A plea to shoppers

Today there are millions of individuals in the death trucks, packed in crates, queuing in slaughterhouses. For each one who waits, quaking, a pulse throbs warm and strong under soft skin while a heart pounds with anxiety. They listen to those who have gone before, hear their panic, the high-pitched screams of horror and of agony. They smell the metallic tang of blood, the warm stench of entrails, the slaughterhouse miasma of unspeakable horror.

Desperately huddling together as they seek reassurance, each will ultimately face the terror alone. Each will fight with every last ounce of their young strength but their battle will be futile; suspended, each warm pulse spurting brightly through the gash made by our blades while that strength falters and dies; lifeblood pooling, sliding into drains and channels.

They have no defence against our brute force and technology, no hope of reaching a species determined to ignore their sobs and pleas; to regard them as nothing more than resources, commodities, ingredients.

We cannot save them. Their conception and their measured existence was planned according to a supply schedule; their executions will go ahead, for one reason only; because of the demands of consumers. That smiling shopper, trolley filled with breast milk and with cheese, with eggs and with dismembered flesh, humming tunelessly as they browse the aisles; that ordinary person who could have been you or could once have been me, pondering how to serve up this dead and dismal chunk of shrink-wrapped flesh for the family meal.

That shopper ordered the slaughterhouse bloodbath. That shopper demanded the misery of their victims’ existence as commodities. That shopper bought a nightmare so they could have that flesh, breast milk and eggs to put in their shopping trolley. That shopper paid the wage of every hand that carved through the lives and flesh of those bewildered and horrified innocents.

Only by being vegan can we stop being that shopper. We are the only hope of those who will face that slaughterhouse queue in the future. They really have no one else. We owe them veganism and absolutely nothing less. Only by refusing to be that shopper, by ending consumer demand for death, can there be any prospect of a world without slaughterhouse queues.

Be vegan. Today.

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Being absolutely clear

When we advocate on their behalf, it is vital to focus on the injustice of ALL the uses that we make of members of other species. We need to ensure that it’s clear that even in the ‘best’ of situations, where every activity is tightly regulated and the letter of the law is observed to the last detail, what we are doing as a species is deeply wrong. Our use of the lives and bodies of others for any purpose is an atrocity. There are no exceptions. It is the acknowledgement of this reality that demands that we become vegan.

It’s important to realise that most people do not want to face this fact and when confronted with it, will struggle mentally to find a compromise position that allows them to continue to feel good about their own actions while demanding the least possible change of behaviour.

When we allow our audience to conclude that the fundamental problem of our use exists when regulations are being breached, where stricter legislation is needed, or where specific species are being harmed, we may inadvertently offer an easy route to that compromise position. We see the results of this compromise when those who are not vegan, campaign for regulatory reform and enforcement, or focus on the plight of individual species or groups with protests and complaints.

The compromise position allows those who are not vegan to feel good that they’re doing ‘something’ while in fact, by not being vegan their own daily activities are resulting in horrors just as devastating for their own victims, as those they are protesting against.

How do I know? I was one of them once. I will be forever grateful for that unknown advocate who made me realise that there is no point in complaining about what others are doing when we ourselves are responsible for something just as bad, if not worse. That is when I became vegan. We can’t save those defenceless individuals who are already in the brutal system of violence and harm that non vegan cash has purchased, but by convincing others to become vegan, we can gradually bring the whole unjust nightmare to a halt.

Our victims are being hatched and milked, confined and mutilated, violated and electric-prodded onto transports. They are screaming in laboratories, defeated and sick with despair in all the hells that our consumer demands have built for them. They are queuing in the slaughterhouses every second of every day.  They want to live and they are depending on us to leave no room for misunderstandings.

It’s not the where, or the when, or the how they are used that’s the problem. It is the fact that they are used at all. It has to stop because it’s wrong.  Be vegan.

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Chickens and eggs – what about the males?

I find my thoughts returning frequently to chickens; these wonderful, gentle, friendly little birds whose species bears the brunt (in terms of sheer numbers) of our own species’ arrogant delusions of entitlement and staggering ignorance about necessity. I’ve written many times about these bright, complex and fascinating birds. So why do I keep writing more?

Because there are just so many reasons why we all need to stop using them; because they so richly deserve to be recognised and championed; because there’s simply too much to say in one piece. And because I live in hope that I can find new words to reach the hearts of those who have not previously acknowledged the horrors of what we are doing as a species. My most recent article about chickens drew an analogy between puppy mills and hens. Several readers pointed out that this article concentrated on the selective breeding that has been perpetrated upon these defenceless creatures and did not address other aspects. That’s true and it was deliberate. I did it because selective breeding is often the very last reason that advocates may mention when asked the question about why using  hens for eggs is unethical.

Here, I’d like to fill in another piece of information; and other reason why we simply need to stop the madness.

The limits of empathy?

I’ve been blogging and using social media for several years now, and over these years there’s been a particular trend that I couldn’t help but notice. My posts on social media about chickens, and particularly those about eggs and the individuals who lay them, tend to attract less outrage, and more defensive and contradictory reactions than posts about almost any other animal rights topic or species.  There is less support and there are fewer ‘shares’. Even this post is likely to go up like the proverbial lead balloon. Is it because few people are prepared to recognise that there’s even a problem with our exploitative behaviour? Is it because people feel insufficiently informed to defend a stance against egg use?  I’ve often wondered about this, dredging up recollections from the days before I became vegan in an attempt to understand why.

In almost all other species, many readers can empathise with, understand, and decide to reject the violence inherent in all our use of other animals; violence that is epitomised by our brutal exploitation of female reproduction. However as soon as someone mentions eggs, everything changes. Suddenly it becomes all about the type of environment in which they are used, the way they are treated while being used; there are calls for stricter enforcement of regulations to govern how they are used, there are some who advocate ‘backyard’ environments in which to use them, there are anecdotes and claims about personal ‘exceptions‘ to the inherent brutality of our use, all seeking to disprove the need for moral rejection of the unnecessary exploitation of a fellow sentient species.

On behalf of those billions of defenceless victims whose primary value to our species lies not in who they are as individuals, but rather in the number of eggs that their  fragile and selectively bred bodies can produce before they self-destruct, it is distressing to witness their continued torment being promoted, championed and excused on all sides.

So what do we all need to know?

In these essays I hope to cover everything I have learned about chickens and why we all need to stop using them.  I hope to provide statistics about their use for their flesh, their use for eggs, and the continuing selective breeding that seeks to further maximise human profits at the expense of defenceless victims. Hens, roosters and chickens need us all so desperately and so it is vital for everyone who advocates on behalf of animals to understand that even were they to be accommodated in a perfect environment and afforded the best of treatment, this can never address the fundamental issues at the heart of an insidious industry that responds to consumer demand for an unnecessary dietary indulgence, while keeping hidden the truth about the horrific practices that are the inevitable consequence.

So what about male chicks….?

I’ve no idea where the notion came from but I did once imagine that as only the females could lay eggs, it seemed logical that the males would be used for their flesh. Well, guess what? The truth, as I learned once I finally shook off the decades of brainwashing, was unthinkable. Contrary to what many suppose, chickens who lay eggs and those who are used for their dead flesh are separate breeds; breeds that have each been ‘adapted’, selectively bred and genetically modified to maximise the profit-making potential of whatever use is being made of their bodies.

The males of egg laying breeds are killed shortly after hatching; suffocated or macerated with the resultant bloody sludge used as pet food or fertiliser.  ‘Instantaneous mechanical destruction’ (maceration) is listed as an approved method of ‘culling’ chicks, poultry and ducklings by the staggeringly inappropriately titled RSPCA (prevention of cruelty, anyone?) as part of their ‘*welfare standards’. Let’s bear in mind that these are guidelines for the treatment of lifelong captives on death row that refer to ‘five freedoms’ without even a trace of irony or shame.

Which brings me to another memory. At one time I fancifully imagined that ‘welfare’ meant something to do with well-being. Although we are encouraged to think it does, the industry word ‘welfare’ has absolutely nothing to do with the life, the thoughts, the feelings or the well-being of our unnecessary victims as unique individuals . The word ‘welfare’ refers to a collection of guidelines and recommendations developed by the exploitation industries and their collaborators to standardise practices, minimise risk to assets and employees, and maximise profit.

So let’s talk numbers

Statistics about the size of the global flock of egg laying hens are ridiculously hard to come by. There are endless statistics available about eggs; glossy marketing blurb that analyses and details tonnage per country, global market shares, market trends and other information couched in the most impersonal terms of resources and commodities.

However hardly anywhere is it possible to find statistics about how many tiny feathered slaves are labouring despairingly in hell to produce this ‘commodity’. 

A US industry site quoted a 2014 global flock of 7.2 billion individuals (7,200,000,000). In the US, after a small dip in 2015, the number of individuals rose by approximately 3.4% in 2017, and this dip and percentage increase is similarly reflected in the UK. In view of this, it is not unreasonable to extrapolate that the global flock is likely to have reflected this trend and currently stands at approximately  7.4 billion individuals (7,400,000.000).

This number is clearly significant for a number of reasons, however I have been keen to establish it on this occasion in connection with one of the least publicised victim groups within an industry predicated upon wall-to-wall atrocities.

Fertile eggs will generally hatch 50% female and 50% male. In order to have and maintain the size of a flock numbering 7.4 billion females, 7.4 billion males will have hatched alongside their sisters only to be regarded as waste in an environment that does not see chickens as sentient individuals but as commercial assets and the means to create wealth for our species.  It is possible to attempt to ‘screen out’ males before hatching and although there have been undertakings to introduce this by 2020 in the USA, industry sources report that this target is unlikely to be met and in any case, it is not globally relevant. Here we have yet another example of some-day-never ‘commitments’ for the distant future, a commonly used ploy to maintain consumer confidence.

So – to cut a long story short – I estimate that 7.4 billion (7,400,000.000) male chicks are annually subjected to death (the industry euphemism is ‘culled’) within hours of hatching. Methods vary. Suffocation. Gassing. Maceration. The RSPCA, that ever kindly bastion of devoted care for those who do not share our species recommends:

‘They must be destroyed promptly by a recommended humane method such as carbon dioxide gassing or quick maceration. Chicks must then be carefully inspected to ensure they are all are dead.’

If the options available for those deaths were presented to you or to me for our own demise, that of a loved one or one of our companions, I think we’d soon realise just how monstrous the lie of ‘humane’ ‘culling’ truly is.

Think about it. 7.4 BILLION deaths. And that’s before a single egg is used.

Be vegan.

 

*RSPCA welfare standards for hatcheries – see page 10 for approved slaughter methods. https://science.rspca.org.uk/ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232725856522&mode=prd

**Extract from ‘In a nutshell: the victims of vegetarianism  ‘Birds used for egg production include chickens, ducks, quail, guinea fowl, pheasants, rhea, ostrich and geese.’

 

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Thought for a spring day

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Returning home from an errand to Edinburgh at 6 am, I am haunted by images of so many chicken death trucks. Even now when I close my eyes, I see them still. Like a viscous wave, I feel the cloying draught of their passing, smell the acrid stench of terror clutching at me. The temperature is 4 degrees on a day when heat is expected, so the curtain sided trucks are open to the bitter chill. Each infant who huddles, a crouching pale blur within the blue and yellow crates, has endured about 42 dawns, days marking out the profit-driven span of their misery.

Fighting nausea as I drive behind, I watch the few, stray, baby feathers, swirling, falling, disappearing.They flutter in the chilly air like snow onto the windscreen. These feathers know a freedom that their trembling infant owners will never know; swirled on a spring breeze that they have never felt until today; glinting in the cool sunshine they will never feel except today, their death day, on this convoy from hell, to hell.

I know what awaits these defenceless little ones; the shackles, the shock that stuns the fortunate, the agony, the scalding tanks, the blades. There are no ears willing to heed their despair, their terror, as they face the nightmare, lonely for the mothers that they never knew; innocent, helpless and afraid in the place where the blood flows and death awaits.

These doomed infants are paying the real price for the demands of every single shopper scooping bloodless packages of flesh into their trolley, paying with their blood and their agony, the real cost of every single, casual, thoughtless ‘I’ll just have the chicken, please’ in a cafe or a restaurant.

Knowing the horror, who would willingly support it?

Please. Let today be the day you say, ‘Not in my name.’

Be vegan.

Start finding out about being vegan here:
http://www.internationalvegan.org/vsk/
https://www.goveganscotland.com/
https://goveganworld.com/living-vegan/
https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/

Do we need to eat animals? https://wp.me/p4TmPw-rK

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hens and puppy mills – an analogy

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Not a day goes by that I fail to see someone contradicting a post that explains – often at some length – that there is no such thing as a humane egg. As soon as there’s a post about eggs, up pop the comments saying it’s not necessary to be vegan, how lovely it is to keep hens in back gardens and use them there for eggs. ‘Problem solved’, these comments seem to say.

Given that every credible vegan advocate says the same thing; that egg use can never be ethical, it is astonishing that anyone would imagine for one moment that those who speak against using hens have not carefully examined all the science and the background to a subject about which they are generally extremely well informed.

‘Let’s just take all the hens to a nice place and keep on using them.’  Sorted. If such a quick fix existed, does anyone really think that animal rights advocates would miss something so obvious? Apart from the fundamental violation of rights and individual autonomy that underlies our species’ assumption that we can use the lives and bodies of others for our convenience, why is there is an automatic assumption that either the post is wrong, or that they’ve missed the easy solution? Why doesn’t such a post make readers think, ‘I can’t understand why anyone would say that, maybe I should take the chance to find out more?’

I’ve struggled to find an analogy because an equivalent to the enormity of what humans have done to hens is hard to find – if indeed it exists. To find a comparison in terms that most of us can relate to, I decided to consider dogs as an alternative species.

Hens – an analogy

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals with the Montreal SPCA

Dogs. Puppy farms and puppy mills. Light blue touch paper and stand well back! I can’t imagine anyone with any concern at all for other species who will say that these are a good idea. It is customary to see universal and vitriolic condemnation of this practice whenever the subject crops up in social media.

Now, still thinking of puppy mills, imagine you were to discover that certain breeds of dog had been selectively bred so that without being impregnated, they would produce a litter of puppies almost every single day, because that way, the money making potential for the sale of the puppies could be maximised. Most people would be beyond outraged. There would be howls of rage and the internet would reverberate with righteous indignation. True?

To continue this analogy, what about the puppy mill mothers, these defenceless, innocent mothers who were giving birth each day? Can we even begin to imagine the strain that this repeated birthing would put on their bodies? Can we even begin to understand the misery of such an existence, an existence where the only value that is placed on them comes from the sale of their puppies? Their lives would be bleak, their bodies depleted and prone to disease, an endless cycle of wrenching physical turmoil until death claimed them. I think any of us would instinctively empathise with them and know that it is utterly wrong to inflict such an atrocity on any sentient individual.

Humane puppy mills

So on to the final part of this analogy. If I were to post an article, stating that there is no such thing as a ‘humane’ puppy mill, what sort of reaction would it cause? Would there be agreement or would there be a rush of contradictions?

Would we see comments like,
‘That’s not true. Why not rescue some puppy mill mothers and give them a lovely home where they can have their puppies every day?’
‘I have a little dog that I rescued from a puppy mill and I love her like family. She still has puppies most days and I see no problem with using them to make a bit of cash.’
‘Puppy mills aren’t a problem as long as the dogs aren’t living in cages in a horrible environment.’

I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t see anything of the sort. And the reason for that is that quite clearly, although the environment in which exploitation takes place is certainly worth mentioning, the underlying issue would not be the environment, but rather the selective breeding that had resulted in daily birthing and the consequent physical and emotional trauma this would cause.

Some might also go further and appreciate that as long as these genetically mutated dogs existed and as long as there was a market for the puppies, there would be those who would exploit the situation for profit at the expense of the health and well being of the dogs. There might even be calls for the genetic mutation to be brought to an end, in a similar way to what has occurred with some breeds of dogs and cats where certain physical traits such as flattened faces, exaggerated through selective breeding in order to place ‘aesthetics’ before physical function, had reached the stage that they were causing serious impairment for the individuals affected.

Still with me? Well to the best of my knowledge, as of now, NO such genetic mutation has been carried out to cause puppy mill mothers to have a litter every day. I’d never say never, because I long ago lost any faith in our species having an ethical line they will not cross when serving their own interests at the expense of others. However let’s go back to hens.

So, back to hens

Unlike puppy mill mothers where the genetic modification described was an imaginary one for the sake of this analogy, exactly this type of genetic mutation HAS been selectively bred into all the hens that we use for eggs today, regardless of whether they are obtained directly from a hatchery, or from someone whose backyard hens have laid fertile eggs. Let’s read over the preceding paragraphs, and think ‘hens’ for ‘puppy mill mothers’ and ‘eggs’ for ‘puppies’.

The key point here is that the wild ancestors of the breeds that we use for eggs, lay two clutches of about 6 – 10 eggs a year for the purpose of raising young. Their bodies evolved with this behaviour as an integral part of their physical make up.

The TSHR (thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor) gene coordinates reproduction with day length, confining breeding to specific seasons. A mutation disabling this gene enables chickens to breed and lay eggs all year long, and contrary to claims that their laying is just ‘doing what comes naturally to them’, it is the exploitation of this mutation that causes hens’ bodies to operate in overdrive and to lay over 300 eggs a year at a catastrophic physical cost to their health and well being.

Further research and breeding programmes are in progress to further increase the number of eggs each hen is capable of laying; to increase the size of these eggs taking account of the cost of feed required, with a current aim being 500 eggs before the hen’s body becomes unprofitable. At no point in any of these considerations is there any acknowledgement of the fact that these ‘egg laying machines’ are in fact sentient individuals who are being unspeakably harmed by our meddling.

The driver behind all of this egg use, is consumer demand for eggs. As long as there is consumer demand for eggs, there will be a financial incentive to those who supply that demand. The only way any of us can effectively advocate for the well-being of hens who lay eggs, is by calling for the end of that consumer demand. In addition to egg use being morally unjustifiable, eggs are, in any case, extremely harmful to humans.

And a final thought

When we read of a breeding mother being rescued from a puppy farm, the first thing that the rescuer will do – and it almost goes without saying – is that they will arrange for her to be sterilised to spare her the risk of future births. I’m glad that there are people out there who do that. In doing so, possibly for the first time in her life, the rescued mother is being recognised and valued for who she is. By ensuring that her reproductive system can never be exploited again, the rescuer is taking steps to ensure that although the horrific past, and the legacy of damage that may be its likely consequence, can’t be undone, at least whatever time remains will be spent without deliberate reproductive harm being caused to her.

I am glad that some hens escape the cycle of use that their mutated reproductive systems impose on them and I know several vegans who rescue hens. I understand that hormone implants are the least risky method for stopping the cycle of incessant egg laying and these are used wherever possible. Unfortunately, each implant requires to be periodically renewed, availability can be unreliable and appropriately specialised veterinary staff hard to find, but nevertheless, so many try their absolute best to remove the burden of egg laying from those they rescue. When implants are not possible, eggs are fed back to the hens who laid them and are greatly enjoyed. Few, however, would ever claim that sanctuary and rescue are solutions to the problem. And none of the vegan rescuers that I know, would sell or give eggs to other humans, thereby condoning and perpetuating continued consumer demand for eggs as an appropriate food item.

Only by ending consumer demand for the products of exploitation, can any of our victims ever be valued for who they are rather than for what we can take from them. When it comes to individuals rescued from reproductive exploitation, don’t they all deserve the same consideration?

Be vegan.

Posted in 'Happy' exploitation, eggs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Just another crank

The ONLY way to stop harming animals is to be vegan. It’s the least we can do.

In the past, every time I saw that in a post, you know what used to happen?

I used to think, ‘Well that’s what ‘extremists’ say, but of course that doesn’t apply to me.  That’s not about people here, people like me. I care about animals; I think it’s wrong to harm them.’ Does that sound familiar?

My thoughts continued, ‘I’m sure that using animals is a necessary evil but I look for the ‘best’ labels, the most expensive brands, the most ‘humane products’.  Of course I know about all these awful things that people do, but they don’t happen here. That’s what happens in other countries.’

Are you sitting there, shaking your head, thinking those same thoughts that I used to think? Maybe you’re quietly congratulating yourself for proving me mistaken.  Maybe you’re feeling slight sympathy for someone you consider to be another misguided crank.

Well, just as I was when I thought these thoughts, you’re wrong. I was. Dead wrong. Wrong at the cost of the lives of more than 74,000,000,000 land individuals and trillions of individual fishes and marine creatures each year; each of them sentient; each of them desperate to live unharmed.

Can any of us afford to be so wrong, when the facts are within reach? And if we resist seeking out those facts, what does that say about us, our values, our integrity, our sincerity?

No matter what euphemistic names we call the substances we buy, using others for their dead flesh, for their breast milk, for their eggs, as laboratory test subjects, as entertainment or for any other reason is not a ‘necessary evil’. As human animals, we have no need to consume others, no need to participate in lifelong, cross-species breastfeeding, no need to manipulate the bodies of female birds to produce eggs to consume at the cost of their health and wellbeing. Without need, we have no justification at all for creating a victim out of every creature that we use.

None of it is necessary and only those who have much to lose financially, or who are ignorant of the science, will tell you otherwise. So, as I did, we must each ask ourselves what a ‘necessary evil’ truly is, when it is shown to be unnecessary.

There are many links within this post, and links in abundance elsewhere in this blog; I hope you’ll explore. It’s up to each of us to act as our conscience demands. When our decisions and our actions are guided by the truth, we cannot help but realise that the ONLY way to stop harming animals is to be vegan. It’s the least we can do.

Be vegan.

 

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making up labels to hide behind

Here’s someone with a lovely face. His name was Rannoch. In this photo he was watching the track to the house, waiting to catch sight of me. He would wait there all  day, if that’s what it took.

Some might look at him and claim that he was ‘bred for eating’ or ‘bred for fur’ as their justification for wanting to hurt him; others might claim he was ‘bred for hunting’ or ‘bred as a laboratory test subject’ or ‘bred <for some other excuse>’ as a reason to enforce their will over his and compel him to serve their interests at the expense of his own.

Would that have changed anything? Would that have meant that killing or brutalising him would have been morally right? Would that mean that I could have betrayed him without any need for guilt? Of course it wouldn’t. Rannoch never knew violence or torment, was never skinned or eaten, was never beaten and coerced into actions against his will or his interests. Every day his joy and enthusiasm made it clear that he enjoyed his life and did not want to die. His life was his. It was not mine; I have my own life and it’s the only life over which I have any rights.

Brandishing any made-up label such as ‘bred for eating’ or ‘bred for fur’ as a declaration of intent to rob him of the life he loved could never have changed his right to live or the responsibility I had for his well-being. He lived with me as he grew old and ill and in the end, death separated us nine years ago. His dying was as free of fear as I could possibly make it, I took away his pain and the price I paid is an ache that has never gone away. He is remembered every day, his name is spoken often and he is still loved.

Here’s someone else with a lovely face. He had no name but his inventory number was 3985466. With our stated goal the desecrating of his defenceless corpse, 3985466 was ‘bred for eating’ and our impatience for his life to end hid its ravening face behind a made-up reason on an imaginary label.

Every day he made it clear that his life was important to him. He mattered. He was special to himself. He was special to his family and he was special to his friends. In fact he was just like Rannoch in every way but one. Unlike Rannoch, no one knew who he was and frankly no one cared. His daily experiences and the life he valued were simply an inconvenience for our species; a time-consuming prelude to our main event. His living and the life he treasured were a tiresome delay to a species impatient to use their saws and blades to dispense with the inconvenience of his warm and breathing self.

Every moment of his existence was financially optimised to ensure his corpse made as much profit as possible for the least possible outlay.  No one ever gave a damn about HIMhis life, his thoughts, his feelings or his well-being as a unique individual.  Although we are encouraged to think it does, the industry word ‘welfare’ has nothing to do with any of these things. The word ‘welfare’ refers to a set of industry guidelines to standardise practices, minimise risk to assets and employees, and maximise profit.

Business asset number 3985466 is dead now. Unlike Rannoch, 3985466 didn’t die of infirmity and old age. He was only five months old and he desperately didn’t want to die. He fought for his life with every last ounce of the strength that faded with the blood throbbing from his gashed throat. Yet the  sobbing, begging terror of his gory, electric-prodded slaughter was the stuff of nightmares.

That there is absolutely no need for the human animal to consume other animals or their eggs or breast milk is a truth that so many resist, clinging desperately to the myths of  childhood while staring defiance into the face of scientific fact.

Most of us grew up being told that individuals like 3985466 were ‘bred for eating’. The law regards him – and Rannoch for that matter – as ‘things’, as ‘property’. Did that mean that killing him was morally right? Did that mean we need have no conscience about the miseries that we forced him to endure?

Of course not. Brandishing any made-up label as a declaration of intent in an attempt to justify enforcing our will over another, and compelling them to serve our interests at the expense of their own, does not excuse us, nor does it make our wanton savagery any less brutal. History is littered with atrocities that were perpetrated within the law of the time. What the law allows does not, and cannot, take away our personal responsibility for the horrors that are done in our name.

For 3985466 and for the 2,193,541,661 (2.2 billion) of his brethren whose lives were hacked from them in our slaughterhouses in a single year, nothing we do can change their fate. All we can do is act in the present and aim for the future. By being vegan, we can slowly bring the river of their blood to a halt by refusing to keep paying for it.

Why not find out about being vegan today, for Rannoch and for 3985466?

 

Statistics by FAOSTAT

Posted in Advocacy, Companion animals, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

We’re so vain – thoughts on intelligence

Another comment that often appears amongst the arsenal of tired old excuses that humans cling to in their attempts to justify the use of members of other species, centres around presumptions of superior intelligence when compared with every other species on the planet. When asked to provide examples, reference is sometimes made to landmarks of human endeavour such as writing symphonies, great works of literature, major inventions through the ages, and travelling to the moon, amongst others.

Well yes. These are indeed breathtaking achievements, but let’s just stop for a moment and get a grip on reality. Given that we, as a species, currently number some 7.5 billion individuals, there are relatively few humans whose names ring out across the centuries as beacons of intellectual prowess. Da Vinci, Archimedes, Newton, Tesla, Hawking and several others are names that stand out. For the rest of us – the vast majority, that is – no one is ever going to wax lyrical about our towering accomplishments.

What actually is intelligence?

Most of us are simply ordinary people, even though we are surrounded by technological marvels. Our expertise extends to knowing where the ‘on’ and ‘off’ switches are. If one of us were to be left somewhere with no tools or weapons, no instructions, no raw materials and no access to Google, I suspect that no one would ever be able to invent and create a computer for themselves, or write a symphony, or travel to the moon, and rocket scientists would not need to open their ranks to any newcomers. In fact many if not most of us would be seriously challenged to create some form of shelter or find something to eat without a handy supermarket.

To quote Isaac Newton in a letter in 1676:

“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Although this is similar to a phrase used by the 12th century John of Salisbury, it may even pre-date him as he was known to have adapted and refined the work of others.  Which really serves to illustrate the point that as humans, we are standing on the shoulders of giants, and the majority of us would never have attained the comforts and wonders that surround us, had it not been for the accumulated efforts of others. Thus, for us to claim some level of superior intelligence based on the achievements of the intellectual giants of our species could not even be called tenuous. It’s actually laughable.

So what about ordinary people like me?

So what about just general, common-or-garden intelligence then? When we look deeper into definitions of human intelligence, Wiki provides many angles and measures and it seems like the jury is still out on that one. There are theories about so many aspects; linguistic, logical, spatial, bodily, interpersonal, intrapersonal.  There is no single definition that encompasses everything and I’ve been on the planet long enough to know that few of us would shine in even one of these areas, far less all of them.

Yet it is abundantly clear that despite the limitations that the majority of us have, whatever method by which we decide to define intelligence, however nebulous, however narrow, is the yardstick by which we as a species, generally presume to measure every other. It speaks to our elitist and speciesist mindset that we find and in fact expect to find articles about intelligence  in the human animal separate from articles about intelligence in other animal species.

Looking for the sake of comparison at pages about intelligence in other animal species, I was not particularly surprised to find that the subject seemed to be broken up into a series of anecdotes, many of which are about individuals whose actions were in some way thought notable, combined with sparse paragraphs that say so little about a whole species as to be almost insulting, as well as one or two more lengthy pieces discussing wider issues such as theory of mind in animals. Our recognition of their skills is grudging even at best, frequently couched in surprised or patronising terms, determined that whatever we discover is not indicative of anything that would elevate their status to being worthy of their birthright to live their lives free from the violence and brutality of our merciless exploitation.

Life in a mirror

Shackles in a slaughterhouse for hens

And in just the same way as our definition of ourselves as ‘animal lovers’ astonishingly disregards the copious bloodbath for which we are each personally responsible when we refuse to be vegan, our eager definition of ourselves as ‘intelligent’ includes pinnacles of human achievement that we personally can scarcely even understand, far less ascribe to. Despite this, we claim this ‘human intelligence’ as if it were our own, and we use it as a cudgel with which we bludgeon our way through the lives, the bodies and the habitats of our fellow earthlings; arrogantly assuming that although we have never taken the time to think about how this supposed intelligence manifests itself in the creature we see in the mirror, we are safe to assume that every other species is inferior.

Mother hen teaching her infants about life

And what exactly is that creature in the mirror doing with all their intelligence? Well I know what the one in my mirror does. She cares for those for whom she feels responsible, looks after the place she thinks of as home, struggles to find a way to acquire the resources she needs to keep herself and those who depend on her fed, clothed, warm, safe and sheltered from the weather. Occasionally she’ll write, she’ll talk with friends, gather information about what others are doing with their time. It’s what I do. And let’s be honest, isn’t that what most of us do?

Recently I have shared a video or two that have been greeted with much delight – I’ll link them at the end. One depicts a tiny bird carefully and with consummate skill, sewing leaves together to create a shelter where she can build her nest. Another video gave an insight into the complex and fascinating life of members of the crow species.

And do you know what they were doing?  They were looking after those for whom they were responsible, looking after the places they regarded as home, struggling to acquire the resources they needed to keep themselves and their dependants fed, safe and sheltered from the weather, gathering information about what others were doing with their time.

Common ground, shared priorities

In short, we have more that connects us with every other species than we care to admit. Each of us is simply living from day to day, caring for family, staying fed and sheltered. That is the level on which most of us function. And when we drop the assumption that we’re so superior to other species, other questions present themselves. Who the hell are we to measure all others by the standards we set – not for ourselves because we know we’re not in the same ballpark – but rather for a few individuals of our species? Who are we to decide that other species are not important enough to live unless they do so exclusively for our interests? And even – how do we actually know that we are the only species in which individuals come along every so often whose brilliance outshines us all?

We are a rather tragic species suffering from a delusion that we are apart from all others, brutalising and destroying our way through our days, rather than acknowledging our role as a part of the interwoven, interdependent network of life and living that is planet Earth. These delusions of ours are dragging the planet we share to the brink of an abyss of our making, a beckoning cataclysm caused by our arrogant assumption that our shared world and everyone who has fur or feathers, scales or wings, have no purpose other than to serve our petty whims and convenience. The end is perilously close, and time is running out for us to stop the behaviour that is causing the problem.

If we don’t wake up, and wake up very soon, it will be too late for every one of us, and being responsible for planetary disaster on an apocalyptic scale is hardly something that any intelligent species would do.

Be vegan.

 

Information and links:

Tailor bird
Crows
Birds and the Earth's magnetic field
Climate change links for information
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The way it’s always been and if we stop they’ll become extinct

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality

  • Humans have been using other animals since the beginning of time.’
  • ‘It’s always been this way.’
  • ‘If we stop farming them they’ll become extinct.’

The idea that ‘nothing can change from the way it’s always been done’, is commonly used as an attempt to justify the horrors that our species currently inflicts upon more than 74,000,000,000 (seventy-four billion) members of land based species and uncounted trillions of aquatic individuals each year.

Let’s check the facts, however.  Having been around in approximately their current form for 200,0000 (two hundred thousand) years , humans first domesticated the species that we use for ‘agriculture’ only about 12,000 (twelve thousand) years ago, having begun the process of adapting others to serve our interests some 3,000 (three thousand) years earlier by domesticating wolves.

During these 12,000 years, almost every breed of animal that we use for any and every purpose worldwide, has been ‘adapted’ by selective breeding and/or genetic modification to optimise commercial production of whichever aspect of their lives and bodies we seek to use and financially profit from.

Where our meddling leads

Humans have created and are continuing to develop, breeds of the species that we use without any regard or concern for the well being of the individuals who are affected by our tampering.  Nowhere is this illustrated more poignantly that in the hens whom we currently use for their eggs, a subject that I have previously examined in depth.

Suffice to say that selective breeding combined with genetic modification has escalated egg laying by each individual bird to 250 – 300+ a year from an original annual total of 12 – 15 by her wild ancestors. By doing this we have created a situation where the body into which each innocent little creature is hatched, has become a prison and a time bomb, so prone to diseases of her wildly overworked reproductive processes that a painful and early death is almost guaranteed. Not that we actually care. Egg laying hens used commercially are slaughtered before they are 18 months old; let’s face it, we don’t need them to live long; it’s easy come, easy go for their human exploiters.

And meanwhile we see online the tired old debates and arguments about the environment in which they are used, with words like ‘factory’, ‘battery’, ‘free-range’, cage free’, ‘enriched cages’ and ‘backyard’ being bandied about.  Yes, sure, some environments in which hens are used for their eggs are ‘better’ than other environments. Sadly, however, the vast majority of even those who profess to care about other animals seem unaware of the fact that our true crime against this species has nothing to do with the environment in which we use them. Our crime is bred into their very bones, into their flesh, into reproductive systems genetically programmed to hyperactivity until their bodies self-destruct.

Those who rescue hens from the burden that egg laying imposes on their tiny bodies, who provide sanctuary from a world that sees them only in terms of what can be taken from them, struggle to source hormonal implants and veterinary staff to conduct the necessary surgery, doing all they can to delay the inevitable but even so, an elderly and healthy egg-laying hen is an oxymoron.

As for other species, breeds have been manipulated in ways that would inevitably shorten their lives were it not for the fact that the sole reason for their existence is to maximise what we can take from them in their youth before subsequently slaughtering them.  Our meddling has left many, if not most, with no environmental niche for them to occupy outside of the hells, torture chambers and prisons of our agricultural nightmare.

As for all our victims whatever their species, we confine them in unnatural environments, feed them substances that they would never consume without our intervention, accelerate and boost their growth / lactation / egg production far beyond what their bodies are designed to bear, and are even working to develop further grotesque mutations by genetic modification for a variety of ‘reasons’ that all boil down to maximising profit. Like ourselves, our defenceless victims are a long way from the natural animals they once were.

Extinction – is it always bad?

A common assertion is that many breeds will become extinct in a vegan world and this is said as if that were a bad thing.  Make no mistake, the almost inevitable extinction of the pitiable, Frankensteinian creations of our unspeakably self-obsessed species is a totally different issue from the extinction of those wild creatures who were quietly minding their own business in the aeons before we came along, and whose habitat we have destroyed by our industrialisation and urbanisation, not to mention the usurping of their land on the industrial scale that has been necessary for us to cultivate our ‘farmed’ victims in unimaginably vast and increasing numbers. 

So when we talk of extinction for the grotesquely mutated victims of our deluded species, how can this possibly be a bad thing? In a way, such extinction, allowing these defenceless innocents to escape the obscene torment of bodies we have created to serve our interests at the expense of their own, would be the only really humane thing we have ever done for them.

Be vegan.

 

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, FAQ | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Translations of common expressions: ‘Grass-fed lamb, half price!’

This was a promotion by a supermarket, heard recently in a TV ad break. With a great deal encapsulated in very few words, it’s a cynical bit of mind-bending although there was a time I wouldn’t have realised; that’s the art of the media advertisers whose brainwashing expertise is relied upon to normalise practices that, by rights, should make us retch. Let’s take a closer look.

‘Grass-fed’

Well what else would we expect? Any phrase that seeks to make a virtue out of what we all – and particularly those who actively promote harming other animals – would regard as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’, tends to make me curious. We see it used about so many different species; ‘grass fed beef’, ‘corn fed chicken’, ‘pasture raised’ this, and ‘free range’ that. The cynic in me decided to look further, quite frankly not because I have the slightest interest in how this affects the ‘nutritional quality’ of the resultant corpses (although there’s a lot of self-serving stuff online about this very thing), but rather because I was curious to know more about the truth behind the propaganda, driven by an industry that is working extra hard to prevent consumers realising exactly what it is that they do to fulfil their demands.

Apparently there is (surprise, surprise) very little regulation regarding the term ‘grass-fed’ and the vast majority of our UK ruminant victims whose natural diet would be grass, are ‘finished’ on a diet of grain. ‘Finishing’ is yet another euphemism used by the industry. It sounds so cosy, a mere technicality, doesn’t it? ‘Finishing’ relates to the 80 to 90 days immediately prior to the slaughterhouse ordeal that we inflict on every victim, and it’s done for the purpose of fattening our victims in order to get a ‘good conformation of carcass and a favourable price’.

Finished. Like adding the final touches to a new garment, plumping cushions in a newly decorated room, except that we’re not talking about garments or decorating rooms. We’re talking about the premeditated killing of defenceless young individuals, mere infants in most cases, and the focus is on maximising the profit that can be made from the selling of their corpses and body parts.

‘lamb’

So let’s get back to this lamb. A spring lamb (also called early or summer lamb) is 3 to 5 months old when he or she is slaughtered.

I did consider that possibly the ‘grass-fed’ description is a subtle suggestion that this infant has been weaned, i.e. no longer nursing from his or her mother. However ‘weaning’ for our victims is not the same as it is for humans, who tend to use the word to indicate the time our infants stop being completely reliant on breast milk and switch to solid food. Of course by continuing to consume substances that masquerade under the blanket description ‘dairy’, many of us continue to participate in cross-species breastfeeding. But that’s a separate issue.

Those who have provided sanctuary to ewes who have given birth, know that although grass will form an increasing component of the infant’s diet, a lamb will continue to nurse with decreasing frequency for a period of up to about six months. Lactation will diminish during this time but the mother and child remain bonded. We see this same activity in human mammals with both mother and infant finding comfort in the contact breastfeeding provides. In the industry however, ‘weaning’ is a verb, a verb that does not describe a natural process involving a mother and her baby as with humans, but rather an enforced activity with the aim of maximising profit, initiated by the farmer about 8 – 14 weeks after birth.

Navigating through all the ‘if’s’, ‘but’s’ and ‘maybe’s’ that comprise the regulations and guidelines, it’s difficult to determine what the term ‘grass-fed’ actually means, used in relation to this lamb who was chained upside down by one leg in a slaughterhouse to have the arteries in his throat hacked open when he was 12 – 20 weeks old.

Does it actually mean anything at all? But it sounds good, doesn’t it? There was a time the descriptor would have made me think of rolling green pastures with happy creatures enjoying life, gambolling in the spring sunshine. And I think that’s exactly what it’s meant to do.

‘half price!’

Well isn’t everyone looking for a bargain?

This issue is one that I have discussed before in a piece entitled ‘The price of a life’. Every item, commodity, resource or service that we buy, is making a profit for someone. In the case of the defenceless and terrified individuals who are our victims, there are very many pairs of hands involved in the breeding, incarcerating, mutilating, transporting, processing and selling of lives and bodies, who each take a cut from the amount of cash that is raised from the sale of their breast milk, eggs and ultimately, their corpses. At the very bottom of the list, we’ll find the cost of the food and the shelter that was provided for our victim.  All of these costs have to be covered in the most economically advantageous way – and profit added on top. This is just basic economics, not rocket science and as I say so often, all we need to do is follow the money.

So, ‘half-price’, how do they manage that? To be honest, I don’t know. However I do know one thing. What springs to mind, centres on a frequent justification used in support of harming other animals; namely that we all believe they should be ‘humanely treated‘. How often do we see claims that whatever is done by others, the practices that we support personally are somehow an exception?

The fact that we’d eagerly snap up body parts at bargain basement prices rather shoots that claim in the foot. Given how many humans have taken a financial cut from the proceeds, how could we possibly claim that any defenceless individual had a great life if the price of their corpse is so pitiful? Well we could claim that, but only if we don’t think it through. For our victims every penny-pinching moment of their entire existence is financially optimised. We are deluding ourselves to consider otherwise

And the final point that needs to be made is this. That piece of dismembered infant may be obscenely touted to the rapacious consumers of our species for ‘half price’, but it was very far from that. For a terrified lamb, taken from their mother and subjected to the clanging stench of a slaughterhouse at only a few weeks old, ‘half price’ is meaningless. Our ‘bargain’ cost that baby all he had, all he will ever have, and we didn’t even need to do it.

Be vegan.

 

 

Posted in 'Happy' exploitation, Awakening to veganism, consumer demand, Harm reduction, welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment