I wasn’t always vegan. In fact I ate meat for over 40 years. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that I woke up to the fact that industrial meat production is an immensely barbaric practice and that any form of abuse of animals purely to satisfy human needs is exploitative and cruel. One day I decided I no longer wanted to be part of this system, and I became vegan overnight.
In the same way that prejudicial biases such as racism, sexism, ageism and so on exist, the sad fact is that many people are also biased by speciesism. This is a term coined by the British psychologist, philosopher and animal rights advocate Richard D. Ryder and made popular by the Australian philosopher and bio-ethicist Peter Singer. It basically means discriminating against animals purely on the basis that they are not human.
It also leads to people in different cultures viewing different species in different ways. For example, in some places it’s acceptable to eat cows, pigs, sheep and chickens but not dogs and cats (although in the same place it’s accepted practice to experiment on these species).
A vegan lifestyle, however, is more than simply not eating animal products. That would be more accurately described as having a plant-based diet. Veganism is a fundamental belief which abhors any kind of abuse of animals for human pleasure or gain. This includes (but is not limited to):
- wearing or buying products made of animal skin, fur, wool, hair, feathers, tusk, horn, etc. which has involved the suffering or killing of the animal
- buying any products which have been tested on animals
- visiting ‘abusement’ parks such as animal circuses, marine parks and zoos
- supporting the abuse of animals for ‘sport’, such as fox hunting, bullfighting, horse racing, dog racing and so on
- hunting, fishing, shooting or trapping animals
- buying pets from puppy or kitten farms
- riding on elephants, camels, donkeys, horse-drawn carriages, etc. while visiting tourist sites
- generally not treating animals with respect (this is important, as there is a strong correlation in people who are cruel to animals to also be violent toward humans).
Finally, although animal welfare was my main driver for switching to a vegan lifestyle, there are in fact many other reasons why eating a plant-based diet makes sense:
- It’s better for the planet and the environment – animal agriculture is one of the greatest polluters and emitters of greenhouse gases.
- It’s better for both physical and mental health – a plant-based diet reduces the risk of heart and other diseases.
- It’s better for humanity – the land used to produce meat for the few could be much better utilised in sustaining the many.
What steps can you take now?