Cosmetics, clothing and cleaning products can call seen a minefield when it comes to animal testing and human rights abuses. But there are really good comprehensive sites out there dedicated to keeping you informed of which brands are safe to support and which you absolutely should not. PETA is one I use regularly but there are masses of others too. So take a minute to do your research and think before you buy.
Skool of Vegan
Skool of Vegan is a new initiative aimed at trying to get people to look at their eating habits and attitudes towards animals in a more critical way. Their mission statement is: ‘Because making the connection is child’s play’. It certainly makes for some uncomfortable reading and I admire their original approach. Whether you like the drawings or not its hard to deny the underlying truth and i think they do a good job of highlighting the hypocrisy and inconsistencies of what we teach our kids. I think it’s probably a little too heavy handed for most people’s taste and therefore I doubt they will reach people in the way they’d like to. Perhaps a less aggressive tone might have spoken to more people…? What do you think? Here a few…
Something to bear in mind as Mother’s Day approaches…
Next time you eat a piece of meat, take a moment to think about the fact that it had a mother.
If it’s pork you’re eating – think about that piglet being removed from it’s mother within just a few days of being born and slaughtered within 3 – 6 months.
If it’s lamb you’re eating – know that it was removed from its mother within a few months of being born and killed within 3 – 10 months.
If it’s chicken you’re eating – know that it was never even allowed to meet it’s mother and was killed within 6 weeks of being born.
If it’s beef you’re eating – know that they have been slaughtered within just 1 to 2 years.
If it’s dairy you’re eating, know that the calf which this mother had to bear in order for you to steal and consume her milk, was taken away within the first 2 days of its life and either shot or slaughtered at 16 – 20 weeks for veal.
And if this thought alone doesn’t make you reconsider eating meat then please take a long hard look at these photos and ask yourself how you can possibly justify stealing any animal’s young away from them for the brutal and shameful act of slaughter, merely because you like the way they taste.
These beautiful images are all from this website:
Photo: viktor_alexandrov2010 via magicalnaturetour/Tumblr
Live and Let Live
Have just watched this feature length documentary on veganism and would highly recommend it to everyone, vegan or not.
It examines our relationship with animals, the history of veganism and the ethical, environmental and health reasons that move people to go vegan.
Food scandals, climate change, lifestyle diseases and ethical concerns move more and more people to reconsider eating animals and animal products. From butcher to vegan chef, from factory farmer to farm sanctuary owner – Live and Let Live tells the stories of six individuals who decided to stop consuming animal products for different reasons and shows the impact the decision has had on their lives.
Philosophers such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Gary Francione join scientists T. Colin Campbell and Jonathan Balcombe and many others to shed light on the ethical, health and environmental perspectives of veganism.
Through these stories, Live and Let Live showcases the evolution of veganism from its origins in London 1944 to one of the fastest growing lifestyles worldwide, with more and more people realising what’s on their plates matters to animals, the environment and ultimately – themselves.
And it has a lovely soundtrack too…
We have absolutely no need to eat either. So stop.
Easiest and tastiest vegan pud…
I had exactly this conversation a week ago…
Hmmm… eeny meeny miney mo….
How to keep your New Year’s resolution to go vegan
Have you resolved to go vegan for New Year and already having doubts? Are you dreading the first meal out with friends or dinner party invite? If you are then fear not as I have been there and it is doable I promise you – if I can do it then anyone can as I am someone who can’t stick to anything! I’ve tried giving up sugar in my tea a million times and I still smoke socially no matter how much I abhor myself for it!
The buggar with veganism is that the first few weeks are by far the hardest but if you can get through January you will feel like an entirely new person and won’t look back. You’ve just got to get through these next few weeks. Here are a few tips from the fantastic website One Green Planet to keep you on the vegan straight and narrow!
1. Find Your Motivation
Ask yourself why you want to become a vegan. It isn’t a test; it helps to be able to identify your motivation. There are many paths to veganism and the one you take should match your wants and needs. People are more likely to stick with something if the actions they take are congruent with their goals. Is your main interest in improving your health or losing a few pounds? If so, then maybe what you want is to eat a more, or fully, whole foods, plant-based diet. Is your motivation helping animals or the planet? Then you may want to eliminate all animal products from all aspects of life including food, clothes, make-up, toiletries, furniture and more. Check out 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Embracing a Plant-Based Diet to see what great things could be in store for you.
Many people start out switching to a plant-based diet for their health and later get more involved in other aspects of veganism when they learn about its other benefits to the animals and the planet. Others begin by focusing on being compassionate towards animals and then embrace the healthy aspects. So long as you know why you are exploring the vegan world, you will be less likely to put unrealistic goals or expectations on yourself. And then, you can put more energy into enjoying the experience.
2. Do It in Your Own Time
An important part to becoming vegan is to do it in your own time. There is no rule that says you have to wake up tomorrow and be 100% vegan and animal product-free. That’s nearly impossible for most people! Don’t let other people pressure you or rush you. It’s sad to say but there can be a lot of judgment out there in the vegan world. It’s bad enough that vegans get judged by non-vegans but then, vegans get judged by other vegans for not being vegan the “right” way, or for the “right” reasons, or fast enough, etc. There are some vegans who were raised vegetarian or vegan, which is awesome. They didn’t eat much, if any, animal products and therefore, probably don’t miss those foods or understand why anyone would want to eat them. But most vegans saw the light later and the later in life it happened, the more years of consuming animal products they experienced. Going vegan at age 40 or 50 is not the same experience as going vegan as a teenager or in your 20′s.
Some people become vegetarian and stay there for years before they transition to veganism. Some people go directly to vegan. The important thing is getting there no matter what path a person takes. Maybe you would be more likely to stick with a plant-based diet if you ate vegan 3 days or week or did the “vegan until 6” regimen. Maybe you want to start out eating plant-based a few times and week and slowly increase the number of days over time. Maybe you just want to take a 30-day challenge and see if it works for you. Take time to learn and figure out the best transition plan for you! Check out this Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet.
3. Educate Yourself
While you certainly learn a lot by living vegan, being prepared can make things a whole lot easier. You don’t have to study and take tests but you should know a bit about what you’re getting yourself into. A quick Internet search can score you easy lists of what vegans do and do not eat. I know it sounds like it should be easy, right? If it comes from an animal, don’t eat it. If it doesn’t come from an animal, go for it. But animal products and by-products are hidden in so many things and under so many sneaky names, they get by the best of us. You read a label and look for milk, butter, cheese and honey. You don’t see those ingredients so you think you’re in the clear but look again. Is there casein, lactose or whey? What about carmine, gelatin, or albumin? Those are all animal-based ingredients and not vegan. But fear not. You don’t need a biochemistry degree, just some good sources with some handy lists of which foods are and are not vegan. Check out For the Newbie Plant-Based Eater: Your Vegan Starter Shopping List and 15 Sneaky Foods that Might Be Hiding Animal Ingredients. For many helpful guides, check out this array of vegan guides on One Green Planet.
The minute you tell anyone you’re even considering a vegan diet, they will ask you “Where will you get your protein?” Most people think all our protein comes from meat and all our calcium comes from dairy, along with believing dozens of other nutritional half-truths. You might think this yourself. I know I used to think this way. You don’t have to become a dietitian, but getting to know a little bit about nutrition can help you navigate the waters of both choosing what to eat and how to answer the questions you know you’re going to be asked. Learn more by reading How to Tell if You are Getting Enough Protein and 10 Vegan Foods Packed with Protein.
4. Explore Your Options
Maybe one of the biggest mistakes I made at the beginning was to not find out just how many non-animal food products exist in the world. In my pre-vegan days, vegetables meant peas, corn, potatoes and salad. After I made an eggplant dish, I thought, “Now what?” It wasn’t that there wasn’t food out there to eat, I just wasn’t aware of it. There are so many vegetables, fruits, grains and other foods to eat, I can go weeks without eating the same thing twice. It’s amazing how many foods there are to try! And try you must. I used to swear I hated at least a dozen vegetables even though I hadn’t tried them or maybe I had tasted them once. Now, I have a rule that I’m not allowed to say I don’t like something unless I’ve tried it several times and prepared it in different ways. Palates change or maybe you have only had Brussels sprouts boiled. Yuck! If you think you don’t like a vegetable, try it roasted or fried. Roasting brings out the rich nuttiness of vegetables and frying, well, frying just makes everything taste better, doesn’t it? And now, I will fight my husband for the last Brussels sprout. Read my 5 Rules to Start Enjoying New and Unfamiliar Foods to see how I learned to experiment and explore with food.
Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean just piling a bunch of greens and vegetables on a plate and grazing through them. You can put as much care and preparation into making vegan dishes as you do any other dish. Make a list of fruits, vegetables, grains and other foods you would like to try and think about how you would like them prepared. You might want to even take the time to write out a few meal plans for a week or two and then buy the ingredients you need to make those dishes. Having a plan definitely beats having a confused meltdown in the middle of the supermarket (like I did). For the best tips, read The Smart Shopper: A Beginner Vegan’s Pantry List for Winter.
5. Use Resources
Thanks to the internet and web sites like One Green Planet, we have 24-hour access to millions of recipes as well as web sites about veganism and any other issues you may be interested in. There’s no need to toss your hands up and say you don’t know how to press tofu when in less than a minute, you can find how-to articles and even instructional videos online. The web is also your place to find cruelty-free clothes, make-up and other products, learn about health and nutrition, and find out which restaurants near you have vegan options. There are also more vegan cookbooks than ever and you can choose whether you want a print version in your hands or an e-version on your phone. Read reviews and get a couple of vegan cookbooks that other new vegans recommend.
6. Don’t Sacrifice, Substitute
Maybe the idea of eating all new foods is too overwhelming for you. That’s fine. You don’t have to. No one wants to give up their favorite foods. It took me as long as it did to go vegan because I thought I couldn’t live without chicken. Then I had a hard time letting go of eggs. But I did it and not because I just learned to live without those foods but because I learned how to substitute for them. There is a vegan substitute for almost everything and if there’s something missing, I can guarantee you someone is working hard to develop it. There are vegan meats, vegan chicken, vegan fish, vegan hot dogs and sausages, vegan milks, cheeses and ice creams, vegan butter, and even vegan eggs. That means you don’t have to experiment with all new recipes and foods. You can eat all your usual favorites, just in vegan versions. Eating the foods you usually eat with just that one change can make it much easier to transition to plant-based eating. What most people come to find is that with the right textures and flavors, vegan food tastes pretty close to the original and many times, even better. Learn more in 10 Food Substitutions Every Plant-Based Eater Should Know, 10 Vegetables that Can Substitute for Meat and How to Veganize Your Favorite Familiar Dishes.
7. Be a Healthy Vegan
It’s easy to buy lots of packaged, vegan, convenience food but it’s not the optimal choice for your health. Technically, you could eat nothing but French fries and potato chips and be vegan but if you don’t get all your vitamins and minerals, you won’t feel well and you will probably give up on the idea of eating a plant-based diet. Do some research and make sure you are getting enough protein, calcium and other nutrients. If you are unsure, take a vitamin supplement. Try to eat mostly whole foods such as whole grains, fresh fruit and lots of fresh vegetables. Yes, even some vegans have to be told to eat their vegetables. Read how to Avoid These 5 Unhealthy Vegan Eating Transition Mistakes.
8. Get Support
It always helps to do things with a partner. See if any of your friends or relatives want to take this vegan journey with you. When I became vegan, my husband did it with me but the two of us often felt alone. We reached out to local vegan groups and went to many pot lucks and vegan functions. Joining a meet-up group or even chatting with some vegans online can provide a wealth of information and support. The majority of vegans we know are online. The vegan community can be very helpful and someone is always willing to answer any questions you might have. Read Finding Community as a New Vegan for more tips.
9. Dealing with Cravings
Cravings are normal. I will say it again. Cravings are normal. I didn’t give up meat because I didn’t like it and it disgusted me. I loved the taste of meat but morally and ethically, I could no longer engage in the cruelty that brought those tastes to me. But becoming vegetarian and/or vegan doesn’t automatically wipe the slate of one’s brain clean. There is a difference between what the brain/mouth/stomach wants and what the conscience will allow. Of course, I now look at meat, dairy, and eggs differently. There are strong emotions that I didn’t have before. But in all honesty, sometimes when I see cooked food on TV or in real life, I have cravings. When I smell certain foods, I have cravings. When I am in certain places or moods that have food associations for me, I have cravings. There are foods I loved that I still miss. There’s a part of me that still wants Buffalo wings, fried chicken, steak, and pizza with extra cheese. The point is that I will not eat them. I will not put my cravings above the suffering and lives of other beings. For me, there is no going back.
Over time, the cravings lessen but I still get them and that does not make me a bad vegan. It makes me NORMAL. Having cravings is not what is important. What matters is what I do about them. I remind myself about the reasons I went vegan in the first place and then it’s simple because no matter what foods I crave, I love the taste of compassion more. And if you do give in to a craving, don’t beat yourself up over it and give up. You’re human. Just get back on track and look forward. For more on cravings, read A Guide to Understanding and Managing Your Food Cravings and 5 Ways to Battle Those Cheese Cravings After You Go Vegan. Also check out Why Eating Vegan is Not About Being Perfect, But About Being Aware.
10. Review and Reassess
After a few weeks of vegan eating, sit back with a green smoothie and look back over your experience. How did it go? Was it easy, was it hard? Was it something you could easily see yourself doing for a longer time? Or, was it something you can see yourself learning and enjoying as it gets easier? How do you feel? Healthier? Lighter? Happier? Many people talk about not only feeling better physically but emotionally. They say their consciences feel lighter, they feel more at ease in the world and happier. If it was difficult for you, can you pinpoint what was hard about it? Was it something that could be easier with more preparedness, more support, or more practice? And if so, is it something you want to invest your time and energy in?
If the answer is no, then maybe it’s just not the right time for you and that’s ok. You can always revisit veganism later and in the meantime, you can still cut back on meat and other animal foods. If the answer is yes, then it sounds like you are ready to dip your toes a bit deeper into the vegan water. Time to jump in and enjoy!
If you must eat meat, save it for Christmas
Here’s a great article by the wonderfully eloquent and engaging George Monbiot which was published in The Guardian on the 16th Dec 2014.
If you must eat meat, save it for Christmas
What can you say about a society whose food production must be hidden from public view? In which the factory farms and slaughterhouses supplying much of our diet must be guarded like arsenals to prevent us from seeing what happens there? We conspire in this concealment: we don’t want to know. We deceive ourselves so effectively that much of the time we barely notice that we are eating animals, even during once-rare feasts, such as Christmas, which are now scarcely distinguished from the rest of the year.
It begins with the stories we tell. Many of the books written for very young children are about farms, but these jolly places in which animals wander freely, as if they belong to the farmer’s family, bear no relationship to the realities of production. The petting farms to which we take our children are reifications of these fantasies. This is just one instance of the sanitisation of childhood, in which none of the three little pigs gets eaten and Jack makes peace with the giant, but in this case it has consequences.
Labelling reinforces the deception. As Philip Lymbery points out in his book Farmageddon, while the production method must be marked on egg boxes in the EU, there are no such conditions on meat and milk. Meaningless labels such as “natural” and “farm fresh”, and worthless symbols such as the little red tractor, distract us from the realities of broiler units and intensive piggeries. Perhaps the most blatant diversion is “corn-fed”. Most chickens and turkeys eat corn, and it’s a bad thing, not a good one.
The growth rate of broiler chickens has quadrupled in 50 years: they are now killed at seven weeks. By then they are often crippled by their own weight. Animals selected for obesity cause obesity. Bred to bulge, scarcely able to move, overfed, factory-farmed chickens now contain almost three times as much fat as chickens did in 1970, and just two thirds of the protein. Stalled pigs and feedlot cattle have undergone a similar transformation. Meat production? No, this is fat production.
Sustaining unhealthy animals in crowded sheds requires lashings of antibiotics. These drugs also promote growth, a use that remains legal in the United States and widespread in the European Union, under the guise of disease control. In 1953, Lymbery notes, some MPs warned in the House of Commons that this could cause the emergence of disease-resistant pathogens. They were drowned out by laughter. But they were right.
This system is also devastating the land and the sea. Farm animals consume one third of global cereal production, 90% of soya meal and 30% of the fish caught. Were the grain now used to fatten animals reserved instead for people, an extra 1.3 billion could be fed. Meat for the rich means hunger for the poor.
What comes out is as bad as what goes in. The manure from factory farms is spread ostensibly as fertiliser, but often in greater volumes than crops can absorb: arable land is used as a dump. It sluices into rivers and the sea, creating dead zones sometimes hundreds of miles wide. Lymbery reports that beaches in Brittany, where there are 14 million pigs, have been smothered by so much seaweed, whose growth is promoted by manure, that they have had to be closed as a lethal hazard: one worker scraping it off the shore apparently died of hydrogen sulphide poisoning, caused by the weed’s decay.
It is madness, and there is no anticipated end to it: the world’s livestock population is expected to rise by 70% by 2050.
Four years ago, I softened my position on meat-eating after reading Simon Fairlie’s book Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Fairlie pointed out that around half the current global meat supply causes no loss to human nutrition. In fact it delivers a net gain, as it comes from animals eating grass and crop residues that people can’t consume.
Since then, two things have persuaded me that I was wrong to have changed my mind. The first is that my article was used by factory farmers as a vindication of their monstrous practices. The subtle distinctions Fairlie and I were trying to make turn out to be vulnerable to misrepresentation.
The second is that while researching my book Feral, I came to see that our perception of free-range meat has also been sanitised. The hills of Britain have been sheepwrecked – stripped of their vegetation, emptied of wildlife, shorn of their capacity to hold water and carbon – all in the cause of minuscule productivity. It is hard to think of any other industry, except scallop dredging, with a higher ratio of destruction to production. As wasteful and destructive as feeding grain to livestock is, ranching could be even worse. Meat is bad news, in almost all circumstances.
So why don’t we stop? Because we don’t know the facts, and because we find it difficult even if we do. A survey by the US Humane Research Council discovered that only 2% of Americans are vegetarians or vegans, and more than half give up within a year. Eventually, 84% lapse. One of the main reasons, the survey found, is that people want to fit in. We might know it’s wrong, but we block our ears and carry on.
I believe that one day artificial meat will become commercially viable, and that it will change social norms. When it becomes possible to eat meat without keeping and slaughtering livestock, live production will soon be perceived as unacceptable. But this is a long way off. Until then, perhaps the best strategy is to encourage people to eat as our ancestors did. Rather than mindlessly consuming meat at every meal, we should think of it as an extraordinary gift: a privilege, not a right. We could reserve meat for a few special occasions, such as Christmas, and otherwise eat it no more than once a month.
All children should be taken by their schools to visit a factory pig or chicken farm, and to an abattoir, where they should be able to witness every stage of slaughter and butchery. Does this suggestion outrage you? If so, ask yourself what you are objecting to: informed choice, or what it reveals? If we cannot bear to see what we eat, it is not the seeing that’s wrong, it’s the eating.
Why don’t we care?
It is so blisteringly obvious that fish feel pain that I just don’t understand why we don’t care more about their suffering. Surely if more people were urged to watch videos like this and confront the reality of their suffering they would think again before opting for the catch of the day…
This video from thekillingoftuna.org is another brutal reminder of why fish should not be on any menu!
Missing the entire point!
Susannah Constantine has caused outrage by posting a picture of her ten-year-old daughter Cece proudly clutching a dead duck and with her face smeared with blood to mark her first kill.
I’ve been reading all the various reactions from people and mostly the debate has developed into whether or not you should be honest with your children about where meat comes from. And this is missing the point entirely.
1. How much of the meat that you eat on a daily basis was killed on a country estate by posh people for ‘sport’? The odd pheasant casserole possibly if you’re in the 1% of the country that takes part in these country pursuits but otherwise basically none of it. So if ‘education’ is really what this is all about then you would presumably be as keen to take your kids around a slaughterhouse, a factory farm or a chicken shed? No I thought not… The reality is slightly less palatable isn’t it?
2. Of course you should be honest with your children about where meat comes from – but not if you’re feeding them totally incorrect information. Not if your moral compass is completely out of whack. I was told from a very young age where meat comes from (I was raised on a small farm) but I never witnessed it. The closest I came was when mum insisted we stay inside whilst dad strangled all the chickens that had stopped laying eggs so were now ‘surplus to requirements’. Funnily enough, my parents weren’t shuffling us into ringside seats for this barbaric spectacle. Alongside my education of where meat comes from I was also told that these animals were put here to feed us – that that was their purpose, their raison d’etre. I was told that we needed meat to survive and that is was an entirely natural process. What total nonsense!
3. I was certainly not told the whole truth. How most animals in the world are kept in horrific concentration camp conditions for their entire lives before being needlessly slaughtered at a dismally tender age. I wasn’t told what happens to every single male chick born to the egg industry – minced alive at less than a day old by thousands. I wasn’t told what happens to the dairy calves that aren’t wanted for veal – killed within the first week as ‘by-product’ of the dairy industry. And I certainly wasn’t told that I could live a perfectly happy, healthy, compassionate life without ever having to eat, wear or use any animal products ever again.
So if the person guiding you through life’s moral maze is a member of the third reich and is telling you that it’s ok to gas someone because they are Jewish it’s probably not the kind of education I’d be wanting for my kids and its certainly not a defense to say that at least their being honest!
A child is incredibly easily influenced by what their parents say, as we all are by people in positions of authority to us, which is how otherwise decent human beings throughout history have been coerced into doing horrific things under the misguided guise of ‘doing the right thing’.
Teaching children that it’s ok to kill animals for sport or food is not okay in my book. It’s wrong, it’s confusing, it’s deeply irresponsible and it’s dangerous. If we want to raise the next generation of children to be compassionate, free thinking, rational individuals then we need to start being honest about how inexcusable it is in this day and age to consume any animal products of any kind.
“Lobsters do feel pain? Oh. Ummm… well sorry for all the boiling alive guys…”
So it turns out that lobsters, octopus, prawns, crabs, squid etc probably do feel pain. This article was recently published in the New Scientist and suggests that all of these animals not only feel pain but some of them feel it more acutely than humans do.
But do people care? Will everyone who read the latest evidence in the New Scientist or all of you reading this blog post now, finish reading this and then vow to stop eating these animals? No, most won’t according to what history shows us. Not until the vegan movement gathers a lot more momentum and swells to much bigger numbers. Why not? I don’t understand why otherwise kind, caring, compassionate people don’t change their behaviour once they’ve discovered that that behaviour causes pain and suffering to innocent sentient animals. We’re not talking about political allegiance or tastes in music or something that is inconsequential in terms of pain and suffering. We are talking about a global genocide that is causing billions of animals every year to endure immense abuse, pain and suffering. Is that how incapable we are of thinking for ourselves, of acting upon proven facts, of swimming against the tide, of challenging the status quo? It makes me feel so sad and angry and disappointed. But more than that it baffles me. I’m not any more compassionate than anyone else. I don’t love animals any more than anyone else? I don’t enjoy seeing an animal suffer any more or less than anyone else I doubt. We all have the same reaction when we see an animal in pain – we empathise enormously and will do everything we can to stop it’s suffering. So why the massive blind spot when it comes to eating animals and animal products? Is it ignorance? It is fear? I think we all know deep down that the process by which meat gets to our plates cannot be a wholly pleasant one. But somehow we deem it worthwhile for the pleasure of taste and the fear of change. So we do everything we can to remain ignorant and hide behind pathetic justifications such as ‘but we’ve always eaten meat’ (and? we’ve also always enslaved other people and raped and pillaged our way around the world – it doesn’t mean it’s okay!) and ‘we need it for protein’ (no you do NOT).
The second I discovered what happens to the billions of male chicks born each year I vowed to never eat eggs again. As soon as I discovered that I didn’t need to eat meat of any kind in order to eat a healthy, full and balanced diet I vowed to never be responsible for the slaughter of another pig, cow, duck, chicken, sheep, lamb or chicken. I just the same way as when I discovered how foie gras was made I vowed never to eat it again. As soon as I discovered what veal was I vowed never again to eat it. As soon as i discovered the life cycle of a dairy cow I vowed to never eat dairy again. As soon as I discovered the human rights abuses committed by Primark I vowed never to shop there again. As soon as I discovered the environmental ruin that Nestle is causing around the world I vowed never to buy their products again. Why doesn’t everyone else. Ignorance is a good enough answer if you really didn’t know. But once you do know – what excuse do you have to continue to perpetuate the problem?
I’m bored of being polite and saying oh well some people don’t want to offend others or stand out from the crowd or be the objects of ridicule. It’s not good enough. Do better. We all need to be better. How can we pretend to preach the values of right and wrong to our children if we ourselves are knowingly perpetrating these cruel acts of needless violence and suffering day in and day out. Enough.
Please stop eating and exploiting animals. No more excuses.
There were 2 big stories in the news last week which demonstrate how utterly arbitrary, hypocritical and deluded our morality is when it comes to animal ethics in this country.
Firstly there was the appallingly cruel arson attack on a Manchester dogs home in which 53 dogs died. This story became bigger news for the fact that people were so moved by this deeply upsetting story that a JustGiving page was set up and donations flooded in from all over the world, exceeding £1.3 million in less than 3 days. Staggering. Heart warming. Amazing. It goes to show how deeply people care about dogs – even dogs that have been left unclaimed in a dogs home – dogs that would largely have been pit bull terriers and Rottweilers and other such breeds. Breeds which are at the less ‘cute and cuddly’ end of the doggy scale. And still people are enormously upset by the idea of these dogs suffering such a painful and frightening death.
In contrast, on the same day, there is a story about a cull that had been carried on miniature pigs and piglets in the Swansea area.
Over 100 micro-pigs were culled by a licensed professional. “These animals presented a serious risk to other livestock in the region in the event of a disease outbreak, and because of this we were left with no option but to carry out a cull,” said a spokesperson. What a load of horseshit! The only threat these animals could possibly offer is if they come into contact with farm bred infected pigs as they could then spread the disease. Why on earth should these wild pigs pay the heaviest price for the farmers carelessness. If the commercially bred pigs weren’t harbouring disease in the first place then there wouldn’t be a problem. It’s exactly the same story with the badger cull and TB. The farmers should ensure that their cattle don’t get TB and if they do then they should pay the price. They shouldn’t be farming cattle in the first place as far as I’m concerned so I’m afraid I have little sympathy. If culling innocent badgers is their solution then they clearly it’s a non-starter of a business model!
These same farmers who claim to be animal lovers were the ones who put pressure on Swansea Council in the first place to carry out this appalling cull. Yes, some farmers may care about their livestock, but as soon as something might get in the way of their profit margins, you see where they really stand on animal welfare issues.
The slaughter of these innocent, healthy and harmless pet pigs amounts to an atrocity that should be totally unacceptable to an educated and caring society.
What to tell the kids…?!
I’ve been reconsidering what to tell the kids when it comes to eating meat, dairy and eggs. So far the subject has not really come up as our three girls are only 5, 3 and 2 weeks so haven’t really noticed that mum and dad avoid animal products. But they are beginning to ask questions – not just about what we eat but about food in general.
Up until now I have always been very quick to say that Ed and I certainly don’t impose our beliefs on our children and they can eat whatever they want. So if we’re out and they choose the chicken sandwich then we buy it. At school we haven’t put them down as vegetarian as we wanted them to have the choice each day as to what they eat. I didn’t want to be seen as a pushy mother imposing her ‘extreme views’ on her poor kids… but recently this has started to sit uncomfortably with me.
For example, last week we were walking down the Northcote Road past an Argentinian Steakhouse. There was a giant cardboard cow outside promoting some offer or other and Arcadia (5 yr old) asked me why there was a cow outside the restaurant. So I explained to her that it’s a steak house and steak comes from cows. She asked me whether the cows were dead or alive and she asked me who killed the cows. I explained that the cows were bred for their meat and killed at a slaughterhouse when they were big enough to eat and then the meat is bought to the restaurant where it is cooked and eaten by the customers. She looked absolutely horrified. And I didn’t say it with any tone in my voice whatsoever – I just explained the process to her. She asked me why someone would want to kill a cow? I said because they taste nice and people like eating meat. Still she looked horrified. I don’t want to eat cows mummy she said. Ok well you don’t have to eat cows if you don’t want to.
Then we were watching Finding Nemo last night and again Arcadia asked me why people take fish out of the sea. I explained to her that when people eat fish, they have been taken out of the sea or out of a fish farm where they have been bred specifically for people to eat. Again horrified.
Our children have zero desire to eat these animals and are horrified when they discover what they have been eating… until we brainwash them into thinking it’s ok!
You get the picture. The problem is that by the time children start to ask questions they have already started to learn that it is ok to eat animals. because everyone at school is doing it, on tv, all around them etc. So what sits uncomfortably with me is that already she is looking at me as if to say ‘well why have you been letting me eat fish and sausages and chicken?’. ‘You know that I wouldn’t want to had you explained to me what they are’. Because kids haven’t yet learned from other people the crazy illogical idea that it is ok to eat pigs and cows and sheep and lambs and chickens and pigs and other poultry but that it’s not ok to eat horses and dogs and cats etc. They are equally horrified at the idea of eating any of them. Until we teach them that it’s ok in some cases.
So surely as a parent, my job is to equip her with the information that she needs in order to make an informed decision and then it is up to her what she does with it and I must respect her decision whatever it is.
But when do I start this? With my oldest clearly 5 was too late as she is already really confused as to why I haven’t explained this to her before. So do I start explaining to Indigo what different meats are before she’s started asking me prescient questions? So when we’re ordering lunch and she says she’d like a beefburger I should say are you sure you want to order that honey? You know that a beefburger is made from the meat of a dead cow… I immediately feel like a psycho pushy parent. But why? All I’m doing is explaining to her what she’s about to eat. I’m only giving her fact.
Children are appalled at needless slaughter… until we deceive them by telling them it’s ok, they’re meant to be eaten, we need to eat them for protein – complete rubbish!
I’m always amused at how people bang on about how appalling it is that children these days have no idea that milk comes from cows and sausages come from pigs. When it’s absolutely no wonder! I’m amazed when kids (that haven’t grown up on a farm) have the slightest clue where their food comes from because most adults are in total denial of it. Every length is gone to to deceive and mislead us – through advertising campaigns and marketing ploys. Words such as free range, organic, grass fed etc allow us to believe these cattle are living lovely lives before being humanely slaughtered…
The truth is a little different… We might all know that beef is from a cow – but most of us don’t know the reality of the miserably short life that cow has endured. Most beef calves are taken from their mothers immediately after birth, castrated and dehorned with no anaesthetic, transported to ‘fattening sheds’ where they are fed on high-protein cereal feeds (largely made up of soya which is responsible for most deforestation of the rainforests and a huge environmental concern – also cattle belch and fart out between 100 and 200 litres of methane a day, a gas which is 24 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and is the largest contributor to climate change – bigger than the entire transportation sector combined!!!), and then taken for slaughter between 10 and 12 months of age. Pitifully young when you think that they would live happily for 25 odd years if left to live out their natural life in peace. At the slaughterhouse, the cattle are stunned (often ineffectively) using a captive bolt pistol before being shackled by the leg, strung up and having their throat slit.
In the UK, dairy cows are most commonly kept in pastures during the summer months and indoors in the winter. However, the practice of keeping the cows indoors all year round is becoming more popular; this is known as zero-grazing. Cows naturally produce milk after giving birth; for their children, not for human consumption. However, dairy cows are subjected to the same amount of cruelty as in any other intensive farming system so as to constantly supply humans with milk. Maximum production is paramount to the farmers and therefore, the cows produce between 20 and 50 litres of milk each day; around ten times the amount her calf would suckle. 10 TIMES! I am breastfeeding at the moment and the thought of being rigged up to a machine and have 10 times as much milk leached out of me is unimaginable.
To take full advantage of the excess milk which cows produce immediately after giving birth, the calves are usually taken from their mothers within the first two days of birth, causing suffering, anxiety and depression for both mother and child, as the maternal bond a cow has with her calf is very strong. Under natural circumstances, the calf would suckle for anywhere between six months and a year. Like humans, cows produce milk for the benefit of their children and therefore only lactate for around ten to thirteen months after they have given birth. The cows are therefore re-impregnated approximately 60 days after giving birth to continue the cycle of milk production. In addition, the cows continue to be milked whilst pregnant; a process which causes them extreme discomfort. Once the dairy cows are so worn out that they have produced all the milk they can, they are sent to slaughter, usually at around four or five years of age; the average natural lifespan for a cow could be as long as 25 years. Their meat often ends up in low-grade burgers or pet foods.
Some of the infants that are taken from the dairy cows are, like their mothers, destined to become milking machines for human consumption and profit. However, approximately half of the calves are male. Some of them are killed as infants for cheap meat; however, as the offspring of dairy cows are not purposefully bred for meat, they are rarely suitable for beef production. Prior to the BSE outbreak, a large number of these calves were transported to continental Europe for used in the veal industry.
Anyhow – enough – I’m getting waylaid. My point is that a lot of this was news to me and I was bought up on a smallholding in a farming community and thought I was one of the ‘educated ones’ when it came to animal agriculture.
So my new plan is to try and educate the kids in as transparent and honest a way as possible, without trying to persuade them in any way of what choices they should make. It’s kind of hilarious that I feel like a pushy mother for considering telling my children the truth about this. It just goes to show that the truth is pretty horrifying and it’s that I’m nervous of. I don’t want my children to feel the same confusion and anger and sadness that I do that people continue to eat animals when there is absolutely no need for it, no excuse for it. It is an indefensible, totally unethical and cruel practice which has no place in our society any longer.
I’m sad that they are going to see what lengths people will go to, what lies people will tell themselves, in order to not have to take a stance and go against the grain and do the right thing. It isn’t easy and it does make you question people’s morality but it is also an extremely valuable lesson. You cannot assume that just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ it’s ok. You must learn to question things, carry out your own research, draw your own conclusions and continue to evolve and grow as your own person.
Slice of Cruelty
Another week, another horrific undercover video revealing the horrific abuse and cruelty that goes on in many dairy farms around the world. This was taken by a mercy for Animals undercover reporter who got a job at a dairy in New Mexico for several weeks. It shows workers punching, kicking and whipping cows and shocking their genitals with electric prods, tossing calves into truck beds, using heaving equipment to force sick animals into confined spots and committing other types of abuse.
It’s not easy to watch but I think it’s really important that people are made aware of what goes on behind closed doors. People cannot be held accountable for financing these industries if they are not made aware of what it is they are directly supporting. Most people have no idea of the cruel practices that go on in the agricultural sector. I certainly didn’t until I undertook my own research and I am convinced that as soon as people are made aware of the horrific acts of animal abuse that are so endemic on factory farms around the world, they will stop consuming their products and lining their pockets. Unfortunately the industry is obviously going to do everything in their powers to keep this out of public view and, such are their lobbying powers, so too are governments. So it is left up to animal rights activists, animal welfare groups and charities to do whatever they can to raise awareness and educate people as to what kind of practices they are unwittingly supporting and therefore responsible for. It is unfortunate that people have to deceitfully pose as employees whilst secretly filming goings on, but there is no other way of showing people the truth. If these kinds of videos don’t make people immediately stop eating these dairy products, at least at the restaurant chains that they know these dairy farms supply, then I honestly don’t know what will.
Even if you choose to believe what Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s, (Leprino Foods biggest client, supplied by this dairy amongst many others), says and believe that this is an ‘isolated case of sadistic acts by employees at a single dairy farm in southern New Mexico…’ (which endless undercover footage has sadly proven to be untrue – in 2010 another Mercy for Animals undercover investigation gathered similar footage at Willet dairy in New York, also supplying Leprino Foods. They were closed down for a few months and reopened a year later when the bad press died down. Another video was released showing appalling abuse at a beef farm, Bettencourt Farm, in 2012, one of Burger King’s biggest suppliers – yet no arrests were made and people still eat at Burger King…) then just the faintest possibility that this might not be the case would surely get anyone questioning whether or not subscribing to this industry is at all ethical or necessary. At the very least this should stop you eating at any of the chains that are supplied by this dairy – Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut for starters.
Or if you want to tell yourself that these are just a bunch of evil people getting sadistic kicks out of abusing innocent vulnerable animals and this is absolutely not your typical dairy industry employee, then read the book ‘Slaughterhouse’ by Gail A Eisnitz. Gail interviews dozens and dozens of employees working in dairy farms and slaughterhouses across the US and these personal accounts of what really goes inside those walls will leave you feeling sick to your stomach that you have ever bought and eaten meat that has been processed in factory farms.
or if you tell yourself that you don’t buy meat that comes from factory farms then ask yourself where the lamb in your Cornish pasty has come from or where your service station chicken salad sandwich came from, or where your beef stock came from, or the milk in your hot chocolate powder or cadburys flake… There are animal products in so much of what you eat. Way beyond the joint of expensive beef you might buy for your Sunday Roast.
And even if you do tell yourself that this kind of cruelty is limited to factory farms far far away from your table, then look at the zillion other reasons you shouldn’t be eating animals. Start with the environment, then look at the ethics of eating an innocent vulnerable animal that you have absolutely no nutritional need for and then look at the enormous health benefits of an animal free diet. The arguments are so obvious, the evidence is so resounding – the only way you can continue to consume and wear animal products is if you choose to deceive yourself. And at the back of your mind, you know you are lying to yourself and you have to live with this niggling nugget of knowledge that you are part of this horrifically cruel, unnecessary and evil practice and you really should have had the balls to do something about it. One day your grandchild will ask you – what did you do when you found out about the abuse and cruelty? You stopped eating animals right and tried to get others to stop too? Yes? Right?
People cannot continue to turn a blind eye any longer. People can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. Even if you believe that there is such a thing as ‘humane slaughter’, producing meat on the scale that we are today cannot be done ethically or humanely. Commodifying animal products in this way inevitably leads to enormous numbers and tiny profit margins. Every penny is squeezed out of every animal and profits are driven through unethical means – mass scale production with more animals squeezed into smaller spaces, more gallons of milk squeezed out of mastitis engorged udders, animals being stuffed full of unnatural animal feed and dosed up on antibiotics, fattened obscenely quickly, slaughtered at a desperately young age and sold at a cheaper and cheaper price etc etc.
The greater the demand for food the more corners are cut and not only do the animals suffer appallingly but so we do as the cholesterol pours through our veins and blocks our arteries, raises our blood pressure, brings on heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, the list is endless!
If you don’t believe me go and do some research. It’s like opening Pandora’s box. Before you know it you’ll be glued to your computer with your jaw on the floor amazed at how something as ‘normal’ as eating meat, dairy and eggs can make you partly responsible for such horrific acts of violence and cruelty.
Trust me. Do some research and see what you discover.
We had a baby!!!
Barley Rose MacLaren zoomed into the world on Tuesday at 3pm, weighing a hefty 9lb, deliciously pink and chubby. Hoorah!
This was the first pregnancy I have experienced as a vegan and I have to say the stats are pretty compelling…
I only put on a stone and a half in the whole pregnancy (2 and a quarter with Arcadia and 2 with Indigo) and Barley was not only the biggest (Arcadia 8lb 2, Indigo 8lb 10) but by far the chubbiest and pinkest baby of all three. I’m also 4/5 years older than I was with the last 2 pregnancies and yet had much more energy throughout.
Being pregnant is great as it means you have your bloods, urine, heart rate, blood pressure etc tested regularly. Mine all tested great throughout. So to all those out there who still believe you need meat, dairy and eggs to get enough calcium, iron, potassium etc into your diet – it is absolutely NOT true. So long as you eat sensibly and take a vitamin B12 supplement then a well balanced vegan diet will give you all the nutrition you need! Add to that the massive increase in energy, the sharpened clarity of thought, the ‘feel good factor’ of knowing that you are eating much more compassionately and I just can’t recommend it enough!
Right – I’m off to feed Barley.
Next post should undoubtedly be about the dairy industry as there is nothing like breastfeeding your baby to remind you how appallingly cruel the dairy industry is…
This cracks me up a LOT!
Why so angry…?
Most friends who respect you as a person will ask lots of questions about why you’ve switched to a vegan lifestyle and either agree with your reasoning or agree to disagree and move on. But there will always be some that struggle to accept it and can neither brush it aside nor feel satisfied enough to leave it be.
I’ve got several friends who, nearly two years on from my switch to veganism, are still really quite angry about it. Just as I think everyone’s accepted it, you’ll get a sarcastic comment or a mocking glance and realise that some people are still really bothered by it, despite endless attempts to accept it and move on. There are various similarities in their behaviours and attitudes which help explain why certain people are more accepting than others. What they have in common is that none of them can quite explain what it is that makes them so angry – no amount of logical, well reasoned, well researched arguments can persuade them to at least accept my reasons for making these choices even if it doesn’t affect their way of thinking. And we keep ending up where we began – fists clenched, brows furrowed, check mate!
So here’s a typical profile of these types of friends – very traditional values, conservative outlook, relatively right wing, very proud of their ‘British’ heritage and way of life, not particularly comfortable with change, risk-averse, quite cynical of anything ‘newfangled’ or ‘progressive’ etc. They’re the ones who are very happy living within their comfort zones and are very wary of anything that lies outside of it.
The problem with this mind set is that it leaves very little room for intelligent debate, personal growth or fundamental change. Of all the choices I’ve made in my life, nothing has made it more glaringly obvious which friends fall into which camp more unforgivingly than veganism.
So what are the similarities in attitudes towards veganism I’ve noticed amongst these friends:
– Questions without any real curiosity. Asking lots of questions which have nothing to do with the question being asked and are meant purely to demonstrate their disapproval of vegan attitudes. For example, yesterday I was asked whether or not I am careful about where I buy my coconut oil from. This would ordinarily be an interesting question as it does pose lots of environmental problems, but the problem with this question was that the person asking had no interest in the answer and was purely trying to pick holes in the vegan diet. So they are already decided that veganism is a nonsense without actually having looked into it in any detail whatsoever.
– Ignorance about veganism. One particularly disapproving friend has a mother who has been vegan/vegetarian for years and admits that she’s never asked her why and she doesn’t actually know what veganism is. She regularly offers me cows milk, yoghurt, cakes etc and clearly doesn’t know what a vegan diet includes or excludes at all. Which only frustrates me because without even knowing what it is she has such feelings about it – which makes no sense at all and hints at the real underlying issue here. It’s nothing to do with ones choice to eschew all animal products and everything to do with ones decision to live via a different set of principles to the opens you’re been bought up by.
– How dare you change your mind! One friend said to me ‘I just can’t understand how you can have grown up hunting, shooting and fishing and suddenly change your mind’. Well of course I can – you grow up doing what you’re told and you only know what you experience. It’s not until you develop your own thoughts about the world that you discover what your values are and of course sometimes these will be different to your parents. What on earth is the point of having a brain if not to question things, to learn, develop and grow as a person? That should be the ultimate aim of a parent should it not? To raise a child who is confident and curious enough to question, thoughtful enough to think, brave enough to explore, courageous enough to change?
– Another newfangled fad? Another friend recently made a very sarcastic comment, saying ‘Oh sorry, I forgot, now you don’t like hunting – I really must try harder to keep up’. The implication being that I am someone who chops and changes and is fickle-minded on these matters which is entirely unfair and untrue. This demonstrates her discomfort with my changing values and she has somehow taken it personally that I no longer feel the way I used to about certain things we used to share. I think this is at the crux of a lot of this ‘angry reaction’ – people who you have grown up with and with whom you’ve shared so much, find it particularly difficult to accept your changing values. They feel that you are somehow rejecting the past and disrespecting everything that you once held in such high regard. Which really isn’t true. I understand entirely why I felt the way I did – just as I understand entirely why I feel the way I do about things now. All of my thoughts, views, opinions are shaped by what I’ve seen, learned and experienced. Nothing more and nothing less than that. And to suggest that it is anything personal is just total toffee!
So how best to handle these firendships as they struggle to find their feet again on new ground?
The impossible thing is that you can’t discuss the real issue here because that would involve admitting that it actually has nothing to do with veganism and everything to do with you growing as people in different directions and not knowing what that means for the future of your friendship. Friendships are built on shared experiences, shared values, understanding and loyalty. Some will weather many a storm and some will sink. Perhaps only time will really tell but in the meantime there are several things we can do to try and maintain as strong a foothold as possible:
– Reassure these friends that you are still the same person – you just make slightly different choices when it comes to what you consume now.
– Reassure these friends that you really are not judging them. These are your choices and yours alone and you only arrived at these choices after carrying out a huge amount of research and finding out things that you’d never even suspected. So why would anyone else feel the same way you did if they hadn’t read/seen/learned what you have? You certainly don’t expect anyone else to change over night just because you have. Remind them that you ate exactly what they are eating very happily for 30 odd years (or whatever it was!) so you are in no place to cast judgement on anyone else.
– If they do ask questions, show that you appreciate their curiosity and try to engage with them and answer without being patronising, dismissive or emotional. Keep it light and if it looks like it’s getting heavy, suggest that you ping them some links to documentaries, books, websites etc that will explain it far better than you can!
– Remember that this is their issue and not yours. Their anger at your decision to be vegan has nothing to do with the reasons why you’ve decided to be a vegan and everything to do with their struggle to accept that it is nothing personal – it is not an indictment of your friendship or a judgement on them as a person. Hopefully once they see that you still value their opinion, respect their views and cherish their friendship, they will be able to accept your choices without feeling threatened or judged by them.
– Give it time. The first few times you hang out together are always the hardest. Once your friends can see that this isn’t a passing fad or some pretentious thing you like the look of but don’t really understand, they will slowly begin to accept it whether they agree with it or not. The trick is not to let it derail your friendship in the interim!
Can you stomach it…?
There’s a book I know I should read but can’t quite bring myself to yet. It’s called ‘Slaughterhouse’ and is written by Gail A Eisnitz
Prometheus Books, New York, 1997.
You can tell from the title and the front cover that it’s not going to be light reading… no happy endings or sugar plum fairies here.. The fact that we know from the title that this book is going to be deeply upsetting and disturbing tells us everything we need to know about how we really feel about slaughterhouses. A bit like watching Schindler’s List or 12 Years a Slave, you know that reading this book is going to fill you with shame and horror and sadness and anger. But unlike Schindler’s List and 12 Years a Slave, you won’t be able to walk away and tell yourself that you’d have behaved differently and that you’d have tried to stop it. Because you aren’t and you don’t.
Here’s Alex Hershaft’s (PhD,President, FARM) review of Slaughterhouse:
In the midst of our high-tech, ostentatious, hedonistic lifestyle, among the dazzling monuments to history, art, religion, and commerce, there are the ‘black boxes.’ These are the biomedical research laboratories, factory farms, and slaughterhouses – faceless compounds where society conducts its dirty business of abusing and killing innocent, feeling beings.
These are our Dachaus, our Buchenwalds, our Birkenaus. Like the good German burghers, we have a fair idea of what goes on there, but we don’t want any reality checks. We rationalize that the killing has to be done and that it’s done humanely. We fear that the truth would offend our sensibilities and perhaps force us to do something. It may even change our life.
Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz of the Humane Farming Association is a gut-wrenching, chilling, yet carefully documented, expose of unspeakable torture and death in America’s slaughterhouses. It explodes their popular image of obscure factories that turn dumb ‘livestock’ into sterile, cellophane-wrapped ‘food’ in the meat display case. The testimony of dozens of slaughterhouse workers and USDA inspectors pulls the curtain on abominable hellholes, where the last minutes of innocent, feeling, intelligent horses, cows, calves, pigs, and chickens are turned into interminable agony. And, yes, the book may well change your life. Here are some sample quotes (warning! extremely offensive material follows).
The agony starts when the animals are hauled over long distances under extreme crowding and harsh temperatures. Here is an account from a worker assigned to unloading pigs: “In the winter, some hogs come in all froze to the sides of the trucks. They tie a chain around them and jerk them off the walls of the truck, leave a chunk of hide and flesh behind. They might have a little bit of life left in them, but workers just throw them on the piles of dead ones. They’ll die sooner or later.”
Once at the slaughterhouse, some animals are too injured to walk and others simply refuse to go quietly to their deaths. This is how the workers deal with it: “The preferred method of handling a cripple is to beat him to death with a lead pipe before he gets into the chute… If you get a hog in a chute that’s had the shit prodded out of him, and has a heart attack or refuses to move, you take a meat hook and hook it into his bunghole (anus)…and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I’ve seen thighs completely ripped open. I’ve also seen intestines come out.”
And here is what awaits the animals on the kill floor. First, the testimony of a horse slaughterhouse worker: “You move so fast you don’t have time to wait till a horse bleeds out. You skin him as he bleeds. Sometimes a horse’s nose is down in the blood, blowing bubbles, and he suffocates.”
Then another worker, on cow slaughter: “A lot of times the skinner finds a cow is still conscious when he slices the side of its head and it starts kicking wildly. If that happens, … the skinner shoves a knife into the back of its head to cut the spinal cord.” (This paralyzes the animal, but doesn’t stop the pain of being skinned alive.) And still another, on calf slaughter: “To get done with them faster, we’d put eight or nine of them in the knocking box at a time… You start shooting, the calves are jumping, they’re all piling up on top of each other. You don’t know which ones got shot and which didn’t… They’re hung anyway, and down the line they go, wriggling and yelling”(to be slaughtered while fully conscious).
And on pig slaughter: “If the hog is conscious, … it takes a long time for him to bleed out. These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water, and start kicking and screaming… There’s a rotating arm that pushes them under. No chance for them to get out. I am not sure if they burn to death before they drown, but it takes them a couple of minutes to stop thrashing.”
The work takes a major emotional toll on the workers. Here’s one worker’s account: “I’ve taken out my job pressure and frustration on the animals, on my wife, … and on myself, with heavy drinking.” Then it gets a lot worse: “… with an animal who pisses you off, you don’t just kill it. You … blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood, split its nose… I would cut its eye out… and this hog would just scream. One time I … sliced off the end of a hog’s nose. The hog went crazy, so I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose. Now that hog really went nuts…”
Safety is a major problem for workers who operate sharp instruments standing on a floor slippery with blood and gore, surrounded by conscious animals kicking for their lives, and pressed by a speeding slaughter line. Indeed, 36 percent incur serious injuries, making their work the most hazardous in America. Workers who are disabled and those who complain about working conditions are fired and frequently replaced by undocumented aliens. A few years ago, 25 workers were burned to death in a chicken slaughterhouse fire in Hamlet, NC, because management had locked the safety doors to prevent theft.
Here is a worker’s account: “The conditions are very dangerous, and workers aren’t well trained for the machinery. One machine has a whirring blade that catches people in it. Workers lose fingers. One woman’s breast got caught in it and was torn off. Another’s shirt got caught and her face was dragged into it.”
Although Slaughterhouse focuses on animal cruelty and worker safety, it also addresses the issues of consumer health, including the failure of the federal inspection system. There is a poignant testimony from the mother of a child who ate a hamburger contaminated with E. coli: “After Brianne’s second emergency surgery, surgeons left her open from her sternum to her pubic area to allow her swollen organs room to expand and prevent them from ripping her skin… Her heart … bled from every pore. The toxins shut down Brianne’s liver and pancreas. An insulin pump was started. Several times her skin turned black for weeks. She had a brain swell that the neurologists could not treat… They told us that Brianne was essentially brain-dead.”
Slaughterhouse has some problems. In an attempt to reflect the timeline of the investigation, the presentation suffers from poor organization and considerable redundancy. But that’s a bit like criticizing the testimony on my Holocaust experiences because of my Polish accent. The major problem is not with the content of the book, but with the publisher’s cover design. The title and the headless carcasses pictured on the dust jacket effectively ensure that the book will not be read widely and that the shocking testimony inside will not get out to the consuming public.
And that’s a pity. Because the countless animals whose agony the book documents so graphically deserve to have their story told. And because Slaughterhouse is the most powerful argument for meatless eating that I have ever read. Eisnitz’ closing comment “Now you know, and you can help end these atrocities” should be fair warning. After nearly 25 years of work on farm animal issues, including leading several slaughterhouse demonstrations, I was deeply affected. Indeed, reading Slaughterhouse has changed my life.
What we all know but try to ignore…
As Paul McCartney famously once said – “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
I think, deep down, we all know this is probably true. However much we tell ourselves that animals are killed ‘humanely’, after ‘a good life’, and eating meat is, after all, ‘necessary’ etc. None of us are actually comfortable with another animal having to die so that we can have the pleasure of eating it. We happily buy and eat meat but we’d rather not think about the process by which that animal gets from the field to our fork. Most of us would never have the gall to kill a pig, cow, lamb, chicken or duck in order to eat it. Most of us wouldn’t particularly want to bop a tuna over the head with a mallet even!
At the other end of the spectrum, even my most hardy farming friends, who’ve grown up ‘culling’, ‘processing’ and ‘butchering’ animals still find the task, however necessary they feel it might be, and however pride they may take in doing it well, an unpleasant one. At a very basic human level, it is never an enjoyable thing to take someone or something else’s life and nor should it be.
Here’s an interesting article written by Chris Williamson on why he became involved in animal rights activism and converted to veganism which I thought was worth sharing:
THERE are meat-eaters who abhor animal cruelty and vegans who are driven by matters other than animal welfare. But, in my case, the two have always been intrinsically linked.
I vividly remember being horrified as a 14-year-old given a summer job by my local butcher.
Having been led to believe I would be serving behind the counter, I was surprised on my first day to find myself exposed to the slaughterhouse next door.
Rather than serving up some prime steak for Mrs Smith or chicken fillets for Mr Brown, my unglamorous job was to feed sheep intestines through my fingers to be used for sausage skin.
But if that was unpleasant enough, nothing could have prepared me for some of the other horrors that I experienced on that first day.
I saw the fear in the eyes of the animals who were about to be killed. I can still picture that now, just as I can still smell the rank scent of death which filled the air in that awful place.
It was an experience that stayed with me for life and something that influenced my eventual decision that I could no longer partake in this industry.
I made that choice in 1976, some five years after that dreadful experience in the butcher’s slaughterhouse.
Thinking back, I was inspired by people like Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
I can even remember hearing Spike Milligan discussing his vegetarianism as he was being interviewed on the Michael Parkinson Show. That unquestionably influenced me, too, and may well have been the deciding factor. But, for me, becoming a vegan was less about emulating my heroes or making a statement.
It was much more about taking what seemed to be the next natural step, as a 19-year-old who was beginning to come to terms with some of the social injustices that would epitomise much of the next couple of decades.
It was an era that shaped the person and politician I became. My ideologies and beliefs were shaped in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and becoming a vegan was part of that.
Cruelty seemed inherent within the meat industry. So why would I want to partake in such a thing when I felt so passionately about it?
I joined the Hunt Saboteurs Association at around the same time and was elected on to the League Against Cruel Sports’ board of trustees in 1979. It’s a position I still hold with pride. And I’m as passionate now about fighting against cruelty to animals as I was back then. That made it easy for me to take my natural position on debates such as fox-hunting before that was finally resolved by the last Labour Government. It also sheds some light on why I have been such a vocal opponent of the appalling badger cull which remains in place, even if our campaign against it has forced the Tory-led Government to slow its progress. All that is because it is easy to campaign on an issue when it rankles with the belief systems you hold at your very core.
I abhor cruelty in any form and the way in which animals are reared has become more intensive, which has inevitably compromised welfare. But there are so many other reasons to believe that eating animals is fundamentally wrong, especially at a time when the earth’s natural resources are under intense pressure and energy efficiency is more topical than ever.
Farmed animals consume 13 pounds of grain for every pound of meat produced.
Even more perversely, farmed fish need to be fed five pounds of wild-caught fish for every pound of flesh produced for human consumption.
It is grossly inefficient and makes no sense whatsoever.
In terms of energy consumption, 11 times more fossil fuel is exhausted to make a calorie of animal protein than it takes to make a calorie of food protein. And the livestock industry is responsible for nearly 20 per cent of the world’s climate changing emissions.
Add in other alarming statistics, such as the fact that 50% of antibiotics are used to tackle health problems of animals being reared in intensive conditions, and it casts a dark shadow over the whole meat industry.
So, while my original decision was about cruelty to animals, there are dozens of other factors that reinforce my view that veganism is not just about morals, but about making a sustainable life choice.
Population growth and environmental considerations mean that meat consumption at present levels is untenable. Consequently, the likelihood is that, for future generations, a vegan diet will be the norm rather than the exception that it is today.
How can you not change your mind?
I was reminded today of one of the really basic obvious reasons for not eating eggs. A principle that a lot of people struggle with and one which I’d sort of forgotten and had started happily eating eggs if I could see that the hens were properly free range and seemed well looked after and happy etc.
What I was reminded of was the fate of all the millions of male chicks which are born up and down the UK and are of no use to the egg industry. Here’s a reminder of what happens to them.
Male chicks are killed for two reasons: they cannot lay eggs and they are not suitable for chicken-meat production. This is because layer hens — and therefore their chicks — are a different breed of poultry to chickens that are bred and raised for meat production. Layer hens are bred to produce eggs whereas meat chickens are bred to grow large breast muscle and legs.
Chick hatcheries breed one or the other type of chick depending on which poultry industry they supply — egg or meat. At the layer-hen hatcheries supplying the egg industry with layer hens, the eggs are developed in industrial incubators. Once hatched, the newborn chicks pass down a production line to be sexed and sorted. Sick or weak female chicks and all male chicks are separated from the healthy female chicks and then killed.
The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry states that all culled or surplus newly hatched chicks that are destined for disposal must be treated as humanely as those that will be retained or sold. They must be destroyed promptly by a recommended humane method such as carbon dioxide gassing or quick maceration. Chicks must then be carefully inspected to ensure they are all are dead.
Quick maceration ensures the chick is killed within a second and, if carried out effectively and competently, this method is considered more humane than gassing with high concentrations of carbon dioxide. Gassing results in gasping and head shaking and, depending on the mixture of gases used, it may take up to two minutes for the chick to die.
Pretty shocking hey? This is one of those things that I found out during my research into veganism and immediately wanted to share with people because presumably they hadn’t realised that this was going on, just as I hadn’t. Like me they just wouldn’t have thought to question what happens to all the make chicks that can’t go on to lay eggs or sit centre stage at the Sunday Roast, breasts wrapped in bacon and stuffed with a juicy lemon. And as soon as they see this footage and realise that this isn’t the rantings of some hair-brained lunatic animal obsessed weirdo – they too would have to stop eating eggs and chicken and having anything whatsoever to do with the egg and poultry industry….. wouldn’t they….?
What do any of us really know about animal testing here in the UK?
Ann Widdecombe wrote this article in the Guardian a few weeks ago. It’s another prime example of things that we know go on and things that deep down we know that if we know more about them we would probably want them to stop happening, but yet we allow ourselves to go on not knowing and being compliant in the consumption and therefore compliance of such beauty products, household cleaning products and medication.
Here’s the article…
Animal testing should not be shrouded in secrecy. We need real reform now
Behind closed doors, and out of the public eye, the number of animals used in experiments has been steadily rising. In 2012 – the most recent figures available – the total exceeded 4 million animals.
Despite the eye-watering number of animals used in experiments, we know very little about what is done to them and why, and about the pain and suffering they endure in laboratories across the UK in the name of science. This is due to section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which enables animal experiments to take place in complete secrecy and makes revealing any information, even with the researcher’s consent, a criminal offence carrying a two-year prison term.
I was still in parliament when the Labour government passed the Freedom of Information Act. As the then shadow home secretary I queried whether in some areas it did enough to open up the work of government to public scrutiny. Similarly, I am hesitant to welcome the government’s proposals in the long-awaited consultation on reforming secrecy in animal research, launched earlier this month.
The intention of the freedom of information act is to enable the public to scrutinise the workings of government, but this does not seem to apply to animal experiments. These are exempted from the act, so we have no way of knowing if the governing body responsible – the Home Office – is fulfilling even its basic duty to ensure that animals are not used in experiments where non-animal alternatives are available.
This secrecy surrounding animal experimentation has been examined – and sidestepped – by successive governments, but there continues to be widespread support for reform. As far back as 2002, a House of Lords committee called for section 24 to be repealed, and last year, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (Navs) visited Downing Street to call on David Cameron to act, supported by a number of celebrities. In parliament, MPs from all parties have supported motions calling for reform and even the minister responsible at the Home Office, Norman Baker, said recently that the provisions in section 24 are “now out of step with government policy on openness and transparency and with the approach taken in other legislation”.
New European legislation has now rendered the status quo untenable and the government has launched a consultation on this issue. Acknowledging the disparity that exists, it seeks to repeal the secrecy clause. However, the government’s preferred option for reform is to replace section 24 with further legislation to restrict disclosure of information relating to people, places and intellectual property. But why is new legislation needed when the freedom of information act already protects businesses, the NHS, police and schools on these issues, and has been bolstered further by the new intellectual property bill?
The proposed legislation gives cause for concern, potentially gagging whistleblowers and organisations such as Navs, which expose wrongdoing in laboratories, under a new criminal offence: “malicious disclosure of information about the use of animals in scientific research”. This raises the immediate question of how “malicious disclosure” is defined. A raft of “ag gag” laws in the US criminalised whistleblowers and trampled the right to free speech last year. It would be a mistake to begin travelling down this dark road in the UK, especially at a time when the government seeks to achieve better openness and transparency.
Greater transparency and accountability could be achieved by opening up animal experiment applications to review before they are approved. Sadly, this seems to be where the door of openness and transparency slams shut. The government has decided that it is the only judge capable of weighing the cost of the experiment to the animal against the potential benefit. It is worth pointing out that out of more than 4 million animal experiments conducted last year, not a single application was turned down.
The Home Office has resisted opening up applications to perform experiments, rather lamely claiming that it is not possible to provide all the relevant information regarding each experiment. One sad fact that we can be sure of, even with a full repeal of the secrecy clause, is that animals will continue to die in duplicate experiments: in tests for drugs that are already on the market, for diseases we can already cure, and where modern, faster, cheaper and more accurate technology can be used instead. Proper scrutiny is the least the public expects while animal experiments are happening.
It is vitally important that the government gets this reform right, as this issue is unlikely to be revisited for years to come. Meaningful reform will protect researchers, animals and science, but we can only achieve this by opening up the animal experiment industry, allowing organisations to help identify duplicate experiments and highlighting where non-animal technology can be used to benefit humans and animals alike. Tinkering around the edges will do nothing for transparency, public confidence in the system or, most importantly, for the millions of animals suffering in laboratories.
A decent life..? A tragic waste more like
Whilst doing my research into the British meat industry, this is something that really hit me and made me question how justifiable eating meat could possibly be. Like most people, I always thought to myself that farm animals had long, happy, healthy lives before being sent to a humane slaughter. I think this is something that we all tell ourselves, although deep down we know that all these animals are killed at a horribly tender age and that there’s no such thing as a humane slaughter. It’s murder, whether we think it’s justified or not.
But a good life? Can such a short lifespan really ever be considered ‘a good life’? Even if they were living on a 5* luxury farm complete with piggy pedicures and farmyard facials, I still don’t think being slaughtered so young can even qualify as ‘a good life’.
Look at the poster below. Take a good look. It’s pretty shocking when you think about it. I know that when I first looked into this I realised that it wasn’t something I’d ever really considered. Even ‘lamb’ – the clue’s in the name right? But even though I knew it was lamb I never really pictured a lamb when eating lamb. It’s amazing what associations we let our minds make and what we managed to ignore or suppress.
If a person dies at these equivalent ages (so with a life expectancy here in the UK of nearly 81 years – that would be the equivalent of being killed between the ages of 1 hour old and 9 years old. Hardly what we’d ever term ‘a good innings’ is it? however a happy life a child might have, if that child dies before it’s tenth birthday it’s considered an absolute tragedy to die so young; before his/her life had really even begun; what a waste; how incredibly sad.
So how on earth do we justify taking the lives of these animals at such a tender age? We can’t really can we if we really stop to think about it. but somehow we all turn a blind eye and billions of animals are slaughtered every year way way before their time. That’s the real tragedy.
So this is an amusing prank video carried out in a supermarket in Brazil which is worth watching just for people’s faces and reactions:
the reality of how our sausages get from piggy to pan is something that none of us are actually comfortable with. When faced with the reality of it, we are completely repulsed by it. So why do we happily buy and east sausages? Because we can do so without ever having to face up to the reality of the hideously cruel world we are financing and supporting. How many of you have been to a pig farm like this one in Scotland?
Or this one in Vermont?
How many of you have ever been inside a slaughterhouse and watched a pig being ‘processed’?
I was bought up surrounded by animals and farmers and my dad was a sheep farmer. But the reality of the slaughterhouse process, especially the industrial scale ones we are seeing more and more of as the world’s appetite for meat grows, sickens me to my stomach and I’m sure it would yours if you were brave enough to do your research and take a closer look at how your sausages arrive on your supermarket shelves or butchers hooks.
What’s the deal with veal?
I think veal sums up everything that is bizarre and cruel about eating meat. Veal is the meat of bull calves – usually from dairy cattle. These calves are taken away from their mothers at around a day old and then kept in hutches, stalls or indoor sheds to restrict movement so as to prevent connective tissue from developing as the paler the meat the better the quality is considered. Nice.
And of course these are the lucky ones. Or unlucky ones. Depends on how you see it. Up to 99,000 are still shot every year and over 10,000 exported to the continent because the demand for veal in this country is obviously nothing like the demand for dairy so there is a huge surplus of male dairy calves. Just imagine a pile of 99,000 dead day old male calves – what a heinous waste – just so that we can have our milk and cheese. How can a pint of semi-skimmed milk or a chunk of cheddar ever justify the barbaric means?
Veal has always been a controversial issue in terms of animal welfare but there are improvements happening and people are becoming more aware.
Multiple animal welfare organizations, who strongly focus on factory farming, have spent decades trying to educate consumers about several veal production procedures they consider to be inhumane. This education has proven successful in creating pressure on the industry, resulting in changes in the methods used by the veal industry over the past 30 years or so.
Living space was always a huge issue of concern and a strong animal welfare movement concerning veal started in the 1980s with the release of photographs of veal calves tethered in crates where they could barely move. After the release of these photographs, veal sales plummeted, and have never recovered.
Veal crates thank became illegal in the UK in 1990, and a full ban was placed for the entire European Union in 2007. The American Veal Association has announced their plan to phase out the use of crates by 2017. So that’s at least progress.
Although not common in the UK, veal farms are widespread on the continent. Around six million calves are reared for veal within the EU every year. The biggest EU producers are France (over 1.4 million calves), the Netherlands (1.5 million calves) and Italy (almost 800,000 calves).
If you insist on eating veal then here’s a good article with guidelines on how to do it as ethically as you can from the freedomfood.com website:
What’s the deal with ethical veal?
Well, it is not quite that simple. The veal industry rightly got a very bad name due to the use of veal crates, one of the most bizarre and cruel ways to keep calves it is possible to come up with. Fortunately, the crates were banned in the UK in 1990 and eventually banned across the EU in 2006. But while crates may be a thing of the past and the calves have to be given some roughage as part of their diet, the standards for rearing veal calves in the EU are still lower than those required in Britain. It’s not just the amount of space provided that is different. Calves on the continent don’t have to be given straw bedding once they are more than two weeks old and EU legislation does not require their diet to be sufficiently iron-rich to avoid the animals becoming anaemic. All-in-all, it is hardly surprising that veal has disappeared from the welfare-conscious shopper’s trolley. But if you eat meat, like a drop of milk in your tea or a slice of cheese in your sandwich, it is time to think again.
There is a very strong argument for eating veal – but only British high-welfare or British rose veal*. About 10,000 male British dairy calves were killed last year, simply for being the wrong sex and unable to produce milk. With the ban on live transport lifted, a further shocking 11,000 were shipped abroad last year – and the live transport trade is growing. Animal lovers are rightly concerned about the fact that live calves are transported over these distances, sometimes in appalling conditions and having experienced the trauma of auction, to live in conditions illegal in the UK. It’s an issue Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA have been trying to tackle through a forum on veal calf exports they set up in 2006. A recent RSPCA survey revealed consumers are really concerned about live transport and an epetition against the live export of calves is currently gathering signatures (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42002) .
British high welfare veal provides another, ethical option. Calves can be reared in the UK where legally they have to be given bedding and a proper diet that not only ensures their digestive systems can develop normally, but also ensures they do not become anaemic. Choose veal with the Freedom Food logo and the animals will have been reared to RSPCA standards, which ensures higher welfare.
Farmers like Freedom Food member David Tory are raising British veal calves which are free to run around with pen mates and in fact have a longer life than chicken, pigs, turkeys and lamb!
Your choices make such a difference – so always make sure it’s British high-welfare veal – whether you are cooking at home or eating out.
*Freedom Food labelled British high welfare veal comes from calves reared to the RSPCA welfare standards, slaughtered between 6 and 12 months. They must have evidence that their blood haemoglobin is above accepted levels. Calves slaughtered between 8 and 12 months can also be called ‘rose’ veal.
Another day… another mindless mass slaughter…
This morning over a million birds will be slaughtered in Hong Kong after an outbreak of ‘bird flu’. If these numbers shock you then perhaps they shouldn’t given that around 20,000 animals are killed every minute for their meat (not including fish). Epidemics like these only come about when such an unnatural number of birds are kept together in such unnatural conditions. As always, it’s the animals that pay the highest price. It is thought that this particular strain of bird flu wouldn’t affect humans anyway. This mass slaughter is precautionary…
This year’s badger cull in the UK, the selective slaughter programme to try and eradicate BSE in 2001…. what will it take for us to stop farming these animals in such large numbers, keeping them in such unnatural conditions and transporting them such unnatural distances? It’s all just so depressing when the whole thing is so easily avoided. Just stop eating animals!
Here’s what the BBC News has to say today:
The Hong Kong authorities have ordered the slaughter of virtually all poultry in the territory to prevent the further spread of an outbreak of a disease known as “bird flu”.
Imports of poultry from the rest of China are also to be suspended. Environment and Food Secretary Lily Yam said 1.2 million birds would be slaughtered.
But she added that the virus was different to the 1997 strain, which killed six people, and would not affect humans.
The precautionary slaughter of 4,500 chickens began on Wednesday.
The infection is a new and highly virulent strain of avian flu.
In the first 24 hours, it killed almost 800 chickens, kept in cages in three separate markets.
Now all the chickens, ducks, geese and quail in the territory’s markets, along with all mature poultry on its farms, will be slaughtered at a cost of over $10m.
Since Wednesday, the disease has been discovered in 10 different places.
And demand for chickens in the territory has dropped dramatically, with scared consumers switching to other meats or vegetables.
Hong Kong consumes about 100,000 fresh chickens a day, and imports 70% of its poultry from China.
The appearance of the H5N1 virus in Hong Kong in humans in 1997 prompted fears of a worldwide epidemic.
And a 1998 study showed similarities between the virus and Spanish flu, an outbreak of which killed between 20 and 40 million people in 1918.
A less serious strain infected two children in 1999, and there were unconfirmed reports of further cases in China’s southern provinces.
Most bird flu viruses do not replicate efficiently in humans.