‘Suffering’; a word we use without thought

pig-756026_960_720How can it be that we use words to protect ourselves from feeling, from connecting with the reality of the world?

My thoughts strayed in this direction when I was reading a piece earlier that mentioned the word ‘suffering’. Later, looking back on what I had read as I was doing something entirely unconnected, I realised that I had glanced at the word and moved on to see what was being said. Yet there it is, a word we all use; ‘suffering’. It’s a word we glance at and we get the gist; a vague impression of something undesirable, unpleasant. And then we move on.

I imagine there are many other words like that, words like ‘cruelty’, ‘pain’, ‘slaughter’, ‘death, ‘misery’ and hundreds more. We read them, we get the gist, we move on.  I previously wrote at length about ‘cruelty’, both the concept and our use of the word, and when I think about it, this word ‘suffering’ comes into the same family of words. All these words crop up frequently when discussing our use of members of other species and all of them are subjective. That means that not only does the real meaning of the word vary for each of us, the gist each of us takes from the word is different for us too.

It seemed to me at that moment that not only our language, but our very thoughts themselves, are designed to prevent us from truly connecting with the subjects we discuss. It seemed to me that as a species, we tend to speak in shorthand, using words that signify a general idea without actually connecting with the depth of meaning that exists within these words. Our use of language can act like pond skaters, words that skim over the calm surface without in any way connecting with whatever turbulence lies below. So I found myself looking again at ‘suffering’.

Suffering, what it means

There’s a world in that word. It has such depth and shades, such overtones and undertones, peaks and troughs. It’s a word that echoes with pain, with loss, with loneliness and despair. It shrieks with raw hurt and anguish. It whimpers with betrayal and fear. It’s a word that holds the image of gentle eyes, looking their last in helpless, impotent desolation at their pitifully crying child being taken to die, of eyes dull with hopelessness, of eyes whose owner has learned to want nothing, because nothing is all they have.

Suffering may be measured in the eternity of an existence of torment, in frustrated hopes and unsatisfied needs and wants. There is blood throbbing in the word, the nagging agony of raw cuts and bruises on bruises, powerless to shield damaged flesh from more, the aching, the cringing and cowering that is always futile but remains instinctive. There’s the iron tang of blood that flows, slick and hot; there’s blood that crusts black on old wounds.

‘Suffering’ is such a visceral word. It’s a word of restraints, of metal bars and clamps, of branding tools glowing white with heat or cold. ‘Suffering’ contains the sound of slicing, hacking, crunching and the blistering heat of knives, of cutters sharp or blunt, and tongs on flesh, teeth, beaks and bone. The word struggles to contain a sawing, endless screaming terror; a stomach-churning hurt that vomits, an agony that releases bowels and bladder into stinging streams down helpless, trembling legs, pooling in the fetid clanging that we call a ‘slaughterhouse’.

‘Suffering’ is a word that opens a gateway to hell. So perhaps it’s no surprise that our words and our thoughts skip over the meaning with a nod to the gist. Because when we open the gateway and look inside, it hurts us to the core.

Facing the truth

For each of us, if we consider ourselves to be the kind of person who would never in our worst nightmares consider inflicting that word ‘suffering’ on another, then there is something that we each must face. Every time we choose to use in any way or consume a substance derived from the body of an individual of a species other than our own, we are choosing to inflict ‘suffering’ in all its raging horror. Suffering and nonveganism are conjoined and impossible to separate.

Our ears may not hear the cacophony of misery, our hands may seem clean of the seeping body fluids of innocents, but we truly are each responsible for the horror that our consumer choices demand. Once we find the courage to confront this truth, we can choose to reject our part in the nightmare by being vegan.

Find out about veganism today. Be vegan.

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‘Hardly ever’ and ‘only a drop’

calf-1335472_960_720How often do we hear it said, ‘I hardly eat any meat’, or ‘I only take a drop of milk in tea’? It is as if we consider that the level of misery that we demand as consumers can be scaled down by such reductions.

This view occurs because we refuse to see our victims as individuals. Yet for the individual whose pitiful life was cut short in gore and screaming for us to have that piece of their desecrated flesh that we seek to downplay, the world ended a few days earlier and never again will they wake on a new day of hope. Their horror and their fear, their desperate struggles against the hard hands with their knives and saws, were no less for our trivialising. Their despair was not in any way lessened as the electric prods forced their faltering steps onto the kill floor.

For that ‘drop of milk’ that we smilingly seek to excuse as a trivial indulgence, a mother was pinioned and violated. For nine months, her womb nurtured her growing child while every day her swelling, mothering body was hooked up to our mechanical suction pumps. And when her time of labour came, as with any other mother, she knew the wrenching, draining, convulsions of her child’s birth; she cried out, bearing down as nature’s tides gripped her body in her toil, and her pain was no less that it would have been had she known of all those members of our species who ‘only take a drop in tea’.

Her anguish, her frantic fear as her infant was taken from her were in no way diminished by the frequency of our use, or the quantity we, as individuals, take. Her loss, her anguish and her degradation were devastating. Her infant’s sobs of fear and bewilderment, his futile whimpers for his mother’s milk and warmth were not in any way consoled by our trivialising. His death will be agonising and he will be more afraid that we can even imagine.

For it is not how much or how little we use our victims that is the issue.
It is not how often or how seldom we use our victims that is the issue.
It is not how ‘nicely’ we treat our victims that is the issue.
The issue is that we have victims at all. The issue is that this is unnecessary. The issue is that until we accept that these victims are not ours to use, this outrage will continue and whilst we may seek to excuse ourselves with a smile and a shrug, we truly cannot detach ourselves from the very real and inevitable consequences of our consumer choices.

When we refuse to participate in this nightmare for another moment, is the point at which we decide to become vegan. Please make that moment today.

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Thoughts about ‘waste’

sheep-1547720_960_720The notion of ‘waste’ as it pertains to substances derived from nonhumans is frequently a subject of heated debate. I see the topic mentioned most often in relation to eggs, but the practice of ‘waste prevention’ is also defended in connection with the wool sheared from the bodies of sheep as well as other substances derived from the lives and bodies of nonhuman animals. The general premise is that since these ‘products’ are being produced anyway, and since the beings who produce them don’t ‘seem’ to have any use for them, then it’s ‘wasteful’ for us not to use them. I’ve seen the same justification used about consuming dead flesh and using leather and other body parts; ‘the animals are dead anyway, it would be wasteful not to use them’. There’s even a tenuously related notion of it being somehow ‘respectful’ to use up every part of a nonhuman corpse and I find that particular fantasy to be breathtakingly self-serving but I’m not going to go into it here.

I’ve wondered where this deeply ingrained notion of ‘preventing waste’ comes from. Obviously as responsible adults in a world of finite resources, every one of us should, logically and morally, be aware of the impact of our living.  I wonder however if there’s perhaps a bit more to it than that. I’ve come to the conclusion that as with many other concepts relating to animals that our adult mind struggles to rationalise, there’s possibly an aspect that comes from our early childhood.

Memories

My generation was born in the mid 20th century, in a social climate still struggling to recover from the privations of war-time rationing. Although I never experienced it, my parents had known the severe restrictions this brought and I suspect their almost obsessive focus on waste prevention can be traced back to that. Every mealtime at their table was a battle to ensure that everything, no matter how I resisted the substances that disgusted me even then, everything on my plate was eaten. ‘You can’t waste that’, ‘don’t you dare waste that’, ‘some children don’t have enough to eat, get on with it and don’t waste it’ etc. It’s actually quite surprising how clearly I hear the words and voices echoing down the years. I doubt if my experience is unique.

Suffice to say that waste and the avoidance of it featured prominently in the household and as a small child I accepted it as part of life. I rebelled in small ways like refusing to eat some particularly nauseating offerings – or at least I tried – but in the end I was powerless in the face of authoritarian parenting and invariably gave in, in order to be permitted to leave the table.

It was not until much later in life that my rebellion truly took place against the ingrained, inconsistent and illogical notions of my upbringing. By that time these notions had been reinforced and legitimised over decades by a speciesist society; over the years, the roots of ideas never questioned had morphed into ‘knowledge’ that we all seemed to know but couldn’t recall learning. And as parents do, I passed it on. I’ve heard it said that we become our parents and to some extent this is true. I regret that I repeated their dogma for years. Until one day, I got lucky. My eyes were opened, I finally saw through the veils of fantasy and then I became vegan, because it was the only course of action that allowed me to truly be the person I had thought I always was. But returning to the subject in hand …

‘Wasting’ eggs

Here, our victim of choice is generally the hen although several other species are used to meet consumer demand for more ‘exotic’ products. When we say we consider it ‘wasteful’ not to consume eggs, we are implicitly asserting two things.  The first of these is because eggs exist – and the debate generally, although not always, centres around infertile eggs – we consider that we have the right to take them if we wish.  We are also asserting – and reinforcing the concept to others – that we consider eggs to be appropriate human ‘food’. This latter concept of eggs as ‘food’ is examined in painstaking detail in this link, however regardless of the health concerns, my focus is and always will be on the moral implications of our use of other sentient individuals as our resources

Nevertheless, by articulating our disapproval of ‘waste’, we elicit peer approval for our actions by suggesting that our actions are admirable and praiseworthy efforts in support of conserving resources. The implication is  along the lines of ‘naturally, as an ethical consumer, if hens had any use for eggs I might act differently. However as they don’t appear to, I’m simply conserving resources by using up what would otherwise be wasted.’ And then we stand back, waiting for the plaudits, responding defensively to any who challenge either of the two main justifications.

If we claim to hold concern for members of other species – and almost every one of us does – this proposal as justification for our continued use of eggs betrays a flawed understanding of the fundamental principles of supply and demand. For as long as we perpetuate the practice ourselves, or legitimise it with our approval, tacit or otherwise, there will be those who will demand eggs for consumption. The power of that consumer demand will ensure that a supply of eggs is provided to meet it, and that supply will be provided in the most economically advantageous manner, regardless of the catastrophic cost to the unconsenting individuals whose eggs these truly are. There is no such thing as a harmless way to use the lives and bodies of others for any purpose, and as far as eggs are concerned, please see the following link where the subject is discussed at length.

Not unsurprisingly, our values and views on the subject of eggs in general, are again inconsistent, a sign that I am coming to realise is a good indicator that the ‘knowledge’ about it stems from a time when we were too young to rationalise or debate it. For instance, many birds abandon their nests in springtime for a variety of reasons. And yet we take a very dim view of anyone removing eggs for any reason at all from the nest of any bird that is not held captive for the specific purpose of being used as a commodity by our species – in fact in many cases it’s even highly illegal. ‘Waste’ never seems to be considered as a factor in that case.

So what about wool?

The use of wool and the justifying of the shearing of those animals that produce it is, once more, an illustration of our lack of consideration or understanding about supply and demand. I am unable to improve on the explanation here by the excellent Gentle World whose article states:

…..just as the dairy industry implicitly supports the meat industry by supplying it with veal calves and female cows whose milk production levels have dropped, wool funnels sheep who are no longer producing profitable levels of wool into the meat industry, often through live export which entails its own unique set of abhorrent practices. Ultimately, every shorn sheep will be brought to slaughter.

One might also mistakenly believe that a sheep needs to be shorn, but the reality is more complicated. Undomesticated sheep produce only the amount of wool that they need to survive in their climate. Again, as we have bred chickens and pigs to grow so large that their legs can no longer support them, we have used genetic engineering to manipulate the sheep’s wool production to meet our designs.

In other words we have meddled with nature to create breeds that require human intervention and then we sanctimoniously go on to justify ourselves and our merciless use of their lives and bodies. We do this by re-framing our role in this unnatural and self-serving process as one of concerned and kindly husbandry providing essential care for comfort and wellbeing. And of course it’s no surprise that there’s a huge amount of money to be made in using these helpless and unconsenting innocents as our resources and commodities.

It is impossible to argue in favour of wool – or in fact any body hair from other individuals – being necessary in our lives. Plant materials like cotton, linen, bamboo and hemp, coupled with readily available synthetic fibres and fabrics can be substituted for almost any purpose we can think of.

Roadkill?

Sadly, the country roads around my home are killing fields for a variety of individuals all year round. Hardly a day passes without my seeing the pitiful remains of pheasants, ducks, hedgehogs, rabbits and occasionally even deer, badgers and squirrels. When it’s nesting season, many birds are swooping low over roads and all too often misjudging the distances. Their little corpses plastered to the tarmac break my heart.

Hardly anyone would think it was acceptable to go around scooping up all these remains to use as ‘meat’, declaring that it would be a shame to ‘waste’ it all. Okay, some people undoubtedly do but the vast majority would be far more likely to phone the local council to ask them to dispose of a deceased deer or a badger, than would scoop it up with a menu choice in mind. Perhaps for some, their reluctance to do this is influenced by being all too well aware that a corpse on the road has already begun to putrefy and decay.

And the signs of inconsistency? Yes, they’re there, the tell-tale hallmark of our irrational childhood ‘knowledge’ is there once we know what to look for. If the body on the roadway happens to be a dog or a cat, what do we do? Many of us would try to assist by taking an injured individual to a vet, or if death had occurred, we may move the body to the side of the road to prevent further damage. We might even share information on social media and with local vets so that any human desperately concerned for their missing companion will at least find closure, and perhaps a body to mourn and bury.

And yet the fact that we are willing to consume corpses presented in shops and supermarkets seems to totally bypass the instinctive awareness we have of the fact that death of an animal marks the beginning of a process of decay. Like so many other substances presented to us as ‘food’ we assume that someone will have taken care of the technical details for us.

Waste or want?

Honey, feathers, leather, the list of substances we hate to ‘waste’ just keeps on going. Yet we feel no such compulsion about human lives, human corpses and human body parts (unless in the extremely rare case of organ donation where the supreme consideration in every case is informed consent); it’s completely forbidden territory. Anyone who demonstrated any such compulsion would be considered to require urgent psychiatric help.

As always, we are keen to think well of ourselves and to re-frame our exploitative behaviour as responsible, worthy and noble. By pretending that we are ‘preventing waste’ of substances derived from the bodies of animals at the cost of disregarding their every right as sentient individuals, many wilfully disregard the consumer-demand-led process by which these substances exist. We completely disregard the fact that it is completely unnecessary for us to even have victims in the first place. We ignore the fact that the end product that we are heroically refusing to ‘waste’ is the culmination of a systematic and merciless cycle that begins with manipulating the reproductive processes of vulnerable individuals, and ends in the mortuary aisle, as an ingredient in a domestic toiletry or chemical, cut in slivers for some microscope slide, on a hanger in a clothing store or on a sofa in a furniture shop.

The problem is that we cannot separate the demand from the ‘product’. When we delude ourselves that we’re ‘preventing waste’ we are in fact creating demand, or at least perpetuating the mistaken view that other sentient individuals and their secretions should be viewed as food, as clothing, as test subjects. They are not. We have no need and no right to do this. The conversation is not about waste. It’s about humans once again attempting to appease an uneasy conscience by seeking to find a right way to do something utterly wrong. It takes a lot less effort to just admit that and face the consequences of admitting to our indulgence. It takes a lot less effort to stop the mental gymnastics and take the readily accessible doorway that leads out of our own participation in the outrage being perpetrated on billions of helpless innocents by our species

That doorway leads to veganism. Why not take it today? Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Thought for the day

cows-1209635_960_720Humans bring sentient individuals into existence through callous and unnatural manipulation of their reproductive processes for the sole purpose of using them as a resource that we have NO nutritional or other need for.

We tear apart their families, confine and use them in complete disregard of their every right to own their own bodies and their own lives.

We restrain them so we can test chemicals on their skin, in their eyes and by forcing them to ingest large doses; we take the milk they made for the infants we have killed. Through selective breeding we have altered an entire species so that their tiny bodies are time bombs, then we confine them so they will lay vast quantities of eggs. We pluck and shave their body coverings. We are ‘entertained’ by having forced their gentle innocence to submit to our domination.

And after all our callous, thoughtless, and brutally violent use, we flay, dismember, use, consume and excrete their corpses.

To top it all, we tell ourselves and anyone who will listen how much we care about animals and obsess over their treatment while they await the final horror of a slaughterhouse, conveniently overlooking the fact that death, for most, will be more horrific than we can ever imagine. We love to gloss over the bit where they actually must still be alive when their throats are hacked open so that their panicking hearts can pump out their precious lifeblood. We cannot distance ourselves from what is done in our name; the fact that we hand over money for the end result means that we have paid the wage of every one whose hands have tormented, and hacked and sawed.

None of this can ever fit in with any image we may cherish of ourselves as caring human beings. Just because society turns a blind eye to the brutality we inflict on those who cannot defend themselves, does not make it right.

It’s time to take responsibility for our actions and face up to the lies we tell ourselves. We must live true to our own principles and that means stepping away from the pack and saying, ‘Enough’.

That’s what we do when we become vegan. Why wait another day?

Find out about veganism here:

www.HowToGoVegan.org
www.VeganKit.com
http://goveganworld.com/what-is-veganism/

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Single issues and me

sheep-1286877_960_720There is much written about single issues and petitions. The two go hand in hand. It’s a hot topic and I’m not going to wade into the debate. If you read this and feel moved to seek to justify your own support of these, then all I can say is that not only have I stood in your shoes, I have heard every single angle there is, from ‘every little helps’ through ‘we can do both’ and ‘we’re all really on the same side / promoting the same goal’ right through to ‘it’s raising awareness’ via every other justification there is. We are an inventive species and that goes as much for our ability to dream up excuses as it does for everything else. But I no longer support or promote single issues and I never shall again.

Just to be clear, my own definition of ‘single issues’ would be;

All campaigns that focus on either general behaviour towards, general treatment of, general practices and/or specific instances of behavior, specific treatments or specific practices perpetrated on:

  • one individual member of a nonhuman species
  • a number of such individuals
  • a single species
  • a finite number of species.

Single issue campaigns call for prevention, change, regulation, punishment, reform; the action demanded by the campaign depends on the specifics of the topic.

Ordinary everyday people

I used to support single issues and petitions in a huge way; I spent hours and hours signing petitions, writing emails, letters, planning objections, you name it  – so please hear me out. I’m not going to quote any learned treatises, studies or statistics although I have most assuredly read a great many of these as they persuasively weigh the pros and cons. However it wasn’t the intellectual articles or the ethical essays that convinced me to stop supporting single issues. The reason I stopped has to do with looking inwards, examining my own thoughts and remembering my own past behaviour and reasoning. The reason I stopped is about what I know about myself and through that knowledge, what I know about others; what I observe in the people I meet everywhere and in every walk of life. In this essay, I examine my own memories and my own observations and I’m going to ask you to look back at YOUR memories and be absolutely honest. Not honest with me – but honest with yourself.

First I have to say I’m an extremely ordinary person; the kind of person you would pass in the street without even noticing. I’m making the assumption that most of the people who read this will be similarly ordinary – at least in their own eyes; we’re just ordinary people going about our business, making a living, trying to do our best to care for those we love. We’re everyday people leading everyday lives.

The lost years

I have often mentioned what I think of as my ‘lost’ years. These were years that are now lost to me in terms of the advocacy opportunities I was unable to pursue, years during which I realise that I myself was lost. I wandered in a murky, confusing and inconsistent fog, brimming with direction-less concern for animals of the nonhuman variety, washed over and sometimes crushed by waves of despair for my inability to make a dent on what I saw as the impossible task of alleviating their suffering at the hands of animals of the human variety.

For me, petitions, emails and letters were like the flotsam on these waves of despair. I grasped them eagerly, writing, signing, sending, because they allowed me to feel I was doing something, and because they were something to cling to. On my PC I had links to many petition sites and the horrors that I saw there can never be erased from my mind’s eye. No two petitions were the same, whether they were canvassing for the full force of the law to be brought to bear on individuals for specific instances of sickening vileness, or whether they were protesting what I now realise are the inevitable ‘routine’ horrors that go hand in hand with our culturally accepted use of nonhumans for as many purposes as our creative depravity can devise. These campaigns were the only thing that stood between me and despair; the only thing that enabled me to feel that I was raising my voice in protest against what I saw as the ‘inhumane’ actions of … others.

The actions of others. It was always others. It was never me.  The alarm bell about that wouldn’t start to ring for many years.

Coming into focus

The first thing that must be said is that when we promote any measure that reduces or regulates harm, when we promote or protest against any single issue as I defined above, we’re missing a huge, glaring point with a flashing light and a siren on it. Yet most of us have missed it at some time. When we demand the regulation or the reduction of harm, we are promoting regulated harm or reduced harm. Whatever we are demanding as a solution to our complaint, we are continuing to promote harm. I’ll repeat that, because it’s worth repeating. We are continuing to promote harm.

The harm that we are promoting is, presumably, hopefully, something that we as individual humans think is a ‘more acceptable’ kind of harm. But this in itself immediately begs the question, ‘Who are we to say what kind of harm is acceptable to another individual?’ Many of us might roll our eyes at this and declare that it’s completely obvious. But is it? Is it really?

What’s acceptable?

Let’s leave aside our consideration of other species for a moment and think this through. Given that by definition we are not demanding the cessation of harm, let’s consider familiar ground and wonder whether any of us could determine what level of harm would be acceptable for another human? For instance, if we were forced to decide which of our senses, which of our limbs, what aspect of our freedom and wellbeing we would be least distressed to lose, which would it be?

Let’s carry on with this line of thought. If we were asked to make a similar judgement on behalf of our children or a partner, would that change our perspective? It certainly would change mine. I would honestly rather die than face such a choice. If we had to decide what form of confinement and use, what type of deprivation, mutilation, the lifespan and the nature of the premature death that should be inflicted on each member of our family, could we make these decisions?

And here’s another one. Would we be prepared to allow a child to be taken from us in order to spare our own life or in order to save one or more of our children? Could we choose which one should live? That scene from the film ‘Sophie’s Choice’ springs into my mind here. My throat constricts with grief as the officer tells Meryl Streep in the title role, ‘You may keep one of your children. The other must go away.’ It is hard to imagine how anyone could fail to be moved by the agony in her eyes, the tremulous horror in her voice as she says, ‘You mean I have to choose?’  The following scene where her screaming and terrified child is torn from her arms, a scene re-enacted on millions of dairy cows and their infants every single year, is heartbreaking almost beyond bearing.

Would we be content to let another make such choices on our behalf? I know I wouldn’t. And unless you and I are very different from each other after all, I’m guessing you wouldn’t either. My point is that we fully recognise that these are decisions that no human would ever feel comfortable about making for themselves, let alone make them on behalf of another human no matter how close they are.

Speciesism lurking in the wings

So let’s go back to individuals of other species. Having acknowledged the complete enormity of even considering making life and death decisions on behalf of other humans, why do we feel qualified to make them on behalf of individuals of different species? How do we know what matters most to another individual? How do we know what or whom they value, what they fear most, what their priorities are? One thing is absolutely certain; certain because it is a defining characteristic of being sentient. Their lives matter to them; they value their lives and their relationships with their family and friends. They do not want to die.

But when we promote harm regulation or harm reduction, fulfilling their desperate desire to live is not an option on  the table. We’re ignoring that one. When we are promoting what we perceive as harm reduction or harm regulation, as I said earlier we are still promoting harm; the harm that is an inherent part of a lifetime of use. We are still promoting the harm of being a commodity and a resource; the harm of enduring an existence – because it’s not really a life, is it? – an existence that for most land based individuals will end in terror, whimpering and screaming in the blood drenched violence of a slaughterhouse.

So let’s just be completely honest here, with ourselves if with no one else. Harm reduction and harm regulation decisions such as these form the backbone of single issue campaigning – bigger cages, shorter travelling times, use for flesh and eggs but not foie gras, anti fur, pro ‘free range farming’, the ‘don’t build it here, build it somewhere else’ nonsense of our opposition to facilities that overtly commodify nonhumans, etc. And the main reasons we would presume to make these decisions on behalf of another individual?

  1. they are not human and
  2. we think we know best because
  3. we assume that we are ‘superior’ and thus qualified to decide.

In other words, we are being completely and utterly speciesist.

Now at this point, I’m sure that the ‘less harm is better than more harm’ argument is being dusted down and readied for use. It is true, less harm is indeed better than more harm. But even if what I have just written does not convince the reader that perceptions of harm and our priorities in the face of it, are so profound that no sentient individual can make them for another, we need to refocus on what we are actually seeking to achieve here.

What do we want?

Is our goal to achieve ‘less harm’?

Some would tell you that it is; that it’s a ‘step in the right direction’ and ‘raising awareness’. And some would doubtless be large organisations that claim to promote animal interests. However, don’t be fooled. The official line trumpets lofty aspirations to ‘reduce harm’, ‘improve welfare’, bring about ‘better’, ‘more humane’ ‘treatment’. Note the number of subjective words there – subjective = meaning different things to different people. But it’s really not about these aspirations at all. So what IS it about?

Happy consumers spend lots of cash

It’s about consumer perception, because consumer perception  soothes consumer consciences. Soothed consumer conscience maintains or increases consumer demand for the body parts, secretions and services of sentient individuals whose interests are completely disregarded. Consumer demand leads to a cacophony of bells from the cash registers of the industries that use powerless nonhuman individuals as resources, as well as the jingle of donations landing in the coffers of the career ‘advocates’ and their organisations who partner with, and periodically dole out rewards to, the said exploitation industries in an unholy partnership.  The cash jingle and the till bells quite manage to drown out the whimpers of terror and agony from humanity’s victims as they are once again sold up the river.

The end result of all this elaborate charade is to create an atmosphere of consumer confidence; a perception that someone, some expert organisation, is looking out for animal interests so we can all shop in confidence, comforted that we are doing all we can to ensure that everyone is happy with the deal and no unnecessary harm is being caused.

My memory clears its throat and asks to share something. In the days when I was a ‘single issue activist’ signing petitions and protesting against what the animal organisations informed me were horrific practices that took place in ‘other’ countries, as I wrote my emails and submitted Not In My Back Yard planning objections against beagle-breeding farms, research laboratories and CAFOs, I ranted passionately about ‘cruelty’ and ‘welfare’ to family, friends and colleagues as I wrote my donation cheques and sought out the confidence-inspiring high-welfare labels. I fell for all the hype and thought that I was doing the absolute best that anyone could do by buying ‘humane products’ and protesting about what everyone else was doing. In my own view I was so very ethical and my purchases of meat, dairy, eggs, toiletries, domestic chemicals, leather, wool, feathers, silk all reflected my sincere concern. Of course I would never have been seen dead wearing fur and would never have bought substances like veal or foie gras because ‘obviously’ they were ‘cruel’. I thought the goal was to get everyone to do what I was doing while simultaneously striving to make the ‘necessary evil’ of industry practices as humane as they possibly could be. Have you spotted the glaring mistakes yet?

There are two words that I have not used in this essay so far and I have to apologise because it’s turning out to be a long one. The two words are RIGHTS and VEGANISM. Why do you think that is? The reason is actually quite simple. No one had ever mentioned them to me up to this point in my life.

Animal RIGHTS and VEGANISM

I’d like to just clarify that animal welfare is NOT the same as animal rights despite what many would have you believe.  In fact, in the context of this essay, even welfare is not the dictionary definition of the word.  The dictionary definition of ‘welfare’ is ‘the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group’ (and that very plainly does not apply to any of of the victims of humanity’s obsession with harming and killing the vulnerable for our most trivial whims) whereas the dictionary definition of ‘animal welfare’ I tracked through many dictionaries without finding an objective definition. Even Wiki ducks and weaves, telling us what it’s not, and what it may sometimes be thought to be, and what it can be in certain contexts, but that these can vary, and standards are under constant review, and so on. In other words, there’s not a straight answer and once we delve into the facts of the matter, it’s hardly surprising.

The truth as I have come to understand it, is so unsavoury that I doubt that even the most uncritical eyes would slide over it without pause. However it is touted, in reality ‘animal welfare’ has to do with seeking to be seen to promote minimum standards of health, wellbeing and treatment of nonhumans. Welfare regulations seek to ensure that whilst their rights as sentient individuals are being completely disregarded, nonhumans are treated in a manner that is seen to be lacking in gratuitous and overt cruelty and violence providing this can be achieved in a financially advantageous and profitable manner. Any morally questionable practice such as the routine mutilations and surgery without pain relief, gross violation of reproductive processes, bodily integrity and infanticide that are part and parcel of commodifying sentient individuals as resources and that would make most decent people shudder, may be justified under a guise of paternalistic concern lest they ‘hurt themselves or each other’. Anything that can’t be glibly explained away is hidden, with legal action being sanctioned to prevent exposure.

And however we spin the tale, the only way out of a lifetime of servitude for our helpless victims, is death, more often than not in a slaughterhouse. We can get ourselves tied in knots with campaigns about treatment for the condemned but the bottom line is that they are going to be killed, they don’t want to die and their death will be violent in the way that death always is when the victim wants to hold on to life.

Starkly contrasted with this is the concept of animal rights. Animal rights advocates hold the position that no sentient individual should be regarded as the property of humans and any use of nonhuman animals by human animals is unacceptable.  And as there is absolutely no need for us to use the bodies, lives and services of nonhuman individuals, there is no reason for us not to recognise these rights. Veganism is simply what happens when this ethic is incorporated into our daily lives. Veganism and the recognition of nonhuman rights are synonymous.

So to answer a question I asked earlier, is our goal to promote less harm? No. Our goal must be to end all harm. And as all the use we make of others causes them harm, and as it is all unnecessary, our goal must be to end all use.

Can we do advocacy and single issues?

So coming back round to the start, what about this one then? This is a very common theme amongst vegans, with many choosing to hedge their bets and claiming that it’s possible to do both; namely promoting single issue campaigns in what many reassure themselves is an interim measure while ‘raising awareness’ that will ultimately end all use of our earthling kin.

Some advocates will advise that they oppose the promotion of single issues on efficiency grounds, suggesting that promoting veganism and nonviolent vegan education is making better use of limited advocacy time. Other advocates who see no inherent conflict between speciesist campaigns and creative nonviolent education about veganism frequently retort that they have plenty time to spend and are happy to divide their time thus.

Neither of these is the reason that I consider it inappropriate to promote single issues. As I’ve explained earlier in this essay, single issues are invariably speciesist and they do not, by definition, promote an end to use but rather focus on treatment. This implicitly suggests that if there’s a wrong way to treat the nonhumans we’re using, there must be a right way to treat the nonhumans that we’re using. The problem is that we are still using them unnecessarily, and still promoting harm. No vegan should EVER promote or endorse harm in any context. No vegan. Ever. To quote my friend Colin Wright whose comment below cut straight to the quick of the matter, ‘we can’t advocate for less harm and no harm at the same time, due to the fundamental nature of the arguments’.

The comforting reassurance of nonvegan activism

I remember the days before I had heard of veganism or rights. I remember how I was and I am sure I’m not unique. I had skimmed the surface and cherry picked my way through the concept of ethical consumption by following large groups that claim to protect animal interests and I thought I was doing the right thing. Thus, to a very large extent, I felt I had no need to update or expand my knowledge about animal rights and guess what? I didn’t. It’s an upsetting subject and no one wants to upset themselves continually with information about what we have been taught to consider a ‘necessary evil’ when we have been reassured that we’re already doing the best we can. I was soothed, comforted, reassured and easily parted from my cash, buying substances derived from the misery of others with a clear conscience.

Add to this that the groups I followed applauded the stance that people like me were taking. It is, after all, what they promote. Every campaign they came up with generated a new wave of signing and emails; a new wave of mail drops, and sometimes even ‘gifts’ (I remember getting a branded manicure set once), a new round of donations. Sometimes I despaired. The more campaigns I knew about, the more it seemed that there were, the higher the mountain I needed to climb. So many cruelties, so many heartbreaks, so much vileness.  It was always other people of course, and very often in other countries. It’s hard not to become xenophobic when we’re continually reminded of how barbaric people are in other countries. I knew many people who shared my outrage, many people I could and did encourage to sign and share petitions, YET I DID NOT KNOW ONE SINGLE VEGAN.

What’s that got to do with anything? It’s actually a critical point. My ‘awareness’ wasn’t being ‘raised’ and anyone who suggests it was is just wishful thinking. I was being misinformed, manipulated and used. My concern was being focussed outward, encouraging xenophobia while reinforcing the speciesist mind-set of my upbringing. I was being encouraged to rail against things that I now realise are standard industry practice; things that will NEVER change because the primary objective of organised campaigns and the outrage they generate is to reassure people by making them feel that they’re doing something, so that they will continue to miss the point that every single bit of it is unnecessary and keep on pouring their cash into the industries that form the harm system. No one had pointed out to me that every single petition and campaign that I supported were the myriad symptoms of ONE fundamental flaw in my thinking: the notion that all other species existed to be used by humans as resources and commodities. Speciesism.

There we were, myself and my nonvegan contemporaries, signing and sharing and being sickened and outraged about what others were doing. While we were responsible for the stuff of nightmares being inflicted on innocent creatures for our self-indulgent toiletries, cosmetics, clothing, entertainment and diet. Through these cynical and speciesist campaigns, I – and many others – was encouraged to believe I was ‘fighting for the animals’, ‘doing what I could’, blah blah blah.  And I did as much as I could, like so many others do. Maybe some other people had ‘be vegan’ at the end of the very long list but if they did, they kept it very quiet.

And then came veganism

Suffice to say, veganism changed every single thing in my world as previous essays describe. For a long time, I admit I couldn’t see the harm in single issues and petitions, but then, when I looked back and saw how I had acted and thought while these were a key part of my life, I realised that they did far more harm than good as far as my ‘awareness’ was concerned. They certainly did nothing for the animals save possibly a few short-term gains that were no doubt touted as ‘victories’ that soothed consciences all the way to the checkouts.

So where do I stand now? It all boils down to three things.

  1. There is no point in complaining about what others are doing when we ourselves are responsible for something just as bad, if not worse. The only way to opt out of the system of harm, is to be vegan.
  2. No vegan should ever promote harm, not the regulation of harm, not a reformed harm. No harm.
  3. When caring, conscientious people don’t know about veganism, these campaigns and petitions serve only to ease their conscience about continuing participation in the system of harm. Eased conscience = more spending. We need look no further than our own memories for the truth of this.

You see, it wasn’t about what others were doing after all. It was about what I was doing. Being vegan is not an ‘optional extra’. It’s the main event. All I ever needed to know was ‘be vegan’ and ‘tell others about why they need to be vegan too’.

And now I am and I do. Be vegan.

Posted in Abolition vs Welfare, Single Issue Campaigns, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

One little hen

Joy at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary

Joy at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary

A little hen. Picture her. She’s sentient, she’s unique; her mind thinks complex thoughts, she knows so many things, but has never known freedom.

She sits in her twilight world hemmed in by others on all sides, her frail little body toiling, convulsing yet again to lay her egg as it has for all the time she can remember. There are no days in this world, no nights. She has never known daylight or sunshine on her back, on the few sparse and tattered feathers that remain.

She has never felt a breeze, has never known anything but the stench that comes from too many frail feathered bodies, toiling alongside her, each locked in their own world of misery, irritable in the crush of their fellow victims, their sore and mutilated beaks useless to demand some space.

She has never known the cool and quiet night, a peaceful roost, the quiet reassuring cluck of friends as evening falls.

Time has no meaning here, unrelieved by joy or light, she will know only boredom, desperation and toil. Her cage is not of wire, or even of this place where only a mere handful of the prisoners can see ‘outside’. Her real prison is the convulsing body that our species has created for our selfishness; the body that labours bleakly to lay a single clutch, despairing every time hope rolls away.

If she could dream, she’d dream of sunshine on her back, a dusty patch to fluff herself. She’d dream of a private place, a place that only she knows. She’d dream of a few bits of straw and grass to make a nest. She’d dream of a world without the whirr of machines that roll away those treasured eggs, each egg encapsulating all the hopes her broken mothering instinct does not know how to dream.

We may know the price of a carton of eggs, of the products that contain these broken dreams. But we know nothing of the cost; the true cost that she is paying every day with the weight of her despair.

It doesn’t have to be like this; consuming eggs is not ‘natural’ and it should never be thought of as ‘normal’. Be vegan. Start today. It’s simply the right thing to do.

About eggs:

About veganism:

Grateful thanks to Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary Ireland for this image of Joy. She was one of the very few to be rescued and this is the film of the day it happened. Hens rescued from Enriched Battery Cages

Posted in Advocacy, Sentience, What is the problem with using eggs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts about family and friends, and a heartfelt plea

goat-88987_960_720I suspect that a lot of friends and family who aren’t vegan, think of me as being like strict vegetarian who has become like that because they love animals. I live with cats, and am single so I suppose that adds to the impression. I suspect too, that because so many think that I’ve ‘gone soft’ over animals and adopted a crazy diet, they avoid asking me anything about veganism. Maybe they find my actions a bit embarrassing? They know how passionate I am about the subject and they don’t want to ‘set me off’. Maybe it’s a bit like after something really sad has happened – a death or some disaster – and we sometimes avoid mentioning it so as not to make the sadness fresh again, often serving to make the subject more obvious by the gap it leaves in the conversation when it would be natural and relevant to talk about it.

And I admit that talking about veganism does frequently ‘set me off’, and I can’t deny I do often mention it in conversation because I so much want people to understand. Is it misplaced politeness that they don’t respond? Yet when someone is showing me photos and telling me about the milk and eggs and flesh they consumed for tea, or is describing the new leather boots or the wool jacket that they’ve just bought, they clearly don’t realise that they are telling me exactly how little they know about either me or veganism. Alternatively they might be telling me they don’t give a damn about me and don’t care if they’re causing me distress – but I honestly don’t think it’s that. Or I hope not anyway.

Because veganism is brushed aside in this way, it’s overlooked as a wacky menu choice. For many it’s in the same category as the vegetarian options, or a dietary restriction like gluten or lactose intolerance. In fact a recent remark by someone I know made it obvious that they actually didn’t know the difference between vegan, gelatine and gluten…

Why is it so important to us?

For most, the decision to be vegan was made as the result of a huge and traumatic epiphany, and for every vegan it’s been a life changer, has shifted their entire perspective about every single aspect of the world. It’s so hard not to share something so vast with family and with those we count as friends. We once shared their outlook and a special bond, and it’s hard to believe that this ‘light bulb moment’ in our experience has changed the underlying feelings that have bound us to them in love and friendship for so long. It hurts to lose that and it can feel like grief sometimes.

Misunderstandings

Recently, a close friend was given a gift by someone who had very evidently given a great deal of thought to finding something they felt was appropriate and special. The giver of the gift, although they may know my friend is vegan, is unaware of the significance of the term. Nevertheless, recognising that my friend is an ethical person, and aware that they do not eat animals, the gift was a donation to a charitable organisation to give a goat to a third world family. In a bizarre sort of way, I can understand why this was thought to be a good idea, although for a vegan, such a gift could hardly be any less appropriate.

I’ve written before about the risks of shared (mis)understandings and it occurs to me that veganism itself may be another. There are exceptions of course. However maybe when some of the people we love don’t ask us about veganism, perhaps it’s not because they don’t care; it’s because they think they know all about it already and they genuinely consider that they’re being tolerant and giving us space to make our personal choices while they make theirs. Many of us have an ingrained politeness; an unwillingness to intrude that may be seen as apathy, depending on the circumstances.

In another recent conversation, reference was made in passing to abusive relationships and the impact these have on our lives. When having this kind of conversation, it would be considered rude to latch on to such a reference and demand the details, who and where, when and what exactly. It’s just not done; such intrusion would be unthinkable unless our confidant wishers to volunteer this information

It may be that some of our friends and family are apprehensive of mentioning veganism for a combination of all these reasons. They think they know already. It can be like lighting a blue touch paper because there’s just so much we are desperate to say and it’s so hugely important to us. It can be rather overwhelming on both sides. Our audience is unaware that this pointed avoidance of the matter simply adds to the seething frustration so many of us feel, a frustration that only becomes worse with the passage of time as the gulf between us widens.

What veganism isn’t

So, Veganism. I’m working from my memory of what I thought before I understood about it, so here goes, for the record. I’ll start with a shocker.

I do not love animals. I love some animals and I have loved other animals who are dead.
I do not love people in general. I love some people and I like others.
Being vegan has nothing to do with whether I love animals or people. I respect other people enough not to harm them, not to steal from them  and not to kill them. I respect other species in the same way.

I did not decide to be vegan because I’m gullible and because I believe every thing I read on Facebook. I too used to think that the horror stories were all ‘worst case scenario’ and very much the exception to the rule. Once I started to investigate, what I found changed my view of humanity, shamed and embarrassed me in ways that I never realised I was capable of feeling.

Being vegan isn’t anything like being a ‘strict vegetarian’ despite the way it is portrayed in the media, by celebrities wanting to present it as the latest fad, and on restaurant menus. I would have to list all the things a vegetarian diet isn’t in order to even begin to explain about veganism so any type of dietary restriction is not a good starting point for a frame of reference.

It’s not a health kick or an environmental one, although vegans tend to become extremely knowledgeable about these because both are impacted by it.

Being vegan isn’t founded on beliefs or on anything that cannot be proved factually and scientifically. It is a fact that the animals that we use are sentient. That means they have minds and thoughts, needs and preferences. They live as we all do, connected to life by our perceptions and our emotions, experiencing the world through our interactions with others and with our environment. Their lives matter to them.

It is a fact that humans do not need to eat or otherwise use animals for any purpose. The most compelling case against veganism would arguably be if humans had some nutritional need that only animal bodies, eggs or lactation could fulfil. We have no such need and in fact the evidence accumulates daily that our consumption of animal products is utterly disastrous for humans as a species from every single perspective.

It’s not about farming methods, whether a farm is a factory one or a family one, whether it’s free-range or not. To explain, consider this. The concept of ‘farming’ humans in any environment for any reason, is a repugnant one and rightly so. Everyone instinctively knows that it would be impossible to farm humans in a way that didn’t violate their every right. In fact it’s impossible to farm any sentient individual in a way that doesn’t violate their every right. Their lives are pitiful and their deaths are agonised and terrifying despite what the adverts and the industry would have you believe. There’s not a decent way to kill anyone who is desperate to live, whatever their species.

So if that’s what it’s not, what is it?

When someone recognises that animals are like us in every relevant way and that we have no justifiable need to harm them, becoming vegan is quite simply taking a decision to live life in line with that understanding.

It’s simply the decision to stop harming, hurting and killing them. It’s a decision to stop wearing them, to stop using chemicals and toiletries that are tested on them. It’s a decision to stop being entertained by them, to stop taking their milk, their eggs, to stop eating their corpses. It’s a decision to stop doing all the unnecessary and inherently violent things we do to them just because we can. We have loads of alternatives.

That’s all it is. What our species does to those who are powerless and vulnerable is unspeakable. It’s unjust; it’s simply not fair. Veganism is a decision that we take on an individual basis that we don’t want to be part of that any more and we just stop.

So now that I’ve got that off my chest, if you know me, and ever have cause to refer to the fact that I’m vegan, please don’t shrug and roll your eyes like I’m some weirdo with crazy ideas. I’m vegan. I decided to stop harming innocent individuals for no reason, that’s all. I don’t find that funny or worthy of mockery.

And if you’d like to hear more, please ask me to tell you more. I could talk about it for hours, can recommend reading materials if you’d rather not talk and I can say with the utmost sincerity that this decision to stop hurting others was the best one I ever made. I wish with all my heart that you would understand. I wish with all my heart that you would make that same decision.

 

About veganism:

www.HowToGoVegan.org
www.VeganKit.com
http://goveganworld.com/what-is-veganism/

 

Posted in Awakening to veganism, Vegetarianism explained | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Talking about eggs

chicks-1433016_960_720Humans use the eggs from a number of different species of birds, including chickens, ducks, quail, guinea fowl, pheasants, rhea, ostrich and geese although by far the greatest number of these are chickens. The consumption of eggs is widely but mistakenly regarded by many as a practice where animals are not killed or harmed. The popular myth runs along the line that using egg laying birds, particularly hens, is ‘harmless’ and that providing they are not confined in ‘battery’ conditions, it is acceptable to take their eggs. This ‘justification’ has spawned spirited defences of ‘back yard’ production and I have lost count of the number of posts that I have seen, seeking to justify the use and consumption of eggs in this way. I have even, unbelievably, seen cases where ‘vegans’ seek to justify and defend giving away or selling eggs from rescued (!) hens to nonvegans, justifying this seal of approval for exploiting hens on the basis that this prevents these nonvegans creating consumer demand for eggs in the shops. A further confused claim is that the eggs would simply be *’wasted’ if humans did not use them. And as if all this wasn’t bad enough news for hens, the fairy tale of ‘free range’ egg production is yet another fantasy supporting a popular myth of ‘humane’ predation.

First, it should be noted that all the birds on whom we inflict our unnecessary obsessions are sentient, unique individuals. It doesn’t matter how ‘cute’ or ‘intelligent’ they seem in our eyes. Like us, they seek to avoid pain, they have a rich emotional range and they experience life as we do, through our senses, through our environment and through our interactions with others. That, in itself, should be sufficient for us to recognise their rights to their own bodies and their own lives.

However, the deceptions that we have been raised to embrace as fact are deep rooted and pervasive. We have been taught not to question our superiority and entitlement to help ourselves to the property of nonhumans especially if they are too vulnerable to stop us while we cling to elaborate childhood fantasies. These fantasies often involve imaginary victim consent and mutual benefits where animals ‘give’ to us in return for our ‘care’.

For the sake of clarity, the issue that we need to address is the fact that we have unnecessary victims;  it is not how we treat those unnecessary victims. There are serious health and environmental consequences of all our use of nonhuman animals but when we focus on these, we’re making the issue about ourselves. We need to stop hurting, harming and killing other individuals because it’s just plain wrong, not because there’s something in it for us.

Animal Rights is NOT Animal Welfare

Animal Rights do not equal Animal Welfare and I cannot stress this strongly enough. Upholding Rights means that we do not accept that nonhumans should be our victims under any circumstances. Promoting Welfare means that we accept that they should be our victims but we think they should be harmed ‘in a nice way’.

No one would ever suggest that ‘less’ harm is not preferable to ‘more’ harm. However, when all harm is unnecessary, it is our responsibility to speak up for the right of our victims to have no harm done to them. Those who promote ‘less harm’ are still promoting harm, however it is disguised. To hear the pro-backyard, pro-free range proponents, and of course the outright lies of the industry funded advertising campaigns, one might be forgiven for thinking that the majority of egg laying birds have great lives and that anyone who finds fault is being hard line and extremist.

As a former egg consumer, I am all too well aware of the internal dialogue we use to justify our own behaviour. It all boils down to deluding ourselves that the eggs we use have been produced by happy, well cared for hens who just can’t ‘give’ their eggs away fast enough.

The scale of the problem

So, bearing in mind this isn’t about Welfare, it’s about Rights, it’s perhaps useful to get an idea of the scale of this atrocity.  Out of a total of more than 50,000,000,000 (50 billion) chicks hatched in hatcheries each year, 12,000,000,000 (12 billion) chicks are brought into the world to allow for 6,000,000,000 (6 billion) to be used by the egg industry, and incidentally, to provide also for the majority of ‘back-yard operations. Because they cannot lay eggs and are not the same breed used for ‘meat’, approximately 6,000,000,000 (6 billion) male chicks, each one of whom is a unique, sentient infant, are killed shortly after hatching every year. They are disposed of by being gassed or thrown into bins/ bags where they suffocate to death or alternatively they are ground up alive in large industrial macerators and their remains used for such substances as fertiliser and pet food. In the UK the approved method is apparently gassing although each plant where eggs are hatched and the newborns are ‘sexed’ is required by law to have a macerator which they apparently don’t use. Go figure.

These 6 billion are deliberately bred to replace the 6 billion former egg-laying hens aged approximately 72 weeks (16 – 18 months) who are killed annually for cheap ‘meat’ because at that age, their production rate is falling because their bodies are simply worn out. As a result of selective breeding, artificial stimulation with lighting, and in some countries such practices as ‘forced moulting‘ (currently not allowed in the EU ) the industry ensures that they lay eggs for approximately 300 out of every 365 days. As a result of this extreme overproduction, hens suffer a range of distressing, painful and disabling conditions including osteoporosis, infection, internal laying, egg binding, ascites, Marek’s Disease, prolapsed cloaca, heart and liver disease, and reproductive cancer that is so prolific in egg laying hens that they are now considered a model for the study of similar cancers in humans.  In the wild, a hen would produce a clutch of about 12 eggs, once or twice a year,  for the purpose of producing offspring. The natural lifespan of a chicken living without the burdens placed on her body by human exploitation, would exceed 10 years and may sometimes be as much as 20 years.

Free range and other fantasies

Many of us cling to the term ‘free range’ as if it were a talisman. Even processed products containing eggs will frequently state – and highlight – that their product contains ‘free range’ eggs.  Why do you think that is? Think about it. It’s because EVERYONE knows about battery conditions. EVERYONE knows that it’s wrong to inflict this barbaric practice on any living being. EVERYONE wants to dissociate themselves from being complicit in it by spending their cash on anything that comes out of these hells.

An estimated 95% worldwide including 58% in the UK of egg laying hens spend their entire existence in battery conditions.

An estimated 95% of egg laying hens spend their entire existence in battery conditions. Yes, I repeated that. That’s 5.7 billion annually.  This leaves 300 million individuals being used in ‘free range’ facilities and back yards each year. I don’t have the statistical breakdown of these but as ‘free range’ exploitation is big commercial business with huge numbers of supposedly ‘vegetarian products’ being sold in supermarkets on the strength of the ‘free range’ eggs they contain, I’m sure the reader is as able as I am to make a reasonable guess. Even if the argument about humane exploitation was valid, it is not and never can be, reproducible on a commercial scale.

I have lived all my life in an area famed for the production of ‘free range’ eggs and birds. And you know something? Given the sheer numbers of individuals involved – about 20 million birds killed every week in the UK – and given that everyone likes to claim that they care about their victims and always buy ‘free range’, if the term meant anything at all we should be knee-deep in chickens everywhere we go. Yet although I live rurally I have never in my life seen a single bird in the outdoors. I have passed thousands of silent sheds reminiscent of concentration camps where the smell stings the eyes and it’s hard not to vomit. All we need is to let go of our childhood delusions and use our common sense. ‘Free range’ is a marketing ploy, a technicality that means nothing to our victims. It does not mean they all live a happy life in the sunshine, dustbathing with their friends and scratching in dappled yards.

Please look back up the page to check the scale of this issue, if these numbers are not seared into your brain as they are for me. Every single time that we purchase eggs or any product containing eggs, we are saying that it’s perfectly fine for this vile industry to continue. As advocates, when we promote or endorse anything less than the complete end to this unnecessary practice, we are utterly failing over 50,000,000,000 individuals every year. We don’t need for them to speak to know what they would ask of us. We know.

The essential thing to stress is that all use of eggs, wherever they come from, perpetuates the false notion of eggs as human ‘food’, and thus ensures the continuation of the abhorrent practices involved in all egg production, with the billions of deaths that this entails.

Far from harmless

This is far from a ‘harmless’ industry. It is an industry founded in the darkest corners of our delusions of necessity and entitlement; an industry that thrives because we refuse to take seriously the consequences of our actions as consumers, and ultimately as human beings who believe in justice and respect for all sentient life.

We can stop being part of it today. Be vegan.

‘A sentient being’s body and its secretions are not things for us to eat, any more than a human being’s body and its secretions are things for us to eat. Consuming eggs (even from rescued chickens), or giving them away to people who would otherwise buy eggs from battery caged hens, does not “reduce suffering”, it legitimizes suffering, it demands suffering, It perpetuates suffering by condoning the very practice of violence we are struggling to end.

The hen may not know that her suffering body, her unfreedom, her isolation, and every misery in her life is inflicted intentionally, systematically, and solely for the sensory gratification of humans, but you do.

She may not know that the fertilized egg that brought her into existence was the result of confinement and rape, or that hens like her are the product of mass infanticide, but you do. She may not know that the cost of killing male infants, “spent” breeding parents and “spent” hens is built into the price of eggs, but you do. She may not know that, if we became vegan, the horrors that she and her kind are forced to endure would end, but you do.

Act on that knowledge. Become vegan and educate others about the violence and injustice inherent in all non-vegan choices. Rescue (don’t buy) chickens and other animals, respect their lives, and please remember to always give the eggs back to the birds: They are, after all, the only rightful owners.’

~The Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

*The concept of ‘waste’ as we apply it to the secretions, eggs and body parts of deceased individuals will be the topic of a future blog.

Links for further information:

Posted in 'Happy' exploitation, What is the problem with using eggs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

In a nutshell: the victims of vegetarianism

The ‘In a nutshell’ series will attempt to summarise key issues and concepts about which I have previously written at length.

chicks-1280749_960_720As a former vegetarian, I know from personal experience that a reluctance to eat ‘meat’ is the main motive for adopting a diet that excludes dead flesh. The irony is that uncounted billions of unnecessary deaths still happen in order to supply vegetarians with their dietary requirements as well as other substances and services that are not connected with diet. It should also be noted that none of the following uses are by-products of the ‘meat’ industry and none of them is essential for our health and well being.

I appreciate that some will read this and remain comfortable with being vegetarian; they may even spring to defend their actions as ‘a step in the right direction’. My only response to any who feel this way is that we each must live with our own conscience. I cannot comprehend a mind that is comfortable to absorb the information detailed here without feeling the desire to stop participating in it.

There will, however, undoubtedly be others, like I and so many of my vegan friends were, vegetarians who believe themselves to be ethical animal lovers, who will read it in the stunned horror that accompanies the sound of a huge ideological penny dropping. A previous essay about why veganism and vegetarianism are two very different things may be found in this link. Some may find it useful to be able to refer to the following list which is included within it.

The victims of vegetarianism

  1. All mammals brought into existence, confined and used for milk /cheese/ yoghurt/ ice cream/ butter production. Specifically;
    • Infants who are taken away soon after birth to be killed as ‘waste’, as ‘veal’ or, if female, raised separately as replacements for their mothers;
    • The mothers themselves, forcibly impregnated at regular intervals to keep milk flowing freely, anguished to have their calves removed very soon after birth to maximise their milk supply for human consumers;
    • The mothers slaughtered for cheap ‘meat’ when their milk yield drops and they cease to be commercially viable;
    • Male animals raised in confinement and used for the repeated extraction of semen required for the customary commercial practice of artificial insemination;
    • Mammals used in this way include the cow, buffalo, goat, sheep, camel, donkey, horse, reindeer and yak and their infants.
  2. Any bird brought into existence and raised for egg production. Specifically;
    • Their parents, confined in breeding facilities, producing vast quantities of fertilised eggs that are stored and incubated in drawers in hatcheries;
    • Male chicks – a different variety from chicks raised for their flesh – who are killed on hatching by suffocation, gassing or maceration. Macerators are machines that turn live chicks into a bloody sludge which is subsequently used for such products as fertiliser and pet food;
    • Female chicks who are de-beaked and confined, their reproductive systems manipulated to produce approximately 10 times the number of eggs their bodies are designed to bear until such time as their production declines and they cease to be commercially viable, whereupon they are slaughtered for cheap ‘meat’;
    • Birds used for egg production include chickens, ducks, quail, guinea fowl, pheasants, rhea, ostrich and geese.
  3. Any individual used for their skin and/or body coverings both in the domestic and import markets. This category includes leather, hide, fleece/wool, silk and fur. Specifically;
    • All individuals stripped of their skin to supply leather. By no means a by-product of the flesh consumption industries, but rather a lucrative sideline or in some cases the main event, these include cows, pigs, calves, sheep, dogs, cats, goats, alligators, kangaroos, horses, ostriches, buffalo, oxen, yak, deer, snakes and even many species of fish;
    • All individuals brought into the world to be used for their wool.  Sheep in particular have been selectively bred to over-produce wool while being exploited in every other way with the slaughterhouse being their only escape. Alpacas, llamas, camels and goats are also victims of this trade;
    • All individuals brought into the world to be used for their feathers and down. Feathers are frequently plucked from the living bodies of our victims. Birds used in this way include chickens, geese, swans, ducks, ostrich and others;
    • All individuals used in the fur trade. Species used in this way include ox, rabbit, mink, muskrat, beaver, wolves, stoat (ermine), otter, sable, seals, cats, dogs, coyotes, chinchilla, bears, possum and others;
    • It includes silk worms boiled alive for their cocoons;
    • It includes rabbit angora, which is essentially fine fur plucked from the agonised and screaming bodies of living rabbits;
    • It includes cashmere, mohair and goat angora, shorn, combed or plucked from goats kept in controlled confinement until slaughter becomes the most viable commercial option;
    • It includes bristles for brushes – frequently taken from pigs, badgers, mink, goats, horses or even squirrels;
    • It includes skins, termed ‘slink’ skins, of unborn infants, cut from their mothers’ wombs during slaughter.  It should be noted that many dairy cows and also many sheep are pregnant – sometimes in the late stages of pregnancy – when taken to the slaughterhouse. Although statistics are hard to come by, it is accepted that the unborn infant may endure a lengthy and painful death either within the body of their mother while she is being beheaded and dismembered, or having been cut from her womb to be skinned or discarded as waste. Karakul, also termed Persian lamb is a type of lambskin most highly prized if the rightful owner was still an unborn foetus but still valued provided the infant owner was less than three days old.
  4. All individuals used for testing and vivisection by the chemical, drug and research markets. Although there is a popular myth that this practice is carried out only for ‘medical reasons’, this is a complete fantasy and the number tortured in this way worldwide continues to increase year on year. The species of the victims include cows, sheep, pigs, mice, rats, dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, horses, fish, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, even zebrafish, fruit flies, and worms.
  5. All individuals whose body parts or secretions are used as ingredients in drugs, chemicals, toiletries, cosmetics or other non-food ‘products’.
    • Substances include lanolin, chitin, collagen, keratin, musk, cochineal, royal jelly, horse urine, and others. The list of species exploited for their bodies and secretions includes sheep, various insects, spiders, crustaceans, various hoofed, horned and other mammals, bees, horses, deer and others.
  6. All bees used to produce honey.
  7. All individuals confined in an establishment or otherwise used for human ‘entertainment’. These include zoos, circuses, safari and sea life parks as well as a wide range of racing, fighting and baiting ‘sports’. I can’t even start to list the species affected in this way. Probably all of them.

Don’t believe any of the above, consider it’s way too far fetched? Please, please check Google. I did.  I do. Often. And bear in mind as you do so that almost every single procedure will be presented to you by some as ‘humane’, followed by some justification that condemns critical examination of the actions as emotional or anthropomorphic or perhaps claims that the action is in the best interests of the victims. When you do see this assertion, all I ask is that you engage your common sense. It won’t fail you.

There are so many lives depending on us all. They are relying on the truth becoming known through the clarity of the vegan message with its focus on justice and an end to the needless violence of our species. Our victims are relying on the basic goodness in those humans whose breaking hearts say, ‘Enough. I will not be the cause of this injustice for one single day more.’ The way to stop being part of the injustice is to be vegan.

Please, say, ‘Enough.’ It’s simply the right thing to do.

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In a nutshell: the truth about dairy

The ‘In a nutshell’ series will attempt to summarise key issues and concepts about which I have previously written at length.

cow-1342261_960_720Dairy is the word describing the substances derived from the milk of nonhuman animals. It covers cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, milk and of course constituent parts like whey that are used widely as ingredients. Milk is the substance created by a mother mammal to nourish her infant from birth to weaning. It is species-specific and the process is the same for human as for nonhuman mammals.

The fundamental principle behind the dairy industry is that female mammals (mostly cows, but also goats, sheep and others) are impregnated at regular intervals to trigger and maintain lactation, and their babies removed and disposed of so that their milk can be used as a human resource. In the case of cows, milking takes place constantly, before, during and after their 9-month pregnancy. This repeated use takes a heavy toll on the bodies of these mothers, and after a fraction of their natural lifespan they are slaughtered for cheap ‘meat’.

Focusing on how these individuals are treated while they are being used is a ploy that is often used to distract consumers from the underlying truth that it is impossible to take their milk without violating the most basic rights of these mothers and their doomed babies. We see this distraction in the form of labels such as ‘grass fed’, ‘organic’, ‘ free range’, ‘welfare approved’. The purpose of these is to make the consumer feel better about their participation in the dairy process so that they will continue to buy into it and support it. The labels mean nothing from the perspective of our victims. They are still repeatedly violated, their babies are still removed, they are hooked up to our machinery every day until premature death is inflicted in a slaughterhouse. That’s the fundamental principle and there’s no way round it.

Most people find it hard to accept that this process even exists and certainly don’t want to be part of it, so many of us tell ourselves that ‘it doesn’t happen here’, or that it happens only in ‘factory’ farms, or ‘the stuff I buy isn’t made that way’ and I’ve even seen outraged protests from those who insist that pregnancy is not the means employed commercially for lactation to occur.  But we couldn’t be more wrong. The underlying principle is the same EVERYWHERE, no matter where we live, no matter the size of the farm, regardless of what we pay or what we tell ourselves.

Dairy truly is the stuff of our darkest nightmares and yet the dairy industry is unnecessary. It is not necessary for us to use the lives and the bodies of others for any reason as we can thrive without causing deliberate harm. Only veganism recognises the right of other individuals to own their own bodies, their own families, their own lives.

Links to check out: –
About veganism: http://vegankit.com/  www.HowToGoVegan.org http://goveganworld.com/what-is-veganism/
All about dairy – http://wp.me/p4TmPw-4V
The myth of ‘humane exploitation’:http://www.peacefulprairie.org/humane-myth01.html
About plant based eating and health: http://wp.me/p4TmPw-22

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