Please join me in imagining a planet where the following happens – billions of cats and dogs are raised in unpleasant conditions, killed and then eaten by humans. Now, imagine that these dogs and cats feel as much pain, if not more, than humans, that the planet’s scientists have shown how eating them is harmful to humans and that the process of growing and killing them is destroying the planet’s ecosystem. Please take a moment to reflect on this.
Now, I’m sure the picture I have painted will have not sat right with most of you. You may have been struck by the cruelty, the waste, or by the breath taking arrogance displayed. You may have felt a sense of outrage, pity or disgust. You may have wondered how such a state of affairs was allowed to be, let alone continue.
The problem is, this planet does exist. Each year roughly fifty billion innocent creatures are enslaved, tortured and killed. They are eaten by humans, resulting in poor health. Our planet, Earth, is destroyed in the process. The power of language and of social narratives, such as cultural and religious tradition, has led people to regard some of our fellow creatures, such as pigs and cows, as fully deserving of a premature and painful death whilst regarding others, such as cats and dogs, as family. People are used to this view and so it endures. It seems, then, that Orwell’s famous dystopian maxim ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’ contains a more literal truth than is commonly understood.
Now, as strange and unnatural as our meat eating situation is, I think it is quite easily explained – for thousands of years people killed and ate other animals to survive. Two of the essential building blocks of human life, protein and fat, were often hard to get from plant sources and killing a large animal could sustain a family, or even a community, for some time. This made sense. Then, around ten thousand years ago, many people exchanged this ‘hunter gatherer’ lifestyle for an easier version of it - the agricultural one. This logic is also simple – why spend all day running round trying to kill animals with a spear when certain species could be tamed and easily killed? The problem is, the logic stuck while much of the world changed.
We now know of the sentience and cognition of animals and, therefore, their capacity for suffering. The industry of farming and slaughter inflicts unimaginable emotional and physical pain on literally billions of creatures. They are cooped up, castrated, branded, raped and murdered. I defy anyone to explain how, in many cases, this isn’t what happens.
We now know the damage that eating bodies and their secretions does to the human body – the far from slightly increased chances of heart attack, stroke, cancer, dementia, arthritis, diabetes and obesity.
We now know the damage that this industry does to the planet – the interruption of the ecosystem in the form of unnaturally high species birth and death rate, surplus methane and the huge swathes of forest and field made barren by, and the huge supplies of grain used for, cattle farming. We now know a lot. So why do we still live like our Stone Age ancestors, who had no greengrocer down the road?
If every human being on earth adopted the vegan lifestyle tomorrow we would be in a better situation - there would be a lot less pain, a lot less disease and a lot less planetary damage, not to mention more fertile land and more economical methods of food growth and food distribution. The problem is, and I know this because I held the opinion myself until I was twenty five, the vegan lifestyle is generally seen as a strange one: unhealthy and restricted. But the fact is, as I hope some of you know/will know, the exact opposite is the case. A simple purchase of the book ‘1000 vegan recipes’ or a simple watch of Russia Today’s interview with Dr. Neal Barnard will show this.
I have been vegan for nearly two years now, after an ‘on and off’ three month transition period, and I consider it the best thing I have ever done. I lost weight, I have more energy and I no longer have that very distant but very nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me that my body doesn’t feel right. I find it easy to find vegan replacements, such as sausages and burgers, I find it easy to get vegan options in restaurants, particularly in Indian, Thai and Italian places, and I am always learning of new and delicious meals to cook. Some of my new homemade favourites include chickpea and coconut milk curry, spicy peanut butter noodles and Brazilian stew with banana and mango. As long as you keep an eye on your protein (60g per day - good sources are nuts, tofu and flaxseeds), your fat (70g - flapjacks, dark chocolate and coconut milk), and your B12 (0.0015mg - soya milk, marmite and supplements) each day can become effortlessly vegan.
So come on brothers and sisters – look inside yourselves and search your consciences. Are you ready to obey ethics, obey nature and help pull the plug on the disgusting industry that convinced you to disobey them in the first place?