How can so many of us claim to care and love animals when we are all active or complicit in their suffering each day. Personally, I never thought about animals much growing up, I was never passionate about them, never had a close family pet. I’d truly never considered other animals as anything really- they were just there. The ethics of eating and using them had never entered my mind.
As a kid I knew we ate beef, eggs, ham, and cheese but the connection between these products and a living, breathing, feeling animal was far removed from my thoughts. Of course, on some level I knew it, that we were eating animals, but had neither given it much thought or been asked or shown anything to question if I was ok with this or not. That’s just the way it was. As life moved on the programming and normalisation of consuming animals as food became further and further cemented in my values. I grew interested in cooking and eventually made this my career, I prided myself on quality produce and ingredients but still if I really think about it, I considered little the process an animal must go through to eventually be delivered at my restaurant as a premium product. It was just a matter of fact that we ate animals – if it had been presented to me differently I’d like to believe I could have made a different choice earlier, something like this – animals exist in nature, they have family and feel emotion just like we do, but we choose to take them from their natural environment, relentlessly bread and manipulate them, confine and suppress them, steal their children, brutally murder them, chop them up and eat their flesh- but this realisation didn’t come for some years.
Slowly I became convinced that we needed to consume animal products for basic survival, for human health, ironic that I could be convinced of this while also still eating lots of fast food, refined sugars and processed junk – a convenient lie that allowed me to continue doing exactly what I had always done.
My sister became vegetarian at a young age, and although I can remember her being supported by my family, there was also concern about ‘getting enough’, and so I learned from a young age that going vego meant you were missing out on important building blocks of nutrition that are only available in animal products. TV adds, school, the Australian Healthy Food Pyramid, the fact that everywhere you go you will be served animal flesh or secretions. Dairy milk the corner stone of children’s health! Right? When it’s all around you, in every fast food outlet, in every isle of the supermarket then how could we possible think that there is something wrong with it, it’s so normal, it’s so accepted you could never begin to think that there may be another way. A better, healthier, more compassionate way of eating.
In Australia we have managed to separate ourselves so successfully from the way animals are treated and produced and end up on our tables, that many of our children now simply assume that meat, fish, milk all come from the supermarket. The connection between what we are putting in our mouths each meal and its story is lost, hidden, and manipulated intentionally to take our minds off what really happens to get our food to the table.
Today in Australia over 30 000 male day-old chicks will be macerated (shredded alive) as a by-product, considered worthless to the industry (1) – organic, free range, pastured raised, battery farmed, makes no difference to these hatchlings. Each year dairy cows are forcibly impregnated from the age of 2 years for the purpose of producing milk for humans. In order to produce milk they must give birth, if the calf born is male he will be killed at 1 day old or kept in a small pen for 3 months and killed for veal, if the calf is female she will be separated from her mother and share her mums fate as a dairy cow. The mother cow can below in morning for weeks for her child, imagine your child being forcibly removed and sentenced to death or a life of exploitation from birth. (2)
What is this term of farm animal that we teach our children? Farm animals are just animals, the same as your dog or cat, the same as a tiger or monkey, or any animal on the planet. What we categorise as farm animals are really wild animals that have been taken from the wild, selectively bred and genetically manipulated over many 1000s of years, and reduced to products, commodities - not beings, not animals at all. To do what we do to them each second of each day we have to reduce them down to a perceived lifeless entity, otherwise the terror released on them and on us as witnesses in the process would be too much to bare.
There may have been a time when man ate the flesh of on animal for survival, out of a caloric necessity. This practice according to indigenous culture around the word was not derived from domination over animals but was a deeply spiritual sacrifice made by an animal for man, and resembling nothing of the animal agriculture practices of today. It has been suggested that ancient cultures ate animals out of need, today that need is gone, we are not merely surviving anymore. (3) Claiming ancient history or culture as a reason to continue the consumption of animal flesh and secretions today is suggesting that we haven’t evolved past those times and that we are still in this same search for calories. We now live in an age of calorie excess, an abundance of calories, enough to feed the world. The way we acquire energy from animals actually wastes calories using up to 25xs more than from plants directly. (4) Regardless of if animals are factory farmed, or pastured raised organic, they end up at the same slaughter house, many being killed as children really as early as one twentieth of their natural life span, and do not want to die!
We must stop thinking of other beings on this planet as food, letting go of our need to dominate life. I believe our domination over nature, other beings, even other humans, is contributing to the health epidemics and inequality in the world today.
Even now I try not to think about other animals if I can help it, because when I do, I am filled with grief, anger, and despair. But we can make meaningful change, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Each animal is unique and has something to offer this world. Just as each person is unique and can choose to create or end suffering.
(1) Eggs – Male Chicks Killed At Birth, https://www.aussiefarms.org.au/kb/eggs, - accessed 23/06/2020
(2) Dairy- What Happens To The Babies, https://www.aussiefarms.org.au/kb/dairy, - accessed 23/06/2020
(3) Indigenous Veganism: Feminist Natives DO Eat Tofu, http://www.thescavenger.net/social-justice-sp-24912/animals/504-indigenous-veganism-feminist-natives-do-eat-tofu-237794.html, Margret Robinson, Published 14 November 2010, - accessed 23/06/2020
(4) A Well Feed World- Plant-based Hunger Solutions, Feed To Meat Conversion Inefficiency Ratios, https://awellfedworld.org/feed-ratios/ , - accessed 23/06/2020