But Plants Have Feelings Too

So your argument for not going vegan is that it’s totally proven now, don’t you know, that plants have feelings too and you wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and eat plants while not eating animals, so…there’s really no point is there? For added weight you also make the point that harvesting plants kills lots of tiny animals, so… again – what’s the point in going vegan, you’re always going to be killing something, right?

If these are included in your reasons for not going vegan, you’re not alone.

Typically (because I’ve had this conversation fifty-hundred times), this argument will be the last one someone pulls out of their excuse arsenal, after ‘but vegan isn’t good for your health’, and ‘but grass-fed cows are ok’ and ‘it’s too difficult, it’s not realistic’

I saw this very argument unfold the other day in an online publication by an esteemed author in the comment section of a piece she wrote, part of which attempted to discredit and dismiss veganism. This publication is very progressive and forward-thinking, and all its contributors are continually thinking outside, like, every box ever. On practically every other point I agree with all their writers, and can only dream of having the knowledge and insight that they possess.

So it was kind of shocking to see someone of this intelligence/enlightenment level resorting to the ‘plants have feelings too’ argument after her previous arguments were rebutted. I think it’s testament to the universality of the fear people have of having to change their life if there should emerge a logical reason to. They think veganism is too different and alien, they are not aware how kinda pretty normal it is, and that we still eat just as much amazing food as non-vegans. Actually I eat more. So this quasi-scientific-sounding, ethical-sounding argument about the feeliness of plants is used as that final barrier between them and veganism, it’s the argument that is supposed to have the effect of shutting the hell up that annoying vegan they are having the debate with.

So, lemme take that final barrier down for ya!

Using the ‘but plants have feelings too’ argument with vegans is set on the premise that vegans are trying to be perfect beings who never contribute to any animal cruelty whatsoever. Because they are just so holy and righteous.

Hahaaaa, I’m so holy and righteous!!! If only you knew.

As vegans we accept that no human being can live without harming animals. It’s not possible. If you’re looking for humans that do the least harm to other living beings then I believe that would be the Jains, a religious group in India, who not only are vegan, but also won’t eat root veg because they believe more insects are harmed in the harvesting of them; and they often wear face masks so they don’t breathe in tiny flies and other insects, thereby killing them.

Vegans are not even close to Jains. I love my root veg. And they love me. And God knows how many flies I sucked up in all the years I cycled around London.

We all inadvertently kill tiny insects every day underfoot. And animal products are in  SO.MANY.THINGS. Aviation fuel, car and bike tyres and musical instruments to name but three. So unless you want an incredibly hermetic life, it’s impossible to live harming no beings at all.

Our goal is to do the least harm possible, as far as is practical and practicable. We don’t need to eat animal products, in fact we thrive without them, so it’s not only practical but actually sensible NOT to eat them. Plant food is available everywhere, so living vegan is easily practicable too. It’s very easy to find vegan clothing and footwear. It’s NOT easy to avoid using cars, bikes, buses, airplanes etc. You can’t check every step before you take it to ensure you don’t crush bugs. Not practicable. Geddit?

Thus, we accept that bugs and small critters do die when our plants are harvested. But being vegan we’re actually responsible for fewer of these deaths because we only eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.

Similarly, if you are genuinely worried about plants having feelings, the best thing you can do is go vegan. Why? Vegans just eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.

Another fave anti-vegan argument is ‘but lions tho’ – meaning; lions have to eat meat to live, therefore so do we. I like to borrow from this and in so doing have found a great two-for-one rebuttal to both the ‘feely plants’ and ‘but lions’ narratives.

We actually ARE like lions, but not in the way you think.

Lions are obligate carnivores. They HAVE to eat meat to survive. They are not hard-wired to care about their prey – otherwise they couldn’t survive.

Humans HAVE to eat plants to live and thrive. Even if plants possess ALL the feels, which I doubt, but even if they DO I cannot care about this, because to survive I need to eat them. So I’ll eat them without regard for their sentience.

However I don’t need meat to live, in fact it makes us sick – so why would I? A lion instinctively wouldn’t eat something that would make it sick. I will eat what I know optimises my survival, just like the ol’ lion. This is practical and practicable. And I am still doing the least harm possible.

Bam! Two arguments dead for the price of one.

 

 

 

Don’t Kid Yourself About ‘Pasture-Raised, ‘Grass-fed’ Animals

Aren’t human beings amazing?

Only humans can convince themselves that slaughtering fully-sentient beings at around a tenth of their natural lifespan, is a humane and ‘normal’ thing to do.

Only humans can be self aggrandising and deluded enough that they purchase carved-up dead animals, but because it has a label slapped on it saying ‘pasture-raised’ or ‘grass-fed’ – it makes them feel all fuzzy and like they are doing something good for themselves the planet and the animal.

In terms of health, of course pasture-raised cows, pigs and sheep are better than intensively-raised animals whose bodies are probably full of pesticides and antibiotics. But all animal flesh contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones (think hormone-free meat is safe? This only means no added hormones; you cannot get away from the fact that you will always being ingesting the hormones of any being you consume).

Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals are just as bad (if not worse) for the planet as intensively-farmed, and if everyone in the world decided they wanted to eat this way there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough land to accommodate this. So it’s very much an entitled, elitist way to eat. Not to mention that if it gets more popular, how many forests will be razed to the ground to make way for pasture? God knows the world has lost enough forest already.

As mentioned – you aren’t really doing a whole lot for the animal either. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still want to live out their lives, just as (I assume) you do. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still go to abattoirs. No-one sprinkles sleepy dust on them so they just drift off to sleep and die for you.

It’s funny that ‘pasture-raised’ and grass-fed’ are such hipster (that have spilled over into middle-class) trends. People seem to be convincing themselves that they are eating in a more ‘natural’ ‘real’ or ‘spiritual’ way when their food sports these labels.

There is nothing natural or spiritual about unnecessary slaughter.  Your body not only doesn’t need meat, it thrives without it. You can bleat about being ‘high-vibe’ and natural and primal all you want, but there is nothing high-vibe about unnecessarily brutalising an innocent being who is as sentient as you.

You think these animals are humanely killed?

The phrase ‘humane slaughter’ always makes me laugh. Is there such a thing as humane rape? I mean, there MUST be if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. We only use this term when we are talking about animals. We’d never use it about people. ‘You murdered that woman?’ ‘Yes, but I did it humanely.’ ‘Oh, ok then…er…cool.’

To see if something is truly humane, ask yourself if you’d like it to happen to you. If we assume that you’ll live until 90, then unless at the age of 9 you’d appreciate a bolt to your head to stun you (which is likely not to work) then have your throat slit and be hung upside down by your leg to be drained of blood, then it ain’t really humane to treat animals this way.

I just went on to a UK website for a pasture-raised cow company. I clicked on the section about animal welfare, and there was lots of talk about how the animal is raised, but I was specifically looking for how the animal was killed. You’d think they’d want to make the abattoir sound as fluffy as possible. But you know what? There was zero information on this. Turns out you can’t make an abbatoir sound fluffy.

It talked about how the animals are ‘free to express their normal behaviours’ – but how are they free to do this? If they naturally and instinctively want to live, they are not being allowed to fulfil this desire. It should maybe end the sentence with ‘…free to express their normal behaviours -up to the point where we kill them at a tenth of their normal lifespan.’

Look, I’m not here to force anyone to be vegan. I just don’t want anyone to be deluded by marketing bullshit. If you eat this stuff – please know what it is. It is not better ethically, environmentally, and health-wise only marginally (but if you are genuinely interested in health – go plant-based!).

The people selling ‘pasture-raised’ this and ‘grass-fed’ that will OF COURSE try and make you feel good about buying it – they want your dough! And people that fell for this already will tell you it’s a great thing to do because they want to justify their own habits and feel good about their choices.

But you are more than capable of thinking  for yourself.

A tenth. Of a fully-sentient beings natural lifespan. Start by thinking about that.

And, um, go vegan anyway, lol! 🙂

Is It OK To Ride Horses If You Don’t Race Them?

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

We all know (don’t we?) that racing horses is cruel. I mean the very fact of using living beings for commercial purposes, not to mention the cruelty, the whipping, the shooting of the horses if they get injured – because it’s cheaper to kill them than fix them – I mean, come on. If you don’t get that that shit’s wrong, then may I politely suggest that your moral compass may be busted.

Don’t even get me started on dressage. When I see majestic horses made to prance around like idiots just to prove the riders can ‘control’ them, it makes me sick to my stomach. Way to strip a living being of its dignity.

These things may be obvious, but I wanted to address a question where the answer may not be so obvious:

Is it OK to ride horses if you don’t race them or use them commercially?

I remember the one and only time I rode a horse (I wasn’t yet vegan). When I say ‘rode’ I actually mean ‘clung on for dear life.’

It was in the south of France, and under pressure from my then partner, we went horse-trekking in the Dordogne.

From the get-go I was uncomfortable. I had mentioned I was nervous to the organiser, so he said he had given me a very gentle, docile horse.

This didn’t make me feel any less nervous. During the trek the horse behind kept head-butting mine up the bum, so my horse kept running away from it. I ended up getting off the horse (THAT was a scary enough manoeuvre!), and telling the organiser I couldn’t go on. He shamed me and said NO-ONE had ever got off the horse in the middle of a trek before. I shrugged and just led the horse by hand back to the stables.

I think I can now verbalise how I felt that day.

I think I was aware at an unconscious level that I was sitting astride a living being, who had the full agency and right to do whatever they wanted at any given time – like ALL living beings do. I would not blame the horse if she wanted to throw me off her back. I was not confident, like the other trekkers seemed to be, that the horse was a thing that would do whatever they commanded. I didn’t see how they could be that confident, horses aren’t machines.

It’s not something I could have expressed that day. I hadn’t given much thought to whether animals were fully-sentient beings or not, and I’d already lived in France for two years at that point and was used to seeing horse butchers everywhere.

Yet it just didn’t feel right.

And while part of this was because I was scared AF that I would fall (not gonna pretend I was a saint thinking purely about the horse), I think I also knew that a horse is a living being, and ultimately, living beings have their own mind – even if humans break their spirits when they are ‘broken in.’ Therefore, the horse could do anything at any time – and why wouldn’t she? This didn’t help my fear of falling any, lol!

Now we know animals are the same as us in every significant way – they suffer, feel pain and fear in the same way we do (some countries have even declared that into law); so regarding the above question there is just one thing to ask yourself:

Would you like a big ol’ lummox riding on your back? Controlling you? Pulling at reins that pulled at your head and mouth? Having metal continually banged into your feet, because your hooves can wear down with all the unnatural weight you carry when people ride you?

I’m gonna hazard a guess that the answer to this is no.

So how can we justify riding horses for pleasure whether it’s for commercial purposes or not? The minute we get on their back we are stepping on their agency.

Yes, they may let you do that – probably because they have been previously ‘broken in’ (ugh, I hate that term), and they know that you are their food source.

This doesn’t mean it’s right.

I’ve found that we get the answer to pretty much any question regarding the treatment of animals if we ask – would we like it done to us?

Would you climb on the back of any of your other pets? Ha! I like to see someone try and climb on the back of their cat – the cat would soon let them know how they felt about that!

Wild horses in Nevada

I’ve been lucky enough to see truly wild mustangs and burros in the west of America. We don’t get wild horses here in the UK (the Welsh/New Forest/Dartmoor horses and ponies are actually privately owned and semi domesticated), so it was pretty amazing to see these horse families living wild and free.

I get that due to domestication horses need to be fed a majority of their diet by humans, and to generally be looked after; but isn’t that the same with cats and dogs? Why do the horses have to be ridden to merit their upkeep?

Isn’t it possible to have a horse companion (just like a dog companion) and take them out for walks every day, let them run some, pet them, and just generally enjoy the company of these beings without climbing on their backs and making them do stuff?

 

Love Of Animals Or Moral Baselines?

 

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

OK, here’s some philosophical shiznit.

It’s something that’s been on my mind.

I should be writing commercial posts urging you to buy my services like other good entrepreneurs, but I’m not really one of those.  If it’s on my mind – it’s coming out. To YOU, bwahahahahaaa! 🙂

 

For me, it’s not about loving animals.

It’s not that I don’t love some individual animals, but it’s not why I say I’m vegan. Saying ‘I love animals’ as your reason for being vegan, in my opinion, is not helpful to the greater discourse on why it’s not cool to eat animals.

There are two reasons for this.

  1. It robs animals of their individual differences and makes them sound even more ‘other’ than people see them as already.
  2. It obscures the moral baseline argument, which I believe holds stronger sway than ‘I love animals’ as it doesn’t rely on whether the person you’re talking too also feels they love animals. Lots of people DON’T have a connection to any animals, so the ‘moral baseline’ reasoning is arguably the one that can be best and most universally understood.

What the HELL are you talking about Karen?

Let me explain!

Take any other oppressed group. Choose from, say; women, black people, gay people, Jews etc. Try saying ‘I love (fill in this space with any of the aforementioned oppressed groups).’

Can you hear how dehumanising it sounds? Like you’ve lumped them all together? Just as you wouldn’t say ‘I love men/white people/straight people/non-Jews’ because it sounds ridiculous.

For example, saying something like ‘all women are lovely’ or ‘I love women’ is dehumanising to women and robs them of the fact that they are all made up of the full complement of human characteristics that men are – some good, some bad, some dull, some ugly, some charming etc, and they are ALL DIFFERENT. Women can be as unlovely and unlovable as some men. Because they are just as human. Because they are a living being. To say ‘I love women’ or women are all delicate/sweet/lovely is benevolent sexism and will always be as dehumanising as malevolent sexism.

Similarly, all non-human animals are different. I’m sure you’ve known a cat that was gentle, sweet and loving; and I’m sure you’ve known another that was a complete c**t.

To say all animals are lovely (which I’ve often heard people say) is to deprive them of their individual differences, and the full range of characteristics that any human or non-human animal can have, and does whatever the animal equivalent to dehumanising is, to them (de-animating?)

The reason I wouldn’t have an animal killed for me to eat – even if it was the most bastardly creature on the face of the planet – is the same reason I wouldn’t have another human (even a really nasty one!) killed for me to eat. I believe the moral baseline is that if it is not necessary (i.e. if you are not an obligate carnivore like lions and tigers, and if it is not in self-defence) then you do not kill anyone. Whoever they are.

Why am I bringing up this point? Even if I’m right in what I’m saying, does it really matter?

Yes! I think so.

Here’s why.

If you do whatever the animal equivalent is to dehumanising animals, then others (who are in the habit of seeing animals as existing for them to eat), will always see them as lesser beings, and that could always be their justification for continuing to eat them. But the more they see the animal as being the same as them; with the full range of emotions, characteristics, personality traits etc – which we all know animals HAVE – the harder it becomes to harm them, or have them harmed for their consumption.

The short version of that paragraph is – the more you see yourself in the other, the less possible it is to harm them. And if you are going around saying animals are all so sweet and innocent, then even though you think you’re saying something nice, you’re still making them sound ‘other.’ You’re making them sound like they are one homogenous gloop of beings that aren’t as fully-rounded as we are. This is not helpful.

The documentary Earthlings does a great job talking about all the ‘samenesses’ there are between humans and non-human animals, and looks aside (though we can also argue that you get humans that look VERY different from each other) we’re the same as animals in every significant way.

We often argue that animals feel pain in exactly the same way that we do. So to then go and make them sound like they are some kind of benign, docile ‘other,’ in my opinion, does not further the ‘sameness’ discourse.

The more we can get across the message that animals and human animals are pretty damn much the same (the clue is in the fact that we are both animals!!), the more others will realise it is not right to harm them.

To aid this end, I feel rather than trying to advocate for veganism by saying that you ‘love animals’ to people who may not have the same frames of reference as you do (they may not have had pets, or been around animals much); better in the long run to argue the point that animals are not ‘other’ they are pretty much the same as us, and ask them to consider the moral baseline of not having any other living being killed unnecessarily.

There is nothing I love more that debate, so let me know if you disagree. I have a comment section – use it!

Next week…how to make vegan jam roly-polys. Haha.

 

Please No More #furhag

Something I’ve seen recently makes me feel sad.

I’m really not into the phenomenon of ‘fur shaming.’

Fur shaming often takes the form of animal activists waiting for a celebrity known to wear fur (9 times out of 10 this is a female) at an ‘appearance’ type of event, then yelling in her face about wearing fur while holding up graphic images and/or throwing flour or some other messy crap all over her.

Just writing that made me feel yucky.

Am I against animal fur being worn as clothing? Hell yes.

Do I think we should speak out against animal fur and skins being worn as clothing? Hell yes.

Am I a fan of any of the celebrities this has happened to, is that what’s sparking my outrage? Hell no.

Do I think there’s a much more intelligent (and more effective) way of educating about the cruelty inherent in the fur industry? Heeellll yes!

The thing that made me sad was a Facebook post I saw recently where someone had been a part of one such ‘fur shaming’ event. Underneath this post were comments like ‘dumb bitch, she deserved it,’ ‘what a fur hag,’ ‘fur hags always deserve what they get’ etc.

I felt sick.

What is the term for men who wear fur by the way? Don’t some male hip-hop artists and rappers wear fur? Is it more terrible if women do it?

Of course I am able to conjure up pictures of animals being skinned alive for their fur, I’ve seen Earthlings and The Ghost In Our Machine. I want this barbaric shit to stop instantly.

But how does being aggressive and sexist help educate on speciesism?

It’s like the PETA campaigns when they objectify one group of beings (women), to attempt to teach us not to objectify another group of beings (animals).

This may work for some people, but I feel there are way more effective ways of educating about this.

And has anyone noticed that there’s a glut of men on social media who have clearly learned to identify their privilege over animals and have therefore become vegan – but have no idea about their privilege over women, which manifests in their sexist language? I wonder if they didn’t learn about veganism from PETA and all the naked women campaigns?

We need to combat all oppressions and put the spotlight on all privilege.

Using terms like bitch and hag, which are so gendered and so ugly (‘hag’ as far as I can make out means a woman who is no longer sexually attractive to the patriarchy, yet STILL deigns to have a few opinions, and is therefore hated) just perpetuates and re-normalises the use of sexist language. And we know that the language around an entity informs our ideas and behaviours towards that entity. So using these terms is, like, the least clever thing you can do if you are of the opinion that women are humans too.

Hate isn’t single issue. And it’s possible to live in a state of raising awareness of all of it and trying to combat all forms of it. You don’t have to fight speciesism at the expense of women.

My other point on this is:

Leather is just as cruel as fur. In Earthlings, we see cows in the leather industry being skinned alive. Why don’t activists flour bomb male celebrities for wearing leather shoes and jackets?

My other point (that I just thought of!) is:

Would you walk into a restaurant and yell at someone eating chicken? Would you walk into a McDonalds and scream into the faces of the people eating their egg Mcmuffins? After all, the chickens will have been strung upside down and dipped in scalding water, lots of them while alive. And the eggs will have come from an industry where baby male chicks are ground up alive. Is the cruelty in the chicken and egg industries worse than in the fur industry? How the hell do you quantify that?

So why not walk into these restaurants, surprise the women (only the women of course) eating their chicken and eggs by yelling in their faces, then afterwards brag about it on social media using terms like #eggslut or #chickenbitch ?

 

If you want to protest fur-farming intelligently, what CAN you do?

The only thing that has EVER worked effectively is informing and educating people peacefully.

The more we share information about how cruel fur is, the less ‘cool’ it will be. The more people that think it’s not cool; the less likely celebrities are to wear it.  So advocating at grass-roots level is a great place to start. Host a stand at a vegan or animal-related festival. Write letters to relevant publications explaining what goes on in the fur industry. Write blog posts (for your own website or to send to others) about fur-farming. Protest (peacefully) outside fur shops. There’s a ton of different ways we can inform on this subject without being an arse.

If you must contact a celebrity directly, tweet them with a link to Earthlings or The Ghosts In Our Machine, or with a pithy comment that may give them pause for thought (you never know!) You want to make them think, not make them hate you. If someone hates you they won’t listen to you.

Whatever you do, just please PLEASE refrain from yelling at women, then bragging about it on social media using terms like furhag and bitch.

There are too many levels on which this behaviour is problematic, not to mention ineffective.

 

Leather; And Tips On Finding Great Alternatives

leather

 

For me it was a process.

When I first started eating a vegan diet, I didn’t give much thought to leather, suede or wool; where these products might’ve come from; or how much of them I was wearing.

I mean, I knew the specific animals these products came from, but I knew nothing of how the end-product came to be.

I’d heard that leather, suede and wool were all just by-products of the meat industry. That as long as people were eating meat, these products would exist anyway.

I reasoned that I wasn’t contributing to the demand for animal products, and therefore had no participation in the death of an animal. So if the animals were being killed anyway for other people to eat, then me purchasing leather, suede and wool from these already dead animals made no difference to the demand, right?

Besides, I looked shit hot in leather jackets and shoes!  I loved leather bags and purses; and wool is warm in the cold UK winters, so…

This all changed when I saw the documentary Earthlings and saw exactly how leather is produced.

I’m not gonna post any graphic vids, but you just need to know that leather is NOT a by-product. Lots of our leather comes from India, and many cows are skinned alive.

Leather production is also very toxic and disastrous for the environment.

Yup. Lesson duly learned about leather and suede.

I’ll write about wool at a later (more seasonally appropriate!) date. In this post we’ll just look at leather and suede.

When you make the decision to stop buying leather, suede and wool, you may feel bad for owning what you already have.

My suggestion is this:

Don’t feel bad. What’s done is done. You’ve committed to buying no more of these products and that’s amazing.

Don’t throw your old products away – that’s wasteful. Don’t give them to charity or to a friend – that’s just passing on the karma.

Use the products until they wear out, then buy no more.

There is one problem that CAN occur with this, but I have a super sneaky way of getting round it 🙂 If you have a leather or suede jacket (or bag or whatever), that looks really good on you and people often remark how great it looks – this isn’t cool – it might encourage THEM to buy one. So if you get a compliment, tell ’em it’s fake!! Tell them you couldn’t wear leather because of the cruelty involved, but you found this cool jacket/pair of boots/bag made of pleather! Yes it’s a lie, but you already tell your bf they look great when they’ve in fact had a really bad haircut, so…sometimes…needs must!

You could possibly come unstuck if it was a recent item on the High St or at the mall and this person could have seen it in the shops too. In which case you could just tell them the truth – for example ‘yes, it IS a great jacket, but to be honest I’m only wearing it because I bought it BEFORE I found out how leather was produced, and now I know the truth about leather, I’m not going to buy any more.’

Both these responses could spark a conversation that may end up planting seeds in the complimenter’s mind, so weigh up which one would be appropriate to the situation.

 

Tips On Acquiring A Cool, Leather-Free Wardrobe

 

1. Bags (‘purses’ in American:) )

You’ll have no problem finding a great non-leather bag. There are so many great pleather, canvas, and other manmade bags around. I normally go to a high street shop or department store, pick a bag I like, then search inside the bag for the label that will tell me what it’s made of. Yes, sometimes I’m gonna be disappointed because it will be leather, and yes I may have to try a couple more shops, but I ALWAYS end up with a bag I like.

The last two bags I bought got a ton of compliments – even when they got old and raggedy!

 

2. Purses (‘wallets’ in American!)

I go through exactly the same process looking for a purse as I do with bags. Again, it may take a few minutes more than if I just grabbed a leather purse, but I’ve NEVER failed to find something I like.

 

3. Shoes

There are lots of online vegan shoe companies (Bourgeois Boheme, Olsenhaus, Mohop, Beyond Skin etc)  but they’re all pretty pricey. So what to do if, like me, you’re on a regular ol’ Joe Shmoe budget?

Shoes are still pretty gendered (yawn) so:

Women:

Because women are told that they love shoes above all else, there are plenty of varieties of shoes to cater to this worn-out old trope in your regular High Street or shopping mall (um, silver lining, right?) So it couldn’t be easier finding great non-leather shoes, pretty much everywhere, in all styles.

If there is no marking in the shoe, just look on the underside to see if there is a sticker that has the leather symbol or not. If not, it should say ‘man-made materials.’  And don’t forget, for casual footwear; flip-flops, Converse, lots of trainers (sneakers) should all be made from manmade materials. Check out Dr Marten’s vegan shoes too.

If you feel you need long winter boots then you may need to look a little harder but you should find them. Here’s some, for example.

You know the really cheap shoe shops (Shoe Zone in the UK, Payless ShoeSource in the states etc)?  If you’re looking for a basic shoe or sandal, it’s maybe worth trying one of these shops. I’m not saying every shoe is amazing, and yes, these shops kinda stink of rubber and plastic, but you can sometimes find a pair of decent enough shoes, and you KNOW they ain’t gonna be leather or suede.

I’m not too kool for the ‘Zone or the ‘Source, nor should YOU be! 😀

Men:

It IS a little harder to get non-leather footwear for men, but it’s still not DIFFICULT,

Again, Converse, lots of sneakers, flip flops and most sandals should all be non-leather; check labels for materials if you’re not sure.

Dr Martens do an amazing vegan shoe – so no need to miss out on the old DM’s!

My partner has to dress smart(ish) for work, and did have more of a problem getting smart dress shoes that weren’t leather, but eventually found some on vegetarian-shoes.co.uk.

There IS another issue with shoes – sometimes the glue used in the manufacturing of them contains animal products. Some shoe companies can tell you if they use this kind of glue; others can’t, and sometimes there is conflicting info.

It’s up to you what you do with this. For me, if there is no visible animal product in my shoe, and if it’s not a company that says they definitely use glue containing animal parts – I’m good. We can only do what we can do.

 

4. Jackets, skirts, trousers etc:

As for jackets – I don’t even need to tell you there are a million fabulous alternatives to leather everywhere. If you specifically want the leather ‘look,’ a quick google search just told me that H&M, New Look, Warehouse and Miss Selfridge have great, inexpensive faux leather jackets. I don’t doubt it’s just as easy to get faux leather in any mainstream clothing shops in any country.

Confession: I’ve never worn either leather or non-leather skirts or trousers, and so was completely ignorant on where the faux leather versions may be.

I feared I may have to look toward, er, specialty shops for them 😉

It turns out Forever 21, New Look, H&M, Misguided, Top Shop and MANY, MANY other mainstream shops come up with a TON of results for faux leather trousers and skirts with one quick google, so if this is your thing – Go for it!

 

On How Eating Animals Breeds Violence

Sunday Lunch Anyone!? from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Richard Riley, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

There are so many ways that being vegan impacts the world.

You know about the animal cruelty, environmental destruction, poor health and threat to world hunger that comes with a standard meat and dairy strong diet.

And Lord knows I’m ALWAYS going on (particularly on my live broadcasts – follow me on Periscope right here, YES IT’S FREE!) about the dynamics of oppression and how all oppressions (speciesism, sexism, racism etc) are the same and feed each other, so we need to be aware of this because, as MLK says: ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere‘ etc., etc.

So I’ll go along thinking I have a good grasp of where veganism fits into the big picture of, er, everything; then I’ll read something that makes me think of yet ANOTHER reason why everyone being vegan would just…well…..stop the world from going down the toilet!

You’ve heard the saying ‘violence breeds violence.’

In how many ways might this be true as it relates to the violence inherent in the meat industry breeding violence elsewhere?

There’s a couple of interesting studies I’d like to share.

In the late nineties/early two thousands, a prison facility in Victor Valley, California tried a program they called NewStart where they let inmates choose whether to have standard food and go through the normal prison program; or a vegan diet with some Bible study and anger management classes.

The main reason for initiating this was, as quoted by the nutrition services co-ordinator of the prison ‘what we eat affects not only our bodies physically, but also our mental attitude, our levels of aggression and our ability to make good decisions.’

State officials were skeptical about how many prisoners would actually choose the vegan meal plan, but 85% wound up on the program!

The results?

It seems that violence decreased significantly amongst the inmates on the NewStart plan.

And check this:

The remarkable behavioral changes could even be seen outside in the prison yard where according to prison officials, nobody “owned” or controlled the yard. Typical lines drawn between blacks, whites, hispanics, gang members and other groups were non-existent. On the NEWSTART side, everyone played basketball together and had great fellowship. The CDC [standard prison program] side of the house had the same racial divisions experienced at any other prison.

Not only that, but the recidivism rate for the inmates once released was 2%, when the average for California is 90%.

Now I’m sure the anger management classes and Bible study contributed to these results somewhat, but it leaves some big questions as to whether more people going vegan would mean far less violence in the world.

Could more people on a vegan diet even help to eradicate racism (and racist violence) as it did in the prison? And if it did this, could it also end sexism and violence against women? I believe it could – if we stop seeing animals as ‘other,’ we stop seeing anyone as ‘other.’

Can you even imagine how it might be if all children were raised vegan from birth?

What about domestic violence and violent crime in a community?

Well, this study from the universities of Windsor and Michigan State found that in locations surrounding slaughterhouses, there are clusters of domestic violence incidences and violent crimes amongst the workers and their communities that occur BECAUSE of the nature of the work in the slaughterhouse:

The findings indicate that slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, arrests for rape, and arrests for other sex offenses in comparison with other industries. This suggests the existence of a “Sinclair effect” unique to the violent workplace of the slaughterhouse, a factor that has not previously been examined in the sociology of violence

The study, by the way, was to see if what was a hypothesis about the connection between violence towards animals in the slaughterhouse and crime and violence outside of it (initially explored by Upton Sinclair in his novel ‘The Jungle’ about a big Chicago slaughterhouse) held any weight.

It’s no great stretch of understanding to see that if someone is desensitising themselves to the brutality they are inflicting on sentient beings all day long, that when they leave the workplace this desensitisation and lack of empathy is still in place and would affect every relationship outside of it.

An Australian study that was carried out to see if the same conclusions that had been drawn overseas were relevant to Australian slaughterhouse workers found exactly the same result :

Senior sociology lecturer Dr Nik Taylor at Flinders University said it had been established that the more positive a person’s attitude to animals, the lower their aggression levels, and that the reverse is also true – if you’re cruel to animals, you’re more likely to be violent to humans.

She found that meatworkers’ aggression levels were “so high they’re similar to the scores… for incarcerated populations”.

How does this branch out to the general population?

Even though those who don’t work in a slaughterhouse aren’t doing the killing, they are still desensitising themselves to the suffering of others.

Even the most unenlightened meat-eater knows that animals are killed for the meat they eat, and thus they have to compartmentalise this fact on some level to be able to consume it. It’s a pretty sound bet that if they met the animal face-to-face they wouldn’t be able to kill it themselves.

So it kind of follows that anyone who eats animal products (or at least meat, because many are actually unaware of the violence inherent in the dairy and egg industry), have desensitised themselves to the fact that an ‘other’ has been killed for their food.

Their desensitisation is a little more indirect and less intense than the slaughterhouse workers perhaps, but it is there nonetheless.

The second we desensitise ourselves to ANY ‘other’ in this way; violence (be it domestic violence, rape, general aggression) becomes possible to inflict on any ‘other.’

It’s fun imagining what a vegan world would look like 🙂

 

For The Last Time – There Are No ‘Better’ Choices When It Comes To Meat!

 

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I’ve written about this subject on previous occasions, but I’m seeing and reading things all the time both on social and regular media that tell me this message needs to be put out there continually and consistently.

Look. I make clear on my FAQ’s page that I love consulting with anyone who is reducing their animal product consumption by ANY amount.

I get that we’re all at different stages on this path; that we’re all informed by completely different influences; and that we all approach things in different ways. Sometimes it definitely IS better to start upgrading your diet very slowly; maybe eliminating one thing at a time. This can be more sustainable in the long term. If you know yourself enough to know that you’re not a ‘cold turkey’ type and that you assimilate changes into your life better by making them slowly, this is laudable.

Any reduction in a habit that is negative to all concerned is amazing, and I have so much respect for anyone who starts ANYWHERE on a plant-based path – EVEN MORE SO for those coming from a meat and dairy heavy diet, as that’s an even bigger change.

Can you so tell I’m building up to a rant though?

You’re not wrong.

What gets properly up my nose, is those who have made an effort to cut down their meat consumption, but make the point (loudly) that they are ‘careful’ to ‘make better choices’ when they do consume it.

Case in point:

I saw a French TV report yesterday, where, in light of all the information entering the mainstream regarding our overconsumption of animal products, a reporter goes vegan for 45 days to see what happens. He visits the doctor at the beginning, has his blood work done, his cholesterol tested and gets weighed, etc.

During the 45 days, he not only learns about what to eat and how to read labels etc, but is shown some pretty horrendous stuff taking place in slaughterhouses, and sees chicks being put in meat grinders and garbage bags.

At the end, he assesses what he’s learnt. He revisits the Doctor who, unsurprisingly, tells him his blood work is improved, he’s lost weight and his cholesterol is down.

The Doctor then has a chat with him and says (despite all the positive effects on his body), that he shouldn’t cut anything out of his diet. That he can eat meat, but to eat ‘better’ meat. To think about where the food is coming from rather than just putting anything in his mouth.

When the guy reports back to the studio at the end of the experiment, he says that although he is no longer vegan, he’s learned a lot. He says he now realises that animals aren’t a ‘product,’ that they are sentient beings. He says he will think before eating from now on and will make ‘better choices’ when he does eat animal products.

Um – if you know a being is sentient, how is there any better way to have it killed for your consumption?

There ARE no ‘good’ choices when it comes to eating animal products.

You: I thought you said you respect anyone who reduces their animal product intake by ANY amount?’

Me: I do.

But justifying eating meat by saying the little you do eat is better quality (grass-fed, poetry-read, tucked-in-bed or whatever) is just BS.

And it IS just that, a justification. It’s totally giving yourself a reason to continue a harmful habit, just in smaller amounts. It’s kidding yourself that it’s ok, and gives you absolutely NO reason to evolve further.

If someone just gives up chicken, for example, because they know themselves well and this is all they can manage for now; I believe this is admirable. A positive change has been made, and the door is open (once they’ve become comfortable with their new chicken-free life) to make more positive changes further down the line.

If you truly understand why all animal product consumption is inherently harmful, you can only move in one direction. If you are working on eventually replacing all animal products you previously ate with plant foods (however slowly, it doesn’t matter) this is surely more logical and more in alignment with your new understanding of animals being fully sentient – than reducing consumption somewhat, but tricking yourself into believing that the products you DO eat are minimally impactful.

How can you unsee what you just saw? How can you unlearn what you just learned?

Consider these points:

  • The ‘better’ choice still involves the taking of a life. And isn’t it worse taking a life that was enjoyable rather than one that was miserable?
  • And we know that lots of animals do NOT actually have a more enjoyable life – a consumer-friendly marketing-term is just used to make you feel more comfortable buying their meat. The difference in quality of life for these animals to that of an intensively farmed animal is minimal. And don’t forget that all food animals are killed at just a fraction of their potential lifespan.
  • Health-wise; ANY meat, however it was raised, contains cholesterol, saturated fat and ZERO fibre.
  • Grass-fed cows produce MORE greenhouse gases than intensively farmed ones, and what if everyone in the world wanted to eat ‘better’ meat, which, as poor countries get richer, they inevitably, eventually will? Well they can’t! There’s not anywhere near enough land on the planet to support this.
  • You think organic meat is a better choice? Think again.

 

If you really GET ‘why’ you’re changing your diet and set your intention to do this, but find you can only reduce your meat consumption a little for now – that’s cool. I’m confident that when you are ready (and you will know when you are) you will make more positive changes.

Just please don’t tell yourself that there are ANY better choices when it comes to consuming animal products because it simply IS. NOT. TRUE.

 

Should We Respect The Choice To Eat Meat?

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When people say ‘I respect your choice to be vegan, you should respect my choice to eat meat’; should we?

No.

We do not have to do this.

And there are two big fat reasons why:

 

1. Eating meat has several highly negative ramifications that impact others, NOT just the one eating meat.

Would you purposely take an action if you KNEW it would harm others?

If choosing to eat meat was as unimpactful on others as choosing to wear a blue T-shirt on a Tuesday, then fine.

However, meat-eating not only affects the animal that has lived and died horribly; but the farming of animals is the prime factor in ALL forms of environmental degradation, and diverts to animals grain that could otherwise feed the world’s hungry.

Thus, someone eating meat is negatively affecting MY/OUR environment (and, let’s not forget, the environment of their own families!). How can this be respected? How can we respect an act that serves ONLY the self and doesn’t pause to think about the inevitable consequences to other beings? Especially when there is no NEED to eat animal products when:

A) We live longer and healthier without them

B) A plant-based diet can be as delicious, tasty and varied (oftentimes more so) than a standard diet

2. Unless you were veggie from birth and then decided to eat meat later, NOBODY has really, with their own agency, CHOSEN to eat meat.

Let me explain:

Eating meat is the mainstream diet, so meat-eaters have made ZERO choices. Society chose FOR them. They’ve basically just carried on eating what their parents/guardians fed them from infancy and never questioned it!

Unless someone is obviously not in a position to have been informed, or to understand the consequences of eating meat i.e. if they clearly have learning difficulties etc, then I unashamedly DO NOT respect the consumption of animal products.

How do we communicate this if someone asks us to respect their choice?

All we can do is point out the reasons I’ve discussed above as to why this is impossible.

We can also do this as compassionately as possible, remembering that there was a time when WE ate animals and hadn’t taken these issues on board.

If the person you’re talking with is not ready to hear what you’re saying and comes out with defensive ignorant crap – just walk away (though ideally you’ll know enough about this person initially to assess whether it’s worth speaking out).

I might be being a little optimistic, but when I think about it, I haven’t had anyone ask me to ‘respect their choice to eat meat’ for a long while. Perhaps this is a signifier that society IS waking up to all the facts concerning all the negative impacts of meat-eating, and even if we are not, collectively, ready to change, maybe perceptions have nevertheless shifted and we are now aware that meat-eating is not respectable? I hope this is the case.

You’d Never Know It From Social Media, But Dogs And Dolphins Aren’t The Only Abused Animals

Good grief!

All I see in my twitter feed is pictures of mangled up dogs and dolphins!

Don’t worry; I’ll not post any here. As you can imagine they ain’t pleasant.

Now of course I care about the fate of dogs and dolphins, but here’s why all the attention on these two animals annoys me:

It’s like they are the easiest animals to feel compassion towards.

Everyone loves dogs because they are our pets. They are furry and sweet and respond when we call their name. They are often subservient to humans.

We love and value dolphins because we are told they are intelligent. We know they are friendly towards us and have often saved human lives. We are fascinated by their mysticism and otherworldliness, and the fact that we still don’t know much about the way they communicate. People like to ‘swim’ with captive dolphins in theme parks.

It seems that because we ‘know’ dogs, and we ‘exoticise’ dolphins – we care about them more than other non-human animals.

It also seems like some people pick a well-loved animal to campaign for, perhaps in an attempt to prove (though to whom I don’t know!) that they are good people and love animals – and to distract themselves from the fact that they are not vegetarian or vegan, and so don’t have as massive an effect as they could on reducing animal cruelty.

This is commonly known as ‘selective compassion.’

Picking one animal to fight on behalf of implies that that animal is more worthy than others.  DSCN8490

I get that some animal species are endangered and this is why their survival may seem to need to take precedence, but the truth is that an individual animal in any oppressed group is endangered, and the only reason there are a tonne of chickens and cows in existence at any one time is because we over breed them unnaturally for commercial gain. They are bred TO BE brutalised. *

I can’t see that one situation is worse than another.

How can we care more about the fate of dogs and dolphins when:

The cruelty meted out to cows (in the meat, dairy and leather industries) daily is beyond comprehension and on a far greater scale than to dogs and dolphins

Don’t even get me started on the sheer scale of cruelty to chickens (in the poultry and egg industries).

Pigs? Lambs? Foie gras geese? Minks and other animals skinned for fur?

The capacity of any animal to suffer and their desire to live a life free of pain is exactly the same as ours!

Isn’t this like caring more about racism when it’s directed at one race rather than another? Shouldn’t we be fighting racism wherever we find it existing against ANY oppressed group?

Doesn’t ANY being that is mistreated for being ‘other’ deserve our compassion?

Any Farm Sanctuary worker will tell you that cows, pigs, sheep and chickens all have distinctive personalities, and are friendly towards human animals and love being petted JUST as much as dogs – it’s just that we are never exposed to these animals enough to experience this for ourselves.

Turkeys ADORE human company, being petted and sitting on laps.

Have a watch…

In my opinion, we all need to work to stop the unnecessary brutalising of any living being, not just those that are perceived as cuter or more intelligent.

It’s the ‘feeling entitled to brutalise’ that is the stem of the problem, not the choice of animal.

*You should know there is graphic content contained in most of the videos I’ve posted links to here. If you can – and especially if you are unaware of the way these animals are treated –  please watch one or two; it’s reality!

Also, no matter if the video is from the US, Canada, the UK or Australia, these practises are common everywhere.