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
Arcadia’s rude awakening…
So my daughter (Arcadia, 5 yrs old) has started to notice that Ed and I don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy and is beginning to ask questions. This shouldn’t be tricky but of course it is because all I want, as a parent, is to be able to answer any questions my children might ask me, as honestly and thoughtfully as I can and with eating animals this is tricky. For example… here’s yesterday’s conversation:
Arcadia: “Mummy why don’t you eat sausages?”
Me: “Because sausages are made from pork which comes from pigs and I don’t want to eat pigs”.
Arcadia: “Sausages don’t come from pigs mummy they come from shops”.
Me: “Yes we buy them from shops but they are made from pigs that have been raised and killed for their meat”.
Arcadia: “But that’s horrible. Why would people kill pigs?”
Me: “Because they like the taste of sausages”.
Arcadia: “Maybe they don’t know their sausages come from pigs – I think we should tell them. Or maybe it should say pig on the packet and not sausages and then people would know not to eat them. I don’t think the school knows that sausages are pig because then people wouldn’t eat them”.
Now why people would choose to kill and eat pigs when they don’t need to is completely flabbergasting to me so how on earth I explain it to a 5 yr old I don’t know. Because of course it makes entirely no sense to her – as it doesn’t to me. Now I could tell her what my parents told me which was that pigs and cows are here to provide us with food. I could say that they live long and happy lives on Old Macdonalds farm before one day, after a long and happy life, they wander down the lane to the cosy slaughterhouse and get turned into scrummy sausages for the lovely butchers. But of course I can’t because we all know this is utter bullshit. So I am left with trying to tell her the truth, to arm her with the facts so that she can then make up her own mind, without leaving her entirely dumbstruck, appalled and confused because these aren’t things that a 5 yr old should be feeling. But the facts leave her feeling all of those things.
Luckily there is a Rastafarian boy in her class who is vegetarian and a Hindu girl who doesn’t eat beef and a Jewish boy who doesn’t eat pork and only eats kosher and lots of Muslim children who only eat halal so she can discuss all of their food choices with them and make up her own mind.
Today she told granny that she didn’t want to eat the fish that she’d bought her for lunch because she didn’t want to ‘kill fishes”. Granny promptly cooked and fed her fish anyway so its clearly going to be a long and bumpy road…
Any advice from parents, teachers, siblings etc who have fielded questions on the subject from curious small people is very welcome!
We have absolutely no need to eat either. So stop.
Watch this video of some cows ‘seeing off’ a dairy farmer who is trying to remove the calf from the herd. Firstly because it’s quite amusing and always feels good to see the cows score a point every once in a while but mainly because it reminds us that these animals are not machines and shouldn’t be treated as such. They have much the same instincts that we do – especially when it comes to protecting their young. That we ‘despatch’ their calves so that we can steal their milk is utterly inexcusable.
That milk is designed for her calf.
Her calf needs that milk.
We do not.
Yep. Pretty weird…
Drinking cow’s milk is as weird and unnatural as it looks.
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.
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.
I don’t say this often… but well done The Daily Mail!
An article about the effects of animal agriculture on climate change. Not the most in-depth article but with a readership of nearly 3 million people, this is a huge step towards educating people about the effects and consequences that their food choices heating meat and dairy has on the environment:
Will following the A-listers and going vegan like Gwyneth, Beyonce and Anne help stop global warming?
Why you don’t need Dairy!
A great lecture explaining why we don’t need dairy in our diets at all….!
The Dark Side of Dairy
I try not to post any video that are unnecessarily brutal, shocking or upsetting as no one wants to see those – meat eater or not. Here is a thoughtful video which isn’t remotely shocking. Just talking you through the life of a dairy cow.