A Christmas vigil

Look into the eyes of the dying.

The main picture was taken at a slaughterhouse vigil. The pigs in the truck were about to have their throats slashed.

This is just before Christmas – a season on joylessness for many, many animals slaughtered for the benefit of human over-indulgent. As half the world starve, the grain that could fill their bellies goes towards raising animals for the dinner table of the “first world”.

This is followed by Boxing Day – a day of pheasant shooting and pheasant shooting. Like the animals killed for meat, many of the pheasants’ bodies are simply thrown away – surplus to requirements – they died for nothing.

Of course, Christmas is followed by Veganuary  (https://veganuary.com/) – more people than ever are expected to take part next year (2019) (https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/veganuary-2019-biggest-year-300-000-taking-part?fbclid=IwAR2zaJ6AVMoLteL1MiVItEzNe3K5SrCDuG5yxzSpZk2IdMFEE02dPeBM3qY0) meaning that there are shining lessons of compassion breaking through the darkness of environmental destruction, animal pain and misery and dangers to human health.

There are even hints that more and more people are shunning meat for their Christmas dinner (https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/one-in-12-people-will-tuck-into-a-vegan-or-vegetarian-christmas-day-meal-in-the-uk-this-year/?fbclid=IwAR20R8-71GijVbvHaWzx5HysyYCKP12vkkYAND27P7naUHsfTxu_9HZQ8D4) – given the rise in veganism over the past few years, this should really come as no surprise. But it is easy to feel alienated by simply browsing the comments to posts about veganism from national media outlets. I know, I know, the first rule of social media is never read the comments!

We sometimes forget that vegans are still in a minority, and the constant advertising of meat and “traditional” Christmas meals rams this down our throats at every opportunity over the festive period. The fact that many feel like the “token vegan” at office parties or company meals out can make this an even more depressing time of year, but the sheer number of meat-free Christmas dishes now available should be cause for joy.

I think, this year, every major UK supermarket has their own version of the vegan Christmas dinner – the Guardian has even rated them for us – although, it has to be noted this is just one person’s point of view – https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/dec/15/vegan-taste-test-grace-dent-rates-supermarket-christmas-dishes

So, with rising numbers of vegans, one has to ask why the advertising industry is still stuffing images of meat down our throats over the festive season, families make light of the “ vegan option” and some people still feel alienated. Indeed, many of us do not like the thought of sharing a table with those consuming animal products – even the smell is intolerable for me.

This is why attending the vigil was important. Even those of us who have been vegan for a long time need reminders every now and then as to why we choose a compassionate lifestyle – and what could be more compassionate than being there before somebody dies?

It’s also important to make the connection between the living being and the slab of meat on somebody’s plate – need I elaborate any further?

Vegan townie versus the countryside

fox-hunt

It’s that time of year again; when both sides of the hunting debate ramp up the propaganda machine to eleven and claims and counter-claims brighten up radio talk shows.

The latest polls suggest that eight four per cent of the UK population oppose hunting foxes with hounds. The Countryside Alliance claims, every year, that more and more people turn out for the “traditional” Boxing Day and New Year hunts. What they don’t tell us is how many of those who turn out really believe that hunts no longer kill foxes (they do).

As those of us opposed to hunting battle for the Hunting Act loopholes to be closed (they can chase a fox with hounds to a bird of prey or “accidently” kill one when it happens to cross their “trail”), supporters of country (re blood) sports label us “townies” who “don’t understand countryside ways”. In other words, we should “keep our noses out”.

There are several flaws with this notion.

In a post-Brexit referendum backdrop, do we really want to divide our country further? Is a town versus countryside agenda really the best those who enjoy the “spectacle” of a fox being torn apart can do?

This “townie” grew up on the edge of the Lincolnshire Fens. My father an agricultural engineer, my grandparents farmed flowers for a living. So, yup, I’m a really “townie”. The last time I looked, the countryside belonged to us all – we all pay taxes for it, after all. In fact, our taxes also go towards the huge farming subsidies that many in the countryside still receive, and are likely to do so post-Brexit. That, to me, suggests that what happens in those tax-payer-subsidised farms is very much our business.

Farmers are always screaming at consumers to “buy British”. Many of those consumers are also “townies” – “townies” who should keep their noses out of the countryside…. So, maybe, those in the countryside should keep their noses out of “townies’” buying habits? After all, production methods in other nations are often criticised in the UK Press – and by farming bodies – so, maybe, just maybe, that gives us a right to have a very strong view of production methods (including so-called “vermin” control) here too.

Farmers are always protesting about supermarket pricing (admittedly, I’m hardly a big business fan either), maybe we should suggest these farmers simply don’t understand “townies’” ways? Would could make the same response in reply to buying British pleas.

Truth is, subsidies and taxes aside, most “townies” send a lot of money to the British countryside – either through buying the produce or through tourism. That makes countryside issues very much our business – to suggest otherwise is simply obscene.

As a final note, foxes are the best form of vermin control a farmer could possibly have – killing plenty of rabbits (their main prey and the farmers’ most significant “pest”) every year. As a vegan, I’d much prefer to see natural pest management by leaving foxes alone than throwing in ill-judged human intervention.

Veganism vs “veganism”

World Vegan Day was first celebrated in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vegan Society. So, here in the UK, we can be proud of the fact that it all started here.

Marked on November 1st each year, it gives us vegans a chance to celebrate our diet and promote it to others. In the age of social media, that is becoming more and more easy.

But, as the number of vegans grows beyond what anyone could have imagined back when the Vegan Society was first born, I have to ask, has complacency set in?

I read about the big animal rights march in London, the weekend preceding World Vegan Day, where 2,000 vegans marched through the capital. Veteran animal rights campaigners remarked that 20 years ago that figure was 20,000 on some animal rights demonstrations – and that was at a time when the number of vegans wasn’t a patch on the figures we see now. I also read a piece by the Countryside Alliance remarking that the number of protesters at fox hunts each weekend was very much fewer these days than it was 20 years ago – and that’s before the Hunting Act, before the law gave a degree of protection to “sabs”.

This is where the difference between “veganism” and “animal rights” is highlighted most starkly. Many people debate the word “vegan” online, coupling it with “animal rights”, but, if we’re honest, people who follow a plant-based diet are, by the dictionary definition of the term, “vegan”. Newspaper articles highlight the fact that many people go vegan for health reasons, others do it for compassionate reasons, but aren’t what is seen as the “activist” type. Others are what many like to term “armchair activists”, and being an “armchair activist” has never been so easy. Social media means that we can sign petitions all day long – but does it make any difference? Well, yes and no, is the straight answer – as straight as you’re going to get anyway!

No, I haven’t gone all politician on you, but, it’s true, petitions do make the Press, they do make people aware as they pop up in people’s Facebook newsfeeds, but, on the whole, politicians tend to ignore them – look at the recent “Ban Grouse Shooting” petition – it got debated, and the MPs decided to totally ignore the will of the people. Politicians ignoring the people they serve? Never! Sadly, it was thus, and it is time and time again.

 

I have said before, and I stand by the fact that to be a vegan is to be an activist – you are saying “no, using animals as products is wrong”, and you aren’t adding to the death toll in slaughterhouses and on dairy farms – but do you need to do more? That, my friends, is a question only you can answer.