The things we say
All my life, I’ve heard people say, ‘I don’t believe in cruelty to animals‘ and ‘I love animals’. They’re like mantras that people repeat to each other, to reassure themselves and others that they’re good, kind people. I used to recite the same statements myself not so very long ago, which is how I know that what I’m about to say is true.
Each statement is an automatic utterance that bypasses any conscious awareness of action or consequence. It’s like saying ‘good morning’; it’s not tied into our thoughts or intentions, its simply a pleasantry, a social nicety. When we say ‘good morning’, we don’t consciously mean that anything about the morning is particularly ‘good’ or that we intend to take some sort of action that will result in the morning being ‘good’ to our audience. The same is true of ‘I don’t believe in cruelty to animals’ and ‘I love animals’.
I love animals
‘I love animals‘ generally translates as a declaration that we are particularly fond of an individual nonhuman family member (or perhaps more than one), and have perhaps had similar feelings for other nonhuman individuals in the past. For some it means that they have a fondness for a particular species. I would contend however that no one loves all animals of every species, in the same way that no one loves all people everywhere. The reason I highlight this phrase is to encourage any who have never questioned it, to consider it in more depth the next time they hear it. It is common ground for us all.
I don’t believe in cruelty to animals
‘I don’t believe in cruelty to animals’ is, however, a declaration that is particularly insidious in its utter failure to connect with our conscious mind. Its insidiousness arises from the salve it provides for our conscience, whilst our total disconnectedness allows us to continue to perpetrate atrocities that dwarf the worst horrors we have ever imagined. Whilst reciting this statement – and even believing it to be true – we go out into the world as consumers to create demand for the things we want to spend our money on. It is important to note this point, that consumer demand creates supply and that change does not come about because laws are made in the absence of social approval.
And what do we, as consumers, create demand for? We create demand every time we spend money. We buy clothing, toiletries and cleaning fluids, we buy furnishings and food and we entertain ourselves, and every item or service on which we spend our money creates a demand for that item or service to continue to be provided by someone seeking financial profit. Every time we spend money, we signal our demand, assure potential suppliers that there is money to be made from whatever we have bought, and someone will hasten to make as large a profit as possible from providing it.
Most people will be aware that the purchase of dismembered corpses creates demand for more dismembered corpses so I won’t dwell on that subject in this blog. I despise the word ‘meat’. It’s a word we hide behind to further ensure disconnection and minimise the risk that we may ever see in our mind’s eye the terrified eyes or listen in our awareness to the agonised whimpers of despair that preceded the ultimate degradation of an agonising and bloody death. Nevertheless, many people are already experiencing some level of discomfort about our consumption of the bodies of dead nonhumans, and as a vegan I am encouraged to see so many others walking a path that I once walked; that uncomfortable path we tread when we stop allowing ourselves to unquestioningly follow the current and start thinking critically for ourselves.
Toiletries and cleaning fluids
There are, however many other ways that we impact upon our world as consumers. Hence, if we buy toiletries or cleaning fluids that have been tested on helpless furred or feathered prisoners, we must be aware that the ‘testing‘, although perhaps not required in our own country, is most likely carried out by the large multinational companies to allow them to trade in countries that do require ‘testing’ by law. We should be aware that the testing does not reflect our own intended use of the product, but rather involves forced ingestion of large quantities, tests where fluids are dripped into terrified eyes until they are burned out and destroyed, substances mercilessly applied to shaved and abraded skin to determine the effect, and procedures limited only by the sickening inventiveness of our species. In most cases only death brings our victims release from the torment.
When, as consumers, we create demand for leather goods, we should be aware that leather is the flayed skin of a sentient being who did not want to die but was unable to prevent his or her needless killing at our hands. In some cases, he or she will have been alive to feel the agony of his or her skin being ripped off. We should be aware that the silky soft, fine leather we have all admired when made into gloves or clothing most likely did not come from a large being, that it may have come from a dog or a cat or rabbit, or even an unborn infant hacked from a dying mother’s womb in the slaughterhouse. Google ‘slink leather‘ if this seems beyond belief.
Milk and cheese
When we buy any milk or cheeses created from the milk of cows, sheep or goats to name a few, we are creating a demand for mother mammals to be forcibly impregnated to stimulate their milk flow so that their helpless bodies can be pumped dry daily by the cold steel machines humans created for the purpose. The babies are taken from their mothers, mostly at birth, and slaughtered outright, or else fed milk replacer and ‘grown’ for killing as veal or as replacement dairy slaves like their tormented mothers if they have the misfortune to be female.
When we buy eggs, then our consumer demand is ensuring that hatcheries will continue to incubate drawers full of eggs laid by unseen hens and fertilised by unseen roosters – an aspect few even consider – and these hatcheries will continue to sort the hopeful, peeping, bright-eyed infants shortly after birth, grinding all the males alive or throwing them in bins or bags to suffocate. We are ensuring that the reproductive processes of billions of mother hens (so called for good reason) and other mother birds like turkeys, ducks and geese will be hijacked and abused to satisfy consumer demand for a ‘product’ that leads to the slaughterhouse for the unconsenting feathered provider and the hospital for the consumer along a route providing income for the ‘poultry farmer’.
And the list goes on
These are simply a few examples, and our use of other beings is limited only by our imagination, not by any moral restraint that I have been able to discern. In fact, there is absolutely no ‘product’ that we can obtain from the bodies of other beings that does not come at a price that the majority choose to disregard. It is also worth noting that we cannot morally claim any exceptional circumstances that exclude our own personal role in these atrocities. Even if, by some miracle, we have stumbled upon a creature who can and does communicate exclusively to us, his or her desire to be used as a machine to provide us with a continuing source of breastmilk, or eggs or dead flesh, our use is perpetuating the notion that the bodies and lives of others are ours to use and ours to take at will. What we fancifully imagine to be the ‘best’ of situations will always drive the very worst of horrors because all animal use, being completely unnecessary, is motivated by profit and someone will always want more of that.
In short, we take without consent absolutely everything a sentient being has, including his or her very life, in return for our indulgent, unnecessary and unthinking choices as consumers who could very easily choose alternatives that cause no harm.
Those who traffic in the lives of these helpless innocents work hard to keep our focus on how they treat our victims, and they are doing sterling work in convincing consumers that there are ‘humane’, ‘welfare approved’, ‘free range’, cage free’, ‘compassionate’ ways to salve consciences and continue to stimulate demand. However the real issue here is NOT how we treat our victims – the real issue is that we have victims at all. All of it is unnecessary, and we must recognise this.
Saying what we mean
‘I don’t believe in cruelty to animals’ takes on a whole new meaning when we allow ourselves to consider the extent to which our society is built upon the inherent cruelty that exists in a system that considers sentient beings to be ‘things’, property, commodities and ingredients. Such a system is built on violence and upon unfounded and deluded notions of entitlement that do not withstand scrutiny.
The bottom line is that every nonvegan ‘product’ leads to premature death, very often in the stench and gore of the slaughterhouse for the helpless and vulnerable creature from whom it was forcibly taken. The feel-good words are just that. Meaningless sounds that mask the sickening truth that we, as a species that likes to pride itself on being ethical and moral, are unnecessarily murdering about 75 billion land animals and uncounted trillions of aquatic beings annually for ‘food’, and using uncounted millions each year for a myriad other purposes without giving them a second thought. And all the while we congratulate ourselves on how ‘good’ we are. So the next time you hear someone say, ‘I don’t believe in cruelty to animals’, think about what it really means. If we talk the talk, then as consumers we should also walk the walk – and that means becoming vegan.
We can all make a difference
Never be tempted to think that as one person your impact is negligible because that could not be further from the truth. Simply by becoming vegan and by setting an example of what living truly means when we don’t believe in cruelty – we are making a difference.
Live in line with your values and discover true peace of mind. And if you seek out ways to share the vegan message, you will have truth and honesty on your side. They are powerful allies.