Why vegetarianism isn’t enough

Growing up I was always taught by my mum to be kind to animals. We never had less than 5 rescue animals in our home. My mum would put food out for hedgehogs, and tend to them when they were hit by cars. My dad even lassoed a starving german shepherd from the back of a moped. True story. I was told bullfighting and dog fighting was abhorrent, that vivisection was deplorable and that fox hunters were the scum of the Earth. My mother wouldn’t talk to our Australian cousin that shot kangaroos for sport.

But I never questioned why we sat down and ate animals for dinner every night.

As an adult I would move earthworms and snails from the path, lest they were trodden on, on my way to KFC. I never could stomach spare ribs or chicken on the bone because it reminded me that my food was once an animal; everything had to be reshaped and covered in euphemistic breadcrumbs. How could I exhibit such conflicting behaviour for so long?

It wasn’t until I was about 24 that I decided I couldn’t eat animals any more. So I became a vegetarian. But I still wore and even bought new leather, and cooked meat for others. It was half-arsed.

It wasn’t until I was 28 and I began to read more about animal rights that I started to consider veganism.

What did happen to all the boy chicks that are useless in egg production, and all the baby boy cows that don’t produce milk? What happens when the adults’ milk and egg production rates dropped off and they were no longer profitable? Do they live out their natural lives in retirement homes, a golden handshake for their years of sacrifice and hard work? No, they had the same fate as the animals that ended up in breadcrumbs.

I learned that animal products are morally indistinguishable from meat.

Millions of cows and chickens die every year as a result of the egg and dairy industry.

Baby boy chicks are gassed, or ground up and fed back to their parents. The female chickens have been bred to lay egg after egg, whether they’re free range or battery. No wild bird would use up precious energy on this travesty of a menstrual cycle.

Dairy cows are repeatedly impregnated from the moment they are fertile, their young ripped away from them so they don’t drink the milk meant to nourish them, often sent for veal production or simply bolt-gunned on the day they are born. Meanwhile their mothers mourn, locked in a cage for 16 hours with pumps attached to their nipples, machines sucking their grotesquely swollen, optimally bred udders until they bleed. And when they’ve been through this 3 or 4 times, they are strung up and slaughtered along with their meat-producing brethren. Many are pregnant when this happens, and the soft, velvety skin of their foetuses is used to make expensive leather gloves and bags. Dairy is the ultimate appropriation and commodification of motherhood.

Sure, you could argue that you could keep a cow on some land and milk her guilt-free, but as any mammal would, she would stop producing milk once her baby was weaned. We can’t allow that, we want her milk. And sure her pendulous udder is prone to infection and cancer because we’ve slowly deformed her through selective breeding, generation after generation to produce pints of the white stuff. But who wants black tea?

Maybe we could keep some chickens and take their eggs, they don’t need them? But if we stopped breeding for superfluous egg production the birds would start to choose their own mates and return to their earlier phenotype, and stop laying so many eggs. They don’t owe us anything.

The egg and dairy business is particularly brutal in the context of capitalism, where we exterminate the slackers and dispose of the males. But as adult humans, should we really be drinking milk from somebody else’s breast, someone who isn’t even the same species as us? Do we really need chicken ovulations on toast every morning? Especially when it comes at such a price.

We are keeping them captive and treating them as objects because we like their secretions, and it results in a life of suffering and a premature death. It doesn’t matter if the sticker says organic and free range; these labels are there to make people who don’t want to harm animals feel ok about harming animals.

Veganism is a commitment to refusing to treat animals as property, and it was very hard to accept as an animal lover and a vegetarian, that i was doing just that.

If you don’t want animals to die for your dinner, then you have to give up eggs and dairy.

I may not like the taste of vegan cheese, but the taste left in my mouth from my research into the dairy industry was far harder to wash away.

I implore you, do the research yourself, and if you care about what happens to animals, go vegan.


6 thoughts on “Why vegetarianism isn’t enough

  1. Wow this is an incredibly honest piece that so brilliantly explains the suffering we inflict on these poor animals. I was raised vegetarian since I was 8 but we ate dairy, bought leather shoes and wore silk and wool. It wasn’t until last year (I was 32) that I realised it’s all just different kogs in the same machine and I basically couldn’t sleep at night when I found out what the dairy / leather / luxury goods industry actually is.

    Thanks for the post, I have shared it on my Facebook page for all to see.

  2. Everyone has different ideas on this and there’s a lot of misinformation. For example, a cow stops giving milk after it’s baby is weaned only if it’s not being milked daily. Otherwise a cow produces for over 300 days.
    Animals in capitivity are often under-producing in captivity. To keep animals in top shape most farmers give them a break before re-breeding so that they have succesful births and high production. But in the wild an animal tends to be re-bred immediately at the whim of whatever male animal is around. That’s why most animals have a gestation period almost identical to (or just a little longer than) their weaning period! Wild rabbits for example gestate in 35 days, wean at 28 and can have 6+ litters a year consisting of 3-10 babies spread over a mere 7 consecutive months (as in, not winter). In captivity most rabbits are weaned at 6 weeks, and re-bred at 8, giving them a mere 4 litters each year and spread out over a whole year. Most breeders try not to get litters over 8 because mom has trouble with so many babies. And lone babies (or too many babies), instead of being abandoned to die are often fostered to a new mom where they can live free of natural selection and predation.
    Cows also produce so much milk that if they are not milked they suffer severely. Even with a calf on them they produce 10 gallons of milk a day. A baby cow may drink half that. Even beef cattle tend to have this as a problem. It is species wide and comes from humans having over 3000 years of domestic cattle and drinking their milk. Get rid of all milk consuption and you get rid of all domestic cows. Besides which any female animal (including humans!) who is not spayed by the time they reach sexual maturity is very prone to mammary issues and cancers… And ANY mom that produces more milk than her young can drink (including humans) is prone to bad infections. Cows are far from alone in this… And most farmers breed animals to have FEWER health problems, not more! More health problems is a great expense on a farmer.
    Some chickens lay a lot of eggs per year but still lay for 7-8 years of their lives (which a chicken perhaps has 10 years total) unlike others that only lay 2-3 years. Many ducks are the same. At this point they are at the age that they begin to have issues from age anyhow and have lived long lives… Longer than they would have in the wild!
    So not every farm is the horrible factory nightmare described, so don’t think non-vegans don’t care about animals. There are many wonderful and more humane sources for food than your local manufactured factory foods. And to feed everyone a vegan diet with no domestic livestock would destroy the environment with manufactured nitrogen and pesticides. Modern grain farming already shows massive environment destruction but organic fertilizers such as cow manure (along with crop rotation) can be used to grow high-yeild plants while building soil condition. If no one eats or uses what the animals used in that produce (meat, eggs, dairy, leather, wool, etc) then even more space is needed to supply the world; a world that already has billions of acres of deforestation and global warming.

    So maybe look beyond PETA and go visit a real, sustainable, non-factory farm. Learn about how the farmer knows every animal, and sincerely does feel bad about sending them to butcher but is proud to be feeding the world a well-kept creature that lived a good life. Research about sustainable farming methods and crop-rotations and how current plant gorwing works. You might think a little different about those of us who make good choices about the meat we eat. :3

  3. Oy! It was so good until you said “I may not like the taste of vegan cheese..” Why? Why did you go so far, only to drop that little gem into the laps of the folks that instead need to be told about the remarkable strides vegan cheese has made in just the last few years? PunkRawk Labs is making such extraordinary cheese that my ultra-foodie, totally non-veg friends are craving it long after I’ve shared it with them. Daiya cheese is so extraordinarily good in every preparation, that I’m sitting here right now working on a business plan for a product that will feature it prominently. Dr. Cow cheeses have been taken, by me, to so many omni potlucks and time and again, the non-vegans have whispered to me that they were scarfing it while the rest of the party guests were out of the room. RauOm’s Tofu Misozuke is an ancient delicacy from Japan that has fooled and delighted so many vegans and omnis alike—it is one of my most favorite cheeses to share. I suspect you’re not in America, so I understand you may not have had these cheeses yet, but certainly you’ve had the well-loved Sheese, haven’t you? And, I’ve long heard that the world’s best vegan cheese comes from the Netherlands, perhaps it’s worth a weekend jaunt? Of course, no matter where you or your readers are, any and all can purchase the new vegan bible, er, I mean, Miyoko Schinner’s recent book release, Artisan Vegan Cheese. The release party for the book featured so many gorgeous, delicious, mind-bogglingly satisfying cruelty-free cheeses, I thought all the vegans were going to die right there from happiness overload.

    Thank you for your post. It is fantastic and one I’ll certainly share, though with just the tiniest bit of regret over that one unfortunate line.

  4. Thanks for such a great and very powerful piece. One that should leave a lot of animal lovers thinking long after they leave this page. The vivid and tragic picture you have painted of needless, animal suffering and death will be hard to forget. Let’s hope some converts come out of your efforts- Tweeting this for sure!

  5. Thank you for this. I was a vegetarian for many years before going vegan and I am so thankful I finally saw what I was supporting. I can’t imagine ever going back or even being tempted to do so. You might want to try more vegan cheeses because some are really good! 🙂

  6. Thank you for the comments. As I said in my most recent blog post, I don’t wish to get into long debates in the comments, rather to write more posts, but I will answer a couple of points:

    I agree that mammals will keep giving milk if we keep milking them, I am arguing that we shouldn’t do that, with the caveat that yes, due to the way we have bred cows, they are overproducing milk and have swollen udders, and it may be the kindest thing to do to milk them, but I do not want to drink or sell their milk, and I wish to end the selective breeding of animals that causes this overproduction. My scientific understanding is that this would be rectified within a few generations.

    I also agree that nature is cruel, and that most wild animals die in pain, and am not arguing that domesticated animals would have a better life in the wild, but we breed them in addition to all the wild animals, and I don’t agree with this. I will write more fully on this matter in a post I have planned. I will also respond to the points about veganism and the environment in an upcoming post.

    I do not think that non-vegans don’t care about animals, but that cultural norms have allowed us to care about animals at the same time as being brutal and violent towards them for no good reason; again I will write about this cognitive dissonance soon.

    Regarding PETA, I try to look beyond them as often as possible, mainly because I find their material virtually indistinguishable from Playboy, and I don’t like Playboy.

    Chris I am sorry about the cheese thing, it’s true I’m not the biggest fan, but I was also not a fan of non-vegan cheese! I didn’t intend it to be so loaded, I was really looking for a way to contrast something I didn’t really enjoy eating with the idea of a bad taste in my mouth from what I had done, i.e eating animal products. I hope my points are strong enough to resonate with people regardless of how good the vegan alternatives to dairy are, but I take your point.

    Many thanks for all your comments, they are much appreciated, and I hope to hear from all of you again soon.

    Sorry for the cop out of not really answering all the points on here, but I promise, I will write about all this.

    Peace and love. x

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