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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 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

Posted in Global disasters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Thinking of ducks

Pekin ducks being ‘farmed’ for their dead flesh. Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Ducks. As a child I used to love visiting duckponds. It was a Sunday treat and few children of my generation in my part of the world haven’t been enchanted by ‘going to feed the ducks’, clutching a bag of bread scraps, encouraged to be gentle, to stay still and quiet in the hope that they’d come close so we could admire them. These memories linger, visions of a lost childhood when I thought the world was a place of beauty and wonder.

A childhood when, like most of us, I was being systematically groomed and corrupted to respect other species without making the connection between them and the corpses, breastmilk and eggs on my plate. Oblivious to the barbarity of my species, I had no clue what was really in store for the majority of ducks, and the world became a blacker and more sinister place for my knowing.

As with rabbits, almost every cooking series on TV includes some dish(es) made of the flesh of these gentle and sociable birds. Programme participants nibble morsels, seemingly pleased when the dismembered flesh is still red and bloody, their affectations completely disconnected from the terrified, panicking individual who so much wanted to live but was suspended upside down from shackles before their throat was hacked open to bleed them to death. Bleeding to death (exsanguination) is how all our victims are killed. It is violent, gory and agonising. Always.

The small, headless, footless and featherless corpses in the supermarkets were once like these in the image, not living as we think of the word but simply existing; being kept alive in the most economical way until they reach approximately 8 weeks of age and are trucked to slaughter. Although deprived of the ability to bathe, swim or indulge their natural behaviour, the issue is not the environment in which we keep them while they await their unnecessary deaths. The issue is that we have no need whatsoever to make victims of fellow creatures who desperately don’t want to die.

The number of these charming birds slaughtered daily is dwarfed only by the number of chickens who meet our rough hands, electrified tanks and blades. Every single day, almost 8.2 million individual ducks are executed globally.

  • That number does not include those who are imprisoned, held immobile and brutally force fed by means of funnels rammed down their throats until their liver becomes diseased and enlarged, when it is prized as ‘foie gras’ (as also inflicted on geese);
  • It does not include those who are incarcerated so that they may be used for eggs in exactly the same way as chickens;
  • It does not include those who were peacefully minding their own business when they were shot from the sky for what our monstrous species calls ‘sport’;
  • It does not include those who endure a living hell being ‘farmed’ for their feathers and regularly plucked alive.

All of these things that we do as a species, are manifestations of  speciesism; the delusion that all other species exist for our use and that we need have no concern or justification for our actions, however monstrous, however obscene.

All it takes is a moment to decide that no more innocents will quake in terror on our account and say, ‘Not in my name’.  Make that decision today. Decide to be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Statistics, Victims in the shadows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Property – what it means to be ‘owned’

Image by Aitor Garmendia, Tras los Muros. Ear tags in a slaughterhouse, recording assets ‘processed’ to realise financial value for their ‘owner’. Each one represents a broken individual whose entire existence was a prelude to the moment their tag appeared on the shelf.

I’ve written about ‘property’ before but it’s a topic that bears repeating. Maybe I’ll stumble across new ways of expressing the monstrous abomination that owning other individuals represents. As the crushing impacts of widespread climate-collapse increase in frequency, along with disease and other horrors related to our astonishing sense of entitlement to butcher our way through our lives, more and more members of nonhuman species are paying with everything they have for our folly and neglect of the planet we all need for survival.

No room to criticise

While the terror of the latest in an endless series of zoonotic diseases stalks the planet, hate-filled tirades sweep social media, as if every single outraged commenter came from a land where all sentient beings lived in harmony and mutual respect.  How swiftly shoved to the back of the collective mind are the recent camel massacre and the pending extinction of koalas in fire ravaged Australia where licences are still being issued for ‘culling‘ kangaroos; the canned hunting privileges being bought by financially rich but morally bankrupt westerners; the fact that our species has added a further 2.2 billion (2,200,000,000) chickens to our annual voracious orgy of gluttony; the ‘culling‘ of wild horses, of badgers and deer, of crows, gulls, geese, swans, seals, insects and even songbirds that take place on our very doorsteps; the millions of unwanted ‘pets’ slaughtered annually for the crime of being unwanted; the ‘hunts’ where dogs are coached to violence and honed by hunger to chase down and tear apart terrified foxes or hares. And then there are things that are an offence to all decency by their very existence; veal; foie gras; fins hacked from sharks; macerators in hatcheries. The list is endless.

I live in Scotland. Google ‘exotic meat suppliers’, and find for consumption the desecrated corpses of ostriches and crocodiles, alpacas and elks, squirrels, frogs, pythons, snails, crickets, zebras and then tell me how we’re ‘better’ than other places. Western governments are actually paying for the destruction of the world through agricultural subsidies from the public purse, subsidies that deny and ignore science and health in favour of powerful vested financial interest as if they are somehow exempt from the laws of physics.

It’s all legal

Every single country has a closet filled to bursting with skeletons of shame. I could write pages listing perfectly legal standard practice, could make readers wish to vomit with disgust. No nation has room to point fingers at any other and every single thing that happens is driven by the one overarching prejudice that has at one time affected every single one of us to a greater or lesser extent: speciesism; that complete disregard for the rights of any who aren’t human, and the ignoring of the fact that their consent to our abuse and violence is being understandably withheld.

And speciesism has spawned a legal framework that facilitates every single atrocity that the corrupt and fertile imagination of our brutal and violent species is capable of inventing. We have made up laws that designate every nonhuman as our property to do with as we will.

Our property. It’s completely one-sided; our victims’ interests were never taken into account – in fact ‘property’ legislation dates from the 17th century when, in the infancy of humanity’s understanding of our fellow earthlings, contemporary scientists decided they had no interests and in some cases were even incapable of feeling pain. Although we now know this to be completely incorrect, we cling to these archaic laws and have set ourselves up as the grim overlords of the living planet, continuing to rubber-stamp any vileness that suits our flimsiest excuses through loopholes built into every legislative approval.

It never stops

Sensationalist popular media has schooled consumers to be always hungry for new titillation and trivia while serious, journalistic integrity that critiques and informs is a rare thing never found in the popular rags. The fact that the press has skipped on to new topics doesn’t mean that calamities in Australia, or the polar regions, or the Amazon, are over, or that their impact is not still decimating individuals of all their resident species; it just means that it’s not ‘news’ any more and some new ‘sensation’ is selling papers and magazines.

The ongoing waves of social media outrage that are sparked by each new nonhuman-related tragedy that springs up, underline that many – even amongst those who are vegan – still don’t appreciate the terrible implications of what it truly means for members of other animal species to be the ‘property’ of our species; what it means for living breathing, feeling individuals to be ‘owned’.  I know this because of the time I and others spend fielding angry demands about ‘what can be done’ to stop the culling of various wild creatures, demands to know how to ‘rescue’ farmed animals from farms and slaughterhouses, demands to know ‘who to complain to’ when we see the images of helpless innocents who have incinerated or drowned or suffered injury or attack at human hands, while everywhere is repeated the mistaken idea that ‘welfare‘ for our victims has something to do with their wellbeing rather than human profit.  Yet all the outrage is missing the point. The point is that virtually nothing can be done and with only the very occasional exception, it’s all perfectly legal:

‘You see, we don’t treat animals badly because they’re property. We classify animals as property so that we can treat them badly.’

~ Lesli Bisgould, Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and the Barrister at Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Resource Office.

We make it about us – and the law backs us up

And when we do hear about our victims being impacted by human activities, because they are legally nothing more than property and hence business assets and resources, the stories are invariably presented as a disaster for the ‘owner’ of the land or the establishment; their loss of revenue, their inconvenience. It’s all about humans, all a human interest tragedy that they’ll have to claim insurance and ‘re-stock‘.

‘Being born as “livestock” is always a dangerous proposition. You are born to make money and often that profit is only realised once you are dead. During a fire emergency, you are no longer “livestock” — you are just “stock.” You are the things we fill our supermarket shelves with. You will not be shuttled to safety. Your image will not be used to solicit donations. You will become a “biohazard.” If you manage to survive, you will soon be killed anyway.

~ Siobhan O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, author of Animals, Equality and Democracy

Persecution, habitat destruction, forced labour, imprisonment, torture, mutilation, execution and more are the inevitable result of existing as living, breathing, feeling ‘property’. ‘The property status of animals’ is not some legal technicality that prevents every other species from sharing in the privileges that humans claim for themselves in this world that we are rapidly destroying.

Yes, we’ve all seen the ‘wits’ who pour scorn on animal rights with ludicrous ideas about whether members of other animal species should have the right to vote or should be entitled to hold a driving license etc.  It’s common for the scorn of shallow hacks seeking cheap laughs to be weighted alongside scientific studies and analyses as if their words were of equal importance, presenting readers with a pick’n’mix of nonsense that panders to every prejudice and bias alongside (if we’re lucky) actual information.

Nevertheless, a status as ‘property’ has utterly predictable consequences for our victims leading directly from our speciesist commitment to use their lives and bodies as if they existed specifically for that purpose, an intention reflected by what we put in our supermarket trolleys and by every nonvegan purchase of broken bodies, lives and labour that we make.

‘The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us — to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or exploited for sport or money.

Once we accept this view of animals – as our resources – the rest is as predictable as it is regrettable.’

~ Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights

So what can we do?

Legal does not equate to morally right. The solutions are not simple, they’re not quick, no one has them all, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll even be enough to save the planet. More than veganism is going to be needed and I’d never claim otherwise. But it’s not optional. We are now in the midst of the fight of our lives; and it’s a fight for the lives of those who have for too long been our victims, a fight for the very existence of the living world, a planet that we are destroying which is theirs as much as it was ever ours.

If integrity matters to us at all, then as individual consumers we must take responsibility for our actions. We are each personally responsible for every single activity that has been carried out in our name, to meet our demands as consumers. Only by changing our behaviour can we stand any chance of turning back the tide of destruction that we have unleashed upon the world.

I know many are asking what happens if the tide doesn’t turn? Nothing in life has ever come with a guarantee.  Whatever we face in the immediate future, at least we’ll  have the peace of mind that comes of knowing that we have lived true to the values we all claimed to hold.

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


More links for consideration:

About Emma the dog – what being property meant for her – https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/being-property-what-it-means/

The aftermath of Hurricane Florence: https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/19/the-property-status-of-animals/

Why laws don’t protect our victims – Lesli Bisgould: https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/19/the-property-status-of-animals/

Posted in FAQ, property status | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Slaughter numbers jump by 2.2 billion

Despite the euphoria caused by the proliferation of plant based dietary options in shops and restaurants, the statistics don’t bear out the wishful thinking about veganism taking over the world any time soon. In fact, given the accelerating climate catastrophe with the terrifying extreme weather events in every paper and news bulletin, the numbers make me seriously doubt the number of humans taking our mortal peril as a species seriously.

In the most recent statistics, the total number of land-based individuals whose lives are hacked from their terrified throats in slaughterhouses across the globe has leapt from 74.9 billion to 77 billion – an increase of almost 2.2 billion in a single year.  Even allowing for a 0.1 billion increase in the global human population (7.7 – 7.8 billion), this is a disaster for our victims and ought to be a sobering bucket of cold water for every company and organisation sounding fanfares of ‘victory’ and raising funds on the back of imaginary reductions in slaughter numbers.

Meanwhile, whatever the feel-good publicity says, our species is creating more victims than ever. Examining the statistics, one stark fact is unavoidable. The entire obscene increase is being borne by chickens. At 66.5 billion the previous year, now almost 69 billion of these defenceless creatures are facing the desperate existence we inflict on them for our dietary indulgence and a death that we can’t even bear to contemplate. Add in other birds such as ducks, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl etc and the number is 73.2 billion.

I appreciate spreadsheets may not appeal to many and I intend to write further on this topic but I’m including the raw figures from FAOSTAT here for any who are interested.

The immediate message, however, is crystal clear. We have to stop this. Really stop it. Not just talk about it, not allow ourselves to be lulled into a sense of false optimism by wishful thinkers and those who want our cash because they keep trumpeting about ‘victories’. The statistics don’t lie. *

The only true victory for our defenceless victims, is a new vegan. We must take responsibility as individuals and knuckle down to what needs to be done for the sake of our victims and the planet we share with them. If we’re already vegan, we need to work harder, advocate harder, be more creative but above all, be honest. It’s urgent.

Be vegan.


*NB The numbers above, which average at 2,443 individuals per second(!), do not include numerous other groups including:

  • Marine creatures – estimated deaths 2.7 trillion annually. Because ‘catch’ is counted in tonnage that disregards ‘bycatch’ I don’t know of  a source of reliable statistics that details the actual number of individuals who die for our dietary indulgence;
  • Male chicks killed by the egg industry – 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 ‘backyards’ or slaughterhouses not contributing to FAOSTAT;
  • Wildlife dying from loss of habitat and climate change caused by farming other species;
  • Laboratory test subjects;

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 indiginous 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.


As noted above, all statistics are derived from FAOSTAT http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QL


Posted in consumer demand, Global disasters, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

The doer and the deed – considering the difference

Recently I published a post that said with regard to animal rights, we need to focus on farming as a central issue rather than attacking individuals who carry out what is after all only one of many barbaric practices that serve nonvegan consumer demands. And you know what? There were scathing contradictions and attacks on the integrity of the page. I was astonished to hear that apparently There’s an Elephant in the Room is an ‘apologist space’ (ironically the polar opposite of the usual criticism) and that farmers are cruel *sociopaths. All of them, apparently.

There’s a predictable pattern on social media when some circumstance concerning the consequences of nonvegan actions hits the headlines, to read vitriolic, sweeping generalisations and every insult imaginable from those who identify as ‘vegans’ as well as those ‘animal lovers’ who probably aren’t vegan, but are brimming with righteous indignation. I’m sure we’ve all read toxic tirades using words like ‘scum’, ‘evil’, about ‘people who are *cruel to animals’, and how none of them gives a shit. ‘I hate them all’, ‘How can they live with themselves?’, ‘I could never do that, I’d rather die’. Etc.

In one way, I can understand the knee-jerk behind such comments but it must also be said ‘before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.’ They are indeed fortunate who have no concept or experience of what it means to have to do whatever it takes to survive and feed one’s family in a society that has increasing contempt for the poor, for immigrants, for the physically, mentally, educationally or otherwise disadvantaged. I can’t judge and can only hope never to be faced with recognising how far I’d go for the sake of my children’s lives.  Surprisingly the ones who seem to cop the least vitriol from the vociferous namecallers are the nonvegan shoppers, every one of whom is quietly filling their shopping trolley and paying the wages of the entire nonvegan support industry that attracts so much contempt.

And then of course we read xenophobic, racist rants about what ‘other’ people do in ‘other’ places – which is apparently so much worse than our own, ‘pleasant’, in-house brand of brutality. This is even more in evidence now as we all watch anxiously while the latest potential pandemic sweeps inexorably across the globe, following on the heels of SARS, avian flu, swine flu, mad cow disease, and the many other zoonotic diseases that are and will continue to be an inevitable consequence of the mindblowing scale of our species’ needless exploitation of trillions of innocent nonhuman individuals every single year. Everywhere I see verbal assault and abuse, hate speech, xenophobia and racism.

Who were you? Who was I?

If you’re reading this and you were raised as a vegan, I envy you; you have a major advantage that most of us didn’t have, and you may not be able to relate to this blog. Otherwise, if you were not raised vegan but now are, I’d like you to cast your mind back to the days before that lightbulb moment. I know from personal experience that it may not be easy, because it’s such a momentous change that it’s difficult to remember the person who wore your face in those days.

When I look back to my own experience, that lead-up, the moment of decision, and the aftermath, was like no other in my life. It was a time when denial crumbled slowly at first, accelerating in the face of uncovered truths; a time I was crushed by waves of horror, disgust and shock. It was a time when I was overwhelmed with a directionless rage, physically sick with awareness of the lies I’d been told, and inescapable shame for the many innocents that I’d betrayed. It gradually dawned that every single utterance of the collected nonvegan supply industries, their advertisers and their shills, was an exercise in calculated deception. I felt unclean. I disgusted myself. Every single value that I had ever thought I had, was shown to be a lie – or at best a delusion.

But because I know who I am today, of one thing I’m absolutely certain: with access to the truth, I had the potential to change. And change I did.

The roots of anger

I’m not a saint and I don’t know anyone who is. Do I ever feel angry when others seek to justify their nonveganism with all its blood-spattered consequences? I’d be a liar to deny that I sometimes feel a surge of anger when someone is going out of their way to claim that they somehow have a right to hack and brutalise their way through the lives of the innocent to indulge unnecessary preferences.

But am I really angry at the nonvegan, or am I angry because of their uninformed rhetoric? Am I reacting to unwelcome reminders and echoes of my own smug days of ignorance?

I actually think it’s the latter. We are each our own harshest critics and the person whose failures have caused me the most distress, is myself. Each of us has to face ourself in the mirror. Go on. Please take a deep breath, look at yourself, and ask, ‘Who were you before you were vegan? What were you like? What did you think?’

Well, who were you before you were vegan?

We had been raised to believe that what we were doing was normal, necessary and essential for our wellbeing, and this lie was reinforced by everyone and everything around us as we grew. Yet like me, I guess that many readers will be saying without fear of contradiction that they will be vegan until their dying breath. Yes?  Which means that somewhere along the line something happened to make us change.

Bearing in mind that the majority of our species still sincerely believe as we did, we must realise that there are vast and powerful vested interests spending billions on advertising to ensure that their hideous money-making propaganda is not questioned.  Sometimes there’s an assumption that those who facilitate and support the nonveganism of consumers, do so deliberately, with knowledge that their customers lack; the knowledge that nonveganism is unnecessary, the knowledge that nonveganism is immoral, the knowledge that nonveganism is unhealthy and the knowledge that nonveganism is environmentally catastrophic. So do they actually possess that knowledge? Well, maybe some do – but the rest ..? I suspect that their main concern is to make money. My observations suggest that knowledgable ones are few and far between.  Yet for me and probably you too, whatever our upbringing, our education, our job or profession, our background, we all fell for the hype. We. Never. Questioned. Anything. We were nonvegans like every other person we knew.

So still thinking about ourselves when we weren’t vegan, were we ‘scum’? Were we ‘evil’? Did we just not give a shit about our victims? Or were we just ignorant, needing the truth to make us change?

And here’s another thought. Few of us have had the joy of seeing every member of our beloved family becoming vegan despite our efforts. Are they ‘scum’? ‘Evil’?  Our mothers, our fathers, our siblings; do we hate them all? Some of you possibly do, but for most of us, it’s one of the most upsetting things about living in line with our values; the constant reminders that our (still) loved ones don’t understand and share what to us is the most important thing there is to know about us.

Who do YOU actually blame for your previous nonveganism?

Given that we all come into the world as innocent infants, whose fault was it that we weren’t vegan? Was it our parents, or farmers, or medical professionals, or scientists, or leather shoe or upholstery makers; was it fur coat makers, sheep shearers, bee keepers, fishermen, silk makers, zoo owners, horse or greyhound racers, the TV, the newspapers? Was it? Did they all know something they were keeping from us?

I can’t see how. As the majority still does, every single one of them had bought into a cultural mythology that reinforced what we were all taught, and facilitated our own unchallenging nonveganism right up to that moment when veganism knocked on our door and we saw it for the truth that it is.  And because we can’t pinpoint where the blame lies, we have to consider that most nonvegans are in the exact same position that we once were ourselves. They are, in all honesty, ourselves as we were at an earlier time in our lives.

The doer and the deed

And this comes back round to the point where I began. As someone who spends almost every moment trying to think of new ways to persuade the nonvegans of the world to just stop the horrors that they spend so much time, effort and money committing and be vegan, I’m surprised to be called an apologist. I’ve written reams about how I have absolutely no right to excuse and no right to forgive any nonvegan actions on behalf of even one of my species’ victims. I’m uncompromising about the need for veganism and nothing less. I’ve been called all sorts of things but never ‘apologist’. Because I’m not.

But I do believe that every single one of us needs to separate the doer from the deed. We can all despise nonveganism in all its vile manifestations, without personally despising every nonvegan on the planet.  We can even despise the actions of our loved ones without hating and loathing them; while still hoping and trying to find the key that will open the lock of the ignorance we once shared with them.

When we address the deeds that are committed in the name of nonveganism by cursing, abusing, insulting and denigrating nonvegans, it isn’t helping a single one of our victims as they stand quaking, awaiting their turn with the saws and the blades in the slaughterhouse. We need to remember that common ground that we share with almost every nonvegan and help them realise – as we did – why our victims want to live unharmed and deserve to do so. And then we need to shine a light for them to illuminate the path we took ourselves, the one that got us out of the dark and gory nonvegan hell-hole of our upbringing.

Be vegan. 


Apologist: – someone who argues in favour of or defends an unpopular belief or system

Sociopath– someone who has antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD can’t understand others’ feelings. They’ll often break rules or make impulsive decisions without feeling guilty for the harm they cause

*I’m not going to repeat the essay here but the word ‘cruel‘ is highly problematic because it means such different things to different people.

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

In the inferno – thoughts about selective empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be vegan.


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

Posted in Global disasters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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

Image by Filming for Liberation

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

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

First principles

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

Veganism in a sentence

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

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

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

Vegan or not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Strict’ and ‘Militant’

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

To quote the excellent Go Vegan World,

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

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

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

Point to ponder

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

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

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

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




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