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.

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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.

 

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EVERY picture tells a story

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

A common criticism of the images I show on the majority of my blog and social media posts, is that the individuals portrayed are seldom ‘obviously’ suffering. I’m often told we need to show individuals who are clearly hurt, distressed and in the kind of environment that many associate with being ‘worse’ than others; that only those individuals in ‘factory’ farm environments should be shown because otherwise no one will understand the message.

I’ve even faced many accusations of using ‘photoshopped’ images of individuals that are ‘made to look as if they have expressions on their faces’. That’s a comment that reveals a lot about the one who makes it…

Just for the record, it’s not the case and I would never knowingly use such an image. There is no need to falsify images that show the response of our victims to the brutality of our use of them. What it takes is for a gifted photographer to see the personality behind the numbered tag and the camera has no need to lie. The fact that these are not the type of images used in the media by peddlers of body parts, eggs and milk is hardly to be wondered at, when their trade relies on consumers remaining oblivious to the real feeling individuals behind the ‘products’ on sale in the mortuary aisles of our supermarkets.

So in this blog I’d like to share thoughts about images, and explain why I choose as I do.

The horror show

First of all, I am well aware that there are a great many pages and sites that share horrific images and there’s no shortage of sources of these to choose from. At any moment of the day, previously seen photos and videos can pop unbidden into my thoughts, pictures that break me every single time I stumble across them. These are the images that come to me in the early hours when sleep eludes me; the ones that make me howl tears of rage at the darkness, the ones that swamp me with despair for my species and lift the lid from the simmering shame in my soul at the knowledge that every nonvegan choice I ever made was an atrocity.

Did these images shock me when I first saw them? I thought I was an animal lover so yes, definitely.
Did they make me want to do ‘something’? Oh yes. They made me want to protest and complain. And donate. Definitely donate, because so often that was the whole purpose of the image – to solicit donations.
Did they teach me that all use of others was unnecessary and harmful? No.
Did they make me realise that the only way to avoid being the actual cause of the horrors I was seeing, was to become vegan? No. They absolutely did not. And therein lay a major flaw.

A reminder of prejudice

I’d like for a moment to remind readers of the word ‘speciesism’.  Speciesism, in the simplest terms, is a prejudice whereby we modify our attitude and behaviour towards other individuals depending solely on their species. In practice, speciesism results in the denial or withholding of rights to other individuals, based on this arbitrary distinction. In the same way that racism differentiates unfairly on the basis of race, sexism on the basis of gender, ableism on the basis of physical ability, speciesism differentiates unfairly on the basis of species.  We’ve all seen the convoluted explanations that are dredged up; ‘intelligence’, ‘less awareness’ ‘bred for eating/eggs’milk’ , ‘human superiority’ etc. Regardless of whatever complex explanations we invent to attempt to make our own behaviour sound acceptable to others, and significantly to ourselves, they all boil down to the same thing. We are asserting that our interests – whatever they may be – are more important than theirs, and we have brute force and technology on our side.

Most of us don’t consider it acceptable to inflict unnecessary harm on our fellow humans under any circumstances. We would certainly be disgusted and outraged to find someone who considered it acceptable to harm and kill other people simply because they seemed less intelligent, or because their physical or mental abilities were somehow compromised, or because of their nationality or gender and so on. Yet every one of these is a frequent ‘justification’ for animal use expressed by apparently intelligent people who seem completely unaware of the slightest trace of irony in their words.

However no one needs to read my explanations to know the truth of speciesism. All any of us needs to do is examine our own thoughts. All we ever need to do is imagine a human in the place of any nonhuman individual under discussion, and whatever prejudice we have is illuminated in the spotlight of our own conscience.

Speciesism in action

Anyway, to bring this back to the subject in hand, I hope that there are certain behaviours towards humans that we can all agree are absolutely wrong. Behaviours that spring to mind are the many varieties of physical, mental or sexual violence, deliberate harm and killing perpetrated against any other human individual.

Now imagine if I were to make a social media post about humans saying ‘Killing is wrong’ or ‘Rape is wrong’. Would readers find it impossible to relate to the truth of the statement unless confronted with a graphic image of someone dying in a pool of blood or perhaps a person desperately attempting to fight off a rapist? I think we all know the answer to that.

To continue the analogy, if the chosen illustrations for this imaginary post were to show people engaging in normal activities, going about their lives, would there be a clamour of comments pointing out that as the victims don’t look hurt or distressed, it’s clearly wrong to make sweeping statements about violence, killing or violation? Would everyone conclude that in some cases it’s probably fine and does no real harm? Would we see remarks about humane killing and humane rape, comments about ‘everything in moderation’ and those seeking support for their own ‘occasional’ killings and rapes? I think we all know the answer to that one too.

And yet, when images that illustrate the individuality, the emotions, the facial and body-language expressiveness of our victims, qualities that are there for any who care to look, are shown alongside words that explain that our actions towards them are both unnecessary and harmful, it is not uncommon for these images to be criticised. This criticism frequently concludes that as these individuals don’t look hurt or distressed, it’s clearly wrong for me to make sweeping statements about violence, killing or violation; in fact ‘in some cases it’s probably fine’, and ‘everything in moderation’?  There are always comments from those seeking justification and support for their own particular variety of use. This is the reality of what happens, as I know only too well from what now amounts to several years of observing online reactions.

The path where our speciesism leads us

When harm to a human is being discussed, we don’t need to see a graphic illustration of blood, pain, terror, grief, distress, despair and devastating loss to be able to understand that causing another to experience any of these reactions is unacceptable. We have no speciesist barriers to our understanding that these reactions will be the inevitable consequence of certain actions towards humans.

When harm in the form of these same actions towards an individual of another species is being discussed, and despite our knowing full well that the individual shares with us the quality of sentience that renders them capable of emotion, pain, and a desperate desire to avoid pain and continue to live, many not only demand to see their degradation and distress, but more worryingly, in the absence of blood, gore and pleading on the part of our victims, conclude that there’s no problem with what’s being done and take it as vindication of their participation in it.

This one is a no-win situation for the victims in any case, because even when presented with imagery that illustrates that degradation and distress, blood, gore and pleading, there is a tendency for many to dismiss it as coincidental and not indicative of the same experience that would affect a member of our own species in the same circumstances. Or alternatively it’s shrugged off as an exceptional or extreme case that deviates from the norm. A norm that we assume is perfectly fine. Why? Perhaps because to recognise this truth would make us monsters in our own eyes, and our conscience would demand that we review our own role in the nightmare.

So, on seeing these horrific pictures and videos, the conclusion that many people arrive at, is that the problem is about how these victims are being treated; that the problem wouldn’t exist if they were being treated in some way ‘better‘ or if they were accommodated in some other kind of environment.

This view that many of us held, and which is hard to completely shake off, reveals the speciesism inherent in our perspective. Probably as a result of our shared upbringing, our delusion that we ‘love animals’ and the cultural norm that ignores the horrific brutality of nonveganism, it unfortunately does not seem to be a natural conclusion for people to reach; that it is the fundamental use that is the problem, rather that the where when and how that use takes place. Again I’m drawing from my own experience here. I was a nonvegan ‘animal activist’ (yeah I know, and I wasn’t alone) for years before I had the light-bulb moment that made me vegan. That moment happened as a result of becoming educated and aware that all use is unnecessary and harmful to our victims and that there was only one way to stop causing the things I was fighting against.

Faces and eyes and the message we must learn to understand

So yes, the shocking images MAY awaken a spark of awareness and interest in those who see them, but they don’t tell the whole story by any stretch. It is not necessarily enough to see the gore because that seldom, if ever, leads to veganism. In the majority of us, it leads to an assumption that things wouldn’t be ‘so bad’ if they were done in a ‘nicer’ way. We see this ‘awareness’ enacted everywhere, by throngs of people who have never heard of veganism but consider themselves to be conscientious animal lovers while unknowingly paying, as I did, for the very things that they are fighting against.

What is needed is education about veganism. It seems to me that the only way that we can achieve a real and lasting end to our unnecessary use of our fellow earthlings, is by becoming aware of their interest in their lives and the complete absence of any necessity for us to deny them their right to that life that is theirs by birth. In order to clearly understand our shared sentience, and to be able to understand the trauma of other sentient individuals in the same way that we do with our fellow humans, we really need to see past the faceless statistics that they represent to our nonvegan eyes.

And this is why, in the imagery I use, I seek always to show the individual behind the utter degradation of the circumstances in which they have been placed as the defenceless and innocent victims of our self-interest. Once we look for the personality in the frame, its hard not to see the dignity that is there so often, despite the crushing reality of an existence where no one cares who they are, but only about the commercial value of what use can be taken from them.

We see some faces that depict their abject despair, their soul destroying misery. In some faces we see hope in a gaze shining with innocence, or we see bewilderment and sadness. Once we see our victims as individuals, once we can look into a face where we can clearly see an expression that each of us can recognise, or when we see body language that we can easily identify, we can begin to shed the speciesism that has blighted the life of each of us. For me, in all honesty, a face full of futile hope on a slaughterhouse truck can break my heart. I ask others to see that same face and feel that same grief.

Once we shed our speciesism, that’s the path that leads to veganism. When we look and automatically see members of other species as unique individuals with minds and hopes, thoughts and fears exactly as we do ourselves, harming them becomes unthinkable;  participating in and paying for their misery becomes a distressing memory that we are only too glad to leave in our past.

Look into the faces. Look behind their eyes. They are not ‘voiceless’, they are talking to us with their eyes and their body language; they are screaming, we’re just not listening. Be vegan.

 

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

In a nutshell: why all egg use is inhumane

The problems faced by all egg-laying hens are not caused by their environment, but by the very bodies that have been created by humans. Their bodies are the result of years of selective breeding to maximise egg production for human interests. This selective breeding has escalated egg laying by each individual bird to 250 – 300 a year from the original annual total of 12 – 15 by the wild relatives from whom she has been developed.

Hens, like all of the victims of our every nonvegan consumer choice, are sentient individuals, each one with her own mind and thoughts, her own individuality, her own unique personality and preferences.

The prison than none can escape

Yet every single hen is locked within a prison.
That prison, that none can escape, is so much more insidious than the battery, the cage, the barn, the shed or the free-range, feel-good, family farm in which her use as an egg-layer takes place.
Every single hen remains locked within her individual prison, even in the ‘backyard’ setting; that ‘backyard’ so often extolled and promoted by those who continue to take the eggs from these gentle little birds; that fairy tale place that is mentioned in comments by those contradicting explanations of why eggs can never be ‘humane’ on every social media article I’ve ever read.
Her prison is completely inescapable, no matter how ‘loved’ she is, no matter how ‘free’ she is mistakenly thought to be, no matter how ‘wonderful’ the life that even her users would undoubtedly wish her to have.
For every single egg laying hen, her own body is her prison.

We hear from time to time that “happy hens lay eggs.”
No, all hens lay eggs. They lay eggs in cages, they lay eggs in ammonia-filled sheds, they lay eggs on their very deathbeds, because they have been genetically programmed to do so.
And we humans are still working on breeding ever more efficient egg-laying machines. Hens who lay earlier, with smaller bodies; Who require less food to pump out even bigger eggs. Hens who don’t take even a single break to renew their feathers (a natural and healthy process in birds–but one which requires the cessation of laying). We are still trying to squeeze every last penny we can out of their broken little bodies.

~ Eggs Hurt

The heartbreak of sanctuary

There are vegans who rescue hens from use as egg-layers, who offer them sanctuary and a life free from harm, with the freedom and the companionship of their own kind so enjoyed by these sociable birds.  Time and again, each rescuer faces the inevitable heartbreak of helplessly witnessing death part them from those whom they care for as the special and valued friends that they are.

Each rescuer faces a battle they know they’re unlikely to win. Despite feeding her eggs back to her to replace her body’s depleted nutrients and despite providing the best medical care that can be found, few if any rescued individuals will be unaffected by the consequences of our genetic meddling; few if any, will enjoy the health that should be their birthright. Most die young, their pitiful little bodies ravaged by disease and wracked with pain.

I have seen the light go out of too many eyes. Every one of them struggles to hold onto their precious only life, right until their last breath. A vegan world is only the starting point; our goal must be their freedom from us.

~ Sandra Higgins, Director, Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary and Go Vegan World

Not ours, not food

Every egg that is consumed by humans, regardless of where it was laid, perpetuates the use of eggs as an appropriate ‘food’ for humans. It is neither appropriate nor necessary.
Every egg use in which we participate, regardless of where the egg was laid, is predicated on a mistaken assumption that we have a right to take what is clearly not ours, no matter how we seek to justify and excuse that action.
Every egg use in which humans participate, is a statement that we consider it acceptable to use other sentient individuals as nothing more than a resource, and is a stamp of approval for others to do so.
Every egg use in which humans participate, ensures that because eggs are viewed as an appropriate ‘food’ for our species, there will continue to be a demand for these defenceless little individuals to be born into the treacherous bodies that humans have created for them.

Human nature being what it is, it doesn’t matter how individuals seek to claim ‘exceptional circumstances’ to cover their own personal exploitation, egg production will continue on the current commercial scale because this is most economically advantageous for a supply industry driven by consumer demand. That demand will continue until consumers, as individuals, take responsibility for their own actions and decide they no longer wish to participate in the unspeakable practice of egg use, with the unthinkable violence and atrocities that are an inherent part of the whole concept.

Will current breeds become extinct?

Often used as an attempt to justify the continuation of current use, will current breeds become extinct when egg use by our species stops and a vegan world dawns?

Do we truly need to ask whether these innocent victims, these man-made creations who are powerless to escape the atrocity of their self-destructive bodies,  should be allowed to die out?

But since the question is frequently asked, I’ll answer. Yes. I hope with all my heart that our victims will one day be allowed to become extinct. It’s the only way they can ever escape the agony of what we have done to them and for me the day cannot come quickly enough.

Be vegan.

 

Links for further information: –

Posted in 'Happy' exploitation, eggs, In a nutshell, What is the problem with using eggs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

False hopes and misunderstanding ‘welfare’

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

All the regulations that lay down ‘welfare’ requirements for animals being unnecessarily used by humans (and all uses fall into this category) are designed with a single purpose. So what is that purpose? All we need to do is use common sense and think critically about it.

Just to clarify what ‘welfare’ means

As a species, the indisputable reason for all our breeding, raising, milking, egg taking and killing of these sentient individuals is for us to use them. This use is predicated on our assumption that our trivial interests are more important than their rights to live unharmed. In other words, the basic premise is that they simply don’t matter enough to be allowed to live. They are regarded as resources, commodities, commercial assets and nothing more. In order to do what we do without seeming like monsters in our own eyes, we have to delude ourselves that they have NO importance, NO feelings and NO interest in their lives.

Given that this absolutely must be the case in order for all our use of them to occur, it is at best naïve to think that any regulations, including those that misleadingly use the word ‘welfare’ in their description, are in ANY way designed to protect the feelings, wellbeing or individual integrity or autonomy of these ‘resources, commodities and commercial assets’. Indeed, any lessening of the level of torment to which our victims are subjected is purely coincidental because the purpose of ‘welfare’ regulations is to safeguard the commercial value of those who are deemed to be resources, commodities and assets. It’s not about the animals. It’s about those who consider themselves to be their OWNERS, those who have a financial interest in their exploitation. These ‘owners’ change as our victims go though the processing that converts each one from living, breathing individual to an assortment of packages on shelves somewhere, but essentially all ‘welfare’ regulations are designed purely to protect the interests of these owners.

Pause for reflection

Before I continue, I’d like to share a memory of my own that occurred just as I was writing this.  It dates back to the days before I was vegan yet considered myself to be an aware and ethical consumer. I look back on that time with complete incomprehension; what on earth was I thinking?! My ignorance would be laughable if it were not for the tragedy that every single non-vegan choice that I made in my everyday life was actually causing horrors as bad as and worse than the majority of things I so vociferously protested about. But anyhow. I digress.

I used to follow – and contribute to – a number of groups that used issues such as  CCTV, fur, circus, live export (opposition to which I’ve since heard appropriately referred to as being in favour of ‘kill ’em and chill ’em’) to raise funds. These funds were apparently used partly to pay their career activist staff, and partly to create images and films of breaches in ‘welfare’ regulations.

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

During this time before I was vegan these groups fed me a constant diet of horrific imagery that led me to seriously believe that these breaches in the regulations were not only commonplace but were what we should all be fighting to oppose. And oppose them I did, while I also wore, used domestic and personal hygiene products, and consumed a diet consisting of the torment of these same victims. These groups never even mentioned veganism or if they did it must have been on a back page somewhere or at the end of a long list of possible options that I might like to consider after coughing up cash for their coffers. If they mentioned veganism I honestly never took note of it. My use and consumption of animals, their milk, eggs and body parts continued unchecked, and in some areas increased, so reassured was I by the praise and gratitude that these groups sent my way for ‘all that I was doing to help make the world a more compassionate place’. In no way did it ‘raise my awareness’ in a manner that led me to become vegan. Only vegan advocacy did that. Now I feel ill to think I fell for such a transparently cynical line.

When I write of the danger of misinforming consumers and encouraging them to feel ‘ethical’ without stressing that the only ‘ethical’ use is NO use, and ‘no use’ means veganism, I’m talking from personal experience. I’m relating the experience of the many other vegans who share this memory; the many other vegans who, like me, would give anything to go back and find out about veganism on the very first day they realised that nonhuman animals are harmed by human ones.

The purpose of monitoring

So to continue, once we shift our focus away from the idea that ‘welfare’ means anything to do with concern for the feelings, wellbeing, or autonomy of our victims, we begin to see things in a totally different light.

The recent announcement of compulsory CCTV in English (as opposed to UK)  slaughterhouses is a classic example of a measure that may be considered to be an attempt to reassure ‘concerned’ consumers (like I used to be) about ‘welfare standards’.  I have no doubt at all that those who do not think critically about this strategy will be duped by what I see as a cynical ploy, and the only predictable effect of such a measure will be a likely increase in consumption of animals, their eggs, secretions and body parts.

I cannot for a moment imagine what anyone could possibly think that CCTV in slaughterhouses might be used for. Apart from anything else a recent article quotes a Food Standards Agency rep as saying, ‘We see CCTV as an invaluable management tool for business owners to help with compliance with official controls and to improve animal welfare standards across the industry.’ In this, at least, they are being honest. It’s a management tool.

Regulation breaches lead to ‘damaged goods’ which costs money.  Regulation breaches may result in unhygienic practices where there may be health risks to staff and consumers leading to lost revenue and costs.  Regulation breaches increase the considerable risks of personal injury to staff and operatives, as well as equipment damage. Costs. Breaches of regulations can lead to prosecutions by food standards inspectors and others, and the availability of CCTV footage may permit longer time periods to be monitored and inspected by, I’d guess, fewer staff resulting in cost savings. Breaches of regulations can lead to unfavourable publicity that results in loss of consumer confidence with potential loss of revenue. And the list continues. Follow the money.

What CCTV is absolutely NOT, is any sort of ‘awareness raising’ mechanism installed by the animal harming industries and their governing and partnering bodies, to show the general public the enormity of the processes that they are carrying out and thus discourage consumption.

False hopes

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

From reading the ‘step in the right direction’ and ‘raising awareness’ comments, it seems that there is some idea on social media that people will be able to tune in and view slaughterhouse footage, and that this will, in some unfathomable way, ‘raise awareness’. Apart from the fact that this is not the intent of these systems and there is scarcely the remotest possibility that they will be available for public viewing any more than the security CCTV of your average factory or parts warehouse, what on earth would anyone hope for others to see on the CCTV?

Even the most unaware consumer of animal derived substances must surely be ‘aware’ that animals are killed in slaughterhouses. There’s no need for CCTV to prove that.

Is it hoped that CCTV will reveal wall-to-wall breaches in regulations? I was certainly encouraged in the past to believe such a thing was most likely the case. Now I don’t consider that, and I realise we have no knowledge of the statistical frequency of regulatory breaches. I have no doubt that they occur as in an other industry, however the issues that I discuss on a daily basis seek to address the fundamental atrocity of all use and all killing.

Even done by the book, slaughter of sentient individuals who don’t want to die and fight with every ounce of strength they possess to stay alive, is a messy, violent business.  It doesn’t look nice. It is noisy, gory and stomach-churningly horrific. Who in their right mind would want to sit glued to a real-time-slaughter-cam? If they were looking to view ‘nice’ killing; compassionate’ slaughtering; placid, unperturbed individuals cheerfully raising their heads to offer their throats for slitting; calm, unconcerned children of other species tranquilly gazing at the camera whilst being stunned, they would definitely be disappointed.

Maybe some are hoping for close-ups to confirm that individuals are actually dead while their hooves are being sawn off, while their bellies are being sliced open so that their steaming organs and still-trembling entrails can slither out; that they’ve actually stopped struggling while their hides are being torn off?

To think that we have such a thing called a slaughterhouse, where people are employed to grab an animal, use electric prods to force it (he/she) to go where they want, to jam bolts in their heads, to slice their throats, hang them from chains and watch them die as blood drips out of their throats and legs kick desperately.  To think that even exists – in the numbers that it does – we’re not talking about a few ‘bad people’ that do that… we’re talking about this is the norm!  If we can’t stop and look at that and say ‘Holy crap! What have we done?’. If we can’t face that we will not be able to face anything.

~ David G Coles, author of The Insanity of Humanity

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

The point that I seek to make is that it is extremely unlikely that the advent of industry systems to enforce industry regulations are going to help our victims one little bit.

The fundamental atrocity is that we consider that slaughtering other individuals is acceptable.

In the end, defenceless individuals go in to a slaughterhouse, they die, they come out in pieces in a refrigerated vehicle.

That won’t change and that’s the problem. We harm or we don’t. We kill or we don’t. We use or we don’t.

It is that situation on which we must focus. As advocates, we are betraying those billions who need us to be clear on their behalf every time we suggest there is a grey middle area where the fundamental atrocity may be enacted in a more acceptable way.

Be vegan.

 

Posted in Advocacy, welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A vegan parable

If any one of us were to encounter someone who considered they were a nice person, but who liked to drown puppies and kittens, who had done this all their life and was clearly going to carry doing it for ever more, what would we do?

Would we say, ‘Why not try to drown fewer puppies and kittens?’ or ‘don’t drown puppies’, or maybe ‘don’t drown kittens’? Might we even suggest they find a different method to kill puppies and kittens; or do it in a different place? Might we campaign for better regulations to deal with how puppies and kittens should be killed?

OR

Would we say, ‘Stop this! There is no need for you to drown puppies and kittens. In fact there is no need for you to harm any other individuals because they are exactly like us in every way that matters. Stop because it makes them suffer pain and fear just as we would. Stop because there is nothing that we need that can justify taking the lives of other individuals who value those lives and don’t want to die.’

Having heard our words, would our audience stop drowning puppies and kittens? Maybe. There’s a chance they would do exactly what we asked. There’s a chance they would carry on exactly as before. There’s equally a chance that they would seek to rationalise their actions in their own mind but would cut back on their destructive behaviour in some way.

The point is that, on being asked to change their behaviour, while the actions they would take depend entirely on the character of the individual, when we clearly advocate veganism, we ensure that those who inflict harm are made aware of the reasons why their actions are unacceptable – even by their own standards as people who think of themselves as ‘nice’. This knowledge may plant a seed that will inspire change in the future.

The species harmed by our actions when we are not vegan are no different to the puppies and kittens that we would instinctively seek to protect.  Our victims are sentient, unique individuals and they value their lives. They share bonds with their families and friends. They do not want to die and yet they are defenceless against our brute force, technology and the implements by which we subjugate them to our will.

Only if we clearly call for an end to unnecessary harm, is there is a chance that the harm will end. Only if we advocate and educate about veganism will those who harm nonhuman animals be aware that their actions are unnecessary and harmful. And we owe every single one of our desperate, defenceless victims nothing less.

Be vegan and ask for veganism. Because asking for anything less is a sell out.

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