London March to Close all Slaughterhouses – 10.06.17

On Saturday 10th June, London came alive as thousands flocked to the streets to make their voices heard. Whilst some people came to protest a weakened government, many came to protest against the biggest injustice of all; the exploitation and slaughter of animals.

Saturday’s march was not a call to improve welfare standards within slaughterhouses, it was a call to close them. All of them. For this is the only way we could ever justify calling ourselves animal lovers.

Every year around the world, 60 billion land animals and more than 1000 billion aquatic animals are killed without necessity. That’s 164 million land animals, and 2.74 billion aquatic animals every day. These numbers, so huge that they’re impossible to visualise, are slaughtered needlessly without the majority of the public ever giving it any thought.

Saturday’s march was about bringing these numbers to the people. It was about showing people the horrors of what they pay for when they choose to eat animal products over plant based options. The march was not about judging meat eaters as bad people, far from it, it was a desperate plea for them to wake up and realise that what they are doing is contrary to their own, existing set of moral codes. Almost nobody in this country has a desire to intentionally harm animals, especially when it’s unnecessary to do so. Yet, every day most people do exactly that.

Slaughterhouses are open because consumers pay for them to be. Animals are slaughtered at an alarming and horrific rate because consumers pay for it to happen. This is not a problem within the factory farming world alone, this is a problem across the entire animal agriculture industry. Organic, pasture fed, free range; these labels are irrelevant. Aside from the fact that these classifications are arbitrary when it comes to the reality of how the animals are reared, all animals end up at the same slaughterhouses. Places where animals spend their final few hours; terrified, distressed and in pain.

The Close All Slaughterhouses march on Saturday not only brought the facts and figures to the streets, it was also an opportunity for vegans to speak to the people of London and to show them that we are all the same. There is no vegan “type” – Veganism in 2017 covers all demographics. Compassion is not exclusive to one group of people, it’s something we all have in our hearts, we just need to allow that compassion to reach its natural conclusion. Most of us know that there’s no reason to cause pain and suffering to animals. To do so simply because we like cheese, or meat, or eggs, is immoral.

For many people, Saturday’s march was their first time at such an event. This movement is growing faster than any other movement before it, and for good reason. The world is waking up. People are becoming increasingly aware that animal agriculture is destroying our planet; that the products we consume are killing our bodies; and that the lifestyles we’ve been living are inflicting nothing but suffering upon innocent, sentient beings.

This protest was not the first of it’s kind, and it certainly won’t be the last. Up and down the country such events are taking place with increasing frequency, and with increasing numbers of participants. The excuses have run out, and consuming animal products for pleasure is no longer acceptable. Vegans are not going away, and whilst we cannot stop anyone from funding animal enslavement, we can show them exactly what they’re paying for.

You can eat “your” meat, but you won’t eat it in peace.

Extreme parenting: should a child ever be made to eat meat?

Every few months or so an article surfaces online detailing the neglectful actions of parents who have apparently caused harm to their child by feeding them a vegan diet. Often shared by people who do little more than read the headline, it usually goes unnoticed by most that there is far more to the story than initially meets the eye.

Such examples include the parents who fed their baby a diet mainly consisting of soya milk and apple juice. The prosecutor in this case specifically mentioned that the issue was not that the infant’s diet was vegan, but that he simply was not fed. Other examples include religious parents who self-diagnosed their child with allergies and fed him a diet lacking in key nutrients; and the mother who refused to take her child to the hospital (despite the baby’s obvious sickness) due to a number of personal and religious beliefs. In all of these cases poor dietary decisions were made by the parents, but none of the symptoms themselves were actually related to a lack of animal products in the child’s diet.

In the UK alone, hunger and malnutrition affect millions of people. In the last few years there has been a significant increase in malnutrition in children; the vast majority of whom consume meat and other animal products. In these cases we recognise that a number of factors are at play; some parents struggle to afford to feed their children properly, whilst others are simply neglectful. The fact that these children are malnourished and non-vegan is obviously never reported – this would go against the media bias, and would not make for profit generating clickbait.

The NHS, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Dietetic Association all state that a vegan diet is healthy at all stages of life. This includes pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence and onwards. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation classifies processed meat as a class 1 carcinogen, and red meat as a class 2 carcinogen. The fact that processed meat falls within the same classification as smoking, makes it highly questionable that we as a society see fit to feed such products to our children. What may seem like a harmless piece of bacon is actually a substance strongly linked to several types of cancer. This is a conclusion reached by a group of 22 experts, from 10 countries, reviewing the results of over 800 studies. You have to wonder: what sort of headlines would be making the rounds if a child was sent to school with a packet of cigarettes in their lunchbox?

Although red meat currently has a lower classification, it is still considered “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organisation. This includes all forms of beef, pork and lamb, amongst many others. According to Cancer Research UK, 21% of bowel cancers and 3% of all cancers are caused by red meat. What possible reason could we have for feeding this substance to our children, when it is not only damaging the planet we hope to leave for them, but also putting their health at severe risk?

Although it is often said that vegan parents force their beliefs on their children, it is actually meat eating parents who are guiltier of doing so. An infant given meat by his or her parents is denied a number of important choices which should be theirs to make later on in life. Not only are children in this situation made to consume products which could be detrimental to their health, they are also forced into believing in an ideology which states that killing animals for pleasure is acceptable. An individual raised eating meat can never undo the harm they have caused to the planet or bring back the countless animals killed on their behalf. This is something that most vegans have to live with, and something that understandably causes them a feeling of grief, even though they were not complicit in the original decision.

Should a parent ever have the right to make a decision which can cause such an overwhelming feeling of guilt to the child later in life? In any other situation we would certainly say no. Yet this is what a parent is risking when they allow their belief in a carnist ideology to dictate how they raise their child. Bringing a child up as a vegan, even if you consume meat, circumvents this risk.

Of course, it may be tempting to disregard the evidence. A perceived sense of convenience may persuade you to continue to force animal products into the diet of your unsuspecting child. Perhaps, like many others, you will justify this decision by explaining to your child where meat, dairy and eggs come from. The concept of killing animals for food, delicately put into words, may not cause any immediate distress to your child. However, this is obviously a very confusing message, as we also tend to teach our children that animals are our friends, and that they should be cared for, not mistreated. Surely, double standards such as these are not good lessons for our children.

Vegan diets may be considered extreme by many, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, it is the only diet which provides a child with a non-biased foundation on which to construct their own moral decisions. In a society where it’s not only possible but practical to live a healthy life without enslaving or slaughtering animals; surely raising a child to be anything other than vegan is the most extreme decision of all.

Down with Dairy: Surge Activism in London

Down with Dairy: Surge Activism in London

Just days after World Milk Day was trending on Twitter (largely due to vegans sharing the truth about dairy), a group of activists met in London to show the public what funding the dairy industry really means. Organised by Surge Activism, the Down with Dairy demonstration in Leicester Square adopted a method known as the “cube of truth”. This form of activism involves a group of individuals standing side by side, in an outwards facing square, holding laptops showing undercover footage from dairy farms. Holding either a laptop or a placard each member of the group is dressed in black and wearing a mask, so as not to distract from what they are there to show people. Outside of the cube, individual activists are on hand to talk to people about how they feel having seen the footage, and to explain how they can make decisions in the future to help end the suffering they witnessed on the screens.

As the area became busier over the course of the day, more and more people stopped to watch the footage; the likes of which many of them would never have seen before. Nearby, a table was set up to give out free samples of vegan milks and cheeses, as well as leaflets.

The response to the footage was unanimous. Everyone that stopped to watch seemed truly horrified by what they saw. Many people were visibly shocked; having most likely never seen such footage, or having never considered what goes on behind closed doors on dairy farms.

We spoke to a number of people about what they thought of the footage. Every one that we spoke to agreed on one of, if not all of the following points: that the industry is cruel; that it’s unnecessary and unethical to practice the methods shown in the videos; that humans do not need to consume dairy products; that humans do not need to eat meat.

When you’re speaking to somebody who agrees with the above statements, it’s incredibly refreshing and inspiring as the next step upon realising these truths is surely veganism. Yet, in many cases when you ask a person whether they would go vegan, it feels like there is still something holding them back. This is when you see social conditioning kick in. Sometimes providing all the information still isn’t enough when you’re asking somebody to swim against the current and stop doing something they’ve been doing their entire lives. You’re asking them to disregard the information their parents gave them, to ignore decades of meat and dairy advertising, to throw out anything they thought they knew about what the body needs, and what we as a species do to the animals we rear for food.

The impression I came away with after the demonstration was that most people are within touching distance of veganism. Some may need just the tiniest push, whilst others may cling for years on to one last excuse, one doubt that has been so deeply sown it can’t be dug out with ease. The deluded idea that humans are apex predators, the so often repeated concern that vegans don’t get any protein; these excuses can be debunked with one quick google search, yet people continue through life believing these excuses to be facts. The reality is, people don’t want to search out the truth; as the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss”.

Events such as Down with Dairy bring the truth to the streets, bypassing peoples unwillingness to seek the truth out for themselves. Occasionally a passerby might see whats being presented and make the switch to veganism there and then. Some might agree to go away and think about things, watch a video or try the 22 day challenge. Many, however, will go away thinking that despite what they saw, they’re able to carry on justifying their way of life. But the seed of doubt will have been sown. They may stop buying dairy milk without really thinking about it, perhaps they’ll decide to research which cheese producer is most humane, and find themselves uncovering even more information than they’d intended to. They might stop eating so much meat, become a “flexitarian”, and just maybe find their own way to veganism, all because of a demonstration they saw in Leicester Square a few months previously.

The world is never going to turn vegan overnight, but outreach events such as these are critical. Most of us grew up in a time when events like these were so rare you may never see one at all; I never did in 30 years of being a non-vegan. If I had, I’ve no doubt I would have stopped consuming animal products earlier in life.

With the rise of veganism within our society comes the increasing frequency of vegan outreach events. This movement is snowballing unlike anything that ever came before it. Some minds were changed in Leicester Square on Saturday, some weren’t. But I’ve got no doubt that at least one of the people that stopped on Saturday will one day be standing on a busy street, telling passersby how veganism changed his or her life.

 

 

Anti Fox Hunting March – London

 

On Monday the 29th of May, activists, campaigners and concerned citizens from all over the country gathered in London with a shared objective. In response to the recent release of the Conservative manifesto, in which a free vote on hunting with hounds was promised, over two thousand people marched on Downing Street to make their voices heard. The message was loud and the message was clear: there is no place for fox hunting, or any other form of hunting with hounds, in a modern, progressive Britain.

As someone who strongly opposes cruelty to animals I travelled to London specifically to take part in this event, and to lend my voice to the cause. Although just over two thousand of us were in attendance, we marched with the backing of millions. At least 84% of the country’s citizens support the ban on hunting with hounds, with a recent poll putting this figure at 90%. In a country divided on so many issues, and reeling from a referendum that literally divided the population in half, one thing is clear: the nation stands together on fox hunting.

The absolute opposition our nation has to repealing the ban was not only apparent by the turnout for the demonstration itself, but the response of the public who watched the procession; significant numbers of whom cheered and clapped as the protesters passed them by.

Animal lives should never be used as political weaponry, but in this instance they have been and the people are not happy. At the risk of alienating the 70% of Tory voters who support the hunting ban, Theresa May has gambled her election campaign on appeasing the pro-hunting lobbyists. In employing this self-serving tactic May has declared war on animal rights, and those who fight to protect them.

The Labour Party slogan throughout this campaign has been “For the many, not the few”. I find this especially poignant as I reflect on the possibility of Theresa May heading a government which seeks to overrule the will of the many, simply to please the very few. Thanks to Theresa May, a vote for the Conservatives is now a vote to repeal the ban on hunting foxes, hares and deer with hounds; it is a vote to continue a wildly unsuccessful badger culling campaign; and it is a vote to continue the UK ivory trade, something David Cameron had previously promised to ban. For those who consider animal rights a critical part of our society’s moral code, Theresa May’s manifesto has made the Tories impossible to vote for.

As a nation we proudly assert our place on the world stage as a society of animal lovers. We regard with contempt events such as Yulin dog meat festival, and the annual whale slaughter in the Faroe islands. We’re far from perfect in this country, and as a vegan I know we have a long way to go when it comes to animal rights. But Monday’s event served to remind me that when we Brits see cruelty we oppose it, and we act on it.

On Monday we delivered a message, but on June 8th we have the opportunity to deliver an even more powerful one; one that changes the shape of British politics and shows future candidates that even at our most divided, on protecting our wildlife we are united.