What is ‘offensive and distressing’ is not our ads but the fact that we use and kill animals. As Joe Duffy repeatedly pointed out during the week in reference to the controversy over a photograph from the horse racing industry (see our post Speciesist Concerns about Horse Racing), it is not the image that is the problem, it is the fact that humans disrespect and exploit other animals.
If anything is ‘shocking’ or ‘monstrous’ it is not how our ads depict the slaughter of the lamb or the victim of the Irish free range egg industry; it is the fact that we turn the entire life of a feeling animal into a purpose of our choosing which is to be exploited, killed and used as a resource that caters, not for something we need, but for our taste, habit, tradition and profit. Little wonder we are so defensive when we are reminded that the victims of our unthinking, non-vegan, violent choices, are mere children of other species, taken from the comfort of their mother’s care or their innocent frolicking with their friends, at just a few weeks or months of age, to be killed and served to us as food.
Our ads draw attention to the fact that the animals we exploit and kill are beings with feelings who did not want to die. Everyone has a right to accurate information on the price other animals pay when we use them as commodities or resources. We teach our children to love Peppa Pig and Babe, yet serve them the bodies of pigs, cows, chickens and fish who were bred into this life for the sole purpose of being exploited and killed for profit, when they are only a few months old. We give our children glasses of milk, cheese sandwiches and ice creams but hide from them the fact that children of another species are taken from their mothers after birth so that the milk they produce to feed them can be sold to us who have no nutritional need for it. We feed our children scrambled eggs without telling them about the male chicks ground alive or gassed the day they are born by the egg industry because they can’t produce eggs, or the 18-month-old hens who are slaughtered after their short miserable lives in which they laid an egg a day for humans who have no nutritional need for them. Few children would countenance eating or wearing animals if they knew the truth.
Humans have no nutritional or any other need for other animals. We can be happy and healthy without them. We use and kill them for reasons of taste, tradition and convenience.
In hostile and defensive mode usually reserved for the gravest social ills, the Liveline presenter, Joe Duffy, claimed that his interview with Go Vegan World had ‘nothing to do with veganism’, as he carefully stymied discussion of the substance of the subject and focused solely on what her termed our ‘obnoxious posters’ and his bewilderment at our use of the word ‘child’ in reference to the lamb in the ad. It is notable that Go Vegan World has maintained a consistent presence in Ireland since October 2015 and featured on most radio talk shows, with the notable exception of Liveline. To our knowledge, although Joe Duffy said he had ‘done the vegan argument until I’m blue in the face and I’m sure we’ll do it again’, Liveline has never done a feature on veganism or animal rights. We can’t help but wonder if animal rights is a sore point in someone who is so concerned with other social justice issues. Which of us wants to admit that our daily choices cause such pain to others? Indeed, it is only when we have the courage to admit that there might be something wrong with how we use other animals, that we boycott their use and go vegan. The refrain of every vegan we know is ‘I only wish I had done it sooner’.
Go Vegan World gave careful consideration to the use of this word, and our proposed alternative word ‘baby’. Our rationale for using these words is to draw attention to a fact that confronts speciesism (i.e. how we discriminate against other animals on the grounds of species membership, leading us to believe we are superior to them and entitled to own and kill them): the fact that other animals have family members such as children, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. The ad is designed to prompt viewers to do their own research including investigation of the young age at which most animals are slaughtered and, more importantly, the injustice of breeding them to be exploited and killed in the first place, especially when human use of other animals is completely unnecessary. The ad also, of course, shows viewers that other animals are sentient beings which means that they have the same capacity as humans to feel, including the capacity to feel emotions such as terror and physical sensations such as pain.
The interview is evidence of the continual interruption of those speaking out for animal rights and promoting veganism. The presenter makes frantic efforts to stop his listeners from hearing the answers to his questions or gaining access to a point of view that is fact based and is their right to know. Like most elements of the media, despite the ever increasing seriousness that humans are facing because we have brought the natural world to breaking point, this interview shows the stranglehold over maintaining the status quo. Anyone who thinks that it is acceptable to wear animal skin, eat fish and animal flesh, force the females of other species to over-ovulate and over-lactate and take their new born babies from them so that we can consume the products of their reproductive systems, but who simultaneously refuses to look at the facts of how other animals end up as commodities on our shop shelves and dinner plates, is being disengenuous. It is not rational to use animal products but turn away from the violence, blood, fear and pain upon which those same products are predicated. Vegans celebrate their use of plants for food, clothing, cosmetics, cleaning products etc. They celebrate the forms of entertainment they use which do not exploit other animals. Wouldn’t it be better if everyone was able to celebrate how they live instead of feeling defensive because they know in their hearts that using other animals is wrong.
The defense provided by the two farmers, who are biased because they earn their living by breeding, commodifying and selling animals for slaughter, included the suggestion that a more appropriate ad would have featured a baby goat who we could have referred to as a kid because the terminology is interchangeable between the species, and the ironic suggestion that the biblical story of human supremacy and violence that celebrated the return of the ‘prodical son’ who had squandered his inheritance in a reckless lifestyle by taking the life of an innocent baby calf somehow justifies our reckless human behaviour at the expense of billions of defenceless animals every year.
We are living on the precipice of environmental collapse due to climate change, air, water and soil pollution, and loss of biodiversity, the most significant cause of which is animal agriculture. That is why report after report recommends that we transition to a plant-based diet, which is one of the most important aspects of being vegan. We are living through a pandemic the origins of which lie in human use of other animals.70% of emerging human diseases, including pandemics, originate from our use of other animals. The next pandemic is predicted to come from pig or chicken farming and be infinitely more harmful to us than Covid 19.
We owe our children the truth. Animal use is unnecessary and immoral. Veganism is a better way of living for humans and animals alike.