This depressingly common statement appeared recently on a friend’s page in response to a post. It’s been lingering on my mind ever since because variations on ‘that doesn’t apply in every case, there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’, are a very common retaliation used by those seeking to defend, justify and solicit approval for their use of members of other species. It is an attempt to invalidate what is being said on the basis that someone, somewhere, claims there is an exception to whatever is being stated.
‘The way I use animals is different from the way that everyone else does it’
- That only happens in ‘factory’ farms / in ‘other’ countries
- That may happen in some places but not in this country (wherever) / not the animals I use / not where I buy ‘my’ meat/milk/eggs/honey/ leather/ silk/ make-up/toiletries/ cleaning materials / not when you buy from ‘local‘ farms / not when you keep your own hens / not when you buy organic / free-range / local etc.’
The list of ‘exceptional circumstances’ used to seek to justify or excuse the actions of some individuals, groups or even whole countries just goes on and on.
In a similar vein, I recently read repeated claims by someone on social media that wool production isn’t exploitative, at least ‘not the type that my jumpers are made with'(!). Although it’s a common perception (that I used to share) that helping ourselves to the body fibres or coverings of any individual who is unable to prevent us, is somehow doing them a kindness, that particular claim was a new one for me. In my decades as a nonvegan and a knitter of every type of apparel you could name,it now shames me to admit I could never have claimed to know anything about the wool I was using, other than in some cases, the country in which the individuals lived while it was growing on their defenceless bodies. In those days I was too naïve to appreciate that the overproduction of wool is a result of selective breeding for human commercial interests, and necessitates the ordeal of shearing for our victims. I did not realise that the stripping and sale of wool was a moneymaking sideline for those who ‘farm’ our victims’ lives, and that while shearing may not directly kill them, a slaughterhouse death would be the only escape for them.
Using them ‘to prevent waste’
There will be those who seek to counter this point by claiming that as sheep have now been bred to overproduce wool, we ‘might as well use it’ or it will be ‘wasted‘. The same tired argument is frequently used to try to justify egg consumption. Not surprisingly, we don’t have the same spurious compulsion to prevent ‘waste’ when body parts and substances discarded by humans are being discussed. And of course, there are always those who assert triumphantly that ceasing to exploit defenceless creatures will result in their extinction, as if that were a bad thing.
My response is the same in the case of every species and breed that we have developed for our own benefit at the expense of the wellbeing of our victims. I can’t understand why we even need to ask whether these man-made mutants each of whom are powerless to escape the prisons that we have made of their bodies, should be allowed to die out, to become extinct. But since the question is frequently asked, I’ll answer. YES. Our victims should be allowed to die out. If our own species survives, I hope with all my heart that our selectively mutated victims will one day be allowed to become extinct. It’s the only way they can ever escape the atrocity of what we have done to them.
Trusting the experts
Anyway, moving on. ‘That doesn’t always apply, there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’ is a principle on which an entire ideology is grounded. It’s the basis of the idea that there’s a right, good, acceptable way to use our unnecessary victims. At its heart, this ideology is the fundamental failure or refusal of our species to acknowledge that every use that we make of others is inherently harmful to them because it prioritises our trivial convenience over their every single right. This self-serving perspective leads directly and seamlessly to the concept of ‘humane exploitation’ so eagerly promoted by the harm industries and their advertisers and associates, a strategy that targets consumers with the idea that they can pay to use and kill others ‘nicely’ without the need for concern or conscience. The word ‘humane‘ that is repeated so often, is like a veil that most consumers don’t look behind.
I suspect the reason that we don’t look behind the veil of animal use is because we strongly suspect that we would be extremely uncomfortable about what we would see. Because everyone says that they care about animals and says they can’t abide ‘cruelty‘, we might even find that our conscience wouldn’t allow us to carry on paying for what’s behind that veil. So we shrug and decide to ‘leave it to the experts’. ‘If the experts say it’s humane then surely it must be.’ ‘There are laws about ‘that sort of thing’.’ This country’ (wherever that is) ‘has the best ‘welfare’ laws.’ So goes the internal dialogue. I know because I was that consumer several years ago. We all fall for it. It’s very persuasive, it’s comfortable, it fits with what we’ve all been brought up to think. And it’s complete rubbish.
And who are these ‘experts‘ in whom we put our faith? They are the people, the organisations, the establishments and the industries who make money from using our victims. I’ll say that again so that we can all just have a good think about it.
Those we look to as ‘experts’ are the very people, the very organisations, the very establishments and industries who make money, either directly or indirectly, from every substance that is derived from the bodies and the lives of our victims.
And they very much want to keep making money that way. Are we really so naïve as to fail to observe such a blatant conflict of interest – with a flashing light and a siren on it? The idea that we can delegate responsibility, pay somebody else to use and kill others ‘humanely’ without the need for concern or conscience, is at the root of every feel-good label, every ‘XSPCA’ stamp of approval and every industry ‘quality assurance’ stamp depicting coloured farm machinery.
‘What I do is different which ‘proves’ there’s not a problem’
When put forward by any individual, organisation or group, ‘that doesn’t always apply, there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’, is the sound of a door slamming shut. It’s a door slamming shut on the notion that ‘their type of using’ is the same as every other kind; the bad kind, the ‘cruel kind’, the kind that ‘other’ people do. ‘That doesn’t always apply, there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’ is a defiant ‘gotcha’ that shouts out, ‘This doesn’t apply to me. My kind of using is different’.
From ‘my special kind of wool’, via ‘I only eat eggs from chickens that a lovely woman down the road loves like her family’, to ‘I’ve heard about ‘humane’ dairy, so it’s not as bad as you say’, there are a myriad attempts every day to use exceptional circumstances as if they were commonplace to somehow disprove the unspeakable atrocity of nonveganism, or at least claim a personal exception from the idea that we, as a species, are guilty of an atrocity.
This is, however, missing the point. Even IF these exceptions were truly exceptional, which they are not, in the whole vast panoply of animal harm, the quoted instances represent a minuscule proportion of the vast majority.
‘When I eat eggs it’s different from everyone else’
For instance almost 15 billion (15,000,000,000) chickens are brought into the world each year by the egg industry. Half, as males, are killed within hours of hatching, the other 7,400,000,000 produce just short of an egg every day as a result of our selective breeding. Whatever anyone says about free-range, back-yard, ‘dearly beloved’ hens, statistics show that worldwide, 95% of the hens used for eggs exist in battery conditions. That is where demand is focused. That is where it will remain focused until the consumers whose purchases demand this barbarity become aware of the consequences of their actions and the fact that all egg consumption is unnecessary.
A handful, of allegedly ‘happy’ hens who by some miracle of communication have conveyed their consent to be used as egg machines will NEVER mean that there is no problem about the other annual billions. Only when consumers stop demanding harm will harm stop being a profitable business. Every single egg used by our species – wherever and whoever it came from – reinforces the concept of eggs, and those who lay them, as our property to be used, and as an appropriate food for humans. When a practice is fundamentally wrong – as egg use is – no-one is in a position to claim exceptional circumstances.
‘My use of dairy is different from everyone else’
As for the ‘humane dairy’ idea, I was recently asked whether I had referenced the concept of dairy enterprises that claim to be ‘humane’ (that word again) or ‘slaughter free’ or ‘harmless’ (aka ahimsa). I hadn’t, although I’ve often seen it championed by those who are not vegan as an ‘argument’ in favour of the process of the continuing breastfeeding of adults that we have been taught to overlook and call ‘dairy consumption’.
The first thing to say is that any action by our species that makes use of the reproductive functions of other species to breastfeed in place of – or even alongside – their own infants, is exploitative, unnecessary and harmful. This excellent article entitled ‘Slaughter-Free Dairy Is Being Hailed As The Future of ‘Humane’ Dairy. Here’s Why It Isn’t.’ by my friend Ashley Capps of Free from Harm, painstakingly examines the many problematic aspects of the concept of ‘humane dairy’.
Again, even without entering into the debate, it is vital to realise that this relates to a relatively tiny number of bovines, confined in small-scale enterprises that can never be commercially reproducible. Like the ‘happy’ hens of our ‘humane’ mythology, even if they have by some miracle of communication conveyed their consent to be used as breast milk machines and labourers, this will NEVER mean that there is no problem about what happens to satisfy the raging global consumer demand for cheap dairy products.
And what does happen? For dairy mothers of all species, although still young, when their production falls below a commercially viable level, their only escape from the relentless cycle of pregnancy, birth, separation and the daily pumping out of their breast milk for human commercial gain, is a slaughterhouse where their poor, depleted bodies will become the cheapest of ‘meat’ or possibly ‘pet food’.
In a single year, 2016, many millions of dairy bovines, dairy goats, dairy sheep, dairy buffalo and dairy camels were slaughtered. At least 21,000,000 (21 million) dairy calves were killed as ‘waste products’ because their sole purpose was to induce lactation in their mothers. Millions of additional calves and kids will have found their way into the ‘meat’ statistics as a consequence of being ‘fattened’ away from their mothers for consumption.
We cannot claim exceptions for our personal actions. Every substance derived from the life or the body of an individual who does not share our species, is a declaration that we consider that they are ours to use. We would and could never invent a similar set of justifications to use the lives and bodies of members of our own species. We do it only to those who cannot defend themselves in a clear manifestation of the ugly prejudice known as speciesism.
Don’t worry, keep giving us your cash and leave the rest to us
We are currently witnessing a gearing up of the animal harming industries. We are seeing a change of approach. We see them increasingly using language specifically targeted at ‘concerned consumers’ in a flagrant attempt to damp down concerns and keep them onside as accomplices in the harm and misery that is the only true brand of non vegan consumer demand. We see increasing media time being given to industry paid ‘nutritionists’ and ‘dietary experts’ who frequently contradict the science of those without conflicting affiliations. We also see patronising dismissals of consumer concerns using language that intends to belittle and mock any who challenge the processes inherent in all farming of lives on the basis that they ‘don’t know what they’re talking about’, ‘come and see a real farm’ etc.
Recent rhetoric claims that the dairy industry is working to promote a ‘positive message’. Given the undeniability of the fundamental procedures of forced pregnancy, birth and separation that form the bedrock of dairy production; the fact that animal agriculture has been proven to be unsustainable and to be destroying the planet; an increasing body of medical evidence that points to dairy consumption as a major factor in cancer, heart disease and the many other serious conditions that are increasingly afflicting humanity, it is difficult to imagine how this ‘positive message’ can be achieved. At least without straying from the truth.
In the end we are each responsible for our actions
While the harm industries and their media people are working extra hard to keep us from realising what we pay them to do, it is not uncommon to see media outrage about vegans being ‘anti-farming’, along with opinion pieces proselytising about the selfless devotion that involves their sending 77 billion desperate individuals who don’t want to die to slaughterhouses each year.
In my experience, vegans are not ‘anti-farming’. They are ‘anti-violence’, ‘anti-brutality’, ‘pro-truth’, ‘pro-honesty’ and absolutely pro-animals. The point is that we need to keep our focus on humanity’s 77 billion annual land based victims and their trillions of aquatic contemporaries.
These billions and trillions are our innocent victims, and while those who currently derive their income from satisfying consumer demand for them to be harmed, seek to shift the focus to themselves as the aggrieved victims, the bottom line is that consumers have all the power to determine what is available for them to buy and they convey that demand by voting with their wallets.
We have to keep our wits about us and think our way through the deceptions of the users to the simple truths that our common sense is telling us. Common sense will never fail us if we give it a chance. Common sense says that vegan is the only way to live true to what every one of us knows in our soul and any excuse that we invent to continue to cause harm is simply that. An invention. Be vegan. Now.
Statistics source: Food and Agriculture Organization – FAOSTAT Production – Livestock Primary – 2018. See update.