Browsing tag: animal lovers

If you care about animals, why aren’t you vegan?

meet-1154341_1280Are you an animal lover with a vague unease about eating meat? Have you heard all the recent buzz about veganism, and wondered if it’s for you? If so, you’re like me: read on.

Last month, I was one of the fifty thousand people who took part in Veganuary, which meant living a vegan lifestyle for the month of January. It was an eye-opening experience. I learned about how much of my daily diet was simply a meat-eating habit rather than conscious decision-making. I discovered how easy it is to prepare delicious and nutritious non-meat, non-dairy, non-egg meals.

I’d strongly recommend a month of veganism to anyone, simply to raise your awareness of the pervasiveness of animal products in our supermarkets, and the ease of eating plant based meals.

Since the month finished, I have stopped being a strict vegan. I still want to be certain that I don’t support industrial-scale factory farming, but I don’t see a problem with eating meat from animals that have lived enjoyable lives, drinking milk from cows that have an apparently contented existence, and eating eggs from free-range hens. Pure vegans find my stance hard to understand, but I am sure there are many non-vegan animal lovers out there who will agree with me.

So my new diet means three changes from the past, apart from simply eating more plant-based food and less animal-derived products.

1. If I ever eat pigs or poultry, they’ll need to be free range. So if I’m away from home, eating in cafes or restaurants, I will almost never eat pork or chicken. Even at home, it will be rare.

2. On the few occasions that I consume it, I’ll only choose British or Irish milk, beef and lamb. I know that in these countries, cattle and sheep generally lead natural, free-grazing lives, whereas in many other parts of the world, intensification of farming methods means that cows and sheep may never see daylight or grass. This just does not seem right to me.

3. No more milk, egg or meat-containing products that do not specify the origin of those ingredients on the label (and you’d be surprised how much this crosses off my shopping list). If the label doesn’t say where it came from, it’s safest to presume it’s from a cheap, non-animal-welfare friendly source, so it’s best avoided.

This new regime is more complicated than a simple vegan “no animal products” stance, but it fits more closely to my own viewpoint. I think it may be harder to stick to than veganism, because the edges of the restrictions are blurred lines: what about European milk? What about French cheese? And there isn’t a neat label to put on this type of diet: Vaguely vegan? Flexitarian? Reducetarian?

I am only one person in many millions, and some people have asked me why I think that my personal diet will make the slightest difference to factory farming. Here’s the reason: it works in just the same way as my single vote makes a difference in an election. If thousands – or millions – of other people start to make the same, conscious, choices in their shopping, manufacturers will start to listen. Labels will start to declare “free range eggs”, and they’ll state where the milk and meat is sourced.

If we all do nothing, the status quo will continue, with the steady advance of intensive industrial factory farming.

If you care about animals, change your diet. You may not need to go full vegan, but you do need to think about what you put into your shopping basket.

Cruelty to animals: as important as cruelty to humans?

The so-called “Canadian cannibal porn star”, Luke Magnotta has finally been apprehended. His actions to date provide a classic case study of the reasons why society needs to make tackling animal cruelty a far higher priority. Magnotta began by torturing and killing animals, and now he’s doing the same to humans: if his attacks on animals had been dealt with effectively, he might never have become a murderer.

Cruelty to animals is important to many of us because of the simple fact that animals are sentient beings: to us, it’s a given that animals should not be allowed to suffer. Unfortunately, there are many in society who disagree: animals rank low on the scale of importance. If it came to a vote, it’s likely that “animal lovers” would be in a minority. As a result, calls for greater attention to animal welfare often go unheard: human concerns trump animal welfare issues.

This can be frustrating for those who are passionate about animal welfare, but rather than just moaning about it, perhaps we can use these facts to our best possible advantage, by seeking out reasons why the human race can benefit from improving animal welfare. The link between animal abuse and physical abuse of other humans in the same household is now well established: in a study of shelters for victims of domestic violence, more than 85 percent of those interviewed reported incidents of cruelty to animals. Nowadays, whenever vets see cases of “non-accidental injury” in pets, we know that there’s a serious risk that humans in the same household could be at risk of physical violence. In some parts of the world, vets are legally obliged to report such incidents to social services authorities.

The reason for this link is thought to be a phenomenon known as the “erosion of empathy”. Most humans feel some empathy towards animals: we have an innate sense that it’s wrong to cause them to suffer. The problem starts when individuals take that relatively small step of deliberately causing pain to an animal. Once this moral hurdle has been stepped over, it’s much easier to go on to cause pain to humans. Researchers believe that some people develop “impaired systems of empathy” which can lead to increasing levels of cruelty to both animals and humans.

Many serial killers start their murderous careers by killing animals: Jeffrey Dahmer impaled the heads of cats and dogs on sticks. The self-named Crossbow Cannibal from Bradford was reported to keep large lizards which he fed on live rodents.

And now there’s Luke Magnotta: six months ago, videos were circulated of a live kitten being fed to a snake. The Sun newspaper tracked down Magnotta as the likely culprit but could not definitively prove his involvement. Nonetheless, they informed London police of their concerns. Despite these events, Magnotta was not apprehended.

For the sake of humans, as well as for the animals themselves, isn’t it time that society started to take animal cruelty more seriously?

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