Problem with Honey Bees

November 4 2020 “Beekeeping is for people; it’s not a conservation practice,” says Sheila Colla, an assistant professor and conservation biologist at Toronto’s York University, Canada. “People mistakenly think keeping honey bees, or helping honey bees, is somehow helping the native bees, which are at risk of extinction.”

High densities of honey bee colonies increase competition between native pollinators for forage, putting even more pressure on the wild species that are already in decline. Honey bees are extreme generalist foragers and monopolize floral resources, thus leading to exploitative competition—that is, where one species uses up a resource, not leaving enough to go around.

Honeybees disrupt the structure and functionality of plant-pollinator networks

March 18, 2019 ‘Our results show that beekeeping reduces the diversity of wild pollinators and interaction links in the pollination networks. It disrupts their hierarchical structural organization causing the loss of interactions by generalist species, and also impairs pollination services by wild pollinators through reducing the reproductive success of those plant species highly visited by honeybees. ‘

Honey Bees Compete With Native Bees

February 25,  2019 ‘As our awareness grows about how ecosystems work, we’re having to think in different, uncomfortable ways as we challenge comfortable preconceptions. Honey bees are livestock, part of an agricultural machine and so are an agricultural issue; native bees are an ecological issue.

Keeping honeybees doesn’t save bees – or the environment

September 12, 2018 ‘The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) is a social bee species that has been domesticated for crop pollination and honey production. Beekeeping is often promoted as a way to conserve pollinators and, as a result, is on the rise across the UK. It’s great to see people backing the pollinator movement, but managing hives does nothing to protect our wild pollinators. It’s the equivalent of farming chickens to save wild birds.’

How the Honeybee Buzz Hurts Wild Bees

May 29, 2018 Contrary to public perception, die-offs in honeybee colonies are an agricultural problem, not a conservation issue. First domesticated about 9,000 years ago, honeybees are not all that different from livestock.

Urban beekeeping is harming wild bees says  Cambridge University

January 25, 2018 ‘Honeybees are artificially-bred agricultural animals similar to livestock such as pigs and cows. But this livestock can roam beyond any enclosures to disrupt local ecosystems through competition and disease.’


Bee products used by humans and/or sold commercially include:

  • Honey
  • Nectar
  • Beeswax
  • Pollen
  • Bee Bread
  • Popolis
  • Royal Jelly
  • Bee venom
  • Bee hive air.


Posted in Addressing resistance to change, honey, Victims in the shadows | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Veganism and conscience

Image by We Animals Media is of a snake rescued from research in a university

I recently did a post on social media where I mentioned a number of subjects which I have observed over the years to be less popular with page followers than others. I can’t remember having posted that type of observation before but many engaged with the post and the responses were interesting and helpful. Some also made it clear that The Elephant will likely lose followers as a result of this blog but so be it. I am nothing if not sincere and I’m not doing this to be popular.

I found myself reflecting on the fact that my writing centres mainly on these areas of exploitation that affect the majority of us, namely consumption, clothing, testing and entertainment and decided that this was a conscious choice on my part. Not only are these areas common to us all, but in terms of sheer victim numbers, if we were to bring these horrors to an end, then massive strides would have been made towards a vegan world. 


There were comments regarding the many minefields that can trigger defensive and hostile responses. Hostility can quickly divert the focus from the subject of a post and the message becomes lost in mudslinging and recriminations. A topic that was mentioned as particularly contentious by one advocate, was why humans riding on the backs of horses is not vegan.

This made me consider other similar trigger subjects that incite fury every time they’re mentioned – like the use of members of other species as ‘service animals’. We have all heard of individuals, usually dogs, used as guides, or used as assistants to humans with various medical conditions, used to detect drugs, firearms, money or explosives; I’ve read of dolphins and sea lions used to detect mines, pigeons used to carry messages even in this day and age, horses used for various purposes in the military. We hear of individuals of various species used as ‘therapy animals’ for humans. Nonhuman body parts are even used as spare parts for certain human medical procedures.

Vegans who are forced by health and circumstance to take life preserving medications, is another thorny subject. All medications will have been tested on nonhumans because that’s currently the law. Many contain milk, gelatine and/or various other derivatives from the bodies of others and there are no vegan alternatives. I would never presume to judge anyone for what they do on that score. In what are literally life or death situations, it’s purely for the individual to decide, but I know from personal experience that they are unlikely to get a free ride from their conscience on that subject.

And the topic of ‘pet ownership’ in itself is a massive minefield. Ranging from the terminology, the legal standing of other lives as our ‘property’ and the logistics of caring for other individuals of many different species, the pitfalls are many.  In the past I have touched lightly on the topic and have made no secret of my views on the domestication of species to act as companions and accessories for humans; views which I have held only since veganism opened my eyes to the fundamental human self interest of the practice. 

My recent post was pounced on almost immediately with a demand to know what I feed to the cats in my care, and the accumulation of all these thoughts and opinions led me down the path of considering the role of conscience in our veganism. 

What is veganism?

To recall the definition by the Vegan Society:

“Veganism is 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.”

The phrase within this definition that lights the way for each of us down the avenue of conscience is ‘as far as is possible and practicable’. 

Does ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ let us off the hook?

However, far from being a license to be lax about our interpretation of veganism, I have always found the phrase to be something of a goad that results in continuous self examination; constantly questioning whether I’m really doing my absolute best. I came to the conclusion long ago that a constant feeling of guilt is probably more to do with my own upbringing and personality than anything else, but maybe others can relate. No one else in the world knows the unique combination of circumstances that each of us faces and there’s no flow chart that gives us black and white instructions for any and every eventuality.

Caring for others

Going back to the topic of feeding those in our care, it is certainly one aspect of life where we may be forced to make choices based on our personal circumstances, the species, the health and the medical needs of those whom we care for, along with any other considerations that we must weigh in the balance.  And feeding isn’t the end of it. Should we confine our nonhuman family members to our houses to safeguard them from nonhuman and human predators, as well as to prevent them from following their instincts to prey on other creatures if allowed to roam free?

What do we do when those we look after have ticks or fleas, worms, nits or other lice, mites or even maggots? If we follow through with our examination of our own speciesism, these tiny creatures too have lives that they may or may not value. Common sense tells me they probably do. Nevertheless I have yet to read a vegan argument for allowing infestations of those whom we regard as parasites to remain unchecked within and upon our own bodies or those whom we care for. To leave parasites unharmed is to actively permit harm to the host creature. We may not treat our decisions on the subject lightly but in the end of the day it presents us with a dilemma and we all make judgement calls about the matter. We must. But in no way does that let us off the hook as far as conscience is concerned.

Conflicts and conscience

I know I am not alone in being conflicted. I have spoken to other vegans who are similarly pained by the compromises forced on them by circumstance, illness, poverty, or simply the fact of trying to live vegan in a nonvegan world. Some rescues are unwilling to take on individuals of species that are not by nature vegetarian, preferring instead to seek adoptive homes for them. It’s not my place to judge or even hold an opinion about that. I must simply understand, trusting their integrity and empathising from experience with the sleepless nights that I know these decisions will have caused. 

At the end of the day, veganism is a principle that provides a template to guide our decision making. It can never be absolute, because we are not all the same. I’m the first person to hold up my hand about my many failings and have done so often in a very public way. That has been a conscious choice, however none of us is obliged to explain or justify ourselves in order to satisfy the random judgements of those who don’t know anything about us. For each of us, what keeps us awake at night are not the opinions of strangers, but our own conscience; considering and squaring our own behaviour and decisions with it. It can give us a really hard time and sometimes our relationship with it is, at best, an uneasy truce.

But in the end, that unique and highly individual conscience is our guide to the very best vegan life we can manage.  For some of us that just has to be enough.


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

Words of concern – how to mean them

Trish rescued by Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary. She was too ill to be saved.

When confronted with an article or post about a poorly individual who has been rescued from being used as a human resource, it is not unusual to read furious criticisms:

1) about the farmer / breeder,
2) about the absence of veterinary care, or
3) about the apparent apathy of the XYZPCA organisations that are fancifully imagined to care about such matters and implement ‘laws’ to prevent them.

I don’t know if those who still cling to the notion that consumers can duck responsibility for the consequences of their demands are vegan or not, but based on my own memories, I’d guess possibly not. I suspect in my nonvegan past it might have eased whatever conscience I might have had to think that someone, somewhere was caring for my victims when I clearly wasn’t. Like all nonvegans, I was very quick to claim that I cared for ‘animals’ in general while my every action proved such claims to be complete nonsense. I’ve referred to all these things in previous blogs but I’m aiming to stick to the point here. Follow the links for more on a particular subject.

It’s a matter of profit

Products derived from the lives and bodies of our fellow creatures are sold in shops and restaurants at bargain basement prices. It is simply a fact that the majority of people don’t have lots of money and we all need to get as much as we can for what we can afford to spend. In a society where life is so cheap that needlessly slaughtering hundreds of millions of innocent individuals every day, incarcerating millions of mothers to pump out their breastmilk, taking the eggs from billions of hens selectively bred to self destruct, flaying skin, shaving fibres and all the other horrors of nonveganism are not even considered to be atrocities, it’s no surprise that our species’ fundamental lack of reverence for life is reflected in our nonvegan shopping habits. Demand for cheap products is what keeps prices low. We give it very little thought, but it’s the truth.

So we look for cheap products.  And meanwhile, far from being the ‘labour of love’ that some frame it as, farmers, breeders and their enablers are key participants in a demand-led supply industry. Like any other business, they’re in it for the money and work on the principle of ‘least outlay for maximum profit’. Although still reaping the benefits of state subsidies, their income is affected by the cost of the body parts at the point of sale. Which as I’ve pointed out, is cheap. This affects what they’re prepared to spend in terms of accommodation, feed, and also the lifespan of their ‘assets’. It is desirable for victims to reach the point of optimum profitability in as short a time as possible to cash in on the investment.

So here let’s bring in the ‘veterinary care’ aspect.

Reality check about veterinary care

When was the last time you visited the vet with a family member? It’s expensive. Very expensive. The last time I had investigations carried out for two members of my family I had very little change from £800 which is well over a month’s income for me. To be absolutely blunt, if I had been planning to sell their bodies to a butcher, there would have been no way I could have broken even, far less made a profit and that was for a single visit. And to continue in that vein, if indeed they had been destined – as many ‘farmed’ victims are – for their body parts, eggs and breastmilk to be consumed, shoppers would be outraged to discover that drugs and medications of any kind were ‘contaminating’ their purchases.

Every user of veterinary services is subject to the same costs. Because I love my family for who they are, I seek help for them. If they were business assets from which I was planning to profit financially, my decision would have to be based on whether there was any financial gain to be had from spending money on expensive veterinary treatment.

And before anyone starts resorting to rhetoric about the pain, suffering of the victims and compassion for their plight, please don’t. If consumers or suppliers truly cared about these individuals for the thinking, feeling individuals that they are, they wouldn’t be victims in the first place. Because ALL nonvegan use is unnecessary.

We simply don’t get to claim we care while doing something that proves we don’t.

Okay so what about the XYZPCA – isn’t there a law against this?

Now here, many are possibly saying yeah I can see how the money thing works – that makes sense (or at least it does to me), but what about the XYZPCA? Surely that’s what they’re for – to step in and help? This is something I’ve written so much about that possibly people have been put off by the long posts. Suffice to say there is a fundamental misunderstanding about the function of these organisations, about the term ‘welfare‘ which they bandy about so much and about the laws and ‘regulations‘ that are imagined to protect our victims.

Regulations and guidelines are not designed to protect the well-being, the experiences or the individual autonomy of those who are ‘farmed’ as victims, a fact that seems to escape us, considering the shock and outrage of online responses to extracts from guidelines issued by said XYZPCA organisations when they appear on social media; for example extracts describing how to carry out various mutilations, ‘thumping’  piglets, ‘gassing’ and ‘maceration’ of hatchlings, stunning, live transport and a myriad other standard regulated and perfectly legal practices.

It’s clear that shocked commenters don’t expect ‘welfare’ organisations to be advising on stocking densities, slaughter methods and the like. But once we stop imagining that ‘welfare’ has anything to do with our victims’ wellbeing or rights as individuals, it all makes complete sense. That’s what these organisations are actually employed to do, to advise regarding the minimum and/or most profitable standards by which victims may be commodified.

I like the explanation provided by Go Vegan World:

‘Those who profit from them defend their use of them by referring to the ‘animal welfare standards’ which guide their work. Let’s be absolutely clear about what animal welfare means. It is an industry term that refers to the legal breeding of sentient animals into a life where they are deliberately killed.

It refers to the minimum standards by which other animals can be owned, commodified, and exploited. It refers to standard legal practices such as hyperconfinement, mutilation, electrocution, gassing, live mincing, scalding, separating mothers from their babies, and breaking the bonds between animals who know each other. It includes taking their milk and eggs, and it includes killing them.’

Go Vegan World

I was going to summarise in a closing paragraph but as I said, I’m aiming to be brief. So I’ll just repeat what I said earlier.

We simply don’t get to claim we care while doing something that proves we don’t. If we care we become vegan. If we refuse to be vegan, it’s a statement we don’t care. Which is it to be?

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Advocacy, consumer demand, property status, welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.





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.

Posted in Global disasters, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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. 


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)

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

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.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Advocacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eggs – careless talk costs lives

Newly hatched chicks in a hatchery for egg layers.

‘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. 


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

‘your local farm … actually see how the chickens live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally

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

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

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

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

Be vegan. Oh and STOP using eggs.

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

Splitting hairs about speciesism

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

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

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

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

Is there a difference?

Well, is there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being vegan means rejecting all speciesism. Be vegan.

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

About a goose

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

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

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

Wild geese

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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