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Why the 1987 Ford Telstar is not a car

1987 ford telstar.jpgThis is a 1987 Ford Telstar. Isn’t she a beaut? Now, what if I told you that this isn’t actually a car. I know it may look like a car, and have all the parts associated with a car, it’s got the seats, the shitty 1.6L engine, the gearbox, four wheels, steering wheel, the windows, the squeaky windscreen wipers and wing mirrors… but it’s not a car.

It’s a 1987 Ford Telstar.

You see, there are cars and then there are 1987 Ford Telstars. And 1987 Ford Telstars are the only ones worthy of respect, and do you know why? Because this is a 1987 Ford Telstar! Weren’t you listening? The other things that seem similar to the 1987 Ford Telstars (your Capri Gears, your Porsche 911s, your Reliant Robins, your Toyota Priuses, your Ford Mondeos, your Lexi) are called “cars”, but let me make it clear – if it wasn’t already – that the 1987 Ford Telstar is not a car. This is a 1987 Ford Telstar.

Let’s also add that we can do what we want with cars, but not with the 1987 Ford Telstar because they’re special whereas “cars” aren’t. We have zero reason for this, of course, and every indication that the 1987 Ford Telstar is in fact just a different type of car, but it isn’t.

So, just to be clear, 1987 Ford Telstars matter, and cars don’t. Why, you ask? Because the others are cars, of course!

And now for something completely different.

Do you notice anything strange about these headlines?

headline 3headline 2headline 4headlines

Nothing strange?

Here’s Michael Gove talking about human rights and animal rights. Spotted it yet?

headline-5.png

No, it’s not that he looks like a clingfilmed Noddy character.

Here’s me quoting a sentence I wrote a few lines ago:

“Here’s Michael Gove talking about human rights and animal rights.”

Did you see it?

So far I’ve heard campaigners say that animals do feel pain and emotion, I’ve heard some people say they don’t, I’ve heard some people say the whole story is a big misunderstanding. Through all the noise of this there should be one word screaming at us all loudest of all, waving its arms in the air:

Animals.

What does this word mean when we say “animal rights”, “animal sentience”?

What are we talking about when we say “animals” in these headlines, and in our society? Last time I checked, humans are animals.

This isn’t a nitpick about semantics. Far from it. When either animal rights campaigners – or the opposite – talk about “animals” they are actually just two sides of the same frightening coin, perpetuating the same mind-set which is based on a solipsistic belief which has jammed itself deep and hidden in our brains through mythology, religion, language, philosophy and culture  – the idea that we aren’t animals. We’re something special, and it’s definitely not animals.

We’re the 1987 Ford Telstar.

Well, let’s get ready for a big slap in the face by the novelty oversized reality foam mitt – humans are animals. Homo sapiens is a species of the genus homo. We’re also primates, and furthermore, we’re animals. We can do cool things like wear a wig or write a blog, but we are still a kind of animal.

I really don’t believe that we believe this. We know it, but we don’t believe it. And as we all know, knowledge doesn’t inform our actions, belief does. Our language betrays that belief. This belief is still a major block in our minds and a perpetuation of the demonstrably false belief that there are two sets of beings on the earth – humans and animals. I.e., “us” and “them”. There are 1987 Ford Telstars, and there are cars.

1987 ford telstar1987 Ford Telstars. 1987 Ford Telstars are important and special.

Scrap-HeapThese are “cars” and they don’t matter, at least, not like 1987 Ford Telstars, because reasons.

The casual indifference with which these terms, “human” and “animal” are so strongly separated betrays the very psychology of the problem. Even those campaigning for so-called “animal” rights are buying into the same divide between our species and every other species on the planet.

“Animal” is the most dangerous, the most insidious word in our entire lexicon. It’s what allows 150 million of these assorted beings to die in hell as part of a daily routine without anyone batting an eyelid. Talk about indoctrination, talk about mind control through language…  the absolute champion, the crème-de-la-crème, the frickin’ all time superstar of Orwellian mind control is that simple word: animal. 150 000 000 per day, all done with the casual indifference of stubbing out a Marlboro under the heel of a leather brogue. 

When we say “animal” in this way we’re doing two things. Firstly, on some deep level we’re distancing ourselves from the reality that we’re animals too, whether we like it or not, and there’s no getting around it. Humans are animals, as sure as a 1987 Ford Telstar is a car, albeit a pretty shitty one. Secondly, we drive a very important psychological wedge between “us” and “them”, specifically so we can enslave them, commodify them, objectify them and sell their asses for money. The result? My friends casually having a conversation about bacon sandwiches without the cognitive processing of the full story – that the bacon sandwich was once very much alive, and feeling, and suffering. The reasons why a pig suffers are – for the most part – the same reasons as why a human suffers – the ability to feel pain via a central nervous system, ability to feel joy, happiness, sadness, loneliness and isolation, fear, anger, bonding and the devastation of having that bond torn apart – via hormone secretions. We like to believe that our “unique” humanness is what causes these feelings… but it’s not. And it’s time we admitted it. We aren’t the same as other animals of course, just as dogs don’t feel in the same way as pigs, chimps don’t feel in the same way as dogs, bonobos don’t feel in the same way as chimps and I don’t feel in the same way as Donald Trump. But so what?

Here’s a little thought experiment… I wonder if one of our sister species was around today… Let’s take something a little closer to home… what about Homo neanderthalensis or the even closer Homo sapiens idaltu – would they fall under “humans” or “animals”? Let’s start with Neanderthals:

myths-neanderthals

Neanderthals were a kind of human, but not our kind… so would we call them “animals?”

What about Homo sapiens idaltu. Died around 160 000 years ago, looked something like this (though probably less ripped):

homo sap

They looked pretty darn similar… Getting closer, but they’re still not our species exactly… animal or human?

Oh look, here are some people being gawped at in a zoo in the 20th century:

human zoo

Or are they “people” at all…? The people gawping don’t seem to think so…

What the hell do you want?

I want a little honesty, I want us to call a spade a spade, and I want us to say what we mean when we say “animals” – what we actually mean is:

Non-human-animals

Because that is what we’re saying. We’re saying other-animals-which-are-not-us.

Imagine, if you would, seeing this headline in your morning paper:rights animals

This is much more honest and much more factually correct.

You see, nothing in our ability to feel pain, suffering, emotions, empathy, sadness, joy, despair, connection, isolation comes from being something other than animals. In fact, all this exists because  we are animals – animals with a central nervous system, brain chemicals, limbic systems, hormones, brain chemistries, lobes and cortices responding to our environment and either in or out of balance with the needs we have developed through our evolution. 

We’ve drawn this line between “human” and “animal” because, as super-intelligent animals, we – not surprisingly – value intelligence above all else, hence we’re not like “them”. We happen to have super-advanced brain functions, but other animals have super-advanced eyes, super-advanced wings, super-advanced hearing.  And look, our solipsism is nothing new! I go to church, and in church they still tell you that not only was the earth built specifically for us, not only was this whole planet and its 4.5 billion year history made for just a few hundred thousand years of one probably short-lived species, the (at latest count) 200 000 000 000 galaxies with approximately 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 stars therein are all there only for one oddball primate on one of the 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 probable planets in the known universe (there’s plenty of unknown universe).  So it’s hardly surprising – with all this solipsism – that we consider ourselves “unlike” all the other animals.  The 1987 Ford Telstar has a spring-loaded flip-up ashtray unmatched by any other budget 5-door. It’s not like other cars, it’s true. If we focus on the fact that this is the only car out there with this kind of spring-loaded flip-up ashtray we could conclude that the 1987 Ford Telstar is unique in all of forever. We would see only the differences between it and every other car. Or we could look at the seats, the shitty 1.6L engine, the gearbox, the four wheels, steering wheel, the windows, the squeaky windscreen wipers and wing mirrors and see the 99.9% similarities it has with every other car out there and admit that the 1987 Ford Telstar still is still a car, and it has much more in common with the other cars than the admittedly very different flip-up ashtray feature.

For the last thought experiment of the day – what if we did say “non-human-animals” as standard? Would that semantic shift affect how we thought about the other beings sharing the planet with us? Would it cause us to pause for thought when we heard “non-human-animal products” or even “rights for non-human animals?” Would it subtly change our psychology to focus on our similarities with the beings we exploit, rather than the comparatively few differences?

So, the next time you see any text separating “humans” and “animals”, just remember this: it was not that long ago that our language was used to separate “people” with “slaves”. So ask yourself: for what purpose do our words separate “humans” and “animals” today?

Ladies and Gentlemen: all hail the 1987 Ford Telstar. It’s basically a car.

1987 ford telstar

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#Veganuary reflections

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#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:

  1.       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.

  1.       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.

  1.       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.

cow-2

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).

cow-tweet

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc6zZEidB7k

Veganism and me

“Oh god, being vegetarian is one thing, but veganism is… so extreme!”

A while back I wrote an article called “Vegetarianism and me” which some of you read.

As the title of this post suggests, things have moved on for me, and this is mostly attributable to learning truths which are – I freely admit – highly inconvenient.

I want us to get Socratic in this post, so that we can question assumptions and premises. I invite you, the reader, to question the assumptions you may hold and look as objectively as possible on what we, as a society, believe; and how much that is down to our being told to believe it, rather than any rational decision on our own part.

The first is the current assumption that being a vegan is somehow bad, or at least unhinged and weird. Like any good rationalist, we have to question the premises of this conclusion, and that’s one of the things I’m aiming to do here.

I was certainly brought up with the unwritten supposition that vegans are at best hippy freaks if not unhinged maniacs, but in our allegedly free society, apparent rational thinking can often have hidden layers. We like to think of ourselves as enlightened, the information age, informed and advanced from the racist, sexist ignorance of the previous generations.

I understand the knee-jerk reaction against vegans – they have the gall to question a practice which society says us is OK. It’s hard to go against something which society says is OK, it takes honesty, and true honesty is rare. What’s more, it takes a willingness to face uncomfortable realities, which is rarer still. In the midst of all this you have the vegans, who have little choice but to see meat/dairy consumers as people without compassion, especially when they laugh about and even celebrate the suffering of our fellow beings. This is why the vegans get so emotional – they don’t understand why they even need to say the things they say, to them it should be a no-brainer and it’s difficult for them to truly come to grips with just how unquestioned and all pervasive the consumption of animal products is. When a meat-eater sees a sausage, they see a sausage. When a vegan sees the same thing they see a world of suffering. This goes some way to explain why the vegans appear so emotionally affected, seemingly over nothing in the eyes of others.

I have to live constantly with this cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, I have to believe that my friends are not evil, not cackling maniacs, but on the other the effective funding of cruelty to animals doesn’t seem to bother them, and is almost a joke at times. But I used to eat meat and until very recently, dairy too. So was I evil then? No – just ignorant and unwilling to face the truth. Or, was it simply the fact that I hadn’t really thought about it, coupled with a defaulting acceptance of the status quo and a drifting with the dictates of society?

My contention is this:

If you are a person of any intelligence, a person who still has their compassion intact, despite the best efforts of our culture, and a person who – and this is the key ingredient – is willing to honestly face the truth head on, no matter how hideous it may be, your path to veganism is inevitable and will seem as obvious as your objection to slavery or your abhorrence of genocide.

The structure of our society is built on conceptual beliefs about separation. With each generation this becomes more and more the case, with the gradual separation of communities we become strangers to our neighbours, our clothes are made by anonymous people thousands of miles away, our food is grown in unknown nameless lands along – of course – with our animal products (note the use of this term ‘animal product’ for later). Packaged, sterile and free from the grisly reality of their origins.  We get through this with a combination of ignorance, willful ignorance and linguistic deception. We call our non-human sentient beings “animals”, and with that neat label create an additional psychological distance in which anything goes, and indeed, everything does. The origins of this demonstrably false separation between “man and nature” are so basal to our civilisation that to even question it seems itself questionable – this belief is thousands of years old, and pulling this ideological rug from under our feet is no easy task.

In order to follow me on this journey, you need only accept one premise – human beings are themselves animals, unequivocally and demonstrably. Anatomically, genetically and evolutionarily.  Homo sapiens from the genus hominidae, the suborder haplorhini, the class mammalia and the phylum chordata.

Fact accepted? Then we may begin…

The Dairy Industry

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In my previous post I admitted my own ignorance about the business of extracting milk from cows. I also admitted my ignorance (though vague awareness of) the environmental consequences of meat eating. I want to look at both in this post.

I want to appeal once again to your questioning minds, so come with me on a thought experiment and imagine if the following were reality:

Imagine we are on a parallel earth, an alternative existence. There is a place, in a faraway country that has nothing to do with you. In this place there is an organisation which breeds human women and artificially inseminates them by force so that they produce milk for their babies. When the baby is born to her mother – and in spite of the strong bond of mother to infant – the baby is taken from the mother, locked in a box for a few days and then killed. The mother mourns, pines and weeps. The mother’s milk is extracted on a large steel rack with scores of other mourning mothers.  As soon as possible (sooner than naturally intended, with the use of artificial hormones), she’s forcibly impregnated once again. A second baby arrives and suffers the same fate as the first. More mourning, more weeping, more pain, more violation. The process is repeated as often and efficiently as possible. The more she’s impregnated, the more money to be made. Although a woman’s natural life span may be 80 years, this particular woman will not make it past 25. After a short lifetime of misery, she’s so mentally and emotionally exhausted that she just can’t carry on, and her body gives up. She is killed off so that another woman may take her place, and the whole cycle begins again.

I hope we can agree that such a theoretical system is bad. So my question to you is: why is it bad? I’ll leave you to figure out your answer while I present mine (they may be different). With me, the reason it’s bad is the suffering. It’s the suffering for all concerned. It’s the grieving and pain of the mother, the pain for the child, and the violation of her evolutionarily endowed expectation for freedom, the pain of such an existence, the wrenching away of her bonding, the fate of the poor baby, the grief. The inhumanity, the causing of pain for profit. It’s the monetization of life itself. I know mothers, I know babies, I can feel the terror of this situation and that is how I know it’s bad. I can imagine it happening to those around me and therefore I can imagine it happening to anyone with the capacity to feel these things. I can feel the pain. It’s basic empathy. It’s empathy which has evolved in me, and in you.

The mother feels grief and misery because she has evolved to have a strong nurturing bond with her infant, as all mammals have. She feels the pain of being repeatedly impregnated beyond her natural capacity because her central nervous system has evolved to express itself in natural cycles in harmony with the earth – her home –  and when these cycles are violated, suffering occurs.

Who would accept this treatment of human animals. Who would allow this? Who would tolerate this? Who would fund this? Who would – even – support this as normal? The answer is we all would – if it were the norm. How do I know? Because we in fact do support this today.

So, what if we simply exchange the mammal Homo Sapiens with another mammal Bos Taurus, the bovine we commonly call cow? Suddenly, this no longer seems wrong. Ask yourself why? It’s because we’re now dealing not with “humans”, but with “animals”. Yet everything we know about evolution, everything we know about mammalian bonding tells us that the suffering that a female human would undergo being repeatedly impregnated and having her infant baby taken from her derives not from some special bond unique to humans, but a bond common to all mammals who carry and care for their young. Just as the human female in our thought experiment would grieve and cry out for her baby, so do dairy cows, who have been known to bellow for days or weeks in grief. So, the question again: why – on any legitimate level – is this immoral for one set of mammals, but moral for another, despite the demonstrable fact that both are suffering from a violation of the same source, that is, the mammalian maternal bond?

If you think that the plight of human mothers and cow mothers is not comparable, I ask you to look again at the reasons for this suffering. Do human females not cry out in agony when their babies are taken away and killed? Do cows not do the same? Yes they do, as would any mammal who has that bond destroyed.

This is a question I had to grapple with and in the end I had to come to this conclusion – I don’t want to be part of this outrage, I don’t want to fund and condone this suffering, I certainly don’t want to support it, and so I won’t. What is more, what happens to the young yet exhausted cows who can go on no more? They are – of course – butchered for meat. That’s her reward for a short life of grief so that humans can drink cows milk (by the way, name one other animal that drinks the milk of another…). So really, the dairy industry is, eventually, the meat industry.

The Meat Industry

1034951-large

Here’s a question: what was so bad about the holocaust of the Jewish people in the 1940s? (If your mind spurts out in protest “I can’t believe he’s making this comparison” then let it spurt, and continue reading.) Seriously, ask yourself the question.

Here’s my answer. For me, it’s the pain, the suffering, the loss of dignity, the inhumanity, the brutality, the sheer scale of the slaughter which derives from this conceptual separation and ideology: man vs rat, ubermensch vs. jew. Six million sentient lives snuffed out with remarkable and agonising efficiency (I could have chosen any other genocide – the many perpetrated by the Soviet Union, or Cambodia, or in South America or Africa in the last several decades, but here in the UK we’ve all seen the footage – this particular atrocity is very present in our cultural consciousness). 

At the current rate we are slaughtering fellow sentient beings who – in the large part – live and die in nothing short of a living nightmare at a rate of ten million PER HOUR. More than a holocaust every hour! It’s true that not all animals are treated as badly (more on that later), but with the exponentially increasing market demand the vast, vast majority are and it’s justified by the same mentality of division. The reason why the Nazis were psychologically able to do what they did was because they were not killing human beings – they were killing Jews.

In the same way, we are not killing 10 million living, feeling beings per hour. We are killing 10 million animals, and with the veil of that semantic mirage, everything becomes OK.  And so we arrive at the label: animal product. It is disturbingly Orwellian in its deception. It combines the conceptual divide between “humans” and “animals” with the telltale tag of a capitalist system where money reigns supreme, above all other concerns: “product”. It’s the ultimate label of objectification and dehumanisation, the very linguistics of slavery: you’re not “enslaving a human being”, you’re just “buying a product”.

But, I hear you object, “what if we could make all farms in the world humane? I only buy my meat from humane sources. If all the world bought meat like mine, it would all be fine.”

First, I ask you again to reexamine the definition of humane. I recommend actually reading the RSPCA guidelines. For example, the “lying area” for a fully mature sow is 1.5m2. The allocated total living area (sleeping and moving) for a growing, 110kg pig is 0.8m2. That’s it. I invite you to measure out that area on the floor and have a walk around, if you can.  And that’s the line from no less than the RSPCA of the United Kingdom, whose proud citizens often boast the highest welfare standards in the world. But I don’t blame the organisation for this – the fact is that the demand for meat is so huge that such institutions have the impossible task of trying to meet the overwhelming demands humanely, which simply cannot be done.

In fact, if you could conceive of the most perfectly humane farm ever and apply it to the entire world, everything would be far, far worse. And this brings me to the environment.

Environment

cattle20ranching20in20the20amazon

I mentioned in the vegetarian blog post that I had some vague understanding that our livestock agricultural practices were bad for the environment. Boy was I off the mark. Hoooollyyyyy cow! I didn’t look into it because I didn’t want to be distracted from the barbarism of our farming practices, which I thought was reason enough (and I still do). It’s another example of misguided priorities when people talk about “the environment” as an issue. The environment is unique as far as issues go, because if there is no more environment, there are no more issues. We need to stop calling it “the environment” and say what it is: our lives. So, if you’re concerned about the destruction of your “environment”, here are some facts for you:

Worried about global warming?

Livestock agriculture and its byproducts account for a greater percentage of greenhouse gas emissions than all the vehicles in the world combined

Concerned about the loss of rainforest, the lungs of the earth?

Livestock agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of the destruction of the amazon rainforest

Concerned about water usage?

43 000 litres of water are used to make 1kg of beef. If you need help visualising, imagine 540 full bathtubs of water, for that single chunk of beef.

Concerned about feeding the world?

We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people. But half of it goes to feeding animals.

Concerned about starving children in Africa?

82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries

Concerned about species extinction?

We are currently in the middle of the largest mass extinction for 65 million years – the leading cause is animal agriculture.

65 million years ago, the dinosaurs – along with many other species  – were wiped out by a meteorite causing a huge mass extinction. The earth has never again seen anything like it, until right here, right now. The cause?

Us.

So, if you’re the kind of person who recycles, who tries to cut down on water usage, who puts a brick in your cistern, who cycles instead of drives, who puts your food waste into compost, who tries to reduce your carbon footprint, who refills your own water bottle instead of using a plastic cup, but at the same time eats meat… well, I’m afraid I have news for you:

You cannot be an environmentalist and at the same time a meat-eater. The two are utterly incompatible.

The number one cause of the destruction of the environment is animal agriculture. You see, consuming animal products is not a personal choice. It’s not like getting a tattoo or listening to Creed. It affects everyone. It causes untold suffering and what is more it affects all of us because it is environmentally catastrophic. If we could give all our animals a “Good Life” style existence (which we can’t because there’s not enough viable land) it would be so devastatingly destructive to the environment that it would put our current obliteration into stark contrast, and – as it is – our destruction right now is devastating enough. I was going to put this more delicately but this message is far more urgent. I’m standing on a rooftop with a megaphone and this is what I’m yelling:

WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ALMIGHTY SHIT-STORM, UPON WHICH OUR VERY FUTURE DEPENDS, AND THE SINGLE GREATEST CAUSE OF THIS SHIT-STORM IS BILLIONS OF PEOPLE WANTING TO EAT MEAT AND NOT REALISING HOW THAT MEAT IS MADE AND WHAT THE OVERWHELMINGLY DEVASTATING IMPACT ON OUR HOME IS.

In my last post I concentrated on the moral aspect of the ongoing non-human animal Holocaust, and I stand by every sentiment. But for those of you reading who say “I only get my meat from nice farms where they treat the animals humanely”, well  I say to you, those places are THE WORST for the environment – taking up far more land and far more water. The best way to minimise the environmental impact of farming is to have the most intensive, cruelest system possible. But even this would be disastrous for the environment.

Put simply, it is just not possible to feed 7 billion people this way.

But:

You can easily feed 7 billion people with a vegan diet, and then some. In fact, at the current rate you could feed 10 billion people.

These are the facts. It’s also true that we could reduce the effects of our environmental destruction extremely rapidly and effectively. With a vegan diet we could comfortably feed the world, and the sudden loss of methane (which is 86 times more destructive than CO2, as well as preventing a substantial cause of global warming), the rapid reduction of land use (livestock agriculture covers 45% of the earth’s total land, and it takes 18 times the land space to feed a meat eater than a vegan), the sudden reduction of water use (540 bathtubs of water for 1 kg of beef), and the regeneration of the rain forest (up to 91% of the Amazon destroyed by animal agriculture). In other words, the single greatest practical and actual hope we have is this one action – changing our diets.

Put all this together, and veganism ceases to be unhinged or deranged but rather becomes the exact opposite. In light of the facts the tables turn and it instead the meat and dairy eater who is unhinged, extreme, brutal and self-destructive in a bizarre act of irrational suicide and deluded lunacy. Veganism in contrast to this becomes moderate, sensible, conservative, rational and – in fact – the only practical solution to the greatest problem which has faced mankind since we were nearly wiped out 70 000 years ago. We live in a world where insanity is the norm and sanity is extreme. This is where we have arrived and this is the standard we have been sold in the name of profit.

But old habits die hard, and because of that, so will we.

The single viable argument against this inevitable conclusion (when faced with the facts) is:

But I really like meat! I want to continue eating it!!

I truly, truly accept that you do, and some lab boffins are working on a solution. But also let’s not forget the cry of the slave owners who at the time of the emancipation said:

But I really really like having slaves…. they’re sooooo cheap!!

You see, at each stage of humanity eventually waking up to the reality of the situation, very few at the time were in a position to face the truth because most were kept in the dark, or kept themselves in the dark knowing that the truth would be too unbearable.

The reality of today is not all that different, except for one thing – we have the internet now. Ignorance is no longer an excuse, only willful ignorance is, and is that really an excuse?

To be honest with you, dear reader, I get a little depressed at writing this post, seeing the reality of the situation before my eyes. Denial is surely a tempting reaction, so I can understand the inevitable glazing over in your eyes, as your mind shuts off:

“Oh well… nothing I can do about it… I’ll just get on with my day. Let’s think about something else… ”

It’s because I’m talking about overturning assumptions and traditions which are thousands of years old. These premises are so tightly woven into our culture it’s hard to let go. The world population in 1815 was only 1 billion, in 1915 just 1.2 billion, in 2016 it’s pushing 7.5 billion people. We’re multiplying faster than our ideas can keep up. In order to survive we must consciously and constantly reevaluate our assumptions, traditions and ideas to keep them in line with the reality we face.

It’s scary to confront this reality, it really is, because as soon as you turn and face the facts, you realise that you’re not only complicit in it, but an active contributor, a member of this lunatic mainstream. Then you have to square that awful circle as the illusory wall dissolves

 “I’m a good person, yet I’m directly causing the suffering and death of 10 million sentient beings an hour, a mass extinction unprecedented in 65 million years and the visible and measurable destruction of our environment, aka, our home.”

Once you realise that it is – in fact – suicide on a global scale, it’s so much easier to fall into denial. And I don’t judge anyone for it. I’m sure my friends are good people, but the blue pill is an easy pill to swallow – not so with the red. This is why I say it takes courage to face the truth. We’re undermining a practice which is thousands of years old. But the meat industry a century ago is nothing like today. Our dietary habits are nothing like they were century ago. The production methods and the demands have spurred each other on, in a kind of insane arms race, to absolute breaking point. Technology has increased far more rapidly than culture is able to keep up. In order for culture to catch up, we must face the truth, no matter how painful, no matter how uncomfortable. I urge you to do so.

But those of us willing to face the truth are against insurmountable odds. The indoctrination runs so deep that it is near impossible to penetrate. No amount of evidence, no amount of reason, no amount of sanity seems sufficient to break the spell. Like talking to a creationist, reason and facts fall on deaf ears. The mere question: “why are you a vegan?” illustrates this. It can be rephrased thus: “why are you opposed to cruelty, why are you opposed to suffering, why are you opposed to torture, why are you opposed to the catastrophic destruction of your own home?” Only an indoctrination as deep and all-encompassing as the animal product industry could possibly sustain this level of denial and cognitive dissonance in the face of absolutely overwhelming evidence, reason and  – dare I say the word – truth.

The truth hurts, no doubt. The question is:

Can you handle the truth?


 

Homework:

Please begin with this documentary, Earthlings (2005). If you will not, or cannot, watch it, ask yourself why. Is it because it’s unpleasant to watch, or because it reveals the direct link between this suffering and your choices?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6BBc6Hrr3E

An easy documentary to follow, but not so easy to swallow, is Cowspiracy, which reveals the extent of the environmental destruction caused by animal agriculture.

 


 

 

Appendix: Q&A

There are a few things I didn’t include in this post because I didn’t want to get sidetracked. I’ll provide these in the form of a Q&A. N.b. all these are genuine questions/comments which have been presented to me by real intelligent grown-ups with proper jobs.

Q: What about health?

A: Good question – I didn’t include health in this post, because I thought I’d included enough, and it’s another place to get sidetracked. While it’s true that the over-consumption of meat can have a very negative impact on your health, and we are in the middle of a public health crisis via the standardised overuse of antibiotics on almost all meat products, what you do and what risks you put to your health are your business. I stand by anyone’s right to eat themselves into an early grave. From this perspective it’s a personal choice. Of course, as I discuss in this post, the consumption of animal products isn’t a personal choice, because it negatively affects so many animals (both human and non-human) around the world – harming both them and their environment. There are also many claims about the link between meat eating and cancer, though I make no claim about it. There is a documentary called Forks over Knives, though I’ve not seen it myself.

 

Q: Where do you draw the line – would you eat a mollusk that has little more feeling than a carrot?

A: You’d be surprised how many people think this is a serious question. I don’t eat mollusks but equally I don’t know about their sensory experience. But I don’t need to know. I do – however – know that mammals and birds with highly developed central nervous systems feel pain and suffering for the same reason that we do. They have a central nervous system and can feel. Maybe carrots suffer when we cut them. I don’t know. I’ve no reason to think so. Hang on, how have I been derailed into this ridiculous territory?

 

Q: But animals eat each other in the wild. So isn’t it natural?

A: The question is not whether animals eat each other – the question is, do animals lock each other up for their entire lives, abuse each other, torture each other, violate each other’s freedom and mass produce each other as a product at a rate of 10 million per hour?

 

Q: Where do you get your protein?

A: Beans, nuts, green vegetables, root vegetables, lentils, soy, oats, seeds, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, etc. etc.

 

Q: Would you kill and eat an animal if you were starving?

A: Yes. But I’m not, and neither are you.

 

Q: Watching a film like Earthlings and then not eating meat is like watching footage of childbirth and being put off having children.

A: I really have been told this. Really! Childbirth, bringer of life, the ultimate act of love, the beginnings of a family and the love parents have for their children is seriously being compared to the wholesale holocaust, abuse, slaughter and terror inflicted on 10 million feeling beings per hour, who have their testicles, beaks, tails hacked off in a grizzly steel factory, who are forced to live out their lives trapped in a pen no larger than their body. Who have their young snatched away from them and their milk stolen and sold. (I’m not making this up, I’ve really had this comparison as a serious objection to my views!)

 

Q: It’s not that I want to be involved in this suffering, it’s just that I have other things to worry about – Brexit, the treatment of refugees, the suffering of old people, suppression and abuse of minorities, women and homosexuals around the world, starving children everywhere.

A: Yes, but do you fund everything else that worries you? Do you support it with your money? Do you supply that demand? As for starving children everywhere, this is partly the case because we’re giving all their food to animals so we can eat them.

 

Q: I eat meat, but I’m still an animal-lover.

A: Then you’re not really an animal lover, or you haven’t looked into the sources of your meat.

 

Q: The problem is that vegans are so self-righteous! It’s my choice to eat meat, and you have to respect that.

A: I admit, there are some deluded vegans out there. But, if you expect vegans to be quiet on this issue, think again. We all speak out against environmental destruction, abuse, war, corruption, sexism, racism, rape, torture and everything else because they are nasty, and we don’t support the “rights” of the perpetrators to do these things. In short, I support your right to swing your arm only up until the point you hit someone in the face. And as a meat and diary eater, you hit a lot of faces, including mine, your own and the faces of all our children.

I myself have been called “militaristic” and “zealous”… as if being strongly opposed to torture and cruelty is a bad thing!

Q: What about fish?

A: I didn’t get onto the wholesale destruction of our marine life via over-fishing, because I thought I had included enough. This may well be the content of another post!

 

 

Climate Change at the Oscars

oscars_video_362x204_1456722507156It’s interesting that Leo brought up climate change in his Oscars speech. He warns that this is something that has to be tackled right now.

President Obama has made similar pleas, saying that “we don’t have time for a meeting of the flat earth society.”

So are we agreed that we need to tackle this issue?

Ok, good. So in dealing with it we should focus on the biggest cause right?

Cool. So what is the single biggest cause of climate change (and, as a side note, the fact that we are currently – as in right now – in the largest period of mass-extinction in 65 million years. Yes, since the dinosaurs were wiped out)? What is it?

Well, by a very very very large margin, it’s animal agriculture.

Responsible for a whopping 51% of all greenhouse gases. Compared to this, the entire output of all vehicle emissions on the planet combined only accounts for 13%.

In fact, if tomorrow the entire world decided not to use vehicles any more, AND all production, power plants, industry, fracking and every other non-animal-agriculture industry hung up its ropes it still wouldn’t be enough.

If the world decided overnight to stop eating meat, it would be. It is actually the only action that will do enough to save us.

So, now we know that catastrophic climate change is a reality, and we know the leading cause of it, are we going to deal with it?

Nope? Didn’t think so.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Note: Leo is executive producer of a brilliant documentary Cowspiracy. Watch it for more information on how and why the single greatest cause of environmental destruction is being completely ignored

Edit: I had a very good question on Facebook about this, pointing out that if we all gave up animal products tomorrow there would need to be a massive increase in crop production to make up for the short-fall. This is a logical and commonly held view, but it’s completely wrong and in fact the opposite is true – to feed the 56 billion animals we slaughter per year, we feed them with 50% of the world’s grain. If we all went vegan tomorrow, and didn’t increase crop production at all, we would still have an enormous surplus of food!

Mental Health and Context

You know, the main fallacy I notice in all discourse is a singular lack of respect for the Golden Rule: Context is King. In almost any discussion I see or hear, or any article written about almost anything I see a dearth of context. Over a couple of millenia of the gradual indoctrination developed that we are isolated egos in sacks of skin, temporary aliens in this world. We continue to operate from this premise, despite the overwhelming damage it causes and the obvious fallacy inherent in the belief (obvious, as in trees and woods). The whole conceptual divide of man vs. nature (self-evidently absurd, since we are natural) has led to man destroying nature, believing that he isn’t it,  which includes the destroying of ourselves, ultimately (which is taking place). Long story.

The imagined division is projected onto every aspect of our lives and relationship with our surroundings. It’s how we are able to carry out holocausts (humans vs. Jews) or standardised and fully supported – even by “good” people – genocide and wholesale lifelong torture of other sentient beings at the current rate of 10 million – yes, 10 MILLION fellow sentient beings per HOUR (humans vs. animals. We label them “animals” and it creates the required psychological distance to go with the geographical one). It infects our medicine, where it is believed that if we can just target this or that virus or protein or DNA strand or hormone or active ingredient then we can sort it all out, negating again the Golden Rule – Context is King and the whole body is an intricately interconnected ecosystem, as is the earth. We rationalise the damage away with phrases such as “side effects” and similarly dismiss the successes of holistic approaches as “placebo” – the epitome of the reduction of King Context to a singular termed explanation, which explains nothing.

On to the title of the post. At the moment I see all sorts of articles speaking out about mental illness, and how we need to break the taboo (the latest was from the Duchess of Cambridge). Yet I’ve not read a single article where anyone explores the context in which this epidemic has arisen. I’ve been told by medical professionals that I “suffer from depression” and so I fall under the “mental illness” umbrella, yet what does this really mean? Faulty wiring in my brain? A missed chromosome? As if some part of my brain could be tweaked and that would fix it? We seem to believe this, but it again disobeys the golden Rule: Context is King.

The rise of Twitter as a powerful communication tool is so telling, since the very nature of it is to remove context. I’m not saying that the designers of Twitter deliberately sought to remove context from the public discussion, but rather it is a symptom, it is the ultimate crystallization of context-free communication, as if its very existence is a wry diagnosis of the state of things, and almost an ironic statement. Context is King, so let’s remove it.

So what is my context? Well, I’m a homosapien, perhaps the most social primate ever. Evolved over a millions of years to live and love in small, tight-knit groups. The earth is my home and my source, it provides for me and my group. I’m designed by evolution to rise with the sun, sleep with the dark, and eat what the earth provides. But what is the context in which I live?

Well that’s a whole book worth. To cut a very long story short (read The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein to get the whole picture) I can summarise it thus: we ain’t cut out for this. Almost every single evolutionary expectation (the fulfillment of which would lead to our natural sense of well-being with the world) is violated for the sake of conformity to an arbitrary sense of time, as well as the monitization of time, love, joy and life itself. Read the book if you don’t get what I’m talking about here.

So isn’t it little wonder that those with the most connection with themselves can hear their soul (which I define as the fulfillment or lack of fulfillment of our evolutionary expectations) screaming out: “not like this!” To my mind, depressed people are quite sane, but unable or unwilling to adapt themselves to an insane world. This is why depressed people are often advised to keep busy. If we end up just “being” we’ll be able to hear our souls screaming out again. Busyness is a blue pill cure to this. It might be that this is the next stage of evolution – can we adapt to this in time? Can we become mad enough to find our place in the madness?

I really don’t know – the future is speculation. But what isn’t speculation is that mental illness – like drug addiction – (and by the way, they’re expressing the same thing, which is why they’re so linked) exists in a context. But everyone talks about it as if it does not. The myth of drug addiction being purely related to chemical hooks is finally beginning to crumble in the light of evidence and the obeying of the Golden Rule. Now that we’re dropping taboos about mental illness, let’s not make the same mistake of ignoring the context in which it arises. I know that everyone will ignore it, as is our programming, but I just want to repeat again, for all our sakes:

Context is King

 

David Bowie – my 1 cent

bowie_aladin_sane_1000px

If the troubles of the world can be marked by one thing, it’s this: division, separation. Seeded in the conceptual divide from us to nature, culminating to the ideological divides we cling on to despite our undeniable mutual humanity.

Why am I so affected by the passing of David Bowie? David was an artist of union, from the reunion with a higher, more profound state of being you could experience in Heroes, to the union of apparent disparate and random parts into a singular expression of wholeness, as he produced in Life on Mars?. His whole artistic approach was of union – uniting scattered influences wherever he found them and synthesizing them into something greater than the sum of their parts, that’s his true legacy – celebrating differences and reuniting everything.

When he made his comeback in 2013, it was no ordinary reunion that we’ve seen from countless artists over the last decade – getting back together to play the old hits with a kind of nostalgia for something lost. No, David brought his art and his past and nostalgia and united them with the present moment to bring a new newness, a fresh past and inquisitive future with Where Are We Now?

His death, as with his life, is a work of art. That he created until the moment of his death illustrates what an artist he was. Creating throughout his cancer to unite us again. We know the world needs union, in all its forms, and David Bowie was an artist who did that like no other.

A great loss to the world, a great loss to union.

Is Hamas a friend?

I wanted to write my thoughts on this because I don’t think Corbyn’s response really effectively communicated what he was trying to say.

I’ll leave aside Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s sloppy journalism (he’s just doing his job) and instead concentrate on what the question entails and those implications.

The question “are Hamas and Hezbollah your friends”?  is a problematic one, for a number of reasons. All these reasons are tied to a habit of categorising a collection of people into a single consciousness which is a combination of basic and ancient tribalism with the very modern and very recent idea of conceptualising and labelling (a mere tens out thousands of years old). As it happens, this combination results in bullshit.

The fact is (and this is what the narrative of our government and the media don’t want you to realise) that both Hamas and Hezbollah are groups made up of people. Hamas is not a consciousness. Hezbollah is not a consciousness. They are both a collection of ideas. You can disagree with ideas, you can hate the ideas, but ideas cannot be a friend or an enemy. Only beings can. Hamas is not a being. Hezbollah is not a being.

What Jeremy was struggling to say through the noise generated by the insane Bill O’Reilly-ranting of Guru-Murthy is that Hamas is a group of people, and if anyone, no matter where they come from or who they are, desire – genuinely – to sit down and have meaningful discussions with a mutual goal to work towards establishing a real, sustainable peace, then that person is my friend. As the late great communicator Marshall Rosenberg said: “all human beings have the same basic needs.”

In other words, Corbyn was speaking from a place of humanity – all that is best and ancient in us. Guru-Murthy was speaking from the opposite – categorizing, labelling, dividing and separating through concepts – everything that results in violence, enemies and the absurd position of treating a collection of ideas as if it is a singular consciousness.

To use an analogy, I disagree with and dislike a great many aspects of the Conservative Party – the lack of compassion, the prioritising of the well-being of the economy over the well-being of the human beings living here. But does that mean the Conservative Party is my enemy? No. It can’t be. Do I hate my many Tory friends? No! Imagine being asked “is the Conservative Party your friend?” What…? The Conservative Party is not a person. The Conservative Party is not a consciousness. The Conservative Party is not a being.

Ideas are not beings. 

[edit: Krishnan Guru-Murthy himself pointed out that I’d written “hamas” as “hammas” which is a bit more like “hummus”, so I’ve corrected that]