Being property – what it means

There’s a story that’s causing outrage in the media at the moment, about a healthy dog named Emma who was slaughtered and cremated so that her ashes could be buried along with her deceased owner. The comments were predictably scathing, railing against ‘cruelty’, disputing the legality of the deed and expressing contempt for those who carried out the final request of Emma’s deceased owner.

Before I go on, let’s get the situation in perspective by pausing for an analogy.


What if someone had requested that they be buried with their most treasured photographs or some deeply sentimental possessions like books, or items of clothing, jewellery, or ornaments? Or like the pharaohs and some other cultures of the ancient world, what if they had requested that some (or many) precious item(s) that had been significant in life, be buried with them? I’ve recently heard tales of people choosing to be buried in a prized car.  I don’t suppose many would see an ethical problem with such notions, apart from the total impracticality of the space it would take up if everyone was to do it. I think the general consensus would be a shrug, indicating that although it may be incomprehensible why anyone would want to do the more extreme things, we recognise others’ right to choose what they do with their own possessions.

With me so far? Why are we all so fine with this, do you think? The answer is breathtakingly simple. Every one of us is thinking about inanimate objects. They’re things; perhaps precious to the deceased but they’re clearly not other living individuals. In fact that’s the point at which we all begin to get uncomfortable and – let’s be honest – rather judgemental; the point where we hear about funeral rituals where the living are, or were, interred or immolated alongside the deceased, whether as slaves destined to serve the dead in some hoped-for afterlife, or for some other reason. That’s where it becomes a completely different matter for the majority of us.

Okay, so what’s actually different about this situation involving Emma? I’ve seen outraged comments, seeking to convey something so obvious that it almost defied expression; Emma was a living individual. She was healthy and clearly not ready to die. It’s clear that almost every single person expressing an opinion totally ‘gets’ the concept of Emma’s life, and her right to live it, at a deeply instinctive level. We can all see the immense injustice of what was done to this innocent and blameless little creature. We can all recognise the betrayal of this little dog who simply wanted – and deserved – to carry on living her healthy life.

Wake up call

Yet in fact, what was done to Emma is a perfect illustration of the key legal definition as property that underpins every nonvegan choice that any of us has ever made, a definition without which it is questionable whether nonvegan ‘choices’ would even be legal.

So this is where we have to all wake up from the cosy land of make-believe and the myths with which we are indoctrinated from childhood. Whatever we may fondly imagine about the world in which we live, the laws, the regulations, even the governing and commercial structures that enable a nonvegan way of life and facilitate our demands as consumers are designed to make what happened to Emma perfectly legitimate and not even open to question. And they absolutely have to be for our actions to continue.  Read on if you find that shocking.

But…There are laws!

Such legislation as exists relating to members of nonhuman species certainly bestows no protection whatsoever upon them for the vast majority of the vile and unthinkable practices that our species inflicts on them. This brief talk by Lesli Bisgould, Canada’s first animal rights lawyer, explains the reality so well.

Other animals are legally defined as the property of our species.

Every time a similar situation evokes a widespread emotive response in the way that Emma’s slaughter has, and I write about it as I did about Cecil the lion,  and the floods in Carolina, it surprises me how few people had appreciated all the terrible implications of ‘the property status of animals’. Although the phrase is one that many activists, including myself, have used, it’s clear that few recognise the true significance of the words; few understand what it truly means for a living, breathing individual who values life and living, to be the property of another species that values them only for the use that can be made from them.

It needs to be stressed that this ‘property status’ is not some legal technicality that prevents every other species from sharing in the privileges that humans accord themselves in this world that we are destroying at a breathtaking rate. It’s not some legal hocus-pocus that’s needed so we don’t have to give members of other species the right to vote or drive vehicles. ‘The property status of animals’ has very real and utterly predictable consequences that are as sickening as they are inevitable; it means we can do what we like to them and in the vast majority of instances, commit no offence.

This status that our species accords to other living creatures whereby we designate them as our ‘property’, is the one that facilitates that carton of breast milk in the fridge, that dead flesh, those eggs on the supermarket shelves. It’s what enables zoos and animal testing laboratories to exist, how we manage to use others for forced labour and ‘entertainment’ without being held to account for the absence of consent from our victims.

But… It’s cruelty!

Please see my previous discussion about this subjective concept we call ‘cruelty’. Basically it’s a word that can’t even be objectively defined – it means whatever we want it to mean, whatever suits our purposes.

Once we have decided that the life of another sentient being has no worth other than to be used for our convenience; once we have decided their desperate wish to live unharmed and in peace is an irrelevance, their status as our property facilitates any and all that we need to do to indulge ourselves.

And for as long as the human animals who make up the laws they choose to recognise, grant themselves the power of life and death over members of other animal species; to buy them or sell them or even give them away without being in breach of any law; if we can disregard their preferences and needs to suit our own justifications, then regardless of our intentions, they will continue to be considered to be our property and concern about ‘cruelty‘ is an irrelevant effort to salve our conscience for the atrocity.

But… It should be illegal – we need to change the laws!’

Here we have an example of the stark inconsistency with which our species regards other animals. Here, because Emma, a named individual with whom we all empathise, is being considered and championed, we have a situation where it is crystal clear to so many that we have a moral duty to protect healthy individuals from actions that we all recognise as completely against their interests.  And it should be noted that slaughter,  the usual escape for the majority of our victims, is always against their interests.

Yet on the other side of that same coin the majority hold a contradictory stance regarding the animal species that it suits us to use to death and/or slaughter in infancy to gorge on their dead flesh. The very fact that as ‘property’ in the eyes of the law, they have no rights and no recognition of their interests, is what enables our brutal use of them, and the suggestion that it could ever become illegal is often used as an unsubtle suggestion that any such intervention to protect them would add insult to injury by potential infringement of ‘personal’ choice

I can attribute the following quote only to an unknown law professor.

‘Law has no meaning or relevance outside of society. It both shapes and is shaped by the society in which it functions. Law is made by humans. It protects, controls, burdens and liberates humans, non-human animals, nature, and inanimate physical objects. Like the humans who make it, Law is biased, noble, aspirational, short-sighted, flawed, messy, unclear, brilliant, and constantly changing. ‘

In short, it is society that must change in a way that begins at the level of the individual, and this must happen long before any legislative change can occur. Society as a whole and as a collection of individuals, must first acknowledge what values our laws should enshrine, before that legislation can be adopted.

And so back to Emma

There is no biological or other difference between the species that we brutalise for consumption, and for other purposes such as ‘entertainment’, forced labour, laboratory test subjects, surgical spare parts or simply, as is the case for so many that we consider to be nonhuman family members, as companions or ‘pets’. And in general the law does not differentiate.

So did Emma deserve to live because she was not a thing, not an object like a photograph, an item of clothing, or an ornament? Well, here’s the thing. We can’t have it both ways:

  • We can continue to fabricate myths and fantasies to excuse ourselves for nonveganism when it suits us to use, harm and slaughter them without conscience. To do this, we need to regard them as ‘property’ because the fact of our use of them as resources and commodities denies their every right and interest.
  • Or we can stop.

If we do recognise that Emma deserved her life, then, because they are not in any justifiable sense any different from Emma, we must also recognise the rights of the trillions of other individuals that we slaughter each year for spurious and fabricated reasons.

Only veganism recognises the rights of all individuals – whatever their species – to own their bodies and live their lives so I see it like this. If Emma deserved to live, we need to be vegan.

Posted in Nonhuman family members, property status | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Veganism; do motives matter?

Image by Tras los Muros / Aitor Garmendia

Recently I saw a comment that ‘most people define veganism as the same as a plant based diet‘, before they went on to say, ‘Why does it matter? If people go vegan for health or environment it’s still good for animals too.’ So is that true?

The vegan believes that if we are to be true emancipators of animals we must renounce absolutely our traditional and conceited attitude that we have the right to use them to serve our needs. We must supply these needs by other means. If the vegan ideal of non-exploitation were generally adopted, it would be the greatest peaceful revolution ever known, abolishing vast industries and establishing new ones in the better interests of men and animals alike.

~ Donald Watson (2 September 1910 – 16 November 2005), who coined the word vegan

The first thing that needs to be stressed is that veganism isn’t a fad diet, it isn’t a health kick, it isn’t an environmental stategy. It’s a moral decision, taken on an individual basis, to stop using other beings for any and all reasons. Veganism is a rejection of all use of other animals to serve our interests.  That’s not a ‘matter of opinion’ as I’ve seen the uninformed claim. It’s the actual definition. It’s what it is.

So veganism is an acknowledgement of our kinship with the other species with whom we share a planet; it’s a decision to stop the deep injustice of making victims out of them, and it’s made out of respect for those victims. One of the consequences of that decision is to stop using their bodies for food, but it equally impacts on a decision to avoid substances and services that use their lives and bodies in other ways too. The food vegans eat is often referred to as a ‘vegan diet’ but in fact it is a plant diet and to eat that way is only one manifestation of the single decision to stop using others.

So when we hear about ‘going vegan for health’ or ‘going vegan for the environment’ it illustrates that many people don’t understand what veganism actually is.  Quite understandably, and possibly because they don’t know what veganism is, they fail to see that it could be a problem as long as animals are not being eaten. So I have been wondering if they could possibly be right, that the net result actually IS the same regardless of motive.

But in the end I decided that I do consider it a problem. And my view has nothing to do with ‘personal purity’ or ‘policing’ or ‘being more vegan than someone else’ or any of the ridiculous accusations that tend to fly; it’s based on a lifetime of knowledge and a deep understanding of how our behaviours as humans can be swayed and affected by the motives behind them. So let’s clarify what is actually meant by ‘going vegan for health’ or ‘going vegan for the environment’; we clearly know what is meant even though, as I’ve said, they are inaccurate terms in themselves.


Now before I go on I’d like to get something out of the way because I’ve been doing this long enough to anticipate irate comments brewing. I know of many people who made the decision to adopt plant diets or change the range of species that they chose to use, for various reasons not necessarily connected with other animals. Many of these people subsequently did make the decision to become vegan and all are glad to have done so. For them, their intitial motivation gave way to a true vegan ethic but it would be wrong to claim that the progression was automatic. In almost every case , some additional information, along with vegan education, provoked the shift.

As an advocate on behalf of the trillions of annual victims of my species, I will not sell them out by promoting anything less than being vegan for our victims. They are depending on every one of us; they have no one but us, and they are queueing in the slaughterhouses as I type.

‘Vegan for health’

‘Going vegan for health’ is used to mean that someone has opted to change their diet to a plant based one because they quite understandably consider that it will improve their health. For whom is this change made? Naturally it’s for the person who wishes their health to be improved; they adopt a diet.

Now given that it’s a diet, several things common to all diets will apply. We all cheat on diets. Go on, tell me you’ve never cheated on a diet and I won’t believe you.

Another phenomenon with diets (Atkins, Keto etc) is seen when media hype either renounces the whole thing, or claims certain aspects of the diet are unhealthy/need supplementation etc. Do we consider changing? Well again, because the reason for the diet is our own health, that’s our priority and it’s very likely we’d follow recommendations / change or stop.

Now given the fact that the animal use industries continuously advertise in ways that mandaciously suggest health and wellbeing both of victims and consumers, as well as paying to produce skewed ‘science’ in their attempts to safeguard their vile trade – it doesn’t take much figuring out to see where someone for whom health is their priority may be tempted. These industries and their ‘farming’ suppliers have for decades got away with the most outrageous lies about the necessity for our health of the horror show that they make vast sums of money from. They make it in sales and in subsidies and they have massive budgets to continue their propaganada machine as well as the clout to influence political and health policies and decisions.

In fact this ‘health centred’ route is the one travelled by so many who proclaim themselves ‘ex-vegans’. And the alacrity with which ‘anti-vegan / pro animal use’ sensationalist media picks up and publicises such stories is surely well known to us all.  The claims made by these alleged ‘ex vegans’ about their need to reintroduce animal bodies to their diets invariably stem from flawed advice and nutritional misunderstandings but that’s not a subject for this essay. The fact is, when motivated by our own health, we can be much more easily swayed by the skillful propaganda being aimed so unscrupulously at those like us by industries that want our cash at any price.

‘Vegan for the environment’

So how about ‘vegan for the environment’? This is taken to mean a decision to adopt a plant diet in the face of almost overwhelming scientific consensus that animal agriculture is a pivotal driver of the climate emergency that is threatening to deprive our children of a future, and in fact will ultimately cause our own extinction as a species. That choice is arguably less self-centred than a similar one made for reasons of personal health but it is still unquestionably human-centred.

Debates are raging – and will continue to do so because so few are willing to accept their own personal role in the problem – but it is deeply disheartening to see how many articles continue to focus the blame for the current crisis on corporations and governments, refusing wilfully to pick up on the elephant in the room. That elephant? This time, it’s animal agriculture, its impact on the planet, the subsidies it continues to attract, and the fact that it is at heart a demand-driven system. Ideally, as an animal rights advocate, I envision that as consumer demand for animal use diminishes through individuals making the decision to opt out of the brutal regime of oppression, governments can finally be pressed to accept the deep immorality of continuing to subsidise a failing industry that is killing the planet.

However meanwhile there’s an unseemly rush in evidence, opportunists seeing the money-making potential of developing scientific and technological means to tackle the mammoth task of planetary cooling and the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while minimising or even avoiding (!) any fundamental change in our destructive behaviour as a species. Can they do it at all? Can they do it in time? I doubt it, personally. With estimates ranging from 5-12 years before the whole planetary collapse becomes irretreivable, I just can’t see it happening. But if a miracle were to happen and it did, what then?

Well I would bet my boots that once the heat was off (pun intended), ‘vegan for the environment’ would no longer be seen as imperative and like the ‘vegan for health’ motive, adherents of such diets may see no harm in indulging themselves on the dead flesh, breastmilk and eggs of other creatures once again.

Not a diet

My final point on the two dietary options that I’ve talked about here, is that – wait for it – veganism is not a diet. As well as refusing to consume substances derived from the bodies of other creatures, where it is at all possible, vegans make appropriate choices in terms of all other goods and services including toiletries, cleaning materials, clothing, entertainment etc.

Underpinned by the decision to stop the deep injustice of creating victims, no checklist is needed to determine which species deserve to be respected; it’s ALL of them. This is what veganism actually is and once an individual has acknowledged that this is their choice, it is unshakeable. It becomes completely unthinkable to even consider going back on that decision; it becomes an integral part, even the defining part of who we are as individuals.

And that is why I so desperately hope that the commenter is wrong about ‘most people’ thinking in terms of diet, because if they are not, then there is only one group that will lose out by it, as they do every time. That group is our victims; for whom any reprieve as a result of human-centred and self interested motives can be only temporary.

Only on the day they take centre stage and are recognised as individuals with the right to be free of our violence and persecution, owning their bodies and living their lives, will their years of oppression end.

So be VEGAN for them.

Posted in Advocacy, Global disasters, Health and plant based eating | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Wool; it’s been pulled over our eyes for too long

Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!

One for the master,
And one for the dame,
One for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

Able to recite this before I went to school, this was a significant part of my formal instruction about sheep. Affirming that they exist for our use and are willing and eager to hand over their fleeces, this little rhyme encompassed all the assumptions with which children are indoctrinated about other animal species, their reason for existing, and our assumed requirement and right to exploit them to death. Fast forward a number of years and on social media we frequently see the confident statement:

‘Taking wool doesn’t kill sheep. They have to be sheared so we may as well use the wool – they don’t need it.’

Some of us go through our entire lives without challenging the myths of our childhood . Oh, we dress them up in grown-up words and drape them in cherry picked notions, acquired assumptions, and pseudo science but at their heart they remain simply that. Myths that we somehow grew up knowing; never quite sure how we know them but confident that they must be correct because otherwise we’d surely know.

(In this essay I intend to focus on sheep, but it should be noted that the word ‘wool’ may also refer to the shaved body covering of members of a number of species including goats from whom cashmere and mohair is taken, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids such as alpaca and llamas.)

So. The myth about sheep and their wool. With a few embellishments depending on our upbringing, it goes something like this:

Sheep are a natural species and man has used them for as far back in time as we know. There are several different breeds. We eat them because they taste good/ because we need to eat animals / because they’d overrun the planet.

Sheep grow thick wooly coats and most of them can’t shed it without help. It makes them overheat so we shave it off for them. They have no use for it after it’s been shaved off so we use it ourselves so as not to waste it.

Was that the sort of idea you grew up with? Me too. Only it’s a million miles away from being that simple. There are holes in that myth that you could drive a bus through but let’s check out some of the facts. (I say ‘some of’ because as I’m editing this, I’m thinking of new points but it’s already well over the length I intended.)

Self interest is a powerful thing

The day I became vegan, little did I realise how that decision marked the first step on a journey of discovery that has led me down many dark and bleak paths. Some days it’s a struggle to close my eyes and ears to my knowledge of the whimpering, blood drenched hell that our wantonly brutal species has created. I am acutely aware of the bleeding, mutilated, broken young creatures who have never known a moment of peace or joy; aware of their pain, the anguish of their broken families, and the degradation that my species routinely inflicts, despite each person being convinced that they’re an ‘animal lover’.  The grim reality of each new discovery makes me buckle with anguish, and so it was with this glimpse into the bleak subject of wool.

The most basic and uninformed of the justifications for using hens for eggs, runs along the lines that ‘hens lay eggs anyway, so it’s a waste not to use them’.  Second only to egg use, come the justifications for using sheep for their wool. ‘It doesn’t kill them. They’d be unwell if they weren’t sheared so we may as well use the wool.’ And as with so many of our ‘justifications’, this one carries the sanctimonious suggestion of bucolic concern for wellbeing, with just a hint of victim consent, positioning our species as compassionate in divesting these unfortunates of the burden of ‘natural’ but inappropriately heavy coats. But let’s get this out of the way right at the start. Wool is an industry of ruthless exploitation. It’s an industry that uses innocent and unconsenting victims, making money from their bodies while disregarding their every interest. Their only escape is through a slaughterhouse.

The history of domestication and the start of selective breeding

Recently I have seen so many people deriding the very idea of selective breeding being used to create ‘designer victims’ for our species. All I can say is that it’s a huge element of our systematic exploitation and has been for a very long time and I last touched on the concept in an essay relating to hens.  Much time and investment goes into maximising the use that can be made of all our victims while minimising the outlay needed to keep them alive until they are ‘spent’ or broken.

Sheep were first domesticated during the period 10,000 – 8,000 BC in Mesopotamia, an ancient region located in the eastern Mediterranean. Remains of domesticated sheep dating back to 5,000 BC have been found there, while the earliest woven wool garments have been dated back to about 4,000 BC.

So there’s the first thing. We frequently hear that ‘it’s always been this way’. It hasn’t.

  • Human ancestors appeared on Earth between 7,000,000 and 5,000,000 (7-5 million) years ago;
  • The earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans lived about 200,000 years ago;
  • Using sheep began 12,000 years at the very most.

So domestication of sheep, like every other species we have forced into servitude, happened in the extremely recent past in evolutionary terms. Basically it’s a new idea. 

The ancestor of modern sheep – the mouflon

Wild sheep looked different from their modern descendants: they had a shorter, coarser fleece and the wool colours were often pigmented. These sheep could not be shorn; instead the wool was plucked by hand.

It is believed that the selective breeding for wooly sheep began around 6,000 BC while efforts to obtain white-fleeced sheep began in Mesopotamia around 3,000 BC. By 600 BC, sheep with characteristics similar to the modern breeds were widespread throughout Western Asia. Selective breeding started very early in the history of our use and continues to this day as we select for the characteristics from which most profit may be made.

Selective breeding for a global industry 

From 476-1453 AD, wool trading flourished in Europe. A fine-wool breed that later became known as ‘merino’ was introduced in the 12th century.

The breed specifics a jealously guarded secret, at one time selling these sheep outside the Spanish empire was a crime punishable by death. However as the empire began to decline, some of these highly prized creatures were gifted to a number of european provinces. Sheep were taken to America in 1492. The Dutch acclimated their gifted Spanish sheep to their South African colonies and from there, several Cape Fat Tail sheep were sold in 1788 to voyagers on their way to Australia.

By 1800, sheep whose bodies grew fine Spanish wool or the coarser British wool had spread across the globe. In response to the burgeoning trade that resulted, Australian wool pioneer John Macarthur successfully lobbied England as early as 1803 to promote and encourage selective breeding in Australia. Today, with a flock estimated at some 70 million individuals, Australia remains the number one wool producer in the world, supplying approximately 25% of the global market. This is followed by China at 18%, USA at 17%, and New Zealand at 11%.

Selection for economically important traits like wool type has resulted in more than 200 distinct breeds of sheep. Some breeds only have hair, some wool and some both. Many – if not most – breeds are multi-functional from a profitable perspective. This means that after an existence being exploited for their wool, their reproductive potential and their breast milk, they are ultimately slaughtered for their dead flesh.

Thus it is another pure fantasy to imagine that sheep ‘aren’t killed’ for their wool. All sheep are brought into the world to be used to death by whatever means, with the aim of generating as much profit for as little outlay as possible.

Of course meddling with nature – which is essentially what selective breeding does – can throw all sorts of metaphorical spanners into the works. An example of this is seen in the case of cat and dog breeds selectively chosen to have the ‘flat’ (brachycephalic) faces that are deemed by some to be aesthetically pleasing.  Many of these individuals are now known to be suffering from a range of health problems, leading to lifelong suffering as a direct result of being ‘designed’ for humans. Breathing problems, eye inflammation, skin infections and difficulty eating are just some of the issues that are being deliberately risked and inflicted, and all for the sake of appearance and the consequent high sums of money that can be made from breeding and selling them.

Routine mutilation

While certain characteristics can be selectively bred at the gene level, there are consequences affecting many of them, consequences that an unscrupulous species such as our own does not hesitate to tackle with a ‘hands-on’ approach – surgical mutilation without anaesthesia. Of course this is invariably presented with the same bucolic sheen as shearing, while being given official-sounding names and being ‘justified’ as a practical measure.

Now some individuals and groups will go on to claim that performing procedures without anaesthesia does not cause sheep pain, since they don’t cry out in agony. However, the sheep is a species that is naturally preyed upon. Like chickens and many other ‘prey’ species, their behaviour has evolved to evade detection and capture by predators. When sheep feel pain, or are aware of life-threatening danger, they won’t cry out but rather they remain silent so as not to attract further predators.

So, what sort of ‘procedures’ are we talking about?

  • Castration: to prevent breeding, aid fattening and reduce aggression, lambs are usually castrated by applying a tight ring,  or else by the use of one of a number of devices resembling medieval torture instruments.  Check the link if you’ve a strong stomach. This is done without anaesthetic.
  • Docking ‘prevents fecal matter from accumulating on the tail and hindquarters of the animal’. Here in the UK all the official ‘welfare’ regulations state that this is to be avoided if at all possible. However as a rural resident for several decades I know for a fact that it is common practice. The fields at this time of year are littered with fallen tails and the adults almost all have docked tails.
  • A particularly stomach-churning practice, mulesing was developed in 1972 and is considered by many to be a routine husbandry procedure, presented as a practical measure to reduce the risk of flystrike. It is most commonly used with Merino sheep, whose woolly wrinkles and folds in the skin around their tails make them especially susceptible to flystrike. Although banned in many countries including, most recently, New Zealand, it is still widely practiced, a consequence of human selective breeding for excessively wrinkled skin in order to grow more wool and make more profit. Mulesing is the cutting away of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the buttocks to leave a gaping wound, and since the scar tissue that grows over the wound does not grow wool, it is less likely to attract flies. Mulesing is not to be confused with crutching (or crotching) which is the removal of wool from around the tail and between the rear legs of a sheep for hygiene purposes. I have not linked an image in keeping with my commitment not to share images that encourage viewers to think there are right ways to commit fundamental atrocities, however if you find it difficult to envisage a sheep who has had this procedure done, I invite you to search ‘mulesing’ on Google and scan through the images. You’ll get my drift.
  • Ear tagging, notching, and other asset/resource cataloguing  Because in the eyes of the law, nonhuman individuals are deemed to be the property of humans, their right to live, even their right to own themselves and their own bodies is not acknowledged.  In essence they have no recognised rights whatsoever. As the property of humans they are nothing more than business assets, commodities and resources, brought into the world to make as much profit as possible for humans.  As any business must keep track of its assets they are tagged /ear notched /branded /tattooed and/or chipped  depending on their species.


And let’s not forget the shearing procedure itself. Having witnessed this at first hand many times, it is not a gentle process even when observing every guideline in the book.  Sheep are recognised to be easily frightened, stressed or injured and are rightly wary of humans. For them all, it is extremely traumatic to be tipped onto their backs and held down, subjected to the noise and chatter of hard-handed strangers making themselves heard over the buzz of electric clippers or the clack of hand-held clippers.  Many sheep struggle in panic with horrific consequences and I have witnessed many cut and bleeding creatures flee back to their comrades in wide-eyed and abject terror once released. To minimise risk to humans, it is not uncommon in some places for sheep to be deprived of food and water in the period leading up to their ordeal, in order to weaken their ability to resist.

If you find this difficult to imagine, and you are someone who shares their home with a dog or a cat, you will surely know the panic that would ensue if one of our beloved nonhuman family members were to be thrust into a similar situation.  It pains us to even consider the fear they would experience.

So here we are. The wool industry. A far-from-natural, lucrative sideline to the final atrocity of the slaughterhouse; an elaborately manufactured system of exploitation where defenceless individuals have been selectively bred for characteristics that make money for humans, while being forced to submit to brutal and intrusive interference in every aspect of their lives; a catalogue of horrors worthy of Frankenstein.

The fruit of the poisonous tree

Often, at this stage, a reader may shrug. ‘This situation is what it is,’ the shrug says. ‘We just have to live with it.’ ‘They have to be sheared for their own good.’ This is missing a huge point. As a species, we created this situation. The circumstance that led to the current state of affairs is entirely artificial and is of our own making.

Some time ago I was fascinated by an article published by the advocacy and education site Free From Harm, by the renowned animal rights lawyer, Sherry F. Colb who is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University Law School, where she teaches courses in animal rights, evidence, and criminal procedure. The article was entitled ‘The milk of the poisonous tree‘ and examined the applicability of the legal concept ‘The fruit of the poisonous tree’ to our use of bovine breast milk which we know by the misleadingly innocuous name, ‘dairy‘.

Professor Colb explains ‘the fruit of the poisonous tree’ to signify that if someone has committed a wrong in acquiring some product, it is as wrongful to utilise and enjoy the ‘benefits’ of that product as it was wrongful to commit the harm that resulted in the product’s acquisition in the first place. In other words, one becomes an accomplice in the initial wrongdoing by taking the fruits of that wrongdoing and making use of them.

Even for those who refuse to acknowledge that the absence of necessity for our actions, along with the scientifically proven sentience of our victims, means that we are honour bound not to harm them, I have always felt that the ‘laying eggs anyway’, ‘the wool needs sheared anyway’, and even ‘the animals are dead anyway so we may as well eat them’ excuses all fall into that category.

Applying the concept of ‘the fruit of the poisonous tree’, by taking and using the results of the breathtaking wrongs committed against our sheep victims, we become complicit in the initial crime; an accessory to the needless slaughter of 567,720,576 individuals in 2017 alone. However we view it, the idea that wool is a victimless ‘resource’ just could not be more wrong.

‘So what are we supposed to do? Just let them suffer?’

This knee-jerk retort is so often delivered smugly – intended as a ‘gotcha’ – by all who want to continue to use other individuals and even by some who don’t. So once again, please consider all those cats and dogs with their flat faces, the consequent ill health and suffering that is the result. Let’s think, too of those others of the species with whom we share our homes who have inherited disorders at the genetic level as is common in ‘pedigree’ breeds. What happens to them? Do we just shug? Do we ‘just let them suffer’?

Not at all. We stop allowing them to reproduce, stop perpetuating the defect down further generations, and we have no doubt whatsoever that to allow the genetic disorder to blight the lives of more innocents is deeply unethical. Consider the parallel between this and the disorders with which we have deliberately afflicted our victims to make money. As consumer demand diminishes, the decent thing to do is to stop compelling our victims to reproduce.

So, like a cracked record, I repeatedly say that the world won’t go vegan overnight. A common assertion is that many breeds will become extinct in a vegan world and this is said as if that were a bad thing.  Make no mistake, the almost inevitable extinction of the pitiable, Frankensteinian creations of our unspeakably self-obsessed species is a totally different issue from the extinction of those wild creatures who were quietly minding their own business in the aeons before we came along, and whose habitat we are continuing to lay waste as our planet enters its death throes and we remorselessly drive the Sixth Mass Extinction.

So when we talk of extinction for the grotesquely mutated victims of our deluded species, how can this possibly be a bad thing – if indeed we survive as a species to change our ways? In a way, such extinction, allowing these defenceless innocents to escape the obscene torment of bodies we have created to serve our interests at the expense of their own, would be the only really humane thing we have ever done for them.

Be vegan.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, FAQ, wool | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ending life as we know it – humanity on the edge of the abyss

Every day I see posts using fanciful estimates about the number of individuals our species slaughters each year. There are even suggestions (often circulated by those seeking to claim credit – and frequently, donations) that slaughter numbers are falling.

They are not falling. The slaughter of land-based species has actually increased by almost 700,000,000 since the last available statistical year. (Statistics by FAOSTAT)

The numbers above, which average at 2,374 individuals per second(!), do not include numerous other groups including:

Not one of these deaths is necessary. Not one.

Make no mistake. We are now in the midst of the fight of our lives; the fight for THEIR lives, and the fight for the very existence of our living world. We no longer have options. Anyone who tells us differently, has a vested interest in lying to us.

I should like to add one further point to ponder.

Every one of our victims is and was an individual. The world of pain and fear that was inflicted on each of them to fulfil the demands of nonvegan consumers was made no greater and no less by how many of their friends and family were suffering alongside them. To brutalise one defenceless and innocent individual without cause or conscience, is to brutalise one too many. Only by ending consumer demand for harm and killing can harm and killing cease to be profitable.

As advocates for the vegan world that has finally been recognised as the only hope for our species and the planet we share with all others, we can’t afford to relax for even a moment. We need to know the facts and we absolutely must keep our focus firmly where it needs to be; on our victims.

Be vegan.

About our dying planet:

Find out about being vegan here:

Posted in Global disasters, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Petitions and single issues – where’s the harm? – FAQ

Freedom. Image by Aitor Garmendia, Tras los Muros

I was recently asked the following very well articulated question by a friend who is a committed activist and vegan advocate;

I understand why we don’t want to put effort into single-issue causes, especially those that are so blatantly speciesist (such as anti-fur campaigns that imply leather is ok). But why is it so awful to sign the occasional petition about a one-off local concern (for example, the petition to spare the dogs who bit the child’s hand off from euthanasia). I don’t sign a lot of petitions for the former reason, but I genuinely don’t see the harm in signing one like the latter while including an anti-speciesist message that points out dogs aren’t the only persecuted species and they wouldn’t be at risk for euthanasia if we weren’t speciesist (or something along those lines). How is my NOT signing the petition going to: 1) Help these dogs, 2) Spread the message of speciesism, and 3) Help any other animals now or in the future?

At one time I wondered the very same thing myself. And yet now I would no longer consider signing any petition unless the top line is a call for the end of speciesism and a demand for veganism – which is the natural consequence of that – and I can’t recall ever seeing one of these. This essay stems from my own experience and the learning curve resulting from examining my feelings, thoughts and the actions leading from my nonvegan past to my vegan present.

The first point I think I need to stress at the outset is that ‘campaign’ and ‘petition’ are interchangeable words.  A ‘petition’ is how people enlist as supporters of a ‘campaign’. So where I talk about ‘single issue campaign’, or ‘campaign’, the word ‘petition’ may easily be substituted because they are as closely related as the terms ‘animal rights’ and ‘veganism’.

My own definition of single issues, taken from my blog ‘Single issues and me’ is:

All campaigns that focus on either general behaviour towards, general treatment of, general practices and/or specific instances of behaviour, specific treatments or specific practices perpetrated on:

  • one individual member of a nonhuman species;
  • a number of such individuals;
  • a single species;
  • a finite number of species.

Single issue campaigns call for prevention, change, regulation, punishment, reform; the action demanded by the campaign depends on the specifics of the topic.

I have previously written at length about how large campaigns like anti-fur, anti-foie gras, anti-dog and cat consumption etc are by their very nature, speciesist and focused on single-issues. Which brings me to my second point; just as all species deserve the same consideration that can only be achieved through veganism, every type of single issue campaign and the petitions that spring from them – whether about fur (many species), veal (one species), a wolf pack (group of individuals) or a cruelly treated dog (individual) – are speciesist by their very nature.

In considering these campaigns, a vegan activist must confront the same moral dilemma that exists when we are encouraged to support regulatory reform. Obviously instinct suggests that it is preferable to subject our victims to a lesser degree of torture if possible, but the automatic flip side of that coin is that by endorsing what we think of as a ‘reduced level of harm’, we are actually promoting and supporting harm. Intentionally or not, we are agreeing in principle to other individuals being used as our resources, albeit under the slightly different conditions that our campaign defines. That is a fundamental betrayal of their right not to be in the situation in the first place.

For example, if you or I were imprisoned as innocent individuals awaiting the carrying out of the death penalty and our lawyer started to campaign for a ‘bigger cell’, improved transport to our place of execution, or a different means of inflicting our death, we’d know our cause had been completely lost. Our innocence would no longer be the focus and our captors would consider that compromises on treatment were ‘at least doing something’.

It’s not about spending time productively

I’ve seen many excellent vegan advocates go down the route of claiming that promoting single issues is wasting time that could be more productively used for advocacy. I don’t hold with that idea at all. It’s easily shot down by the many who can truthfully say that they have plenty of time to sign petitions and do other forms of advocacy too.

In my view, the problem does not lie in the taking of time to sign petitions; it lies much deeper than that. The problem springs from the very existence of petitions, where they originate, and the mindset that they foster and endorse in those who participate, through these, in speciesist campaigns.

The questions we need to ask

So I suppose this must bring me to the third thing that really must be examined. Have you ever wondered:

  • Who sets up these petitions?
  • Who signs them?
  • How do single issues / petitions affect the participants?
  • Is signing petitions effective as an advocacy method?

A bit about me 

For years, I personally used to spend hours every week signing petitions about every sickening, stomach churning, gut wrenching topic that we all know is out there. The infinite ways that human animals harm members of other animal species is overwhelming and I doubt if there’s anyone reading this who has not felt themselves start to buckle under the weight of the horror.

And this is where my memories kick in with merciless clarity. While I was doing all that signing, was I vegan? Hell, no. I’d never heard of veganism, had no idea about speciesism but you know what?

I thought of myself as an ‘animal activist’, a campaigner against ‘cruelty to animals’. 

Read that sentence again – please. There I was, a nonvegan, wearing, consuming, using members of other species for every purpose under the sun, and I seriously thought I was an activist; genuinely believed I was ‘at least doing something’. I was signing petitions set up by other nonvegans (who by definition were as speciesist as I was because they were not calling for veganism) while I was guilty of horrors equivalent to, or exceeding, the things I was so sanctimoniously complaining about.

The concept of petitions and the harm they do

I was like that for years. Cocooned in my self-satisfied perception of myself as a ‘campaigner’, believing I was doing all I could, and frankly, with a mind closed to discovering the reality of speciesism and the veganism that is the consequence of its rejection. My mind was closed because I already believed I was doing all I could do.

In fact – and this is the crux of why I no longer support petitions and the single issues that spawn them – participation in this form of self-righteous complaining actually worked against my seeking the information and the consistency of thought that led me inevitably to the realisation that I had to be vegan. It was completely counter-productive.

I was firmly in the ‘at least I’m doing something’ camp and what’s even worse – I found myself adopting a xenophobic outlook and was influenced by the general atmosphere of ‘otherisation’ that is also part and parcel of the concept of petitions for other animals. Countries where they consume dogs, countries where they hunt dolphins and whales, countries where elephants are exploited as tourist attractions – we can all add to the list if we think for a moment. So in addition to ‘doing something’, I thought that my actions and the myriad causes I supported were ‘better than what was being done in other countries’, a skewed and mistaken view that was reinforced every day.

And while I’m proclaiming my personal failings to the world, here’s another one.  Almost every petition emphasised the concept that some species are more important, more worthy of our concern than others. Elephants, tigers, dogs, cats, whales, dolphins, monkeys, lions. Yup, how often did the tales pull at my heart strings?  I wept over them all and I  know now that I’m not alone in this.

On reflection, to be honest, the ‘petition’ scene of my experience was a toxic mix of speciesist xenophobia, peopled mainly by nonvegans complaining about other nonvegans, all whipped into a righteous fervour of indignation about single issues that did not touch them personally, or about which their own actions were not on the table for examination regardless of how incongruous they were.

I’m vegan now – so what harm would signing a petition do?

There is a view that is bandied around by those individuals and organisations whose focus is fundraising, and others, many of whom claim to be vegan, that ‘reducing suffering’ is a worthy goal. This view promotes the idea that needlessly harming other creatures is a numbers game; that to harm fewer of them or harm each one of them less is a worthy and ‘pragmatic’ aspiration. Oh how I hate that word ‘pragmatic’ – it always precedes and seeks to excuse a betrayal of our victims.

In the question, my friend mentioned that they always include an anti-speciesist message with a signature. Again, I can only relay my own experience. I’m told by some that they do, but I have never once signed a petition and read all the comments by others. Not once. After reading a few, I quickly realised there was only so much vitriol I could take. So what if I had read a vegan message? Would I have been influenced? In a word, no. I honestly thought I had all the answers and I wasn’t looking for any more.

To participate in any speciesist campaign/ petition, we are endorsing the fundamental principle of speciesist campaigns, just as signing a petition about how animals are transported to slaughterhouses is supporting the principle of their being used as resources, signing an anti-fur petition is endorsing the principle of singling out fur as worthy of particular condemnation, or signing a petition about eating dogs in other countries is encouraging cultural contempt and otherisation while reinforcing the idea that what happens ‘here’ to other species (wherever ‘here’ is) is okay.

We can’t save them all

What can we do to help the individuals who are the subject of the particular petition that sparked the question? This is where it gets really hard and it comes down to our own values and how we square our actions with these.

This point may sound harsh but it is the truth. While the world is not vegan, at this very moment, there are more individuals hurting and dying in circumstances that would make any decent person want to vomit, than we can ever know about, address or save.  As long as speciesism prevails, there will be dogs like the individuals mentioned, and when they are slaughtered (or ‘euthanised’ as the euphemism goes), there will be uncounted others we’ll probably never hear about, who will take their place in the firing line. As well as these dogs, there are millions of sentient individuals of every conceivable species dying today alone, defenceless, unknown, and un-cared-for individuals who are every bit as deserving of their lives.

We can’t save them all. It simply can’t happen. Saving one or two individuals is all most of us can do; and that’s the principle behind adopting or providing them with sanctuary. It changes the world for the individuals concerned and it is a tangible activity that many of us choose to undertake in recognition of the huge injustice that our species is perpetrating without need or justification upon all their kin.

I think the question we need to ask ourselves is whether signing a petition, thereby endorsing what I firmly consider to be a flawed and counter-productive concept, is an appropriate form of advocacy, or whether the existence of that petition is throwing the overarching cause of anti-speciesism under the bus in the hope of making us feel better as individuals?

I made my choice several years ago. Be vegan.

Posted in FAQ, Single Issue Campaigns, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Speciesism and the welfare of property

Sometimes we are told that someone ‘loves’ ‘their’ animals, or that they ‘treat them well’, but the claim that is always shouted from the rooftops is the one about ‘high welfare standards’. These claims may come from people in a wide range of situations, from those who exploit reproduction for breast milk or eggs, to those who use other individuals for ‘entertainment’ or forced labour, or those who ‘farm’ the living in order to sell corpses for profit, and everything in between. Those who want us to consider the term significant, use it every time they get an opportunity for publicity, regardless of the question, regardless of the conversation. It’s their answer to everything.

Those who share their life or home with nonhuman family members,  and those who rescue members of other species from abusive situations (not only caused by our species but most frequently by those mentioned in the preceding paragraph) also frequently claim to love those in their care. I’ve noticed that the difference between what a provider of sanctuary /rescuer /ordinary person with nonhuman family members would say, and a representative of the exploitation industries would say, is that sanctuaries/ rescuers / human custodians of nonhuman family members do not attempt to shut down conversations with claims about ‘welfare standards’. And there’s a really good reason for this.

Welfare, what does it actually mean?

It’s really important to understand the concept of ‘Welfare’ in the context of non-humans. It’s a common mistake to think that regulations and guidelines referred to under the general heading of ‘Welfare’ are in some way designed to protect the feelings, the well-being or the individual autonomy of those whom our use designates as resources, commodities and possessions. They’re not. The purpose of all regulation is to safeguard the commercial value of those who are deemed to be assets, through consistent practices, and through maintaining consumer confidence. It’s not about the victims. Through implementation of the ‘regulations’, any lessening of the oppressive regime of relentless use to which our defenceless victims are subjected, is purely coincidental and cost-driven.

How can regulations protect the feelings, the well-being or the individual autonomy of our sentient victims, when the thing each one desires more than anything, the thing that makes them exactly the same as our sentient selves, is their desire to live unharmed, and the recognition of that desire is the one specifically excluded from every use that our species makes of them?

How can regulations protect the feelings, the well-being or the individual autonomy  of our victims, when they are not in a position to give their consent for any of the things that are done to them? Even in those situations where they make their lack of consent crystal clear, such as when they are quite evidently afraid or in pain or are seeking to escape from the processes and procedures our species inflicts, their clear absence of consent is ignored.

In essence, that’s what speciesism is; a complete disregard for the rights of any who do not share our species, and the ignoring of the fact that their consent to our abusive and violent actions is being understandably withheld.

So we need to keep reminding ourselves that ‘welfare’ does not mean what we think it means; what some would like it to mean. It’s a seductive word that has mimicked the language of care and respect for a long time and remained unchallenged.

Regulations and the ‘standards’ we are told about so often are designed by and for those who have a financial interest in exploitation. Which is why sanctuaries, rescuers and the human custodians of nonhuman family members do not harp on about conforming to ‘welfare standards’. It’s a death industry word describing death industry procedures; a word that mimics the language of concern to the extent that many people are completely taken in.

Buying, selling, giving away

For as long as we human animals, have the power of life and death over members of other species; if we can buy them or sell them or even give them away without being in breach of any law; if we can disregard their preferences and needs to suit our own justifications, then regardless of our intentions, they are our property.

And for as long as the law considers other living individuals who value their lives to be our property, then the relationship we have with them is essentially speciesist at heart. I hold this to be true of every relationship I have ever had with a member of another species. I wish that were not the case but it is.

While this speciesist relationship is the accepted norm, then the interests of our species of animal will always take precedence over the interests of others. While some humans will act with genuine love and respect, the door will remain permanently wedged open for the worst and most depraved actions to occur – and occur they will. And I count in this category all the myriad uses that define nonveganism.  All are unnecessary. All of them serve the interests of our species at the expense of the interests of our victims.

Speciesism – it has to end

The task we face is the ending of speciesism. The answer? Not easy and not instant. Speciesism is so ingrained into most of us from our earliest years, that it is hard to purge from our mindset.  Even as a vegan for several years, I still find unwelcome pockets of speciesism that surface from time to time.

But we have to start somewhere and that place is with the person we each see in the mirror. If we wouldn’t accept something being done ourselves, to our children, to our loved ones, then we have no business doing it to another, whatever their species.

When we recognise this, we have no alternative other than to become vegan. In the battle to end speciesism, what we do next is up to each of us.

Posted in property status, welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

With friends like these …

During this month of the media year when veganism is widely misrepresented as a dietary fad and a menu choice that we can ‘try out for size’, there are several articles and interviews circulating where celebrities are given air time, ‘personalities’ who for some reason imagine that the sudden change in their eating pattern now qualifies them to discuss and inform about veganism.

I can imagine the ‘raising awareness’ keyboards firing up at this point but there’s something here that just has to be said. There is no doubt that celebrity status opens doors to media circulation that those who actually know and understand the subject are seldom afforded.  I’ve just watched one such interview where the topic of a ‘try it for a month’ celeb with a farmer was  the ‘concern that vegetarians and vegans have about animal husbandry’ and the difficulties local farmers face in competition with ‘factory farming operations’.

My jaw quite literally dropped. It’s hard to know where to even start with such a basis for any discussion about Animal Rights. In fact it’s a basis that specifically precludes all possibility of a discussion about Animal Rights; it’s a discussion in which animal use is assumed and taken for granted, an accepted fact centring a PR pitch in favour of local farming. The ‘discussion’ has nothing whatsoever to do with veganism and could well be mistaken for a publicity stunt by (in this case) the dairy industry.

Menu choices

For starters, only someone who regards veganism as a menu choice would conflate ‘vegetarians and vegans’ as if they were in any way similar. Vegetarianism is indeed a dietary restriction whereas veganism is a moral and philosophical stance against the violence of all the uses that our species makes of others. For the sake of brevity I won’t dwell here on all the reasons why they are not connected in any way other than the letters shared by the two words, but for those who are curious, please check out Vegan and vegetarian – why they are not similar or the slightly shorter In a nutshell: the victims of vegetarianism. 

Animal Welfare

To then go on to say that vegans have ‘concerns about animal husbandry’, is once more a serious and fundamental misunderstanding of the whole vegan ethic. Concern about animal husbandry aka ‘welfare‘ is the term given to a set of standards developed by the animal use industries themselves, in collusion with their supporters and enablers, that detail methods of exploitation and use. ‘Welfare’ in the context of our use of other species, has come to focus on consideration of the degrees of the torture to which they are subjected; the details of the environment in which they are unnecessarily confined, the means by which their bodily integrity and reproductive systems may be unnecessarily violated, the methods by which they may be unnecessarily surgically mutilated, the means and duration of their transport to their place of unnecessary death, the methods by which their unnecessary killing can occur and so on.

It is at best naïve to think that any regulations, including those that misleadingly use the word ‘welfare’ in their description, are in ANY way designed to protect the feelings, wellbeing or individual integrity or autonomy of these ‘resources, commodities and commercial assets’. Indeed, any lessening of the level of torment to which our victims are subjected is purely coincidental because the purpose of ‘welfare’ regulations is to safeguard the commercial value of those who are deemed to be resources, commodities and assets by reassuring the consumer public that they can buy the products of violence and death without their conscience being troubled.

I have written frequently that making judgements about what we think are reduced levels of harm and calling for yet more legislation about such levels, is still promoting harm. And promoting harm to our needless victims is not vegan, however we choose to represent ourselves.

Animal Rights

In complete opposition to this, stands the Animal Rights position, never more eloquently stated than in the words of the late Tom Regan.

I regard myself as an advocate of animal rights-as part of the animal rights movement. That movement, as I conceive it, is committed to a number of goals, including:

  • the total abolition of the use of animals in science;
  • the total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture;
  • the total elimination of commercial and sport hunting and trapping.

There are, I know, people who profess to believe in animal rights but do not avow these goals. Factory farming, they say, is wrong-it violates animals’ rights-but traditional animal agriculture is all right. Toxicity tests of cosmetics on animals violates their rights, but important medical research-cancer research, for example-does not. The clubbing of baby seals is abhorrent, but not the harvesting of adult seals. I used to think I understood this reasoning. Not any more. You don’t change unjust institutions by tidying them up.

What’s wrong-fundamentally wrong with the way animals are treated isn’t the details that vary from case to case. It’s the whole system. The forlornness of the veal calf is pathetic, heart wrenching; the pulsing pain of the chimp with electrodes planted deep in her brain is repulsive; the slow, tortuous death of the raccoon caught in the leg-hold trap is agonizing. But what is wrong isn’t the pain, isn’t the suffering, isn’t the deprivation. These compound what’s wrong. Sometimes-often-they make it much, much worse. But they are not the fundamental wrong.

The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us-to be eaten, or surgically ·manipulated, or exploited for sport or money. Once we accept this view of animals-as our resources-the rest is as predictable as it is regrettable.

~ Tom Regan

Read more here 

So what harm do the uninformed do?

Lets just have a recap about why we’re in this fight for Animal Rights. In a single year:

  • 74 billion land based individuals killed in cold blood in regulated slaughterhouses, and the uncounted individuals who were not even important enough to count
  • 2.7 trillion (estimated) aquatic individuals killed in cold blood and the trillions whose deaths were dismissed as ‘by-catch’
  • The global flock of 7.4 billion egg laying hens
  • The estimated 7.4 billion male chicks who were regarded as worthless
  • Hundreds of millions of dairy mothers of various species killed because they could no longer produce enough breast milk
  • The 800 million dairy mothers (including 264 million cows) worldwide, trapped in a system where they are used to death
  • Uncounted individuals used and tortured in laboratories
  • Uncounted individuals used for ‘sport’ and ‘entertainment’
  • Uncounted billions used for their skin, their body fibres and for a myriad other purposes.

That’s a hell of a lot of bloodshed, a sickening number of lives. THEY are who we’re fighting for. They are depending on us and they need us to be absolutely clear about what they need. They need consumers to stop demanding their use and their deaths for the products they put in their shopping trolleys. They need us to be vegan.

Yet we live in a world of celebrity adulation where celebrity status allows the uninformed to reach the ears of their admiring public without the challenges that other mere mortals would face. And through those whose absence of knowledge is not seen as any kind of impediment to their discussing ‘veganism’, far from ‘raising awareness’ about the victims of our species, a completely different message is proclaimed to a non-vegan world only too happy for the reassurance.

The message is that some animals matter but there’s no need to be extreme. They don’t all matter equally and it’s perfectly fine to harm and kill them as long as we are ‘concerned about husbandry’. This is such an utter betrayal of our victims that it’s truly heartbreaking that some will hear it and think, ‘Yeah, now I know about veganism’.

Yet when we look back at the words of Tom Regan, at ‘abolition’, at dissolution’, and ‘elimination’; there’s nothing in there about competing with ‘factory farms’.

Let’s keep the focus on veganism as it truly is; honest, simple and clear. Vegans stand against violence, against creating victims.  To live vegan is to recognise that every individual, whatever their species, has the right to own their body and their life.

Be vegan. Today!

Check out this recommended collection of (non-celebrity), informative links:

Posted in Celebrity culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wishful thinking meets wilful misinformation; a deadly combination

Our future as a species is on the brink of disaster with climate and planetary collapse looking increasingly likely in the foreseeable future. The science that confirms this is rapidly shifting from a widely ignored trickle to a torrent sounding alarm bells in every quarter; alarms that are impossible for all but the most wilfully determined to ignore.

Against this backdrop I find myself wondering whether those who ‘farm’ lives and sell animals in response to consumer demands for dead flesh, eggs and breast milk are actually aware of the disaster that they’re being paid to cause?

In response to the demands of consumers, The animal agriculture industries are slaughtering almost 75 billion land animals and 2.7 trillion aquatic creatures – none of whom want to die – every single year.

In addition, animal agriculture industries are literally killing the consumers of the substances they are selling, with products derived from the bodies of other animals being implicated in every one of the major causes of premature death and disease in our species. This science-backed fact is seldom even mentioned, and when it is, we are all encouraged to ignore it, particularly by those who make money from our ignorance.

Animal agriculture is killing the creatures whose environment is being increasingly turned over to consumer driven animal farming, both directly and to grow feed for the 75 billion who are destined for our slaughterhouses. Indigenous species are being reduced to the category of ‘pests’ and are becoming extinct, ancient ecosystems are being laid waste to produce more animals to kill, effluent from the unspeakable numbers of victims confined to meet demand is polluting the land and waterways, wiping out marine environments across the globe.

Our unnatural obsession with using the reproductive systems and the dead body parts of members of other species, a practice that demands bringing over 2,374 land-based individuals into the world each second to replace the 2,374 who are being slaughtered this second – is literally killing the planet. Now there can surely be no doubt left, as major health authorities, academic seats of learning and environmental organisations alike add their voices daily to the imperative call for a major change in the consumption habits of our species.

Myths and wishful thinking

Yet the animal agriculture industries are continuing to deny and ridicule the science and their spokespeople take advantage of every media opportunity to deliberately misinform, talking down and talking over any other individuals who seek to express the truth. I saw an example of this just today, a spokesman openly deriding what I know to be scientific fact, repeatedly reinforcing the myths that keep him in business.

I even heard a recent comment by a farmer about how they ‘need to eat animals to be strong enough to do my job’.  Now I don’t doubt that ‘carry on as usual’ is undoubtedly a message many people may very much want to hear, after all most of us – including those of us who rejected the inherent brutality of the system and became vegan – were raised not to question animal use; to believe that it was ‘necessary’. However, to even suggest that as an option in today’s environmentally fragile world, to imply that the use of other animals is somehow necessary for our wellbeing, constitutes dangerous and deadly misinformation; and seems highly unethical when the whole world is in peril because this fantasy has been too long accepted as fact.

As Upton Sinclair is quoted as saying, ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’ Unless of course they really don’t know…?

We have to think for ourselves

Whether they do know or whether they don’t, we can no longer rely on anyone but ourselves to take action; the time has long since come for each of us to take personal responsibility for what we do and how we live. The increasingly gruesome cultural habit of a species that deludes itself that only humans are worthy of moral consideration, has hacked and sawn and slaughtered its way into our current mortal peril. We each have no choice but to make a desperate attempt to secure even the hope of a future for our children. As a parent, this is hugely important to me, and I can’t believe that any parent could feel any different.

To live vegan is to recognise that every individual, whatever their species, has the right to own their body and their life. The vast majority of our nonhuman victims are sentient and their lives matter to them.  Veganism remains as it has always been; a recognition of their rights and a refusal to create victims because it is unnecessary. However, we are now running out of time and a new level of urgency is adding an edge to the call to end the violence and destruction inherent in our use of members of other species.

Despite their political influence and the public funding that goes with it, even industries as massive as the animal-use giants are demand-driven. By becoming vegan, we remove our own consumer demands from the cycle of destruction that non vegan consumers and those who supply their shopping requirements are wreaking on a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to all who currently call it ‘home’.

We have so little time left to halt the catastrophe that’s unfolding in front of our eyes and we will soon be past the point that stopping it is even a remote possibility. Be vegan. Do it today.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Global disasters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Looking at language: livestock

A young pig about to be slaughtered. Image by Aitor Garmendia / Tras los Muros

Defined by the dictionary as ‘farm animals regarded as an asset’, the word ‘livestock’ is an obscene truth hidden in plain sight. While we may allow ourselves to be soothed by the ‘caring’ rhetoric of the victim sellers, the word used and accepted for our victims’ status is screaming the truth in our faces. The very word ’livestock’ is telling us that these individuals whose lives are being ‘farmed’ are regarded, not as sentient individuals worthy of respect and autonomy over their own lives and bodies, but as assets. As in any business, the function of assets is to make profit.

The status of those whose lives are ‘farmed’ as commercial ‘stock’ is a complete denial of their selfhood as living, feeling young individuals. In a demand-driven system where the right to live unharmed is not even a consideration, every single one of them is automatically denied the most fundamental desire of every species; namely that every one of us wants to live.

However the victim-selling industries and their public relations machine know very well that consumers don’t want to recognise their victims for the low-cost / maximum profit financial transactions they truly represent, so adverts and the media are sprinkled liberally with talk of ‘welfare’ (which doesn’t mean what consumers think it means), skilful adverts that suggest victim consent and feigned concern to reassure consumer conscience.

We see increasingly elaborate media charades enacted to present victim ‘farmers’ and traders as kindly and caring, selflessly working to produce substances mendaciously portrayed as ‘necessary’;  glossing over the fact that their trade, in reality, can be summarised as reproductive violation, relentless use and the ultimate slaughter of defenceless young creatures for financial gain.

Those who make money from the use of other creatures will never mention that none of our use of others is necessary. Neither will they tell us that through the ceaseless brutality that they inflict on our victims on our behalf, we are damaging our own and our loved ones’ health in addition to being directly responsible for the ongoing demise of our planet, its climate and ecosystems.

Meanwhile, the word ‘livestock’ stresses bleakly just how friendless and alone each one of our innocent victims is, from the violation that conceives them, to the slaughterhouse that is their only escape from our tyranny. Each treasured life that belongs only to the one who is desperately clinging to it, matters to our species only as a resource for which we will pay money.  Whatever elaborate fantasies we may weave in our attempts to soothe our conscience, our victims are live stock; business assets that exist – as all such resources do – to make money for someone in response to our demands as consumers.

When we stop demanding that defenceless creatures be turned into victims to indulge our frivolous habits, there will be no money to be made from the sickening practices involved and the nightmare will eventually stop. When we withdraw our demands for victims to be created, when we say, ‘not in my name’, we become vegan.

Why would anyone want to wait another day?

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New Year 2019, and I’m hoping for a miracle

I usually do a blog at this time of year – it’s an apt time to reflect on the changes that have taken place and a chance to evaluate the slow but steady progress that we’re making towards a vegan world. However this year I found my thoughts being drawn in an altogether different direction from usual; something has irrevocably changed since I last sat down to write my New Year thoughts.

Humans – facing up to what we do

In 2012, I became vegan in recognition of the brutal injustice that we are inflicting on every species on the planet by the unending ways that we ignore their vital interests in favour of our own trivial and frivolous preferences. Today, as 2018 slips away, I have a new and excruciating awareness of the climate catastrophe that is breaking like a wave in slow motion over this beautiful world, and we are running out of time to fix it. Let’s face it, our causative role in the atrocity, and our resulting peril as a species, are not even being acknowledged yet, at a time when we ALL need to be working on – and close to – the solution. 

We hack and butcher our vicious way through the gentle and innocent creatures whose world this also is, ‘farming’ and mutilating them, violating, impregnating, breaking up their families and pumping out their breast milk, genetically altering them to increase egg production, slaughtering, sawing, dismembering and flaying the sweet individuals who face our slavering appetite for gore in uncomprehending bewilderment while we kill them by the trillions each year. We devour, excrete, wear, experiment on, and are ‘entertained’ by the pitiful ways that our despairing victims try to please us, their desperate attempts to make us stop hurting them. None of it works, despite the fact that none of what we do is necessary.

We are a species drunk on delusions of grandeur. 

It’s real.  We’re in big trouble

Be assured, there are charlatans who will say otherwise because the status quo of nonhuman exploitation is making vast sums of money for them, but as the old year slips away, the environmental and health related science against our use of others is continuing to pile up and the clamour for action to save the world grows louder.  This year we all must surely be beginning to realise that humanity, and humanity alone, has brought our beloved planet, and all who travel through the black depths of space on this irreplaceable blue green orb, to the very brink of disaster. We are teetering now on the edge of the abyss. 

It’s too late to complain about corporations and industries. It’s too late to carry on as before and blame everyone but ourselves for the disasters that afflict our world with increasing severity. We are consumers and it is our cash that is creating the demand that continues to drive vast agricultural industries; it is our cash that funds all the industries and practices that are wrecking our global home and depriving our children and grandchildren of a future. We are depriving them of a habitable world on which to even have a future. It’s time to take responsibility as individuals because if we don’t, we are condemning our loved ones to a world from our nightmares. We may be dead and gone, but our legacy of senseless corruption will remain as long as our species lasts – which isn’t likely to be very long at all as things are.

Global warming – the cosy myth of climate change

I know when I was younger, the term ‘global warming’ was occasionally mentioned, and here in the bitter cold of a Scottish winter, people smiled and nodded and agreed that a wee bit of warmth wouldn’t be a bad thing. How little I understood the mechanisms behind the idea of the ‘warmth’ that we all crave here.

I had no idea about the man-made build-up of greenhouse gases that in turn was heating the planet, changing climates, bringing extreme weather events with increasing frequency and severity. I didn’t think about indigenous crops and species no longer being able to survive as their environment becomes increasingly hostile; the land, oceans and waterways clogged with effluent and assorted and non-biodegradable waste. I had no concept of melting icecaps raising sea levels and releasing even more greenhouses gas into an already seething atmosphere. To my younger self, the world seemed so unchanging, so unaffected by the life forms who swarm its surface. Earth seemed unbreakable. 

Climate change – the consequences

Yet here we are as the year 2019 looms, well on our way to quite literally eating, using, and poisoning our planet to death. We are in it up to our necks, persisting in our brutal use of all other species while the very survival of our own is on the line as a direct result. New scientific reports support this view almost every week.  All this devastation has been created in the recent past by a species whose technological burgeoning, enslaving, modifying, despoiling and displacing every other species and every environment to our own ends, has disregarded the tragic consequences of our indulgence.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, we sanctimoniously delude ourselves 1) that we care about other animals and ‘nature’, and 2) that we can claim superiority amongst the millions of other species in the world; millions whose number falls daily as a result of our actions in what is known and recognised as the 6th Mass Extinction event. Google it.

I recently wrote a blog that highlighted a recent report that we had 12 years left to change our ways.  Oh, I know humanity won’t disappear in 12 years; our doomed species is likely to struggle on for a considerable while after that point is reached.  But the science is clear that by then – or even earlier according to some – it will be too late for us to avoid the consequences of our desecration of our fellow creatures and the planet we all share.  And the effective word that our children and grandchildren will get to know too well for any of us to feel good about, is ‘struggle’. Life will become an increasingly hard struggle for them in ways we find difficult to imagine, and it won’t be just in terms of the occasional storm or flood that they’ll get used to dealing with.

How would I know about this ‘struggle’?

In what feels increasingly like a past life, I worked in the related areas of ‘Disaster Planning’ and ‘Business Continuity’ in local government. Because effective planning made it essential for me to understand the realities of what might be faced, I am only too well aware of the speed with which the veneer of ‘civilisation’ falls away in the event of even a relatively localised catastrophe such as a disease pandemic, or extreme climatic event such as an earthquake or flood.

For the most part, we live in a world where our every daily requirement relies on a largely unrecognised network of interdependent services; people going to work to create supplies, transporting these supplies to where they need to be to keep the population fed, clothed and moving. Supporting the population we have health and emergency services, schools, refuse collection, and such unrecognised essentials as crematoria – all with staff who need transport to get to work. All these services work in an equilibrium. 

These systems are more fragile than we suppose and here in the UK we can see just how little it takes to upset that balance. In Scotland, all shops close on New Year’s Day and many on 2 January, and in the days leading up to this planned closure, we see panic buying that strips the shelves of vast supermarkets. That’s for a planned and short-term closure – imagine an unplanned one.

All it takes is an interruption in any part of the service network and it’s like a house of cards. Once transport links fail, fuel supplies fail and food supplies fail because whatever is available cannot be distributed. Without transport, power stations, hospitals and schools can’t be staffed. Any available medical provision starts to be overwhelmed. Roads and infrastructure are impaired, but there’s no fuel at the filling stations anyway, people have to stay home to look after their children and no one can get to work to earn money. With nothing to eat and no way to feed their families, desperation takes hold.  Public services are prioritised in increasingly futile efforts to cover the bare essentials. I could go on.

I have been employed to plan for eventualities such as these but even I can scarcely imagine this sort of scenario on a planetary scale. However I am convinced that our children – that’s yours and mine – may well become aware of it as an everyday reality. Disaster Planning will become a new and vital career choice. My heart breaks to realise that this is the world that my generation is bequeathing to our children; those children we love more than anyone else may find themselves living hand to mouth as they fight for survival on a dying planet. 

Plant based consumption – it’s a start

Along with so many self-interested and scathing dismissals of the scientifically proven need for plant based consumption, are the same old calls for yet more laws, yet more regulations, yet more support for small-scale ‘farmers’ of animal-derived substances, the same old calls to penalise large-scale animal substance producers and so on. Now apart from the fact that the concept of penalising large-scale producers for meeting large-scale demand (see the obvious problem there?) demonstrates a woeful lack of a grasp on the basic mechanics of supply and demand, basically here we have a call for the same old, same old.  These tired, worn, and desperately weary suggestions have shown no sign of working in the decades that they have been buzzing around, but making a big thing about calling for them to be implemented/enforced seeks to give the appearance of concern while indicating that the individual does not intend to take personal responsibility for their own actions. All the problems arising from those actions are conveniently the fault of ‘someone else’ who now apparently has responsibility for putting things right using the same tried and tested measures that have spectacularly failed animals for hundreds of years.

Without a widespread commitment to action, such pie-in-the-sky measures to regulate animal substance use are now physically impossible to achieve while the human population (currently 7.7 billion) spirals upwards, carrying with it the increased consumer demand for our fellow species to be used as inappropriate ‘food’ on a planet with dwindling resources.

We are out of time. Really.

What do we need? Action! When do we need it? Now!

As pointed out so eloquently by climate activist Greta Thunberg, the climate crisis should be the emergency first priority of every government and every one of us. Despite this, many are still in denial and in this world of sensationalised gossip-mongering that masquerades as journalism, denialists continue to find a ready platform for their anti-science opinions.  However any one of us who has lived more than a decade or two can see clearly evidenced in the changing landscape, the disappearance of insect life, and the terrifyingly increasing incidence of extreme events,  the torment of a planet entering its death throes.

Some appear to be sitting on the metaphorical fence. Waiting to be convinced. Thinking that ‘there’s time’; thinking it’s all bullshit but hell, if it is real, we can always take steps in the future if we’re absolutely forced into it.  Sadly that is not the case. The time to act is now. By the time the doubters and deniers are beginning to wake from their torpor and believe what the scientists have been trying to tell us about for decades, it will be well beyond too late. We couldn’t backtrack, any more than we could stuff a bullet back in a gun once the trigger has been pulled.

Start with veganism

So this year, because it’s all I know, I’m just going to keep on writing about veganism, keep on defending our trillions of annual victims, and keep on pleading with my species to wake up and realise what’s happening. I don’t know what it will take to make humanity sit up and take notice, but I have to keep trying. 

But now, as the bells of 2019 begin, the thing we need most is the thing that every single one of us should be working for, day and night, with every fibre of our being. A miracle.

Plant based eating and health – the facts

Animal agriculture – the facts

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