The word ‘exploitation’ is frequently used in connection with our behaviour towards those of species other than our own. I sometimes feel it’s a word we save specially for this circumstance, perhaps without truly considering its meaning. However almost every one of us is familiar with the word ‘user’. There are several definitions, but focusing on the one defined below, the word is rarely uttered unless it is in a tone laden with contempt.
User: – exploiter, user, selfish person
usage: a person who uses something or someone selfishly or unethically
Many of us have personal and unforgettable experience of feeling ‘used’ in some way or another; even more of us have sympathised with, comforted or supported other people who have experienced this at the hands of others. Few of us are in any doubt that this behaviour is beneath contempt, particularly as the using frequently involves a betrayal of trust, with subsequent humiliation and degradation. Do we all choose not to be used by others or are there exceptions?
- Is it acceptable to use someone who is too innocent or young or vulnerable to realise what is being done?
- Is it acceptable to use someone because they do not understand our intention as they do not speak the same language as ourselves?
- Is it acceptable to use someone because we can physically overpower them?
- Is it acceptable to use someone whom we consider for some reason to be less intelligent than ourselves?
- Is it acceptable to use someone about whom we do not know – or pretend not to know – sufficient to understand their needs, their desires or their preferences?
- Is it acceptable to use someone because we feel like it, even though we have absolutely no need to do so?
Our instinct is most likely to say ‘no’ to all of the above when we consider a human in the role of ‘someone’. What does it say about us if, when we substitute an individual of another species in the role of ‘someone’, our responses change? This is, in fact, an illustration of our speciesism and it is not an admirable quality.
Humans have no need to consume or use in any way the bodies, the reproductive processes or the lives of individuals of different species. We have no need to cause harm. However, those of us who are not vegan are undoubtedly users in every one of the contexts described above. Being nonvegan and being a user are the same thing.
And helpless, innocent individuals are the losers every time.
In fact there are millions of them, trembling with fear and horror at this very moment, overwhelmed with desperation as they wait their turn in slaughterhouses everywhere; millions out of the billions who will take their place this year alone.
We use their bodies, we use their skins and body coverings, we use their eggs, we use their lactation, we use their lives, their only, treasured, irreplaceable lives. We use and we take and we destroy without stopping to consider by what justification we claim the right to the outrage of the careless bloodbath we promote. We use them up. We take from them every single thing that we value in our own lives and we use it up. And what’s more, we do it needlessly without any moral justification whatsoever.
Most of us were raised to be practised in the art of self-deception, using others for the flimsiest of reasons that we somehow never challenged, clinging to our self-deceiving fantasies of being ‘animal lovers’ as a front for the nightmare of our true behaviour. We even try to claim that there are ‘humane’ ways that we can be users, trying to pretend that using and abusing are somehow not the same. The day we approach the mirror with honesty in our heart is not an easy day for any of us. None of us likes looking in a mirror and seeing a user. However once we do, we realise that the only acceptable thing we can do is make the decision to stop.
Being vegan means we start to live in line with the values we have always claimed to hold; we stop being users, harming and betraying the innocent and vulnerable. Find peace of mind, be vegan.