20th January 2020
Why has the Ulster Farmers’ Union Objected to Go Vegan World Advertising?
Sandra Higgins, Go Vegan World was interviewed by William Crawley on BBC Radio Ulster, Talkback in conversation with Mr Ivor Ferguson, President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
Go Vegan World ran a campaign in Northern Ireland for the first two weeks of January 2020. It consisted of eighty five animal rights ads on buses in Belfast. The ads state: Dairy Takes Babies from their Mothers and It’s Not a Personal Choice When Someone is Killed. The Ulster Farmers’ Union objected to the ads and attempted to have them taken down.
In this interview we discover, yet again, that the animal agricultural lobby misunderstands veganism and fails utterly to grasp the notion that other animals have rights. They persist in thinking that animal rights campaigners object to how they treat the animals they breed for their livelihoods when, in fact, our objection has nothing to do with animal welfare and everything to do with the fact that they use animals at all. This misunderstanding shows how deeply engrained speciesism is in our culture. As we are at pains to point out in our interviews and in our ads, other animals are thinking, feeling beings who value their lives and, as a result, they have the same fundamental rights as humans not to be owned or exploited; not to be used as ingredients, commodities or resources; and not to be killed. Being vegan means that we respect these rights and the ways in which we think about and understand other animals reflects that we respect them as being our moral equals.
It is obvious that the farming lobby is still scraping the barrel of excuses as it resists transitioning to a plant based economy. There is an increasing public acceptance that veganism is a good and right way of living, that a vegan diet is nutritionally adequate with many health benefits, and that if we are to produce food, clothing and energy in a way that ensures a sustainable future, avoids climate catastrophe, and retains a healthy planet that can sustain life, we need to transition away from animal agriculture.
The farming lobbies are also scraping the barrel of excuses for their objections to our ads. They have nothing to say about our ad that reminds people that using other animals is not a personal choice because when we use them, they lose their lives. The farming lobbies claim to object to our use of the ‘babies’ to describe the day old calves who are taken from their mothers in the dairy industry. It’s a lame and speciesist objection. If farmers refer to mother cows as ‘mothers’, it is feeble to object to animal rights activists referring to the newly born children of mammals in the dairy industry as ‘babies’. Humans are not the only mammals or animals to have babies. To every mother cow, her calf is her baby. To every sheep, her lamb is her baby. To every hen, her chick is her baby. The true objection of the farming lobby is the reluctance to be reminded that other animals have children and relationships and feelings as humans do. The fact is our ads make them uncomfortable and ashamed of their livelihoods. If they were as proud as they claim of their work, surely they would want campaign groups like us to advertise the facts of that work? Instead they bully and harass the agencies that carry our ads. The current controversy has made the headlines but attempts to dissuade advertising agencies and the owners of advertising space from displaying our ads are constant. It is a deeply unjust hing to use other animals when it is entirely unnecessary. It is a deeply unjust thing to take a baby from their mother, regardless of species. It is a deeply unjust thing to breed a defenceless, innocent being into this life for the sole purpose of sending them to be killed for profit. It is a deeply unjust thing to work with sentient animals, in many cases knowing their mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, recognising their unique personalities, witnessing them treasuring their lives, and then sell them to their deaths as if they were no different to a carrot or potato. If these aspects of animal agriculture are fair and justifiable, why do the farming lobbies object to our reference to them in our ads?
We are not referring to isolated incidents of animal abuse. Everyone, including Ivor Ferguson and most farmers, recognise the immorality of abuse. We are referring to the systematic exploitation and unjust use of other animals for profit when it is not necessary for us to use them. Our ads do not set out to demonise anyone, in fact they do not address farmers at all: they address consumers who create a demand for animal agriculture by presenting a new way of thinking and feeling about other animals that confronts the speciesist status quo we have all grown up with, the status quo that we see advertised everywhere, that presents them as commodities, ingredients and resources for us to use instead of recognising them for who they are and the price they pay when we are not vegan.