The ‘In a nutshell’ series will attempt to summarise key issues and concepts about which I have previously written at length.
As a former vegetarian, I know from personal experience that a reluctance to eat ‘meat’ is the main motive for adopting a diet that excludes dead flesh. The irony is that uncounted billions of unnecessary deaths still happen in order to supply vegetarians with their dietary requirements as well as other substances and services that are not connected with diet. It should also be noted that none of the following uses are by-products of the ‘meat’ industry and none of them is essential for our health and well being.
I appreciate that some will read this and remain comfortable with being vegetarian; they may even spring to defend their actions as ‘a step in the right direction’. My only response to any who feel this way is that we each must live with our own conscience. I cannot comprehend a mind that is comfortable to absorb the information detailed here without feeling the desire to stop participating in it.
There will, however, undoubtedly be others, like I and so many of my vegan friends were, vegetarians who believe themselves to be ethical animal lovers, who will read it in the stunned horror that accompanies the sound of a huge ideological penny dropping. A previous essay about why veganism and vegetarianism are two very different things may be found in this link. Some may find it useful to be able to refer to the following list which is included within it.
The victims of vegetarianism
- All mammals brought into existence, confined and used for milk /cheese/ yoghurt/ ice cream/ butter production. Specifically;
- Infants who are taken away soon after birth to be killed as ‘waste’, as ‘veal’, grown for their dead bodies to become ‘meat’ or, if female, raised separately as replacements for their mothers;
- The mothers themselves, forcibly impregnated at regular intervals to keep milk flowing freely, anguished to have their calves removed very soon after birth to maximise their milk supply for human consumers;
- The mothers slaughtered for cheap ‘meat’ when their milk yield drops and they cease to be commercially viable;
- Male animals raised in confinement and used for the repeated extraction of semen required for the customary commercial practice of artificial insemination;
- Mammals used in this way include the cow, buffalo, goat, sheep, camel, donkey, horse, reindeer and yak and their infants.
- Any bird brought into existence and raised for egg production. Specifically;
- Their parents, confined in breeding facilities, producing vast quantities of fertilised eggs that are stored and incubated in drawers in hatcheries;
- Male chicks – a different variety from chicks raised for their flesh – approximately 7.4 billion of whom are killed annually on hatching by suffocation, gassing or maceration. Macerators are machines that turn live chicks into a bloody sludge which is subsequently used for such products as fertiliser and pet food;
- Female chicks who are de-beaked and confined, their reproductive systems manipulated to produce approximately 20 times the number of eggs their bodies are designed to bear until such time as their production declines and they cease to be commercially viable, whereupon they are slaughtered for cheap ‘meat’ (approximately 7.4 billion hens annually);
- Birds used for egg production include chickens, ducks, quail, turkeys, guinea fowl, pheasants, rhea, ostrich and geese.
- Any individual used for their skin and/or body coverings both in the domestic and import markets. This category includes leather, hide, fleece/wool, silk, fur and feathers. Specifically;
- All individuals stripped of their skin to supply leather. By no means a by-product of the flesh consumption industries, but rather a lucrative sideline or in some cases the main event, these include cows, pigs, calves, sheep, dogs, cats, goats, crocodiles, alligators, kangaroos, horses, ostriches, buffalo, oxen, yak, deer, snakes, emus and even many species of fish;
- All individuals brought into the world to be used for their wool. Sheep in particular have been selectively bred to over-produce wool while being exploited in every other way with the slaughterhouse being their only escape. Alpacas, llamas, camels and goats are also victims of this trade;
- All individuals brought into the world to be used for their feathers and down. As well as being considered a sideline of the leather industry – for example in the case of ostrich who are used for flesh and leather too, feathers are frequently plucked from the living bodies of our victims. Birds used in this way include chickens, geese, swans, ducks, ostrich, emus and others;
- All individuals used in the fur trade. Species used in this way include ox, rabbit, mink, muskrat, beaver, wolves, stoat (ermine), otter, sable, seals, cats, dogs, coyotes, foxes, chinchilla, bears, possum and others;
- It includes silk worms boiled alive for their cocoons or alternatively marketed as producers of ‘ahimsa’ silk having been selectively bred and altered in ways that result in their premature and horrific death;
- It includes rabbit angora, which is essentially fine fur plucked from the agonised and screaming bodies of living rabbits;
- It includes cashmere, mohair and goat angora, shorn, combed or plucked from goats, often kept in controlled confinement until slaughter becomes the most viable commercial option;
- It includes skins, termed ‘slink’ skins, of unborn infants, cut from their mothers’ wombs during slaughter. It should be noted that many dairy cows and also many sheep are pregnant – sometimes in the late stages of pregnancy – when taken to the slaughterhouse. Although statistics are hard to come by, it is accepted that the unborn infant may endure a lengthy and painful death either within the body of their mother while she is being beheaded and dismembered, or having been cut from her womb to be skinned or discarded as waste. Karakul, also termed Persian lamb is a type of lambskin most highly prized if the rightful owner was still an unborn foetus but still valued provided the infant owner was less than three days old;
- It includes bristles for brushes – frequently taken from pigs, badgers, mink, goats, horses or even squirrels.
- All individuals used for testing and vivisection by the chemical, drug and research markets. Although there is a popular myth that this practice is carried out only for ‘medical reasons’, this is a complete fantasy and the number tortured in this way worldwide continues to increase year on year. The species of the victims include cows, sheep, pigs, mice, rats, dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, horses, fish, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, even zebrafish, fruit flies, and worms.
All individuals whose body parts or secretions are used as ingredients in drugs, chemicals, toiletries, cosmetics or other non-food ‘products’. NOTE – The seductive term ‘cruelty free’ is used widely and consumers often imagine it means what it says. Occasionally it does, but very often it does NOT. It is unregulated and has no legal definition. In fact although there are high profile organisations that endorse consumer goods as ‘cruelty free’, in general this endorsement indicates only whether a substance has been tested on others. Goods labelled ‘cruelty free’ may actually contain ingredients derived from other animals, and may also have been tested for export markets. Only a label that specifies ‘no animal ingredients’ in addition to testing details, or alternatively ‘vegan’, is actually meaningful.Substances used include lanolin, chitin, collagen, keratin, musk, cochineal, royal jelly, horse urine, bear bile and others. The list of species exploited for their bodies and secretions includes sheep, various insects, spiders, crustaceans, various hoofed, horned and other mammals, bees, horses, deer and others.
- Substances include lanolin, chitin, collagen, keratin, musk, cochineal, royal jelly, horse urine, bear bile and others. The list of species exploited for their bodies and secretions includes sheep, various insects, spiders, crustaceans, various hoofed, horned and other mammals, bees, horses, deer and others.
- All bees used to produce honey.
- All individuals confined in an establishment or otherwise used for human ‘entertainment’. These include zoos, circuses, safari and sea life parks as well as a wide range of racing, fighting and baiting ‘sports’. I can’t even start to list the species affected in this way. Probably all of them.
Don’t believe any of the above, consider it’s way too far fetched? Please, please check Google. I did. I do. Often. And bear in mind as you do so that almost every single procedure will be presented to you by some as ‘humane’, followed by some justification that condemns critical examination of the actions as emotional or anthropomorphic or perhaps claims that the action is in the best interests of the victims. When you do see this assertion, all I ask is that you engage your common sense. It won’t fail you.
There are so many lives depending on us all. They are relying on the truth becoming known through the clarity of the vegan message with its focus on justice and an end to the needless violence of our species. Our victims are relying on the basic goodness in those humans whose breaking hearts say, ‘Enough. I will not be the cause of this injustice for one single day more.’ The way to stop being part of the injustice is to be vegan.
Please, say, ‘Enough.’ It’s simply the right thing to do.
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Excellent and very comprehensive list. I have to deal with so many vegetarians who still consider being vegan far too extreme because they think, as I used to, that milk and eggs harm no one. This is a tough message to get across to people who already think they have done enough. I feel the same about trying to get “animal lovers” of the rescue world, particularly the anti-dog meat campaigners, understand that adopting a dog from China does not absolve them of their daily participation in animal cruelty through their own consumption habits.
Thanks again for a great post!
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Hi, I’m one of them… the vegetarian who sometimes eat (organic) cheese.
But fortunately, I found out several tasty surrogates which please my taste! and so I’m switching to vegan cheese as well.
Finally, the problem is another: since many years I don’t buy any more products from the animal world but since I’m 60 yrs. old, my closet is full of wool sweaters, coats, and leather shoes… I hate to discharge these items since I still can wear them and actually I would feel worst to throw them away and replace with new ones in “friendly” material.
I’m okay with my hearth since I think that ethically seeing, my point of view avoids to create trash since I’m using old clothing.
What do you think about this?
Would you throw away clothing that you still can use to replace them with new ones?
This is a dilemma, ethical one even, which may open up a lot of discussions over many levels.
Have a lovely week :-)claudine
PS. I got to you reading Stacey’s post (our Compass).
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Dear Claudine – Thank you so much for taking the time to get in touch. I am delighted to hear that you are making the switch away from cheese made with breast milk. It’s great that you’ve found alternatives so quickly – it was not until I had been vegan for about 3 years that I eventually found plant ‘cheese’ that I liked – and it’s so encouraging to find more varieties are available in the shops every week! Being a couple of years older than you, I also relate completely to your dilemma about woollen / leather items. Having very little money, replacement of many items that I owned before becoming vegan was a huge issue for me, both from the avoidance of creating trash and also from a cost perspective.
As time went by and being vegan became automatic, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable even having non-vegan items in my possession. No matter how much I had once liked them, I simply could not feel comfortable using or wearing them and they were left on the shelves. Gradually old sweaters and jackets have become blankets for companion animals and leather items have simply been disposed of – mostly burned if I’m really honest – destroyed with whispered words to their rightful owners of my sincere regret for my thoughtless use.
When anyone asks me what I think they should do with a particular item, I always reply that the decision must be theirs. We each come to terms with this in our own way, and it is a salutary reminder that we cannot change our actions in the past. The question I have found it helpful to ask myself about such items is this: How would I feel about the item if it had been made from human skin, human hair or human body parts? This question always brings my doubts into focus.
You may find some food for thought in a couple of my other essays where I share my own experiences, ‘Thoughts about ‘waste”, and ‘Memories of leather and fur’. Please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can help with pointers to information. Very best wishes!
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Thank you so much for your honest and sincere answer. I’ll work on it, for sure… and I’ll contact you if I need help or if I have questions.
Hugs and a lot of serenity :-)claudine
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“I cannot comprehend a mind that is comfortable to absorb the information detailed here without feeling the desire to stop participating in it.” – This sums up my everyday feelings towards and about the people around me. I cannot comprehend them anymore.
Thanks for finding the right words for my feelings and for staying calm and controlled nonetheless.
Your blog keeps me sane in an insane world.
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Thanks as always for your encouragement, Susanne. There are many of us who feel the same way. It’s finding them that keeps me sane 🙂
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