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Vegan month: an eye-opening first week

Posted on - 10th January, 2011 - 10:24am | Author - | Posted in - Campaigns, Observations, Opinion, People

With only a week gone in my month of being a vegan, it’s too early to come to a verdict about its advantages and disadvantages.

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What I can say with some ease is that this week has opened my eyes with a sudden, sharp shock of the world of veganism.

I spent the first week researching pro-vegan and anti-meat arguments, with the intention of looking at the other side of the coin next week.

I spoke to a range of people this week, from different backgrounds, but they all shared one thing in common: their love of animals.

Former Zen monk and winner of Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award, Dr Will Tuttle, said: “I have been a vegan for 30 years, as has my wife, and we don’t need to go to doctors or to drug stores – it’s a much healthier way to live.

“But we don’t do it for that reason – we do it out of compassion for animals, starving people, wild animals, ecosystems, trees, rivers, oceans, future generations – we are all connected.”

Gail Eisnitz, chief inspector for the Humane Farming Association, has seen through both first hand experiences and the testimonies of abattoir employees what happens to animals inside slaughterhouses – albeit in the US. She told me: “During the course of my investigation, I documented the fact that animals in US slaughterhouses are routinely beaten, strangled, dragged, scalded, and dismembered, all while fully conscious, all in violation of the law.

“It seems to me that consumers are holding all the cards here:  they have the power to stop these atrocities simply by voting with their consumer pounds and not buying these products.

“This tragedy could be stopped if only consumers demanded change.”

While researching Gail’s work, I also came across a very disturbing video. The video shows workers hang a pregnant cow upside down, while still fully conscious. A worker kills her by slicing her throat and then cuts the unborn calf from her stomach. The calf gains consciousness on the floor, bleating for the first time as workers laugh at it.

The laughter continues as the calf is also killed. No methods are used to render the animal unconscious, and the calf – less than 30 seconds old – takes double that to die; writhing in agony as it bleeds to death.

Education

While having one discussion with a friend who is now vegetarian, she told me she would have stopped eating meat if she had known about the slaughtering process from an earlier age. So it begs the question: do we really attribute that pack of bacon to a living creature? Do we appreciate the journey from field to frying pan?

Faye Leister, author of Animals And Us, believes the subject should be part of the national curriculum: “The subject of animals needs to be taught in schools. It is totally avoided because our whole society is set up to keep this information completely repressed, so that we all remain in the trance of ignorance about our involvement and support of exploitation and cruelty. The industry depends on us all remaining ignorant.”

Vegan musician, Joy Valencia, also shared her experiences.

The Chicago-born star said: “The main reason I’m vegan is that I don’t want to contribute to the culture of suffering. I strongly urge anyone who is curious to look up videos and see how these animals live and die.

“After becoming vegan, I feel healthy, lighter, and I crave nutritious food. I feel good knowing that I’m not putting the energy of suffering animals into my body.”

I had no real idea why vegans refused to eat dairy products.

It turns out; a cow only secretes milk after giving birth. But if the calf gets the milk then there’s none left to sell. So if a cow gives birth to a bull it’s either sold for slaughter to make veal or, in some circumstances, just killed. The cow is then made pregnant again and the process repeats.

Admittedly, before the week began I had never truly considered where my food has come from. I’ve never sat down and realised what I was actually eating; not profoundly anyhow. I do now though, and I agree that the subject should be taught to children. They can then make an educated choice.

Photo courtesy of oav_sandros, on Flickr.

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