A week to go and festive shops are reaching fever pitch. Freezers in the mortuary aisles are piled high, while stacks of roasting trays and tins are on special offer in prominent displays.
Smiling, laughing gatherings in adverts, banners and TV successfully normalise glistening corpses on groaning tables; pitiful remains slathered in processed breast milk that we have been taught not to think about (‘it’s just butter, right’?) with stuffing (well what of it?) Again, we ignore the fact that this is the ground up body parts of other defenceless individuals who didn’t want to die. ‘Oh for goodness sake! These vegans! No sense of humour. Always obsessed with what everyone else is eating!’ But it’s not ‘what’ is being eaten that’s the issue; it’s who is being hurt and harmed. Eating is only a part of the problem.
One supermarket is advertising that ‘however you do Christmas; we have a turkey for you’. I can’t understand how I used to miss the insidious manipulation of messages like these. No supermarket has a turkey for the way a vegan does Christmas. No supermarket has a turkey who’s alive, who’s healthy and respected, one who is joyfully chatting and curious and hoping for a hug.
The shops have sections where we can buy ‘gifts from Santa’ for the cats and dogs who share our homes; new collars, new toys, new beds and festive ‘treats’, all presented with the sparkle of tinsel and a jingle of bells. At the same time, rescues are struggling to cope with the overload of discarded individuals, abandoned to make room for new kittens, new puppies. Millions will die in shelters. When they’re sitting there, desperately hoping that their humans will come back for them, I wonder if they remember all the times they were told they were ‘such a good lad’, or ‘my sweet princess’? The wondering breaks my heart. Bewildered, afraid, starving, and reviled as ‘pests’ and ‘strays’, there are cats, dogs and others of the species that we consider to be ‘pets’ dying without shelter in our sub-zero temperatures while we all still nurse this illusion of ourselves as ‘animal lovers’.
So here it is
So, here it is again, the festive season. I thought it would get easier with the passage of time but it doesn’t. I find myself reflecting on the posts and comments of so many who have chosen to be vegan.
This festive season will be my sixth since the day in 2012 that I decided that I had to stop paying for others to hurt defenceless creatures for my consumer demands. I have never, not even for a moment, regretted that decision and I know I never shall, although a dozen times and more each day, I wish with all my heart that I had made it sooner.
I find that here on this sixth festive season as a vegan, I have become excruciatingly aware of just how isolating veganism can be, when most of those who surround us are not only not vegan themselves, but are flaunting the violence of their consumer choices with animal parts and skins, toiletries and gifts. Their martyred air is hard not to notice, while they tolerate and ‘accommodate’ what so many view as the dietary and other eccentricities of their vegan friends and family members.
What do we actually want?
And yet, my concern is not whether there will be a vegan option on a menu if I choose to go out. My concern is not whether I may receive gifts that have been derived through harming defenceless members of other species. My concern is not even that I may spend much of the festive season alone, because I actually prefer the isolation, crave it as an escape.
Yes, I admit that I find myself seeking refuge from the feeling of being surrounded, hemmed in close by humans celebrating silent, holy nights, peace, love and joy in an orgy of consumer spending that has at its heart the almost undiluted misery of desperate creatures whose only crime is that they are not human.
There was never any silence or holiness in the places where their pitiful lives were ‘farmed’; in the labs where their skin was abraded, their eyes burned out, and poisons forced down their throats. No joy ever came out from a slaughterhouse along with the corpses, the skins, the bones and the gore.
A peaceful festive season is vegan, and here at home, like so many others, I try to pull up the drawbridge. Within these walls, even though I still love some who are not vegan, for a few short hours or days I try to cut off the seasonal clamour and the horror that flows through it with a stench of death and defilement.
As the years roll by, I realise that being vegan is not something I do – if it ever was. Vegan is who I am; it’s everything that there is to say about me. Like many of us, all I really want for Christmas is for those who think we’re eccentric adherents of a restrictive diet, to take the time to find out what it actually means to be vegan. I cherish the hope that they’ll realise how closely it fits with the values they hold themselves. And then I wish them peace.