Every day we see media reports of human actions that seriously beggar belief. Last week I read about extreme violence being inflicted on motherless calves in a victim ‘farming’ establishment of the breast milk trade (aka ‘dairy‘); I read about laughing fishermen hacking the tail off a shark before setting the now defenceless, mutilated, bleeding individual who could no longer swim, adrift to die in agony while filming themselves clearly enjoying their brutality. A few days earlier I read of a raccoon who had been tormented by laughing, mocking humans until the panic stricken creature was forced from a boat so far from land that survival was impossible. Who knows what I’ll read tomorrow?
I would be surprised if anyone was reading this while thinking these are just the sort of things they enjoy hearing about. Probably, like me, most readers are feeling some degree of revulsion. I would not even find it surprising if petitions were being planned and exclamations made by those who claim to ‘not believe in cruelty’. Vitriol? Yes I expect there’ll be some of that too, maybe a lot of that; sickened, disgusted and outraged rants about what those who did these things ‘deserved to have done to them’. It’s probably all pretty colourful – the comments on the original posts certainly were. The word ‘cruelty‘ appears regularly.
Well consider this: we all readily condemn needless harm being done to those who can’t defend themselves. It hurts or angers us all to be faced with any creature who is being deliberately wounded or hurt. We each like to think of ourself as the sort of person who would not hesitate to protect the innocent, the sort who will stand up and demand justice for the oppressed and persecuted. Time and time again in exasperation, we shake our heads and demand to know how and why anyone would do such things; we rant and we rage in our despair and our frustration. When we do, it’s clear that each of us has a crystal clear idea of what’s fair and what’s unfair.
You’ve likely read the same articles that I have, and I know that in each of us this well-developed sense of right and wrong reared up unhesitatingly in blazing condemnation of such monstrous brutality. None of us can excuse the perpetrators of such viciousness, the sickening horror that they rained down onto harmless, unthreatening, and defenceless creatures who tried so desperately to escape, cowering and whimpering in the abject submission that was their only defence. Of course no other species is a match for humans without conscience, humans wielding tools and technology with pitiless brute force. Their lives were taken needlessly, and their pleas were in vain.
So we’ve heard about the calves, the shark and the raccoon. Well there are some other tales that no one has ever told you.
The untold stories: two piglets
There’s an untold tale of two piglets who were the best of friends. They were together all their lives, those six whole months from when the icy draught blew through the gaps in the shed that was the only world they had known, until the days turned inexplicably warmer. They slept together every night on the metal-barred and concrete floor, nose to nose, friends, each the only comfort that the other had ever known. As the days became lighter and the air more fetid, occasionally a scent wafted by that they did not recognise. It was the scent of leaves, of rain and of blossom, none of which they had ever seen or known.
One sweet-smelling day the humans with hard hands and electric prods forced them onto a truck where they huddled together, trembling and afraid, as they had all their lives. And when the time came for the terror and the agony, the knives and the bleeding, a moment finally came as they each hung upside down from one chained leg, when their dying eyes found no comfort in the sight of each other.
The untold stories: three chickens
There’s another untold tale of three chickens who lived in the same shed all their lives, every single one of the 42 days, while their selectively bred bodies created the designer victims that our species had always intended them to become. Every day their merciless bodies compelled them to eat and eat; every day they got heavier, more breathless, and less mobile. Every day, in their lonely innocence they quietly peeped and chirped, vaguely longing for what none of them had never known; the care, the protective wings, the warm feathered body of a mother. As the days wore on, sometimes they would look around and see others whose legs were unable to bear their weight as they struggled to stand; would watch nervously the obvious distress of their peers. Every day the burning intensified on their trembling legs, as the stench of ammonia from thousands of bodies made their laboured breathing harder to bear. On the day the humans came, scooping them roughly into crates, they were too afraid, too broken and too heavy to run away. There was nowhere to run anyway.
Their nightmare continued, hanging upside down, splay legged and sick with terror in the place that stank of fear and blood. And in that dreadful place, one of the three, one of the quaking, motherless infants who were all so lonely and so afraid, was so desperate for comfort that he was struggling to hide his head beneath the wing of the infant at his side as the machinery clanked and whirred, carrying them into the bowels of hell.
More untold tales than could ever be written
There are so many more of these untold stories. In fact there are trillions more every single year. Each one is a tale of loss and of fear, of loneliness and pain. Each tells of grief and of misery, of separation and longing and death.
There are too many tales for anyone to write – but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist – each life is individual, each life has a story. And each one is as heartbreaking and as harrowing as those about the calves and the shark and the raccoon, but the majority of humans completely ignore their very existence and don’t want to know. So why is this?
These are the stories of the victims of nonveganism. They are the stories of the owners of the body parts and the breast milk, the eggs and flayed skins, the shaved fibres, and plucked feathers. They are the stories of those whose freedom and graceful beauty have been subjugated and defeated piece by piece for our cosmetics and chemicals, for our sports and our zoos and forced labour.
And in the end it all comes down to this. To be nonvegan, which is to make use of the bodies and lives of those who are innocent and defenceless requires a particular mindset, although from experience we may be unaware of this because we are indoctrinated with it from childhood.
However once we have accepted that the life of another being has no worth other than to be used for our convenience (it is NOT necessity); once we have decided that their desperate wish to live unharmed is an irrelevance, we don’t even stop to consider them as feeling individuals. We regard them as objects, as resources for our use without conscience and life is cheap when it’s not respected. As human animals we grant ourselves the power of life and death over members of all other animal species; either completely disregarding their individual desires and needs or inventing elaborate excuses to seek to justify our behaviour.
Yet occasionally a tale is told, like it was about the calves and the shark and the raccoon, and we are swamped with concern and outraged about ‘cruelty‘. Yet there was absolutely no difference between the calves and the shark, the raccoon and the piglets, the chickens, the lambs, the rabbits and the mice and all the others whose deaths we ignore.
If only the other trillions of tales were to be told, would we finally appreciate why, to be the people we already think we are, we must be vegan?