dairy farming is inherently inhumane

– period. It’s not about high welfare standards. It’s not about grass-fed rather than indoors and on concentrates. It’s not even about organic or otherwise. It’s about sentience, compassion, empathy.

In what they’ve described as a ‘landmark ruling for animal rights’, Go Vegan World is celebrating:

‘In a landmark decision the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) has ruled in favour of the Go Vegan World campaign, finding that our ad that lets people know that dairy is inherently inhumane is not misleading. This independent, official finding that our ad has been objectively substantiated with supporting evidence is hugely significant for the campaign and for animal rights.’

To read more, click here.

Dairy: thoughts on motherhood, cultural conditioning and hope

This excellent post from https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/dairy-thoughts-on-motherhood-cultural-conditioning-and-hope coincides with my thinking about how to address the ‘why lacto- vegetarianism isn’t enough’ issue on 57billion. Not only is this an excellent article, but it also offers me a lead-in for a brief piece to begin to address these issues on this blog. With thanks to the author of the original Elephant in the Room blog.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality A new mother warily watches the humans while defensively standing over her newborn.

When we are not vegan and we hear the word ‘dairy’, what do we think of?  We think of milk and cream, of yogurt and crème frais, of butter and cheeses, and of ice cream and chocolate. We think of ingredients and commodities, divorced from their source, vaguely but cosily wrapped in feel-good ideas like ‘harmless’ and ‘humane’, ‘free range’, ‘grass fed’ and ‘organic’.

We are encouraged to think of dairy as a harmless substance and millions of pounds, millions of dollars are spent by a heavily subsidised industry every year on the most skilled marketers money can buy, who use high-profile advertising to keep us thinking that way. Once we become sensitised to the prevalence of the advertising promoting and normalising dairy use, it is truly breathtaking to note how widespread it is.  The advertising is…

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spring & wild garlic (recipe)

The courtyard’s thick with birdsong. Over across the brook, hillsides blaze with gorse. Here in Devon, the lanes now are almost at their cusp of fullness. We’ve the deep mauve of dog violet, periwinkle and early purple orchid; the ultraviolet of bluebells; dark pink and pale pink campion; white wild strawberry flowers, the stitchworts, Queen Anne’s lace, jack-by-the-hedge and wild garlic in abundance; and of course the gold embroiderers: dandelion and buttercup, against the buttermilk of primroses.

Since February wild garlic has loomed large in our cooking, accompanying the last of our leeks in various dishes, added to salads with our rocket, chopped into leek, potato and nettle soup.

So here’s a vegan sort-of pesto sauce for you:

Take: 
1 large handful of wild garlic leaves, washed well
Half that amount of rocket
1 handful of nettle tips, picked young, stripped from the stalk and wilted for 1-2 minutes in boiling water
Whizz up together with a generous gloop of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of pine nuts.
I added the juice from one lemon; or to taste
Season
If you can find it, 3 tbsps of Coyo – vegan yoghurt made from coconuts – completely transforms this.

Pour onto hot or cold vegetables, or stir into pasta; dip fresh warm bread into it.

open minds and playing mock the vegan

Here’s another good post from There’s an Elephant in the Room, with thanks for permission to reblog it:

Open minds and playing mock the vegan


Every day I read comment after comment from those who dismiss science in favour of support for industry advertising campaigns that play to and reinforce our confirmation bias. It dismays me to witness how many will willingly ridicule the recognition of the sentience of our victims and the fact that not only we do not require to use them for nutritional purposes, but that we are in fact harmed by doing so.

How naïve have we become, to delight in playing ‘mock the vegan’, while lapping up the multi-million media advertising campaigns by the massive industries that market sentient animals, their corpses, eggs and lactation, as commodities and resources, filling their coffers as they laugh all the way to the slaughterhouse?

Since when have we become so trusting as to seriously entertain the idea that those who make their living from harming animals for us to consume as a completely unnecessary ‘food’, are going to be honest with us about the sentience of our victims, the injustice of what we are paying them to do and the very real risks they pose to our health?

Apart from the obvious truth that every one of us claims to care about animals so it clearly makes no sense for us to continue to harm them when it is unnecessary, I have nothing to gain except the hope that sharing my own experiences may help prevent others from taking massive risks with their own health and that of their children.

There are many studies that will tell us that animal products are good for us. There are also those who will tell us that the world is flat and that evolution is a lie. No idea is too preposterous not to have someone who believes and promotes it.

All I can ask is that you apply common sense and follow the money. If a report or a recommendation tells us that consuming animal substances is ‘healthy’ for us and ‘humane’ for them – check out the sponsors, the source and ask yourself who has much to gain from such an assertion. And keep an open mind, corporate sponsors have a surprisingly long reach.

It’s definitely a matter of life and death for our victims and most likely for ourselves as well.

Be vegan.

when they ask…

I know that, for many, the fact that one is vegan is challenging. I don’t like to criticise people, nor make them feel bad or guilty, so I don’t speak of it often. The truth is, when the subject of what one does or doesn’t eat comes up, many people – meat-eaters, that is – immediately become defensive, and then go on the offensive.

I can proselytise on animal welfare and environmental issues for Great Britain if I need to. I can put the case for animal rights ad nauseam to anyone who will listen.

But it’s more difficult to include and push forward my own personal commitments and ethics. Why? Because as a vegan it is so easy to come across as self-righteous and holier-than-thou, and there is nothing like an animal-lover who is following through on their ethics to a logical (vegan) conclusion to make people who consider themselves to be animal-lovers feel attacked and blamed if they’re not following through.

This is what Jungians would call shadow-projection: inside every meat-eating so-called animal lover is a probably-unconscious or partly-conscious nagging voice that says they could do better, and imagines that you’re about to tell them that.

These closet vegetarians or vegans are actually harder to deal with than those who’ve never thought about what they eat, or don’t even understand the concept of veganism, who will often listen with some interest. (Though indeed the former category might eventually be more open to going veggie or vegan; it’s obvious that they have some guilt about their diet, or they wouldn’t be so defensive.)

So mostly I don’t speak of my diet unless it comes up naturally in a conversation, or is relevant to e.g. eating at someone’s house.

But still, the large number of unsolicited attacks I’ve had from meat-eaters over the years when the topic has come up – very rarely raised by me – have ranged from awkward to painful to out-and-out aggressive.

These are the commonest reactions; you might recognise them:

Trick question #1 ‘But what about plants then?’
One (now ex-) friend as part of a wider conversation asked my reasons for being lacto-veggie (this was several years ago, before I became vegan), as she was catering for me.

I told her that my reasons were based on animal welfare: we know animals suffer physical pain as they have a central nervous system; and we know animals suffer fear and emotional pain too – you’d have to be mindlessly stupid and disconnected not to read an animal’s eyes, face and body language when it’s suffering (I didn’t tell her that she was mindlessly stupid and disconnected, however!).

I added that I’d made a commitment decades ago not to cause more harm than I could avoid.

(There is also, of course, deforestation to grow crops to feed animals, the inefficient use of land to produce meat, the issues of starvation elsewhere partly as a result of our industrial-scale farming practices, and the environmental issues associated with these things, all of which are relevant.)

A few days later, I noticed my exact words quoted by said ex-friend on a public internet forum as a dismissal of such an argument: ‘I find [this ‘animals suffer’ argument against eating meat] bizarre. What about plants?’

I was both hurt and speechless; it was worse because she had been a neuroscientist so should surely know what a central nervous system means in terms of the experience of suffering (but then again she’d worked for the tobacco industry too, which of course involves laboratory animals. I guess you can only live with that through denial.)

And I’ve met that argument over and over: ‘But what about plants? Don’t you think they suffer too?’

Well, as it happens, I do think that every sentient being does experience some kind of suffering – in their own way. But that’s a digression and can lead to a very flaky conversation.

More centrally, I also think it’s a mind-game: a displacement of guilt designed to trip me up, trap me, catch me out. Critically, it’s a diversion from the big topic of animal wellbeing.

It’s also a stupid argument. We have to eat something; we have to draw the line somewhere.

These days, my response would be something along the lines of ‘Well, I’ve been trying to live on air alone, but I felt a little faint; so it was me or the cabbage.’

Trick question #2: ‘Well, do you think that carnivorous animals are evil, then?’
No. I believe evil is a human construct. As it happens, I don’t believe it exists, though I think that ignorance and greed both exist in the human to the extent that we think everything here on this planet – and this planet itself – has been created as a resource for us. We are also the only species capable of destroying the environment on which we depend, too. Blame patriarchal institutions like the Judeo-Christian tradition, although I suspect this attitude predates that too.

An animal is historically adapted to eat biologically, anatomically, environmentally, what it needs to eat. Not only have we developed biologically as omnivores, but crucially we also have the consciousness to make choices, in a way that animals simply haven’t. (Those of us who live in the privileged Western world, anyway.)

Trick question #3: ‘What about e.g. the Inuit?’
I’m not saying the whole world has to be vegan. I’d love it, and a few billion animals would do a whole lot better, but I know it’s an impossibility. In the Arctic circle you don’t have a great deal of choice of vegetables.

Trick question #4: ‘But we need meat for health.’
Not true. Simply not true. There’s so much info available on the web I barely know where to start with this one. Generally, I keep calm and – if they’re genuinely interested – point them to one of the websites or the books I mention under RESOURCES.

Trick question #5: ‘But animals were put here for our use.’
Gaaaarrrgggh. Gaaaarrrgggh. Gaaaarrrgggh. Hard to keep calm on this one. See #2 above.

There are more. I’d love to hear of any ‘trick questions’ that have been levelled at you, and your responses.

Meantime, the first two books on my list here are very good resources, and one of them – I think it’s the Cheeseburger one but don’t have them here to check – has a list of common questions and excellent and informed responses.

As usual, btw, the latest post from this blog is well worth reading (it’s more hard-hitting than my post above):

https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/taking-our-time-taking-their-lives
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Response to a ‘welfare’ survey about hens used for eggs

Here’s an excellent argument, calm and reasonable, about why ‘animal welfare’ is not the issue; using animals at all as a resource is. I highly recommend this site: https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Joy at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary Joy, rescued from an ‘Enriched’ Cage

Missy, rescued from a 'Free Range' facility Missy, rescued from a ‘Free Range’ facility

There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted by a veterinary student with a request to complete a survey on the ‘welfare’ of hens in the egg industry. I did not complete it and have declined to promote it. Sharing my response.

‘Thank you for contacting me. I have viewed your survey and felt that my reason for not completing or promoting it warranted an explanation.

As a vegan activist, I got full marks in all categories. This emphasises that I am all too well aware of the facts surrounding the conditions in which humanity’s victims are exploited but these are not the reason why I am vegan and neither are they the reason why I promote veganism.

‘Welfare’ is a word that is much-overused by the exploitation industries and by those who promote and support them…

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a rant against speciesism

This is a guest blog, in fact a reblog, from my vegan cyber-friend David Ashton, who on his ‘Snowbranches‘ Buddhist blog writes mostly about living with compassion.

~~~

Mindful Blindness: A Rant Against Speciesism

Every time,
A twinge of sadness:
The meat department

Warning! This is a rant.

As you may have noticed, I love you all dearly. The last thing I want to do is cause you pain. Because this is a rant, I’m not taking aim at anyone in particular, but if you stand too close, you may get thwacked, I may hit a nerve, or even step on your beliefs. No hard feelings if you bail out at any time.

You could think of this as an address to the jury on behalf of a group of sentient beings facing the death penalty that can’t speak for themselves.

I’ve been a vegetarian for the past six years, and in total, about 15 of my 62 years, but have only been phasing eggs and dairy out of my diet for the past six months or so [as at 2011].

I am grateful to Peter Singer’s classic book Animal Liberation for helping to crystallize my thoughts on the subject. I have drawn freely from his ideas.

Speciesism, like cannibalism, slavery, religious persecution, racism and sexism, is the imposing of the will of a powerful group upon a weaker group – in this case, by humans upon other sentient species. We take it so much for granted that it often goes unnoticed. But it’s everywhere – not just on our dinner plates and covering our feet, but also at the rodeos, circuses, bullfights, hunting and fishing trips, the fur trade and clothing stores. Last but not least, the worst atrocities are hidden behind the walls of the factory farms and slaughterhouses.

The idea of animal liberation isn’t new. Plato and Pythagoras were vegetarians for ethical reasons. So was Leonardo Da Vinci. He would buy caged birds sold at the marketplace for food and then set them free. Edison and Einstein were another couple of smart guys that decided they didn’t need meat and stopped eating it.

The amount of suffering we inflict on animals is staggering. Of course, physical pain causes suffering – branding, de-horning, castrating, tail docking, de-beaking – all without anaesthetic.

But so does the psychological pain caused by frustrating the natural instincts to run, to root around, snuggle with a mother or an offspring, socialize normally, exercise and play. It’s not uncommon for pigs in factory farms to literally go insane, making endless repetitive movements and biting their own tails and their cage bars. Pigs are as intelligent and affectionate as dogs, but the idea of subjecting puppies to the same cruelty we bestow on pigs, and then killing and eating them, is unthinkable.

So why do we eat animals? What benefit can we possibly get that outweighs the suffering and killing?

I like the taste. You can make some really delicious veggie meals – avocados, ginger, oranges, roasted nuts, garlic – the combinations are endless. My dad used to say “hunger makes the best sauce”. I think eating with a glad heart makes things taste pretty good too.

They are dead already or I didn’t kill them. Every time you take a chicken home from the store, another chicken has to be killed to take its place on the shelf.  By eating them, we are causing their deaths. Like the starfish story posted over at Jomon’s lovely blog nothing to attain, every little bit of meat not eaten makes a difference.

I need my protein. True, but you can get it from plants.  Beans and grains provide all the essential amino acids our bodies require. End of story. If you don’t believe me (I’ve got a degree in nutritional biochemistry), ask the vegetarian Olympic athletes. If vegan Carl Lewis can win nine gold medals, surely I can drag my sorry ass to work and back without eating meat. The omega unsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil are abundant in flax seeds. The only thing lacking in a vegan diet is vitamin B12, which you can take as a supplement.

Our bodies are designed to eat meat – we have canine teeth.  True, but we are also designed to eat plants – we have molars.  Unlike other animals, we have the ability to choose our foods.  We tell our bodies what to eat, not the other way around. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

You are killing plants. As far as we know, plants don’t experience pain.  As Alan Watts said, “cows scream louder than carrots.” Besides, it takes about ten pounds of plants to produce one pound of beef.  So if you eat a pound of beef, ten pounds of plants are killed as well. Maybe in a perfect world, we will live on fruit and nuts and grains and no plants will be killed.

You may want to skip over the next paragraph. It’s a little unkind.

I eat meat mindfully. This one really gets me, and I’m sorry if I’m talking about you. Nothing personal, but I don’t care how many prayers you say, how many candles or sticks of incense you light, or how “in the moment” you are; and I don’t care what the Buddhist sutras say, or what the Buddha said – the animal on your plate was still killed, and another will be killed to take its place. Maybe the smells and bells and chanting will make you feel better or change your karma, but that’s not the point. If it is the point, then I’ve missed it. The same reasoning would justify the death penalty, killing in battle and all manner of atrocities. How can you be mindful and in the moment, and not hear the screams from the abbatoir?

I only eat meat from animals raised and killed compassionately. Good for you. I mean it. But if you go to all that trouble to eat something you don’t need, why not just stop?

What about eggs and dairy?  I’m finally 100% vegan – no eggs or dairy or honey, leather, wool or silk – but it took quite a while.

[This post originally read: Ouch. This is where I get hit by my own flailing. There is plenty of suffering associated with the milk and egg industry, but my diet is still only 95% vegan, for interpersonal reasons. You know the old saying, “take my advice – I’m not using it.” Besides, if they only allowed perfect people to rant, it would be awfully quiet.]

What can I do? Lots. Here are a few suggestions. Start by cutting dead critters out of your diet.  If you eat eggs, make sure they are free range. If you eat dairy, make sure the cheese doesn’t contain rennet and the yogurt doesn’t contain gelatin. Consider giving up leather and silk. Consider only using detergents, shampoos and cosmetics that are labelled ‘not tested on animals’. Learn about this stuff. Check out blogs like vegan.com and organizations like PETA. And of course, spread the word. If you’re looking for company, I posted a list of some famous veggies here.

Here’s something to consider: If all the land in North America now used to raise and feed animals were used to grow crops, it would produce enough food to eliminate hunger on the entire planet.
If you managed to read this to the end, my heart gives you a big hug! Thank you.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

If you’re up for it, watch the trailer for the award-winning documentary Earthlings, but be prepared to weep (seriously!).  You can watch the trailer and the entire movie here.

I also recommend seeing the documentary Forks over Knives about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and unrefined foods.