I’ve been publishing a few excerpts from a talk I gave recently at a vegan festival. Here is the final part.
The agricultural revolution may well turn out to be the greatest crime in human history. Many will disagree but if you measure crimes by the sheer amount of pain and misery they inflict on the largest number of beings, then this claim is not implausible.
By 2050 there will be an estimated 9.7 billion people on earth.
To feed this number of people on the current western diet we will need to breed, house, feed and slaughter close to 100 billion animals every year.
And to put that into perspective, that’s nearly 2 billion a week, 275 million a day and more than 3000 every second of every minute of every day.
This is the reality that awaits us. This is the future we have to look forward to, the future we are allowing to happen.
Factory farms are far from the only way that we humans control the lives and death of animals. Cultures around the world are exploiting them in all sorts of hideous ways.
In parts of China and in South Korea dogs are slaughtered for meat where the belief is that the more agony and stress they are put through, the better the meat tastes.
Millions of wild creatures are killed or abused each year in the Far East for traditional medicines and even aphrodisiacs.
In bear farms across parts of Asia bile is extracted from their gall bladders because some believe they hold medicinal powers.
The bears are housed continuously in small cages which prevent them from standing, sitting upright or even from turning around.
Some bears are caught as cubs and may be kept in these conditions for more than 20 years.
There’s a demand for all of these products just as there is for bacon and eggs here in the West.
If asked, those treating animals in a way that anyone here would deem cruel, needless and barbaric, would probably make the same excuses as we do.
In that to them the practices are normal, it’s their culture, it’s the way it’s always been. And how can we criticise these people in other cultures? Why should they restrain themselves or change what they have been doing for generations while we’re torturing billions of farm animals?
In the oceans, whales and dolphins endure long and painful deaths at the hands of factory fishing vessels.
Each year Sealers chase, club, axe, and often skin alive a few hundred thousand new born pups for the fur trade.
And hunters still think it is normal to stalk, sneak up on, and kill animals for no better reason than the thrill of it, capturing these moments by taking “selfies” with their trophies.
As horrific as all forms of exploitation, abuse and cruelty are, condemning them in any way will always be hypocritical so long as we continue our own systemic abuse.
If you continue to pay for, consume or wear animal products you equally as guilty as the sealers, the hunters, the fishermen and the factory farmers.
Something future generations will surely notice is the rise of the animal rights movement of the early 21st century.
Where there is abuse or wrong doing towards animals you will see men and women, boys and girls with the hearts of lions protesting and campaigning against it.
But change will not come quickly and it may not come at all unless we unite and stand together.
Changing what you eat or the shoes you wear is not enough. You have a voice and you need to make it heard.
Instead of 30 of us at the next save vigil I want there to be 300.
Instead of a few people reaching out to the public in our major cities, I want to see groups in every town across the country.
Instead of 2,000 people marching through London this year I want there to be 20,000 or 200,000.
When this happens, the powers that be, the people who can make change happen will have to listen to us.
And this, by force of numbers, is the only way that real change can possibly happen.
We should all be incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved already but in truth we’ve barely left the starting blocks. Nothing has really changed.
Animals are still dying in incalculable numbers, the planet is burning and we are killing ourselves on the diet that turns the few into billionaires.
I want to see every single person who like me, like you, like us, believes with their hearts and their souls that this insanity has to stop, to stand up, take a step forward and say enough is enough.
The way that we treat the innocent and defenceless creatures in our care is one of the revealing marks that we will leave behind.
It’s one of the most fundamental of human responsibilities; it’s how we will be remembered.
Together we can rid the world of these needless miseries.
And among the gifts that we can offer posterity, they really don’t come much better than that.
One of my favourite quotes is by Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist and speaker of the 1960s and 70s. She said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”