“I know you’re vegan - did you know that 1000s of insects die for every loaf of bread that you eat?"
Animal welfare is of immense importance to me.
I became vegan in 2014 not because I believe that it’s unnatural to eat meat (I am open minded on this point) but because of the way farm animals are allocated as ‘stock’. When I pulled up at a motorway service station a month ago I was shocked to see (on a warm day) a cattle transport truck, packed with young cows, deserted as the driver had gone inside for his scheduled tea break. With only room to stand and little room to move at all, they waited because they had no choice.
“At least I’m not contributing” I told myself. “At least I’m trying to help in my own small way.” And I cried the whole rest of my journey.
So imagine my horror when an ecologist friend casually referenced, “I know you’re vegan but did you know that 1000s of insects die for every loaf of bread that you eat? Nothing we do on this planet is without consequence.”
What terrible words. What wise words.
Sipping my organic, shade grown coffee with fair-trade coconut milk in the Milly-Van later that day, I reflected on the truth of his words and the decisions that I had made: the principles I had decided to live by.
And I didn’t regret them.
Why? Because I realised that it wasn’t about how many that had died, it was about how they had lived. They had lived free. They might have had short, struggling existences (or they may have soared higher than any tiny bug had gone before) but they had been free to fly, crawl and buzz and they had died, as we all must die.
Those cows on the truck hadn’t been free, nor had they had any say in their young lives. They were a commodity in trade and treated as such.
Rabbits, horses, cats, dogs, rats, mice (and more) in laboratories don’t have choices. They were never born free. They live purely because we breed them to experiment on and (in my research recently) I have been deeply embittered to discover that they are often only fit to be euthanised after their treatment. No hugs and cuddles or treats. They are often too injured from what we have inflicted on them.
I could go on and on but this isn’t a lecture or a horror story to shock people into waking up to our - frankly mental - behaviour as a formidable species.
I just wanted to share my thoughts on why I will remain vegan but also how I’ve learnt to acknowledge every single action I take (as much as I can) because lives have died to allow me to take every step (minuscule insects pottering across the pavement) and 1000s of insects have been churned up by combine harvesters/ploughs to make bread for me to eat and even if I was to forage instead of buying farmed foods, these plants would be giving up their bounty and wildlife would miss out on what I had taken and perhaps some would die from that consequence too.
We all live with death every day, even though as a society we seem to have a phobia of the word.
What summed it up for me is (weirdly) not some high brow article but actually a scene from a not-that-bad-actually vampire novel I was reading last night. The heroine is being abducted (of course) and she says to her Vampire captor, who’s all superior and ‘I’m immortal’… “I feel like I got caught in some giant game all of you are playing and I don’t even know why.” And her captor replies, “Oh, my dear Beatrice, you’re so amusing. Why do you think it matters what YOU want?”
And those words have hummed through my mind all day. Every single animal we take for granted and ‘use’ for food, for clothing, for research, for cosmetic testing: they ARE caught up in a game and no one cares what they want. And they don’t know why. It is simply their reality.
So I’m going to stay vegan and choose cruelty free products and work very hard to bring Pocket Protection and Eco-Intent to fruition because it’s not about ‘not dying’ but instead about the rights we should all have (that ALL of life should have) to live free.
And our wildlife and pollinators are struggling because we’ve taken too much and given very little back so it’s about time they got some space to thrive in that (although perhaps we don’t deserve it) ends up benefiting humanity too, just as much.
To my mind, we are a circular world of perfect complexity, where we eat what we need to to survive and when we die most of us are planted in the soil to be fed on in our turn and provide life for burrowing worms and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is being without choices or living without empathy/compassion.
So until we re-learn respect and kindness and recognise that we are merely equal (not superior) I will continue to be vegan because at least those who die for me, died free.
I have simply now learnt to honour them and to make the ABSOLUTE most of my time because a lot of other creatures died to make it possible.