#veganuary is over. I’ve seen a lot of message-spreading, experimenting, questioning and these are all good things, but mostly I’ve seen confusion, and that’s what I want to address in this post. I’m in two minds about the whole thing – while it raises awareness of the actual, rational and moral reasons for being a vegan, it could result in veganism’s consignment to the fad bin – another “thing to do” because it’s fashionable. Yet another hashtag for the liberal left. Let’s hope it’s not another flash in a tofu-encrusted pan.
Before you read the post, I recommend you click here to get the animal kill counter, and see how you’re doing by the end of the post!
I’ve witnessed a few online spats this month and some statements kept coming up, so without further ado:
- Eating animals is natural
Whether or not we eat animals (by which I mean other animals) is a side issue for most vegans I know, and generally serves as an only half-relevant conversation designed to avoid facing the actual issues.
It is the industrial commercialisation, the commodification and exploitation of non-human animals to turn a profit at the expense of everything else which is the issue. The vegan protest is against the conversion of a being to a product – and the inevitable suffering that entails. It’s a protest against slavery and exploitation and for freedom. It shouldn’t be controversial in any way.
So while I have no problem, per se, with anyone wanting to hunt and eat animals, there is a problem at current levels of demand. True, there is more than enough food to feed the world, but a great deal of it (50%, in fact) is fed to animals that we then eat. It’s true that overpopulation is a problem, but not as much of a problem as our relationship to meat-eating – especially in developed countries, where it’s a daily routine. The exponential rise in both population and meat-consumption has resulted in – when you actually digest the figures – an utter abhorrence and terrible blight on humanity. A shocking claim, but not when you look at the numbers – what other slavery, what other holocaust or war crime has ever come anywhere close? Every day, over 150 million innocent, blameless, conscious beings live and die in – for the vast majority of them – hell. That’s a holocaust every single hour, 24/7. Just let me repeat that figure, 150 000 000, and that’s conservative, and that’s not including marine life. Of course, the statistics that now face us are so grotesque that the easiest response is denial, and this – I’m sad to say – is precisely where we are at in society.
- I get my animal products from good, sustainable sources
There is no such thing as sustainably sourced meat. In short, the more “humane” and “quality” a meat is, the more damaging it is to our environment. Here is the equation – the more you f*ck the animals, the less you f*ck the planet. The less you f*ck the animals, the more you f*ck the planet. But even by f*cking the animals as much as possible, you’re still f*cking the planet because of the current demands. The headline is that if you buy and consume meat, you are – by definition – anti-environmental. Again, the figures don’t lie.
Once you have woken up to the situation and withdrawn your support for the system, as vegans are trying to do, the thought inevitably crosses your mind that either we’re living in a world of maniacal psychopaths, or a world of the duped and the indoctrinated. I go for the latter. Social normalisation, tradition, advertising and outright lies coalesce to produce this tacit compliance.
The consumption of animal products is so saturated in our culture, so all-pervasive and assumed that to question it seems odd or extreme at first glance – hence the vegan’s reputation as an oddity.
Being told that you are indoctrinated never goes down well. No one ever believes they are indoctrinated, until they snap out of it and look back, as I did. I was once indoctrinated as far as consuming animal products went – I just did it, because everyone does, because I didn’t know, and didn’t care to know. You get up, you brush your teeth, you have a cheeseburger. Bed time. It’s a classic day. Not only did I not question it, but I didn’t even know there was anything to question, let alone begin the process of thinking about whether there was anything to question! I remember seeing slaughter-house footage as a teen and in my early 20s, but my reaction was just “ew – switch off” and – if I thought about it at all – something inside me would just say “ignore it” and the words of my mum, echoing our society: “just try not to think about it.” Our society is riddled with beliefs and indoctrination which go unquestioned. Just because an idea is old, don’t mean it’s right.
People hate it when you expose a deeply held belief and question it. Creationists hate it, conspiracy theorists hate it, republicans hate it, the liberal left hates it. Everyone who isn’t a young earth creationist hates being compared to one, but wilful ignorance of documented realities is a common aspect of both. Veganism is received with such hostility precisely because it attacks one of the central core beliefs of civilisation, which is this: humans are not animals, and we are separate from nature. Of course, everybody knows that humans are animals – we’ve known for at least 150 years, but old habits die hard. Knowledge doesn’t inform our actions (just look at climate change) – belief does, and right now we’re behaving according to our beliefs (deep and subconscious as they are), rather than our knowledge.
- Animals are animals, you can’t compare them to people
People are animals. We suffer physically because we are animals with a central nervous system; we suffer emotionally and mentally because we are animals with social mammalian brains and strong bonding instincts.
Let’s take the dairy industry – what could be more wholesome than that? Milk, cheese… who could imagine having a problem with this? Again, tradition is strong. But – as the old saying goes – might don’t make right. The dairy industry in particular is evil at its core and utterly unacceptable, in its very essence. Just because an idea is old, don’t mean it’s right.
Take a look at this pack of lies. Most people have no idea how you get milk from a dairy cow. Most people I ask just say “I don’t know – the cows just produce milk, right?” To answer this question you only need ask it of another mammal: “how would you get milk from a human?” We all know the answer – you have to impregnate the human, wait for it to give birth (pump it full of hormones to help it along) wait for the baby to come, take the baby away from the mother, and then extract the mother’s milk. Then you need to impregnate the woman again as soon as possible, to make the most money that you can. And again, and again, and again – until the woman dies from utter heartbreak and physical and mental exhaustion around the age of 20. Then you can sell her for meat, too. How – under any circumstances – this results in “happy” cows is something no one seems willing to answer. Not even Tesco (still no reply).
If this happened to human women it would be an utter scandal, with outrage and protests – but why?
Which part of the process is acceptable for a cow but not for a human?
“But they’re cows! You can’t compare cows and humans!” I can and I do, because I’m talking about facts here, not mere beliefs and tradition. We’re both mammals, we both have complex nervous systems and brains, we both bond closely with our young, and we’ve both developed a set of evolutionary needs which – when violated – leads to immense suffering. The bellow of a grieving cow and the cry of a grieving human mother derive from the same source – the violation of their bonding. Only the mad mentality of division will lead to this rationalisation: “It doesn’t matter, they’re only cows!” How far is this from “it doesn’t matter, they’re only slaves!”? The foundation of the two statements is identical – us and them – the very thing so many claim to be against when talking about refugees.
Only tradition and cultural normalisation prevents an objective view of this industry. When you really look at the mechanics of the business and see the Machiavellian insanity at work, only denial will stop you from saying: “fuck this, I’m out!” and waking away from it.
Love may trump hate, but social conditioning trumps love, every time
Empathy is a term bandied around a lot at the moment. So is unity – unity with refugees, unity with immigrants, unity with Muslims, unity with those different to us and a recognition that the “us and them” mentality leads to dark places. After the inauguration of Trump people were proudly marching with placards reading “love trumps hate”. Well, love may trump hate, but social conditioning trumps love, every time. It does so effortlessly, insidiously and not only totally free from opposition, but with active financial support from the self-proclaimed lovers, who only half-unknowingly fund this sad – yet universally accepted – stain on humanity.
Physical and emotional suffering in humans occurs because we are animals – not because we aren’t.
To become a vegan you only need to accept a little more reality. Once you realise that physical and emotional suffering occurs because we are animals – and not because we aren’t – you learn that when you violate the evolutionary expectations of other animals, they suffer as we do and for the same reasons. Not identically to us – of course, but in their own way and in a different way for each species. The heartbreak and depression a mother feels when her baby is torn from her and killed is because of her strong bonding instincts. For no good reason we say this only really counts in humans, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For we are earthlings too: we’re born here, and it’s here we will die. The depth to which this indoctrination has a hold over us cannot be overstated. It goes back to the very foundation of our civilization, when we first started to plant seeds. It is the very indoctrination which makes you question the obviousness of the truth in what I’m saying.
Let’s not forget that reasonable, normal people – just like you and me – used to allow, for thousands of years, the terrible and horrendous suffering of slaves, because they were slaves, as opposed to people. Just because an idea is old, don’t mean it’s right. We may mount our morally superior high horse today and scoff at the people of old who seemed unmoved by the plight of the slaves, but the only difference between the legal slavery of the past and what we have now is the sheer scale of the suffering – these days it’s much worse. Over 150 million land beings, every single day (the marine life is practically uncountable).
This outrage is both permitted and inevitable, especially – and this is the crux of the matter – where making a large profit is concerned (currently annually well over $1.5 trillion globally), because all the animal product industries are there to maximise profits, and that is their primary concern. Supply and demand. That’s what business is for, so don’t you forget it.
I’m wildly sceptical about #veganuary because it may reduce veganism to a trend, a fad, a fashion – instead of the most reasonable and compassionate, even self-preserving position that it’s possible to take, and something that to future generations will seem blindingly obvious in hindsight.
I’ll end this post with some biblical wisdom:
I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.” For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?
Ecclesiastes 3: 18-21 NASB 1977
Recommended viewing: Earthlings (2005) – to have another think about morality, Cowspiracy (2014) – for the environmental impact of the meat industry.
See some standard conditions of meat production, including suppliers of Tesco, Aldi, etc.