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Most of us have eaten animals – or their secretions – at some point in our lives, and when we did it wasn’t consciously an attempt to cause suffering and misery.
As Dr. Melanie Joy would say, we have simply been indoctrinated into a ‘carnist’ mindset, where we believe it’s not only natural and normal to eat animals – but necessary.
The animals – who suffer throughout their lives, and are usually killed in a violent and frightening way – are often forgotten by those who consume them.
Once you’ve started thinking about animal rights – is it up to you to share the information with non-vegans?
If you’re vegan, how did you realize it wasn’t necessary to eat animals – and what made you switch?
For me, I’d always had a niggling little itch in the back of my mind about eating animals – as a child, (and in fact, now) I saw them as my friends. I loved cats and dogs of course, but I’d also come across others like chickens and I liked them too.
Like many people, being handed a vivisection leaflet on my local high street started a chain reaction in my mind. I ditched certain cosmetics brands because of testing.
I refused to eat Pringles for years as the parent company at the time – Procter and Gamble – was such a prolific tester of animals.
And yet – I kept eating animals, I kept drinking milk, and I wrongly called myself an animal lover.
It wasn’t until I learned about the dairy industry after randomly watching some videos online that I went vegan overnight.
My point in explaining all of this is that only now, as a vegan of six years, do I realise the innate hypocrisy of my actions. I would write to my MP about animal-related issues, I would only use cruelty-free cosmetics. I would avoid the cheapest meat in the supermarket.
I thought I was being kind.
But as I know now, there is no such thing as humane slaughter, there is no such thing as ‘high welfare’ meat – and dairy, well that’s the cruelest industry of them all.
So as a vegan, seeing people shunning or critisizing the idea of veganism, can be frustrating.
Seeing friends or family happily tuck into dishes made from the bodies of tortured animals can be hard.
But are the things they consume – in the greater sense of eating, but also through clothing, entertainment and cosmetics – any of my business?
When it comes to an informal poll of a few vegans I know, opinion is fairly evenly split between yes and no.
In fact, it was a topic people felt quite passionate about.
One friend said: “This kind of thing – where people are busybodies who stick their noses into other people’s daily lives is infuriating. Let people do what they want, and stop being the kind of vegan who gives us a bad name.
“You haven’t been vegan your whole life – how could you expect everyone to reach the same conclusion as you at the same time?”
But as another said: “Sometimes people would make the change if they had the information.
“If you’re not being rude or over-bearing, what’s the problem? After all – billions of animals are slaughtered every year just to end up on the dinner table.
“Isn’t that universal suffering everyone’s business? How can you not care about what’s happening on a global scale to these animals?
“If vegans won’t defend animals – who will?”
People often talk about the ‘stereotypical vegan’ – an overbearing, superior type of person, who wants to impose their will on others (which is ironic really, when you think about the will imposed on factory farmed animals).
The reality is, there are as many different types of vegan as there are people – we are all individuals.
In which case, it is important for us to be effective in our advocacy for animals.
As veganism is a lifestyle based on compassion, that should extend to our fellow humans, as well as animals.
No-one changes habits because they have been shamed.
But should the fact so many continue to eat animals inspire us as advocates and activists? I think most people would agree it should.