But you eat soya

Agriculture in general has become a sprawling environmental disaster.

The reason I don’t eat animals is because I consider their personal experience of reality, and don’t believe it is ethical to treat them as property. I certainly don’t want to kill and eat them.

As it happens, veganism is better for the planet. All the energy humans consume originally comes from the sun. Plants and most algae contain chloroplasts, which enable them to photosynthesise, and harness the sun’s energy, utilising it for their own survival. When animals eat plants, they, in turn, use this energy to go about their lives. Some of these animals are eaten by other animals, and again, those animals make use of the energy that originated from the sun.

With each additional step in the ‘food chain’, the transfer of energy will become less efficient, as each organism will have used energy to sustain themselves, and much of it will have been transformed into other types of energy, and have dissipated back out into the universe. The further we get from photosynthesis, the more inefficient the process.

The nature of energy transfer means we have to feed a lot of calories to farm animals to get relatively few out. It can take up to 26 calories from plants to produce 1 calorie from meat, and around 6kg of protein must go into an animal to produce 1kg. We can reduce this deficit if the animals we eat don’t use so much energy; if we keep them still, don’t allow them to live very long and essentially make life as miserable and fruitless as possible.

A vegan diet uses around 20 times less land, often thousands of times less water, and there is no need to administer hormones and antibiotics to animals. In the UK, 50% of all antibiotics are given routinely to farmed animals, and in the U.S it’s 80%.

Obviously, these are all very strong arguments in favour of a vegan diet. However, I am invariably told that my diet is harmful for the planet; sometimes I am told it is more damaging than eating meat.

I am told that small animals like field mice are killed when my crops are harvested. This argument holds no water, as far more land would be used to grow crops to feed animals to feed to me than if I stuck to a plant based diet. This would also free up woodland, so the little mice can frolic, free from harassment by combine harvesters.

Another argument is that we cannot sustain ourselves on grass, so it is efficient to use cattle to graze on grassland, and then have a more nutritious food source; the poor cow. Swathes of grassland is not good for the environment; the uniform, green desert means it is impossible for many other species of wildlife to live there. Currently, 26% of arable land is used for grazing cattle. A further 33% is used to grow crops to feed livestock. Woodland and rainforest is being leveled so this monoculture can thrive.

But it’s not all about livestock. There are many types of plant production that are damaging the environment. Simply adopting a plant-based diet is not enough. Palm oil is ostensibly vegan, but the scale and methods of its production is devastating rainforests, and endangering orangutans and tigers, as well as releasing carbon from the ancient peat bogs that lie beneath the annihilated forests.

Corn syrup, coffee and soya production all have their own evils. Corporations exploit poor farmers, and export crops from impoverished regions to satisfy our bloated western diet. Human population growth across the globe also drives this demand for crops and livestock; tackling that will take education, birth-control and the emancipation of women.

As someone who cares about the environment, I must be conscientious in my choices as a consumer.

But the harm caused by plant production is not a reason to eat animals. Not only is it counterproductive, (60% of corn and 80-98% of soya is fed to livestock) but I am not going to eat individuals who experience emotions because capitalist agricultural titans are ecologically bankrupt. The solution to unethical plant production is not eating sentient beings. Even if it were better for the environment to kill and eat animals, I would not be prepared to do that.

The scientific consensus continues to be that a plant based diet can feed more people using less resources.

If we truly want to tackle the issues surrounding plant production, let’s do that, not use it as a justification to continue eating meat.


We’ll be overrun by chickens

An argument I often hear when promoting veganism is:

Where will all the animals go? We’ll be overrun by cows/chickens/pigs.

We currently kill nearly 60 billion land animals a year, and between 1 and 3 trillion aquatic animals for food and clothing.

In the case of aquatic animals, we have killed so many that 95% of fish stocks have been depleted, and many species are on the verge of extinction. We would do well to stop fishing altogether and allow our oceans to be ‘overrun’.

As for the land animals, we specifically breed them in huge numbers. Some species have had their phenotype so drastically altered for optimum meat production that they can no longer breed normally, and have to be artificially inseminated en masse.

In reality, we are not all going to go vegan overnight. As more of us do though, demand will fall, and supply will dwindle accordingly. We will stop breeding so many animals. Eventually, the number left will be small enough to handle their emancipation with relative ease.

If we want to, we can keep a population of each type of farmed animal on reserves to prevent their extinction, though personally I would be content to allow domesticated species to die out.

If we allow farmed animals, whose breeding habits are currently strictly regulated, to breed as they choose, they will begin to resemble their historical phenotypes within a few generations. Soon they will no longer be reliant on human intervention for survival. There will be more land available for them to live on, as a vegan diet requires about 20 times less land to produce the same amount of food as an omnivorous diet. They will not pose a threat to wildlife and the environment anywhere near as much as animal agriculture does. We presently use 26% of arable land to graze farm animals, and a further 33% to grow crops to feed to farm animals. Farming animals is far more hazardous to the planet than releasing them.

In short, we will not be overrun by chickens.

Even if we all turn vegan today, I think it would be the least we could do to turn farms into reserves, allow all the farmed animals alive today to live out their natural lives in peace, and stop breeding new ones. We found the time and resources to accommodate them when we ate them, we can do the same out of compassion. Ending animal agriculture will mean there are more resources and space available for growing a more diverse range of crops, and will abrogate the need for decimating rainforest and woodland to make space for cattle.

The logistics of dealing with the problem of what to do with animals that we brought into existence in order to kill them for our pleasure and convenience is not a justification for continuing to breed, intern and slaughter them.

Why the long face?

Horse meat.

Lots of people are upset because they thought they were eating cow corpse but instead they are eating horse corpse. It is very upsetting.

I know how they feel, because I bought some leek soup, and it turns out it’s 25% cabbage. I am very upset.

Ok, I am being facetious, but you see my point.

Why are people so upset that their meat has been mislabeled? When I ask them, they say that products should be labeled properly, and that it is their right as a consumer to know what they are eating.

I think they know that’s not why. If it was their leek soup that actually contained cabbages, I don’t think most people would mind. It certainly wouldn’t make the news. If the products were labeled correctly, “contains horsemeat”, people in Britain wouldn’t buy them. This is not about labeling, it’s about horses.

If the beef products contained chicken, I don’t think there would be this uproar. If it contained pork, there may have been a furore because of religious abstentions, but I think people are upset because they like horses. There would undoubtedly have been even more of an outcry if the burgers contained dog. Because we LOVE dogs.

Horses and cows are very similar; they are closely related, they have similar levels of cognition. Horses run a bit faster.

Our objection is obviously because of our arbitrary cultural preferences when it comes to what animals we eat. Plenty of people eat horses, or dogs, or rabbits, or cows while others would find this objectionable. Not in the way that I find it objectionable; they are not concerned with how each animal perceives the world. They have cultural attachments to certain animals, and find the thought of eating them disturbing. Maybe because they are cute, or they grew up with them, or a religious text says they are dirty, or conversely, sacred.

British people like horses. They see them as part of the idyllic countryside way of life, they enjoy riding about on them. Even this is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. We happily jam a bit into their tender mouths to make them go where we want, and bet on which horse can run and jump the fastest without breaking their legs, whilst being whipped by a diminutive, flamboyantly dressed human.

But we certainly don’t want to eat them, because we read Black Beauty, much like we don’t want to cull badgers because we read The Wind in the Willows.

There is some conjecture that the meat is unsafe, due to the horses being given phenybutazone which may be harmful to humans over a lifetime’s exposure. If one is concerned about the carcinogenic effects of what one eats, one should probably be avoiding all red meat in the first place.

In short, if you are uncomfortable with eating horses, you should ask yourself why you are comfortable with eating cows.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort that arises from holding two conflicting beliefs.

As described in one of my earlier posts, I had always considered myself an animal lover, and thought I was largely kind to animals, yet I continued to eat them when I had no need to. This conflicting worldview manifested itself in bizarre behaviours such as moving snails from the path so they wouldn’t be trodden on en route to KFC, or throwing distasteful looks at people wearing fur whilst wearing a leather jacket.

Finally, I became a vegan, and abstained from eating, using or wearing animal products as much as one can when their presence has become so ubiquitous.

When speaking to non-vegans about why we shouldn’t eat animals, I often face quite a hostile reaction. Some people are clearly very offended, and I can understand why; no one wants to be told they are doing something cruel. I could just keep my views on it to myself, but as with any injustice, it is not enough to simply stop indulging in it yourself, though it’s a great start. I feel morally obliged to get other people to stop treating animals as though they are objects.

So this leaves me in a position where I am deeply offending and ostensibly attacking people I know and love for their actions. It can be a lonely place.

As part of my strategy to convince others that eating animals is wrong, I invoke the cognitive dissonance argument. I point out that if you believe that we shouldn’t cause harm to animals for fun, then the logical conclusion is that we shouldn’t eat meat.

Most of us would condemn those who take pleasure in watching a dog-fight, but why are we horrified by those who enjoy the sight of animals being harmed, but not horrified by those who enjoy the taste? Of course the usual arguments about our evolutionary legacy, nutritional needs and natural tendencies are rolled out, but it is a fact that you could stop eating animals today, right now, with no negative consequences. Other than you might miss the taste. And any reasonable person knows that liking the taste of their bodies is not a good enough argument for killing animals.

I am talking about kind, rational, liberal people who care about justice, who have compassion for the vulnerable. My friends. Yet they want to keep animals captive, kill them, and eat their corpses or, perhaps worse, pay someone else to do it for them. Because they like the taste. How can they reconcile this behaviour with their otherwise exemplary moral standpoints?

They can’t, just as I couldn’t, and this is why I am familiar with the arguments they use to defend it. We all KNOW that causing harm to animals for trivial reasons is wrong. We know it. So we come at it from another angle, we say that we aren’t harming animals, or that the reasons are not trivial.

But the reasons are trivial; you will not starve, or become ill if you don’t eat meat. It is not more expensive. It may have been part of our diet in the past, but you can stop today. We eat meat because we like the taste. We don’t eat it with a heavy heart, lamenting and saying ‘if only we didn’t have to eat these poor creatures, but we have no other choice’. We love it. We savour the the smell, the texture, the taste of their burnt and mutilated corpses. I am not using this language to be deliberately inflammatory, I am being honest about what it is we are doing when we eat meat. We eat their dead bodies and to say we are eating them for any other reason than we love it is disingenuous.

We tell ourselves they are not harmed. But we slaughter them. Again this jars the already fragile sense of equilibrium we had reached in order to reconcile our desire not to harm animals with our desire for flesh. We line animals up and systematically kill them. I am not going to describe the horrible reality of the slaughterhouse here, because it leaves room for apologists to imply that there is a kinder, more ‘humane’ way to kill them. If you want to believe they all die dignified, peaceful deaths, and that abattoirs are run by Dignitas, that’s fine. It is still systematic slaughter. We are still breeding, holding captive, and killing sentient animals, who are no different than our beloved dogs and cats, and really no different to us in any way that matters morally.

Many of us grew up with animals, they were part of the family. We worry about them when they get sick, pay vet bills to make them feel better. Because we understand that they have feelings, that they are individuals with different personalities. To paraphrase Tom Regan: what happens to them matters to them. We know what they enjoy about life, and what frightens them. We would rightly be upset and angry if someone tried to kill them for pleasure. Yet we do this to other animals every day, and wrongly become upset and angry when someone points out this contradiction.

I think we become so defensive and upset with evangelical vegans because we know that what we do to animals is wrong. Science has shown us that the non-human animals we eat are closely related to us, and have almost indistinguishable nervous systems. They have emotions, and they are aware of themselves and of the world. We consider ourselves kind to animals, but we kill them and eat their bodies. And so does everyone else around us. And we conform, and tell ourselves it’s normal and natural. We tell ourselves that the way we keep and slaughter them is kind. That they have a good life. A quick clean, death.

Even if this was true, which I am sure it isn’t, but even if it was, just try to take a step back from what everyone says is normal, and take an objective look at the facts. We take a living, breathing, sentient creature with emotions and a distinct personality, who hasn’t consented to the process, and we kill her, cut her into pieces, burn her, and devour her body parts with glee. Please try to forget that it’s what we’ve done our whole lives, what we’ve done for millennia, that it’s what our mothers did for us growing up. It’s hard, it was hard for me, but try not to be offended by what I am suggesting. Take a critical look at your behaviour, from an objective standpoint. You are understandably trying to cope with the cognitive dissonance. You are thinking, ‘I am not cruel to animals, I am a good person, what I am doing is normal’. I did the same, and once I stopped consuming animal products, the inner conflict melted away and I felt much better about my relationship with non-human animals.

Try to remove all emotion and bias from your arguments. Look at the facts. We are killing and eating others because they are different, and they are unable to stop us. We know killing animals for fun is unkind. We know and love animals that we grew up with. We know we are animals. We know that we are no longer slaves to our evolutionary imperatives. We know we can stop, right now. We know we are good, considerate people. We know that taking pleasure in the suffering and death of animals is wrong. We all know it.

So we can continue pretending that systematically executing animals doesn’t cause them any harm, or that we really need to eat them. We can feed the cognitive dissonance that makes us feel so uneasy when we talk to vegans, or eat animals in front of them. We can pretend it is the vegan who is offensive, and not the slaughterhouse.

Or we can change.

It is obvious once you remove the normative effect of society’s attitude to animals, and reject the apologetics and euphemisms of the meat industry, that eating animals is unkind.

Ultimately we have to put our morality where our mouth is; if you want to be kind to animals, you must not eat them.

Please, go vegan.

Conservative: Holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in politics or religion.

I’m sure no one really believes the Conservative Party are capable of being decent and progressive, but just in case you were becoming concerned, here they are showing their true, blue colours.

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 10.04.34

These men are Tory diehards, proudly delivering a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him to delay the vote on gay marriage.

Ah, nothing like watching a group of sad old homophobes embarrass David Cameron by exposing the true views of the conservatives, while he makes a pathetic and transparent attempt at portraying the Tories as anything other than a bunch of relics and idiots, intent on preserving the privilege of white, male, heterosexual millionaires.
Conservatives never change; that’s the point.

No, after you…

Yesterday was one of the extremely rare occasions I use public transport.

When the bus I had been waiting for arrived, a man who had been there before me stepped behind me and said “After you.”

I said, “No it’s ok, you were here first, after you.”

He said no. He insisted I go ahead of him. I repeatedly declined. It went on for so long that the bus actually closed the doors and he had to jump forward quickly and get on the bus before me, at last, and I got on behind him. He threw me a reproachful look and tutted.

Why did I make such a big deal of it, some may ask. But a lot of women I know will understand exactly why. Because I suspect he only did this because I am a woman, and in particular a young woman who happens to fall within the strict boundaries of what our society considers “attractive”. Because more often than not, this sort of thing is a precursor to a chat-up line, and I don’t want to be chatted up. Because, despite me repeatedly and firmly saying NO he refused to listen to me. Because this is not the first time this has happened. Because I have, on more occasions than I can count, had drinks bought for me, bills paid for me, men sit at my table, men hold doors for me, give up seats for me, seek a conversation with me, ask for my number, insist on walking with me, ask me what I’m reading or where I’m going, and almost invariably, when I say no, or try to make my own choices and retain my autonomy, they will not take no for an answer.

We live in a world where men refusing to listen to what a woman is saying, and insisting on doing something even though she has said no repeatedly is considered politeness, and when women don’t like this, they are considered ungrateful and rude.

I am completely in favour of opening doors for people, and allowing them before me, regardless of their gender, but I am more in favour of listening to what people say and respecting their wishes. This isn’t about politeness, I am polite to strangers all the time, but I don’t push them into doing things they don’t want to do.

Chivalry is dead? If only.

Thank you!

I have been overwhelmed by how many people have viewed my blog, and astounded at the huge range of countries from which people have been logging on. Big up Virgin Islands, South Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Oman, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Brazil, Tunisia, India, Poland, Philippines, Estonia and literally too many other countries to mention whose residents have read my blog. The United States of America is currently racking up the hits faster than my home country, the UK.

Also, thank you for the comments, I haven’t had a chance to read them fully, but I will always publish comments unless they are truly malicious; even then I probably will, fuck it.

It is not my intention to get into debates in the comments section; one of the reasons I started this blog was so I didn’t keep doing that on facebook, but I will try to write articles that cover any points raised in the comments, so if I don’t respond to your point, please keep an eye out, I will probably do so in a blog post at some point. Of course, if you feel I’m not dealing with any points raised, please pull me up on it.

I’d just like to remind everyone that, while I understand that I may cover some topics that are considered controversial, I am not a professional writer, and I didn’t expect so many views from strangers. I am very glad so many of you have looked at my work, and even taken the time to comment, but please remember I am writing down my thoughts because I’m trying to make the world a little bit kinder, starting with myself, and it is not my aim to speak for anyone or to attack individuals, rather to question they dynamics of society and encourage others to question themselves. Take it easy on me!

I welcome all your comments, thank you so much for reading.

Peace and love to all sentient beings.