18th January 2022

The Conversation on Deer Culling is a Diversionary Tactic: PJ Coogan chats to Sandra Higgins about Veganism and Animal Rights on Cork 96 FM

In an effort to divert attention away from the ethical obligation to reduce the numbers of animals farmed for human use, with the ultimate goal being the complete elimination of animal agriculture, farmers discuss reducing the number of deers in Ireland. Their ire at these free living animals focuses on their encroachment on land that farmers perceive as their own. It is an example of human supremacy and speciesism to assume that we own the land. Non human animals have as much right to be here as us.

PJ Coogan discusses this notion of animal rights and human supremacy with Sandra Higgins of Go Vegan World. Among the subjects discussed are why vegans avoid exploiting and owning other animals; how animals are harmed when we use them, even on organic farms; how products such as eggs are anything but ‘normal, natural, necessary and nice’ and the harmful effects of animal agriculture.

Globally, 8 million humans kill over 70 billion land animals and trillions of sea animals every year when we could just as easily meet our needs by using plants. Animal agriculture uses 83% of the worlds land but only produces 18% of our calories (Poore et al, 2018). Cows used for their flesh (“beef”) use 60% of this land but only produce 2% of our calories and 5% of our protein needs (Union of Concerned Scientists).

A recent report calculated that agriculture emits 37.1% of Irish Greenhouse Gases, most of it coming from animal agriculture. Report after report brings dire news of ecological degredatation and loss of biodiversity and a call for a transition to a plant based diet and a reduction in the numbers of animals farmed globally, as well as in Ireland. Instead of blaming wildlife for our current system, farming bodies should be supporting farmers to transition to plant based agriculture, and more ethical and environmentally friendly systems of using the land.

Ireland’s natural state is a temperate rainforest. At one time 80% of its land was covered by native trees. Now most of the land (72%) is dominated by barren farmland, with artificially fertilised grass and only 1% forestry. Is it unrealistic to call for a return to this kind of landscape and way of living? A Harvard report published in 2019 showed that if the land currently used for farming animals and growing the crops that feed them, of our nearest neighbour, the UK, was instead returned to its natural forest state, not only would the UK be able to provide all its calorie and protein needs, twelve years worth of carbon emissions could be absorbed (Harwatt and Hayek, 2019, Animal Law & Policy School Programme, Harvard Law School). It is highly likely that the same is true of Ireland.

Other animals are sentient beings. They experience physical and psychological feelings just as we do. Like us, they value their lives and do not want to die. Therefore, they share our fundamental rights not to be owned, exploited or killed. Not only is it immoral to use them and take their lives, we are paying a very high price for doing so, a price that puts our survival as a species at risk. It is way past the time to change how we live, to be vegan and to stop acting as if we matter more than any other form of life.

Note: The Rainforest in Bearra, West Cork, mentioned in the interview, unfortunately exploits other animals. This is not apparent from the website and would not have been referenced if we had known. Nevertheless, it shows what can be achieved when we plant and care for native trees.