Statistics: a list of individual tragedies

How often do we look at statistics and get lost in the mathematics of bigger numbers and smaller numbers, more or fewer, comparisons and graphs.

Look again. Every single one of these 74,171,872,986 was a unique individual – separate from all others just as you would be if you stood in a crowd.

Every single one had a mind and thoughts and wishes. Every single one did not want to die and for every single one their last thoughts were of pain, of terror and of desperation while their panicking heart pumped their lifeblood out through their slashed and broken flesh onto our killing floors.

I read so often the myth that ‘slaughter is humane and painless’. This is utter nonsense and tells us simply that the writer has chosen not to face the truth. However, even if that myth were true, it does not justify the outrage of what our species does to every other. None, NONE of these deaths was necessary.

Let 2018 be a year when we continue to represent the bleak and despairing individuals behind the statistics. For our needless victims, we fail them all if we fail to represent them as the individuals that they are.

Be vegan.


Statistics source: Food and Agriculture Organization – FAOSTAT Production – Livestock Primary – 2016.

This number does not include marine creatures, male chicks killed soon after hatching by the egg industry (currently estimated at 6 billion annually), wildlife dying from loss of habitat or the millions who are killed annually in laboratories after having substances and procedures ‘tested’ on them, and numerous other groups not directly associated with ‘food’ production.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

‘Personal choice’ – remembering a lesson

This year, I’ve decided to revise and re-publish some of my favourite blogs from previous years. This is the first of these, prompted because the claims of ‘personal choice’ still make monotonous and regular appearances in comments threads everywhere.

Originally published 27 June 2016. Revised and republished 10 January 2018.

Today, for some inexplicable reason, I remembered the first time another person told me that eating ‘meat’ was their ‘personal choice’. The memory has replayed itself all day in my mind’s eye.

It was 2012 and I recall still feeling raw from the horrors that I had learned in the weeks before about the dairy and egg industries, and was rediscovering a way to exist in a world that looked exactly as it had before, but where my own perspective had shifted irrevocably.

The other person in the conversation was a work colleague and had been for many years. I would probably go so far as to say we had been friends and there we were, the two of us, at work. I had just confided that I had recently become vegan.

‘Of course,’ my colleague said, ‘what I eat is my personal choice.’

The forceful words were accompanied by a hostile flash in the eyes and a defensive set to the chin that spells ‘back off’ in any language.  It was probably not the first time I had heard this statement, but it was certainly the first time I had heard it since becoming vegan. I don’t remember the other times. Like so much of my life and my thoughts in those tragic decades when I was not vegan, I look back down the years at that person who wore my face and I know who she became but not who she was. I know what she thought but not how she managed to reconcile it with the kind of person she thought she was.

Anyway, to return to this memory and this assertion of ‘personal choice’; I had no response. I think I mumbled something and then sat there, stunned, taken aback by the immensity of this preposterous idea.  I had thought that I knew this person; had thought they shared the same values as myself. Yet here I was with a metaphorical chasm yawning at my feet, knowing that my colleague’s words were utterly wrong for uncounted reasons that I could not articulate. I felt as if everything I had valued about our friendship had been a lie. I left that workplace shortly afterwards and although I have been invited several times to ‘catch up’, I never have.

Finding the positive – advocacy

Almost six years have passed since that day and it’s strange how things turn out. I silently made a vow that never again would I fail my defenceless, innocent earthling kin because I didn’t have an answer. I read and researched, listening and learning as much as I could bear to know about the atrocities that my species perpetrates upon every other species on the planet. What I found was unspeakable, the stuff of nightmares, unbelievable and yet true. So in an odd sort of way, I am grateful for that experience long ago, because although I didn’t realise it at the time, that day marked the tentative start of my vegan advocacy.

Becoming vegan is like that; so many turn to advocacy. And that’s understandable. After all the harm we did before we knew any better, we feel the weight of the huge debt we owe  our victims, who endured an existence and a death so vile, so terrifying that we shrink from imagining it; the despoiled and pitiful remains of their only, precious lives long since crunched, digested and flushed away.

The tragic irony is that most humans are eager to declare their concern for nonhuman animals, to reject ‘cruelty‘ to them and to condemn those who participate in it. Once we recognise and accept that we have no right to harm sentient individuals whatever their species, we realise that to refrain from participating in the gratuitous and needless violence of our sanctimonious species is the very least we can do. The only way to do that is to be vegan.

Each of us may be provided with information about the deep injustice of animal use, but engaging in a meaningful way with that information, internalising the realisation that this is the only way to make peace with our conscience, and making the decision to become vegan, has to come from within. We can provide reams of information, but for the seeds we plant to bear fruit, those to whom we reach out must be receptive to that information. As advocates, we must remain hopeful that this will happen, not least because we are beginning on common ground, from a shared assertion that we all ‘care’ about animals.

Informed choice?

And this leads me to another point that I have considered as time has passed, as I have delved deeper into the vile and hidden practices inherent in any system that commodifies sentient individuals as ‘resources’. When someone tells us that it is their ‘personal choice’ to use others, their body parts, their reproductive systems, their forced compliance with our domination; asserting that their ‘personal choice’ demands subjugation of the vulnerable to brutality for consumption, for plucking and shaving and flaying, for testing, for entertainment, and for the hundreds of deeply disturbed and disturbing purposes that our species invents, there is one thing that we all – vegan and nonvegan alike – have to fervently hope.

And that hope is that the one who claims the right to exert this ‘personal choice’ is speaking from a lack of knowledge.  Anyone who could calmly gaze into the screaming, whimpering hell of our creation; who can acknowledge the pain, the anguish, the separation and grief and degradation; can be aware of the mute pleas of the bleeding, mutilated, broken young creatures who have never known a moment of peace or joy and can feel entitlement and assert that it is their ‘choice’, is truly a most terrifying creature and certainly far beyond my comprehension.

We have to seriously believe that their words stem from a lack of information. Such a ‘personal choice’, made informed and knowingly, could belong only to one whose violence and blood lust know no bounds. And that lack of information is our cue as advocates.

As time goes by

So how would the person I am today respond to my former colleague, asserting their ‘personal choice’ to silence and dismiss me? Well, there’s a time and a place for a discussion about ethics and even now, I fully recognise that was not it. But now I would stand my ground and would point out calmly that while the use and consumption of animal ‘products’ is indeed a choice, it can hardly be said to be ‘personal’. A personal choice is one that affects only ourselves. A personal choice has no victims and leaves no bloodbath in our wake.

I might invite them to watch one of the increasing number of films about animal use such as Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home which is free to watch on the link. Most such films, unfortunately, do not promote veganism, but instead leave viewers with the impression that the problem lies in our treatment of our victims or the environment in which it takes place. This is completely incorrect, however some films can be a useful wake-up call on the strict understanding that any viewing is accompanied by a message that it is not how we treat our unnecessary victims that is the problem, it is the fact that we have victims at all that we need to address, and that adopting veganism is the only way to end all the uses that the film depicts.

And the person I am today would try to salvage some sort of relationship, in the hope that as time went by I could seize other opportunities to change mind and heart by providing information. Because I don’t think my colleague was that terrifying creature of nightmares whose ‘personal choice’ was made knowingly. They spoke from a place of ignorance. I’m fairly certain that their ignorance was a conscious choice, but nevertheless there is always a cure for ignorance, and the cure is information; it’s just a question of finding the way – if it exists – to convey it.

If anything I am more determined, more unequivocal than I ever was but I have learned to separate the deed and the perpetrator as we all must. I have stood in their shoes, smug and opinionated in my breathtaking ignorance. Although I can’t recall exactly how it happened, I was fortunate that the information I needed came my way and I can never thank that unknown advocate enough.

Breaking through the shell of ignorance is what advocacy is all about. Advocate with truth, sincerity and persistence. Be vegan.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

What is veganism – a reminder

In recent days, I’ve seen many comments on posts and pages making suggestions about how to be more persuasive about veganism; how to make it more ‘appealing’.

  1. ‘You should be telling people to watch < film about human health>’;
  2. ‘You should be talking about how animal agriculture is destroying the environment‘;
  3. ‘You should be sharing articles about ‘vegan’ athletes or celebrities’;
  4. ‘You should be posting recipes’.


It is certainly true that eating a plant diet has many proven health benefits and is known to reduce the risk of the killer diseases caused by the poor and inappropriate diet followed by the majority of those who consume other animals, lactation, eggs and other substances derived from their bodies.

But veganism isn’t about humans and their health. It’s rather sad and says much about our view of our fellow humans that so many think that only by appealing to our self interest can we understand the concept of justice and be persuaded to behave with basic decency. I’m sure it’s true for some, just like I’m sure that it’s only the risk of punishment that prevents some from committing crimes, but even if it was true for every single person, human health benefits are not what veganism is about.


It’s also true that meeting the consumer demands of those who are not vegan are resulting in practices that are destroying the environment and are the leading cause of the changing climate that places every single one of us in mortal peril. But terrifying as that is, the desire to halt the Armageddon scenario, while it is consequentially connected to global consumption patterns, is not what veganism is about.


As for athletes and celebrities, apart from the sad fact that not everyone who claims to be vegan, actually is vegan, following celeb culture, fads and diets are not what veganism is about.

Recipes? There are thousands of sites and pages for that. The world doesn’t need another recipe page. While those who suggest posting recipes instead of ethics mean well, showing people how easy it is to eat a plant diet, making it all about human convenience, is not what veganism is about.

Suck it and see

Apart from anything else, I am always aware of the very real risk of reinforcing the mistaken perception of veganism as a diet.  This perception needs no additional reinforcement whatsoever at a time when there are so many ‘why not try it out’ programmes running, making it all about us, all about our interests, all about our convenience.

I simply don’t believe it’s possible to try out justice, try out being a decent human being for a week or two, before deciding it’s not for us and going back to the way we were. I believe people are  far better than that.

But everyone needs motivation. So, after looking at all the things it’s not, let’s revisit the beating heart of veganism, the starting point.

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)

Animals. First. Foremost. Central. Always.

That is the original definition of veganism. And it’s about animals.

That’s our motivation; our motivation is the desire for justice for all sentient life in a better world. ‘[W]e must renounce our .. attitude that we have the right to use them to serve our needs.’ Veganism couldn’t really be any more simple or easy to understand.

The issue that we must address is not how we treat our unnecessary victims. It’s the fact that we have victims when it is unnecessary. Once we, as individuals, deal with that as consumers at the checkouts, everything; health, environment and everything else will flow directly from our changed behaviour.

A better world starts with each of us and it can start today. Be vegan.



Posted in Advocacy, Terminology, What is ...? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The price of a life

There are many people who will tell us, ‘I love animals and I think they should be treated humanely but I eat meat’ and will see no irony in a declaration that they have possibly never even stopped to consider.

This statement, that I’ve seen so often on too many posts and pages, came into my head at the tragic sight of a flock of dead chickens, whose pale, featherless and flaccid 42 day old corpses were arrayed in the mortuary aisle of a supermarket today. Posed obscenely without heads or feet, they were shrink-wrapped and emblazoned with a red tractor bragging about the ‘quality’ of their cold, dead flesh. They cost about £3.00. That’s €3.36 or $4.06.

When those who claim they ‘love’ and also consume these pitiful little bodies are looking for the best bargain in the mortuary aisle, I wonder what sort of a wonderful life they imagine any individual has had, if the price of their corpse in a supermarket is £3.00?

What sort of any kind of life could anyone have had, if the price of their corpse in a supermarket is £3.00? Given the number of humans who made a profit for whatever role they played in this tragedy; the hatchery, the farmer, the transporters taking quietly cheeping crates full of frightened babies to be killed, the slaughterers, the packers, the loaders, the refrigerated vehicles full of silent bodies, the wholesaler and the supermarket and maybe others as well – that’s a hell of a lot of palms to grease out of a measly £3.00.

How much was left for the victim out of that £3.00 for anything other than the barest minimum of every single thing; like comfort, like warmth, like food, like space to move around and all the many other things we value in our own lives? We can’t put a price on our own lives because we each know that our own life is beyond price to us. Each of our victims values their own life in the same way and does not want to die. We have no need and no right to take that treasured life away.

And we have no right to delude ourselves that we care about those whom we kill without cause. Our words cannot stand scrutiny; they make no sense. When we stop demanding harm, harm will no longer be profitable.

Be vegan.

Posted in 'Happy' exploitation, Advocacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

To kill vast numbers, we must ‘farm’ vast numbers

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen

When we are not vegan, and if we consider it at all, we sometimes have the idea that the reproduction of ‘farmed’ individuals is somehow a natural process and our use of their bodies for eggs, milk and body parts is some kind of fire-fighting that’s essential to keep down numbers and prevent the human population from being overwhelmed. This is by no means true, despite the bucolic consumer fantasies encouraged by the industries that conduct these atrocities against sentient individuals for profit.

Most humans prefer not to even recognise that ‘[f]armed-animal production is and always has been based on manipulating and controlling animals’ sex lives and reproductive organs’, a quote from the excellent article linked below about the reality of our domination of the sexual functions of our victims.  As a matter of fact, some breeds such as the turkeys pictured above have been so tampered with by our species for commercial gain, that they are no longer even capable of reproduction without injuring each other. Their very existence is due entirely to the most terrifying and painful, invasive and manipulative intervention by humans.

Could animal numbers escalate out of control?

On the risk of victim numbers spiralling out of control, consider this.

Recent estimates of land animals place slaughter numbers at over 74 billion a year which is more than 9 times the entire global human population. This slaughter number represents over 203 million a day, over 8.4 million an hour, over 141,000 a minute, over 2,300 sentient individuals per second. Can you imagine that? Think of how many screams of agony have been ignored while you’ve been reading this. Think how much blood has flowed. Think how many have begged for their lives.

These numbers tell us something else though. They tell us that in order to sustain existing numbers of defenceless individuals ‘farmed’ to meet consumer demand so we can do it all again next year, 2,300 individuals per second are being brought into the world with their dates in the slaughterhouse planned in advance.

This is never a natural process. Those who ‘farm’ lives are required to maintain strict records and inventories about their victims who for them are business assets.  This procedure is made possible only through utter control of every single aspect and moment of their victims’ existence.

There is absolutely no risk whatsoever of the human population being overwhelmed by other species. All we need to do to reduce existing numbers is to stop contriving them to exist by causing them to breed.

Find out the facts. We owe it to our victims and we owe it to ourselves to know what is being done in our name.

And then be vegan. Because it’s simply the right thing to do.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, FAQ | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wishes as another year ends

It wasn’t always so, but the longer I advocate for the rights of the innocent victims of our species, the more increasingly difficult I find the festive season. In my usual way, I’ve tried to work out why this should be, because after all, today, as the year wanes, the world is no less vegan than it is at any other time of the year. Like everyone else, I am constantly surrounded by a culture that has normalised the most sickening brutality; a brutality that has been re-branded for uncritical consumers in such a way that the majority are not only oblivious, but in deep denial about their complicity with the bloodbath and stanch in their perception of themselves as ‘animal lovers’.  I live in a society so entrenched in causing an endless bloodbath that they have learned to respond to the truth with outrage and aggression, so convinced are they that it’s just not happening.

In a society where self-indulgence is positively encouraged, fictions about animal use are pushed incessantly by advertisers, those mercenary front men for the vast industries whose trade is in death, in pain, in violence and in dairy and eggs which are the torments of reproductive exploitation. These fictions tell consumers exactly what they want to hear. With a touch of ‘adult’ gloss and glamour we see repeated and re-framed the nonsense myths of childhood about ‘needing’ to use members of other species; about being ‘entitled’ to use them because of our ill-defined ‘superiority’; about how our victims don’t mind and even ‘cooperate’ in their torture.

Childhood tales

It is little wonder that the majority of us find it difficult to explain where the roots of these ideas originate. They remain couched in the words of our infancy, lost in the mists of the past, honed throughout our development to adulthood by the encouragement of family and peers reassuring us that it’s ‘normal’. Finally, without even being aware of how we have been so deeply corrupted, we become fully-fledged consumers of brutality, violent funders of gore, complacent supporters of torment and violence, who screen their delicate sensibilities from the truth by the thick veil of utterly wishful thinking that is the result of the various imaginary justifications that at one time have influenced us all. Until the day we became vegan that is.

What’s different about the festive season?

So why is it that the festive season is so particularly hard – not just for me – but for many of my friends? Here we have a time of year when so many talk of ‘peace on earth’, silent, holy nights, of love and joy and goodwill, of giving and sharing and of the bonds of family and friendship.

It’s a time of year when it might seem more rational than at other times to hold the belief that I cling to so desperately; that people are good at heart; that they do want peace, that they don’t want to cause harm, and pain, torment and violence to the innocent and defenceless.

The death knell of the Christmas bells

And then I see the shops with their mortuary aisles full of corpses; I see the milk, cheese and cream for which infants and their mothers were parted forever, the eggs that destroyed so many fragile lives in endless labour, the toiletries that burned out eyes and abraded skin. I look at the plush, shiny handbags and footwear that deny the very existence of the hide pullers that wrenched off the skin, their raw materials, from the sickeningly agonised, quivering flesh of their owners. I see the horror that lies behind this season of self-delusion.

And I realise that for me, the distress of the season stems from a sense of missed opportunity. It’s grief. It’s sheer heartbreak to see that it’s all a charade; to know that it’s business as usual in the screaming, clanging, frantically scrabbling terror of the slaughterhouses. There’s no peace there. No silence. No love and no joy. Just the agents of a remorseless species of ‘animal lovers’ hacking their terrified victims to pieces to celebrate peace.

What do you say for a New Year wish?

I used to say things like ‘Merry Christmas’. I used to say things like ‘Happy New Year’. I can’t now. How can I find any ‘merriness’ or ‘happiness’ in the knowledge of how many innocent children of other species are paying with their lives for this magnificent and hollow charade?

I wish peace to friends and family alike. To those who are vegan, I can say that I understand what haunts their sleepless nights – it haunts my own. But we can’t give up, however much it hurts, because although we will not save over *seventy billion land based individuals, or the uncounted trillions of sentient aquatic creatures who will die horrific deaths for no reason in the coming year, by telling their tale we may eventually save their children from suffering the same brutal injustice as their parents.

To those who are not vegan, I wish you peace also. And I will continue until my dying breath to try to find the words to explain to you why real peace is vegan, so that you may step away from violent injustice and experience the reality of it.

Be vegan.


*The gruesome count for last year was 74 Billion. Here are the global animal slaughter numbers for 2016 (from
Asses – 2,569,520
Birds not specified elsewhere – 55,324,000
Buffaloes – 26,190,707
Camels – 2,445,235
Cattle – 302,018,862
Chickens – 65,847,411,000
Ducks – 3,056,103,000
Game animals – 655,978
Goats – 459,861,000
Geese and Guinea Fowl – 658,903,000
Horses – 4,784,491
Mules – 477,506
Other unclassified – 93,292
Other camelids – 944,671
Other rodents – 70,440,000
Pigs – 1,478,167,073
Rabbits – 980,785,000
Sheep – 551,420,651
Turkeys – 673,278,000
Total – 74,171,872,986
Posted in Advocacy, Festivals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Festive thoughts, six years on

A week to go and festive shops are reaching fever pitch. Freezers in the mortuary aisles are piled high, while stacks of roasting trays and tins are on special offer in prominent displays.

Smiling, laughing gatherings in adverts, banners and TV successfully normalise glistening corpses on groaning tables; pitiful remains slathered in processed breast milk that we have been taught not to think about (‘it’s just butter, right’?) with stuffing (well what of it?) Again, we ignore the fact that this is the ground up body parts of other defenceless individuals who didn’t want to die. ‘Oh for goodness sake! These vegans! No sense of humour. Always obsessed with what everyone else is eating!’ But it’s not ‘what’ is being eaten that’s the issue; it’s who is being hurt and harmed.  Eating is only a part of the problem.

One supermarket is advertising that ‘however you do Christmas; we have a turkey for you’. I can’t understand how I used to miss the insidious manipulation of messages like these. No supermarket has a turkey for the way a vegan does Christmas. No supermarket has a turkey who’s alive, who’s healthy and respected, one who is joyfully chatting and curious and hoping for a hug.

The shops have sections where we can buy ‘gifts from Santa’ for the cats and dogs who share our homes; new collars, new toys, new beds and festive ‘treats’, all presented with the sparkle of tinsel and a jingle of bells. At the same time, rescues are struggling to cope with the overload of discarded individuals, abandoned to make room for new kittens, new puppies. Millions will die in shelters. When they’re sitting there, desperately hoping that their humans will come back for them, I wonder if they remember all the times they were told they were ‘such a good lad’, or ‘my sweet princess’? The wondering breaks my heart.  Bewildered, afraid, starving, and reviled as ‘pests’ and ‘strays’, there are cats, dogs and others of the species that we consider to be ‘pets’ dying without shelter in our sub-zero temperatures while we all still nurse this illusion of ourselves as ‘animal lovers’.

So here it is

So, here it is again, the festive season. I thought it would get easier with the passage of time but it doesn’t. I find myself reflecting on the posts and comments of so many who have chosen to be vegan.

This festive season will be my sixth since the day in 2012 that I decided that I had to stop paying for others to hurt defenceless creatures for my consumer demands. I have never, not even for a moment, regretted that decision and I know I never shall, although a dozen times and more each day, I wish with all my heart that I had made it sooner.

I find that here on this sixth festive season as a vegan, I have become excruciatingly aware of just how isolating veganism can be, when most of those who surround us are not only not vegan themselves, but are flaunting the violence of their consumer choices with animal parts and skins, toiletries and gifts.  Their martyred air is hard not to notice, while they tolerate and ‘accommodate’  what so many view as the dietary and other eccentricities of their vegan friends and family members.

What do we actually want?

And yet, my concern is not whether there will be a vegan option on a menu if I choose to go out. My concern is not whether I may receive gifts that have been derived through harming defenceless members of other species. My concern is not even that I may spend much of the festive season alone, because I actually prefer the isolation, crave it as an escape.

Yes, I admit that I find myself seeking refuge from the feeling of being surrounded, hemmed in close by humans celebrating silent, holy nights, peace, love and joy in an orgy of consumer spending that has at its heart the almost undiluted misery of desperate creatures whose only crime is that they are not human.

There was never any silence or holiness in the places where their pitiful lives were ‘farmed’; in the labs where their skin was abraded, their eyes burned out, and poisons forced down their throats. No joy ever came out from a slaughterhouse along with the corpses, the skins, the bones and the gore.


A peaceful festive season is vegan, and here at home, like so many others, I try to pull up the drawbridge. Within these walls, even though I still love some who are not vegan, for a few short hours or days I try to cut off the seasonal clamour and the horror that flows through it with a stench of death and defilement.

As the years roll by, I realise that being vegan is not something I do – if it ever was. Vegan is who I am; it’s everything that there is to say about me. Like many of us, all I really want for Christmas is for those who think we’re eccentric adherents of a restrictive diet, to take the time to find out what it actually means to be vegan.  I cherish the hope that they’ll realise how closely it fits with the values they hold themselves. And then I wish them peace.

Be vegan.

Posted in Festivals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Aggression, blame and guilt

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

A comment on a recent essay said that with regards to vegan advocacy, ‘people don’t respond positively to aggression, blame and guilt but rather to encouragement, praise and education’. I have to say that I do agree with the principles of this, but with certain qualifications as I’ll explain.

Lessons from our past

At the risk of repeating myself, each of us needs to remember where we came from, needs to remember how we were raised; needs to remember what and how we used to think. We can never afford to forget what we did and how we used to justify it in those days before we opened our eyes to the reality of what our species inflicts on every other. Knowing and constantly remembering how I used to be, helps me try to understand and to reach those who are just like I was. This mindfulness is the reason why it would never occur to me to use insulting, offensive and vitriolic language directed towards those who are not vegan – not even for the shock value. It wouldn’t have worked on me when I wasn’t vegan and I’ve no reason to suppose it will work on anyone else.

So what works?

I know it’s true that many who read my words will never open their minds to see the injustice of their actions as people who are not vegan. Others may simply lack the empathy that would allow them to see their behaviour from the perspective of their victims. Yet more readers may be so firmly entrenched in the lies about animal use that surround us all, that for them, the clarion ring of truth will be drowned out by the myths of childhood, and by the insecurities exploited by those who trade in lives, in body parts and forced service while relying on the ignorance of consumers to part them from their cash.

But there are others. From time to time, I’ll get a message, see a post, or come across a comment that tells me that my words have helped encourage someone to become vegan or have provided them with encouragement to begin their own advocacy. These are very good days – not in a personal sense – but for the animals.

For all our victims of every species, each new vegan is one fewer consumer demanding the devastating harm that is the inevitable consequence of every position that falls short of veganism. For all our victims of every species, each new vegan is one more human who, with every choice they make, every single day for the rest of their life, will do their absolute best to create no victims.

Praise where it’s due?

However I’m fairly sure that this is not what the person who commented was intending to convey. By no means the first to express a comment about aggression, blame and guilt, I suspect they meant the words more as an accusation than a general observation. Those who represent themselves as ‘pragmatic’ frequently condemn the providing of factual information as an ‘all or nothing approach to veganism’, and are frequently hostile towards those who present veganism as a simple ‘harm/don’t harm’ choice.

Any post stating that the only way we can stop causing unnecessary harm to members of other species, is by being vegan, is frequently a target. There are many who will condemn such posts as ‘unrealistic’ or even ‘aggressive’. While claiming to represent animal interests, they will then heap praise and encouragement on others for ‘cutting down’ their consumption of animal flesh, eggs, milk, or one of the many substances that are derived from our pitiless use of their lives and reproductive processes.

Now encouragement is a great thing – as long as we are encouraging our peers to be vegan. If we are not promoting veganism,  then it’s a betrayal of the victims that are continuing to be tormented and killed. In a way it’s a double betrayal, firstly by those who claim to know better, and secondly because those who have been encouraged by them, will now feel reassured and may never again have the chance to realise that they are still harming and killing vulnerable innocents.

The truth and the telling of it

There are some who will call out, ‘aggression’, ‘negativity’, ‘guilt tripper’ etc about any information, regardless of how factual it is, if it makes readers uncomfortable in any way.  And this is where I need to make something absolutely clear:

  • There is a huge difference between expressing truth, and being aggressive, negative and blaming; 
  • But there is likewise a huge difference between encouragement, praise and education, and betraying someone who is relying on us to defend them from injustice.

And that difference – the chasm between praise and betrayal – is where I start to have a problem.

What truth isn’t

The truth is just that. The truth. For example, like almost everyone I know, I have been through the trauma of the breakup of a long-term relationship from both sides; as the one who wanted the relationship to end, and as the one who didn’t even see it coming. At some point in the sad decline that preceded the actual end, came the conversation where one person had to say to the other that the feeling had gone and the relationship was over. It was heartbreaking, hurtful and distressing. But it was the truth and no matter how hard anyone tries to make it not hurt, it just does.  We’ve all seen situations where attempts to ‘let someone down gently’ have only made things worse in the end. The truth is not automatically an act of aggression, no matter how much it hurts.

Telling the truth is not a negative act. A negative act is one that is intended to cause distress and sometimes needlessly at that. The truth isn’t like that; when expressed in the form of facts, it is simply what IS. That’s not to say it won’t hurt, but there is no automatic intent to cause any particular reaction, either positive or negative.

And telling the truth is not an act of blaming.  Like so many of my fellow advocates, as someone who was not always vegan, how could I possibly ‘blame’ anyone for being the same as I used to be? That would simply make no sense.

So when we’re talking about animals

When we are talking about animal use, and the defence of their rights as individuals who deserve to live unharmed and unmolested for the trivial and unnecessary whims of our violent species, the truth is unpleasant, even when expressed in the most matter-of fact terms. Representing the rights of our victims necessarily means that we must point out that using them is not necessary. Representing the rights of our victims means that we are duty bound to explain the ways in which they are harmed by our use. To present this information is to provide the opportunity for others to become educated about the real consequences of the behaviour that we are all taught to overlook and excuse from our earliest years.

I have yet to discover a way that expresses the truth about the horror of our use of all other species, that does not make those who have been participating in it feel bad about their actions to some extent. I’d even go so far as to suggest that such a way does not and cannot exist.

The reality for which our species is responsible is no less than an atrocity, the scale of which is a VERY unpleasant truth, and it’s the internalising of that realisation that provides us with the ‘light bulb moment’ that I’ve mentioned before. That ‘light bulb moment’ is the one that breaks through the complacent shell that every single one of us used to have before we became vegan, and through making us realise the direct consequences of our actions as consumers, compels us to change our behaviour.

Another way to look at things

So here I’d like to present my take on the notion of limiting the amount of information that we provide to someone who is not vegan, so as to not make them feel uncomfortable about their behaviour.

Like many others, however, I could definitely find words that make them feel good. Words like ‘every little bit helps’, ‘making a difference’, ‘reducing suffering’, ‘making kinder choices’, ‘be compassionate’. Oh yes, I can regurgitate all the words that make people feel great about their actions. I know for a fact that they work, because there are many money-making businesses that claim to represent animal interests yet scoop in millions of whatever currency we care to mention by using these very same words. They work really well. I fell for the buzz words for many years, reassured of my ethical awareness while obediently donating at regular intervals.

So yes, withholding information to illustrate how all animal use is a violation of the rights of other individuals who value their lives and is automatically putting our completely non-essential convenience before their right to live unharmed, might make those who are not vegan feel great – noble, ethical, moral with a rosy glow of self-satisfaction – at least it did for me.

But it was a lie; a comfortable one, but still a lie. Because the word veganism was never mentioned.

What you know and who you know

Like anyone who writes, one of the first pieces of advice you come across, is ‘write about what you know’. So here’s a general thing I know about myself; I hate being lied to.  Because I loathe it so much, lying to someone else would be about the most disrespectful thing I could think of to do to them. From what I’ve had directed at me as criticism, particularly of areas such as vegetarianism and egg and dairy consumption where myths of ‘humane use’ run strong, it seems that perhaps some people would be content with that; they truly think that people who are not vegan would be more encouraged to hear a ‘watered down’ version of the truth. Or in other words, a lie.

But I’m trying to reach people like me. And people like me don’t like being lied to. If and when they find out that they’ve been lied to, it makes them very angry with those who told the lies, and it makes them very angry with themselves for believing the lies, however comfortable they felt at the time.

A life worth living

As vegan advocates, truth is our most powerful ally. The honesty, the sincerity, and the passion that is conveyed by someone who tells the truth is very hard to miss. I have always said that I wish that someone had been honest with me decades ago. Given that it would have hurt like hell, why on earth do I feel this way?

Because this life that I’m still clinging to, is my only life. We all know there is more to our own life than just a succession of days that we cross off on a calendar. For many, if not most of us, it matters to each of us to be the best person that we can manage to be during that life. We have standards that we set for ourselves and we try very hard to live up to them.

It causes me so much distress every day to know that I heard only the comfortable lies that made me feel ethical and conscientious, while for decades I donated to those who were paying their mortgages rather than telling the truth and defending my victims. It upsets me to think that there may have been people that I knew, vegans, who actually knew the facts about all our use of members of other species, but didn’t tell me because they thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it.  And because of those who heaped false praise on me and exercised their own judgement, whatever their reasons, on how much truth I could take, I was denied the chance to become the person I thought I was all along until the day of the light-bulb moment when I realised that it was essential for me to be vegan.

We owe the truth to everyone.

We owe it to our victims who have no one but us to fight for them. And we owe it to members of our own species too, whether they are vegan or not. Because everyone deserves truth. What we then do with the truth, is up to each of us.

Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Bullying – an analogy

There’s an Elephant in the Room promotes veganism and does not ever promote anything less. There are dozens – if not hundreds – of posts and essays linked to the page that seek to clarify this point but they all boil down to one thing:

To condone something other than veganism is to actually promote harm to someone.

EVERY variation in our diet or behaviour that stops short of being vegan is literally selling someone down the river, compromising their basic rights and signing their death sentence. There is no getting round this. It’s a fact.

Recently, I noticed that someone had commented on one of my posts to say that if people couldn’t be vegan, they should at least ‘just go vegetarian even if it’s just for Christmas week’. Now this is so completely at odds with the message of the page that I have been turning the idea in my head, trying to find a neat analogy that would explain why. I came up with this…

A parent’s nightmare

Imagine you are a parent. Every day your child comes home with their clothing scuffed and torn, every night they wake sobbing in the early hours, every morning you watch them pick at their food. You have no idea what the problem is and they can’t or won’t give you any explanation. At first you put it down to just normal rough and tumble, difficult school work, maybe coming down with a bug. You rack your brains to find a way to help them, getting increasingly anxious.

Until one day it suddenly all becomes clear. You find out that your child is being bullied. All their symptoms fall into place with stunning clarity. What do you do?

  1. Is the situation desperately urgent? Do you go straight down to the school immediately and insist that the bullying has to stop, all of it, right now, this instant?
  2. Or is the situation relatively unimportant and certainly not urgent? Maybe you should phone the school in a week or two and ask calmly if the bullies could maybe bully your child a bit less for a week or so?

Even those who are not parents will have a view on this. I know I do – from painful experience. I’m sure I’m not alone in doing the first one and would not even have considered doing anything less. Why? Well it seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Because our child whom we care so deeply about is being harmed and tormented, because they are relying on us, and because it’s just plain wrong; there’s not a single valid reason for it to be happening.

So – to relate this to the vegan issue

When we are not vegan, we use defenceless individuals of very many species for our own trivial and unnecessary interests – that’s basically what it IS to not be vegan. This means that we completely disregard our victims’ interests – in some cases even convincing ourselves that they don’t have any – in favour of our own. I have seen nonveganism likened to bullying and have always thought that to be an overly gentle way to describe what amounts to brutality and unrestrained violence.

However one day it all becomes clear. Like the bullying in the previous scenario we suddenly understand what is happening and we realise that using the lives and bodies of other individuals is just completely wrong in every way. Seeing this, we have no choice but to become vegan ourselves, because this is the only way that we can stop actually participating in the harm that we now realise is completely unnecessary. And then some – if not most – will go on to try to tell others about the injustice of nonvegan behaviour towards our fellow earthlings who just want to live unharmed.

So, when we’re telling others:

  1. Is the situation desperately urgent? Do we share facts about how unnecessary it is to use individuals of all species and insist that the harming and the killing has to stop, all of it, right now?
  2. Or is the situation relatively unimportant and certainly not urgent? Maybe we suggest that those who are harming and killing should maybe think about focusing on harming a different species of defenceless victims for a week or so…? (‘just go vegetarian even if it’s just for Christmas week’)

What’s the message that these two choices are giving out?

The first is clear, unequivocal and leaves no room for doubt. As with many other issues of right and wrong, it’s clear cut and beautifully simple. When something is wrong, we want it to stop. That’s how it is when things are important, and for our victims, their lives are at stake. How much more important can an issue be?

The second suggests that this isn’t all that important at all. That at its core, using other individuals isn’t all that wrong and while we’d perhaps like it to maybe happen in a different way, or to a different species, we’re not making a big thing of it.  It doesn’t challenge or change the mistaken beliefs that we have all grown up with: our myths of supremacy, of entitlement, of necessity. It just asks us to tone down our behaviour for a week or so.

And what is even worse, by allowing us to consider that this is actually doing some sort of good, it is encouraging us to actually feel good about ourselves for our restraint and our self sacrifice.

And while we are busy congratulating ourselves and planning our menus of flesh, eggs and milk products for when our period of abstinence is over, it does NOTHING for those who are quaking in the slaughterhouses, in labs, in zoos and in our many types of hell. As they will continue to do until the world goes vegan.

It’s so simple. Be vegan. That’s all it takes.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Harm reduction, Speciesism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The importance of words

The bizarre idea of ‘pardoning’ a turkey at the festival known as Thanksgiving has popped into my head several times in recent days. Even disregarding the cultural gap arising from my Scottish heritage, it’s such a strange concept, to cause a sentient individual to exist by our contrivance and intervention (never more true that when applied to turkeys from whom our ‘selective breeding’ for massive and early weight gain has actually removed the ability to procreate without the terrifying outrage of artificial insemination), and then enact a mockery of a ceremony to ‘pardon’ them for the crime of being our unnecessary victims.

However it finally occurred to me today that the idea comes from a familiar place. That place is that one of entitlement and superiority, the place into which we are indoctrinated as infants by a mixture of half truths, myths and outright lies. It occurs to me that ‘pardoning’ does not occupy a unique space within the confusion and delusion of the narrative that we create in our futile efforts as adults to make sense of a childhood fantasy that for many makes less and less sense as we reach maturity.

‘Pardoning’ along with victimisation of defenceless individuals sits snugly alongside the words ‘mercy’, ‘clemency’, ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ to name but a few within the whole fiction of our imaginary entitlement and mistaken necessity.

Each of these words holds more than just a suggestion that we are exercising stern and noble restraint from actions and behaviours that we feel perfectly entitled (i.e. within our rights) to make. Aren’t they such feel-good words? They’re words we like to use in the hope that we’re creating a good impression with just how decent we are towards those whose lives we (and, we presume, everyone else) considers to be so much less important and worthy than ourselves.

And the soaring climax of our immense self importance? ‘Pardoning’ animals; benevolence personified.

Its all about us. Again.

And who is all that about? It’s about us. Of course it is, who else is there? Basking in the warm glow of demonstrating what nice people we are, there is little if any awareness or empathy for those who are ‘pardoned’ in this pantomime. Why would there be? They’re just animals for goodness sake. It’s just a joke, right?

But let’s change the script somewhat. Let’s use words like ‘justice’, ‘rights’, ‘integrity’, ‘decency’, ‘honesty’, ‘truth’. And here’s a really big one, ‘respect’. These are words that simply focus on the big issues of right and wrong. There is no self-aggrandisement in being right, in doing the right thing; it’s just right. There are no brownie points in being honest, in being decent or in seeing justice done. It’s no more and no less what we should all be doing as the bottom line. These are words that focus on those who are being persecuted. They’re not words that look for admiration or approval for the persecutors; they’re humble words that speak to our conscience rather than our ego. They’re words about our sentient victims and they ring with sincerity.

Making it real

We would never hold a comic ceremony to ‘pardon’ a human child from being beaten or abused. We wouldn’t seek praise for being ‘merciful’ because we decided not to batter our spouse this week. It’s not ‘compassionate’ or ‘kind’ to refrain from needlessly harming, hurting, mutilating, killing other humans. It’s just the absolute rock bottom of our responsibility as individuals.

Words are so very much more important than most of us recognise, and the words we use about the defenceless victims of our vicious, deluded species are the most important words of all.

Keeping our focus where it needs to be

When we make it all about us and our need for praise and approval, we take the focus off these billions of gentle and desolate victims whose dates in the slaughterhouse will never be rescinded by a ‘pardoner’ looking for praise and a pat on the back. We make the whole issue about us.

And it’s not about us. It never was.

Despite the fiction that we weave about the violence and the slaughterhouse horror of our actions in our attempts to justify the unforgivable, it is not about us. It’s about our needless, defenceless victims. And they need justice. They need us to be honest. They need us to be decent. They need us to be vegan. What are we waiting for?

Posted in Festivals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment