What’s in a name?
‘Elephant in the room’ is a metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. It is based on the idea that an elephant in the room would be impossible to overlook; and so people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.
The name ‘There’s an Elephant in the Room’ reflects the fact that although our entire society is founded on the exploitation and suffering of other beings, the vast majority of humans are either unaware of their complicity or else choose to either ignore it or in some way seek to rationalise it to themselves. I originally chose the name as my declaration that I refuse to stay silent about the elephant.
It is no exaggeration to say that we have created a hell for other beings. We confine, torture, mutilate, violate, and enslave them. We steal, kill and eat their babies. We consume their flesh and their secretions, wear, furnish our homes and use their body parts in a myriad ways. We abuse them so they will act in unnatural ways for our ‘entertainment’. We test drugs, chemicals and toiletries on their trembling, agonised bodies.
It’s all about sentience
The beings whom we exploit are sentient, a quality that we, as humans, share. Sentience is an attribute whereby a being is self aware. They have an interest in remaining alive and in avoiding pain. They have needs and preferences, and are capable of experiencing satisfaction and indeed, are capable of experiencing suffering and misery.
Although almost anyone who has shared time with a nonhuman has instinctively recognised their self awareness, scientific acceptance of their sentience was formally recognised on 7 July 2012 and enshrined in the landmark Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness by a prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational neuroscientists.
From when I left my parents’ house at 17, I was vegetarian, although not strictly so. All my life I felt that I was seeking something I used to laughingly refer to as ‘the meaning of life, the universe and everything’, a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
In 2012, in an effort to find out what all the fuss was about, I signed up for Facebook and in 60 – 70 billion unnecessary deaths each year (not counting aquatic beings) I found my meaning of life.
What a Pandora’s Box that turned out to be, unleashing horrors beyond my wildest imaginings. The blog entitled ‘Crossing the Border‘ is a true account of the opening of my eyes. Like Pandora however, I found Hope at the bottom of the box; Hope in the knowledge that it is never too late to stop being part of the nightmare of nonhuman exploitation, and Hope that through sharing my message I can bring closer that day when the sun rises on a vegan world. Thus I became vegan in 2012 at the age of 56.
Learning, advocacy and finding a voice
Since then, I have devoted much of my time to vegan advocacy, sharing my thoughts and hopefully some inspiration via my main Facebook page There’s an Elephant in the Room.
At first overwhelmed by the horrors any advocate sees daily, I finally realised that contrary to what some may claim, we are not ‘all on the same side’. I realised at last that in order for the vegan message to have clarity we must focus on the central issues rather then firing off in random directions, inviting others to feel sickened, outraged or infuriated but without offering them any real way to be part of the solution.
In order to effect real change in the way nonhumans are viewed, we must strike at the root of the problem, exposing the speciesism and violence that underpins every part of our society and is the culturally accepted norm. We must encourage other humans to think more critically about the way consumer demand and the choice of the individual are one and the same thing. Through ending consumer demand for the products of suffering, slavery and death, we can create the peaceful world that every human claims to wish for.
I also eventually realised that there are fundamentally two views concerning animals:
One perspective maintains that all use of nonhumans is unethical and can never be morally justified. Those who support this perspective promote a complete end to all human use of individuals of other species. In short, it’s not how we treat our victims that’s the problem, the issue we need to address is the fact that we have victims at all.
The other perspective maintains that use of nonhumans is acceptable if they are treated (and indeed killed) in a way that the proponents of this view deem to be ‘humane’. Those who promote this view that devastating harm, and indeed death, may be inflicted in a ‘nice’ manner, frequently petition and protest for regulation of ‘welfare standards’ and focus on the treatment of nonhumans. The majority of the so called ‘animal organisations’ promote this line of thinking which is not unexpected as welfare campaigns are a pot of gold in terms of their fundraising ability – vital to pay their wage bills. The other reason that they support this line of thinking is because so many of them also partner with, actively promote and even award, not only those who promote ‘happy’ exploitation, but even – unbelievably – the very industries that make money from commodifying nonhumans as if they were things rather than sentient individuals.
Surprisingly it appears that even those who vociferously promote and campaign for welfare standards seem reluctant to face the fact that they are actively promoting harm. All I know is what is in my own heart and I shall continue to promote the complete end of the self-indulgent and completely unnecessary use that my species inflicts on all others. Truth and sincerity are on my side and I hope that my words may inform or inspire you. If you are vegan, I hope that here you may find reassurance you that you are by no means alone. We have a huge task on our hands but together, we’re stronger.