How do you know someone is vegan?

‘Don’t worry, they’ll soon tell you.’ It’s probably true.

‘I’m vegan.’ They’re words many of us say several times a day. Yet contrary to those who mock and ridicule, the words have nothing to do with what I’d choose on a menu; I say the words because it’s the neatest way to describe the standard of behaviour that I expect of myself.

For me, the words encompass everything that I am, everything that motivates me, explain the reason that I strive endlessly to find a way to shine a light on the breathtaking lies we are each brought up to believe and to sustain by mutual repetition; the lie that we need to use other animals to thrive; the lie that we all love these same animals that we needlessly subject to the most sickening violence every single day.

While everyone is agreeing about how much they despise the needless horrors that humans inflict on every other species, ‘I’m vegan’, is the ONLY way there is to express the fact that to us, not only do we agree that it’s utterly wrong to harm other individuals for no reason, but we reflect that agreement in every action that we take, every day of our lives. For us, it’s real. We live the words.

Those who can’t say ‘I’m vegan’ may mock and they may ridicule, but each of us must one day face ourselves in the mirror and hear the voice of our conscience in the silence of our thoughts.

Our words say so much about each of us. What do your words say about you?

Find out about veganism here:

Posted in Awakening to veganism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Living in a land of make-believe

Today I find myself reminiscing, mentally retracing paths of the clouded past, trying to find the point at which I lost the warm feeling of kinship with all other species of animal that so many of us experience in childhood.  We are unaware that from our earliest years, our thoughts about other animals are distorted and manipulated by others. Our carers or parents who generally begin this indoctrination, no doubt have good intentions, repeating the lessons and the misinformation that they were taught in their own childhood days and as a parent, I’m ashamed to say that I can attest to the truth of this.

When we are children, we are encouraged to believe that we ‘love animals’ of every species, and most of us do care about them with an innocent admiration that is reflected in our favourite cuddly toys, in the children’s stories that we love to hear, the TV and films that we watch, and even in the cute images on our clothes and other possessions. This is true even to the extent that violence or antagonism towards other animals in any young person is regarded as suggesting that they may have psychological issues requiring further investigation.

Yet while we grow, usually without our knowledge and always without our full understanding, we are literally spoon-fed the dead flesh, the breast-milk and the eggs of these same beloved creatures whom we think of as our friends. We are given their skins to wear as clothing, are cleaned with substances containing body parts and fluids and were tested on agonised, terrified bodies; are taken to be ‘entertained’ in places where the once proud and beautiful are incarcerated, subjugated and humiliated. As children, we accept all this in trust, each of us looking to adults to guide us into appropriate behaviour.

As we mature, most of us retain our admiration for dogs and cats, sometimes one or two other species. However, the species that we have learned to use and consume, fade into a no-man’s land where consideration of them as the individuals they are, seldom if ever crosses our minds.

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

By the time we are adults we have become completely indoctrinated into the culturally accepted system of systematic violence, oppression and brutality that collectively represents nonveganism, and we no longer even consider questioning the source of the bodily remains that we buy, or the mechanisms by which those substances arrive in the shops to meet our demands as consumers. We learn to repeat words like ‘humane’ and ‘welfare’ but for most of us, they are only buzzwords and we have no knowledge at all of the reality behind them; have only the false images portrayed in the media by those who make money from harm and death, quietly profiting from our ignorance.

But I love animals

The tragedy of all this, is that almost every single one of us still claims to care about animals. Many of us sincerely believe, not only that we care, but also that our behaviour reflects that concern. We cling to this idea, oblivious (and very often determined to stay that way) to the reality of what we are demanding as consumers of torment and death. We carry on living in the child’s fantasy of our infant years where our victims are ‘happy’ and ‘willing’ or else that they are inanimate objects without minds or thoughts. What we almost never do, is acknowledge what science has proved;

  • that our victims are sentient individuals who are just like ourselves in every way that matters, individuals whose lives matter to them and who most desperately do not want to die; and
  • that our species has no nutritional or other need for the bloodbath that is occurring in our name.

Sometimes when challenged about our use of our victims, even as adults we take refuge in an imaginary and juvenile narrative in which humans are cast as kindly guardians, benevolently bestowing protection and sustenance in return for the ‘benefits’ that we consider to be our due; inventing fantasies involving imaginary victim consent in a land of make-believe where other animals ‘give’ their lives, their breast milk, their eggs and their services to humans in return for our ‘care’. Thus soothed, any prickle of conscience subsides, our thoughts drift elsewhere, and we generally fail to confront our self-serving fantasies.

These mythical tales are fuelled by the publicity machine that presents our defenceless victims as resources for human use and consumption. Those who ‘breed’, mutilate and incarcerate other individuals on our behalf are portrayed as devotedly carrying out a labour of love for their charges, rather than the hard-headed business people they are, maximising profits while minimising outlay; deliberately obscuring the details that the consumer would find upsetting or ‘distasteful’, rebuffing and ridiculing any criticism as being unrealistic and anthropomorphic.

Finding our way back to the way we began

For many of us, the first step towards realising the truth begins with the beloved companion dogs or cats that we think of as our friends, with their huge personalities and their innocent gaze that reflects their happiness, their devotion to their friends, and occasionally their fear or pain. It’s so easy to fall in love with a companion who doesn’t share our species but does share our home and our life.

One day – if we are lucky – our dearly loved companion may help us reconnect with a truth that we recognised as infants. One day we may look and really see the pitiful dismembered remains on our plate, the infant calf who was slaughtered so that we could drink his mother’s milk, that little fragile hen whose every bleak day was spent in hell for the eggs we consume. If our minds are open, we may catch a glimpse of the fact that each was an individual with same potential to think and feel, remember and respond to their life and their experiences as any other sentient individual; these faculties are what define the sentience that we share.  When we open our minds to seeking the truth, we inevitably realise with a pang that nothing in their existence as a commercial resource gave rise to anything other than misery, fear and pain; they who are our innocent victims, bred specifically to ensure the maximum profit is derived from their life and their body for the least expense possible. Those who tell us otherwise, do so only though lack of knowledge or else a vested interest that following the money will reveal.

If we had only looked into the innocent eyes of those whose pitiful existence and whose inevitable slaughter we insisted upon at the supermarket check-outs; if we had seen that pleading, frightened gaze in the clanging horror of our slaughterhouse, we would swiftly have lost our appetite for the ‘products’ of suffering and death that once seemed so harmless and appealing. If we had heard their screams and whimpers of agony, smelled the blood that their panicking hearts were pumping onto killing floors, our time in the land of make-believe would surely have come to an end.

On that day that we are finally honest with ourselves and face the inevitable consequences of the nightmare that takes place in our name, being vegan is the only thing that makes sense.

Why not leave the land of make-believe today? Be vegan.

Posted in Awakening to veganism, Companion animals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Memories of leather and fur

A single stark memory has plagued me all my life. I must have been quite young (possibly in the 1960s) because what I saw then would never be seen nowadays. I had spotted a truck in traffic. It drew my attention because protruding above its high sides was something odd that I just couldn’t recognise. I stared, puzzled, in the way you do when something just doesn’t make sense, and as the truck moved off, the penny finally dropped. I was looking at what seemed to be an enormous roll comprised of hides. The familiar black and white patterns of cow skins were all piled together and rolled up, smeared with seeping fluids, caked with filth and darkening blood. The grisly imprint of the sight has stayed in my mind’s eye all my life, now reinterpreted with sorrow,  deep regret and merciless vegan clarity.

Time moved on in a dream – 1970s, 1980s, 1990s…

It was many years later, but still long ago that I learned about the fur trade, reading and watching videos that turned my stomach. The message of these was that using fur was disgusting; that it was so much worse than other kinds of ‘animal cruelty’; that it was a frivolous self-indulgence without any justification whatsoever. From that day on, I vowed that never again would I wear anything made of fur and disposed of every item that I owned that featured any fur at all. At every opportunity I protested about fur, donating to those ‘organisations’ that had first opened my eyes, who claimed to need my cash to bring an end to the trade of those members of other species whose interests they claimed to represent. I signed petitions and wrote emails. I was an ardent opponent of ‘cruelty to animals’. Or so I thought.

In those days I was ‘vegetarian’ (when it was convenient) and I had a thing about leather. I loved the smell of it, had leather boots, belts and gloves, leather gear for my motor bike, and a couple of leather handbags that I prized.  What I was thinking? Seriously. What was I thinking?  I seem to remember that I vaguely thought leather was a by-product of those ‘food’ industries that I had been taught were essential for human health but really, I can’t understand why I didn’t know more than I did.

Time moved on – awakening 2012

It was about 6 years ago that my true education began. I learned that human animals have no need to use members of other animal species for any purpose. That shook me. It was then that I really learned about leather. I learned about feathers. I learned about wool, about honey, and about the many euphemisms for dead flesh. I learned about ‘dairy’, about egg use, about testing and vivisection, circuses, zoos and the whole gut-churning horror show. There was no denying the truth when it came along. I had discovered veganism.

Wet salted cow skins

Slowly, incredulously, with bile rising in my throat, I realised that I had been lied to, manipulated and misled into thinking that some kinds of ‘cruelty’ were worse than others.

And I found myself asking, was ‘fur’ any worse than tearing the feathers and down from the screaming and bloodied bodies of living birds; worse than wrenching ‘angora’ from rabbits sobbing in agony? Was ‘fur’ any worse than leather; any worse than tearing the skin off a cow as her consciousness wanes with the lifeblood pulsing from her gashed throat and the places where her feet used to be? Was it any worse than the skin of my favourite gloves, that soft, smooth slink skin of the unborn calf whose first and final gasps rasped from new lungs, as he slithered wet with her entrails from the womb of a disembowelled mother dying by pieces, while hanging from chains in our slaughterhouse; her only life draining away before she could birth her precious infant to the hell that was all she had known, a hell that her innocence could never understand.

My new awareness demanded to know more about this ‘fur’ that I’d been so vociferous about, why it was any different from these new nightmares that still haunt the nights when sleep eludes me? Was there a difference? Was there?  And my shattering heart told me, no, it was no different. There was no ‘better’ kind of atrocity, no ‘worse’ kind. It was ALL unnecessary.

That was the day that I finally understood the meaning of betrayal, of self-disgust and impotent rage against all the things that had been hidden from me, the lies I’d been told and had foolishly believed. I had been trying to do the right thing while all the time being complicit as a consumer in an orgy of violence and oppression, I’d betrayed every value that I thought had defined me. I could never wish on another such an awakening from a lifetime of lies.

And I became vegan, because it was simply the least I could do.

Respect means being honest

It is so unfair of any of us to consider that our peers can’t handle the truth. We don’t need imaginary checklists, labelled ‘Cruel’ and ‘Kind’. All any of us needs to know is that as human animals we have no need to use the lives and bodies of members of other animal species for any purpose. Just that one thing.

Then, knowing that one thing, if we are really sincere about not wanting to cause needless harm to those who are innocent and defenceless, we’ll be desperate to stop doing it. It won’t feel like doing without things, it won’t feel like restriction or deprivation. For most vegans I know, it’s been difficult to stop quickly enough. So let’s not just stop having victims of one species or several, when becoming vegan means we stop having victims of any species at all. Each new vegan is someone who will live the rest of their life doing their absolute best not to have victims.

We owe our victims nothing less than the truth. And we owe our peers exactly the same. Be vegan.


For more information about the inconsistencies behind the singling out of fur, please see this excellent article by Sherry F Colb, a Justia columnist, Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law School.

Posted in Harm reduction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Plants feel, fish feel, cows feel – but we have to eat

‘Plants feel, fish feel, cows feel – but we have to eat.’  This was a comment made on a recent post promoting veganism. It’s almost possible to hear the dismissive shrug at the end.

It’s another of these sentences that I must have seen hundreds of times in various guises. Yet in a very few words it says so much about the writer, so much about our culture and so much about our personal attitude to ethics and responsibility, while illustrating the effects of the lies and myths that we are raised to embrace as fact. As a sentence, it’s something of an accidental masterpiece and as a vegan writer, I’d love to encapsulate so much in so few words, but writing in defence of our victims places one constantly at a disadvantage; the disadvantage of challenging the unfounded beliefs and self-serving fantasies that we grow up thinking of as ‘information’. Before the truth can be recognised, the shell of complacency that formed around us in our childhood must be shattered or at the very least, severely weakened.

For each of us, that protective shell was created by a desensitisation process that we were unaware was even taking place, as our infant selves were gradually corrupted to become complicit in the most unjust and brutal system of oppression that the world has ever seen. The horror of what was done to us was compounded by our being simultaneously taught to believe a complete fairy tale about the barbarism being ‘necessary’, a fantasy that we ‘love’ our victims, a blinkered delusion that we are fiercely opposed to their being harmed, and that our own behaviour, regardless of what it is, does not qualify as participation in the atrocity.

Do plants feel?

So let’s look at the idea that ‘plants have feelings’. It’s one of the most common – if not the most common – ‘argument’ in favour of the tormenting and slaughter of 74 billion sentient land-based individuals every year (which takes no account of the trillions of marine creatures and a number of other very numerous and significant groups), and it’s trotted out countless times a day on social media. I have always resisted writing about plants for several reasons.

The first reason is that I’m completely sure that the majority of those who repeat this with monotonous regularity have never read further than a few sensationalist click-bait headlines. I would truly challenge whether the majority of ‘plant activists’ have ever read the science. That science is truly fascinating and although I understand it is now largely discredited, I recall a much younger self being absolutely enthralled by the book ‘The Secret Life of Plants’.  Discredited or not, it began in me a sense of wonder and a deep appreciation of hidden marvels hitherto unknown in the lives of the myriad organisms known as plants. At various times I have kept Venus Fly Trap plants, watching in gruesome fascination as a victim triggered the embrace of the clasping trap where their life would end bathed in the digestive enzymes of the enclosing surface; I have been awed by a Mimosa Pudica , by the sensitive response to the lightest touch, observing the swift and protective folding and drooping of the leaves. There is no doubt that there is much we do not know about plants, and so much more that we can learn. It is, however, inescapable that however plants may react to stimuli, and whatever level of perception this evidences, they all differ significantly from our animal victims in that they lack a nervous system and a brain.

Some of the current science of plant perception is usefully summed up in this article by the BBC entitled ‘Plants can see, hear and smell – and respond’ which links to several individual studies.

“Do I think plants are smart? I think plants are complex.” However complexity, says Daniel Chamovitz of Tel Aviv University, should not be confused with intelligence.

“We plant scientists are happy to talk about similarities and differences between the plant and animal lifestyles when presenting results of plant research to the general public. You want to avoid [such metaphors], unless you are interested in a (usually futile) debate about a carrot’s ability to feel pain when you bite into it.”  Reliance on animal-based metaphors to describe plants comes with issues, says Fatima Cvrčková, a researcher at Charles University in Prague. Plants are supremely adapted for doing exactly what they need to do. They may lack a nervous system, a brain and other features we associate with complexity, but they excel in other areas.

Is this the same as ‘fish feel’ and ‘cows feel’?

The ‘plants feel’ (or ‘plants have feelings’) strategy is used by some as an attempt to draw an exact parallel between a plant’s ‘experience’ and that of our annual 74 billion victims, so that by doing so, they may dismiss the need to consider the impact of their actions and take measures to remedy them. However plants and animals are not equivalent, as science currently stands. The individuals whom we bring into the world by means of deliberate, invasive ‘breeding’ programmes for the sole purpose of slaughtering them in their youth are essentially like us in every way that matters. Like ourselves, their lives are important to them, they seek to avoid pain and remain alive. They experience life and living through their senses, through their connections to their environment and to other beings. They have needs and preferences, are capable of a wide range of emotional response, of forming deep bonds with other beings. A sentient individual is defined as having the faculty of sensation and the power to to perceive, reason and think. They have minds. They definitely do have feelings.

We all know this at a deep level and it seems bizarre in the extreme that this simple truth needs to be restated so frequently. We all know it is true of the dogs, the cats, the other species of companions with whom we share our lives and our homes. We recognise and relate to their behaviour, their reactions, their vocalisations and their body language. Even without a trace of anthropomorphism, we can interpret their body language and accept that we might have similar reactions were we in their situation.

Despite this, we have learned to block out the blindingly obvious and scientifically proven fact that these same reactions and qualities extend also to the 74 billion, and in fact to the trillions of marine individuals whose lives we take each year without conscience or concern.

Let’s imagine for a moment that harming plants and harming animals is exactly the same…

For the sake of avoiding argument however, even were science to continue to develop in the area of plant perception and even if it were to discover that peeling a carrot is the equivalent of using a hide puller to agonisingly flay a terrified individual as they hang upside down by one chained leg, struggling desperately, their breath bubbling through the warm, bright blood that their panicking heart is pumping frantically through their gashed carotid arteries and jugular veins; even if science were to discover that mowing the grass is equivalent to genocide and that weeding the patio is an act of brutality, the ‘plants’ justification would still not hold up.

The very use of this ‘plants feel’ ‘argument’ indicates that it is absolutely certain that the writer is probably unaware of, but has definitely never stopped to consider, the feeding requirements of the 74 billion innocent land-based creatures who are being force bred, raised, ‘fattened’, used and trucked to slaughterhouses annually so that we may consume their flesh, eggs and breast milk.  There are 74 billion of them and approximately 7.4 billion of us. They are plant eaters.

Even using the most economical feeding methods, the massive volume of plant material that each of the 74 billion individuals needs to consume during their existence from conception to slaughter, in addition to the feeding requirements of those who are incarcerated year on year for us to parasitise their breast milk or their eggs and for our laboratory experimentation, is beyond the ability of most of us to even imagine. The scale of this plant consumption to feed our victims is breathtaking, and growing these plants comes inevitably with an environmental impact of devastating proportions.

Still examining the logistics of feeding our victims, the other thing tied into the vast tonnage of plant material consumed by the 74 billion, is something called a ‘feed conversion ratio‘. Putting this simply, what any feed conversion ratio illustrates is that for any given quantity of foodstuff consumed by an animal (of any species), a vastly reduced quantity of whatever substance we are interested in – be that breast milk, eggs or flesh – will be produced. The science behind this is obviously highly relevant for those seeking to maximise the profit they make from consumers for exploiting the lives and bodies of the defenceless on their behalf; contrary to all the rhetoric we read and hear from those who farm lives, it is not a labour of love as they would have us believe. It’s a business and any business is founded on the principle of maximising profit by minimising costs. As always, follow the money.

Feed conversion at its heart is a very basic principle of which we all have direct experience; all we need to consider is the several bags of shopping that many of us will carry into our kitchens week in, week out, Most of us try to keep our weight stable but even doing that requires the consumption of a substantial weight of food. It follows logically that to increase our weight, we would need to consume considerably more weight in food (several times more) than the weight we would gain. Conversion ratios are simply the scientific expression of exactly how much food an individual would need to consume to increase their weight by a given amount/ produce a given quantity of breast milk / produce an egg 300 days a year. Basically, animals of any species, including human animals, are very inefficient converters of food into flesh / eggs / breast milk.

‘We have to eat’

‘We have to eat’. Now all this stuff about plants and ratios would be simply an exercise of academic interest if the consumption of animal-derived substances were actually essential for human well being. But this is where it all starts to unravel and become unstuck. Not only is it unnecessary for us to use the lives and bodies of our sentient fellow earthlings for consumption, there’s an increasing weight of evidence pointing to the harmful effects of these and their undisputed role in causing the major killer conditions of our time: heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many others. Every major health organisation on the planet now recognises that we can thrive without consuming animal substances. And yet the myths persist, and those with vested interests (follow that money again) continue to perpetuate these and stoke the smouldering embers of misinformation and confusion.

The point is, however, that feeding vast quantities of plants to our 74 billion victims to get back a small proportion of that nutrition converted into  body parts, eggs and hormonal secretions, is a hugely inefficient process, enacted without necessity and quite transparently out of pure self indulgence. While they are awaiting their untimely and horrific deaths, our victims consume far more nutrients than they are capable of generating by way of substances for us to consume.

7.4 billion humans then go on to consume these body parts, eggs and breast milk that we take from our victims, and our own bodies, in the same highly inefficient feed conversion process, further reduce the nutritional payload of what began as a massive quantity of plants.

Put simply, by running these original plants through firstly the digestive systems of our victims, then running their bodies and secretions through our own digestive systems, we effect two sets of inefficient feed conversions and in the process, need to grow sufficient plant material to feed over 80 billion animals including ourselves.

In addition to this, it’s not even as if animal substances are a substitution for plants in a human diet. Dead flesh, eggs and the cross-species breastfeeding behaviour that we have been brainwashed into calling ‘dairy‘ and regarding as normal, do not provide for the nutritional needs of our degenerate species. We all additionally require to consume as large a volume of plant materials as we can, as it’s from this that we draw the vast majority of minerals and nutrients as well as the fibre that is essential for healthy digestion.

Since science has proved that we can survive and thrive on plants, by consuming these directly, only one process of feed conversion needs take place instead of two. By consuming plants directly, we need feed only 7.4 billion instead of 80 billion.  If plants were indeed to be shown to suffer in any way from being eaten, it’s simply logical that those who are concerned for this ‘suffering’ would wish to minimise it by using as few of them as possible.

So let’s go back to where this began. ‘Plants feel, fish feel, cows feel – but we have to eat’

  • ‘Plants feel’; well do they? Research indicates that plants may have some level of perception that science has yet to fully reveal.  To say this represents ‘feeling’ is inaccurate. Scientists tell us that animal based metaphors may be used as an aid to describing plant responses to stimuli to the general public, but as plants lack the same nervous system, brain and receptors as an animal, these metaphors may be unhelpful and open to misinterpretation.
  • ‘Fish feel, cows feel’; yes, we know that sentient individuals definitely feel and not only that, but those animals who are not human are scientifically proven to experience these feelings to a similar or even greater extent than human animals.
  • ‘We have to eat’; yes, indeed we do. We can eat plants directly without the need to involve any other being to inefficiently convert these plants into parts and substances which we then need to supplement with plants. By cutting out the ‘middle victim’, we minimise plant consumption.

So what else is this comment saying?

I could write another essay on that topic alone (possibly will at some point), but suffice it to say that we all have had or used this dismissive mechanism to some extent. For instance consider the prisons that we euphemistically call ‘zoos’ and ‘wildlife parks’, ‘sea life centres’ etc. When challenged on these, we tend to trot out a sentence that includes words about ‘endangered species’ and ‘breeding programmes’ and ‘education’. I know we do this because I was not always vegan and I used to say things like that; they soothed my conscience about paying money to witness the degradation, subjugation and humiliation of wild and beautiful individuals, imprisoned in unnatural environments for us to gawp at. I repeated the buzz words as often as I deemed appropriate.

For each of the uses of individuals who do not share our species, it seems to me that in our early years we all learn certain stock phrases. We use these, often to ourselves, to defend our participation in practices that make us uncomfortable. We like it when we consider that these phrases sound ethical, moral and thoughtful to our ears. But – again speaking from experience and from many years of people-watching – we frequently learn the words by rote, repeating them without ever really thinking about them. That we continue to use them largely unchallenged tells us that in our culture, the majority participate in the same defence mechanism and thus reinforce our flawed ‘justifications’.

And what about our personal attitude? When we use these phrases as an attempt to shut down a conversation on a topic that is making us uncomfortable, we are telling the listener that we are not listening, not prepared to consider the validity of the facts that are being presented and that we are dismissing any notion of personal responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

It’s absolutely true that no one can force us to be responsible. However it’s somewhat tragic that every single one of us would refuse to embrace this as a description of ourselves, preferring to think of ourselves as decent and honourable; people who take a stand against injustice and defend the helpless and innocent. It makes us feel good when we consider that these values apply to us. However, when we’re not vegan, they don’t. It’s really that simple; being vegan is simply becoming the people we actually think we are already.

Be vegan.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Health and plant based eating, Sentience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts for another Mother’s Day

Every festival and specially designated ‘day’ presents a shameless commercial opportunity to flood the market with consumer goods and Mother’s Day is no different. The shops are filling up with items targeted at those who gladly embrace this annual occasion to tangibly demonstrate the love and respect that they hold for the mothers in their lives. For some, that Mother is the one whose body created, nurtured and laboured to give birth to them; for others, that Mother is the mother of their children; for others that Mother is the special person who mothered them when they needed mothering despite there being no connection of blood between them. As a mother myself, I can say that motherhood is a role that does not depend on, or even require, acknowledgement or gratitude for its continuing, but deep down we all recognise and appreciate that for many of us, our mother is our staunchest ally, our most fierce supporter, and a steadfast shoulder to cry on whenever the world lets us down.

So for this special day, we eagerly buy what the shops are selling, the beautifully worded cards, the gifts, the warmth and sentiment behind the concept of mothering; the appreciation of which is so deeply ingrained in each of us that although we may seldom express it, our respect and awe of those who have fulfilled this role for each of us is so profound and so heartfelt.

Respect and awe

We celebrate mothers, their mothering and their state of motherhood. Our culture is steeped in esteem for this most noble role.

Or is it?

Let’s just stop there and take a step back from the tide of sentiment that risks sweeping us away with nostalgia and emotion. Let’s really think about mothering and motherhood; not as I have experienced it, not as you have experienced it; just Mothering and Motherhood. Here are definitions from the dictionary to start us off.

mothering: noun

the nurturing of a child by its mother.
the protective behaviour of a mother towards her child.
nurturing or protective behaviour reminiscent of that 
performed by a literal mother.

motherhood: noun

the state of being a mother; maternity;
the qualities or spirit of a mother;
mothers collectively.

That’s what the dictionary says and in our considering of the human mothers in our lives, we’d find little there to criticise. However every single one of us knows that becoming a mother, mothering and the state of motherhood are not a uniquely human experience.

Not uniquely human

Consider the devotion lavished by mothers of every mammalian species upon their newborn infants, borne of the sweat, blood and labour of their bodies, as they are welcomed into the world with tender, exhausted wonderment. Anyone who has watched a birth, may perhaps have experienced a sense of privilege and grace to have been witness to this most timeless ritual; this profound and private experience shared by two individuals whose devotion to each other began long before their bodies struggled and toiled in the wrenching pains of birth, long before their eyes met, drinking in the sight of each other, savouring the scent of each other while their long and intimate bond defines itself anew in raw and painful separateness.

Similar bonds exist between a mother and her infants of other sentient species and these are readily apparent to any observer although the biology of their individual experience may differ from our own. For example, in situations where her eggs are not being taken away for human commercial gain, and where her natural instincts have not been selectively bred out, a hen who has laid eggs sits on her nest all day and night for three weeks, leaving it only once a day to quickly find food and drink water. During this period, and if the eggs have been fertilised, the hen and her chicks communicate with each other with a range of calls. Embryos emit a distress call when cold, for example, and the hen responds to such calls by moving the egg in the nest. Developing chicks also emit pleasure calls when their mother responds.

At hatching, chicks instinctively follow the first moving object they see that in nature will quite naturally be their mother, a process known as imprinting. Their mother directs them to appropriate food items by calling and pecking at the ground, nurturing and caring for them by passing on to her young what she has learned about life and living. Mother hens are renowned for being protective of their young and, if camouflage and other defences fail to avoid detection by a predator or threat, a hen will become raucous and draw attention to herself, willing to sacrifice herself in an attempt to divert danger from her chicks. There’s a very good reason that the term ‘mother hen’ has become synonymous with fierce and devoted care.

Those of us who are mothers, who have felt the agony and the exhaustion, the wonder and the heavy ache of milk that cries out to be suckled, instinctively relate to other mothers as they experience something that was so deep and meaningful for ourselves.

Extending our acknowledgement of motherhood

While we can relate so strongly to motherhood no matter what the species of the mother and her infant, how is it then, that we can use our power as consumers to demand that this sacred bond be severed for our most trivial whims, as long as the mothers and infants are not human?

At this point, how many will feel the need to stop reading, to close their eyes and cover their ears, defensively seeking to preserve the wilful blindness that allows us to spend our consumer cash to continue paying for the wanton destruction of families? How many will suddenly find themselves reflexively shifting from sublime sisterhood with all who have shared the life affirming storm of becoming mothers, back to the myths of our childhood where we cling to the notion that we are somehow different from all other species, somehow so special in a way not manifested or experienced by members of any other species, so important that we may wreak the horrors of the slaughterhouse upon them all without conscience?

While it is relatively easy for us all to see why there is something fundamentally horrifying about using and consuming the bloodied slabs of flesh and muscle that we term ‘meat’ so as to distance ourselves from acknowledging our dead victims, let’s make no mistake, all our use of members of other species is unnecessary and all of it depends utterly on violation of the reproductive functions of mothers of other species. All of it depends on the control, the manipulation and ultimately the destruction of the bonds of shared by mothers and their infants, bonds that are no less powerful because our victims do not share our species.

For example,‘dairy‘ is a business of commercialised reproduction; of forced pregnancy; of separating mothers and their babies, to facilitate the using of their hormonal secretions or breast-milk (commercially known as ‘milk’) as a commercial resource. This resource is sold for profit either as a liquid or as yogurt, ice cream, cheese, butter and so on.

Every egg use in which humans participate, ensures that because eggs are viewed as an appropriate ‘food’ for our species, there will continue to be a demand for these defenceless little individuals to be born into the treacherous bodies that humans have created for them. It will continue to be profitable to further modify these harmless and innocent creatures by artificial means in order to maximise profits at the complete expense of their health. For every egg that is used wherever and whenever by our species, we are ensuring the continuation of a vile and hidden profit-driven world that ensures that for every single egg laying hen, her own body is her prison.

When we use the skins, the secretions, the body fibres, or other body parts of members of other species to consume, to wear, or for the multitude of hideous purposes that our species has devised, we are in fact pouring contempt on them as individuals and upon the mothering and motherhood that they have had inflicted upon them by the ‘breeding programmes’ of our species, but which their treacherous bodies embrace in the way that nature has programmed them to do to safeguard and nurture their offspring. The torment of having that torn from them time and again is unimaginable.

There is no need for us to do this, none at all. We can thrive, and our children can thrive, without inflicting harm on others. All we need to do is to step away from the myths that we have been taught all our lives, to look with fresh eyes and common sense.

On honouring mothers and the giving of gifts

So this Mother’s Day, when we are wandering in the stores, fondly remembering just how important motherhood is to each of us, let’s pause a moment. Let’s think of the reality behind those gifts of love made from the heartbreak of billions of mothers whose anguish we have learned to ignore. Let’s look with honest eyes upon those gifts of chocolate made from breast-milk, gifts made from the flayed skins of defenceless creatures whose only wish was to live the life they valued so much; gifts crafted and woven from the body fibres of those who were powerless to defend themselves against our shameless use, and ask ourselves if this is truly how we want to honour motherhood.

And then, as so many of us have done already, let’s say, ‘Enough’. Today is a good day to do that. Let Mother’s Day be for all mothers. Be vegan.

Posted in consumer demand, dairy, eggs, Festivals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Defend the innocent, join the dots

Recently I saw a number of articles, images and videos that I found deeply moving.

• A dairy cow with severe head trauma had been thrown into a dumpster to die. She was standing, face bloodied, hunched in agony, looking at the camera.
• A cow of a breed commonly used for their dead flesh had escaped to live with a herd of wild bison. She had died of stress on being recaptured to be taken to a slaughterhouse to be killed.
• A pig adopted as a pet from an organisation that had rescued and nursed her back to health, was killed and eaten by her adopters, rather than being returned to the rescue organisation for rehoming.
• 48 roosters were handed over to an SPCA, defenceless individuals for whom places had been found with rescuers. Instead of releasing these 48 roosters to the homes that were ready and waiting for them, the SPCA had every one of them killed.

Now each of these stories provoked fury in the media and online. If asked to explain why these actions provoke such outrage, such anger and howls for vengeance, the majority of those people would say that they were distressed and furious because the acts were so completely pointless; they were so absolutely unnecessary; they were such blatant ‘cruelty’ to innocent and vulnerable individuals who were powerless to defend themselves. And they’d be absolutely correct, I can’t find much to dispute about that sentiment.

But the thing that is most significant in all of this outpouring of shock and grief and vitriol is that the vast majority of those expressing it were not vegan. So how is this relevant?

We’re talking about cows, a pig and some roosters. Let’s stop and consider from whom they needed to be rescued? From ‘bad’ people? From ‘cruel’ people?

No. Nothing nearly so fanciful. They needed to be rescued from ordinary people. They needed to be rescued from ordinary people whose consumer demands are paying to harm and kill so that they can buy dead flesh, eggs and the hormonal infant nutrient known as ‘milk’ from the stores. ‘Demand for harm and death’ is simply another way to express the consumer demands of those who are not vegan.

So in fact, these defenceless individuals who won hearts and minds wherever their tragic tales were told, were in that position of needing to be rescued from the very people who were angry about what had happened to them.

And the other key thing?  ALL of our use of the lives, bodies and reproductive systems of others, like the acts in the tales at the top of the page, is completely pointless, absolutely unnecessary; the deepest injustice imaginable, committed against innocent and vulnerable individuals who are powerless to defend themselves.

When we are not vegan, WE are the ones whose demands as consumers are directly responsible for each of these tragic tales. We’re not inherently ‘bad’ people. We’re not inherently ‘cruel’ people. But what we do need to do, is make the connection between those desperate creatures whose stories we hear, whose plight moves us to stand strong in their defence; and those whose systematic, normalised, horrific but equally unnecessary torment is conducted behind closed doors to meet our demands at the checkouts for their body parts, milk and eggs.

If we are not vegan, it’s not ‘other people’ who are responsible for the horror. WE are the ones who are responsible. And the huge irony in all of this is that when we are confronted with the reality of what we are doing, we struggle to comprehend the truth because in our own minds, our fictional narrative has convinced us that we are the kind of people who would never cause deliberate harm.

Think about it. Join the dots. Becoming vegan means that no one ever needs to be rescued from us again. Be vegan.

Posted in consumer demand, Imagery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cruelty to animals

Jo-Anne McArthur Djurattsalliansen

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur, Djurattsalliansen

Originally posted on 22 November 2015, reviewed and links updated 07 February 2018

Cruelty to animals. If ever there was a phrase that seems so clear but says so little, then this is it. We all say we hate it, we all agree with those who say they oppose it, and we all condemn those who perpetrate it. But – and this may come as a surprise – almost every one of us is thinking of something completely different when we use it. We almost never acknowledge this, finding it much more comfortable to assume a shared frame of reference with others who use it.

So why is this? It’s because ‘cruelty to animals’ is a completely subjective phrase. Now just to be sure I’m completely clear about the meaning of the word ‘subjective’ see below * for the definition from an online dictionary. The definition of the word boils down to this: ‘subjective describes something that means different things to different people.

So why might that be a problem?

Why indeed. Lots of other things are subjective and in general, little harm is done. For instance, when each of us thinks of ‘young’ and ‘old’ people, we tend to use ourselves as a benchmark. For example, I am way past the age that I thought of as ‘old’ when I was in my 20s.  To family members, I refer to myself as ‘elderly’ in a tongue-in-cheek kind of a way but to be absolutely honest, I’m not sure what it will take for me to truly see myself as old. I don’t suppose there’s any harm in this and if it serves to make my sons shake their heads fondly at my delusions, I don’t mind.

So some subjective references are not inherently harmful, however I firmly believe that the seemingly innocuous little term, ‘cruelty to animals’ is one of the most dangerous and harmful there is, not in terms of grammar or language, but in terms of the ones who always suffer while we’re mincing our words. Our victims.

Part of the harm lies in the fact that we all think we know what it means, and in our certainty that we know, we rarely question its meaning when others use it. We tend to assume we’re on the same page, on the same side, sharing the same values, and we find comfort and are reassured about our own behaviour in the shared sentiment that we’re assuming.

What we almost never do, is ask others what exactly they mean by ‘cruelty to animals’. Before I became vegan, if someone were to have asked me exactly what I meant by it, I’d have struggled with that question. I’d have done a bit of hand waving to indicate how nebulous the concept is, and I’m sure there would have been a few ‘you know what I mean’s and ‘sort of’s in my explanation. Because really I didn’t have a fixed idea. I could have quoted a few extreme instances of brutality but that was it.

Why don’t we check our frame of reference?

So why don’t we check? There are a number of reasons for this that I have learned during several years of doing advocacy and blogging. Of course as I have lived more than six decades on this planet, it would be fair to say that life has taught me a thing or two and sometimes what is not said is just as telling as what is said. So I have come to the conclusion that for most of us, we subconsciously use two main strategies:

  1. We stick to the beliefs we’ve always had
  2. We use our own behaviour as the benchmark

Sticking to the beliefs we’ve always had

What do I mean by this? ‘Sticking to the beliefs we’ve always had’ means that we each have our own, personal beliefs about what we need to do and what we are entitled to do. For most of us – even those who are ‘young’ by my reckoning – the roots of these ‘beliefs’ are lost in the mists of time. We were taught them at about the same time as we were taught not to poke our fingers into electrical sockets or put beads up our nose. We become adult just ‘knowing’ these things but can’t recall where the ‘knowledge’ came from. No one ever sits down to consider or challenge why we should not put our fingers in sockets etc. because we regard these truths as self-evident.

And so it is with our beliefs about those of other species, our importance and worth when compared to them, and the uses we believe we need to make, are entitled to make, as a consequence of our assumed importance and perceived superiority. We rarely challenge these beliefs and in fact deride the suggestion that we should, in much the same way that we would rightly react to a suggestion that we have a serious debate about the existence of the tooth fairy.

We use our own behaviour as the benchmark

‘We use our own behaviour as the benchmark’, means that in general, we consider ‘cruelty’ to be something that others do. We invariably start from the assumption that we ourselves are doing nothing wrong, as evidenced and emphasised by our ready declarations condemning ‘cruelty to animals’, and we look outward at other people, other nations, other cultures, always others. We look outward, we find fault and we point fingers of blame and condemnation.

Thus armed with our ‘knowledge’ and clearly believing ourselves to be above reproach, we confidently condemn ‘cruelty to animals’. Almost all of us do this before we have even heard of veganism, and when we do hear about it, it’s seldom a welcome topic.

So why is veganism an unwelcome topic for us?

It’s unwelcome because it forces us to examine our actions in a new light, an honest, truthful one. Veganism forces us to reconsider what we were taught from childhood, that animal use is necessary for our well-being. We discover that in fact, the opposite is true.

Veganism forces us to reconsider why we should think ourselves somehow more important, more worthy than other species.  In our eyes as human animals, other animals have previously occupied a no-man’s-land in terms of definition. We were always aware that they are not things or objects, however we resisted the natural conclusion to which this awareness should lead. Our use of them up to the point where we understand veganism, has refused to acknowledge their sentience, our glaringly obvious similarities, and has determinedly ignored the fact that they are the same as us in every way that matters.

Veganism forces us to realise the fact that our every ‘choice’ is a decision to violate the rights of defenceless and innocent individuals who are exactly like us in every way but species. Their lives matter to them. They share bonds of love and friendship with their family and friends. Each one is a unique individual who experiences life as we do, through their senses, their interactions with others, through their memories, through their environment. 

We think we’re on the same page but we’re not

So coming back to the phrase that started this essay, ‘cruelty to animals’, what does this shifting frame of reference mean in real terms? When we are not vegan and living in our western society, and we declare this to others as – let’s face it – nearly everyone does, we are thinking about actions that hurt dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, hamsters or members of the other species that we think of as ‘pets’.

We are thinking about actions or circumstances that fall outside our own, personal, accepted range of ‘necessary’ actions (our benchmark), although we will sometimes concede that even these should be done ‘humanely‘ (which is another subjective and loaded word). Examples of this are when we call for ‘compassion’ (a subjective concept), ‘kinder choices’ (a subjective concept), and for more laws to ‘regulate’ the ‘welfare‘ of our unnecessary victims while we are carrying out the inevitable denial of their fundamental rights that forms the bedrock of all the uses that are made of them to satisfy our consumer demands.

This is a path that invariably leads to xenophobia and ‘otherisation’, because other cultures have a different set of species to which they give ‘special’ consideration and a different range of actions that are perceived as ‘necessary’. It’s a path littered with grey areas, with personal definitions of ‘essential’ and ‘necessities’, little individual justifications that we each invent. Most significantly, it’s a path where we always ensure that the parameters excuse our OWN behaviour, regardless of what we do .

So is there an **objective definition of ‘cruelty to animals’?

There is a definition; all we need to do is define our frame of reference. ‘Cruelty’ is the inflicting of harm or distress on another and let’s presume for the sake of avoiding argument that we accept the (debatable) qualification that all humans tend to adopt; that in certain circumstances ‘harm’ may be justified as being unavoidable or even necessary, and further define cruelty to mean ‘unnecessary or avoidable harm’. Is it possible to define ‘cruelty to animals’ objectively (i.e not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts)?

Humans do not need to use or consume or otherwise use members of other species for any purpose. We have a myriad alternatives and as a highly inventive species we have no trouble at all in finding them. (Even if we did not have these alternatives, it would still be immoral for us to confine, use and kill countless billions of sentient individuals every year simply because we can – but this is a moot point). Using other individuals is inherently harmful to them. It is harmful because it prioritises our unnecessary habits, our convenience and our selfish indulgence over every single right they have. They are our victims.

The recognition of the fact that we have no need to make others into our victims, and the decision to live true to this recognition, is the definition of what happens when we become vegan. So in fact, the objective definition of ‘cruelty to animals’ may be summed up in a single word; nonveganism.

Telling it like it is

So let’s stop talking about ‘cruelty to animals’, because as a phrase it is meaningless. I have seen so many arguments arise between self-proclaimed ‘animal lovers’ (a subjective concept) many of whom are still using other individuals as I once did, excusing my own actions and seeing fault only in others. These arguments frequently accuse vegans of being divisive, claiming that since we all condemn ‘cruelty to animals’, we must all be on the same side.

Make no mistake, we’re NOT on all the same side at all and in our complacency about our shared (mis)understanding, lies a bloodbath, a continuing nightmare for 74 billion land animals and trillions of aquatic individuals each year; each one of them an innocent, vulnerable creature who needs us all to be absolutely clear on their behalf.

There is a crystal clear line that separates being vegan from not being vegan. That’s the one we need to recognise and cross. Let’s keep working towards that day.

Be vegan.



1- existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought.
2- pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual: a subjective evaluation.
3- placing excessive emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.; unduly egocentric.


**objective: not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

Posted in Advocacy, Cruelty | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Harm is driven by consumer demand – thoughts about dairy

Most of us were raised to believe that we ‘needed’ to consume dairy to be healthy. We were also taught that taking milk didn’t harm cows. Many of us live our whole lives without ever challenging these childhood myths. The fantasy is reinforced in the media by the industry itself in what has up to now been a very effective way of keeping consumers oblivious to reality. When we do finally look at it with an open mind, not one of us can understand how long it took us to realise the horror of the industry that is driven by our demands as consumers.

Animal use is big business. Huge. ‘Dairy‘ is a business of commercialised reproduction. It is a business of forced pregnancy; a business of separating mothers and their babies, to facilitate the using of their hormonal secretions or breast-milk (commercially known as ‘milk’) as a commercial resource. This resource is sold for profit either as a liquid or as any one of the many substances we have become accustomed to consuming without the slightest thought: yogurt, ice cream, cheese, butter and so on.

There’s no way round this. All the ‘organic’, ‘grass fed’, ‘free range’ labels that we have been taught to look out for, do NOT prevent this underlying process from happening. For every defenceless mother trapped within our profit-maximising system of ruthless exploitation, her entire existence is one of forced impregnation, pregnancy, birth, separation from her infant, and daily subjugation to our sucking pumps and tanks. We drive this process with every purchase that we make.

For dairy mothers of all species, although still young, when their production of breastmilk falls below a commercially viable (i.e. making the maximum profit) level, their only escape from the relentless cycle is the clanging horror of a slaughterhouse where their poor, depleted bodies will become the cheapest of ‘meat’.

(Figures reviewed and updated 06 May 2018) In 2016, 274,000,000 (274 million) dairy bovines, 203,000,000 (203 million) dairy goats, 249,500,000 (249.5 million) dairy sheep, 65,000,000 (65 million) dairy buffalo and 7,400,000 (7.4 million) dairy camels were slaughtered. That’s almost 800,000,000 (800 million) individual mothers, slaughtered in a single year because their production of breast milk has started to drop and they are no longer considered worthy of life.

These numbers do not include at least 21,000,000  (21 million) dairy calves killed soon after birth as ‘waste products’ because their sole purpose for being brought into the world was to induce lactation in their mothers. Millions of additional calves and kids will have found their way into the ‘meat’ statistics not quoted here, as a consequence of being ‘fattened up’ for consumption.

Dairy doesn’t CAUSE harm – it IS harm. It’s a death sentence for this baby at the top of the page, for their siblings yet to be born and ultimately for their mother when she has nothing left for us to take.

Once we know this, there’s only one question that demands an answer. What am I, as an individual consumer, going to do about it? My answer made me vegan.


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

Posted in consumer demand, dairy, Statistics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Obscene phrase of the day: ‘bred for eating’

Originally posted 1 September 2014, revised and links updated 31 January 2018

bred for eating’ (variation: ‘bred for food’)

‘But surely you realise that they were ‘bred for eating‘?’  It’s a sentence frequently uttered triumphantly by those seeking to justify eating habits that cause catastrophic and unnecessary harm to innocent individuals.  How could we ever have become thus; a species that claims exoneration for victimising the vulnerable with a declaration that as this was always their intent, the atrocities they commit against their victims are somehow beyond criticism?  And yet the phrase ‘bred for eating’ is brandished smugly, produced with panache every single time; clearly thought of by its user as a clinching argument that confers on them some magical pass from the normal responsibility that each of us has, to examine the choices we make in life against the values that we claim to stand for.

‘Bred for eating’, like every one of the excuses we invent, that our victims were ‘bred’ for us to use in some way, that our interests far outweigh theirs, is a clear manifestation of the ugly prejudice known as speciesism.

Most of us will agree that torture, enslavement, violation, breaking up families, abducting children, wrongful confinement and needless killing are completely unacceptable practices when we hear of them being perpetrated against humans.  Why then should we think for a moment that some phrase, produced out of the magic hat of childhood excuses we use to justify our every atrocity, is going to get us off the moral hook of committing these selfsame atrocities against other sentient individuals simply because they don’t share our species?

The quality of sentience that they share with us means that, like us, they experience life and living through their senses, and through their connections to their environment and to other individuals. They have minds and thoughts and needs, are capable of feeling joy, of devotion to their offspring, of forming deep bonds with other beings and are capable of experiencing suffering and misery. With a full range of well expressed emotions, they seek to avoid pain and they make it absolutely clear to all but the most determinedly oblivious that they do not want to die.

They are, in fact, like us in every way except species and as such deserve our respect. A spurious label that we apply to a sentient individual can never excuse or justify violating the reproductive systems of their parents to bring them into the world with the sole intention of using them as an unnecessary commodity to satisfy a trivial human indulgence, as if they were inanimate objects without minds or thoughts or feelings.

We seriously need to think again about this phrase ‘bred for eating’, because it is utterly without substance. It is bound up in unchallenged assumptions of superiority, entitlement, necessity and the ownership of individuals other than our selves. All of these notions have their roots in our childhood and none of them can stand moral scrutiny by ourselves as adults.

It is not ‘how we treat’ our needless victims that is the problem. The problem is the fact that we have victims at all, that we unjustly assume a right to take from them everything they have, for something we don’t even need. And we do this simply because we can, because we have been raised not to question, not to challenge, not to ask ourselves why we imagine for even a fleeting moment that our own most trivial whim merits the taking of the precious life of another.

The only way to be the just, fair, honest people we already think we are, is to stop applying phony labels to members of other species, see them for the fascinating, unique individuals that they are, and accord them the respect that is their due. That means becoming vegan.

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Claiming exceptions

‘That’s not true. That just happens on factory farms.  It doesn’t happen on all farms‘.

This depressingly common statement appeared recently on a friend’s page in response to a post. It’s been lingering on my mind ever since because variations on ‘that doesn’t apply in every case, there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’, are a very common retaliation used by those seeking to defend, justify and solicit approval for their use of members of other species. It is an attempt to invalidate what is being said on the basis that someone, somewhere, claims there is an exception to whatever is being stated.

‘The way I use animals is different from the way that everyone else does it’

‘That only happens:

  • in ‘factory’ farms;
  • in ‘other’ countries;
  • in ‘battery’ chicken farms;
  • in ‘foreign’ slaughterhouses;
  • in ‘other’ cultures’.

‘That may happen in some places but:

  • not in this country (wherever);
  • not the animals I use;
  • not where I buy ‘my’ meat/milk/eggs/honey/ leather/ silk/ make-up/toiletries/ cleaning materials;
  • not when you buy from ‘local‘ farms;
  • not when you keep your own hens;
  • not when you buy ‘organic’/’free-range’/eggs, dead flesh, lactation etc.’

The list of ‘exceptional circumstances’ used to seek to justify or excuse the actions of some individuals, groups or even whole countries just goes on and on.

In a similar vein, I recently read repeated claims by someone on social media that wool production isn’t exploitative, at least ‘not the type that my jumpers are made with’. Although it’s a common perception (that I used to share) that helping ourselves to the body fibres or coverings of any individual who is unable to prevent us, is somehow doing them a kindness, that particular claim was a new one for me.  In my decades as a nonvegan and a knitter of every type of apparel you could name, I could never have claimed to know anything about the wool I was using, other than in some cases, the country in which the individuals lived while it was growing on their defenceless bodies. In those days I was too naïve to appreciate that the overproduction of wool is a result of selective breeding for human commercial interests, and necessitates the ordeal of shearing for our victims.  I did not realise that the stripping and sale of wool was a moneymaking sideline for those who ‘farm’ our victims’ lives, and that while shearing may not directly kill them, a slaughterhouse death would be the only escape for my helpless victims.

Using them ‘to prevent waste’

There will be those who seek to counter this point by claiming that as sheep have now been bred to overproduce wool, we ‘might as well use it’ or it will be ‘wasted‘. The same tired argument is frequently used to try to justify egg consumption.  Not surprisingly, we don’t have the same spurious compulsion to prevent ‘waste’ when body parts and substances discarded by humans are being discussed. And of course, there are always those who assert triumphantly that ceasing to exploit defenceless creatures will result in their extinction, as if that were a bad thing.

My response is the same in the case of every species and breed that we have developed for our own benefit at the expense of the wellbeing of our victims. I can’t understand why we even need to ask whether these man-made mutants each of whom are powerless to escape the prisons that we have made of their bodies, should be allowed to die out, to become extinct. But since the question is frequently asked, I’ll answer. YES.  Our victims should be allowed to die out. If our own species survives, I hope with all my heart that our selectively mutated victims will one day be allowed to become extinct. It’s the only way they can ever escape the atrocity of what we have done to them.

Trusting the experts

Anyway, moving on. ‘That doesn’t always apply, there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’ is a principle on which an entire ideology is grounded. It’s the basis of the idea that there’s a right, good, acceptable way to use our unnecessary victims. At its heart, this ideology is the fundamental failure or refusal of our species to acknowledge that every use that we make of others is inherently harmful to them because it prioritises our trivial convenience over their every single right. This self-serving perspective leads directly and seamlessly to the concept of ‘humane exploitation’ so eagerly promoted by the harm industries and their advertisers and associates, a strategy that targets consumers with the idea that they can pay to use and kill others ‘nicely’ without the need for concern or conscience. The word ‘humane‘ that is repeated so often, is like a veil that most consumers don’t look behind.

I suspect the reason that we don’t look behind the veil of animal use is because we strongly suspect that we would be extremely uncomfortable about what we would see. Because everyone says that they care about animals and says they can’t abide ‘cruelty‘, we might even find that our conscience wouldn’t allow us to carry on paying for what’s behind that veil. So we shrug and decide to ‘leave it to the experts’.  ‘If the experts say it’s humane then surely it must be.’ ‘There are laws about ‘that sort of thing’.’ This country’ (wherever that is) ‘has the best ‘welfare’ laws.’ So goes the internal dialogue.  I know because I was that consumer several years ago. We all fall for it. It’s very persuasive, it’s comfortable,  it fits with what we’ve all been brought up to think. And it’s complete rubbish.

And who are these ‘experts’ in whom we put our faith? They are the people, the organisations, the establishments and the industries who make money from using our victims. I’ll say that again so that we can all just have a good think about it.

Those we look to as ‘experts’ are the very people, the very organisations, the very establishments and industries who make money, either directly or indirectly, from every substance that is derived from the bodies and the lives of our victims.  

And they very much want to keep making money that way. Are we really so naïve as to fail to observe such a blatant conflict of interest – with a flashing light and a siren on it? The idea that we can delegate responsibility, pay somebody else to use and kill others ‘humanely’ without the need for concern or conscience, is at the root of every feel-good label, every ‘XSPCA’ stamp of approval and every industry ‘quality assurance’ stamp depicting coloured farm machinery.

‘What I do is different which ‘proves’ there’s not a problem’

When put forward by any individual, organisation or group, ‘that doesn’t always apply , there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’, is the sound of a door slamming shut. It’s a door slamming shut on the notion that ‘their type of using’ is the same as every other kind; the bad kind, the ‘cruel kind’, the kind that ‘other’ people do. ‘That doesn’t always apply, there are ‘good’ ways of doing it’ is a defiant ‘gotcha’ that shouts out, ‘This doesn’t apply to me. My kind of using is different’.

From ‘my special kind of wool’, via ‘I only eat eggs from chickens that a lovely woman down the road loves like her family’, to ‘I’ve heard about ‘humane’ dairy, so it’s not as bad as you say’, there are a myriad attempts every day to use exceptional circumstances as if they were commonplace to somehow disprove the unspeakable atrocity of nonveganism, or at least claim a personal exception from the idea that we, as a species, are guilty of an atrocity.

This is, however, missing the point. Even IF these exceptions were truly exceptional, which they are not, in the whole vast panoply of animal harm, the quoted instances represent a minuscule proportion of the vast majority.

‘When I eat eggs it’s different from everyone else’

For instance 12 billion (12,000,000,000) chickens are brought into the world each year by the egg industry. Half, as males, are killed within hours of hatching, the other 6,000,000,000 produce just short of an egg every day as a result of our selective breeding. Whatever anyone says about free-range, back-yard, ‘dearly beloved’ hens, statistics show that worldwide, 95% of the hens used for eggs exist in battery conditions. That is where demand is focused. That is where it will remain focused until the consumers whose purchases demand this barbarity become aware of the consequences of their actions and the fact that all egg consumption is unnecessary.

A handful, of allegedly ‘happy’ hens who by some miracle of communication have conveyed their consent to be used as egg machines will NEVER mean that there is no problem about the other 12,000,000,000 (12 billion) annually. Only when consumers stop demanding harm will harm stop being a profitable business. Every single egg used by our species – wherever and whoever it came from – reinforces the concept of eggs, and those who lay them, as our property to be used, and as an appropriate food for humans. When a practice is fundamentally wrong – as egg use is – no-one is in a position to claim exceptional circumstances.

‘My use of dairy is different from everyone else’

As for the ‘humane dairy’ idea, I was recently asked whether I had referenced the concept of dairy enterprises that claim to be ‘humane’ (that word again) or ‘slaughter free’ or ‘harmless’ (aka ahimsa). I hadn’t, although I’ve often seen it championed by those who are not vegan as an ‘argument’ in favour of the process of the continuing breastfeeding of adults that we have been taught to overlook and call ‘dairy consumption’.

The first thing to say is that any action by our species that makes use of the reproductive functions of other species to breastfeed in place of – or even alongside – their own infants, is exploitative, unnecessary and harmful. This excellent article entitled ‘Slaughter-Free Dairy Is Being Hailed As The Future of ‘Humane’ Dairy. Here’s Why It Isn’t.’ by my friend Ashley Capps of Free from Harm,  painstakingly examines the many problematic aspects of the concept of ‘humane dairy’.

Again, even without entering into the debate, it is vital to realise that this relates to a relatively tiny number of bovines, confined in small-scale enterprises that can never be commercially reproducible. Like the ‘happy’ hens of our ‘humane’ mythology, even if they have by some miracle of communication conveyed their consent to be used as breastmilk machines and labourers, this will NEVER mean that there is no problem about what happens to satisfy the raging global consumer demand for cheap dairy products.

And what does happen? In a single year, 2016, 286,000,000 (286 million) dairy bovines, 20,500,000 (20.5 million) dairy goats, 30,000,000 (30 million) dairy sheep and 78,000,000 (78 million) dairy buffalo and camels were slaughtered. These numbers will include at least 21,000,000 million (21 million) dairy calves killed as ‘waste products’ because their sole purpose was to induce lactation in their mothers. Millions of additional calves and kids will have found their way into the ‘meat’ statistics as a consequence of being ‘fattened’ away from their mothers for consumption.

For dairy mothers of all species, although still young, when their production falls below a commercially viable level, their only escape from the relentless cycle of pregnancy, birth, separation and the daily pumping out of their breast milk for human commercial gain, is a slaughterhouse where their poor, depleted bodies will become the cheapest of ‘meat’ or possibly ‘pet food’.

We cannot claim exceptions for our personal actions. Every substance derived from the life or the body of an individual who does not share our species, is a declaration that we consider that they are ours to use. We would and could never invent a similar set of justifications to use the lives and bodies of members of our own species. We do it only to those who cannot defend themselves in a clear manifestation of the ugly prejudice known as speciesism.

Don’t worry, keep giving us your cash and leave the rest to us

We are currently witnessing a gearing up of the animal harming industries. We are seeing a change of approach. We see them increasingly using language specifically targeted at ‘concerned consumers’ in a flagrant attempt to damp down concerns and keep them onside as accomplices in the harm and misery that is the only true brand of nonvegan consumer demand. We see increasing media time being given to industry paid ‘nutritionists’ and ‘dietary experts’ who frequently contradict the science of those without conflicting affiliations. We also see patronising dismissals of consumer concerns using language that intends to belittle and mock any who challenge the processes inherent in all farming of lives on the basis that they ‘don’t know what they’re talking about’, ‘come and see a real farm’ etc.

Recent rhetoric claims that the dairy industry is working to promote a ‘positive message’. Given the undeniability of the fundamental procedures of forced pregnancy, birth and separation that form the bedrock of dairy production; the fact that animal agriculture has been proven to be unsustainable and to be destroying the planet; an increasing body of medical evidence that points to dairy consumption as a major factor in cancer, heart disease and the many other serious conditions that are increasingly afflicting humanity, it is difficult to imagine how this ‘positive message’ can be achieved. At least without straying from the truth.

In the end we are each responsible for our actions

While the harm industries and their media people are working extra hard to keep us from realising what we pay them to do, it is not uncommon to see media outrage about vegans being ‘anti-farming’, along with opinion pieces proselytising about the selfless devotion that involves their sending 74 billion desperate individuals who don’t want to die to slaughterhouses each year.

In my experience, vegans are not ‘anti-farming’. They are ‘anti-violence’, ‘anti-brutality’, ‘pro-truth’, ‘pro-honesty’ and absolutely pro-animals. The point is that we need to keep our focus on humanity’s 74 billion annual victims and their trillions of aquatic contemporaries.

These billions and trillions are our innocent victims, and while those who currently derive their income from satisfying consumer demand for them to be harmed, seek to shift the focus to themselves as the aggrieved victims, the bottom line is that consumers have all the power to determine what is available for them to buy and they convey that demand by voting with their wallets.

We have to keep our wits about us and think our way through the deceptions of the users to the simple truths that our common sense is telling us. Common sense will never fail us if we give it a chance. Common sense says that vegan is the only way to live true to what every one of us knows in our soul and any excuse that we invent to continue to cause harm is simply that. An invention. Be vegan. Now.


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

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