Taking our time, taking their lives

cow-1805371_960_720Yesterday I heard a sentence that I can’t stop thinking about. The sentence was, ‘I was on my journey to being the best me.’ It was said by someone seeking to make a case for the several years of their transition to becoming vegan, and how they couldn’t have managed without support from a ‘nice vegan person’. I want to make it absolutely clear from the start; I intend no personal criticism and I have no views about either the person whose words began this train of thought, or their mentor. I don’t know them. I would however suggest that neither of them started with a clear understanding of what veganism is. The reason for this essay is not because these individuals, or this view, are in any way unique or unusual, but rather the reverse. It’s a position that I find distressingly common.

I know however that there are many who adopt or promote a gradual transition to becoming vegan. Groups abound where individuals find praise for their incremental ‘journey’ from fellow travellers. I have always agreed that depending on one’s individual circumstances, it may take a period of time to incorporate the vegan ethic into our life, and support and practical advice is a great thing. There are many places to get it online, recipes, products, pointers to help us in our new life – we all value these no matter how long we have been vegan.

But I have always struggled to understand by what right any of us claims to be able to forgive atrocity and injustice on behalf of our victims, and every day we delay that transition is costing them their lives. In my mind, veganism is a black and white issue. We support needless harm or we don’t. Harm or not. It’s as simple and straightforward as can be. And here’s the key thing. It’s not about us. If we think it’s about us, we’re not thinking about veganism. Veganism is all about our victims.

The way I see things

So let me present an alternative perspective.

This morning, in the shower, I found myself thinking that for billions of unique individuals, today is just another day in hell. Short, disjointed scenes flashed through my mind’s eye, images of business as usual in the shrouded world of our vile and unnecessary predation.

I envisaged the massive fleet of trucks and transports, a never-ending procession, a conveyor belt heading into places we refuse to even think of; places where these innocent and gentle, harmless creatures will be confronted with things we cannot face as they die piece by bleeding piece in the clanging stench of steaming entrails and blood; places where they will know a fear that we cannot even imagine, where they will whimper and sob, beg and plead, unheard or ignored by those with the hooks, the hard hands, the knives and saws, the hide-pullers and the panoply of torment apparatus deployed amidst the screaming of the damned.

As my mental gaze skipped over the massive convoy of trucks, I saw curious pigs huddling silent with dread, I saw sheep cuddling close, stacked in layers on motorway transports, I saw new-born calves shut down and overwhelmed with need for the mothering warmth and the milky smell forever out of reach. I saw boisterous bovines, coats gleaming with adolescent vitality, stopped at traffic lights, peering out between slats in nervous amazement, I saw crates packed with six-week chicks, their infant peeping hushed, shivering in the first and last breeze of their joyless existence, I saw the tired and the sick and the used up and exhausted of every species, old long before their time, all heading inexorably into the slaughtering maw.

As the film of my mind’s eye rolled relentlessly on, I saw the violating and the cutting, the de-beaking and the de-toeing, the dis-budding of infant horns and the branding, the tooth clipping and the tail docking. I saw screaming castrations, arms and metal implements violating mothers restrained and defeated, ear nicking and notching and tagging, the sucking pumps and the swish of milk filling industrial vats, the visceral convulsing of small feathered bodies to lay yet one more egg and it just went on and on and on.

And, heart breaking again, the water streaming down my face had nothing to do with the shower as I stood there, shaking with grief. I pictured their eyes as I do every day, those mirrors of the pure unsullied souls that we torment with our refusal to be vegan. As I looked in each mutely pleading, bewildered and desperate gaze, I knew that if there was anything I could do right now, instantly, to end their abject misery, the bone deep hurt that my species inflicts on them, I would do it and gladly.

And I want to shout to the world that THIS is what veganism is about. THEY are the reason that we need to be vegan, and they cannot wait. And I wondered what I would say, how I could possibly look at those eyes and say, ‘sorry, not today, it’s not convenient’? I wondered how I could possibly tell them that their anguish doesn’t fit with my journey to being the best me, so today they’ll just have to die but never mind, I’ll get round to stopping hurting them at some point. And I knew that I couldn’t say those things. I have to hope that no one could.

Make no mistake, the need for a vegan world is urgent beyond words. When we’re asking others to become vegan, we need to recognise that it’s the only message of hope that there is for our victims.  We need to understand exactly what we’re asking and not dilute the message. We truly are all they have, and they need each of us to be crystal clear on their behalf.  The situation of our victims is so poignant, so desperate, so heart-breaking, and we owe it to them all to tell their story clearly.

We will not save those who are on farms, in sheds, in labs and in zoos today, or those who are on those millions of transports, whose dying screams are happening as I type. But by convincing others to become vegan we can all work to end the voracious consumer demand for torment and death.

We need to do it now. Please be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

‘Those vegans’ and nonveganism advocacy

chick-1890774_960_720There’s a perception of veganism, and of many vegans too, as vociferous and/or challenging. We’ve all seen comments that go, ‘thank goodness you’re not one of ‘those vegans’ and no doubt this is intended as a compliment by those who are not vegan themselves.

This ‘compliment’ sits alongside a nonvegan perception of themselves as passive, just quietly minding their own business, not wanting to be challenged about their ‘choices’ in the same way that they consider themselves to be tolerant of the ‘choices’ of others.

I’ve seen posts shared humbly, even apologetically by vegans, aware they will be viewed by those who aren’t vegan, knowing that they are likely to be subjected to some form of retaliation for disturbing the tranquillity.

And it occurs to me that although not being vegan is the default state for the vast majority of us, it is VERY far from being a passive state; an extremely long way from minding one’s own business, and in fact, is as lacking in tolerance for other sentient individuals as it’s possible to be, despite the mantra ‘live and let live’ making a frequent appearance.

Advocating harm

So it seems to me that those who are not vegan are every bit as much ‘advocates’ as any vegan is; the obvious difference being that they advocate harming animals. What’s more, when we are not vegan, we advocate persistently, on a daily basis, with almost every purchase we make; we advocate aggressively, flaunting our violence everywhere we go, for all to see.

We advocate openly and unrepentantly in supermarkets, browsing the bloodied and dismembered remains in the chill of the mortuary aisles, loading our trolleys with dead flesh, openly gathering products made from the milk that mothers made for the infants we took from them and killed; remorselessly picking up eggs from gentle little birds whose entire bleak existence was spent toiling abjectly in a body selectively bred for our use.

We share callous images of our victims’ corpses and secretions on our plates; we delight in images of flayed skin – from owners whose species we do not even know – admiring them, calling them ‘clothes’ and ‘accessories’.

Through our advocacy of harm, we reassure ourselves and each other that we’re behaving in socially acceptable ways, conforming to the expectations of our peers and of society. Through our actions as consumers, we pump cash into the industries that deal death and destruction on our behalf, ensuring that incarceration, gore and torment remain lucrative business opportunities for us to return to day after day.

In denial

This all would be heart breaking enough, were it not for the ultimate and deeply tragic irony; almost every single one of us claims to care about animals and is outraged to hear of their being harmed; is utterly appalled by injustice and oppression inflicted on vulnerable individuals who are powerless to defend themselves.

And then it just gets worse.

When we are not vegan, almost every single one of us would be repulsed, horrified and sickened … by the actions that WE OURSELVES are actively participating in and promoting.

Truth needs no disguise

And this is all that ‘those vegans’ are seeking to do. They’re not trying to offend, not trying to change the thoughts of those who advocate nonveganism. No, they’re simply trying to make each advocate of nonveganism aware that what they’re doing goes against their OWN deeply held code of conduct.

On the day each of us finally opens our eyes to the consequences of our actions, all we need to decide is whether to really become the person we always thought we were. The only way we can do that is by being vegan. Once we do that, I wonder how many of us will consider it a compliment to be told we’re not one of ‘those vegans’?

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

‘If my life depended on it’ – my careless words

goats-1993649_960_720Today in a conversation, I found myself commenting that I would be unable to do something (it was drawing actually) ‘if my life depended on it’.

Some time later, it occurred to me just what a careless, throw-away term that was for me to have used. It was meaningless. I suddenly realised that I had no concept of doing something, or indeed not doing something, as ‘if my life depended on it’.  In my life as a member of the dominant species on the planet, and a relatively privileged member at that, there are very few actions that I would consider taking or not taking that would automatically result in my life being forfeit. I have no experience of living under the weight of a death sentence imposed on me by another sentient individual.

I found myself reflecting on how this phrase about life depending on actions, applies to the victims of the brutal and violent species to which I belong.

I found myself thinking of the countless billions who have been caused to exist by human contrivance and manipulation of their reproductive processes, who have been, who are being and who will be hurt and harmed by the routine violence that all our use of their lives entails. For every single unique and special individual of these countless billions, their moment of conception is the beginning of their death sentence.

I found myself considering as I do every single day, those billions of gentle and innocent individuals whose pitiful existence of relentless use will end as their dying screams and whimpers gurgle with their bright lifeblood through their gashed throats this year, and next year, and the year after that until the world wakes up.

I found myself sickened by my words, by the careless way so many of us talk of life and death, saying phrases like ‘as if my life depended on it’ and laughing, secure in the knowledge that for us there is no danger, using these hugely significant words so casually, so thoughtlessly and so carelessly until they have no meaning.

And finally I had to remind myself that this is why I advocate veganism. This is why I call for the end of the culture of violence in which we are all complicit when we are not vegan. I do not promote a reduction of harm, or harm in a different environment, or harm on fewer days of the week because all of these things are still harm and they all twist the truth to serve our own convenience. They all make it about us, so we may bask in the self-congratulatory glow of feigned concern while continuing to ignore or justify to ourselves the harm that we demand as consumers.

Because for our victims, our advocacy is the one thing that really does have lives depending on it.  We cannot save all those who are in the harm system, but by being clear, consistent and unequivocal in our call for our species wake up to the consequences of their needless actions, we can urge others to reject their participation in the violence and horror that constitute all use of our helpless and vulnerable victims. We can stop contributing to the nightmare by becoming vegan and urging others to join us. By being vegan, we can reduce the demand for harm in the days and years to come.

Lives ARE depending on that. Let’s make the words mean something real. Be vegan.

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

Thoughts about living in a nonvegan world

cow-1832984_960_720There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted with an enquiry from someone who is not vegan, about whether a vegan would continue to participate in activities that used nonvegan equipment.  Sharing my response.

Question: ‘I do have a question as to your opinion though about the extent that veganism goes…. could a vegan play football or cricket or support a team that does when the ball and some equipment is made from leather?’

Response: ‘Thanks for getting in touch. Yours is a good question that I’ve not been asked before and I intend to share my response in a blog because I’m sure others may have wondered the same. I can’t and won’t give you a one-line answer but I doubt if you’d have asked me of all people if that was what you wanted.

Sometimes, there is a perception of veganism as a restrictive list of do’s and don’ts and often those who wish to trivialise or ridicule the idea, present it as such in the media.

In fact, veganism has only one central guiding principle, and that is the refusal to deliberately harm other individuals. That’s it. All of it. The rest is a matter of being knowledgeable about the harm that our choices cause when we are not vegan, and about taking the decision not to be part of it.

Our vegan life thus becomes, not some process where we have to check the rule book to see if something is on the ‘permitted’ list, but rather a process where we live true to the values that we have always had, only this time with the background knowledge that allows us to be informed about whether our choices have harmed another individual or not. Armed with that knowledge we choose to take the path that has caused the least possible harm.

I can only recount my own experience for this next bit. There is no escaping the fact that we live in a world where every species is regarded as a potential resource for our convenience, irrespective of the triviality of our requirement or the devastating result of that indulgence. I too was once oblivious to this but once our eyes open to this fact, it is staggering, shocking, sickening to realise ‘just how deep the rabbit hole goes’ – to quote Morpheus. And the knowledge doesn’t just stop – every day we discover further ways in which our careless species wreaks havoc.

When I first became vegan, I looked around – not just my fridge – but my home and my life and I was crushed to realise the extent of the use of nonhuman animal-derived substances and practices that surrounded me, and about which I had been blissfully ignorant. And this is where we are all faced with a dilemma. Adopting a plant diet is actually the easy bit, but what do we do with the relics from the days before we were vegan?

Much has been written on this but once again, there is no rule book; there is only our self and our conscience. I’ve written before on the concept of ‘waste’ as we apply it to nonhuman animal-derived substances in the time when we may be struggling to reach the conviction that other beings do not belong to us. Eventually we must face it that they never did and what we took in the past was not ours to take.

What do we do about the activities that we once were happy to participate in but required us to overlook the most fundamental rights of helpless members of other species? Indeed, what do we do about the friends, family and loved ones around us who are cheerfully continuing to leave a bloodbath in their wake, just as we once did ourselves?

I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I know that for me my view is constantly shifting as my knowledge of the atrocities of our species increases. For me, the key to everything is education and awareness. For ourselves and for others; that, and a determination to cling to the hope that at heart everyone holds the same belief in fairness and justice and does not want to hurt anyone.

So, to return to your question. As vegans, we all continue to live in the same world with the same people and it is utterly impossible to shut ourselves off from the fact that our entire culture is underpinned by the deaths of countless billions of sentient individuals each year and the torment and agony of countess others whose every moment is determined by our use of them as commodities.

We each find our own way to come to terms. I consider that sharing information about the horrors we support as nonvegans is the key to helping others to see for themselves that being vegan makes sense from every angle.

Specifically, footballs, as far as I know, are no longer made of leather, but recently a famous cricketer hit the headlines by challenging the use of leather to make cricket balls. And thus by drawing attention to the hidden horrors that we have all disregarded at one time, the information spreads. Those whose conscience is troubled may look past the media hype and inform themselves. They may even become vegan!’

Be vegan. It’s the right thing to do.

Links for further reading / listening:
http://gentleworld.org/whats-wrong-with-leather/ and http://www.howtogovegan.org/leather/


Posted in Advocacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Response to a ‘welfare’ survey about hens used for eggs

Joy at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary

Joy, rescued from an ‘Enriched’ Cage

Missy, rescued from a 'Free Range' facility

Missy, rescued from a ‘Free Range’ facility







There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted by a veterinary student with a request to complete a survey on the ‘welfare’ of hens in the egg industry. I did not complete it and have declined to promote it. Sharing my response.

‘Thank you for contacting me. I have viewed your survey and felt that my reason for not completing or promoting it warranted an explanation.

As a vegan activist, I got full marks in all categories. This emphasises that I am all too well aware of the facts surrounding the conditions in which humanity’s victims are exploited but these are not the reason why I am vegan and neither are they the reason why I promote veganism.

‘Welfare’ is a word that is much-overused by the exploitation industries and by those who promote and support them. It’s a word that carries within it the suggestion of concern for wellbeing and pastoral care. The reality of the matter is that the exploitation of sentient individuals as commercial resources, and any sort of ‘concern’ for their wellbeing are mutually exclusive conditions as I’m sure you are already aware or will soon discover. ‘Improving welfare’ is a ploy used – and celebrated loudly – by the industries that trade in the lives and bodies of sentient individuals and their media marketers, to soothe consumer consciences and thereby increase demand and revenue.

The industry will continue to go through this charade of concern for as long as human consumers consider that they have a right and a need to inflict catastrophic harm on helpless and innocent members of nonhuman species for reasons that can never be morally justified.

There is, in fact, no need for nonhuman animal consumption or use at all. Egg consumption, in common with the consumption of all substances derived from the lives and bodies of nonhuman animals, is a contributory factor to the epidemic of disease that is currently gripping the western world, the vast majority of which is related to inappropriate diet. If you are interested in knowing more on this, then the following site provides links to all the latest medical research and evidence on this topic http://nutritionfacts.org.

However, to return to my explanation, there are some practices that are deeply wrong from a moral standpoint and all use of nonhumans falls into that category. They are sentient individuals whose every right is disregarded in order that we may use them as if they were objects and commodities.

An analogy to the questions your survey poses would be if I were to be consulted about the abuse and harming of humans and asked to reveal the extent of my knowledge of the environment in which it was taking place and whether that affected my view of the practice. It wouldn’t. Wrong is wrong, no matter what the environment.

I hope this provides some insight into the reason that I shall neither complete nor promote the survey. I could not ask anyone to comment on the conditions in which the unnecessary victims of nonveganism are used as resources because to do so implies that there are ‘better’ and ‘worse’ ways to commit what amounts to a fundamental atrocity.

I have written extensively on all of these topics within my blog site and this is the link to a piece about eggs. http://wp.me/p4TmPw-n6. You will note that this in turn links to a number of sources and I should like to draw your attention to this report http://www.upc-online.org/battery_hens/enriched_cages_and_embodied_prisons.pdf that examines in depth the effect that the promotion of ‘welfare’ issues has on consumers.

In conclusion, may I say that whilst there are relatively few of them, there are some veterinary professionals who are vegan and it is an area that is crying out for more people of conscience. I am confident that my friends at Veterinary Vegan Network would be delighted to discuss this issue with you.’

It’s not how or where we treat our victims that is the issue.

The issue is that we have victims.

Stop having victims. Be vegan.


Images courtesy of Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary and Go Vegan World

Posted in Abolition vs Welfare, What is the problem with using eggs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A thought about what ‘better’ means

animal-1845413_960_720All of us are sentient individuals, the majority of whom have never been confined, never been tortured, never been mutilated deliberately and without anaesthesia, never been forcibly impregnated, never had our babies taken from us, never been hooked up to milk pumping machines or egg conveyors, never been starved and loaded onto trucks that take us to a place that smells of blood and fear, where we will hear the screams of our friends alongside the sounds of saws and machinery and know that our own death is coming.

With absolutely no personal experience of the horrors that we inflict on our sentient and desperate victims, who are we to decide how our ‘treatment’ of them while all this is happening, can be improved and better regulated? Yet this is exactly what we are presuming to do when we petition and protest for what we think are ‘better’ conditions in which to use our victims.

The only way we could ever even come close to making such an evaluation would be if we accepted that our victims are sufficiently like us for our own human preferences to apply to them.  And if we accept that our victims are sufficiently like us for our own human preferences to apply to them, then our next thought must surely be to ask by what right we use these vulnerable, thinking, feeling individuals who are just like us, as if they were objects that exist solely for our indulgence.  When we accept that our victims are sufficiently like us for our own human preferences to apply to them, we realise that we must re-cast ourselves, not in the role of ‘conscientious animal lovers’ which many of us favour, but rather in the role of extremely violent predators whose every victim is an unnecessary one who desperately wanted to live.

Given that this line of thought is so horrific that we are taught from our earliest childhood to suppress it, it is no surprise to find that the majority of us find it difficult to face the reality of what we do to our victims in order to use them as nonvegan resources. Nevertheless, we need to face the consequences of our actions if we are to be the people we already like to think we are.

The problem is not how or where we use our victims. The problem is that we HAVE victims. It’s just plain wrong in every sense. Be vegan.

Posted in Abolition vs Welfare, Single Issue Campaigns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

In hope and sadness, another New Year

cow-972569_960_720As the New Year bells continue to sound the death knell for so many billions of sweet and gentle individuals whom we would have loved if only we had known them, let’s spare a few moments to look at where we’ve been and at the road that lies ahead.

We all make resolutions as the new year approaches – some with more commitment than others. We may decide to eat less, exercise more, stop smoking or stop drinking, be less wasteful; mostly, New Year resolutions concern things we know we should have been doing already, and we resolve to try a bit harder and not give in to the tendency we all have to take the easy way out, to cheat, to resist change, to indulge ourselves.

So here’s a thing.  Almost every one of us claims to care about animals, and when we are not vegan, we know very well – or at least we strongly suspect –  that our actions cause them harm. This feeling of discomfort, which we prefer should remain as vague as possible, is why the industries that sell the lives and bodies of our victims, and their powerful allies who claim to promote animal ‘welfare’, have been able to create their lucrative webs of deceit. This deception, reinforced by almost ceaseless media coverage,  promotes the ludicrous idea that there are ‘acceptable’, ‘compassionate’ ways to take the lives of those who desperately want to live, and this façade of industrial concern is sufficient to assuage the feelings of discomfort that – let’s be honest – none of us is too eager to examine in detail.

These myths about ‘humane exploitation’ are targeted squarely at the caring consumer, and are highly profitable only because so few of us actually want to cause harm. In fact the reverse is true; we will actively seek ways to mitigate what we have been taught to view as a ‘necessary evil’. However, once we realise that using the lives and bodies of others for any reason is completely unnecessary, we must surely ask ourselves what our ‘necessary evil’ has become?

It might be thought that a vegan New Year resolution is different from most, in that at first glance it doesn’t seem to be about us at all, but rather is targeted at benefiting our nonhuman kin. Well, as I mentioned earlier, resolutions are mostly about things we know we should have been doing all along  and the decision to be vegan is simply making our words and thoughts real by living in line with them. In other words, the decision to be vegan is doing what we know we should have been doing all along. Indeed even many of us who are not vegan sincerely believe that we already do live our lives that way and are quick to declare that we would not wish to cause harm to the helpless.

However when we say we care for individuals of other species, when we say we respect their lives, when we say we don’t believe in causing unnecessary harm to the vulnerable but are not vegan, these are simply nice-sounding but ultimately empty and meaningless words.

So as 2016 draws to a close, let’s be mindful of the many billions of powerless, gentle individuals who have sobbed, whimpered and begged in vain for their unique and precious lives in farms and slaughterhouses across the world and those others who are doing so at this very moment of writing. Let’s not forget that every nonvegan consumer choice is an active decision to harm someone who is powerless to prevent our use of their body and our theft of their life.

In 2017, I would ask anyone who is not vegan to check out the wealth of links and information they will find elsewhere on this blog, then follow it up with research of your own. Resolve to make this the last year that your own consumer choices support and participate in the orgy of violence that is an inherent part of using helpless and innocent individuals as resources and commodities.

And in the coming year, if we are already vegan, let’s all resolve to take heart from the knowledge that we are not alone even although it can sometimes feel that way. In a pitiless and violent world it is comforting to realise that there are many others who share our commitment to justice and nonviolence, and it is encouraging to know that our numbers are growing each day.

As we move into this new year with its symbolic opportunities for renewal, a fresh start, let’s resolve anew to speak out about veganism with honesty and sincerity at every opportunity. Let’s use whatever talents and skills we can muster to spread the vegan message. Let’s commit ourselves to keep advocating veganism and absolutely nothing less.
Humanity’s  billions of victims are looking to us to speak on their behalf.  They are utterly dependent on our clear and unequivocal message. If we don’t fight for them – who will?
Have a very vegan 2017.

Posted in Advocacy, Festivals, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts about farming

piglet-11247_960_720Please note that in this essay, the words ‘farming’ and ‘farm’ refer specifically to a practice conducted upon sentient individuals in order that they may be used as resources and commodities for humans.

Recently I listened to a prime-time radio interview of a respected sanctuary and campaign manager/ vegan activist on the subject of animal rights.  On several occasions, the interviewers mentioned terms that they obviously considered significant, one of these being ‘factory farming’. The line of questioning that ensued was a rather transparent attempt to suggest that promoting animal rights was, by its very nature, a criticism of regulated farming practice and a personal attack on individual farmers. This was not the first time I have seen and heard this tactic used and if I were being uncharitable, I might have thought it a deliberate attempt to derail the activist, however I actually don’t believe that was the case. The interviewers were simply demonstrating the prejudice and preconceptions that most of us are raised to embrace as fact. Lacking even basic knowledge of the subject they were seeking to ‘discuss’, they sought to reframe the conversation in terms with which they were familiar, whilst trying to garner support both from the listeners whose prejudice they assumed they were representing, and from those whom they sought to suggest were the victims of an insult.

So as these things do, this started me thinking. This essay is the result as I consider the words ‘farm’ and ‘farming’ and how, like unseen potholes in the road, these words can so easily derail vegan advocacy.

Back to basics – what and when

So to begin. A farm is where the practice of farming takes place.  I appreciate that this is stating the obvious, however please bear with me.  ‘Farm’ and ‘farming’ are words that rarely stand alone; there is almost always some qualifying descriptor either stated or assumed. For instance, in the area of animal rights, and in the completely separate area of animal welfare, we see reference to factory farms, organic farms, family farms, dairy farms, free-range farms, pig farms, hobby farms, fish farms and so on.  It seems that ‘farm’ and ‘farming’ are words that, despite representing a significant concept, have become eclipsed by the descriptor that categorises them.

As vegans, we frequently hear assertions that things are as they have always been and this, somehow, is used to justify the status quo and/or intransigence so it is important to be clear on this point. Archaeological evidence points to humans having been around in their current form for about 200,000 years, with our ancestors existing for several million years prior to that. Wikipedia tells us that farming originated independently in different parts of the world as hunter gatherer societies transitioned to food production rather than food capture. Evidence points to its having started about 12,000 years ago with the domestication of livestock in western Asia, soon to be followed by the cultivation of crops, so looking at the timeframe in perspective, 12,000 years is barely significant in evolutionary terms.

Nonvegan ‘activism’ – back to my roots

Several years ago, before I knew anything at all about veganism, in the days when I was still kidding myself that I was a ‘conscientious consumer’, I heard the term ‘factory farming’.  Judging by the number of petitions against it (which is how I was judging it at that time), it seemed to be a very bad thing. Google introduced me to the term CAFO which my helpful friend Wiki defined as an acronym of ‘Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation’, a number of large and high profile organisations urged me to part with some cash in return for reassurance that they were doing something to counter it, and suddenly my directionless concern for animals had a focus.

It must be borne in mind that at this time I was still consuming animals, still wearing animals, still taking their lactation and their eggs, still using toiletries that had been used to burn out their eyes and abraded skin, and in short was still creating my own significant consumer demand that directly required the wheels of animal harm to keep on turning. Nevertheless there I was, a fully fledged animal abuser, signing every petition that landed in front of me, because of my outrage about … the actions of other animal abusers.  I know it sounds completely ludicrous now. But that’s the way it was.

Encouraging the form of distraction represented by a focus on the type of farming is a common strategy employed by and in fact encouraged by the animal use industries. Ideologically inconsistent, it is set within parameters that allow us to protect both our entrenched belief that we need to use nonhuman animals and our right as ‘superior’ animals to do so, while at the same time reinforcing the idea that this ‘use’ can be done in a ‘humane’ manner.  Against this background, we are encouraged and motivated by ‘campaigns’ that suggest some spurious scale by which ‘abuse’ can be ranked, very frequently proposing that this ‘abuse’ results from insufficient or unenforced regulation, and often that it takes place in some ‘foreign’ land (regardless of where ‘here’ happens to be). While simultaneously promoting xenophobic reactions, this serves to turn our outrage outwards against others whose abuse is not any different from our own abuse; yet we are encouraged to think we’re ‘being active’ and ‘taking a stand’ against ‘cruelty’.  And as the folk myth and legend spreads about how protests against ‘inhumane’ practices are having an effect, consumer demand is maintained and in some instances increased.

Obscuring the main event

The highly effective ploy of focusing on the type or descriptor of the ‘farming’ turns the users, the harmers, the killers of helpless and vulnerable animals into ‘activists’ and champions for their ‘welfare’. The diversion is employed widely and yet many of us are not even aware that it’s happening. Once we realise that it is, we see it everywhere, from those who profess to be animal lovers, from the major fundraising businesses that claim to represent animal ‘rights’ with their career ‘advocates’ and industry affiliations, and not unexpectedly from the most blatant marketers of animal corpses, body parts and secretions.

The two institutions that are most frequently used for this purpose are ‘factory farms’ and ‘battery’ chicken farms. ‘These factory farms are terrible places’, I used to say, and so many would agree with me while they tucked into steak and cheese, eggs and bacon. Like me, they were outraged and, oblivious to the irony of their continued complicity, they signed the petitions.  Some claim this is harmless and that a protest is valuable regardless of the source but – and here’s the very real danger that I have written about before – participation in ‘protest’ had made them feel much more comfortable about their own continuing use of animals. How do I know this? It had this effect for me and for countless others with whom I have discussed the phenomenon.

What I and countless others did not stop to consider, is that ‘factory’ farms are a consequence of the population size, the scale of their demand and the need of any money-making enterprise to keep costs low. This is just plain common sense. Whilst ‘factory farms’ are demonised, they are nevertheless the inevitable means of providing a supply to meet demand.

So what’s the industry response to public criticisms of ‘factory’ farms?  A different descriptor, with or sometimes without any significant change to the process.  ‘Family’ farm, ‘organic’ farm, ‘free range’ farm;  the ‘ethical’ utopian fantasy of bucolic bliss is promoted by the well paid wordsmiths and advert creators in the employ of the death industries.  Endorsements by ‘animal organisations’ set the final seal of betrayal of those whose ‘rights’ they claim to represent. ‘XYPCA approved’, ‘Freedom Food’, ‘Happy Cows / Sheep/ Hens’ say the labels and the TV ads.

Those whose conscience has been stirring can relax again.  ‘Whew. Glad someone has the interests of the animals at heart.’ Donation made.  Conscience salved. Been there.

Putting it into context

So what’s my problem? Well as always, let’s substitute a human circumstance to sharpen the focus. What if someone was farming …. humans? In a CAFO? Ok not that. How about a nice, friendly, ‘organic’, ‘family’, ‘free range’ establishment then? Instant outrage. What’s more, the outrage starts at the word ‘farming’.  No one needs to hear any more about where or how this ‘farming’ is taking place. We have absolutely NO problem at all seeing straight through the smokescreens when we reframe the situation in a human context. There is no more stark illustration of our deep rooted speciesism than this. And there in a nutshell lies my problem and it does not have anything to do with the descriptor.

The beating heart of the issue is the concept of a farm – any farm – where sentient individuals are caused to exist by human contrivance and intervention, where their reproductive processes are manipulated and their existence exploited, where their bodies are ‘reared’ and fattened, or milked or used for eggs, until such time as they are dispatched for slaughter . That’s the problem that needs to be addressed.

Despite this, the word ‘farm’ lurks in the background unchallenged, almost unnoticed, an atrocity hiding in plain sight while we focus on the descriptors. It’s like so many of the other euphemistic words we use to disguise our unrelenting and needless victimisation of the vulnerable; words we use to pretend we’re being nice about it, words that go so far as to pretend it’s even possible to be nice about it, words that massage our desperate desire to be thought of as good people who love animals and are ‘kind’ to them.

It’s not about ‘good’ farms or ‘bad’ farms

Once again, we need to return to the fundamental truth that it is not how we treat our victims that is the issue, the issue is that we have victims at all when it is completely unnecessary. When we advocate on their behalf, we need to tighten our focus on that truth and keep it that way.

I have literally lost count of the number of otherwise good posts and articles that I have not shared because they contain some reference to ‘factory’ farming or ‘battery’ hens. Such articles imply that it is the means of use and the type of environment in which it occurs that is the issue, and in this way they condone and approve the underlying concept of farms and farming. The moment we, as advocates, allow ourselves to lose the focus of our discussion so that the descriptor is the topic, we have failed in our attempt to represent the rights of those helpless nonhumans who are utterly dependent on us because they have no one else.

In human terms, allowing it to be implied that the issue is about the means of use and where it occurs, is the equivalent of arguing that innocent humans who are wrongfully imprisoned on death row should be imprisoned in a ‘nicer’ environment, without mentioning that they should not be imprisoned at all. Canvassing for improvements in treatment and in environment is not going to lead to the release of those who are wrongfully incarcerated and so it is with our use of members of other species.

I’ve seen it suggested – and even stated quite aggressively – that promoting ‘improved’ treatment will lead to the end of nonhuman use and to widespread veganism, however this is clearly wishful thinking. The rise of veganism – and it is on the rise – seems to be linked to an increasing awareness of the moral injustice on which all use of other species is based.  No, I haven’t personally done a survey and no, I can’t quote statistics. There are many moral truths that are self-evident and I can’t justify these statistically either. Is murder wrong? Is domestic violence wrong? Is sexual predation wrong? Few would ever ask for proof or for statistics where the victims are human, but change the species …

Are there any who seriously consider that a multi billion dollar/pound/euro industry will eventually tire of addressing demands to ‘improve’ treatment for our unnecessary victims to the extent that eventually it will all just be too much bother and they’ll stop doing it? On the contrary, any real or imaginary ‘improvements’ are shamelessly capitalised upon to encourage favourable public perception of those who peddle suffering and death. What will however bring the use of members of other species to an end, is dwindling consumer demand, and such a reduction in demand is the inevitable consequence of veganism.

This is not the last battle

It should also be noted that once any one of the popular justifications for animal use has begun to look shaky, many will fall back strategically to any one of literally dozens of ‘justifications’ for the behaviour of our species, such as how nonhumans are ‘different’, how they are ‘bred for eating’, how we ‘need to eat animals’  and so on.  When, as advocates, we suggest that the issue relates to how and where the using takes place, it opens up a whole spectrum of alternative avenues that nonvegans may take to assuage  consciences without ever having to address the fundamental need for each of us to take responsibility for the consequences of our demand as consumers and change our destructive behaviour.  How do I know? I was that nonvegan.

We cannot adopt a piecemeal approach to this battle for justice. We need to aim straight for the heart of the issue and we need to be clear and consistent. Some may call that ‘preachy’ but it’s a pep talk I’ve been known to give myself from time to time. So much is depending on us and we have to do our best to get it right. There are so many lives that are doomed before they are even conceived, so many babies yet to be born, so many bereft mothers-to-be, so many anguished, helpless innocent individuals who will sob in desperation, who will scream in agony, as the rivers of gore spurt and flow in the slaughterhouses.

We are all they have. Be vegan.

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Revisit Christmas past

pig-1639584_960_720It’s that time of year again; a season of nostalgia for years gone by; a time when we fondly remember sharing this festive warmth with family and friends who are no longer with us. Memories, like an old and much loved film, play in our mind’s eye images of bygone days, scenes of our younger selves, our friends and loved ones gathered round tables that were laden in the twinkling festive glow.

But let’s pause that playback; view again that festive table that our memory gazes on with misty eyes. Let’s look again, without the rosy tint this time.

Clove-studded centrepieces, glistening and gold, when seen without the euphemisms, are corpses; tragic, sad remains of innocents, whose dying eyes were wide with agony, fighting panic-stricken for their final gasp, losing their futile battle as bright blood spurted from their gaping throats. Look again and see that cheese, those eggs, not as the ‘ingredients’ of our childhood myths, but as they are, as motherhood frustrated and denied. Their rightful owners were gentle cows, sweet goats and fragile hens, each mind, each personality vivid and unique, but crushed and anguished by the bleakness of their lives. All they knew was our relentless use; each moment of their short existence was joyless misery, their bodies trapped in the wrenching pains of birthing and the cold embrace of milk pumping machines.

Closing our eyes to breathe and savour the aromas of our feast, we need to pause again. That scent associated with familial warmth and good times shared, is death; decay concealed with onion and with herbs, decomposition masked with spice and fruit.

It’s hard when memories crumble into ruins, yet we have no need to wreak such devastation on these meek and helpless victims for festivities that celebrate ‘peace’ and ‘goodwill’. This season, why not turn our backs on the bloodbath? Let’s start a new tradition built on justice and respect for all and truly find the peace and the joy we crave, beginning on our tables.
Be vegan.

Posted in Awakening to veganism, Festivals, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A thought for December

1891215_543386635780474_748032105_nThe festive season is a time that we traditionally associate with love and joy and peace and giving.

We do not talk of the unspeakable harm we cause to vulnerable individuals, of needlessly and forcibly taking every single thing from them, of the orgy of killing and the rivers of blood from their unnecessary deaths. We never mention our callous violence towards the helpless and innocent who are begging for their lives in the slaughterhouses and laboratories at this very moment; the anguished mothers and their babies crying out for the comfort of each other as we pitilessly destroy their lives.

If we are not vegan, then this festive season, let’s be honest with ourselves and see our festive fantasy for the sham it is.

Once we recognise that there can be no true peace in our hearts or in the world until the violence stops, becoming vegan is the only thing that makes any sense.

Be vegan.

Find out here:
– about veganism: http://www.vegankit.com/
– about sentience: http://wp.me/p4TmPw-z
– about dairy: http://wp.me/p4TmPw-iS
– about eggs: http://wp.me/p4TmPw-n6
– about health: http://wp.me/p4TmPw-r

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