Aggression, blame and guilt

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

A comment on a recent essay said that with regards to vegan advocacy, ‘people don’t respond positively to aggression, blame and guilt but rather to encouragement, praise and education’. I have to say that I do agree with the principles of this, but with certain qualifications as I’ll explain.

Lessons from our past

At the risk of repeating myself, each of us needs to remember where we came from, needs to remember how we were raised; needs to remember what and how we used to think. We can never afford to forget what we did and how we used to justify it in those days before we opened our eyes to the reality of what our species inflicts on every other. Knowing and constantly remembering how I used to be, helps me try to understand and to reach those who are just like I was. This mindfulness is the reason why it would never occur to me to use insulting, offensive and vitriolic language directed towards those who are not vegan – not even for the shock value. It wouldn’t have worked on me when I wasn’t vegan and I’ve no reason to suppose it will work on anyone else.

So what works?

I know it’s true that many who read my words will never open their minds to see the injustice of their actions as people who are not vegan. Others may simply lack the empathy that would allow them to see their behaviour from the perspective of their victims. Yet more readers may be so firmly entrenched in the lies about animal use that surround us all, that for them, the clarion ring of truth will be drowned out by the myths of childhood, and by the insecurities exploited by those who trade in lives, in body parts and forced service while relying on the ignorance of consumers to part them from their cash.

But there are others. From time to time, I’ll get a message, see a post, or come across a comment that tells me that my words have helped encourage someone to become vegan or have provided them with encouragement to begin their own advocacy. These are very good days – not in a personal sense – but for the animals.

For all our victims of every species, each new vegan is one fewer consumer demanding the devastating harm that is the inevitable consequence of every position that falls short of veganism. For all our victims of every species, each new vegan is one more human who, with every choice they make, every single day for the rest of their life, will do their absolute best to create no victims.

Praise where it’s due?

However I’m fairly sure that this is not what the person who commented was intending to convey. By no means the first to express a comment about aggression, blame and guilt, I suspect they meant the words more as an accusation than a general observation. Those who represent themselves as ‘pragmatic’ frequently condemn the providing of factual information as an ‘all or nothing approach to veganism’, and are frequently hostile towards those who present veganism as a simple ‘harm/don’t harm’ choice.

Any post stating that the only way we can stop causing unnecessary harm to members of other species, is by being vegan, is frequently a target. There are many who will condemn such posts as ‘unrealistic’ or even ‘aggressive’. While claiming to represent animal interests, they will then heap praise and encouragement on others for ‘cutting down’ their consumption of animal flesh, eggs, milk, or one of the many substances that are derived from our pitiless use of their lives and reproductive processes.

Now encouragement is a great thing – as long as we are encouraging our peers to be vegan. If we are not promoting veganism,  then it’s a betrayal of the victims that are continuing to be tormented and killed. In a way it’s a double betrayal, firstly by those who claim to know better, and secondly because those who have been encouraged by them, will now feel reassured and may never again have the chance to realise that they are still harming and killing vulnerable innocents.

The truth and the telling of it

There are some who will call out, ‘aggression’, ‘negativity’, ‘guilt tripper’ etc about any information, regardless of how factual it is, if it makes readers uncomfortable in any way.  And this is where I need to make something absolutely clear:

  • There is a huge difference between expressing truth, and being aggressive, negative and blaming; 
  • But there is likewise a huge difference between encouragement, praise and education, and betraying someone who is relying on us to defend them from injustice.

And that difference – the chasm between praise and betrayal – is where I start to have a problem.

What truth isn’t

The truth is just that. The truth. For example, like almost everyone I know, I have been through the trauma of the breakup of a long-term relationship from both sides; as the one who wanted the relationship to end, and as the one who didn’t even see it coming. At some point in the sad decline that preceded the actual end, came the conversation where one person had to say to the other that the feeling had gone and the relationship was over. It was heartbreaking, hurtful and distressing. But it was the truth and no matter how hard anyone tries to make it not hurt, it just does.  We’ve all seen situations where attempts to ‘let someone down gently’ have only made things worse in the end. The truth is not automatically an act of aggression, no matter how much it hurts.

Telling the truth is not a negative act. A negative act is one that is intended to cause distress and sometimes needlessly at that. The truth isn’t like that; when expressed in the form of facts, it is simply what IS. That’s not to say it won’t hurt, but there is no automatic intent to cause any particular reaction, either positive or negative.

And telling the truth is not an act of blaming.  Like so many of my fellow advocates, as someone who was not always vegan, how could I possibly ‘blame’ anyone for being the same as I used to be? That would simply make no sense.

So when we’re talking about animals

When we are talking about animal use, and the defence of their rights as individuals who deserve to live unharmed and unmolested for the trivial and unnecessary whims of our violent species, the truth is unpleasant, even when expressed in the most matter-of fact terms. Representing the rights of our victims necessarily means that we must point out that using them is not necessary. Representing the rights of our victims means that we are duty bound to explain the ways in which they are harmed by our use. To present this information is to provide the opportunity for others to become educated about the real consequences of the behaviour that we are all taught to overlook and excuse from our earliest years.

I have yet to discover a way that expresses the truth about the horror of our use of all other species, that does not make those who have been participating in it feel bad about their actions to some extent. I’d even go so far as to suggest that such a way does not and cannot exist.

The reality for which our species is responsible is no less than an atrocity, the scale of which is a VERY unpleasant truth, and it’s the internalising of that realisation that provides us with the ‘light bulb moment’ that I’ve mentioned before. That ‘light bulb moment’ is the one that breaks through the complacent shell that every single one of us used to have before we became vegan, and through making us realise the direct consequences of our actions as consumers, compels us to change our behaviour.

Another way to look at things

So here I’d like to present my take on the notion of limiting the amount of information that we provide to someone who is not vegan, so as to not make them feel uncomfortable about their behaviour.

Like many others, however, I could definitely find words that make them feel good. Words like ‘every little bit helps’, ‘making a difference’, ‘reducing suffering’, ‘making kinder choices’, ‘be compassionate’. Oh yes, I can regurgitate all the words that make people feel great about their actions. I know for a fact that they work, because there are many money-making businesses that claim to represent animal interests yet scoop in millions of whatever currency we care to mention by using these very same words. They work really well. I fell for the buzz words for many years, reassured of my ethical awareness while obediently donating at regular intervals.

So yes, withholding information to illustrate how all animal use is a violation of the rights of other individuals who value their lives and is automatically putting our completely non-essential convenience before their right to live unharmed, might make those who are not vegan feel great – noble, ethical, moral with a rosy glow of self-satisfaction – at least it did for me.

But it was a lie; a comfortable one, but still a lie. Because the word veganism was never mentioned.

What you know and who you know

Like anyone who writes, one of the first pieces of advice you come across, is ‘write about what you know’. So here’s a general thing I know about myself; I hate being lied to.  Because I loathe it so much, lying to someone else would be about the most disrespectful thing I could think of to do to them. From what I’ve had directed at me as criticism, particularly of areas such as vegetarianism and egg and dairy consumption where myths of ‘humane use’ run strong, it seems that perhaps some people would be content with that; they truly think that people who are not vegan would be more encouraged to hear a ‘watered down’ version of the truth. Or in other words, a lie.

But I’m trying to reach people like me. And people like me don’t like being lied to. If and when they find out that they’ve been lied to, it makes them very angry with those who told the lies, and it makes them very angry with themselves for believing the lies, however comfortable they felt at the time.

A life worth living

As vegan advocates, truth is our most powerful ally. The honesty, the sincerity, and the passion that is conveyed by someone who tells the truth is very hard to miss. I have always said that I wish that someone had been honest with me decades ago. Given that it would have hurt like hell, why on earth do I feel this way?

Because this life that I’m still clinging to, is my only life. We all know there is more to our own life than just a succession of days that we cross off on a calendar. For many, if not most of us, it matters to each of us to be the best person that we can manage to be during that life. We have standards that we set for ourselves and we try very hard to live up to them.

It causes me so much distress every day to know that I heard only the comfortable lies that made me feel ethical and conscientious, while for decades I donated to those who were paying their mortgages rather than telling the truth and defending my victims. It upsets me to think that there may have been people that I knew, vegans, who actually knew the facts about all our use of members of other species, but didn’t tell me because they thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it.  And because of those who heaped false praise on me and exercised their own judgement, whatever their reasons, on how much truth I could take, I was denied the chance to become the person I thought I was all along until the day of the light-bulb moment when I realised that it was essential for me to be vegan.

We owe the truth to everyone.

We owe it to our victims who have no one but us to fight for them. And we owe it to members of our own species too, whether they are vegan or not. Because everyone deserves truth. What we then do with the truth, is up to each of us.

Be vegan.

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Bullying – an analogy

There’s an Elephant in the Room promotes veganism and does not ever promote anything less. There are dozens – if not hundreds – of posts and essays linked to the page that seek to clarify this point but they all boil down to one thing:

To condone something other than veganism is to actually promote harm to someone.

EVERY variation in our diet or behaviour that stops short of being vegan is literally selling someone down the river, compromising their basic rights and signing their death sentence. There is no getting round this. It’s a fact.

Recently, I noticed that someone had commented on one of my posts to say that if people couldn’t be vegan, they should at least ‘just go vegetarian even if it’s just for Christmas week’. Now this is so completely at odds with the message of the page that I have been turning the idea in my head, trying to find a neat analogy that would explain why. I came up with this…

A parent’s nightmare

Imagine you are a parent. Every day your child comes home with their clothing scuffed and torn, every night they wake sobbing in the early hours, every morning you watch them pick at their food. You have no idea what the problem is and they can’t or won’t give you any explanation. At first you put it down to just normal rough and tumble, difficult school work, maybe coming down with a bug. You rack your brains to find a way to help them, getting increasingly anxious.

Until one day it suddenly all becomes clear. You find out that your child is being bullied. All their symptoms fall into place with stunning clarity. What do you do?

  1. Is the situation desperately urgent? Do you go straight down to the school immediately and insist that the bullying has to stop, all of it, right now, this instant?
  2. Or is the situation relatively unimportant and certainly not urgent? Maybe you should phone the school in a week or two and ask calmly if the bullies could maybe bully your child a bit less for a week or so?

Even those who are not parents will have a view on this. I know I do – from painful experience. I’m sure I’m not alone in doing the first one and would not even have considered doing anything less. Why? Well it seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Because our child whom we care so deeply about is being harmed and tormented, because they are relying on us, and because it’s just plain wrong; there’s not a single valid reason for it to be happening.

So – to relate this to the vegan issue

When we are not vegan, we use defenceless individuals of very many species for our own trivial and unnecessary interests – that’s basically what it IS to not be vegan. This means that we completely disregard our victims’ interests – in some cases even convincing ourselves that they don’t have any – in favour of our own. I have seen nonveganism likened to bullying and have always thought that to be an overly gentle way to describe what amounts to brutality and unrestrained violence.

However one day it all becomes clear. Like the bullying in the previous scenario we suddenly understand what is happening and we realise that using the lives and bodies of other individuals is just completely wrong in every way. Seeing this, we have no choice but to become vegan ourselves, because this is the only way that we can stop actually participating in the harm that we now realise is completely unnecessary. And then some – if not most – will go on to try to tell others about the injustice of nonvegan behaviour towards our fellow earthlings who just want to live unharmed.

So, when we’re telling others:

  1. Is the situation desperately urgent? Do we share facts about how unnecessary it is to use individuals of all species and insist that the harming and the killing has to stop, all of it, right now?
  2. Or is the situation relatively unimportant and certainly not urgent? Maybe we suggest that those who are harming and killing should maybe think about focusing on harming a different species of defenceless victims for a week or so…? (‘just go vegetarian even if it’s just for Christmas week’)

What’s the message that these two choices are giving out?

The first is clear, unequivocal and leaves no room for doubt. As with many other issues of right and wrong, it’s clear cut and beautifully simple. When something is wrong, we want it to stop. That’s how it is when things are important, and for our victims, their lives are at stake. How much more important can an issue be?

The second suggests that this isn’t all that important at all. That at its core, using other individuals isn’t all that wrong and while we’d perhaps like it to maybe happen in a different way, or to a different species, we’re not making a big thing of it.  It doesn’t challenge or change the mistaken beliefs that we have all grown up with: our myths of supremacy, of entitlement, of necessity. It just asks us to tone down our behaviour for a week or so.

And what is even worse, by allowing us to consider that this is actually doing some sort of good, it is encouraging us to actually feel good about ourselves for our restraint and our self sacrifice.

And while we are busy congratulating ourselves and planning our menus of flesh, eggs and milk products for when our period of abstinence is over, it does NOTHING for those who are quaking in the slaughterhouses, in labs, in zoos and in our many types of hell. As they will continue to do until the world goes vegan.

It’s so simple. Be vegan. That’s all it takes.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Harm reduction, Speciesism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The importance of words

The bizarre idea of ‘pardoning’ a turkey at the festival known as Thanksgiving has popped into my head several times in recent days. Even disregarding the cultural gap arising from my Scottish heritage, it’s such a strange concept, to cause a sentient individual to exist by our contrivance and intervention (never more true that when applied to turkeys from whom our ‘selective breeding’ for massive and early weight gain has actually removed the ability to procreate without the terrifying outrage of artificial insemination), and then enact a mockery of a ceremony to ‘pardon’ them for the crime of being our unnecessary victims.

However it finally occurred to me today that the idea comes from a familiar place. That place is that one of entitlement and superiority, the place into which we are indoctrinated as infants by a mixture of half truths, myths and outright lies. It occurs to me that ‘pardoning’ does not occupy a unique space within the confusion and delusion of the narrative that we create in our futile efforts as adults to make sense of a childhood fantasy that for many makes less and less sense as we reach maturity.

‘Pardoning’ along with victimisation of defenceless individuals sits snugly alongside the words ‘mercy’, ‘clemency’, ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ to name but a few within the whole fiction of our imaginary entitlement and mistaken necessity.

Each of these words holds more than just a suggestion that we are exercising stern and noble restraint from actions and behaviours that we feel perfectly entitled (i.e. within our rights) to make. Aren’t they such feel-good words? They’re words we like to use in the hope that we’re creating a good impression with just how decent we are towards those whose lives we (and, we presume, everyone else) considers to be so much less important and worthy than ourselves.

And the soaring climax of our immense self importance? ‘Pardoning’ animals; benevolence personified.

Its all about us. Again.

And who is all that about? It’s about us. Of course it is, who else is there? Basking in the warm glow of demonstrating what nice people we are, there is little if any awareness or empathy for those who are ‘pardoned’ in this pantomime. Why would there be? They’re just animals for goodness sake. It’s just a joke, right?

But let’s change the script somewhat. Let’s use words like ‘justice’, ‘rights’, ‘integrity’, ‘decency’, ‘honesty’, ‘truth’. And here’s a really big one, ‘respect’. These are words that simply focus on the big issues of right and wrong. There is no self-aggrandisement in being right, in doing the right thing; it’s just right. There are no brownie points in being honest, in being decent or in seeing justice done. It’s no more and no less what we should all be doing as the bottom line. These are words that focus on those who are being persecuted. They’re not words that look for admiration or approval for the persecutors; they’re humble words that speak to our conscience rather than our ego. They’re words about our sentient victims and they ring with sincerity.

Making it real

We would never hold a comic ceremony to ‘pardon’ a human child from being beaten or abused. We wouldn’t seek praise for being ‘merciful’ because we decided not to batter our spouse this week. It’s not ‘compassionate’ or ‘kind’ to refrain from needlessly harming, hurting, mutilating, killing other humans. It’s just the absolute rock bottom of our responsibility as individuals.

Words are so very much more important than most of us recognise, and the words we use about the defenceless victims of our vicious, deluded species are the most important words of all.

Keeping our focus where it needs to be

When we make it all about us and our need for praise and approval, we take the focus off these billions of gentle and desolate victims whose dates in the slaughterhouse will never be rescinded by a ‘pardoner’ looking for praise and a pat on the back. We make the whole issue about us.

And it’s not about us. It never was.

Despite the fiction that we weave about the violence and the slaughterhouse horror of our actions in our attempts to justify the unforgivable, it is not about us. It’s about our needless, defenceless victims. And they need justice. They need us to be honest. They need us to be decent. They need us to be vegan. What are we waiting for?

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Sentience – what does it actually mean?

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

We frequently see it stated that the individuals whose lives, bodies, and reproductive systems we use, are sentient.  So what actually is sentience?

Human animals and the vast majority of other animal species that our species uses, harms and kills, usually without thought, conscience or most importantly, any necessity whatsoever,  share the quality of sentience.

Although almost everyone who has shared time with a cat, a dog, a horse, a rabbit or any species of companion has instinctively recognised the fact that other animals clearly have feelings, thoughts, preferences and emotions, scientific acceptance of their sentience was formally acknowledged on 7 July 2012 and enshrined in the landmark Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness by a prominent international group of scientists.

A sentient being is a creature that can suffer and feel pain. Such an individual is defined as having the faculty of sensation and the power to to perceive, reason and think. Sentient individuals are self aware; which means that each is aware of themselves as a separate individual with thoughts, feelings and desires. They have minds. They feel.

Sentient individuals have an interest in avoiding pain and in remaining alive. They experience life and living through their senses, and through their connections to their environment and to others. They have needs and preferences, are capable of joy, of experiencing satisfaction, of devotion to their offspring, of forming deep bonds with other beings and indeed are capable of experiencing suffering and misery.

At a deep level we all know this. We witness it daily in our interactions with those whom we treat as companions. We welcome, respond and relate to their unique personality traits and the shared understanding we have with them.

Is this anthropomorphism?

Asked to acknowledge the clear evidence of the misery we inflict on our victims, those who resort mockingly to calls of ‘anthromopomorphism’ don’t do so about those situations that we can all relate to, such as comforting what we perceive clearly to be the fear, pain or anxiety of a dying companion in a vet’s surgery; or even while we are seeking to justify using a member of another species in some supportive (hearing, seeing etc) role for a human.

Those who seek to ridicule the notion that the reactions of others may relate broadly to the reactions of humans to the same situation, do so only as a defence against the idea that our shared sentience gives us the common ground to interpret that reaction – and stop causing it. Fear is fear and we recognise it in others. Pain is pain and we recognise it in others. Panic is panic and we recognise it in others. Once again science is breaking ground that leads inescapably to the conclusions that the true nature of the response of a member of a species other than our own, is just as likely to be underestimated as overestimated.  As with any area where new understanding is emerging, it seems that in the absence of any necessity for our actions, erring on the safe side is the moral course.

Making the connections

Scientific knowledge about our fellow earthlings advances from day to day, with new findings gaining publicity, frequently in sensationalised astonishment, as we discover that yet another species is capable of so much more than we ever could have imagined. The abilities, the senses, the psychological and perceptual depths of those whom we have been encouraged to think of as nothing more than things, as one small step removed from inanimate objects like rocks, so frequently far exceed our own.

We have been indoctrinated from infancy into the myth of our species as the most important on the planet, and so it is frequently the case that we gather these discoveries and findings as fascinating snippets, ‘good to know for the pub quiz’, while frequently failing utterly to make the connections that we could and indeed should be making if we were half as smart and important as we like to think we are.

What connections? Namely that,  as these sentient beings who do not share our species are so very much like ourselves, why on earth do we continue to ‘farm‘ them, to harm them, to persecute and torment them, to exploit every aspect of the pitiful existences that we force them to endure to serve our trivial and completely unnecessary interests?

We see this absolute absence of connection being enacted in the form of a current public outcry about the intention to drop the recognition of sentience from UK legislation.  If those who are so outraged actually recognise the sentience of their victims, what on earth is their justification for the senseless harm that is behind every single nonvegan choice that they make, of clothing, of food, of toiletries, of entertainment? The connections simply aren’t being made.

Why not?

My thoughts have led me to conclude that there are many reasons for this, but not the least of these is the global, multi-billion, media-fuelled culture of animal victimisation and use into which we are all born and skillfully brainwashed.

Using nothing more than common sense, my mantra has become ‘follow the money’, and it has never failed me. Who stands to lose most if we attain real understanding about the implications of the sentience of our unnecessary victims? Who has the greatest investment in ensuring that the word ‘sentience’, like the words ‘welfare‘ and ‘humane‘, remains simply a word that we nod to in passing without real understanding? Who indeed.

If we hope for a peaceful world, we must do more than just say empty words. We must work for that peaceful world by living consistently true to the values that we all say that we hold. We will achieve that by rejecting our part as consumers whose demands necessitate a bloodbath and becoming vegan. Our only regret will be that it took us so long.

Be vegan.

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The value of honesty – thoughts

Imagine you are face to face with two people. They are both keen for you to see things their way, but there’s a key difference between them.

Person 1

Although you’re not exactly sure how they do it (because they make absolutely sure you don’t), person 1 makes untold billions of $/£ every year; spends billions of $/£ on the most skilled marketers money can buy, to make sure that they manipulate your opinions to see things their way.

In press and on TV, in magazines and every type of media they incessantly present their products with a slant that makes them seem nice, normal and very desirable. They suggest that they’re necessary for your health and omit to mention that so many of the ‘studies‘ that suggest this were commissioned by themselves. They do this to protect their financial interests; so that you will keep buying their products, making sure that you continue to spend billions each year by buying what they sell. Their products are so normalised that most people are unaware just how insidiously they are being manipulated.

Person 2

The other person – let’s call them person 2 – has not a single thing to sell and nothing personal to gain. All they have is truth and sincerity. They want only to help you to realise the consequences of your actions as a consumer of the other’s products in the same way that they once did themselves. All they want is to provide you with truthful information that will allow you to see that by buying into the business of the other person, you are completely contradicting everything you think you believe in.

The no-brainer

Well let’s face it – it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? In every single area of life and living we learn that someone whose income depends on making sure their product appeals to consumers is going to tell those consumers WHATEVER it takes to get them to part with their cash. Truth isn’t even on the agenda. Open lying is now called ‘spoof advertising‘.  That’s life in the real world. We all know this. There are no scruples in marketing, it’s all about money.

But let’s look again at these two in front of us. Who are they? Whom do they represent?

Taking off the masks

The first one, person 1, represents the massive industries that sell us the desecrated body parts, the milk, the eggs, the very lives of our fellow sentient beings as if they were nothing more than things. They rely on public ignorance and play on their fears and insecurities.

The other, person 2, represents those whose sole aim is to make known the truth; to shine a light on the horror, the violence, the terror and the gore that is hidden behind closed doors as the inevitable consequence of fulfilling our demands as consumers; that occurs the moment we allow ourselves to reduce other individuals to resources and commodities. Person 2 seeks to make known the proven fact that every facet of person 1’s industry is catastrophic for their victims, for the planet and even for our health as humans.  Person 2 represents the billions of land dwelling individuals and the trillions of aquatic beings who are the innocent, brutalised victims of person 1.

So my question is this.

Why is it that once we find out who these two people are, why is it that all our common sense flies straight out the window and we champion the one who has a vested interest in lying to us while vilifying the one who tells the truth?

We all value honesty. Isn’t it time we recognised it? Be honest. Be vegan.

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FAQ – But don’t cows need to be milked or it causes them pain?

Q – Cows produce far more milk that a calf could drink. Surely we have to milk them or they will be in pain?

A – Once triggered by pregnancy and birth, the hormonal fluid known as ‘milk’ is produced for a time by lactation in a demand-led process.  I learned this first hand as a lactating mother, and it was indeed painful on those occasions when nursing was delayed.  As my children were weaned and their demands grew less, the supply diminished.  So from personal experience I am well aware of the mechanisms behind milk production as it applies to cows and other mammals for I am a nothing other than a mammal myself.

No one, however, would argue in favour of the forced reproduction of a human female followed by removal (killing or sale into slavery) of her infant in order to sell her breast milk* to another species. In the case of our nonhuman dairy mothers, who are sentient like ourselves, who value their lives and bond with their children, that is exactly what we do.

We compound this atrocity by selectively breeding those species and breeds used for their milk to ensure the maximum levels of production. This is done to maximise the financial gain we derive from the process. This is not done out of kindness or care for the comfort of those who are regarded as nothing more than commercial resources. Benevolence is absent from the industry, whatever their advertisers would have us believe to the contrary.

To then turn round and claim that we are doing these abject lactating mothers a favour and a kindness by relieving them of the unnaturally large quantities of milk that we have contrived for them to produce, and seek to justify our violence, our unjust and brutal actions in this way is not untypical of our self-serving species. It is, however, deeply wrong in every sense of the word.

Only veganism respects the rights of other mothers to own their bodies and their lives. When we stop demanding harm, harm will no longer be profitable.

Be vegan.

 

*It should be noted that the sale of human breast milk actually does take place. It is, however, a voluntary activity, conducted by consenting human mothers.

Links about selective breeding:

https://dairy.ahdb.org.uk/non_umbraco/download.aspx?media=6321 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748269/

 

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Goats and dairy: all we need to know

Just as a reminder, dairy is the impregnation of female mammals followed by the removal of their infants so that the lactation their bodies produce for these infants may be pumped out and sold for use by humans. That is the fundamental principle of dairy. We can set the practice in a factory farm, a ‘family’ farm, an organic, free range feel-good farm; it can take place in barns or in feedlots or rolling pastures. We can feed our victims grass or any substance that keeps them alive until we’re ready to send them to the slaughter-house that will be their only escape, but the fundamental principle remains. That is what dairy IS.

As consumers become more aware of the practices that constitute the industry that we know as ‘dairy’, it becomes clear that a word we all once thought of as ‘wholesome’, ‘natural’ and even ‘necessary’ is actually none of these things. The word disguises commercialised reproduction, the corruption of motherhood and the selling of defenceless, innocent lives by the litre. The word ‘dairy’ deceptively veils a process that is so inherently violent and harrowing that when we are first made aware of it, we struggle to comprehend how we could have remained oblivious for so long; that we could ever have accepted it as ‘normal’.

Many others feel as I have felt, bewildered and incredulous at their own lack of curiosity despite considering themselves to be intelligent and perceptive in other areas of their lives. As a mother myself, one who has breastfed her two infants, it is a sobering realisation that even the profundity of that experience, awareness of the biological processes that triggered it, combined with unshakeable knowledge that lactation is specific to each mammalian species, was insufficient to wake me to my past complicity in the atrocity that is ‘dairy’.

The victims of dairy

However even as awareness of the plight of our dairy victims spreads at last, there is a tendency to assume that this rapacious industry involves only cows and their calves, but this is definitely not the case. Any species is considered fair game by our own if there’s an opportunity for money to be made; we apparently have no scruples whatsoever about the completely unnecessary subjugation of the vulnerable, ignoring their right to live unharmed in favour of our own self-interest as consumers, and/or the commercial advantage to be gained from supplying our demands.  So cows and their calves are used (as are bulls); and sheep and their lambs (and rams); and goats and their kids (and bucks); buffalo and other species too, depending on where we live, as this is a global issue.

So surely taking milk from goats is okay…?

So despite our increased awareness, a myth persists that using goats for their milk is somehow more ethically acceptable than using cows for theirs; a perception that goats’ milk may somehow be obtained without harming the victims and that we somehow ‘need’ to consume some form of dairy product.

Put bluntly, there is a lingering idea that weaned humans somehow require to switch species for a continuing supply of breast milk for our wellbeing. When we put it in those terms, it becomes clear what a thorough brainwashing job has been done on us all for us to believe such utter nonsense. I know I find my thoughts straying back time and time again in frustration to seek the source of the catastrophic deception that took so many years for me to see though. But I digress.

This short blog highlighting the plight of dairy mother goats whose bodies are used until they break, whose beloved infants are taken from them to become replacements for them or to be killed for their flesh, and whose treasured lives end in our slaughterhouses because of our unhealthy obsession with their milk, was prompted by a recent comment by my great friend Sandra Higgins of Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary and the groundbreaking Go Vegan World campaign. I was moved and inspired by her insightful words and the video that accompanied them:

The question is not how the animals are treated but that we think they are ours to use. By using them for dairy we take their whole life from beginning to end, and make that life’s purpose serve our desires. Cheese and other dairy products are unnecessary for human health; in fact there is a growing body of evidence that links their consumption to human illness. But more importantly, the standard practice entailed in human consumption of the milk lactated by goats to feed their children is abhorrent, even when the best welfare standards are adhered to.

Please watch this non-graphic video. It does not contain the usual scenes of “cruelty”, or “ill treatment”. It merely shows standard practice.

Ask yourself if this is acceptable. Ask yourself if the taste of goat’s milk or cheese can ever be worth the price they pay.’

I know what my answer to that question is. The answer made me vegan. Let your answer do the same. Be vegan.

 

Links about dairy goats (ongoing):

Present status of the world goat populations and their productivity:  http://lohmann-information.de/content/l_i_45_artikel17.pdf

Number in the UK – 33,000 https://www.sruc.ac.uk/info/120183/alternative_livestock/276/dairy_goats

Number in the US 373,000 https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/livestock/goats/dairy-goats/

 

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‘Processing’; the brutality we deny

58d12a1f14eb7-detail Jo-Anne McArthur We Animals

Chicken in a crate awaiting death. By Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Returning home from a nearby town, my journey is punctuated today, as every day, by chicken death trucks heading to a slaughterhouse, a house of slaughter; the ‘processing plant’ as they euphemistically term it in these parts, a foul industrial complex that reveals itself by smell alone, a sprawling bastion of hell cloaked in a sickening miasma.

Like a spider in a complex, grimy web, this hellish factory squats, while the trucks shuttle in, all day every day and long into the night. These articulated lorries, ‘live poultry curtainsiders’, leave dread in their wake, trailing despair with a stench of ammonia.

They are strangely invisible to so many, but in lay-bys on every access route the lorries may be seen parked up and waiting for their turn to join the queue parked side by side in the fear drenched yard of the ‘plant’. In every trailer a barely visible pale cargo, discernible to only the most determined eye, sweet, defenceless infants, their grotesquely overgrown and swollen, 42-day-old bodies crouched on quaking legs, huddled together and frozen into the immobility of fear.

How oblivious we are to the shocking consequence of the selective breeding that is required to meet our demands as consumers of dead flesh, of eggs, of milk, while the desperate, and the young, and the defenceless infants of all other species, pay the price.

The trucks haunt my mind’s eye. I see them even when I close my eyes. Like a viscous wave the wash of their passing assaults me with the stench of terror while I am mesmerised by the few, stray, fluttering baby feathers, falling, swirling in the throbbing diesel wake of the vehicle. These feathers know a freedom that their trembling infant owners have never, and will never know; swirled on a breeze that they have barely felt; glinting in the daylight they will never see except today, on this, their death day, on this convoy from hell, through hell, to hell.

I know what awaits these powerless ones; the shackles, the electrified water bath and the shock that stuns the fortunate, the agony, the scalding tanks, the blades; the gutting and the hacking and the blood. In that bleak place there are no ears willing to hear, as mine do, their despair, their bewilderment, calling lonely for the mothers that they never knew; innocent, helpless and afraid in the place where the blood flows and death awaits.

Knowing that this nightmare is unnecessary, who would willingly support it? Who indeed. Refuse to be part of it. Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Obscene term of the day: a protein

Recently it occurred to me that there is a disturbing trend to rename and re-frame the dismembered corpses of our victims as simply ‘protein’.

I have previously noted that the word ‘meat’ is a word designed and used to distance those who harm animals from having to face and consider the living individuals whose bodies, lives and rights their consumer demands erase in favour of the trivial and unnecessary self-interest of our species. However the word ‘meat’ is unavoidably associated with bloodied flesh. It seems to me that this word ‘protein’ is going a step further to dissociate consumers from their demands and I am far too cynical to think this is unintentional.

Using the word ‘protein’ is such an utter disconnection from the individual whose miserable existence was ended in the gore and terror of a slaughterhouse; from the cow whose infant calf was taken from her so her lactation could be pumped out and sold for human commercial gain; from the abject, convulsing, desperate little hen whose every day was a misery worse than we are able to even imagine.

What monsters have we become to accept without challenge the way these desperate, miserable, defenceless lives and thoughts and personalities are reduced to ‘a protein’?

It’s a word with tones of completely false wholesomeness. It suggests a component, an ingredient. It has a suggestion of reassuringly satisfying a nutritional necessity in the only way possible (which is of course nonsense as there’s protein in everything). It paints a picture suggestive of a dining plate, with a vacant space allocated for and awaiting this component, ‘a protein’, and it does so in a manner that seeks to prevent the consumer from pausing for even a second to consider how and where and who this ‘protein’ was.

Our victims are not ‘proteins’ any more than I am a protein, you are a protein or the companions who share our homes are proteins. Yet technically we, they and every one of our victims are exactly the same in that for each of us, the chemical and mineral breakdown of our body varies only slightly from species to species. Yet we all have thoughts, individuality and awareness of ourselves and our environment. We each experience the life that we value so much through this body that for each of us houses the unique individual that we are.

To refer to a human as ‘a protein’ is unthinkable, but if it were to happen, we all know instinctively that it would represent a complete erasure of every single quality that defines the unique creature that they are.

Let’s recognise this insidious word for what it is and resist falling into the trap of using it, for to do so erases who our victims are, while denying those who harm them the chance to connect with the consequences of actions that they deserve to be aware of.  As vegans we have to keep trying to reach out to them, not to ask them to live up to our standards, but to invite them to live up to their own.

Be vegan.

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What we ask for, what we get ….

… and what on earth has this to do with vegan advocacy?

The subject of ‘what we ask for’ versus ‘what we get’ is one that every single one of us is familiar with. Casting my mind back to my earliest memories of this, birthdays and the festive season stand out because for every single one, I asked for a bike. To me it represented the sum of all my hopes as far as gifts went. I can recall lying in bed every Christmas Eve, eyes tightly closed and so tense that I couldn’t sleep, silently reciting my mantra to any supernatural entity that might be tuned in; ‘pleasepleaseplease can I have a bike, it’s all I want, I don’t want any other presents, I’ll be ‘good’ for ever more and I’ll never ask for another thing, ever’.

Material compromise

And you know what? As a child I never got a bike. And to be truly honest, I didn’t really expect one. Wouldn’t it have been better for me to have been ‘realistic’ and asked for a new winter jacket? Perhaps, but hope and expectation are two different things. It occurs to me that this is a lesson that we all learn at an early age and it’s one that follows us all through our lives.

As an adult, I dreamed of a salary sufficient to end sleepless nights about bills, a big house, the wherewithal to give my children all the things I didn’t have. Wouldn’t it have been far more ‘realistic’ for me to have scaled down my hopes to something nearer to what was within my grasp? Perhaps, but as with the dreams of childhood, we are all very well aware that these aspirations are unlikely to be fully realised.

Does this discourage us to the extent that we don’t bother even trying to reach our goals? Of course it doesn’t. The point that I’m making here is that we are all well aware of the fact that what we want and what we get are two different things. Real life is all about compromise, and we each reach the material compromises that are acceptable to us by looking at what we would consider to be ideal, and then doing the best that we can manage within our own circumstances, guided by our priorities, our abilities and our means.

The limits of compromise

Of course in some areas of our lives, we are less flexible about how far we are willing, or even able, to compromise. When one of my children was the target for bullies at school, I got a sharp lesson about my own limits.

I could never have settled for asking the bullies to be a bit nicer. I could never have accepted that perhaps they should take a day off occasionally. I could do nothing less than every single thing within my power to ensure that the bullying stopped.

It didn’t stop immediately but that didn’t mean that I should have asked for it to be reduced or carried out differently. I owe my loved ones nothing less that all I can do to end harmful behaviour being inflicted upon them by others. I have no doubt that every one of us would do the same in that situation.

Thinking about these situations, it occurred to me that when an aspiration is about ourselves and material things, we are all fairly willing to compromise. In fact we expect to have to compromise. We have no need to scale down our dreams, but we know they’re just not going to happen.

However when an issue concerns harm being inflicted on others, we are all far less willing to compromise. We all know that to do so would be to prolong the unnecessary suffering of those whom we seek to protect. They are desperate for help, they are in pain and we can’t, and wouldn’t, let them down. We can’t witness their continuing distress and shrug it off, we have to stand firm in their defence. They are depending on us.

And so to advocacy

It seems that this is an area where many of us seek to re-write the rules that we all know and apply every day in all other areas of our lives. How often as advocates do we see the words ‘realistic’ or ‘pragmatic’ being used by those who promote bargaining away and compromising the lives and the rights of our victims?  How often do we see claims that for our victims, we need to be ‘realistic’ and ask for reduced levels of harm, reduced frequency of harm, harm conducted in different environments?

When we do this, we are allowing ourselves to act as if ending the needless misery of our unnecessary victims is akin to our grand dreams and aspirations for material things. We are regarding the call to veganism as some impossible dream that can never be achieved. We are continuing to promote harm, endorsing it as a ‘realistic’ measure and what’s even worse, in some cases praising others for their own continuing harmful behaviour as if this was a praiseworthy end in itself. In this way we reinforce the status of our victims as material objects and resources rather that the individuals that they are.

However even if we don’t see our victims for the individuals they are, it is inconsistent with our accepted experience to ask for half-measures. In reality, our lived understanding of the world already tells us that when it comes to material aspirations, what we ask for and what we get are never the same . We always get less than we ask for so we may as well ask for what we want, we may as well ask for veganism.

Keeping it simple

Some assert that to outline veganism as a very simple idea whereby we do not cause needless harm, is way too much to ask ‘all at once’. Some suggest that to ask for others to be vegan is to actively discourage them from making any sort of changes because it’s ‘too extreme’. I honestly can’t understand that. Veganism is such a simple concept that it is virtually impossible to break down the route from nonvegan to vegan into increments.

To harm other individuals is not vegan. To avoid deliberately harming others is vegan.

Since understanding this very simple truth, I have been unable to perceive a middle ground where we can become confused and lose our way.

Encouragement or a betrayal?

Protecting those whom we care about, is a different matter as I mentioned earlier. Just as we strive to defend those whom we care about from unnecessary harm and misery, we can’t bring ourselves to compromise on what they need us to achieve, because to do so is to prolong their needless suffering. We can’t bear to witness their continuing distress, we have to take a stand and come to their defence with every means at our disposal.

Their continuing pain, their misery, their agony, is not for us to excuse. It’s simply not our right, any more than it would have been my right to have praised the bullies for the times that my child managed to spend a whole night without my having to comfort his anxiety at the prospect of the coming day’s torments. That would have been unthinkable; it would have been the worst betrayal imaginable.

As vegans, we all know that the world won’t go vegan overnight. Goodness, if we didn’t know, we’re reminded often enough. But likewise, we have to realise that there’s a big difference between compromising on material aspirations and compromising the rights of others; we have to keep our focus on who we’re fighting for. Just as I experienced with bullying, we all know that destructive behaviour isn’t going to stop overnight but that does not change the limits of the compromise that we are entitled to make.

Firstly we have a duty to our victims to educate those who needlessly harm them with use, that they, the victims, have a right to live unharmed and not to be used by our species as if they were our resources. Likewise those who are not vegan have the right to know that the myths they were taught about the necessity of harming others were completely false.

We owe everyone the absolute truth, that the only way that any of us can live true to our own values is to become vegan.  It’s important to be crystal clear on that point. And yes, we absolutely must encourage and support others who have reached this understanding; I don’t think I know any vegan who will not gladly provide pointers and advice to someone who is making the transition to being vegan, and we all acknowledge that the circumstances of some do not allow that transition to be instant.

But the point of all this is that as vegans we have to demand veganism and nothing less than veganism. There is no middle ground to find refuge because there’s just no space between harm and no harm. Whether our audience takes on board the information we provide and how they choose to act on it – if they act at all – is not something that we can mitigate by asking for half-measures.

Good at heart

I cling to the desperate hope that at heart most people are good people who would not wish to cause needless harm to those who are vulnerable and defenceless. I hope that all anyone needs is for someone to find a way to open their eyes and provide enough information to inspire them to act. That desperate hope is what keeps me writing.

Be vegan.

 

Posted in Advocacy, Harm reduction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments