Thoughts about living in a nonvegan world

cow-1832984_960_720There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted with an enquiry from someone who is not vegan, about whether a vegan would continue to participate in activities that used nonvegan equipment.  Sharing my response.

Question: ‘I do have a question as to your opinion though about the extent that veganism goes…. could a vegan play football or cricket or support a team that does when the ball and some equipment is made from leather?’

Response: ‘Thanks for getting in touch. Yours is a good question that I’ve not been asked before and I intend to share my response in a blog because I’m sure others may have wondered the same. I can’t and won’t give you a one-line answer but I doubt if you’d have asked me of all people if that was what you wanted.

Sometimes, there is a perception of veganism as a restrictive list of do’s and don’ts and often those who wish to trivialise or ridicule the idea, present it as such in the media.

In fact, veganism has only one central guiding principle, and that is the refusal to deliberately harm other individuals. That’s it. All of it. The rest is a matter of being knowledgeable about the harm that our choices cause when we are not vegan, and about taking the decision not to be part of it.

Our vegan life thus becomes, not some process where we have to check the rule book to see if something is on the ‘permitted’ list, but rather a process where we live true to the values that we have always had, only this time with the background knowledge that allows us to be informed about whether our choices have harmed another individual or not. Armed with that knowledge we choose to take the path that has caused the least possible harm.

I can only recount my own experience for this next bit. There is no escaping the fact that we live in a world where every species is regarded as a potential resource for our convenience, irrespective of the triviality of our requirement or the devastating result of that indulgence. I too was once oblivious to this but once our eyes open to this fact, it is staggering, shocking, sickening to realise ‘just how deep the rabbit hole goes’ – to quote Morpheus. And the knowledge doesn’t just stop – every day we discover further ways in which our careless species wreaks havoc.

When I first became vegan, I looked around – not just my fridge – but my home and my life and I was crushed to realise the extent of the use of nonhuman animal-derived substances and practices that surrounded me, and about which I had been blissfully ignorant. And this is where we are all faced with a dilemma. Adopting a plant diet is actually the easy bit, but what do we do with the relics from the days before we were vegan?

Much has been written on this but once again, there is no rule book; there is only our self and our conscience. I’ve written before on the concept of ‘waste’ as we apply it to nonhuman animal-derived substances in the time when we may be struggling to reach the conviction that other beings do not belong to us. Eventually we must face it that they never did and what we took in the past was not ours to take.

What do we do about the activities that we once were happy to participate in but required us to overlook the most fundamental rights of helpless members of other species? Indeed, what do we do about the friends, family and loved ones around us who are cheerfully continuing to leave a bloodbath in their wake, just as we once did ourselves?

I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I know that for me my view is constantly shifting as my knowledge of the atrocities of our species increases. For me, the key to everything is education and awareness. For ourselves and for others; that, and a determination to cling to the hope that at heart everyone holds the same belief in fairness and justice and does not want to hurt anyone.

So, to return to your question. As vegans, we all continue to live in the same world with the same people and it is utterly impossible to shut ourselves off from the fact that our entire culture is underpinned by the deaths of countless billions of sentient individuals each year and the torment and agony of countess others whose every moment is determined by our use of them as commodities.

We each find our own way to come to terms. I consider that sharing information about the horrors we support as nonvegans is the key to helping others to see for themselves that being vegan makes sense from every angle.

Specifically, footballs, as far as I know, are no longer made of leather, but recently a famous cricketer hit the headlines by challenging the use of leather to make cricket balls. And thus by drawing attention to the hidden horrors that we have all disregarded at one time, the information spreads. Those whose conscience is troubled may look past the media hype and inform themselves. They may even become vegan!’

Be vegan. It’s the right thing to do.

Links for further reading / listening: and

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Response to a ‘welfare’ survey about hens used for eggs

Joy at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary

Joy, rescued from an ‘Enriched’ Cage

Missy, rescued from a 'Free Range' facility

Missy, rescued from a ‘Free Range’ facility







There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted by a veterinary student with a request to complete a survey on the ‘welfare’ of hens in the egg industry. I did not complete it and have declined to promote it. Sharing my response.

‘Thank you for contacting me. I have viewed your survey and felt that my reason for not completing or promoting it warranted an explanation.

As a vegan activist, I got full marks in all categories. This emphasises that I am all too well aware of the facts surrounding the conditions in which humanity’s victims are exploited but these are not the reason why I am vegan and neither are they the reason why I promote veganism.

‘Welfare’ is a word that is much-overused by the exploitation industries and by those who promote and support them. It’s a word that carries within it the suggestion of concern for wellbeing and pastoral care. The reality of the matter is that the exploitation of sentient individuals as commercial resources, and any sort of ‘concern’ for their wellbeing are mutually exclusive conditions as I’m sure you are already aware or will soon discover. ‘Improving welfare’ is a ploy used – and celebrated loudly – by the industries that trade in the lives and bodies of sentient individuals and their media marketers, to soothe consumer consciences and thereby increase demand and revenue.

The industry will continue to go through this charade of concern for as long as human consumers consider that they have a right and a need to inflict catastrophic harm on helpless and innocent members of nonhuman species for reasons that can never be morally justified.

There is, in fact, no need for nonhuman animal consumption or use at all. Egg consumption, in common with the consumption of all substances derived from the lives and bodies of nonhuman animals, is a contributory factor to the epidemic of disease that is currently gripping the western world, the vast majority of which is related to inappropriate diet. If you are interested in knowing more on this, then the following site provides links to all the latest medical research and evidence on this topic

However, to return to my explanation, there are some practices that are deeply wrong from a moral standpoint and all use of nonhumans falls into that category. They are sentient individuals whose every right is disregarded in order that we may use them as if they were objects and commodities.

An analogy to the questions your survey poses would be if I were to be consulted about the abuse and harming of humans and asked to reveal the extent of my knowledge of the environment in which it was taking place and whether that affected my view of the practice. It wouldn’t. Wrong is wrong, no matter what the environment.

I hope this provides some insight into the reason that I shall neither complete nor promote the survey. I could not ask anyone to comment on the conditions in which the unnecessary victims of nonveganism are used as resources because to do so implies that there are ‘better’ and ‘worse’ ways to commit what amounts to a fundamental atrocity.

I have written extensively on all of these topics within my blog site and this is the link to a piece about eggs. You will note that this in turn links to a number of sources and I should like to draw your attention to this report that examines in depth the effect that the promotion of ‘welfare’ issues has on consumers.

In conclusion, may I say that whilst there are relatively few of them, there are some veterinary professionals who are vegan and it is an area that is crying out for more people of conscience. I am confident that my friends at Veterinary Vegan Network would be delighted to discuss this issue with you.’

It’s not how or where we treat our victims that is the issue.

The issue is that we have victims.

Stop having victims. Be vegan.


Images courtesy of Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary and Go Vegan World

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A thought about what ‘better’ means

animal-1845413_960_720All of us are sentient individuals, the majority of whom have never been confined, never been tortured, never been mutilated deliberately and without anaesthesia, never been forcibly impregnated, never had our babies taken from us, never been hooked up to milk pumping machines or egg conveyors, never been starved and loaded onto trucks that take us to a place that smells of blood and fear, where we will hear the screams of our friends alongside the sounds of saws and machinery and know that our own death is coming.

With absolutely no personal experience of the horrors that we inflict on our sentient and desperate victims, who are we to decide how our ‘treatment’ of them while all this is happening, can be improved and better regulated? Yet this is exactly what we are presuming to do when we petition and protest for what we think are ‘better’ conditions in which to use our victims.

The only way we could ever even come close to making such an evaluation would be if we accepted that our victims are sufficiently like us for our own human preferences to apply to them.  And if we accept that our victims are sufficiently like us for our own human preferences to apply to them, then our next thought must surely be to ask by what right we use these vulnerable, thinking, feeling individuals who are just like us, as if they were objects that exist solely for our indulgence.  When we accept that our victims are sufficiently like us for our own human preferences to apply to them, we realise that we must re-cast ourselves, not in the role of ‘conscientious animal lovers’ which many of us favour, but rather in the role of extremely violent predators whose every victim is an unnecessary one who desperately wanted to live.

Given that this line of thought is so horrific that we are taught from our earliest childhood to suppress it, it is no surprise to find that the majority of us find it difficult to face the reality of what we do to our victims in order to use them as nonvegan resources. Nevertheless, we need to face the consequences of our actions if we are to be the people we already like to think we are.

The problem is not how or where we use our victims. The problem is that we HAVE victims. It’s just plain wrong in every sense. Be vegan.

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In hope and sadness, another New Year

cow-972569_960_720As the New Year bells continue to sound the death knell for so many billions of sweet and gentle individuals whom we would have loved if only we had known them, let’s spare a few moments to look at where we’ve been and at the road that lies ahead.

We all make resolutions as the new year approaches – some with more commitment than others. We may decide to eat less, exercise more, stop smoking or stop drinking, be less wasteful; mostly, New Year resolutions concern things we know we should have been doing already, and we resolve to try a bit harder and not give in to the tendency we all have to take the easy way out, to cheat, to resist change, to indulge ourselves.

So here’s a thing.  Almost every one of us claims to care about animals, and when we are not vegan, we know very well – or at least we strongly suspect –  that our actions cause them harm. This feeling of discomfort, which we prefer should remain as vague as possible, is why the industries that sell the lives and bodies of our victims, and their powerful allies who claim to promote animal ‘welfare’, have been able to create their lucrative webs of deceit. This deception, reinforced by almost ceaseless media coverage,  promotes the ludicrous idea that there are ‘acceptable’, ‘compassionate’ ways to take the lives of those who desperately want to live, and this façade of industrial concern is sufficient to assuage the feelings of discomfort that – let’s be honest – none of us is too eager to examine in detail.

These myths about ‘humane exploitation’ are targeted squarely at the caring consumer, and are highly profitable only because so few of us actually want to cause harm. In fact the reverse is true; we will actively seek ways to mitigate what we have been taught to view as a ‘necessary evil’. However, once we realise that using the lives and bodies of others for any reason is completely unnecessary, we must surely ask ourselves what our ‘necessary evil’ has become?

It might be thought that a vegan New Year resolution is different from most, in that at first glance it doesn’t seem to be about us at all, but rather is targeted at benefiting our nonhuman kin. Well, as I mentioned earlier, resolutions are mostly about things we know we should have been doing all along  and the decision to be vegan is simply making our words and thoughts real by living in line with them. In other words, the decision to be vegan is doing what we know we should have been doing all along. Indeed even many of us who are not vegan sincerely believe that we already do live our lives that way and are quick to declare that we would not wish to cause harm to the helpless.

However when we say we care for individuals of other species, when we say we respect their lives, when we say we don’t believe in causing unnecessary harm to the vulnerable but are not vegan, these are simply nice-sounding but ultimately empty and meaningless words.

So as 2016 draws to a close, let’s be mindful of the many billions of powerless, gentle individuals who have sobbed, whimpered and begged in vain for their unique and precious lives in farms and slaughterhouses across the world and those others who are doing so at this very moment of writing. Let’s not forget that every nonvegan consumer choice is an active decision to harm someone who is powerless to prevent our use of their body and our theft of their life.

In 2017, I would ask anyone who is not vegan to check out the wealth of links and information they will find elsewhere on this blog, then follow it up with research of your own. Resolve to make this the last year that your own consumer choices support and participate in the orgy of violence that is an inherent part of using helpless and innocent individuals as resources and commodities.

And in the coming year, if we are already vegan, let’s all resolve to take heart from the knowledge that we are not alone even although it can sometimes feel that way. In a pitiless and violent world it is comforting to realise that there are many others who share our commitment to justice and nonviolence, and it is encouraging to know that our numbers are growing each day.

As we move into this new year with its symbolic opportunities for renewal, a fresh start, let’s resolve anew to speak out about veganism with honesty and sincerity at every opportunity. Let’s use whatever talents and skills we can muster to spread the vegan message. Let’s commit ourselves to keep advocating veganism and absolutely nothing less.
Humanity’s  billions of victims are looking to us to speak on their behalf.  They are utterly dependent on our clear and unequivocal message. If we don’t fight for them – who will?
Have a very vegan 2017.

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Thoughts about farming

piglet-11247_960_720Please note that in this essay, the words ‘farming’ and ‘farm’ refer specifically to a practice conducted upon sentient individuals in order that they may be used as resources and commodities for humans.

Recently I listened to a prime-time radio interview of a respected sanctuary and campaign manager/ vegan activist on the subject of animal rights.  On several occasions, the interviewers mentioned terms that they obviously considered significant, one of these being ‘factory farming’. The line of questioning that ensued was a rather transparent attempt to suggest that promoting animal rights was, by its very nature, a criticism of regulated farming practice and a personal attack on individual farmers. This was not the first time I have seen and heard this tactic used and if I were being uncharitable, I might have thought it a deliberate attempt to derail the activist, however I actually don’t believe that was the case. The interviewers were simply demonstrating the prejudice and preconceptions that most of us are raised to embrace as fact. Lacking even basic knowledge of the subject they were seeking to ‘discuss’, they sought to reframe the conversation in terms with which they were familiar, whilst trying to garner support both from the listeners whose prejudice they assumed they were representing, and from those whom they sought to suggest were the victims of an insult.

So as these things do, this started me thinking. This essay is the result as I consider the words ‘farm’ and ‘farming’ and how, like unseen potholes in the road, these words can so easily derail vegan advocacy.

Back to basics – what and when

So to begin. A farm is where the practice of farming takes place.  I appreciate that this is stating the obvious, however please bear with me.  ‘Farm’ and ‘farming’ are words that rarely stand alone; there is almost always some qualifying descriptor either stated or assumed. For instance, in the area of animal rights, and in the completely separate area of animal welfare, we see reference to factory farms, organic farms, family farms, dairy farms, free-range farms, pig farms, hobby farms, fish farms and so on.  It seems that ‘farm’ and ‘farming’ are words that, despite representing a significant concept, have become eclipsed by the descriptor that categorises them.

As vegans, we frequently hear assertions that things are as they have always been and this, somehow, is used to justify the status quo and/or intransigence so it is important to be clear on this point. Archaeological evidence points to humans having been around in their current form for about 200,000 years, with our ancestors existing for several million years prior to that. Wikipedia tells us that farming originated independently in different parts of the world as hunter gatherer societies transitioned to food production rather than food capture. Evidence points to its having started about 12,000 years ago with the domestication of livestock in western Asia, soon to be followed by the cultivation of crops, so looking at the timeframe in perspective, 12,000 years is barely significant in evolutionary terms.

Nonvegan ‘activism’ – back to my roots

Several years ago, before I knew anything at all about veganism, in the days when I was still kidding myself that I was a ‘conscientious consumer’, I heard the term ‘factory farming’.  Judging by the number of petitions against it (which is how I was judging it at that time), it seemed to be a very bad thing. Google introduced me to the term CAFO which my helpful friend Wiki defined as an acronym of ‘Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation’, a number of large and high profile organisations urged me to part with some cash in return for reassurance that they were doing something to counter it, and suddenly my directionless concern for animals had a focus.

It must be borne in mind that at this time I was still consuming animals, still wearing animals, still taking their lactation and their eggs, still using toiletries that had been used to burn out their eyes and abraded skin, and in short was still creating my own significant consumer demand that directly required the wheels of animal harm to keep on turning. Nevertheless there I was, a fully fledged animal abuser, signing every petition that landed in front of me, because of my outrage about … the actions of other animal abusers.  I know it sounds completely ludicrous now. But that’s the way it was.

Encouraging the form of distraction represented by a focus on the type of farming is a common strategy employed by and in fact encouraged by the animal use industries. Ideologically inconsistent, it is set within parameters that allow us to protect both our entrenched belief that we need to use nonhuman animals and our right as ‘superior’ animals to do so, while at the same time reinforcing the idea that this ‘use’ can be done in a ‘humane’ manner.  Against this background, we are encouraged and motivated by ‘campaigns’ that suggest some spurious scale by which ‘abuse’ can be ranked, very frequently proposing that this ‘abuse’ results from insufficient or unenforced regulation, and often that it takes place in some ‘foreign’ land (regardless of where ‘here’ happens to be). While simultaneously promoting xenophobic reactions, this serves to turn our outrage outwards against others whose abuse is not any different from our own abuse; yet we are encouraged to think we’re ‘being active’ and ‘taking a stand’ against ‘cruelty’.  And as the folk myth and legend spreads about how protests against ‘inhumane’ practices are having an effect, consumer demand is maintained and in some instances increased.

Obscuring the main event

The highly effective ploy of focusing on the type or descriptor of the ‘farming’ turns the users, the harmers, the killers of helpless and vulnerable animals into ‘activists’ and champions for their ‘welfare’. The diversion is employed widely and yet many of us are not even aware that it’s happening. Once we realise that it is, we see it everywhere, from those who profess to be animal lovers, from the major fundraising businesses that claim to represent animal ‘rights’ with their career ‘advocates’ and industry affiliations, and not unexpectedly from the most blatant marketers of animal corpses, body parts and secretions.

The two institutions that are most frequently used for this purpose are ‘factory farms’ and ‘battery’ chicken farms. ‘These factory farms are terrible places’, I used to say, and so many would agree with me while they tucked into steak and cheese, eggs and bacon. Like me, they were outraged and, oblivious to the irony of their continued complicity, they signed the petitions.  Some claim this is harmless and that a protest is valuable regardless of the source but – and here’s the very real danger that I have written about before – participation in ‘protest’ had made them feel much more comfortable about their own continuing use of animals. How do I know this? It had this effect for me and for countless others with whom I have discussed the phenomenon.

What I and countless others did not stop to consider, is that ‘factory’ farms are a consequence of the population size, the scale of their demand and the need of any money-making enterprise to keep costs low. This is just plain common sense. Whilst ‘factory farms’ are demonised, they are nevertheless the inevitable means of providing a supply to meet demand.

So what’s the industry response to public criticisms of ‘factory’ farms?  A different descriptor, with or sometimes without any significant change to the process.  ‘Family’ farm, ‘organic’ farm, ‘free range’ farm;  the ‘ethical’ utopian fantasy of bucolic bliss is promoted by the well paid wordsmiths and advert creators in the employ of the death industries.  Endorsements by ‘animal organisations’ set the final seal of betrayal of those whose ‘rights’ they claim to represent. ‘XYPCA approved’, ‘Freedom Food’, ‘Happy Cows / Sheep/ Hens’ say the labels and the TV ads.

Those whose conscience has been stirring can relax again.  ‘Whew. Glad someone has the interests of the animals at heart.’ Donation made.  Conscience salved. Been there.

Putting it into context

So what’s my problem? Well as always, let’s substitute a human circumstance to sharpen the focus. What if someone was farming …. humans? In a CAFO? Ok not that. How about a nice, friendly, ‘organic’, ‘family’, ‘free range’ establishment then? Instant outrage. What’s more, the outrage starts at the word ‘farming’.  No one needs to hear any more about where or how this ‘farming’ is taking place. We have absolutely NO problem at all seeing straight through the smokescreens when we reframe the situation in a human context. There is no more stark illustration of our deep rooted speciesism than this. And there in a nutshell lies my problem and it does not have anything to do with the descriptor.

The beating heart of the issue is the concept of a farm – any farm – where sentient individuals are caused to exist by human contrivance and intervention, where their reproductive processes are manipulated and their existence exploited, where their bodies are ‘reared’ and fattened, or milked or used for eggs, until such time as they are dispatched for slaughter . That’s the problem that needs to be addressed.

Despite this, the word ‘farm’ lurks in the background unchallenged, almost unnoticed, an atrocity hiding in plain sight while we focus on the descriptors. It’s like so many of the other euphemistic words we use to disguise our unrelenting and needless victimisation of the vulnerable; words we use to pretend we’re being nice about it, words that go so far as to pretend it’s even possible to be nice about it, words that massage our desperate desire to be thought of as good people who love animals and are ‘kind’ to them.

It’s not about ‘good’ farms or ‘bad’ farms

Once again, we need to return to the fundamental truth that it is not how we treat our victims that is the issue, the issue is that we have victims at all when it is completely unnecessary. When we advocate on their behalf, we need to tighten our focus on that truth and keep it that way.

I have literally lost count of the number of otherwise good posts and articles that I have not shared because they contain some reference to ‘factory’ farming or ‘battery’ hens. Such articles imply that it is the means of use and the type of environment in which it occurs that is the issue, and in this way they condone and approve the underlying concept of farms and farming. The moment we, as advocates, allow ourselves to lose the focus of our discussion so that the descriptor is the topic, we have failed in our attempt to represent the rights of those helpless nonhumans who are utterly dependent on us because they have no one else.

In human terms, allowing it to be implied that the issue is about the means of use and where it occurs, is the equivalent of arguing that innocent humans who are wrongfully imprisoned on death row should be imprisoned in a ‘nicer’ environment, without mentioning that they should not be imprisoned at all. Canvassing for improvements in treatment and in environment is not going to lead to the release of those who are wrongfully incarcerated and so it is with our use of members of other species.

I’ve seen it suggested – and even stated quite aggressively – that promoting ‘improved’ treatment will lead to the end of nonhuman use and to widespread veganism, however this is clearly wishful thinking. The rise of veganism – and it is on the rise – seems to be linked to an increasing awareness of the moral injustice on which all use of other species is based.  No, I haven’t personally done a survey and no, I can’t quote statistics. There are many moral truths that are self-evident and I can’t justify these statistically either. Is murder wrong? Is domestic violence wrong? Is sexual predation wrong? Few would ever ask for proof or for statistics where the victims are human, but change the species …

Are there any who seriously consider that a multi billion dollar/pound/euro industry will eventually tire of addressing demands to ‘improve’ treatment for our unnecessary victims to the extent that eventually it will all just be too much bother and they’ll stop doing it? On the contrary, any real or imaginary ‘improvements’ are shamelessly capitalised upon to encourage favourable public perception of those who peddle suffering and death. What will however bring the use of members of other species to an end, is dwindling consumer demand, and such a reduction in demand is the inevitable consequence of veganism.

This is not the last battle

It should also be noted that once any one of the popular justifications for animal use has begun to look shaky, many will fall back strategically to any one of literally dozens of ‘justifications’ for the behaviour of our species, such as how nonhumans are ‘different’, how they are ‘bred for eating’, how we ‘need to eat animals’  and so on.  When, as advocates, we suggest that the issue relates to how and where the using takes place, it opens up a whole spectrum of alternative avenues that nonvegans may take to assuage  consciences without ever having to address the fundamental need for each of us to take responsibility for the consequences of our demand as consumers and change our destructive behaviour.  How do I know? I was that nonvegan.

We cannot adopt a piecemeal approach to this battle for justice. We need to aim straight for the heart of the issue and we need to be clear and consistent. Some may call that ‘preachy’ but it’s a pep talk I’ve been known to give myself from time to time. So much is depending on us and we have to do our best to get it right. There are so many lives that are doomed before they are even conceived, so many babies yet to be born, so many bereft mothers-to-be, so many anguished, helpless innocent individuals who will sob in desperation, who will scream in agony, as the rivers of gore spurt and flow in the slaughterhouses.

We are all they have. Be vegan.

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Revisit Christmas past

pig-1639584_960_720It’s that time of year again; a season of nostalgia for years gone by; a time when we fondly remember sharing this festive warmth with family and friends who are no longer with us. Memories, like an old and much loved film, play in our mind’s eye images of bygone days, scenes of our younger selves, our friends and loved ones gathered round tables that were laden in the twinkling festive glow.

But let’s pause that playback; view again that festive table that our memory gazes on with misty eyes. Let’s look again, without the rosy tint this time.

Clove-studded centrepieces, glistening and gold, when seen without the euphemisms, are corpses; tragic, sad remains of innocents, whose dying eyes were wide with agony, fighting panic-stricken for their final gasp, losing their futile battle as bright blood spurted from their gaping throats. Look again and see that cheese, those eggs, not as the ‘ingredients’ of our childhood myths, but as they are, as motherhood frustrated and denied. Their rightful owners were gentle cows, sweet goats and fragile hens, each mind, each personality vivid and unique, but crushed and anguished by the bleakness of their lives. All they knew was our relentless use; each moment of their short existence was joyless misery, their bodies trapped in the wrenching pains of birthing and the cold embrace of milk pumping machines.

Closing our eyes to breathe and savour the aromas of our feast, we need to pause again. That scent associated with familial warmth and good times shared, is death; decay concealed with onion and with herbs, decomposition masked with spice and fruit.

It’s hard when memories crumble into ruins, yet we have no need to wreak such devastation on these meek and helpless victims for festivities that celebrate ‘peace’ and ‘goodwill’. This season, why not turn our backs on the bloodbath? Let’s start a new tradition built on justice and respect for all and truly find the peace and the joy we crave, beginning on our tables.
Be vegan.

Posted in Awakening to veganism, Festivals, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A thought for December

1891215_543386635780474_748032105_nThe festive season is a time that we traditionally associate with love and joy and peace and giving.

We do not talk of the unspeakable harm we cause to vulnerable individuals, of needlessly and forcibly taking every single thing from them, of the orgy of killing and the rivers of blood from their unnecessary deaths. We never mention our callous violence towards the helpless and innocent who are begging for their lives in the slaughterhouses and laboratories at this very moment; the anguished mothers and their babies crying out for the comfort of each other as we pitilessly destroy their lives.

If we are not vegan, then this festive season, let’s be honest with ourselves and see our festive fantasy for the sham it is.

Once we recognise that there can be no true peace in our hearts or in the world until the violence stops, becoming vegan is the only thing that makes any sense.

Be vegan.

Find out here:
– about veganism:
– about sentience:
– about dairy:
– about eggs:
– about health:

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‘Humane’ and other fantasies

sheep-1822137_960_720Many of us know that breaches of the regulations that govern the treatment of animals do occur. But consider something else, if you will. There is such a thing as ‘best practice’, of ‘animal husbandry’ done by the book.

Pristine parlours of gleaming and clinical steel do exist. There are places where the most decent of operatives violate pinioned mothers quietly, with clinical precision and without fuss. Without kickings and beatings, they’re just doing their jobs. There is no viciousness to their intent that she will be milked every day of her pregnancy; no malice in the schedule that will take her infant from her after birth. The act will be done calmly and without fuss, and her desolate grief will be accommodated with a pragmatic absence of emotion. The infant will be disposed of in the most decent economically advantageous way, brute force and technology in tandem with chilling efficiency, and milking will continue.

There exist stainless steel abattoirs, spotless and shining, hosed down hygienically; with operatives quiet and businesslike, doing what needs to be done. Quiet pulleys and chains, machines and conveyors, muffled clanking and quiet whirring alongside the knives and the saws, as blood gushes and spurts, drips and congeals, pools and sluggishly slides into drains and down channels, as innards are gathered and grouped to be ‘processed’, as a skin that was once soft and warm and not spattered with gore, is forcibly pulled without fuss from the still twitching corpse of its owner, an owner who just like anyone else, once relished the delightful shiver of a gentle touch, the sweet kiss of a breeze upon that now disembodied raw material for boots, or a handbag, a jacket, a sofa.

Our agents

We pay the wages of those who operate these places, so by definition they are our agents. Oddly, we regard their roles with faint distaste as they carry out the demands we place upon them, they who are empowered and their actions legitimised by our demands as consumers, as we queue in corner shop, in restaurant, supermarket, department and drugstore.

After all, for these individuals who do not share our species and whom we have caused to exist, have confined for our purpose;
all we want is the milk they make for their infants, the eggs they lay in their vain attempts to be mothers;
all we want is ‘our’ ice cream and cheese, the bloodless packages of dismembered corpses that we cheerfully talk of as ‘protein’, these body parts of our earthling cousins that we think of as ‘ingredients’;
all we want is for our victims to die; but ‘nicely’, ‘kindly’ and without undue fuss, to just quietly, peacefully, willingly, be … dead.

Sentience – how it interrupts the fantasies

So is this clean calm what we imagine to be ‘humane’?
Is this the goal we consider ideal when we’re busy protesting and signing petitions, stridently demanding an end to ‘cruelty’, for regulation of ‘treatment’ and things to be done by the book?
Is this stainless steel tranquillity truly our utopian vision?

But consider something else. Let’s leave aside this world of our imagination where there are only humans, only machines, only the fulfilment of our wants and petulant demands. Why? Because it lacks something. It lacks the warm, vital and terrified victims that we all have sought at one time to ignore in our charade. Our childish fantasies take no account of the fact that – because they are sentient like us – this utopian vision is a completely nonsensical, impossible ideal.

No sentient individual wants to die, that’s part of what sentience is. I desperately want to live. I have fought and I shall fight with my last ounce of strength to stay alive. You want to live. You will fight with your last ounce of strength to stay alive. And our victims are no different from me or from you; no different at all and science accepts this. So let’s edit the scene, shall we? Let’s make it real. Do we dare?

Making it real

With reality comes the high pitched screaming; screaming so desperate as to be almost soundless with the sickening pain of their bleeding, their seared and scalded, electrified flesh, screams distorted by the gurgling of blood in hacked throats, screams of mind-numbing terror, screams wrenched from the panicking hearts of the dying as the grating torment of their agony weaves a cacophony in counterpoint to the dismembering saws and machines. In the gore from which we fastidiously turn our gaze, there are horrors that sear themselves upon vision and haunt sleepless nights. There is vileness to induce despair for our species, to make flesh crawl in the fight not to retch with remorse and revulsion.

There is the sound of despair, of liquid terror gushing and spurting down legs that are quaking too hard to stand. There is the clamour of frantic pleading, of whimpering, of sobbing, of hooves on metal walkways, feet kicking and scrabbling for purchase, struggling to go back, to get away, to hide, to be anywhere but in this place that smells of death and blood; this place that smells of hell.

Even if we succeed in ignoring the reality of the pitiful existences that we inflict upon them while they await this  final outrage, this is the reality. This is the missing link. This is the bit that we try to ignore: that every use we make of our victims sets them on the path that ultimately leads to this place. We can pretend that it doesn’t, but that is delusion. When we are uttering salves to our conscience like ‘animals should be treated humanely’ and ‘I don’t believe in cruelty’, this is the bit we ignore. ‘One bad day’, we smile as we comfort ourselves that at least we’re conscientious – while we plan our next meal of ‘humanely’ labelled corpse, walking the supermarket mortuary aisles in our leather and wool, complacent and smug, pondering whether the recipe might be better if we perhaps add some cheese or some yogurt or milk. How do I know it’s like that? I was there. That was me.

Be honest, be vegan

Leaving behind this rose-tinted notion is not easy, we’d much rather not. It hurts. But if we are to leave the fantasies where they belong and be honest with ourselves, it’s the essential first step.

The issue is not HOW we use others.
The issue is THAT we use others.
It’s as simple as that. There IS no just and decent way to take everything another individual has in the world, for something that we have absolutely no need for.

Once we open our eyes to this truth, there is only one way that we can reject our part in the orgy of violence; only one way that we can refuse to cause and pay for this nightmare. And that way is to become vegan. Start today. Be vegan.

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

The price of milk and cheese

14611158_1448716641825097_3185986762681949893_nThis tiny calf has eyes to melt the hardest heart. He’s so small, so innocent, so fragile and vulnerable; so heartbreakingly, breathtakingly, perfectly beautiful. And clearly terrified and distressed beyond words.

As I sit here writing, gazing in wonder at him, I have no idea where this image was captured*; but the chance of his still being alive is so small as to be negligible. It is most likely that he is long dead, like over 21 million of his peers each year, killed as an unwanted ‘waste product’ of the dairy industry.

He died trembling in fear and in pain, alone and still pining for the mother he had seen only briefly; his last memory of her, her panic-stricken voice, desperately crying out to him as he was carried away from her warm milky smell. The melting eyes that gaze in desperate fear, horror and bewilderment at the camera are long since closed in death, were long ago hacked from their sockets, an ingredient in some ‘pet’ food somewhere. His desecrated body, the pitiful physical remains of his only special and precious life are long since butchered and charred, crunched and excreted into a sewer somewhere, an ingredient in a meal long since forgotten.

It occurs to me that for all I know, I may have been the direct cause of his death, for I was not always vegan. Any one of us whose money paid for milk or cheese, yogurt, cream or ice-cream could have been the one whose demands made it profitable for someone to violate his mother so that she would produce the products we wanted to buy by giving birth to him.

So here’s a question to ponder. Does anyone consider that the life of this tiny innocent individual belonged to me? Or did it perhaps belong to you? You probably think that’s a really bizarre question and are thinking, ‘well of course it didn’t, what a ridiculous question’.

And of course you’re right, how could it? The only life that belongs to any of us is our own and he was no different. His life was his own, along with his mind, his thoughts, his feelings and his memories, such as they were in the short time our species permitted him to exist. Thus, although it is almost certain that his life was taken, we all know that it did not belong to anyone but him and so logically was not anyone’s to take with any moral legitimacy.

The taking of his life, that life that was his and his alone, was not a crime against me or you, it was a crime against him. It was the most vicious and cowardly type of offence; one perpetrated upon a helpless and vulnerable individual, a crime without necessity or cause, made possible by brute force alone.

So what if I was to say, ‘It’s ok. I forgive whoever caused his death’?
The response would quite rightly be, ‘And what the hell has it got to do with you? What right have you got to ‘forgive’ anyone for taking something that wasn’t yours and had nothing whatsoever to do with you?’

Please hold that thought.

Because when we as vegans promote cutting down use and consumption of substances derived from the bodies and lives of nonhumans, approve and encourage regulation of the torment that nonveganism inflicts on our victims, that is exactly what we’re doing on behalf of those victims. We’re approving and forgiving the taking of lives that did not belong to us. And by what right do we forgive anyone for taking something that wasn’t ours and had nothing whatsoever to do with us?

So let’s keep this desperate, tear-streaked face in our thoughts and promote with clear consistency the complete end to this madness; promote nothing less than veganism. What others decide to do with our message is between them and their conscience but we must hold to what we know is the truth, because honesty and sincerity are our staunchest allies.

Be vegan.

*In response to my request to know the photographer so that their work could be properly attributed and credited,  Louise  Jorgensen of the group Toronto Cow Save, advised as follows:

‘I took this photo a few months ago at an Ontario “Livestock” auction. This little fellow was in a pen with lots of others just like him. Only a few days old and taken from their mothers at a dairy farm, sent to auction. Many still had umbilical cords attached. They were terrified and calling for their mothers. Big globs of glue holding a number on their backs, like inanimate objects. They were sold for only a few dollars each.’

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

In a nutshell – a plant based diet and health

cow-1013109_960_720Veganism is a stance against the violence inherent in all of the use to which our species subjects individuals of all other species, and in favour of justice for all sentient inhabitants of this planet we share. As a consequence, if it is possible, vegans do not cause needless harm in order to obtain any substance or service that they may require for any purpose. The bare minimum of this call for justice is to stop using other individuals’ lives and bodies as ‘food’, clothing, ingredients, commodities, ‘entertainment’, or in any other way because every use of them requires us to disregard their most fundamental right to own their lives and their bodies.

‘Vegan diet’ – what does it actually mean?

The term ‘vegan diet’ is bandied about a great deal with different levels of understanding and consequent interpretations, and this lends credence to the widespread misunderstanding of veganism as a menu choice. It is not a menu choice. As a consequence of their decision not to harm other individuals, vegans consume a 100% plant diet in addition to securing non animal-derived alternatives to every other substance or service they require in their daily lives. Not all who eat 100% plant diets are necessarily vegan (they may use other individuals in other areas of their lives), but all vegans consume 100% plants.

Much is written by those seeking to undermine veganism, but the main counter argument that could potentially find justification, would be if humans actually needed to consume animal substances for health. However, as time passes, more and more health authorities stand up to be counted by proclaiming the health benefits of plant nutrition, providing impressive statistics in respect of reduced risks of contracting killer conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and many others that are currently swamping healthcare systems throughout the world.

The following is a recent summary of links and quotes for your interest and to fuel your research. It should be noted that the word ‘vegetarian’ is frequently interchanged with the word ‘vegan’ to denote a diet free of animal substances. The currently accepted common usage of the word ‘vegetarian’ confusingly contains a considerable range of potentially harmful animal substances. If in doubt there is usually clarification within the text.

Links and information will be added to as appropriate material is discovered: –

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association):

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease. Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements.

British Dietetic Association:

Well planned vegetarian diets can be both nutritious and healthy. They have been associated with lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer and lower blood cholesterol levels.

Dietitians Association of Australia:

Vegan diets are a type of vegetarian diet, where only plant-based foods are eaten. They differ to other vegetarian diets in that no animal products are usually consumed or used. Despite these restrictions, with good planning it is still possible to obtain all the nutrients required for good health on a vegan diet.…/smart…/nutrition-a-z/vegan-diets/

Australian Government: National Health and Research Council

Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy and nutritionally adequate. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle.

Dietitians of Canada:

A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. It may take planning to get enough protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins D and B12 and omega-3 fats from foods or supplements. A healthy vegan diet can meet all your nutrient needs at any stage of life including when you are pregnant, breastfeeding or for older adults.…/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans…

Cleveland Clinic:

There really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet! A plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health.

New York Presbyterian Hospital:

Most of the chronic diseases that plague us (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, most cancers, gout, and many more) are related to nutrition.
As a Physician Nutrition Specialist, I recognize that recommending a diet based on fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains is the strongest evidence-based advice for dietary change we have. Not only is there the very well established benefit of a diet with decreased calories and unhealthy saturated and trans fats and increased fiber and healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, you are getting a daily infusion of many beneficial compounds including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and thousands of other plant compounds which are being actively studied by scientists. With these foods, there is no need for calorie-counting and portion control, which has been very difficult for most people, since you can eat as much as you want and it will still be low in calories. Choosing this kind of diet can help you lose weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, as well as lower your blood pressure.

The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (UCLA):

Some of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet may include: [d]ecreased blood cholesterol levels;and blood pressure; [l]ower incidence of heart disease, some forms of cancer, and digestive disorders like constipation and diverticula disease; [l]ower incidence of obesity and some forms of diabetes.

The Permanente Journal:

Plant-based nutrition has exploded in popularity, and many advantages have been well documented over the past several decades. Not only is there a broad expansion of the research database supporting the myriad benefits of plant-based diets, but also health care practitioners are seeing awe-inspiring results with their patients across multiple unique subspecialties. Plant-based diets have been associated with lowering overall and ischemic heart disease mortality; supporting sustainable weight management; reducing medication needs; lowering the risk for most chronic diseases; decreasing the incidence and severity of high-risk conditions, including obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia; and even possibly reversing advanced coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.

The Mayo Clinic:

[W]ith a little planning a vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. The key is to be aware of your nutritional needs so that you plan a diet that meets them.

Dr Michael Greger, MD FACLM:

These are the top 15 causes of death, and a plant based diet can prevent nearly all of them, can help treat more than half of them, and in some cases even reverse the progression of disease, including our top three killers.

Walter Willet, MD, DrPH, Chair of Harvard’s nutrition department:

“Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to the diet,” Willett and his co-author, David Ludwig, of Boston Children’s Hospital, wrote in an article published last September in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics.  “[T]he recommendation for three servings of milk per day is not justified and is likely to cause harm to some people. The primary justification is bone health and reduction of fractures. However, prospective studies and randomized trials have consistently shown no relation between milk intake and risk of fractures. On the other hand, many studies have shown a relation between high milk intake and risk of fatal or metastatic prostate cancer, and this can be explained by the fact that milk intake increases blood levels of IGF-1, a growth-promoting hormone.”

NHS (British National Health Service):

With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:

Science supports a low-fat, plant-based diet for optimal health…  Taking control of your quality of life starts with consuming a plant-based diet. Filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains is not only your best bet for disease prevention, it’s an easy way to reverse damage already done.


Posted in Health and plant based eating, In a nutshell | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments