Ethical Living: Going Vegan

Anna Lee considers ditching the dairy and forgoing other animal by-products too

Picture / Lynda Feringa.

Recently I’ve been asking myself, should I go vegan? I’ve been vegetarian for the last five years, meaning I don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but I am considering ditching the dairy and forgoing other animal by-products too.

I’m not plunging face first and open-mouthed into a kale gluten-free paleo no-fun salad  and with my diet currently consisting of various appetiser platters and glasses of wine, I’m certainly no nutrition expert, but I have decided to make a conscious decision to be more aware of what I eat.

This isn’t some preachy, lecturing tale of my trouble with meat or the exaggerated benefits of plant based diets, and I’m done with the age old conversation that eventuates after revealing my eating habits and discussing (then subsequently defending) my protein intake. Put simply, I don’t like eating things that are confined, tortured, mutilated and killed just for my dining pleasure — and I don’t want to wear them either.

Why? “The animals — who are housed in unbearably small cages — live with fear, stress, disease, parasites and other physical and psychological hardships, all for the sake of an unnecessary global industry that makes billions of dollars annually,” says Peta. “The anguish and frustration of life in a minuscule cage leads animals to self-mutilate — biting at their skin, tails, and feet — and frantically pace and circle endlessly.”

Intensive factory farming is rife in New Zealand, which is ironic considering there is ample  land for free range farms. According to the Animal Justice Fund, factory farming remains the greatest source of animal suffering in our country, with the industry impacting nearly 100 million animals annually.

And while some punishing practices (caged hens and sow stalls) are banned or being phased out overseas, they still remain legal in New Zealand. There is a reason they’re out of public view. Approximately 83 per cent of 85 million chickens that are killed annually for their meat are caged in torturous, horrifying confines, jammed in small steel cages to cut costs and fed hormones to make them grow at extreme  rates. Male baby chicks are often killed immediately upon birth because they can’t produce eggs.

According to Safe, around 67 per cent of pig farmers (just over 31,000 pigs) within New Zealand are using farrowing crates and sow stalls in intensive pig farms. Known to be highly intelligent creatures, the pigs suffer tremendously within the steel confines — which are often just a fraction bigger than the pig itself and kept in large windowless sheds for their entire lives.

The fur industry is no better, with Peta claiming up to 85 per cent of the fur industry’s skin comes from animals living captive in fur factory farms suffering in distressing and inhumane conditions. And, because the fur industry often demands thicker pelts of older animals (animals raised for meat are killed young), billions of animals are bred and killed annually solely for their fur. Fur is not a “by-product” of the meat trade.

The killing methods are gruesome. “Because fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but that can result in extreme suffering for the animals. Small animals may be crammed into boxes and poisoned with hot, unfiltered engine exhaust from a truck. Engine exhaust is not always lethal, and some animals wake up while they are being skinned. Gassing, decompression chambers, and neck-breaking are also common slaughter methods on fur factory farms,” says Peta.

Most people love to voice their opinion either way on the topic and the majority I’ve spoken to so far have been quick to paint veganism as unrealistic and unachievable. But, if you contribute outright to the animal agriculture business by eating their meat and wearing their skin, do you really have the right to say you ‘love’ animals?

The global outrage that followed after a Danish radio presenter killed a baby bunny with a bicycle pump on air earlier this year highlighted the hypocrisy surrounding the topic, with most quick to point out the barbaric nature of the death but not realising that millions of bunnies die far more gruesome deaths annually for their flesh and fur to keep up with consumer demand.

With a growing number of consumers becoming increasingly aware of the meat, dairy, leather and fur trade issues, almost 16 million people in the U.S alone have become vegetarian, and approximately half of those vegetarians are vegan. 

The movement has gained momentum through high profile advocates supporting the cause including Mike Tyson, Ellen DeGeneres and Usher — with early adopter Natalie Portman telling The Huffington Post in 2011, “the human cost of factory faming — both the compromised welfare of slaughterhouse workers and, even more the environment effects of the mass production of animals is staggering”.

Ignorance is bliss, but it’s hard to turn a blind eye to animal exploitation. As British philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote in The Principles of Morals and Legislation, “The question is not ‘can they reason?’ nor ‘can they talk?’ but ‘can they suffer?’”

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New Zealand Herald

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