Victims in the shadows: emus

This series of short blogs hopes to shine a spotlight onto ways that humans exploit other creatures for financial gain, ways about which the majority of consumers are unaware. This is not intended to shock; it’s intended to illustrate and provoke thought.  All the atrocities we commit, are what inevitably happens once a regime of oppression has been universally accepted to the point where it is not even not even perceived as oppression, and passes unchallenged by the majority.


This is what has occurred with speciesism, and that deeply entrenched prejudice lurks in the terrible shadows at the heart of every single one of the uses of our fellow creatures that we make, demand and pay for.

Just as a reminder, speciesism results in the practice of according or withholding the rights that belong to others by virtue of their birth, based solely upon their species. It is a prejudice with which we are indoctrinated from childhood, that leads to our unfounded assumption that we may harm and kill members of all other species for whatever trivial reasons we devise, without conscience and without any moral justification whatsoever.  Most of us reach adulthood completely unaware that the prejudice even exists, despite the fact that it dictates almost every choice we make in our nonvegan lives as we needlessly butcher, flay and pluck, mutilate and torment our way through our lives. Against all logic and all common sense, while committing atrocities so vile that we choose not to know the details, we cling firmly to the illusion that we actually care about those whose planet we share.


So today the spotlight will shine on emus. Did you know that the farming of emus is once again increasing in popularity due to consumer demand for ’emu oil’. I decided to look into this new horror that I was previously unaware of and here’s a brief summary.

A soft-feathered, brown, flightless bird that can reach up to 1.9 metres in height, the emu is native to, and farmed in, Australia but also in North America, Peru, China, India and elsewhere.

Emus are primarily farmed for their dead flesh, their skin, feathers, and in particular, an oil made from the fat of slaughtered individuals. Native to a frequently challenging environment, emus have fat stores on their back for survival. If food is scarce, they can tap into this and can go weeks without eating if they have enough in their reserves.

Following a lull in demand in the early 2000s, demand is currently increasing for emu oil which is sold as an anti-inflammatory although claims about the efficacy of this appear to be highly suspect and unproven.

Emu feathers are used for fishing lures, hair extensions, flower arrangements, hats and numerous decorative arts and crafts. As is also inflicted upon geese, ducks and some other species, feathers are sometimes plucked from living birds, where the excruciating process can be repeated when they grow back. This causes agony for the bird who is often blindfolded while this occurs to prevent them their attempts to defend themselves. Because each feather is held firmly in a follicle where there are nerves receptive to pain, the victims are covered in blood by the end of the plucking process.

With a natural lifespan of about 60, they’re slaughtered before reaching the age of 2. Like the majority of our needless victims, emus are gentle individuals who resist every step of the way to the slaughterhouse as they are captured, terrorised, shoved onto trucks, deprived of food and water then taken to their deaths.

Upon arrival, they are herded off the trucks to the kill floor. They are then shot with a captive bolt or electrically stunned then hung upside-down before their throats are cut, still alive as their blood begins to drain which is the norm for the slaughter process as applied to all our land-based victims. Like the vast majority of the victims of nonvegan consumer demand, the terrified individuals die a lingering and painful death.

Leather’ made from the flayed skin of deceased birds has a distinctive patterned surface, due to a raised area around the feather follicles in the skin and is used in such items as wallets, handbags, shoes and clothes

So there we have it. Yet another example of the needless brutality of a species that claims to ‘love animals’. Living in line with the values we ALL claim to hold means living vegan. There’s no other way. Be vegan.

Posted in Speciesism, Victims in the shadows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Chicken executions at night

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Today I did a taxi run in the early hours of the morning, passing the slaughterhouse at about 03.45 as the pre-dawn glinted on wet black roads, and again at 07.00 in the rain-drenched grey light of day.

Approaching the squat collection of unremarkable buildings, the first thing that always hits me is the stench; a stinking, gut-churning miasma that over the years I have learned to associate with slaughter; a unique foulness that seeps sickeningly from depravities that no decent human should even have to contemplate; a smell made all the more painful by knowing it’s demanded and paid for by consumers too fastidious to consider who is meeting the cost of their frivolous convenience; paying in blood and in agony with all they will ever have.

I have written before about the curtain-sided trucks (open at this time of year) parked side by side in the yards at the front, and the refrigerated transports in orderly ranks at the back.  Driving by, they are visible only as the open road widens the perspective; yields a view of what can only be thought of as hell.

Both times that I passed in this morning’s small hours, there were laden trucks out front; blue and yellow plastic crates stacked stem to stern on articulated trailers. Each crate was crammed with a cargo of defenceless and motherless infants, their pale 42-day-old bodies grotesquely swollen, crouched on quaking legs, huddled together and frozen into the immobility of fear.

Never ending, all day and all night, the blood flowing daily from over 182 million innocent throats, mechanised killing driven inexorably by the smiling and casual shoppers of a species whose gaze never deigns to sweep over this wasteland of despair, so intent are they upon on mutual reassurance about how much they ‘love animals’.

Incongruously, this morning, the thing that really broke my heart was the thought that, being trucked to their execution in the silence of night meant that even in this, we had conspired to deny these innocent creatures the only glimpse of sunshine that most will ever see.

Be vegan.

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

‘Transparency in advertising’ – bring it on

Dairy reality vs advertising

A bereft mother cow alongside an example of the advertising transparency championed by the breastmilk industry. Seen on the back of a dairy van.

As expected the animal use industries are mounting an increasingly bizarre pushback against the labelling of substances for which they long ago co-opted names. There are frequent media outcries about who has the right to use words like ‘milk’, ‘sausage’, ‘burger’ etc. Claims are made that because the animal use industries that sell flesh, breastmilk and eggs are such stalwart champions of transparency in advertising, there’s concern that consumers can be turning to plant nutrition only for the simple reason that they’re being misled.  Yes, clearly consumers are buying plant milk and plant-based sausage, burgers etc. when what they really meant to buy are body parts and breastmilk, had they not been fooled and taken in by a devious plant-based agenda.

I have to concede that the animal industries’ media machines are the most skilful and unscrupulous I’ve ever witnessed, using petulant and childish charades as a tool to manipulate consumers on the pretext of concern for ‘transparency’. Of course depending on how one views this pantomime, it constitutes the most outrageous insult to consumers. Seemingly refusing to accept that they’re just becoming increasingly knowledgable about what’s really happening behind closed slaughterhouse doors, I see it as a declaration that consumers are perceived as too ignorant to actually recognise and make informed choices about what they’re spending their hard-earned cash on. It’s so offensive it would be laughable if it were not that trillions of innocent lives of every species are hanging in the balance.

Of course because the animal use industries are so heavily invested financially, pushback against the rising plant-based tide is only to be expected, and there’s a limit to the number of fronts on which they can feign concern.


All the latest science (other than what is produced by those with confliced interests) makes it absolutely clear that any claims about animal-derived products promoting human health are likely to be shot down sooner or later. It’s no longer a secret that national dietary guidelines have for many years had little to do with health and a great deal to do with the wealthy and powerful lobbying of the industry. We have recently witnessed the radically different dietary guidelines issued by Canada as a result of their refusal to allow this lobbying to influence recommendations, and as I write a review is underway in the US where eminent plant-based physicians are eloquently pleading for human health to become the evidence based priority there as well. It remains to be seen whether they will succeed. Whether they do or don’t, every major health authority is in agreement that plant nutrition is healthy for our species at all stages of life.


Another potential front might have concerned the environment but that avenue has closed completely and the door is bolted and locked. Our species’ regime of exploitation and oppression that is currently breeding, feeding and slaughtering 75 billion land based individuals to provide only a small proportion of the dietary preferences (preferences – not needs) of 7.7 billion people – who then need to complement their intake of flesh, eggs and breastmilk with plants which are what we actually need for nutrients and health – is one of the main drivers of the environmental collapse that we are witnessing all around us. New reports are appearing with increasing frequency, each one more alarming than the previous one, each speaking more plainly but evidently still not plainly enough to inspire the action that must be taken if our species is to survive.

Despite several countries having declared a ‘climate emergency’, their superficial concern will remain only lip service until the animal use that is causing said ’emergency’ is brought to an end, governments stop propping it up from the public purse, and provide financial and practical support to farmers and others to facilitate sustainable diversification.

Storm and tempest

Meanwhile I look out my window at the weather and each day my heart sinks further. With the Arctic ablaze and the ice all but gone, the statistics and news bear witness that mine are not simply halcyon memories of the misty past, as I sit here in early August, a time that was high summer in the days of my Scottish childhood and youth. Today, yet again, it is raining torrentially and the winds are storm force. The track and the garden are flooding; bedraggled birds huddle in the wet greenery, having relied on my feeding to support them through an almost insectless summer; no longer a season of plenty; no longer able to provide for them and the hatchling mouths they struggle to feed.

This extreme weather is no longer unusual, as, despite the stereotypical UK obsession about weather, shopkeepers, receptionists, and others I chat to, shrug and smile about ‘the rain’, acting like there’s nothing to worry about. What remains standing of the barley crop in the field behind my storm-swept cottage is unlikely to be able to resist the deluge much longer. When this and the other nearby expanses of grain translate into food shortages, into even more empty shelves, and the continued spiralling of prices in the shops, will the penny drop then, I wonder?

So much for why health and environment are not the chosen battle fronts for individuals and corporations reluctant to see income from animal use dry up, as the death and misery they have inflicted on the defenceless for so long, falls steadily and inexorably out of favour with consumers who are turning to plants in their droves.

Who’s going to patent the dictionary?

Milk(1) an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.
(2) the white juice of certain plants.
(3) a creamy-textured liquid with a particular ingredient or use.

Sausage(1) an item of food in the form of a cylindrical length of minced meat encased in a skin.
(2) an object shaped like a sausage.

Burger: (1) meat or other food pressed into a round, flat shape and fried.

And so on. Unless someone has patented the dictionary, almost all the uses of the disputed words were legitimate before someone decided their vested interests meant they needed to re-write the definitions. So is ‘transparency’ really the reason?

Transparency – bring it on!

In all truthfulness, I have no problem at all with transparency in advertising. I’d love to see more of it  – everywhere. But then, that’s not what advertising is actually for, is it? Advertising, along with marketing, is an art form that has developed along with the media that proliferates it; risen to prominence with billboards and bus shelters, tabloids and magazines, TV and supermarkets.

In a competitive capitalist world of commodities, advertising is the means of jockeying with competitors, enticing consumers to spend money on things they don’t need.  As such it would probably (definitely!) be counterproductive to be honest. Just imagine a world of truthful adverts – I’m smiling at the very thought of how refreshing it would be. However let’s also spare a thought for how different everything would be if – say – some manufacturer had patented the use of the word ‘car’ and was taking steps to ensure that no other manufacturer would use it; or if ‘perfume’ applied simply to a product being sold by one company. Wouldn’t that seem like rather a blatant strategy to move the goalposts?

However let’s return then to the topic of this blog; the substances derived from trillions of annual aquatic and land-based lives. Imagine if the real truth were to be told. Just think about it. The torment and the mutilation, the misery and the terror, the destroyed lives and the broken bodies; the grief and desperation of distraught mothers and abandoned infants; the cages and the confinement, the trawling and the nets and the slaughter trucks, the bolt guns, electric prods and scalding tanks; the sheer, unending screaming, sobbing gore and bloodbath of it all.

What would happen if that truth were told, and is it likely that those who make money from this to meet the demands of consumers actually want it to become common knowledge? I leave the reader to their own conclusions about whether ‘transparency in advertising’ is really the motivation for the current media tantrums and the sudden need to redefine the dictionary, or whether the reason is something else entirely.

For my part, I’ll just carry on being vegan and reading labels. If real honesty matters to you, and if a habitable planet is something you would like to see continuing for your children to enjoy, you’ll probably want to be vegan too.



Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Global disasters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Straight talking about ‘welfare regulations’

Image by Aitor Garmendia / Tras los Muros

It’s common to read on social media that because the writer of a comment claims to support ‘better welfare regulations’, they assert that whether or not they are vegan, they are doing something to help our victims that those of us who promote unequivocal animal rights education are failing to do. It’s even said that if we must promote rights and veganism – frequently mocked as an idealistic and hopeless aim –  we should be promoting ‘better welfare regulations’ at the same time.  It’s presented as a ‘belt and braces’ approach and at face value that sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? However, over time, I’ve acquired a different perspective.

First of all, it’s vital to understand the concept of ‘welfare regulations’ in the context of our non-human victims. Welfare is a seductive word that has increasingly mimicked the language of care and respect for a long time and remained unchallenged.  It certainly trotted glibly off my own tongue for decades while I wasn’t vegan and frankly I now realise that although it sounded good, I hadn’t even a clue what it meant. After years of vegan living and advocacy I have now come to realise this; ‘Welfare’ doesn’t mean what we think it means. I’ll repeat that because I really want readers to think about it. ‘Welfare’ doesn’t mean what we think it means.

Welfare – surely it’s about making life better for other animals, isn’t it?

I used to think so. In fact it’s common to think that regulations and guidelines referred to under the general heading of ‘welfare’ are designed to protect the well-being, the experiences or the individual autonomy of those who are designated as resources to meet our demands as consumers. We’re encouraged to think that regulations are all about making sure that our victims have some sort of a better life than they might otherwise have had.  I spent decades being a nonvegan ‘animal lover’, completely taken in by this notion. I wasn’t alone. It’s comfortable to soothe any niggles of conscience by latching onto the industry hype and telling ourselves that ‘at least our victims had a good life’; their ads and PR are designed to make us do exactly that.

However regulations and guidelines are not designed for any such purpose, a fact that seems so often to escape us, considering the shock, outrage and vitriol of online responses to extracts from said guidelines according to major agricultural advisors (aka ‘welfare’ organisations) like the ‘XYZ’SPCA when they appear on social media; for example extracts describing how to carry out ‘PACing’ or ‘thumping’  piglets, ‘gassing’ and ‘maceration’ of hatchlings (use Google), stunning, live transport and a myriad other standard and 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. It’s just that we’re encouraged to think they have a different purpose altogether.

‘High welfare standards’ – we hear it all the time

There’s a clue to this hiding in plain sight every time an industry representative gets an opportunity to comment on an issue relating to their business.  They always talk about ‘welfare standards’. Because they want us to consider the term significant, it’s used every single time there’s a chance for publicity, regardless of the question. It’s the answer to everything.

Remember these are the industries and individuals that exploit reproduction for breast milk or eggs, use others for ‘entertainment’ or forced labour, ‘farm’ the living to sell their corpses for profit, and everything in between. Do we really think for a moment that all the boasts about codes of practice that depend on designating innocent creatures as inanimate resources and using them to death, are really about how wonderful everything is from a victim’s perspective? Do we really think that they care about the torment of sentient individuals scientifically proven to share our capacity to value their lives and relationships, when the entire concept of nonhuman use is completely dependent on ignoring that such considerations exist? If so, I’ve a few bridges for sale.

Considering first principles

To use any individual as a commercial resource automatically denies any and all rights that each has as an autonomous, feeling individual, despite the promotion of insidious deceptions such as ‘humane exploitation’ which encourage us to imagine otherwise.

In order to meet consumer demand for animal-derived substances and services it must first be taken as read, enshrined in law, that victims are our property to be used as resources. Everything that is done to them, all regulating of the activities that stem from it is built on that founding principle.

The purpose of welfare regulations’ is to safeguard the commercial value of those designated as resources and assets and used to generate profit. This commercial value, which translates to financial profit for our species, is safeguarded through consistent practices that seek to protect equipment and operatives, and through maintaining the consumer confidence that keeps shoppers spending money. Through implementation of regulations, any lessening of the oppressive regime of relentless misery to which our defenceless victims are subjected, is purely coincidental because as previously mentioned, the fact that they are even in this situation means that they are not deemed to matter as individuals.

And so guidelines and standards are developed by the exploitation industries and those who partner and advise them, to standardise and legitimise their procedures; developed by those that profit from creating victims to sell to consumers; referring to concepts like ‘five freedoms’ without even a trace of irony or shame. In this way consumers feel reassured about paying for the ruthless exploitation of those whose right to live unharmed is a complete irrelevance in a profit driven system where treasured lives are simply a means of generating profit.

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. In contrast to animal rights, animal welfare is not only irrelevant but a facade that hides the root injustice and is thus entirely complicit in their exploitation. What matters is that they are unjustly owned and that their only value is to their owner when, in reality, the value of a life matters most to the one living that life. ~ Go Vegan World

So what do we think we’re trying to protect?

Let’s counter that with a few questions.

How can the industry’s regulations ever protect the feelings, experiences, the well-being or the individual autonomy of our sentient victims, when the thing every creature desires more than anything – to live unharmed – is the one thing specifically excluded from every use that our species makes of them?

How can the industry’s regulations ever protect our victims from harm, when they are not in a position to give their consent for any of the things that are done to them? Even when they are understandably terrified or in agony or frantic to escape from the processes and procedures our species inflicts, their absence of consent is ignored.

How can the industry’s regulations safeguard the bonds and relationships shared by our victims when the entire industry is based on exploiting reproduction and the subsequent destruction of families to create vast numbers of victims to use and to kill.

Industry necessarily must refuse to acknowledge that such considerations even exist, because their every single action is such a profound violation of every one of them that their trade simply could not acknowledge them and continue unchallenged. The reality is that there are simply no laws that protect what we think we’re trying to protect.

Mutually exclusive

And so, when we promote ‘better welfare regulations’, we may think that we’re demanding better treatment for our victims, making their lives ‘better’ while they await their inevitable slaughter, but we’re not. First and foremost, we’re supporting the principle of creating victims to use as resources while mistakenly viewing the industry’s own regulations as something that relates to victim wellbeing. We’re putting our approval and support behind the principles that lead to ‘hyperconfinement, mutilation, electrocution, gassing, live mincing, scalding, separating mothers from their babies, and breaking the bonds between animals who know each other.’ and in doing so, achieving exactly what those industries require. We’re making their job easier by perpetuating misunderstandings about ‘welfare’, helping lull an unchallenging consumer base into thinking it means something to do with victims rather than profit. We’re putting our stamp of approval on the very principles that define using others as resources, which is one of the reasons that so many think it’s possible to support this concept without being vegan.

It seems to me that we can approve the principle of using others as our resources and act as unwitting champions for the industries that do this by promoting their code of practice, the one that they themselves shamelessly plug at every chance, their ‘welfare regulations’.

Or we can utterly reject the whole idea of using other individuals as our resources because they value their lives, because they deserve to live unharmed and because we have no need or right to use them. This means that we are duty bound to promote their rights, to advocate veganism and nothing less.

Far from being a ‘belt and braces’ approach, I suggest that promoting animal rights and supporting ‘welfare regulations’ are mutually exclusive courses of action. One rejects the principle of using other individuals by promoting veganism as the only way to acknowledge their rights.  The other first accepts, then supports and encourages the status quo by championing industry guidelines and bolstering nonvegan consumer confidence.

Please just give it some thought.

‘Let us not forget, there is a reason why human rights groups do not develop or endorse ‘humane’ methods of torturing and executing political prisoners, and why children’s rights advocates do not collaborate with the international pornography industry to develop standards and special labeling for films that make ‘compassionate’ use of runaway teens. To do such things is to introduce moral ambiguity into situations where the boundaries between right and wrong must never be allowed to blur. To be the agent of such blurring is to become complicit oneself in the violence and abuse.’

Posted in consumer demand, Terminology, welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

‘It’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with animals’ by Lesli Bisgould

This is the first time I’ve shared a transcript as a blog, but this very special talk deserves to reach as wide an audience as possible. In this lecture, Ms Bisgould explains in compelling and rivetting detail, why legislation does not and can not protect our victims until their legal status ceases to be that of ‘property’.

Lesli Bisgould is Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and the Barrister at Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Resource Office. She was Canada’s first-ever animal rights lawyer, and author of the textbook “Introduction to Animals and the Law.”

Listen to her lecture if you can. I have rarely heard 14 minutes so packed with information. For those who – as I do – find this talk to be eminently quotable, the transcript of her lecture follows the video link.


‘I want to begin by making two statements, one at a time. I’m going to ask you all, if you don’t mind, to raise your hand if you agree. So here’s the first one. Ready?

Animals should be treated humanely.

I can barely see it, but it looks like lots of hands going up. OK, thanks. You can put your hands down. Here is the second one.

Animals should not be made to suffer unnecessarily.

Thank you. It seems like most people agree. And I would bet that if I ventured outside and put those statements to passersby, I’d likely find that most people out there agree, too.

It’s not really surprising, is it? More than half of the households in North America have companion animals, and most of us are very upset when we hear the occasional story in the news about some horrible act that’s been done to a dog, or a cat, or other animal. And the law codifies this perspective, which is to say that virtually every jurisdiction in North America has laws that say animals should be treated humanely, animals should not be made to suffer unnecessarily.

And those laws are useless. They do nothing, and they in no way protect animals from human-caused suffering, in any meaningful way, I should say. So, I thought what I would talk about is why that’s the case and why it’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with other animals and the emerging field of animal rights law, that is doing just that.

So, let’s say that I wasn’t really here because I cared about doing this talk, but because my child has a heart problem and is in need of a transplant to save her life, and I wanted access to a large group of people whom I could discreetly look over, while I was doing this talk, to see who among you looks nice, and healthy, and strong, and when this event ends, I were to kidnap one of you, whisk you away to a secret surgery, where I could remove your heart to be donated to my child. It’s nothing personal, you all seem very nice, but I don’t love you as much as I love my child, and your heart is necessary for her survival.

Would that be morally or legally justifiable? Certainly not. Well, you’re using your heart. No other person can claim any moral or legal right to it, no matter how compelling the reason. Among legal equals, it’s absurd to use the word “necessary” in this context, and we just don’t do it.

But it’s different when it comes to animals. When we see that laws protect animals from unnecessary suffering, they seem superficially impressive, but it doesn’t take long and you don’t have to be a lawyer to figure out that, if the law prohibits causing unnecessary suffering, it creates a corollary, meaning it permits us to cause necessary suffering.

What is necessary suffering? Well, we write the laws, we enforce the laws, we interpret them. It turns out it’s necessary for an animal to suffer whenever we say so.

So our laws prohibit gratuitous suffering, the kind that’s caused sheerly by what we might call wicked intent. But as soon as there’s a human purpose, and really almost any purpose will do, that suffering is necessary and protected. And it’s been that way for a really long time.

Remember philosopher John Locke? Can you think back to the 17th century? So, he conceived of the notions of property that are now central to our legal system, in part because he was trying to find a way to allocate competing human interests in animals and other “natural resources” in a principled way, and of course, back then, nobody thought of animal interests as one of those principles to consider. So, in a system of laws that grew to esteem property rights, animals became property, and humans became property owners. And so it remains.

And a central rule of property is that an owner can use her thing however she sees fit and do whatever she wants with her things, so long as she doesn’t use that thing to hurt somebody else. But the thing itself has no rights. So, this idea that animals are things that serve our purposes, that they are our property, has been really powerful, it has entrenched, and it now facilitates the systematic suffering of billions – with a B – of animals every year in North America, in a variety of industries. So, I’m going to give you just one example.

In the Canadian agriculture industry alone, every year, 700 million animals are intensively confined, are mutilated in a variety of very painful procedures without anesthetic. They’re living in their own waste. Many of them are sick and diseased, with broken bones and open wounds. They’re beaten, electrocuted. You know, when you see them traveling in those trucks on the highway, on the way to slaughter, for many of them, that’s the first time they’ve ever been outside in their lives. And they’re so depleted that several million of them arrive every year at the slaughterhouse already dead.

Then there’s research, and fashion, and entertainment, and sports. So, for every story that we hear in the news about some terrible act of violence having been done to an individual animal, there is an industrial counterpart where that violence is normalized and multiplied by hundreds, or thousands or millions of times. So, it’s the institutional imperative that is such a big problem for animals today.

And Chomsky has discussed this in other contexts, how even really good people can do really bad things, when institutions demand it. So, in the animal context, industry has embedded practices that would be considered monstrous if they were done to our own pet dog, even if sometimes those practices are carried out by people who love their own dogs and are otherwise kind and admirable people. That’s why another part of the problem is the laws focused on cruelty to animals. That’s always how you hear a wrong described, right? When you want to object to something done to an animal, you say it’s cruel.

But cruelty is the wrong word, because it connotes a malevolent intent, doesn’t it? Causing harm for harm’s sake. And that’s rarely the case. The people who engage in this institutional violence may be desensitized, or profit-driven or desperate, as in the case of some agricultural workers, but they’re rarely motivated sheerly by wicked intent. In fact, in some cases, the intent can be quite noble.

Imagine two people coming home from work at the end of the day. One of them had a horrible day, he’s in a terrible mood, and his dog will not stop barking. He has a blowtorch in the garage. So he restrains his dog on her leash, goes out and gets the blowtorch, comes back and burns the dog.

Second person is a researcher, and she’s presently engaged in a study about the efficacy of various treatments on burns. And she’s returning home from a day at the laboratory where she has restrained several dogs and blowtorched them in pursuit of her study.

The first person had no real purpose for burning his dog that way, and might be charged with causing unnecessary suffering to the dog, but the second person not only won’t be charged, she will be protected by her institution, supported with public tax dollars, rewarded with professional recognition if her results get published. And the rest of us, if we ever hear about such things at all, will be assured that the experiment was humane, just as we are assured by agriculture industry spokespeople that all the things I described a moment ago are humane too.

So when industry gives us these assurances, we’d do well to ask ourselves: “What is their interest in having us believe that?” And we’d do well to consider the industry itself writes the voluntary codes of practice that govern most animals in industrial use, that there’s hardly any government oversight.

You know, I became involved in animal rights when I came across an image that disturbed me. And you know how it is: once you see things, there’s no unseeing them. So I felt compelled to learn more, and I learned how a cow becomes a steak, and how an elephant becomes a circus performer, and how a coyote becomes the trim on the hood of a coat. Those images are not offered to us, and those responsible for them go to great lengths to keep them from us, but they are there for the finding.

And unless “humane” means “horrible” and “profitable,” there is nothing humane in those images. And nor are those images the result of a few rotten apples, which is the next assurance industry gives us on the occasions when their practices are exposed. It’s the normal routine practices of exploitation that are rotten. So this has all been very bleak, but hang in, because this brings us to a “new dimensions” part of this talk.

You see, we don’t treat animals badly because they’re property. We classify animals as property so that we can treat them badly. We don’t have to, we can do better, we can classify them differently. And the moral imperative to do so has been pressing for 150 years, since Darwin revolutionized our understanding about our place in the animal world with his theory of evolution.

Darwin explained that you are all a bunch of animals, right? We’re all animals, more or less closely related to one another by virtue of our descent from different ancestors, or from common ancestors, and that animals differ from one another in degree, but not in kind. And this was revolutionary, because we’ve traditionally justified the differential treatment that we give to animals on the basis of some assumed categorical differences between us and them. “They don’t think, they don’t feel, they don’t communicate.” But Darwin discredited those assumptions, and they’ve been discredited much further still by various branches of natural science and applied science in the 15 decades since.

And our laws have lost their factual premise. So the moral implications of this evolution revolution have taken a long time to sink in, but no serious thinker disputes anymore that animals think, and feel, and communicate, that they are the subjects of a life. We’re starting to appreciate that animal life is much more like a web than the pyramid we’ve been used to drawing, that they are literally our kin.

Now, there are differences between humans and other animals, of course, just as there are differences between humans, right? We have this notion of human equality, but that’s not because we’re actually equal in our capacities or abilities.

Think about it: some people are taller than others. Some people are more intelligent. Some people have nicer dispositions. We have different genders, and disabilities, and religions. Some people can compose operas. Some can’t sing a note. Some can win Olympic medals in hockey. Some can’t skate. So, we have many differences, but we have decided that none of those differences is morally relevant when it comes to protecting our fundamental interests, like our interests in living our own lives and not being hurt for somebody else’s purpose.

In another talk, we might explore whether human rights operate more in theory than in practice, but at least we are working on it, and that’s where animal rights theory comes along. It asks us to confront this question: what are the morally relevant differences between humans and other animals that make it acceptable for us to hurt them in ways that would never be acceptable to hurt one another?

So as we wrestle with this question, the lack of a comfortable answer’s propelling the development of animal rights law, where we try to generate legal rights for animals by eroding their property status.

You can think of a right as a barrier that exists between you and everybody who stands to benefit by hurting you or exploiting you. It’s what stands between me and you and stops me from taking your heart for someone I love more. So, in animal rights law, we’re not trying to extend human rights to animals, as you sometimes hear. Nobody thinks animals should have the right to vote, or get married, or have a good education. It’s really about establishing the right to have their fundamental interests respected when we consider taking actions that will affect them.

And that could mean changing their status from property to legal person. And if it seems strange to think of an animal as a legal person, consider that a whole array of inanimate constructs – corporations, churches, trusts, municipalities – are all legal persons; in that they have legally protected interests and they can go to court and advance them. And animals are the only sentient beings who aren’t.

So, it’s a long road to peaceful coexistence between humans and other animals, and that is partly because, even though all of us say we don’t want animals to suffer unnecessarily, most of us, wittingly or unwittingly, to some degree are users of animals or consumers of their various bits and pieces. And we’ve proved as a whole pretty reluctant to give up all the privileges that come with our superior legal status, but we’re starting to see things differently.

The animal rights movement is gaining credibility and momentum, and laws are not fixed forever. Law is a social institution that is meant to evolve over time, as hearts and minds change. So, the law will begin to reflect our biological kinship with other animals, as soon as we decide we really want it to.

Thank you.’

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Straight talking about ‘factory farming’

There seems to be some sort of blind spot in our collective consciousness about the term ‘factory farming’ and all the various types of *CAFO in which our numerous species of victims are incarcerated.

For a start, the creating of victims and keeping them alive until they are executed in response to consumer demand is a practice known as ‘farming’, a term we are raised to mistakenly view as benign and bucolic. There’s nothing benign or bucolic about creating unnecessary victims. Nevertheless, popular mythology suggests that these ‘farms’ have a range of options by which to conduct the practices that are needed to meet consumer demand. ‘Factory farms’ are widely vilified as some sort of particularly brutal or ‘cruel‘ option. On the other hand, establishments with different labels like ‘family’, ‘organic’, ‘local’ are held up to be more ‘ethical’ or even ‘humane’ in some way that quite frankly escapes me. But then, comparing types of torture has never appealed to me.

What rarely seems to be confronted is that it’s the practice of ‘farming’ itself that is the real problem; the flawed concept of needlessly creating victims out of unconsenting and defenceless individuals; not only is it completely unnecessary but it is also destroying the planet while making humans sick. That’s the fundamental problem – NOT the type of establishment in which it occurs.

It’s all about scale

I’ll come back to ‘factory farming’ in a minute but before I do, let’s continue with my simplified take on where we are as a species that is destroying the planet that we all call home. The key thing to note is that the human population of this planet is currently 7.7 billion and rising exponentially. Most of these humans have been encouraged to think they need to use and consume other species for their wellbeing, and the industries that make money from ignorance on such a breathtaking scale, are working very hard to foster and maintain that ignorance. As information about plant-based nutrition and the calamitous ecological impact of farming – ALL farming of lives – becomes more widely known, vested interests are becoming increasingly blatant in their attempts to retain their income (follow the money), and as yet, the truth is not spreading fast enough.

Farming takes up a lot of space to grow plants to feed to our victims

This human population of 7.7 billion currently demands that almost 75 billion members of other species (almost 10 times the human population) be ‘farmed’ for use and consumption each and every year.

Every one of these victims requires to eat, so that’s 75 billion mouths to feed each year before we even think about feeding humans. These corpses, breast milk, eggs and body parts do not come close to meeting the nutritional requirements of the human population because although these 75 billion have **converted feed into whatever substance the victim makers require to profit from financially, all members of animal species are inefficient converters of food into what our exploitative species thinks of as ‘resources’. We all eat food to live, to stay warm, to provide us with energy, to build and repair our bodies and our victims are like us in this, as in almost every other sense.

When we are feeding others with the intention of slaughtering and eating them, eating their eggs or breastfeeding from their bodies, the physics of ‘feed conversion’ inevitably results in a nutritional output that is only a tiny percentage of what they were given to eat. And as biological plant eaters, the one thing that we do actually need to consume for our wellbeing is plants. So every year, on top of growing plants to feed the 75 billion, we have to grow an additional supply of plants for ourselves. As indeed we have done up to now, although the news this month is increasingly worrying as supplies falter around the globe.

Also this week, the Amazon rainforest has been in the news, with deforestation recently escalating by between 60 to 88.4%. It’s now running at the equivalent of 1.5 football pitches per minute. This is being driven by – any guesses? Well just in case there’s any doubt, while there will no doubt be an instant return for the loggers, the real driving force is the need for grazing for victims to supply the escalating global population’s demand for dead flesh.

Please just let the scale of this sink in; 7.7 billion of us (and increasing by the minute), 75 billion nonhuman victims – not counting our 2.7 trillion aquatic victims and numerous other groups. Every year, year in year out.

Farming needs space to incarcerate our victims

And here, after a bit of a circuitous route, let’s come back to the term ‘factory farming’. Rather than being some particularly barbaric choice, factory farming is the inevitable consequence of a massive population with an insatiable demand for death and destruction and very little space in which to indulge that proclivity.  Protesting about it is a complete waste of time although many large ‘welfare‘ organisations raise funds on the strength of the misdirection; it’s actually the only way there is to meet demand, and only a vast reduction in that demand could ever have made any impact on it.

As the lungs of the planet disappeared at the rate of several football pitches while I was writing this, we have run out of space to incarcerate our billions of annual victims. Even if it were true that there was some difference between needlessly creating victims and keeping them alive until they are executed in one place as opposed to another, it’s just not feasible to have these rolling pastures of our nursery rhymes on a planet in its death throes.

This means that every time we point the finger at ‘factory farming’ as the problem, every time we sanctimoniously promote labels like ‘family’, ‘organic’, ‘local’, every time we comment or post or write about animal rights and slip in the word ‘factory’, we are encouraging the view that there’s a different type of farming that is ethical. And that’s not the case. There just isn’t, although it’s such an unwelcome message that the majority of humans will grasp at any straws that they can find to continue to feel ‘ethical’ without changing their behaviour.

If we were all to stop buying death and destruction now at this moment, while lobbying governments to stop subsidising it and listen instead to what the health authorities have been saying for years, it would take some time, but eventually the death cycle would slow and stop.

Even so, there’s no guarantee that our world is saveable for the life forms who currently regard it as home, but at least one thing is true; each of us who withdraws from participating in the practices that are depriving us all of a future will be able to meet their own eyes in the mirror and know that at least they tried. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for at this stage.

Be vegan.

*A concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is an animal feeding operation (AFO) in which over 1000 animal units are confined for over 45 days a year.

**Feed Conversion Rate is a ratio or rate measuring of the efficiency with which the bodies of our victims convert feed into the desired output.

Posted in Advocacy, FAQ, Global disasters, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What are eggs for?

Most of us are raised to eat eggs. I was. Probably you were too. We are taught that laying eggs is just what hens and quail, ducks, geese and several other species do. And to a certain extent, that’s true. They do lay eggs; but then so do robins and blackbirds, sparrows and hawks, woodpeckers and magpies and wrens. All birds lay eggs.

So apart from the fact that many birds are protected by law, why would it never occur to us to help ourselves to the eggs of a blue tit or a crow, a chaffinch or a jay, or any of the birds whose antics give us so much pleasure in our gardens or on our window sills?

Well it’s obvious, isn’t it? These birds need their eggs. Their eggs are the beginning of the family they create once or maybe twice each year. For each family, it’s a huge and draining investment of nutrients for the mother’s body to create, and a massive labour of time and devotion sometimes undertaken by both parents to raise their hatchlings to independence. It would be unforgivable to take their eggs. We all know that and we’d never dream of it.

So what’s different about hens?

So since we all agree about that, what’s different then about the other eggs, particularly hens’ eggs; the ones humans eat?

‘They’re different’, we’re taught. ‘Hens lay far more eggs than they need, even without being fertilised. It’s just what they DO,’ we’re told, ‘They’d lay them even if we didn’t take them.’ And we conclude from this that we might as well and it must be okay.

Now here’s the thing. WHY do you think it happens that hens lay so many eggs even without being fertilised? WHY would they be so different from every other species of bird on the planet? We’re not encouraged to even ask those questions, are we? We’re encouraged to think it’s all just ‘another of nature’s miracles’.

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Only it isn’t. There’s a reason, and here it is: They do it because humans have tampered with their genes to select characteristics that serve our interests and make profit for our species. Instead of laying two clutches like other birds, like their wild ancestors used to do, each frail little egg-laying hen now lays up to 350 eggs in a year and scientists are working to increase that number even further. It’s all about maximum output for minimum outlay. Profit is the principle that underpins all our use of other species.

And here’s something else no one wants us to think about. These fragile little creatures were not designed by nature to be used in this hideous way; it’s not how they evolved at all. Their bodies wear out; they become exhausted, depleted, diseased and broken. The industry word to describe them then, is ‘spent’; defined as ‘having been used and unable to be used again.’ They are packed into crates, trucked off to a slaughterhouse and replaced with a new crop of victims.

Image by This is an egg laying hen rescued from a truck that overturned on its way to a slaughterhouse. Note her mutilated beak.

All the hens who are used for eggs have undergone the same genetic tampering, the same selective breeding. Their wild counterparts, like all wild birds, invest the nutrients and effort that all eggs demand from the body of the mother, to create and raise a family. The birds whose eggs we eat have this natural investment in the next generation subverted. Instead of investing in the future of their own species, we use them to death.

And that’s why, although we may rescue a hen from a cage or a shed, and no doubt use her in a more pleasant environment, she is still being used. We can never rescue her from the self-destructive body that our species has forced her to inhabit. Vegans who rescue hens either feed their eggs back to them to replace lost nutrients, or have a vet administer hormone implants to interrupt egg laying.

To continue to use her for eggs that we consume ourselves is not vegan and it’s not ‘rescue’. It’s just a change of prison.

Be vegan.

If you’d like to know more about issues mentioned here there are a number of links in the following posts:

Hens and puppy mills – an analogy
In a nutshell: why all egg use is inhumane
Chickens and eggs – what about the males?

Posted in Advocacy, eggs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Talking about weather, fruit and vegetables

Credit CC0 Public Domain

Reading the daily litany of the disasters that we humans are wreaking on our dying planet through our irresponsible actions, my attention was snagged by news of the storm-wrought crop failure and the resulting declaration of a ‘natural emergency’ in parts of France. It’s not the only place that’s buckling under the strain of climate change, but the western world in general is very good at ignoring what happens in places that don’t directly affect us. For Scotland, this is quite literally getting much closer to home.

I find my writing increasingly needs to combine my focus on animal rights with the environmental consequences of our own species’ actions. The planet we are destroying is theirs as much as ours. In sawing off the branch our species is sitting on, we must never forget that our victims are sitting on it alongside us, helpless passengers on our self-driven journey to ruin. And so it was that I found my thoughts wandering on the subject of crops.

‘The berries’ and ‘the tatties’

Firstly potatoes; one of my favourite foods. In recent years these have become increasingly expensive while the quality has steadily diminished. I recall that in my ignorant, unchallenging and nonvegan youth, the scabby, damaged and rotten parts of the crop would have been considered to be food for the nonhumans who are ‘farmed’ for our use; they would have been pig food, cattle food. I dread to think what our victims are being fed nowadays, if what is being sold to my species is considered to be the pick of the crop. Many shops are trying to turn this into a virtue, using advertising spin to make misshapen and damaged fruit and vegetables appealing. It’s the capitalist way and once you spot this spin in action, you’ll see it everywhere.

It’s also worth mentioning soft fruit. I live in an area in Scotland that is traditionally renowned for strawberries and raspberries amongst other soft fruits, and in my youth it was traditional for children and often their extended family, to ‘go to the berries’, picking fruit during the days of the school summer holidays. It was hard and back-breaking work with the meagre payment based on the quantity ‘weighed in’.

For the fortunate few this was pocket money, but for the vast majority it was an essential supplementary income for the family.  Rural schools even traditionally had an extra two weeks’ holiday in the autumn to ‘go to the tatties’ (take part in the potato harvest) and in my memory’s minds eye I can see the tattie-pickers bent double in the chilly fields, frozen hands picking up the crop, dragging plastic clothes basket type receptacles along the ‘dreels’ (furrows) after the tractor had turned over the soil. Again, many families literally depended on this income.

Now setting apart that socio-economic and technological changes have seen this work become less popular, allocating it increasingly to low-paid, overworked migrant workers, often without rights to protect their working conditions, I look out my window on a completely changed landscape. I’ve mentioned potatoes. The climate here has become increasingly less conducive to the old ways and almost all berries are now grown in vast polytunnels, stretching across the valley like a space-age vision of an alien planet. Only thus protected can they survive the erratic temperatures and rainfall.

Crop failure and our victims

The inevitable conclusion we must draw is that crop failure is becoming increasingly common and all the science tells me we are seeing and will continue to see the phenomenon escalate exponentially. Even the quality of traditional crops is declining and will continue to do so because the climate they need simply doesn’t exist any more. We are all facing a time when there will be fewer plants available for us. That time is not some distant day that need not concern us yet; it’s happening now.

Now ‘animal farming’ is another term for creating and maintaining a supply of victims so that our species can continue to indulge our brutal and environmentally calamitous obsession with using and consuming other living beings; causing escalating levels of disease in our own species by killing and using others in the ultimate act of tragic irony.

Doing the sums

My thoughts meandered onto the maths, sums that examine only land-based creatures farmed for consumption – which is in itself a huge simplification, discounting possibly trillions of creatures killed either directly or indirectly through our usurping of their habitats to facilitate the ‘farming’ of the species used for profit. The estimated 2.7 trillion aquatic lives we take and the trashing of the marine environment is a separate issue that I won’t cover here. Interested in finding out more? Check out the site Truth or Drought which is always factual and informative.

Nonhumans: In a single year, human animals slaughter almost 75 billion  (75,000,000,000) members of other land-based species. That’s almost 10 times the number of humans that currently live on the planet. From conception until slaughter, these victims of ours require food. And what do they eat? Plants. Thus, in addition to the ground where our nonhuman victims are incarcerated, land is required to grow enough food for them.

Apart from the **health issues caused by the fact that humans are not designed to consume animal-derived substances and require to heavily supplement any such diet with plants (!) for nutrition, the resultant *quantity of the substance thus obtained is only a fraction of the quantity of plant substances consumed by our victims. So anyway – to return to the point – every year that’s 75 billion mouths to feed before humans eat a thing.  And what is achieved by this annual atrocity is not nearly sufficient to feed the human population either in quantity or nutritional value.

Humans: There are currently 7.7 billion (7,700,000,000) humans on the planet. Not only are they physically capable of eating plants, but doing so spares those who are needlessly persecuted for their flesh, their breast milk and their eggs while maintaining or improving human health and simultaneously reducing the damage caused to the planet by animal agriculture which science increasingly recognises as a pivotal driver of climate change.

So in the end of the day, here are questions to ponder. The time is fast approaching when choices will have to be made; feed our victims or feed ourselves?

IF our species is still around when the day arrives that there are enough plants to feed only 7.7 billion individuals (or the human population at the time), who will eat and what will they eat?

To me the answer is clear and there’s no time to lose. The world belongs to all its inhabitants equally.  Our destructive species needs to stop bringing innocent lives into the world for our needless indulgence. As shoppers, we need to stop putting desecrated body parts into our shopping trolleys; if we stop buying, creating victims eventually becomes unprofitable.

Be vegan.  Now.

*For anyone interested, due to the economic implications of treating living creatures as commodities ‘farmed’ for profit, the internet is a rich source of information about ‘conversion ratios’ as this change from plant to animal substance is known.

**Human health: evidence based, scientific and free:

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Life is cheap when it’s not respected

Image by Jo Anne McArthur / We Animals

Every day we see media reports of human actions that seriously beggar belief. Last week I read about extreme violence being inflicted on motherless calves in a victim ‘farming’ establishment of the breast milk trade (aka ‘dairy‘); I read about laughing fishermen hacking the tail off a shark before setting the now defenceless, mutilated, bleeding individual who could no longer swim, adrift to die in agony while filming themselves clearly enjoying their brutality.  A few days earlier I read of a raccoon who had been tormented by laughing, mocking humans until the panic stricken creature was forced from a boat so far from land that survival was impossible.  Who knows what I’ll read tomorrow?

I would be surprised if anyone was reading this while thinking these are just the sort of things they enjoy hearing about. Probably, like me, most readers are feeling some degree of revulsion. I would not even find it surprising if petitions were being planned and exclamations made by those who claim to ‘not believe in cruelty’. Vitriol? Yes I expect there’ll be some of that too, maybe a lot of that; sickened, disgusted and outraged rants about what those who did these things ‘deserved to have done to them’. It’s probably all pretty colourful – the comments on the original posts certainly were. The word ‘cruelty‘ appears regularly.

Common ground

Well consider this: we all readily condemn needless harm being done to those who can’t defend themselves. It hurts or angers us all to be faced with any creature who is being deliberately wounded or hurt. We each like to think of ourself as the sort of person who would not hesitate to protect the innocent, the sort who will stand up and demand justice for the oppressed and persecuted.  Time and time again in exasperation, we shake our heads and demand to know how and why anyone would do such things; we rant and we rage in our despair and our frustration. When we do, it’s clear that each of us has a crystal clear idea of what’s fair and what’s unfair. 

You’ve likely read the same articles that I have, and I know that in each of us this well-developed sense of right and wrong reared up unhesitatingly in blazing condemnation of such monstrous brutality. None of us can excuse the perpetrators of such viciousness, the sickening horror that they rained down onto harmless, unthreatening, and defenceless creatures who tried so desperately to escape, cowering and whimpering in the abject submission that was their only defence. Of course no other species is a match for humans without conscience, humans wielding tools and technology with pitiless brute force. Their lives were taken needlessly, and their pleas were in vain.

So we’ve heard about the calves, the shark and the raccoon. Well there are some other tales that no one has ever told you.  

The untold stories: two piglets

There’s an untold tale of two piglets who were the best of friends. They were together all their lives, those six whole months from when the icy draught blew through the gaps in the shed that was the only world they had known, until the days turned inexplicably warmer.  They slept together every night on the metal-barred and concrete floor, nose to nose, friends, each the only comfort that the other had ever known. As the days became lighter and the air more fetid, occasionally a scent wafted by that they did not recognise. It was the scent of leaves, of rain and of blossom, none of which they had ever seen or known.

One sweet-smelling day the humans with hard hands and electric prods forced them onto a truck where they huddled together, trembling and afraid, as they had all their lives. And when the time came for the terror and the agony, the knives and the bleeding, a moment finally came as they each hung upside down from one chained leg, when their dying eyes found no comfort in the sight of each other. 

The untold stories: three chickens

There’s another untold tale of three chickens who lived in the same shed all their lives, every single one of the 42 days, while their selectively bred bodies created the designer victims that our species had always intended them to become. Every day their merciless bodies compelled them to eat and eat; every day they got heavier, more breathless, and less mobile. Every day, in their lonely innocence they quietly peeped and chirped, vaguely longing for what none of them had never known; the care, the protective wings, the warm feathered body of a mother. As the days wore on, sometimes they would look around and see others whose legs were unable to bear their weight as they struggled to stand;  would watch nervously the obvious distress of their peers. Every day the burning intensified on their trembling legs, as the stench of ammonia from thousands of bodies made their laboured breathing harder to bear.  On the day the humans came, scooping them roughly into crates, they were too afraid, too broken and too heavy to run away. There was nowhere to run anyway.

Their nightmare continued, hanging upside down, splay legged and sick with terror in the place that stank of fear and blood. And in that dreadful place, one of the three, one of the quaking, motherless infants who were all so lonely and so afraid, was so desperate for comfort that he was struggling to hide his head beneath the wing of the infant at his side as the machinery clanked and whirred, carrying them into the bowels of hell.

More untold tales than could ever be written

There are so many more of these untold stories. In fact there are trillions more every single year. Each one is a tale of loss and of fear, of loneliness and pain. Each tells of grief and of misery, of separation and longing and death.

There are too many tales for anyone to write –  but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist – each life is individual, each life has a story. And each one is as heartbreaking and as harrowing as those about the calves and the shark and the raccoon, but the majority of humans completely ignore their very existence and don’t want to know. So why is this?

These are the stories of the victims of nonveganism. They are the stories of the owners of the body parts and the breast milk, the eggs and flayed skins, the shaved fibres, and plucked feathers.  They are the stories of those whose freedom and graceful beauty have been subjugated and defeated piece by piece for our cosmetics and chemicals, for our sports and our zoos and forced labour.

And in the end it all comes down to this. To be nonvegan, which is to make use of the bodies and lives of those who are innocent and defenceless requires a particular mindset, although from experience we may be unaware of this because we are indoctrinated with it from childhood.  

However once we have accepted that the life of another being has no worth other than to be used for our convenience (it is NOT necessity); once we have decided that their desperate wish to live unharmed is an irrelevance, we don’t even stop to consider them as feeling individuals. We regard them as objects, as resources for our use without conscience and life is cheap when it’s not respected. As human animals we grant ourselves the power of life and death over members of all other animal species; either completely disregarding their individual desires and needs or inventing elaborate excuses to seek to justify our behaviour. 

Yet occasionally a tale is told, like it was about the calves and the shark and the raccoon, and we are swamped with concern and outraged about ‘cruelty‘. Yet there was absolutely no difference between the calves and the shark, the raccoon and the piglets, the chickens, the lambs, the rabbits and the mice and all the others whose deaths we ignore.

If only the other trillions of tales were to be told, would we finally appreciate why, to be the people we already think we are, we must be vegan? 




Posted in Advocacy, Cruelty | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A brief thought about words: euthanasia

A recent comment sought to amend my terminology when I described the killing of Emma the shih tzu as ‘slaughter’. The terms ‘put to sleep’ and euthanasia’ were not only preferred, but my use of the word ‘slaughter’ was condemned. The comment even went so far as to suggest that it was probably ‘doing a kindness’ to Emma, given the conditions of many shelters.

Such a comment illustrates exactly why, as advocates, our language and terminology are so critical. Regular readers will know that there are certain words that I avoid because I deem them to be ‘trigger words’, terms that provoke such a level of outrage that the original point gets lost in debate about the words themselves, however this is not such a case. This is a case where we need to just tell it like it is.

Killing with ‘kindness’

I’ve no doubts that the terms ‘put to sleep’ and euthanasia’ do make people far more comfortable, in exactly the same way as the myriad other euphemisms that we use to describe the unnecessary and brutal taking of body parts and unconsenting servitude, their life and their joy from so many trillions of defenceless creatures every year.

The phrase ‘put to sleep’ is the one we use to explain assisted death to children. It’s deliberately woolly, and has its place in the process when parents are gently explaining the realities of living and dying. In this context it’s an obvious refusal to confront the morality of Emma’s situation.

‘Euthanasia’ is defined as the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease. Emma was not ailing and she wanted to live. No matter how painless it may have been, her killing most certainly was not euthanasia.

Speciesism in action

The other point that can’t be avoided is the fact that anyone would even consider it appropriate to do this ‘kindness’ for Emma. Consider if Emma had been a human child, the beloved daughter of the deceased woman. Regardless what her ‘last request’ was, would it have been considered acceptable to have the child ‘put to sleep’ or ‘euthanised’ and cremated for burial with her parent on the basis of the challenges inherent in state orphanage provision or adoption and fostering?

I think we all know the answer to that one. It’s utterly unthinkable. You’re probably even shaking your head at the ludicrousness of the question. And there – right there – we have a perfect illustration of speciesism, which to remind the reader is the practice of according or withholding the rights of others based solely upon their species.

The fact is that by using terms like ‘put to sleep’ and ‘euthanasia’, everyone involved and those who defend them are able to distort their actions and reinvent the narrative. They are framed as no longer immorally taking the life of an individual who wanted to live, but rather ‘doing a kindness to a poor little dog’.

The last word

That’s not to say that there aren’t alternative, perhaps even better words that I could have used, other than slaughter. In fact on reflection, I think there definitely is one.

Although ‘slaughter’ was chosen to remind readers of the parallel that we unnecessarily inflict on trillions of other healthy individuals each year, the word I perhaps should have used is ‘execution’, the carrying out of a death sentence on a condemned individual. Emma was executed.

Whatever the best word may have been, it wasn’t ‘euthanasia’.

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