Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The red pill or the blue pill?

Today I’ve been thinking about how our attitudes towards each other and our fellow creatures are often tainted by either wilful ignorance or a worldview that has been imposed on us since childhood. We accept eating animals that have been cruelly treated before slaughter as a ‘normal’ part of everyday living, and not something worth kicking up a fuss about. After all, surely all the nice people we know wouldn't eat meat and dairy if there was really something morally wrong with it.

People lavish love and attention on their pets and then sit down to enjoy a bacon sandwich, eating an animal that scientists now recognise to be at least as intelligent as a dog. Why is it that we view one animal as food and another as friend? Quite simply, because we’ve been taught to, and until now we haven't thought to challenge it. If we find a wounded bird in the garden, we nurse it back to health. Unless that bird is a chicken, in which case, we eat it. This behaviour is totally irrational, and yet feels entirely natural and normal to us. We have grown up with images of idyllic farms full of happy pigs and hens laying fresh eggs, and cows that are free to roam in the sunny fields.

This idyllic farm is a lie that the industry is clinging on to with all its might, even in the face of rising awareness over conditions. There may be the odd farm that operates like the fantasy farm portrayed on the Muller advert (I feel like screaming at the telly when this one comes on! What a load of rubbish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCHWJb8i2tk&feature=related ), but they are unfortunately a rarity - the majority of our meat and dairy in this country comes from factory farming. Because we eat so much meat, it would be impossible to run ‘ethical’ farms and produce meat fast enough to meet our insatiable appetite for it. The greed involved really is quite sickening, and indefensible.

I have lost count of the amount of meat eaters who refuse to watch documentaries on the conditions of factory farming, because ‘it’s too upsetting’. Indeed, when I spoke to one friend about it she insisted that she didn’t want to know and that she was ‘quite happy living in the dark, thank you very much.’

Well, what’s a vegan to do? People clearly feel compassion towards these animals or they wouldn’t find it upsetting, and yet they don’t realise, or refuse to accept, that they hold within themselves the key to stopping it. Our agency as consumers is the most powerful thing we have in the fight to end the suffering of billions of animals. Even just making more compassionate choices when we shop can make a huge difference in the message we send to our supermarkets. You probably wouldn’t find this link on many vegan blogs, but if you are a meat eater who is still unconvinced that becoming a vegetarian is necessary but does feel called to make a stand against the appalling conditions in factory farms, please visit Compassion in World Farming, a charity that is not about convincing people to be veggie, but is dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals.


They have a great site, and if you have questions, do email them! They are a huge organisation but they got back to me really quickly.

Although I’d love everyone to be vegetarian or vegan for the many reasons I discussed in my first post, I must admit that the primary motivation for my veganism is to fight against the incomprehensible scale of animal suffering currently happening in our world. If animals were allowed the freedom and space to act out their God-given natural behaviours, the ethical issue of choosing to eat meat or choosing not to eat meat would entail a far different discussion to the one we find ourselves having today. Surely meat eaters and vegans alike can agree that all animals, regardless of the situation they are born into, whether it be domestic pet or farm pig, deserve the right to live their lives free from suffering at the hands of human beings.

In The Matrix (you can watch this clip on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te6qG4yn-Ps) Morpheus offers Neo a choice between knowing the truth about the state of the world and returning to his previous state of ignorance. He says to Neo:

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

I’d urge you to take that red pill and see how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Stop hiding from animal suffering, and joyfully embrace the fact that you can play an enormous and valuable role in ending it. Then maybe together we can make a Wonderland we’d all prefer to live in.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Cupcakes and Ethics

Because together, they work! I promised I'd talk about cupcakes, so here we go. Since discovering the book 'Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World', by the geniuses and pure bundles of delight that are Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, I have come to believe that if these things were cooked in large enough quanities, most of the world's ills would be cured. Or at least I'd be able to have cake at a cafe. Check these women out, and fall in love with the post-punk kitchen!
The book is a delight to read, (you could read it just for fun with no intention of ever donning your oven mits), and the pictures are like vegan porn, which we need more of in the world!
Here's their blog.

I've decided I won't attempt to bake any tonight (especially as it requires a lot less effort just to drool over these pictures), but will instead have a glass of white wine, courtesy of good old M&S, who mark whether their wine is suitable for vegetarians, and enjoy a vegetable curry. Good times.
Afterthought: If the cupcakes look this good on earth, just imagine what they'll be like in heaven! Sweet.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The longest of journeys start with a single blog...

So here it is! My brand new blog, dedicated to the discussion of the difficulties and joys of living out both my Christian faith and my vegan lifestyle (and of course expressing my firm belief that these two things go together very well). I hope that it'll be a thought-provoking read for vegans, christians, vegan christians, and of course all you meat-eaters out there! You know who you are...

I'll be posting up general musings, rants about animal rights, interesting articles and useful links to websites, relaying distressing yet humorous experiences at restaurants (oh there are so many), talking about vegan cooking successes and failures, and of course giving you my general take on the highs and lows of being a vegan christian.

I've only been a vegan for about two months now, after realising the ridiculousness of being a vegetarian who wore leather, used products containing animal derived ingredients, and consumed dairy which is actually part of the meat industry (I only recently discovered how milk is produced). Looking back, I'm not quite sure how I reconciled these behaviours, but I think it was mostly down to ignorance and perhaps laziness. After spending a lot of time researching, thinking, and talking with friends and family, I came to the conclusion that difficult though it may be to live a vegan lifestyle, I could not justify living any other way.

So the process began. Swapping over my shampoo, shower gel, cosmetics, and household cleaning products to vegan cruelty free brands took a fair while, and indeed this is still a work in progress. Some things you just don't think about. Like furniture polish. (Incidentally, today I discovered that Oxfam sell Vegan Society approved eco-friendly furniture polish, so things are looking up!).

Changing my diet was easier than I thought it was going to be, and I have never felt healthier. At first I really missed cheese, but I'm over it now. Really. I am. I don't fantasise about cheese on toast at all. Nope. Never.

Note to self: Change your leather watch strap. It does not look good with your 'Go Vegan' t-shirt.

So, why am I passionate about veganism? Is it because I like cute fluffy animals and get upset at the thought of eating them? In a word: No.* As a christian, I believe that we are called to eliminate suffering wherever we can, and the animal industry (both food and anything dealing with animal products) is unethical, unenvironmental, and horrifyingly violent. I firmly believe that animals have a right to health and happiness, just as we do, and that this suffering is unacceptable. I am not going to discuss the issue of whether eating meat is, in itself, wrong; I personally wouldn't want to take a life for the sake of a chicken sandwich, but that's each individual's personal dicision to make. I do however think that in our current situation the meat industry is fraught with injustice and suffering, and it is impossible to eat meat and not be implicated in this suffering - buying it is funding it.

When challenged a lot of people say: 'Well, I care more about people than animals'. Veganism is about caring for people. Being a vegan is about trying to reverse the impact our consumerist attitude here in the West has on developing countries, and about caring for the environment (I recently read that the pollution caused by the animal industry is more than all other industries in the world put together). Our meat consumption is not energy efficient or sustainable; I'm no economist, and I am unable to give an accurate description of the movement of grain that is involved in feeding our animals, but in my research it keeps coming up time and time again that grain is being used to feed animals (that are going to be eaten) rather than people. This is a pretty succinct read regarding the problem:


How can we as christians reconcile caring for our brothers and sisters and being involved in this injustice? I'm not sure we can, but thoughts are welcome...

I believe, too, that God cares about everything in creation, and that we are asked to be good stewards of that creation. We are certainly not called to go stomping around doing as we please and eating as we please, regardless of the impact we are having on others and the environment.

So there you have it, a little glimpse of where I'm coming from. It is always hard swimming against the tide, which is what being either a vegan or a christian can feel like at times. Yet despite the effort it takes, if you believe in something strongly enough you have to try to live in line with those beliefs, otherwise nothing will ever change.
A friend from church emailed me today saying: 'I've decided that however great or small an impact I might have by being vegan, if that's the right thing to do then I'm gonna do it.' I think this is the real question we need to ask ourselves: Not will it be too hard? or what if I don't like soya milk? or does that mean no ice cream?, but is it the right thing to do?

Is it the right thing to do? I think it is.

This has been a bit of heavy post - tomorrow's will be about vegan cupcakes and wine!

vegan christian love to you all

* Well okay, maybe a little bit. Have you not seen Babe?!

Sharing thoughts on peace, love, and vegan cupcakes!