Speciesism

The first time I heard the word ‘speciesism’ I was a few years into being vegan (albeit a very ‘off-and-on-the-wagon’ kind of vegan). I thought it was a bit ridiculous.

Speciesism: the practice of treating members of different species as morally more important than other species; and the belief that this practice is justified.

I believed that animals were in a different category to humans. Less developed, less intelligent, less important. I was vegan because of the environmental impact of meat/dairy production and also because it was a diet that suited me well. Veganism had moved my relationship with food from an up-and-down rollercoaster to one of nourishing myself with lots of whole foods. It suited me and I finally came to a place where I was no longer yo-yo-ing between 4 different clothing sizes and body shapes over the course of a year. Veganism had helped me to find a kinder way to eat for myself.

But this belief, that animals are in a different category to humans, has changed for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a bananas animal lover. I think puppies are cute and Planet Earth was an amazing view into nature which filled me with awe. But I couldn’t think of anything worse than having a house full of hairy, smelly, loud animal creatures (I have my own already with Gregg and Jenson 😜).

However, I can see speciesism in action more and more…and I think it’s destroying our planet and causing such pain and suffering.

We’re destroying our forests – home to countless animals, birds and insects – so that we can have more stuff. More of the food we want, more stuff, more land. It’s rarely considered that this isn’t just our land – it’s the land of these animals too (cue me feeling like Pocahontas!).

We use animals for the testing of cosmetics, household cleaners, food additives, pharmaceuticals and industrial/agro-chemicals because their pain and deaths are not important. We could use more human cells or cell lines for testing – which would ultimately be more effective, but this would take investment and currently animals are the easier, default choice for many. A choice that brings suffering to around 115 million animals per year.

We have practices for getting milk which are, to me, inhumane. Repeatedly impregnating cows and separating them from their calves often less than 24 hours after the birth to get as much milk for ourselves as possible. A practice that leads to obvious distress from both mother and baby. Hearing the cries in a recent film I watched (called land of hope and glory) was truly disturbing to me when I considered the pain I’d have gone through if Jenson had been taken from me on day one and only brought back once a day to be fed.

But it’s a cow, not a human, so it’s ok?

Being driven by the ‘need’ for affordable meat, eggs and dairy to the point where our farming practices often cause animals to suffer during their lives. The boy baby chicks who are ground up alive in their first moments in this world because they have no worth to us – they can’t lay eggs and don’t plump up nicely to be eaten.

They have no value?

And the slaughterhouse practices where the turn around and churn of animals is so quick that often animals aren’t stunned properly and so are conscious when their throats are cut and as they bleed out.

Our desire for meat is more important than their death?

I suppose that ultimately I don’t want another creature to die in order for me to have something enjoyable to eat. The mistreatment of baby cows so I can have milk in my coffee. The painful testing of animals so I can enjoy a better mascara. The death of baby chicks so I can have cheap eggs.

And as I write this, I can hear others speak about the medicines that are only available because of the animals that have been tested upon. And not all animals are treated as described above. Some farmers treat their animals with love and respect before sending them to be killed. Some calves have more time with their mothers.

And what’s the other option? Cows, chicks and other animals not being born because we no longer need them? Yes. That would be preferable to animals experiencing pain and suffering during their short lives on earth.

We use animals as a commodity, when I believe we are morally no more important than they are. Just as I believe that men are no more important than women. Just as I believe that caucasians are no more important than people of black or ethnic minorities.

And since I’ve found my eyes open to this truth – that we are equal – I understand vegans who can’t stand to sit around a table laden with meat and dairy products. Not because of being righteous and self-satisfied smug buggers who want their way or the highway. Because when I look at meat sizzling on a barbecue, or when I see cheese, milk, cream, I see the suffering that these products have come from. I can avert my mind from it, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so.

And so I’m sharing my thoughts with you, dear friend, even though I might lose some of you as readers if you disagree and are affronted by my opinions. Because it’s too important for me to ignore. Not to divide me from you, but to start a conversation. To hear from you. To ponder on what I’m seeing and explore what this might mean for my life.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

Now is the time

I’ve been hearing for a number of years about scary environmental things, like how ‘overshoot day’ (when we use all the resources the earth can regenerate in a year) was 1 August this year, how bees (crucial to pollinate and enable our food to grow) are on a teetering path towards extinction and how we’re 1 degree away from a planetary domino effect which would render much of our planet inhabitable.

I’ve got to be honest, it scares the fuck out of me.

I look at my son and am desperate to ensure that he has a planet to live on which isn’t plagued by famine, lack of land as the water level rises (because of polar ice melting) and drought.

Instead of retreating into myself and consuming a vast quantity of chocolate to placate myself, I’m going to be vocal about it.

I feel heavy of heart but also propelled to act, to shout to everyone about it.

We must to do something about this.

Each and every one of us.

Individually and collectively. We must take action, whatever we can. You must take action, whatever you can. I must take action, whatever I can.

It could be:

  • going without a car where possible,
  • eating less meat and dairy (the second biggest cause of climate change),
  • putting on a jumper before you turn on the heating (hard to think about in the summer!)
  • not buying food made with unsustainable palm oil (responsible for mass deforestation of the amazon rainforest – our planet’s lungs),
  • taking plastic bags to the shops instead of buying new ones,
  • buying less ‘new’ stuff
  • stopping using chemical cleaners and returning to old, kinder methods (like vinegar instead of bleach)
  • opting to refill products to use less plastic

There are so many choices we can make. Overshoot day has some interesting thoughts too – see here)

Yes, it needs heavy legislation from the government to stop the practices that damage the planet on a large scale – a ban on non-sustainable palm oil, financial aid to allow farmers to switch from dairy/meat industry to more sustainable practices, heavy taxes on the production of single-use plastic…

But to say that it’s all down to legislation (that individual, small actions can’t lead to mass change) is shedding ourselves of our responsibility to this planet and future generations.

Putting the blood of future generations on our hands.

So I invite you to stand with me in whatever way you can – if that’s opting for one of the choices above, joining in the debate about what else is possible, sharing this post on social media to get the message out to more people…we need to act collectively and individually.

Now is the time.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

Tread lightly

I don’t often write about my choice to eat a plant based diet on this blog of mine but the concept of treading lightly on this planet has been on my mind for a good while and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. It probably sounds weird to be writing about this as I’m on amazing travels around Asia but, without many dairy/meat free options here, I’m being challenged daily about my lifestyle choices.

Until recently I used to call myself a vegan. I was proud of this way of life and of being part of a community of people, but I’ve realised that I can’t truly call myself vegan because of some of the choices I’ve made recently. And I’m ok with that.

For example, I re-introduced locally sourced, free range eggs to my diet in the attempt to increase the amount of breastmilk I was creating for my son. I don’t know how much it has helped but after weeks of struggling, I feel like I am now able to provide well and I also feel morally fine about eating the eggs of chickens that are treated well. I don’t eat many eggs, but I won’t refuse to eat them.

And then there was my last minute dash around town to get the final bits for my trip. The realisation that my sandals weren’t going to last me through the journey and a frantic trip around town to get some replacement ones.

I tried on some shoes from the vegetarian shop in town and, although they looked like my usual Birkenstock sandals, I could feel that they’d slice my feet up within minutes and I didn’t have time to get my feet blistered and heal before going away the next day. And so I got a pair of leather Birkenstocks. In that moment walking away from the shop, I felt so wrong and I still do today. I feel like I’m wearing death with animal skin on my feet.

But the truth is that most people are wearing, eating, using things that cause harm to another living being. The cheap clothes that come from sweatshops, the glue made with animal products, the medicine made through the testing of animals.

So I’ve accepted that I am not officially vegan. I eat a plant-based diet and am trying to tread as lightly on this earth as possible.

On my trip around Asia, I’m eating vegan when I can and always veggie where not possible. I’m not buying countless souvenirs which will sit on my shelf or in my wardrobe and then get taken to a charity shop or thrown away. I’m considering a personal shopping ban (inspired by reading ‘the year of less’ on holiday). And when I get back, I’m going to have my old Birkenstocks re-soled so I won’t need to buy another pair in the future (or will plan in advance and try a pair of sandals from their vegan range.

I’m doing my part to make as little impact on the earth and to harm as few beings as possible. I’m not perfect and I’m going to leave some sort of mark on this planet, but I hope to be gentle, be kind and do the best I can.

A matter of the heart

I was having a conversation with my husband last night and it got a tad heated. Poor my mum who was sitting in the middle of us whilst it was going on, although to be fair she asked the question that provoked the ‘debate’.

It was about whether we would raise a child with a vegan diet or not. This is important because I’m a fairly committed vegan and have been for a while now. My choice is driven by my thoughts about how the mass animal farming industry has many cruel aspects to it and my views about how it’s kinder to the planet to not consume animal products.

Gregg mostly goes along with my preference regarding food because he doesn’t have strong views and since I cook the majority of our food and bake enough cakes to satisfy his pudding needs, it generally it works out well for us. He might have the occasional piece of meat when it’s reduced in the supermarket and he buys dairy yogurts I’m guessing because they’re cheaper than the soy alternative, but apart from that we’re both mostly vegan.

And so I can’t even start to imagine feeding my child all the things that I don’t consume myself.

Just when things were getting nasty in our conversation and the ice queen in me was coming out, my mum said something that made really great sense and cooled the conversation down –

“this isn’t a head discussion for you, Amy, it’s a matter of the heart”

And I could see that this was true. It wasn’t an argument that I could enter into calmly and come to some sort of compromise because it’s close to my heart, part of my moral values. And whilst I live alongside Gregg and respect his eating choices and can be ok with my child making his own choice one day about what he wants to eat, it hurts to contemplate raising a child outside of my ethical boundaries. Because it’s wrapped up in so much more than just food choices:

  • Guilt in bringing a child to this earth when it is already so over populated and the impact on the planet of having children is so high
  • Concern about the future of our planet and bringing a child into a world that may suffer from severe water shortages and a rise in natural disasters
  • Feeling torn about trying to lead a life with as minimal an impact on the planet as I can, but already compromising my beliefs in order to travel the world and start a family.

So where does this leave me?

Hopefully not with you thinking less of me for having strong views about my lifestyle that may not be akin to your own. I am who I am and I respect that you are who you are, dear friend.

Maybe I’m writing this in the hope my husband will understand just a little bit more where I’m coming from and will be willing to support me with this choice and this matter of the heart. Maybe it’s to try to come to peace with some of contradictory feelings I have about becoming a mother and living a kind life. Or maybe it’s about finding a way of moving forward with this matter of my heart.

Whatever it is, it’s good to surface these feelings and to start to work through them to find a way forward.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg