A few years ago, George Monbiot wrote a post where he stated that if we all became vegans, then the grain used to stuff animals in the meat industry could be used to feed the malnourished; however, after reading Simon Fairlie’s book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, in which Fairlie refutes those claims and proposes a way to improve the current meat-producing system, Monbiot then admits in his article, “I Was Wrong About Veganism. Let Them Eat Meat – but Farm It Properly,” that there are inaccurate figures against the meat industry and concludes that Fairlie’s new farming model will “use less energy and less waste while being just, diverse, and small-scale… [; therefore,] we could continue to eat meat, milk, and eggs with a clean conscience.” I agree with Monbiot and Fairlie that claims against the meat industry could possibly be misleading, but the fact that Monbiot can say that if we adopt Fairlie’s model, then we can happily kill thousands of innocent living beings with a “clean conscience” is quite preposterous. Perhaps the meat industry is not contributing the most to our ecological problems, but it certainly isn’t helping either. Veganism is what is best for the environment, for our health, but most importantly: for the animals. Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. So, it goes against vegan ethics and morality to say that just because we improve our factory farming model, we are allowed the insane excuse of murdering animals for our own selfish pleasures.
My main concern with the health and/or environmental reasons to become vegan is that they are avoiding the core concept behind veganism, which is animal welfare, so whenever it is not convenient or “efficient” to be vegan, they’ll stop because it was never about the animals. The reason they get to that conclusion is because they value human life greater than animal life, which a vegan does not do. A vegan is not a speciesist, meaning they regard every species with the same level of importance. A vegan does not believe there are any justifications to massacre animals. Therefore, if you are doing it for the health benefits, then it is only a diet – not the vegan lifestyle you are following. If you are doing it solely for the positive impacts it has on the environment, then you come to a conclusion similar to Monbiot’s, where irresolute data could easily sway your position on veganism. Now, I do realize that some readers might object that any reason to be vegan should be considered a valid one: “You shouldn’t consider one vegan any less than another just because they did it for different reasons.”
Well, the reason why animal welfare must be one of the reasons why you’re vegan is simply because of the definition of the word. The definition of a vegan is someone who strives to avoid all forms of animal exploitation. This is the reason why vegans do not eat meat, dairy, or eggs. This is the reason why vegans do not wear leather, fur, or wool. This is the reason why vegans do not support animal experimentation, deforestation, or animal cruelty. This is the reason why vegans do not support zoos, circuses, or hunting. Furthermore, vegans understand that animals experience emotions. They feel joy when they run around the fields with their siblings. They feel sorrow when they are separated from their family. They feel love when you show them affection. They feel agony when they are dragged into the slaughterhouse. It’s because of our capability of being empathetic and altruistic that we shouldn’t want any animal to feel anything other than joy and love. Vegans also understand that all sentient beings have the right to live a long, healthy, and happy life. It doesn’t matter what they could supply to benefit people – they are not slaves that need to entertain you, satisfy your cravings, provide profits, or enrich your welfare. In summary, there are simply things a vegan does not believe in nor support, so if you are a vegan, you do not contribute to animal exploitation in any form. It’s because animal welfare is such an essential, emotive subject for vegans that it infuriates them when people like Monbiot claim to be vegan even though they support the suffering of animals.
A glaring difference that distinguishes whether or not you are an actual vegan is the strong belief that animals are not commodities. This means vegans believe that humans do not have the right to kill animals for their meat, milk, eggs, fur, or oils. Now, some believe that leather, fur, down, and wool are just byproducts from when they are killed for meat, but the truth is that they are industries all on their own – they actually make more profits off their skin/pelts/feathers than off their meat. So, eating a vegan diet doesn’t end the mass murder of animals; this is why vegans take it a step further and do not support these cruel industries.
Let’s start with the appalling leather industry: the process of attaining leather is quite unsettling, even on a small-scale, personal setting. First, they remove the skin from the flesh of an animal. Next, they slice the animal from the tail to the throat and peel back the skin. Lastly, they split the sternum, spread the rib cage, and remove the organs. On a larger-scale, the brutality and torment makes this heartless process even worse. According to PETA, cows in the leather industry are “subjected to painful procedures such as castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning. They are also crammed into trucks, where they suffer from injury, weather extremes, crowded conditions, hunger, and thirst. Many cows collapse frequently during the ride, and they arrive at the slaughterhouse unable to walk out of the back of the transport truck, so they are dragged off the truck with chains – often breaking bones when they hit the ground.” Goats, pigs, horses, deer, kangaroos, snakes, alligators, and elephants are also victims of the leather industry. I cannot believe that these workers inflict so much pain on these sweet animals; the fact that they are so insensitive and brutal towards them just shows how callous and inhumane the entire industry is.
Another horrendous industry is the fur trade, which targets other victims. According to PETA, workers of the fur industry “place snares, underwater traps, Conibear traps, and steel-jaw traps in the wild in order to capture raccoons, muskrats, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, opossums, beavers, and otters to be skinned for their fur.” According to the Fur Free Alliance, “thousands of baby seals are clubbed or shot annually for their fur. Many seals are skinned alive, some even while conscious. Also, 95% of the seals are killed when they are just a few weeks old.” According to The Dodo, “Saga Furs, a Finnish fur company, kills foxes and raccoon dogs by anal electrocution and gas minks with carbon dioxide when they are only seven-months old.” If that doesn’t disturb you, then let me notify you that even dogs and cats are being skinned for their fur. Richard Swain, a Humane Society vice president and investigator, estimates that “more than 2 million dogs and cats are slaughtered every year for their coats, with most pelts coming from Asia and Eastern European countries.” It is absolutely disturbing how these poor animals are subjected to this treatment, and as Gary Yourofsky puts it, “the fur industry must understand that the millions of manual neck-breakings, anal and genital electrocutions, mass gassings, drownings, and toxic chemical injections can never be justified.”
The wool industry is just as perturbing. According to a PETA exposé on wool farms, industrial wool farmers in Australia (the largest producer of wool in the world) “mutilate tens of millions of helpless lambs annually: it’s called ‘mulesing,’ and it entails removing large chunks of skin and flesh from the area around the anus – and for females, around the vulva as well. Furthermore, nearly all of them are tagged, tail-docked, and castrated.” Mimi Bekhechi, an associate director at PETA UK, said the sheep were “kicked and stamped on and had their heads slammed into the floor by unsupervised, impatient shearers, causing them great distress, injury and even death.”
Lastly, the down industry is equally as atrocious. According to Vegan Peace, workers “scald [duck and geese] in hot water…to make it easier to remove their feathers.” According to The Huffington Post, “a Swedish news program called ‘Kalla Fakta’ (‘Cold Facts’) ran a two-part exposé on the down harvesting industry in 2009. The documentary claimed that 50 to 80 percent of the world’s down market comes from live-plucked birds.” Therefore, if you are a vegan, you do not support any of these barbaric, inhumane industries.
In the end, vegans just wish that every person puts themselves in the position of any of these animals and imagine what it must feel like to be pulled away from your family, beaten, mutilated, skinned, gutted, and thrown into grinders. Imagine how from the second you are born, you are abused mentally and physically. Imagine what it must feel like to know that your fate is either on a dinner plate, as a coat, in a cage, or in a scientist’s lab. Imagine that you have no hope of a rescue, and that only anguish and death awaits. Imagine people believing you are worth nothing, so you are condemned to a life of servitude. Imagine how it feels when someone abuses you, witnesses your sorrow, hears your cries for help, and turns away. Imagine how it feels when people watch videos of you being mistreated and maimed, and instead of feeling sympathy, they mock you and say that you deserved it, that it doesn’t matter what you go through, and that they want the suffering to continue.
I’m sure some readers must be thinking, “This is awful; we must find a more humane way to do this.” First of all, there is no “humane” way to kill, but the “lucky” animals that receive a “quick” death are the cage-free/free-range animals. They are pushed into chambers and gassed to death: slowly losing oxygen, breathing in fumes, gasping for air. For those who believe that slitting the throat is the quickest, nicest way to go, well let me tell you that those seconds feel like an eternity when you feel the blade pierce from one end of your neck to the other, causing you to shake uncontrollably while you’re struggling to catch a breath, watching your blood gush out, feeling the light leave your eyes until you slowly finish choking on your own blood. These are the “humane” ways to die – those are good enough for you? You still don’t care even though now you are completely aware that this is how animals suffer, that this is how they die. Animals do not deserve to be mistreated or slaughtered. If you try to see things from the animals’ perspective, then you would undeniably become a vegan without a second thought. A vegan mainly cares about saving the animals – the health and environmental benefits are just icing on the vegan cake. Fairlie’s farming model does not mean that we can continue to kill these animals, especially not with a “clean conscience.” There are no justifications for the horrific treatment and deaths these beautiful creatures go through. The life of an animal matters just as much as yours, and if you don’t think so and you want to continue to support any form of animal exploitation, then you are simply not a vegan.
Embar, Wanda. “Down and Feathers.” Animal Cruelty. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
“Fur Trapping.” PETA. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
Gerken, James. “Down Comforters: Animal Cruelty Dependent Upon Where You Buy.” The Huffington Post. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
“How to Skin an Animal.” How to Skin an Animal. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
“Inside the Fur Industry: Factory Farms.” PETA. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
“Leather and Factory Farming.” PETA. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
Rousi, Heta. “The Fur Industry Is Worse Than You Could Even Imagine.” The Dodo. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
“Seal Hunt.” Fur Free Alliance. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
Sector, Charlotte. “Is Dog and Cat Fur Being Used in Coats?” ABC News. ABC News Network. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
“The Wool Industry.” PETA. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
Withnall, Adam. “US and Australian Wool Industries Exposed in Shocking Undercover Footage Captured by Animal Rights Groups.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
Yourofsky, Gary. “Other Animal Rights Issues.” ADAPTT. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.