A thought on ‘less use’

When we talk to others about ‘less’ animal use, we are encouraging them to think of nonhuman animals as a quantity that can be reduced, in the same we that we think of using less oil or less sugar. It’s not surprising that this can seem praiseworthy.

Only, they’re NOT a ‘quantity’ that we can cut down on. They are nameless, it’s true, but even their numbered ear tags should always remind us that our victims are a number, a group. Their numbers may be breathtakingly large, but they are nevertheless individuals, sentient, each one unique, each one with an equal right to their own life, each one desperate to live that life unharmed. When we think of them as individuals, see them in our mind’s eye, gazing on us with the fear and desperation that they endure as the inevitable consequence of our treatment of them as resources, it becomes unthinkable that we could ever condone the inflicting of needless harm on any one of them.

Rather than encouraging the continuation of unnecessary harm that is ‘less’ use, let’s remember always the individual faces of those who are depending on us to end the system that regards them as things for our use. When we fail to represent them as individuals, we are utterly betraying those unique children of other species who will continue to endure the existence that our needless use inflicts on them.

‘Less’ use does not cut down harm for all our victims. At best ‘less’ use may save a small number of individuals but for the rest, the torment of their existence as commodities and commercial assets will be unchanged.

What’s even worse, those who continue to pay for it by not being vegan will feel encouraged that they are doing something positive and that’s not true. We owe them better than that. We owe them the truth.

Which one do you think deserves to die for human indulgence? Whose desperate pleas deserve to be ignored? Who deserves to stand quaking and trembling in the gore of the slaughterhouse? Could any of us make that choice? I know I couldn’t. They all deserve the very best that we can do for them, and that means asking others to stop deliberately hurting them. All of them. That means asking others to be vegan.

Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Harm reduction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A brief thought on the hijacking of ‘humane’


Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

When you look at this image, be honest. Is ‘humane’ the first word that pops into your head? I doubt it.

And then, if you’re like I used to be, you’ll find another internal dialogue begins.
‘But it must be humane, because there are laws; but it must be humane because the label says ‘free range’ or ‘organic’ or ‘XYPCA approved’, and we sigh with relief, switch off our concern and carry on demanding the flesh and the eggs and the milk.

Few of us think about this in any depth. It’s uncomfortable to see the images – the real ones, not the staged, cartoonish fantasy that we are sold as consumers. That’s why marketing doesn’t show the real stuff. Even so, if it wasn’t for the constant reassurance that it’s all ok, it’s all ‘humane’, we wouldn’t know what to think, would we?

And there’s the problem. Our understanding of the word ‘humane’ has been subtly hijacked. The meaning of ‘humane’ that is sold to us on the dismembered corpses of young creatures, on eggs and on the milk taken from the seeking mouths of babes, no longer means what we think that it means. How could it? How could the obtaining of ANY of the substances that we use and consume ever be truly ‘humane’? How could it be ‘humane’ when every single thing we do is unnecessary and so fraught with suffering and misery that we refuse to acknowledge the truth. We all find it much easier to hide behind the word ‘humane’, that redefined word that is now used as a marketing tool, as a conscience salve, as a legitimisation of a brutality that none of us wants to be part of.

We all know what ‘humane really means. It means ‘tenderness, compassion, and sympathy, especially for the suffering or distressed’. ‘Well here’s another word to throw into the mix; ‘humanity; the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence’.

Not one single process that we inflict on the sentient individuals who are our wretched victims could ever be called ‘humane’ except through the hijacked and corrupted interpretation of the word that we have been sold as consumers.

Let’s take back the meaning of humane and in doing so, take back our humanity. The only way to do this is by being vegan.

Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Obscene phrase of the day: ‘live and let live’

Today I heard this said, yet again and without a trace of irony, by a dairy industry representative, about the decisions of consumers to consume milk and milk products from nonhumans.

So what’s obscene about the phrase?  It’s obscene in the way that any good, noble and worthy thing becomes obscene once it has been corrupted and used as a way of disguising and denying harm, horror and needless death.

‘Live and let live’ is a phrase commonly resorted to by the many who view veganism as the removal of their freedom of choice. And yet a more inappropriate phrase would be so hard to find that today I found myself wondering why. Do those who use it in this manner not understand the words that make it up, are they simply unaware of the basic processes that constitute the production of the substances that are derived from the lives and bodies of members of other species, or is there some other reason ?

The meaning of ‘live’

Perhaps the first potential misconception that needs to be addressed here is the word ‘live’. It seems to me very unlikely, but certainly, a misunderstanding about this word could possibly, I expect, make the phrase ‘live and let live’ in the context of animal use and exploitation, make some sort of sense. So let’s tackle that first.

live: verbto have life, as an organism; be alive; be capable of vital functions:

Now clearly this definition would exclude –  say – rocks, but I expect that everyone would agree that any complex organism such as those whom we victimise for ‘food’, clothing and experimentation actually do ‘live’. They are born, they breathe, they think, they feel, they experience the world. They live.

So having established that they fulfil the criteria to be considered to ‘live’, do we ‘let’ them ‘live’? Well, no.

All animal use industries kill

Given our unnecessary, violent and utterly merciless exploitation of every aspect of their existence from their conception until their terrifying death in a slaughterhouse, the phrase ‘live and let live’ can hardly be considered to have any relevance whatsoever. And let’s make no mistake here – every use of nonhumans and particularly the dairy and egg industries that are predicated upon the exploitation of reproductive processes and the severing of mother/child bonds – lead to premature death for our victims. The perception of dairy and egg use as being victimless is a severely mistaken one, that the links here can dispel unless the reader is utterly determined to remain oblivious.

But we all love animals…?

It increasingly seems to me that we are inhabiting the surreal world of Orwell’s dystopian vision, and this is never illustrated more starkly than in the area of animal use.
For those unfamiliar with the Orwell’s tale, it takes place in a setting where government departments of Peace deal with war and defence, Plenty – economic rationing and starvation; Love – torture and brainwashing; and Truth – propaganda.

In our dealings with animals the majority of us have been schooled to consider that our attitude toward those who are unfortunate enough not to share our species, may legitimately be termed ‘love’, when in fact as consumers we are directly responsible for perpetuating the most sickening and disgusting horrors imaginable upon vulnerable and defenceless individuals without cause or justification. Yet how we like to broadcast this ‘love’, each of us coming from ‘a nation of animal lovers’. We tell others about it; they reassure us that they feel exactly the same. We declare our contempt for all who would harm animals and our audience pats us on the back, absolutely 100% in agreement. We are outraged at what ‘other people’ do to animals and we protest, brimming with righteous indignation because they are clearly not ‘animal lovers’ like ourselves.

Freeze the frame

And yet if we had the means by which to freeze the frame on any one of these conversations and zoom the camera out to a distance, what would we see? Would we see the leather shoes, belts and handbags, the woollen and silk garments? Could we pan to the fridge contents, to see the dismembered corpses of desperately frightened, gentle individuals whose dying screams went unheard? Would we see the milk, the cheese for which mothers were violated and their darling infants sent to slaughter, the eggs for which a tiny, fragile bird spent the only precious chance of life she had in a box of misery, straining to lay egg after egg in her vain attempt to gather a clutch while her brothers were killed at birth? Let’s look at the shelves of cleaning materials, toiletries and cosmetics. Will we see the small furry, terrified creatures, eyes destroyed, skin erupting, crusted, bleeding while their hammering hearts await the next atrocity of a nightmare that only death will end. No. The majority of us won’t. But the majority of these things are true of any one of us who is not vegan.

We complain about what others do, but ever hold ourselves above reproach. I did it too. That’s how I know that what I say is true, hard as it is for me to face the memory.  But this is not what ‘live and let live’ means. It’s not even close.

Living and life – whose right is it?

So I am forced to conclude that the reason for the blindness that allows this preposterous use of the phrase ‘live and let live’, must be something else. As children growing up in nonvegan households (as most of us do), we learn the roots of the inconsistencies that shape adult positions which, on closer examination, make no sense whatsoever. It is here that we begin to learn how to live with the contradictions that many of us struggle with in later life; that love means harm, that kindness means incarceration, that being alive and wanting to live does not mean that one has that right, that our most trivial whims are more important than life is to our victims. Indeed we learn our lessons so well that the majority of us don’t even acknowledge that we have victims, may even seem unaware of this truth.

Seen in that context, the phrase ‘live and let live’ thus comes to mean ‘I am the only one whose life is of any importance whatsoever; I resent any suggestion that I am not free to cause whatever devastation I wish without considering the consequences of my behaviour to those who are harmed by my actions.’ Seen this way, it’s not the fine and noble sentiment we originally thought.

To acknowledge that we do indeed have victims and that this is a completely unnecessary way to live; to face the fact that these victims are sentient which means they are like us in every way but species; and to acknowledge that every aspect of not being vegan is the exact antithesis of ‘live and let live’ leads to only one logical conclusion. To be the people we already think we are, we have to be vegan.

Be vegan.

Posted in Awakening to veganism, Terminology | 2 Comments

For Earth Day: thoughts about speciesism, biophilia and veganism

Today, I learned a new word. As someone fascinated by words, finding this one gave a name to a notion that has become more acute in my recent years as an advocate and blogger, and it prompted thoughts that I’d like to share.

Biophilia, noun:
A love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms.

*The friend who introduced me to the word had learned it in a natural history class from a lecturing conservationist who explained, ‘It’s important because we save what we love.’ Astonishingly, this conservationist then demonstrated what might be considered an absence of affinity by proceeding to discuss other life forms in terms of ‘populations’ to be ‘managed’. This outlook contrasts starkly with Henry Beston (1888 – 1968), the American writer and naturalist, whose words seem to more accurately reflect the spirit of biophilia in the quote:

‘We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.’

Humanity’s tyranny

As a vegan advocate, the main focus of my writing will always be upon the grave injustice we perpetrate upon billions of individuals each year, simply by not being vegan. The vast majority of these victims are used by us to indulge unnecessary dietary preferences, although such is our arrogant belief in the superiority of our species, that our use of them does not stop there. We wear them; we experiment on them; we ‘break’ them and ‘train’ them and are ‘entertained’ by their helpless acceptance of our strength and the implements we use to enforce their compliance. Yet as a species, we choose to remain oblivious to the unspeakable violence inherent in every aspect of our exploitation, frequently repeating the popular myth about how we all ‘love animals’. In this lie of staggering self-deception, we find a reassurance that feeds our continued support of practices so vile that to face them is deeply traumatic and life-changing.

The definition of biophilia includes the word ‘love’, a word which means different things to different people. Veganism does not require us to love our victims, it simply requires that we stop having victims.  Hence although ‘love’ is not necessary for our victims, justice most certainly is. Nevertheless in the same way that we cannot claim to ‘love’ animals with their corpses on our plates and their skins on our feet, we cannot claim to embrace biophilia in these circumstances either.

My focus on the rights of our victims means I seldom refer to the fact that our own health is vastly improved once we cease to view the body parts and secretions of our fellow earthlings as ‘food’. I regard this truth as an unexpected benefit of doing what is simply the right thing. Similarly, my focus on our victims’ sentience means I seldom mention the environmental devastation that is the inevitable result of our use of them. It is, however, inescapable that in laying waste to our own environment, we destroy something irreplaceable, that belongs as much to our victims as it does to us.

I’m neither a scientist nor a medical expert. Although awareness of the environmental and health aspects of nonveganism goes with the territory of being vegan, I leave it to the many others more expert than I, to explain the science of health and environmental destruction; the epidemics of diet-related disease, the pollution, the melting icecaps and the changing climate that imperils us all.

Knowing our place

And of course, our global tapestry is part of a very much larger picture. Planet Earth is but a tiny speck in a mysterious universe where galaxies wheel and tilt, where suns are born and die, where worlds and moons collide and coalesce from stardust. Those who have skills to interpret the science, describe the impact of these forces on our little world; the dinosaurs that have come and gone; the slow drift of tectonic plates that meet and part inexorably; the ebb and flow of tides; land rising from the ocean floor, only to subside again on timescales that our short-lived species struggles to imagine.

Nature, the word we give to the rich tapestry of interdependence that comprises all life here on Earth, is the most perfect of mechanisms, maintaining exquisite equilibrium without our interference. How can we fail to marvel how each living species has evolved to fill a niche that suits its needs, with bodies perfectly designed to obtain whichever ideal sustenance nature has designed them to ingest, wonderfully adapted to survival in whatever climate that their necessary sustenance and shelter may be found, a myriad living entities with a breathtaking array of ways to reproduce and ensure the continuance of their genes.

In the same way that everyone claims to ‘love’ animals, even while actively supporting and promoting unnecessary harm towards them, I find myself pondering the way our species is so quick to declare their ‘love’ for the natural world. Because even as we do, that very same harm that we are causing to our fellow creatures is the direct cause of a systematic devastation that threatens to end life as we know it upon this small blue planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

It seems to me that humanity has lost sight of its place as a single thread in the tapestry of life. With technological advances that have spawned global industrialisation; we are a species fixated on self-interest, reluctant to weigh the moral obligations that accompany our abilities. Having long passed the point where, at the push of a button we could destroy our world and all its wonders, our ‘might makes right’ view assumes a licence to impose our collective will unilaterally upon our shared environment and upon the untold trillions of other life forms whose harmonious interdependence we disrupt and destroy by our arrogant assumption that we can improve on nature.

Delusions of entitlement

In so many ways we usurp the natural world with our urbanisation, with our fossil fuels and with the poisons we pour so liberally onto the land and into the oceans. Yet in terms of land/ water use and pollution, habitat and rainforest destruction, and the global warming that is its inevitable consequence, the impact of the animal use industries constitute the most sustained destructive force that has ever been unleashed on this world by mankind.

Although not necessary for our wellbeing, we have adopted lifestyles that exploit the reproductive systems of our fellow sentient beings. We adapt and manipulate their bodies, creating commercial environments in which to breed them, to accommodate the existence we force them to endure, to facilitate the premature deaths we inflict, and to carry out the processing of their body parts and substances derived from them. Without conscience, we optimise our own financial interests, interests that will always supersede the needs and interests of our victims, those countless annual billions whose sentience we deny and whose lives we mistakenly regard as having no value other than the level by which we profit from their exploitation.

Whilst my main focus is upon our sentient victims, it must be said that the natural world is rich in plant life, uncounted species whose home this also is, and without which the world’s dizzying array of ecosystems could not exist. Our obsession with the use and consumption of our fellow creatures impacts drastically upon plant life too, as we deplete vast swathes of their natural ecosystems to grow crops that we subsequently feed to our victims in a tragically inefficient conversion of vegetation to animal flesh. We destroy natural habitats, displacing the rightful occupants of ancient communities, obsessively ‘farming’ nonhuman species to obtain substances that damage our health. As our population increases, it’s an escalating and devastating cycle where there are only losers and nobody wins, a bleak backdrop against which all our protestations about ‘loving’ animals and the natural world, ring a hollow death knell.

The atrocity of speciesism

It is my firm conviction that all the harm our species inflicts upon others may be traced to a single prejudice by the name of speciesism. A form of oppression directed at other living individuals, speciesism is the practice of according or withholding the rights that are theirs by virtue of their birth, based solely upon their species. This insidious form of discrimination happens simply because they differ from us and cannot prevent our behaviour.

It is abundantly clear that because of speciesism, so many of us fail to respect and value our fellow travellers for the unique contribution each one makes to the harmony and equilibrium of the living marvel that is the world we share. As a species hell bent on self indulgence, we have come so far down the road to destroying this planet that many scientists now consider that we have passed a climatic tipping point which renders our extinction, along with uncounted other species, a grim inevitability with the only relevant point of discussion being the timescale.

Facing the uncertain future

However, even faced with the possibility that we may already be committed to an apocalyptic nightmare, nothing in life is ever guaranteed. Any one of us may be only moments from an unforeseen occurrence that may change our lives for ever. So whatever the future holds, as individuals we can do nothing more than go on living day by day, true to the values we believe in, respecting and valuing each other, our family and our friends of all species. And as we all claim to share a love of life and the living world; as we all claim an affinity for other life forms, living true to our beliefs means holding this value at our core.

So this Earth Day let’s remind ourselves of the biophilia that each of us is eager to embrace and acknowledge just how perilously close to destruction we have brought this planet on which we and each one of our fellow earthlings depend for our very existence.
Let’s renew our rejection of speciesism by refusing to participate in the injustice that regards our fellow travellers as our resources.
And let’s renew our commitment to veganism, the only way we can hope to protect this miraculous corner of the universe that we hold in trust for the uncertain future.

Be vegan.

For those who wish to read more about the environmental impact of nonveganism, I’d like to share the following link with grateful thanks to Benny Malone, my friend and fellow advocate. Vegan Environmental Links

And more environmental links by Truth or Drought:


Posted in Festivals, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Open minds and playing mock the vegan

Every day I read comment after comment from those who dismiss science in favour of support for industry advertising campaigns that play to and reinforce our confirmation bias. It dismays me to witness how many will willingly ridicule the recognition of the sentience of our victims and the fact that not only we do not require to use them for nutritional purposes, but that we are in fact harmed by doing so.

How naïve have we become, to delight in playing ‘mock the vegan’, while lapping up the multi-million media advertising campaigns by the massive industries that market sentient animals, their corpses, eggs and lactation, as commodities and resources, filling their coffers as they laugh all the way to the slaughterhouse?

Since when have we become so trusting as to seriously entertain the idea that those who make their living from harming animals for us to consume as a completely unnecessary ‘food’, are going to be honest with us about the sentience of our victims, the injustice of what we are paying them to do and the very real risks they pose to our health?

Apart from the obvious truth that every one of us claims to care about animals so it clearly makes no sense for us to continue to harm them when it is unnecessary, I have nothing to gain except the hope that sharing my own experiences may help prevent others from taking massive risks with their own health and that of their children.

There are many studies that will tell us that animal products are good for us. There are also those who will tell us that the world is flat and that evolution is a lie. No idea is too preposterous not to have someone who believes and promotes it.

All I can ask is that you apply common sense and follow the money. If a report or a recommendation tells us that consuming animal substances is ‘healthy’ for us and ‘humane’ for them – check out the sponsors, the source and ask yourself who has much to gain from such an assertion. And keep an open mind, corporate sponsors have a surprisingly long reach.

It’s definitely a matter of life and death for our victims and most likely for ourselves as well.

Be vegan.

Posted in Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

In memory of friends

Many of us who share our homes and our lives with a cat, with a dog or with some other nonhuman companion(s) have had to face the experience of agreeing to euthanise them when veterinary medicine can no longer keep their pain at bay.

Look back and remember

Today I’m asking those who have faced that sickening decision to pause for a time and think back to that day as I’m sure you must do at times, your thoughts tinged with sadness. Perhaps, for you as for me, every moment of those days is etched bone deep with a sorrow that can never heal.

While you reflect on this, let me ask a sincere question. Are you vegan? Please realise that I’m not asking you what you choose on the menu when you go out. Being vegan is about refusing to inflict harm and violence for any reason on other individuals who value their lives as we value our own and in the same way we valued the lives of those friends we are remembering today. Some people may be outraged that such a question should intrude on a moment of reverie, but it’s a really important and relevant question.

What we have in common

It’s important because, for a breath or two, for a few beats of our hearts, we have been united in our shared understanding of a bond between species that we can never forget.  We have been joined in a sadness that will never fully leave us. Together we remembered these friends who are no longer with us, and for myself, I longed to share again their friendship and their trust. Together we recalled the havoc and the laughter of the days we shared with them, happier days before that bleak day that we said goodbye to them forever. For a short time, we shared an understanding of what it means to value another for who they are, rather than for how we can use them. And that very understanding is one of the fundamental principles of veganism.

So moving back to the vegan question I asked, let’s turn our thoughts to those whom our nonvegan choices condemn to a short and miserable existence for us to consume them, or wear them, to experiment on them in laboratories, or use them for milk or for eggs. Let’s spare them a thought while they await the knives and the saws that reduce each magnificent and incomparable life to the cost per kilo of a corpse. To fulfil our demands as faceless consumers, they were each brought into the world by our contrivance and intervention to endure a bleak existence, and a terrifying death, where the uniqueness of their personality, the potential for fun and for trust and for friendship with humans all lay dormant, shunned by our relentlessly predatory species as an unwelcome reminder of the emotions, the enquiring minds and the complex ideas of our needless victims. Make no mistake, although we may have been taught otherwise, that potential is there in every sentient creature – it goes with the very definition.

We all know the words to say

When we think of those who are our victims, we become defensive, often resorting to explanations about how we seldom consume substances derived from them, and recounting how we try to ‘source’ these ‘products’ from ‘local’ or ‘humane’ establishments.

And there, in that sentence above,  we see a common but telling shift in terminology, one that is seldom noticed and infrequently remarked upon.  From the mention of our victims, there is an abrupt move away to ‘sourcing’ ‘products’. It’s the shift that happens when the discomfort of thinking of sentient individuals with thoughts and feelings, is eased by re-casting them as objects and resources in our minds and conversation.

You see we all say that we think none should suffer and that we ‘don’t believe in cruelty’. Let’s face it, it’s recited like a mantra. We obsess about their treatment while they await the unnecessary deaths we inflict upon them, pretending that this somehow atones for the injustice of our unnecessary actions. In fact we may even claim to believe that our victims have great lives, but wishing doesn’t make it so. We really know that what we say about them is not true, though we often come very close to fooling ourselves.

Parallels and connections

And so, consider this. Would any of us have wished for our beloved companion to have lived a ‘life’ such as we like to imagine is acceptable for those animals we use? I’m talking about standard practice here, with absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that any aspect of their existence as ‘farmed’ individuals would fail to reach the very highest standards. I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that I would not. And what’s more, I’m confident that any who would say otherwise could only hold that view because they have no knowledge of the violence and grave injustice inherent in any process that uses the lives, the labour and the bodies of sentient individuals as if they were inanimate resources.

Death comes to us all

And finally, setting aside for a moment our knowledge (or lack of it) of the lives of our victims, unless you and I are more different than I can imagine, I know how you felt when your heart was shattering in that vet’s surgery on that day long ago.

And I know beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt that if that vet had reassured you that a humane and peaceful death for your dear companion meant suspending them from chains upside down in the gore spattered cacophony of a slaughterhouse, slicing open the soft beloved throat to spill the lifeblood in a pulsing torrent past eyes, glazed with pain and shocked betrayal, there is not a chance in all the world that you would have believed them for even the slightest fraction of a second. You would have instantly recognised the myth of ‘humane slaughter’ that we hear about so often, for the black and utter lie that it is; that deep down we all know it to be. Unnecessary killing can never be humane. Never.

We are responsible for our actions

Yet for every nonvegan consumer choice that any of us makes, to consume, to wear, to experiment on, to imprison for ‘entertainment’, this is the very real and completely inescapable consequence of our choice and we cannot distance ourselves from being personally responsible for what is done to meet our demands. The only difference between our loved companions and our victims, is that we have never known our victims, have never looked into their eyes to see the fear, never witnessed their loneliness, the desolation and despair of young creatures who have never known what it means to be cared about for who they are, rather than for their commercial value as commodities. We would recognise all these feelings if we were only to have the opportunity to look, just as we recognise these same feelings in our companions and fight so hard to ensure that they never have to experience them.

Honouring, respecting, learning

So today, on behalf of those we have loved, let’s remember with fondness who they were, and who we are, we who understand and value the bonds that sentient individuals of different species share.  And knowing that our victims are exactly like our loved ones were in every way but species, let’s ask ourselves if we can really continue to live in a way that causes such pointless but catastrophic harm to them,  they who have never harboured the slightest thought of harm towards us, and who are completely innocent in every sense.

I know that I couldn’t live that way. That’s why I’m vegan. Please join me.

Posted in Companion animals, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A thought for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a time when we traditionally remember our mothers with love and with gratitude. If we are mothers ourselves, it’s a time when we spend time with families, celebrating and reinforcing the special bond between mother and child, no matter how many years have passed since the day we opened our arms and our hearts to those who, no matter their age, will be our children until our dying breath.

We mothers share a unique understanding, we know each other’s darkest fears. We know what keeps a mother awake though the silent hours when our desperate need to protect our children takes advantage of exhaustion to feed the fears that we dare not name.

Motherhood is not a uniquely human experience, as anyone will know who has watched the tender devotion lavished by mothers of every species upon their unique and treasured infants, borne of the labour of their bodies, as they are welcomed into the world with breathless wonder.

When we use the milk, the eggs, the flesh, or other body parts of members of other species to consume, to wear, or for the multitude of hideous purposes that our species has devised, there’s something we shirk from facing. However today, in the true spirit of Mother’s Day, let’s face the truth so we can start to dispel the nightmare.

Milk_industry_22 Commons.jpgWhen we use other individuals for any purpose, each fundamental practice demands the pitiless exploitation of the maternal reproductive process; the taking, the harming and the killing of their children. This is always the case and no matter what we are told to the contrary, there is no ‘humane’ way to do this. In fact, we are doing to other sentient mothers, the one thing that we ourselves could never face; the thing that haunts our nightmares.

There is no need for us to do this, none at all. We can thrive, and our children can thrive, without inflicting harm on others. All we need to do is to step away from the myths that we have been taught all our lives, to look with fresh eyes and common sense.  And then, as so many of us have done already, say, ‘Enough. I refuse to inflict my darkest fears on any other mother’.

Today is a good day to do that. Let Mother’s Day be for all mothers. Be vegan.

Posted in Awakening to veganism, dairy, eggs, Festivals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A brief thought on feel-good fuzzy words

Joy cropped

Joy, rescued from a free-range facility by Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary

Most of us will agree that it’s wrong to harm animals and we all say that we think they should be treated ‘humanely’. However most of us would struggle to define what ‘humanely’ actually means in real terms, because it is a word that means different things to different people. It sits alongside a raft of other feel-good fuzzy words that we are encouraged to see as related; words like ‘free range’, ‘organic’, ‘grass fed’, ‘corn fed’; words that suggest that the package contents had a wonderful life before winding up in a supermarket mortuary aisle.

Marketing is a science. Those who market substances that are derived from the lives and the bodies of animals, take advantage of the vague understanding of consumers and go to great lengths to suggest that the products they sell were produced in a way that does not conflict with our shared values of caring about animals, employing these feel-good labels often alongside endorsements by various organisations that mendaciously claim to represent ‘animal interests’.

Taking advantage of what we don’t know

Knowing that most consumers don’t know – and in many cases would prefer not to know –  the details or the true definitions, the words are often illustrated (not always subtly) to suggest that they represent a good thing; cue suggestive images of jolly cartoon hens on green grass in sunshine, smiling cartoon cows with jaunty cartoon udders, even – disturbingly – cute and smiling pigs cheerfully slicing their own bodies.

To a greater or lesser degree, the general theme is to seek to ensure the dismembered parts and secretions are as sanitised as possible and bear no possible reminder of the true owner.  It would never do to remind the consumer of the helpless, distraught individual whose unique and precious body they comprised not so very long before. It would never do to open a window into the injustice of their lifelong and relentless use as a commercial asset, where every minute aspect of the existence they endure is governed by humans to maximise their own commercial advantage and fulfil the peaks and troughs of consumer demand-led misery.

If we look into the industry definitions of ‘humane’ or ‘free-range’ or any other of the words we like to see, we will find that they are technical terms, used as a result of compliance with a list of fairly loose conditions for a single reason.

Keep on telling us we’re ethical

Despite recent and rather transparently untrue attempts to suggest that only ‘happy’ victims yield eggs, milk and body parts, that reason has nothing to do with respect for our victims, nothing to do with recognition of their individuality, and nothing to do with acknowledgement of their right to live unharmed. Why would it? For the industries that sell body parts and secretions by the kilo, litre or carton, they are not regarded as sentient individuals, they are resources, business assets and nothing more. The reason that the fuzzy words are promoted is that it’s good business.

Every time we see any of the fuzzy words on a package using or containing milk, eggs or body parts, or indeed on any animal substance, it is a clear admission that suppliers know that their consumers like to be told they’re being conscientious. As a former nonvegan, I know only too well that not only do nonvegan consumers like to be reassured this way, we readily abdicate to the supplier most of the responsibility for ensuring that their products will allow us to continue to feel good about ourselves and pretend we’re causing as little harm as possible.

Our actions, our responsibility

We can’t have it all ways. Either we recognise that our victims matter, that they have feelings, that they can be harmed and hurt. Or we don’t. The fact that so many of us act as I once did myself, looking for the fuzzy words in the misplaced hope that my choices minimised harm, is a clear recognition that for most of us, we know that they matter.

The mere fact that the industry could even consider promoting the suggestion that our victims must be ‘happy’ to give up the substances derived from their bodies is an admission that the consumers are not alone in recognising that our victims matter. However, as always, we should remind ourselves to follow the money and not let the mob or the marketers dictate our actions by falsely seeking to absolve us of responsibility for them.

There is only one way to cause as little harm to others as possible. And that way is to become vegan. In fact it’s the definition of veganism. Find out about it today. Be vegan.

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On being critical and holier than thou

eyelashes-207976_960_720pbI recently saw two criticisms of my blog on Facebook. What, only two? To be honest there’s never any shortage of criticism. The human obsession with using and consuming inappropriate substances and causing death and destruction to vulnerable innocents in order to facilitate the behaviour is very deeply entrenched. Shooting the messenger is almost a reflex for some.

Implied criticism

The first criticism was that vegans should not call themselves vegans because this implied criticism of people who are not vegan. Now that’s a bizarre notion. It could lend itself to all sorts of ridiculous parallels which ends up as being that we should not define ourselves in any way because it implies criticism of those who do not define themselves in that way.

The idea that being vegan is an overt criticism of people who are not vegan is particularly puzzling, given that veganism is defined by living in a manner that minimises the harm we cause to others. Most humans that I have met in sixty years on this planet have no problem at all with the notion that we should not do harm to others; on the contrary most people are quick to condemn anyone who thinks that causing harm is even remotely acceptable.

Almost everyone says they care about animals; says they’re against cruelty; says they believe it’s right to stand up for those who are oppressed and powerless. Being vegan is simply living in a way that reflects the words we all say.  And if we feel criticised by encountering someone who, by calling themselves vegan, reminds us of the conflict between our words and our actions, then I have to suggest that this says more about the uneasy state of our own conscience than it does about the vegan.

Holier than thou

The second critical comment claimed that I had a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, especially towards those who wish to take their time and make gradual or partial dietary adjustments rather than adopting the ethical stance that is veganism, but I’ve seen it used as a general criticism too. Again, this comment is by no means original.

‘Holier than thou’ doesn’t offend me, but tells me more about the accuser than perhaps they want to tell. In the case of my lack of delight about proposed dietary changes, the first thing that it makes me realise is that the writer has no understanding of what veganism actually is. They apparently think it’s a diet and like all diets, these are all about the dieter. A diet is a regime of restrictions undertaken for the benefit of the dieter; to lose weight, to alleviate the effects of allergy or intolerance, for the observance of a cultural or religious tradition etc.

I can’t blame the casual observer for thinking of veganism as a diet or a menu choice. There’s so much misinformation going about and so many ‘advocates’ who adopt the view that their nonvegan contemporaries are in some way incapable of understanding a truthful message about veganism and its desperate urgency when viewed from a victim’s perspective.

Are vegans ‘holier than thou’? As always, I can’t speak for everyone, however the experience of facing up to the violence and bloodshed that our species embraces as the norm is a deeply humbling one. When it happened to me, a very real sense of profound shame weighed me down for many months. I have never forgotten, and never want to forget, the awareness of the horror for which I was personally responsible.

That horror is not an abstract notion for me. When I was learning exactly what I had supported, I forced myself to watch the consequences of my consumer choices.  Because of me, beautiful, gentle, innocent individuals with families and friends, who valued their lives and wanted to be left in peace to live them, had faced nightmares that I had never before been capable of imagining. I no longer need to imagine them. Now I know exactly what they faced for me. I have heard the screams gurgling through blood that spurts out of gaping throats; I have seen despair in the defeated eyes of the doomed; I have seen the saws getting to work before the spark of life has gone.

The many ways of saying ‘go away’

Taking a step back, it seems that what these accusations of being ‘critical’ or ‘holier than thou’ are really saying is, ‘I want you to just shut up and go away because you’re making me uncomfortable’, but in the interests of fairness and to see if I can learn any lessons, I’ve really thought about them, and all I can say is this.

When I became vegan, I realised that I had betrayed every value that I always believed to define me. In doing so I discovered that I was not the mother or the sister, the friend or indeed the person that I had fondly imagined myself to be. Never was I so aware of being unworthy.  That I should think of myself as ‘holier than thou’, in some way morally superior, is so far from the mark that words fail me, and I would be very surprised to find that I’m the only vegan who feels this way.

In becoming vegan, each of us faces demons that we have spent a lifetime ignoring. Living in a world where the majority of our contemporaries are as we once were, serves as a constant reminder of our own failings and we are each our own most merciless critic. All we can do is ask others to stop making the mistakes we made ourselves, and as advocates we do it every day and in every way we can devise.

The shame of my previous behaviour will never leave me and to be completely blunt, I’m not even slightly interested in trying to score points off anyone who continues on the path that I walked before I was vegan. There can be no comfort in being ‘better’ than anyone else, or in trying to find someone whose behaviour is ‘worse’ than mine was so that I can point a finger of criticism at them. I don’t feel morally superior to anyone; how could I be anything but humble when we have all behaved so abominably? The only differences between us lie in recognising our mistakes and resolving not to repeat them.

Be vegan. Today.

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Taking our time, taking their lives

cow-1805371_960_720Yesterday I heard a sentence that I can’t stop thinking about. The sentence was, ‘I was on my journey to being the best me.’ It was said by someone seeking to make a case for the several years of their transition to becoming vegan, and how they couldn’t have managed without support from a ‘nice vegan person’. I want to make it absolutely clear from the start; I intend no personal criticism and I have no views about either the person whose words began this train of thought, or their mentor. I don’t know them. I would however suggest that neither of them started with a clear understanding of what veganism is. The reason for this essay is not because these individuals, or this view, are in any way unique or unusual, but rather the reverse. It’s a position that I find distressingly common.

I know however that there are many who adopt or promote a gradual transition to becoming vegan. Groups abound where individuals find praise for their incremental ‘journey’ from fellow travellers. I have always agreed that depending on one’s individual circumstances, it may take a period of time to incorporate the vegan ethic into our life, and support and practical advice is a great thing. There are many places to get it online, recipes, products, pointers to help us in our new life – we all value these no matter how long we have been vegan.

But I have always struggled to understand by what right any of us claims to be able to forgive atrocity and injustice on behalf of our victims, and every day we delay that transition is costing them their lives. In my mind, veganism is a black and white issue. We support needless harm or we don’t. Harm or not. It’s as simple and straightforward as can be. And here’s the key thing. It’s not about us. If we think it’s about us, we’re not thinking about veganism. Veganism is all about our victims.

The way I see things

So let me present an alternative perspective.

This morning, in the shower, I found myself thinking that for billions of unique individuals, today is just another day in hell. Short, disjointed scenes flashed through my mind’s eye, images of business as usual in the shrouded world of our vile and unnecessary predation.

I envisaged the massive fleet of trucks and transports, a never-ending procession, a conveyor belt heading into places we refuse to even think of; places where these innocent and gentle, harmless creatures will be confronted with things we cannot face as they die piece by bleeding piece in the clanging stench of steaming entrails and blood; places where they will know a fear that we cannot even imagine, where they will whimper and sob, beg and plead, unheard or ignored by those with the hooks, the hard hands, the knives and saws, the hide-pullers and the panoply of torment apparatus deployed amidst the screaming of the damned.

As my mental gaze skipped over the massive convoy of trucks, I saw curious pigs huddling silent with dread, I saw sheep cuddling close, stacked in layers on motorway transports, I saw new-born calves shut down and overwhelmed with need for the mothering warmth and the milky smell forever out of reach. I saw boisterous bovines, coats gleaming with adolescent vitality, stopped at traffic lights, peering out between slats in nervous amazement, I saw crates packed with six-week chicks, their infant peeping hushed, shivering in the first and last breeze of their joyless existence, I saw the tired and the sick and the used up and exhausted of every species, old long before their time, all heading inexorably into the slaughtering maw.

As the film of my mind’s eye rolled relentlessly on, I saw the violating and the cutting, the de-beaking and the de-toeing, the dis-budding of infant horns and the branding, the tooth clipping and the tail docking. I saw screaming castrations, arms and metal implements violating mothers restrained and defeated, ear nicking and notching and tagging, the sucking pumps and the swish of milk filling industrial vats, the visceral convulsing of small feathered bodies to lay yet one more egg and it just went on and on and on.

And, heart breaking again, the water streaming down my face had nothing to do with the shower as I stood there, shaking with grief. I pictured their eyes as I do every day, those mirrors of the pure unsullied souls that we torment with our refusal to be vegan. As I looked in each mutely pleading, bewildered and desperate gaze, I knew that if there was anything I could do right now, instantly, to end their abject misery, the bone deep hurt that my species inflicts on them, I would do it and gladly.

And I want to shout to the world that THIS is what veganism is about. THEY are the reason that we need to be vegan, and they cannot wait. And I wondered what I would say, how I could possibly look at those eyes and say, ‘sorry, not today, it’s not convenient’? I wondered how I could possibly tell them that their anguish doesn’t fit with my journey to being the best me, so today they’ll just have to die but never mind, I’ll get round to stopping hurting them at some point. And I knew that I couldn’t say those things. I have to hope that no one could.

Make no mistake, the need for a vegan world is urgent beyond words. When we’re asking others to become vegan, we need to recognise that it’s the only message of hope that there is for our victims.  We need to understand exactly what we’re asking and not dilute the message. We truly are all they have, and they need each of us to be crystal clear on their behalf.  The situation of our victims is so poignant, so desperate, so heart-breaking, and we owe it to them all to tell their story clearly.

We will not save those who are on farms, in sheds, in labs and in zoos today, or those who are on those millions of transports, whose dying screams are happening as I type. But by convincing others to become vegan we can all work to end the voracious consumer demand for torment and death.

We need to do it now. Please be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments