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.