I don’t call myself a vegan, but everybody else does.

I used to think I was eating meat, but I soon learned that it was actually muscles, bloody tissue, tendons, veins and bones of a dismembered animal. These are body parts, so it made sense to revert back to something more natural, more endemic to my nature. I say this however with slight reservation…

It’s not about veganism, that’s just a philosophy which, quite frankly, hasn’t been fully articulated. However as far as I’m concerned, I am not the property of anyone’s philosophy. Yes, it’s linguistically useful and I rally with the movement in some or other regard, however at the end of the day it’s about doing what is sensible and animal agriculture (whichever angle you look at it), is not sensible or at least it has reached a point where it is inappropriately insensible.

When logic and rationale is applied with the attempt to dissolve one’s own bias, we often can reach a consensus, and surely when we dissect this matter, our conclusions are often uniform, with the only thing hindering progressive activity is the tight appeal to tradition, habit and intergenerational repetition. Consistency in the natural world is observably undeniable, but we in our abstractions alter reality through language and imagination – it’s a human trait. These tools are useful, but these same tools are also a hindrance and fabricate things for what they are, especially with regards to natural law since humans are the most unnatural species to inhabit the natural world.

Words like meat, veal, bacon, beef etc are euphemisms, there is no such thing as meat – meat is only the absence of an animal, a victim. Nobody wants to be told they’re eating skin tissue, cartilage and such, therefore these euphemisms aid to veil the actuality of what is. When we claim that we’re carnivores, or that we’re designed to eat meat then we should not need to dress up the reality. Unlike us, actual carnivores know exactly what they’re consuming – a lion does not see bacon strips or chops, they see a living prey and by virtue of their biological design, they tear it up with their bare physiology. On top of that, they prefer to eat the fresh decaying flesh with all the blood, skin etc. without camouflaging or preparing it as it is appetising for them. For us on the other hand, the sight and scent of decaying flesh disgusts us, the smell of fresh blood churns our stomachs – it is in fact very unappetising. For this reason, many cannot stand the sight of slaughter, more so whilst they eat because it puts them off their food, which then begs the question, is it then food for us if it’s natural honest state displeases us and, most importantly, almost physiologically non-consumable? Consider that the footage from slaughterhouses is considered graphic, always having a warning placed before the content is shown. Isn’t it ironic that violent films and even violent content with regards to, say war, are often quite openly displayed but animal slaughter is so disturbing that the content is often censored.

Nature is designed in such balance that the mechanisms which inform our biology are written in our physiology; we are drawn to the sight of lush and colourful fields, ripe fruit endears us and stimulates our appetites and unless otherwise conditioned, sights of decay and putrefying flesh of any kind are psychosomatically unappealing and quite often nauseating. For this reason we have to condition ourselves through cultural repetition to the normalcy of consuming death. They often say that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, many, if not all, would not be eating ‘meat’ with the exemption of those who actually hunt for meat. This is obviously sensible at a rational level, it does not require sophisticated research to recognise this reality. If we consider that exposing children to abusive slaughter will render psychological damage, it is then sensible to conclude that we’ve conditioned ourselves into this kind of culture and it’s not so much a natural occurrence. When we see a wounded animal, we often do not see food, we instead have the inclination to help and heal.

The meat-eating culture is almost like religion in many ways, it’s a kind of doctrine – religion is proclaimed as a necessity for moral survival, meat is proclaimed as a necessity for physiological survival. Both are very myopic and ideologically flawed,  worse so at their extremes (the extremity in veganism as a social justice movement is no exception). As a result of this madness, we have to feed ourselves and our children images of laughing chickens, pigs, and cows to feel at ease with our barbarism. Dancing chickens and happy cows don’t exist in slaughterhouses, it’s just not a reality, regardless of how many animations we conjure on the tv screens and billboards.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves and wake up to some honesty – it’s alright to admit that perhaps we have been wrong as we have about a lot of things, that perhaps it’s a slight mishap in our evolutionary track that we ought not be proud of. This way we can update our navigation instead of stringently holding on to outdated traditions.

Spare yourself the label, we don’t need to get hackled up about these titles, identity and ideology. It’s simply about looking at what’s working and what isn’t working, what’s causing harm and what’s alleviating harm. Knowledge moves forward through the projection of the imagination, so it is well worth to feel beyond the limit of your knowledge. But take care of the self-reflection because it is often self-fulfilling. Projection can blind by misinterpretation and recognising misinterpretation requires a great degree of understanding one’s fundamental perspectives, beliefs and knowledge including the consequent limitations that exist.

In recognising myself as a perpetrator of great evil, it is sensible to take up the responsibility to confront this evil and the burden to transcend as much of it as I possibly can. If it is in our nature to perceive ourselves as intrinsically good, then we should align our values with our actions. Animal cruelty and exploitation does not constitute behaviour of individuals who think of themselves as intrinsically good.

If we know better, we should do better. Do what we can to make things better, not worse. It’s only a sensible proposition is it not? Ideally we should act in such a way which works for us now, tomorrow, next week, next, month, next year and ten years from now and whilst it works for us, it also works for those around us and broader society. In this case, Animal Agriculture compromises not only our tomorrow but our children’s tomorrow. The land, the water, the air, the wildlife, marine life, the biodiversity… all these crucial components that make up a healthy ecology are under tremendous siege at the hands of Animal Agriculture.

So what I’m basically saying is, unchain yourself from abstractions – you don’t have to be ‘vegan’ to abstain from animal products/exploitation, you don’t have to be ‘vegan’ to care about the earth you live on, or the cruelty to animals, nor your personal health. It’s simple, you can first be a sensible human. Besides, the abstinence from the killing and consumption of other animals has long existed prior to the advent of ‘veganism’ to the world and it was not referred to as such, therefore one shouldn’t invest their attention on terms but rather their actions.

Just to appeal to yours and my humanity for a second, “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” – Albert Schweitzer

Before death, they will scream, they will cry, mothers and babies alike. These animals are alive like us and witnessing their slaughter is no pleasure.

Not killing and eating animals is a sensible step to our future on the planet. It is a sensible approach to tackle climate change and world hunger. It is sensible if you claim to love animals. It is sensible too if you care about practicing peace – there is nothing peaceful about what we do to these animals, our health, our fellow human beings and what we do to the earth.

At the end of it all, it is also to our peril because the earth is not going anywhere, we are. It’s not the earth that needs saving, hence if we’re interested to live in a better world, we better get a good sense of our place on this earth otherwise it will displace us sooner than we think. But also our anthropocentric arrogance has to be scrutinised. If only the earth was here just for us! Unfortunately it isn’t, we share it with a range of other inhabitants so it might be courteous of us to respect them.

Here’s to peace and love in 2019…

Written by Derrick Shadrack