We’ve come a long way in the last few decades in our awareness of animal rights. Of course there’s plenty of cruelty still – that’s a given; but in 2015 the number of vegetarians in the world, for instance, was estimated at 375 million; a great many of those out of choice (rather than e.g. that their habitation doesn’t offer animal protein, or they can’t afford it).
Meantime, the number of vegans is increasing hugely: in the States, the last 10 years the number of vegans has grown by 350%. More than 3% of US citizens identify themselves as vegan. Here in the UK, our rise is 360% in the 10 years to 2016, with half a million people identifying themselves as vegan. China has a higher percentage than anywhere.
Can you imagine how few people would even have been aware of the concept of veganism 100 years ago?
For many people, this is a lifestyle/health choice. (There is a growing number of vegan athletes, for instance.)
For many others, though, including lacto-vegetarians or even fish and meat eaters, reducing or cutting out animal products is also driven by a greater awareness of the gross cruelties visited routinely on animals bred for – let’s face it – our predation.
There is a great deal I could write on this; and there is much already written on many very good vegan or vegetarian sites.
But right now what I want to draw your attention to is the fact that the hard-won victory for animals in 1997, in which they were given legal status and protected rights as sentient beings – yes, it took that long – could now, just 20 short years on, be overturned if Michael Gove, DEFRA Secretary of State, continues with the intention not to honour this status.
When EU law has been converted into UK law, DEFRA has said they are likely to ignore Article 13 of the EU Treaty – which serves to acknowledge that animals can feel pain, suffer and experience joy (in other words, are sentient beings):
‘This obligation will not be preserved by the EU (Withdrawal Bill); which delivers our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK.’ (DEFRA Under-Secretary of State, Lord Gardiner, August 2017)
If future British governments do not legally need to consider animal sentience, not only is this an enormously regressive step after such a struggle to have their rights recognised even minimally in law, but it could also let in further abuses. The idea that in 2017 it might be that we don’t even recognise animals, legally, as being anything other than machines for our appetites or entertainment is beyond grotesque.
If you feel you could help, there’s a petition to be signed, and a small donation to Compassion In World Farming would be very welcome. And, of course, if you are reading this you’re probably already a vegan; but if not, you could cut animal products completely out of your diet; or if you can’t imagine this step, you can reduce your meat intake and ensure that whatever you do eat comes from a more humane rearing method than factory farming (2 out of every 3 food animals are factory-farmed). Remember, however, that transportation and abattoir deaths will inevitably involve fear, cruelty and suffering.
Incidentally, Jeremy Corbyn is a vegetarian, and is (cautiously) possibly heading towards veganism (can you imagine Ms May being animal-free inclined?). The Guardian reporting on this gave a nod to the virtues of veganism. You can read a little more on this on one of the best vegan sites, One Green Planet.