My vegan beliefs are the number one thing I am most regularly challenged on (feminism comes in at a close second). I am an ethical vegan and it is something I believe in strongly. To be a vegan is to avoid consuming or purchasing anything that comes from an animal. Simply put, I do not believe that my life or pleasures are worth more than any other being on this planet. I do not believe that one species is superior to another, and I do not believe that animals should live a life of pain and suffering to then die a cruel death so that humans can can have moments of indulgence, that quite simply, we can do without. I am often left confused at the loud universal uproar at things such as the shooting of Cecil the Lion or Harambe the Gorilla (which were obviously horrific acts), while there is the largely unopposed murder of millions of chickens, cows, pigs, fish, lambs, turkeys and other animals every day.
However, if I had to pick one thing, my main issue is with the capitalist culture that fuels the factory farm industry. I know that most humans are always going to eat meat, and I know that sometimes some people may have no choice (whether that be for cultural, familial, health, or class issues), my issue is how mass produced this industry is. It is common in many Western countries to eat meat multiple times a day, and animal byproducts with every meal, when this is just not necessary (or very good for you).
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that normalises and thrives off animal agriculture, regardless of the amount of cruelty this inflicts, or how much it destroys the environment (animal agriculture is the number one form of environmental degradation on this planet, see here, here, and here). Did you know that ‘to produce one pound of animal protein vs. one pound of soy protein, it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water’ (Choose Veg, 2016)?We all have the capacity to make small changes. I would never push veganism on to anyone (I know, I know, we have the stereotype), but I think it’s something that people need to come to in their own time. It makes me so happy that my parents now eat meat free once a week and happily enjoy the vegan meals that I cook them. I’m ecstatic that my sister has drastically reduced the amount of dairy and meat she eats, preferring vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and plant based proteins, with the odd bit of meat every now and then. These changes matter, these changes are important.
Do you know, that in my first 18 months of being a vegan, I saved the lives of over 120 animals (The Vegan Society, 2016) and significantly lowered my contribution towards environmental degradation? I’ve now been vegan for almost three years, and let me tell you – it’s SO much easier now. Vegan restaraunts are popping up everywhere (my absolute favourite is Smith & Daughters) and even dominoes have vegan cheese now for their pizzas!
I cook a lot of vegan food for my friends and family. I love to experiment with food as I find it calming to cook and create recipes that challenge the common conception of what should be eaten. One of my favourite recipie blogs is Minimalist Baker and my favourite vegan youtuber is Caitlin Shoemaker who runs the awesome channel From My Bowl. If you’re interested too, there are a number of great documentaries to watch like Cowspiracy, Earthlings, and Forks over Knives.
In my own research, I am fascinated by critical animal studies and its application to children’s literature, such as the work done by Matthew Cole and Kate Stewart in Our Children and Other Animals: The Cultural Construction of Human-Animal Relations in Childhood, and the questions surrounding humans, and non-human animals. I am particularly interested in vegetarian-feminist critical theory, such as The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams (please read this book) and ecofeminist approaches to veganism, such as the word of scholar Greta Gaard.
To conclude, Jonathan Safran Foer writes in his wonderful novel Eating Animals, “Not responding is a response – we are equally responsible for what we don’t do” so my final question to you is – what will you do?
Safran Foer, J 2009, Eating Animals, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts.