Disclaimer: I am very happy being vegan, just as people are happy being omnivorous. I am not questioning people’s right to lead a happy life, simply pointing out a few flaws in the accepted system of how human beings survive on this planet.
People have many reasons for going vegan, be it for health or ethical choices. For me, it was a bit of both. Quite simply I really went off the thought of eating dead animals and consuming their metabolic byproducts. That may sound like a crude way of putting it, but it’s exactly what it is. I asked myself something which I had long since been happy neglecting: Does this feel natural? And to tell you the truth, no it didn’t. Because if it was natural I would be salivating at the thought of rotting flesh, as carnivores do; I would be going to a pet store not for a fluffy companion but for my evening meal; and perhaps most obviously I would have the necessary anatomical tools to cut through muscle and tendons, not a steak knife and a fork.
Some might argue that humans, as self-aware, intelligent organisms, we have the right to exploit our environment as we see fit, placing ourselves at the top of the food chain via technological (unnatural) means. And for a long time I believed that – we’ve earned the right to destroy ecosystems and torture animals on a mass scale because, you know, we’re smart, right? Now I see that to be an incredibly self-centered notion. Now, I’m not arguing the fact that we are the dominant species on this planet – we seriously kick ass when it comes to damaging the environment. But, to paraphrase Ben Parker,with such a great amount of power comes an even greater responsibility to make our cosmically irrelevant time as the dominant species of this planet as unaffecting as possible.
It is also a common misconception that the production of milk doesn’t harm cows. For starters the veal industry wouldn’t be able to survive without the dairy industry to provide them with calves. As such, farmers need to artificially inseminate cows every year; then, growth hormones and milking schedules cause the cows udders to swell to unnatural and painful sizes, sometimes resulting in infection and the need for antibiotic administration. Luckily the potentially harmful Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone has been banned in Europe under the grounds that they “have the right to restrict the importation and sale of products that may have serious health consequences”. America isn’t quite so fortunate.
Even organically-raised cows’ milk is full of naturally-occurring growth hormones designed to double a calf’s weight not a humans. Cows, like all female mammals, lactate in order to care for their young. The last time I checked I didn’t have hooves or an overwhelming need to double my body weight, support a bovine skeleton or develop enormous muscle groups.
That’s all on dairy for now, but I plan to return to it with a dedicated post as it was probably the single most influential factor in my transition from vegetarianism to veganism.
That is me and my aunt’s dog, Raffi. And yes he is standing on the bottom of a swimming pool. He is an incredible animal, a loyal pet, socially aware and especially loving. Would I eat him? Absolutely not, and neither would my aunt or any omnivore (living in the West). So what’s the difference between him and a chicken or a cow or a cat or a rat or a horse or a fish? Absolutely nothing. We anthropomorphise certain animals because that’s what we’ve always been told, always grown up believing, and yet we fail to recognise that there is no difference besides anatomy and biology.
I think the most saddening part for me is that it took twenty-one years for me to acknowledge this to such a degree that it would physically force me to stop eating them. I know it’s a bit of a cheap guilt trip, but at least stop and think about it. Or, as they say, ignorance is bliss.
Rape, murder, infanticide and slavery
Convinced yet? Let’s move on to the ethical side of things. I’m no longer afraid to admit to family, friends and, by default with this site, the world that I don’t agree with the meat and dairy industries. Not after seeing what goes on in there. Seriously, all it takes is a quick Google search, a harmless YouTube trawl. But people won’t do it because they’re afraid that what they might see will be too “shocking”, too graphic and make them feel guilty. You know what it means when you feel guilty, right? It means you’ve done something wrong. Male chicks being ground into pulp because they can’t lay eggs, cows and sheep having their throats cut and decapitated, calves being separated from their mothers before they get to taste the milk that was made for them so that humans can eat the calf and drink the milk.
To paraphrase Gary Yourofsky, we have victimised animals to such a degree that they are no longer considered victims; they aren’t even considered at all. We have turned animals into inanimate objects – sandwiches and shoes. Go out in to the street and start burning a flag or the Bible and there would be quite literally hell to pay. Throw a barbecue party? Well crack open the beers! Let’s celebrate the murder of this animal and the chef throwing body parts onto the grill.
Inequality, slavery, genocide. These aren’t terms exclusive to human beings, just as they aren’t terms exclusive to women, black people, or Jews. So why do we overlook these terms when considering the genocide of pigs, chickens, cows, turkeys, sheep, lambs, calves, ducks, fish; the enslavement of animals in circuses for our entertainment and the forced production of eggs and milk. Replace animals with humans inside an abattoir and what do you have? Load them into tightly packed trucks where they’re scared and don’t know what’s going to happen to them. Brand them for easier identification. March humans into designated facilities where they will be man-handled and then killed in mass and what do you have? I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.
More than 150 billion animals are killed every year, yet no-one bats an eyelid at this continuous genocide.Why? Because they don’t want to hear it; they like “their” meat. They prefer instead to worry about starving children in Africa – which is of course a massive problem – but guess where all those billions of tonnes of wheat and grain could go if not being forced down the throats of animals being made fat for slaughter?