“The object of our Group is to state a case for a reform that we think is moral, safe and logical. In doing so we shall, of course, say strongly why we condemn the use of dairy products and eggs. In return we shall expect to be criticized. It will be no concern of ours if we fail to convert others, but we do think it should concern them if, deep in their hearts, they know we are right.”
- Vegan Society Founder Donald Watson, The Vegan News, November 1944
A great many people become vegetarian for ethical reasons, in response to a strong sense that animals shouldn’t be mistreated on factory farms, or that they simply should not be killed for food. However, many individuals who eschew meat out of concern for animal interests continue to consume and use other animal products. Many vegetarians, in fact, upon removing flesh products from their diet, actually increase their intake of eggs and dairy, two products which result from extreme animal abuse.
The production of milk and eggs involves both tremendous cruelty and also the deaths of billions of animals every year. Not only are these animals killed just like those raised specifically for meat, but they are kept alive longer, and subjected to a tragic lifetime of slavery, including the horrific violations that come from the brutal exploitation of their reproductive systems.
Typical dairy cows are only considered “productive” for two years, and are slaughtered when they are only four years old. During their short, wretched lives, they are subjected to annual cycles of artificial insemination, and suffer through several courses of mechanized milking every day. This occurs for 10 out of 12 months of the year, including 7 months of their 9-month pregnancies. When they give birth each year, their calves will be taken away within their first few days. A bovine mother’s newborn has only two possible futures… If she is born female, she will be sent into dairy production, into the same tragic life of reproductive slavery as her mother. If he is male, he will be sold to farmers who will sell his flesh as veal.
As with dairy products, eating eggs also contributes to both immense suffering and the violent deaths of millions of innocent animals. When chickens are bred for egg production, only the females are useful to the industry, so the male chicks are considered byproducts. Each year, millions of male chicks are gassed, crushed, or thrown into garbage bins to die from dehydration or asphyxiation.
But what about organic milk, and free-range or cage-free eggs? The truth is that for any product to be mass produced (and therefore economically viable), animals must be bred in massive numbers, subjected to a lifetime of exploitation, and eventually transported to the slaughterhouse, where they will be brutally murdered. The use of the word “humane” to describe animal products is nothing but a marketing ploy by the animal industry. Animal farming is a huge business which involves vast sums of money, and those with a vested interest are not going to just sit back and do nothing while the news of animal cruelty in their facilities reaches more and more anxious consumers. But those of us who claim to be concerned about the lives of animals ought not to sucked in by such blatant industry propaganda.
If you are an ethical vegetarian, and you have already decided that animals are individuals who should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering, consider using this year’s World Vegetarian Awareness Month, which is celebrated each and every October, to question whether your vegetarianism is really an appropriate reflection of the values you believe in. If your conscience is no longer satisfied with your lacto-ovo status, then I have some good news: Veganism isn’t difficult, as you might have been led to believe… There are growing numbers of happy, healthy vegans who enjoy exciting, delicious food, improved health from eliminating all animal products from their diets, and a new lease on life as a result of ending their dependence on industries that cannot exist without consumers who continue to contribute money to support the slavery and abuse of our fellow beings.
What makes veganism even more empowering is that it goes far beyond diet, and eliminates one’s contribution to the entire animal use paradigm. Consider the words of Eva Batt, writing in 1964:
“In our opinion, it matters not one jot to the innocent creature whether it is to be slaughtered for human food, medicine, clothing, sport, or such luxuries as ivory ornaments, horn, bone or tortoiseshell knick-knacks, crocodile handbags, or exotic perfume. Sudden death in the prime of life, or the lingering agony of pain and starvation in a steel trap, must be as terrifying for the field-mouse, stoat or rabbit as for the hunted tiger, whale or stag… Sometimes it is the baby, or rather its skin, which is coveted by man. What the parent seal feels as she grieves over the bloody remains of her clubbed and quickly skinned pup, is probably no different from the anguish of the domestic cow on losing her newly-born calf.”
Animal lovers: Don’t run or hide from the truth of veganism. It is a liberating experience when you let its significance move in on you… And it is a source of unending joy to spend your life striving to live up to its ideal.