It wasn’t always so, but the longer I advocate for the rights of the innocent victims of our species, the more difficult I find the festive season. In my usual way, I’ve tried to work out why this should be, because after all, today, as the year wanes, the world is no less vegan than it is at any other time of the year. Like everyone else, I am constantly surrounded by a culture that has normalised the most sickening brutality; a brutality that has been re-branded for uncritical consumers in such a way that the majority are not only oblivious, but in deep denial about their complicity with the bloodbath and stanch in their perception of themselves as ‘animal lovers’. I live in a society so entrenched in an endless bloodbath that they respond to the truth with outrage and aggression, so determined are they to pretend that it’s just not happening.
In a society where self-indulgence is positively encouraged, fictions about animal use are pushed incessantly by advertisers, those mercenary front men for the vast industries whose trade is in death, in pain, in violence and in breastmilk and eggs which are the torments of reproductive exploitation. These fictions tell consumers exactly what they want to hear. With a touch of ‘adult’ gloss and glamour we see repeated and re-framed the nonsense myths of childhood about ‘needing’ to use members of other species; about being ‘entitled’ to use them because of our ill-defined ‘superiority’; about how our victims don’t mind and even ‘cooperate’ in their exploitation.
It is little wonder that the majority of us find it difficult to explain where the roots of these ideas originate. They remain couched in the words of our childhood, lost in the mists of the past, honed throughout our development to adulthood by the encouragement of family and peers reassuring us by their actions that we’re ‘normal’. Finally, without even being aware of how we have been so profoundly and tragically corrupted, we become fully-fledged consumers, funders of terror and gore, complacent demanders of torment and violence, who screen their delicate sensibilities from the truth with a thick veil of utterly wishful thinking. Until the day we became vegan that is.
What’s different about the festive season?
So why is it that the festive season is so particularly hard – not just for me – but for many of my friends? Here we have a time of year when so many talk of ‘peace on earth’, silent, holy nights, of love and joy and goodwill, of giving and sharing and of the bonds of family and friendship. It’s a time of year when it might seem more rational than at other times to hold the belief that I cling to so desperately; that people are good at heart; that they do want peace, that they don’t want to cause harm, and pain, torment and violence to the innocent and defenceless.
The death knell of the Christmas bells
And then I see the shops with their mortuary aisles full of corpses; I see the milk, cheese and cream for which infants and their mothers were parted forever, the eggs that destroyed so many fragile lives in endless labour, the toiletries that burned out eyes and abraded skin. I look at the plush, shiny handbags and footwear that bear no trace of the existence of the hide pullers that wrenched off the skin, their raw materials, from the sickeningly agonised, quivering flesh of their owners. I see the horror that lies behind this season of self-delusion.
And I realise that for me, the distress of the season stems from a sense of missed opportunity. It’s grief. It’s sheer heartbreak to see that it’s all a charade; to know that it’s business as usual in the screaming, clanging, frantically scrabbling terror of the slaughterhouses. There’s no peace there. No silence. No love and no joy. Just the agents of a remorseless species of ‘animal lovers’ hacking their terrified victims to pieces to celebrate peace.
What do you say for a New Year wish?
I used to say things like ‘Merry Christmas’. I used to say things like ‘Happy New Year’. I can’t now. How can I find any ‘merriness’ or ‘happiness’ in the knowledge of how many innocent children of other species are paying with their lives for this magnificent and hollow charade?
I wish peace to friends and family alike. To those who are vegan, I can say that I understand what haunts their sleepless nights – it haunts my own. But we can’t give up, however much it hurts, because although we will not save over *seventy billion land based individuals, or the uncounted trillions of sentient aquatic creatures who will die horrific deaths for no reason in the coming year, by telling their tale we may eventually save their children from suffering the same brutal injustice as their parents.
To those who are not vegan, I wish you peace also. And I will continue until my dying breath to try to find the words to explain to you why real peace is vegan, so that you may step away from violent injustice and experience the reality of it.
Birds not specified elsewhere – 55,324,000
Buffaloes – 26,190,707
Camels – 2,445,235
Cattle – 302,018,862
Chickens – 65,847,411,000
Ducks – 3,056,103,000
Game animals – 655,978
Goats – 459,861,000
Geese and Guinea Fowl – 658,903,000
Horses – 4,784,491
Mules – 477,506
Other unclassified – 93,292
Other camelids – 944,671
Other rodents – 70,440,000
Pigs – 1,478,167,073
Rabbits – 980,785,000
Sheep – 551,420,651
Turkeys – 673,278,000
Total – 74,171,872,986