The currency of death


“What you’re vegan? Oh I couldn’t do that, that’s far too extreme…”

The above sentence is one that every vegan has probably heard about a hundred times. It usually precedes about ten minutes of ill-informed ranting from the non-vegan about why veganism is extreme, how eating animals is ‘natural’ and how they could never ‘do it’. Looking to not come across as argumentative, which is all too easy when already deemed a freak, the vegan usually at this point disappears in to a metaphorical corner of silence and despair, wishing they’d never said anything. The curious thing is that, at least in my personal experience, people almost always instantly lean towards a position of defensiveness and aggression, regardless of what you say when they learn of your lifestyle. I’m very conscious of not wanting to come across as preachy and yet simply stating you don’t eat animal products is enough to be bombarded with ‘views’ about why that’s ‘wrong’, ‘extreme’ and how vegans apparently always want to push their views upon others. And after ten minutes of still not having said anything more than “I’m vegan”, speechless and saddened, I give up.

I can understand why it might seem foreign or even extreme to those who have never really been confronted with the idea, even if I don’t really like the evaluation. I was after all a meat eater for most of my life. I consumed my share of flesh and I enjoyed it however, I was completely unconscious, utterly unaware of what I was doing and what I was taking part in. Of course I knew that meat comes from animals and if I'm eating it then animals must have been killed but when something is the ‘norm’ in society, the question of whether it is right or wrong is very rarely asked. Then about three years ago, I started to come across documentaries about the milk and meat industry. I saw the horrors of the slaughterhouse but like most people, with an uneasiness I at first pushed it to the back of my mind. At the dinner table we are after all, often wrapped in a safety blanket of naivety. The heavily seasoned sausages we cover in ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and fried onions, couldn’t look further removed from the animal sacrificed to produce them. Then more reading and more documentaries followed and alongside the ethical questions going round in my mind, factors regarding the environment, health and world hunger were all raised and before long, I simply couldn’t ignore the facts anymore.

Maybe I’ll look at the other points in another post but lets focus here on what is for me the most important issue, the matter of morals and ethics. I switched to a plant based diet because I could see no reason whatsoever to justify the killing of another sentient being, just so I could have a snack or a sandwich. Any kind, responsible adult tells children to have a small footprint on their environment, to be compassionate to all the animals and creatures around them. It would not for example, be considered acceptable behaviour should a child stamp on an insect, or show similar acts of unnecessary violence. Indeed we even visit animal sanctuaries and most people would profess to be animal lovers. But we eat and drink so unconsciously, hardly ever even realising that what we are consuming, is in fact the flesh or the bodily fluids of a once living, breathing, feeling being. The irony is most people visiting an animal sanctuary will visit the on-site cafe and eat meat. Animals feel pain and happiness in just the same way we do. They are not void of feelings, they are not robots. They create communities and just like us, they look to find shade from the sun and sleep comfortably and peacefully without stress or strain. People talk of humane slaughter, a peculiar concept of kind killing, as if this makes or would make it acceptable. But there is no humane way to kill animals, just as there is no humane way to kill humans. Killing is fundamentally wrong. We don’t need to kill animals, we don’t need to consume their bodies. These are lies we sell ourselves so that we may continue without confrontation, guilt or judgement in our selfish, egotistical, evil ways.

An estimated 56 billion land animals are slaughtered every year. And the modern, industrial fishing industry is so carelessly indiscriminate it’s practically impossible to know how many fish and other forms of sea life are killed. Some estimates however, put the annual figure in the trillions. For all these beings, it is decided for them that they shall not be free. It is decided for them when they shall die. They have no say in the matter. The 'lucky' ones receive a successful 'stunning' and don't have to experience the last moments of their tortured existence, their execution. As for the others, still fully conscious they experience every tragic second of it. Their throats are slit and as panic fills their minds and they gasp for air, they begin to choke on their gushing blood. Pain, fear and horror engulf them. And then they die. And why? For what? Most of us say we are against cruelty, we are against killing. We say we love animals. Yet when we purchase animal products we are directly supporting the slavery and murder of them. I recently heard a vegan putting the question to a non-vegan, “If you could choose between killing a person, killing an animal or killing nothing, which would you choose?” This sums it up perfectly, as everyone in their right mind would of course answer that they would choose to kill nothing, as indeed the non-vegan in this discussion did. Yet when we choose to consume animal products we are indeed choosing to kill animals. So yes it is extreme to be vegan, yes it is radical but that doesn't make it wrong or bad. The reaction from most people to vegans or a plant based diet in general, simply shows in fact, once again, what an extremely sick society we live in. Labelling someone extreme or radical in this way is usually with the intention of insulting, alienating or ostracising them but extreme simply means to be radically different from the ‘norm’ and if you live by any kind of moral compass, it’s really not hard to be considered extreme amidst the insanity, the hypocrisy and the violence of the world we’ve created. In essence, if you are labelled extreme for choosing to not take part in a cycle of unnecessary pain and death, then it would seem that being called extreme is a compliment.

It is typical to never once reflect on these things. From a young age it is instilled in us that it is wrong to go against the grain, to walk in the opposite direction of the crowd, to question the status quo. This is understandable, it’s hard to swim against the tide and who wants a life of hardship? So naturally we lie to ourselves. Marketing propaganda from rich multi-national companies fills our minds with cartoons of happy, almost comical, singing and dancing farm-yard animals. Interesting that they never show you the cry of a mother cow whose calf, her baby, has been ripped from her, in order to be slaughtered before it starts building up muscle and all just so we can comment on the supposed ‘deliciousness’ of the soft meat. That’s what veal is. A baby. They never show you the pigs in the gas chamber, the hopeless flailing and clambering for freedom. They never show you the castration, the cutting of tails and the beak trimming, all executed without anaesthesia. We deem ourselves a beacon of greatness, yet I don’t see peace and abundance for all, the only achievement by which we could truly deem ourselves great. Instead, we are experts in the currency of death. We have dreamed up the most efficient ways to take the most life and create the most profit from it. On conveyor belts of murder, life goes through the mincer and money comes out. We think we are so sophisticated, so intelligent and civilised. The reality is, we have so very far to come. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Every day we make decisions. And our decisions have consequences. This means that we have in fact a great deal of power in our hands, despite often feeling something to the contrary. So if you say you love animals, if you wish to stop animal cruelty, if you don’t wish to take part in the torture and death of sentient beings, go vegan.

 

 

Written by Declan Galbraith

All rights reserved

 

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If veganism is extreme, then what do we call this?

Must hate be infinite?

Islamophobia - The acceptable hate of the day is the current face of irrational, hysterical prejudice. But must hate be infinite?

 

The breeding of fear by the nationalistic and the patriotic, in an exploitation of the ‘unknown’, is a tradition as old as time. Yet it never ceases, particularly after a financial crisis, to gain traction. And what is the answer to this fear? What is it that is time and time again put forward as the response? Hate, suspicion, isolation, aggression. But when did fighting hate with hate ever result in peace or love? Can we not see that this approach only creates a vicious circle that is impossible to break? A record stuck jarringly on repeat, it’s an endless cycle of tragedy and revenge, until someone is big enough to be stripped naked of ego and pride and just say, stop. The majority of the people however, who are most ferociously xenophobic or racist have not actually even had any contact to those whom they are against. And the problem is, they are also the people most unwilling to face ‘the enemy’. If they were to sit down and have a friendly, tolerant and open-minded chat with ‘the others’, they’d soon realise they have much in common and a friendship may even be formed. Instead though, walls are put up, soldiers are sent to the borders, rumour becomes fact and fact is deemed uninteresting or automatically a lie because the rumour is more exciting. There are currently over 65 million refugees on the planet and the suffering of these people is largely a result of western colonial politics and its cousin, neo-liberalism. Yet when ca. 1.2 million crossed the mediterranean and reached fortress Europe in 2015, there was almost instantly talk of an ‘invasion’. The human beings were seen as a ‘swarm’, a ‘flood’ about to destroy the christian, western culture and civil war was supposedly just around the corner. How sad and ironic it is, that if the European Union was indeed as the name states, united, there would be no refugee crisis at all. And if instead of being so eager to predict the fall of civilisation, each person actually worked actively to help and support those less fortunate, then the ‘integration’ or supposed lack thereof that the critics so often complain about, would crumble to an irrelevancy…Indeed if each citizen were an activist, engaged in the fight for social justice and not physically and mentally numb, heavily dosed up on the drugs of consumption and TV, there would most likely be no refugees in the first place. In the words of Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.” 

The root of the problem is, it would seem that we are addicted to a group mentality. We are safe in ‘our group’ and those who are different are the ‘others’ and they represent a threat. Whether the ‘others’ takes the form of a rival football team, fans of a different band or something more serious and sinister like migrants or muslims, it would seem we desire desperately to belong to a group or a ‘family’ and vehemently reject those who aren’t a member. Islamophobia is growing fiercely and a poisoned rhetoric that tars all with the same brush, is now perfectly acceptable in mainstream debate or day-to-day conversation. Apparently the reason why it became acceptable is people are scared, people are nervous of change and by stoking this fire of fear, by stating that the fear is justified, many nationalists or simply outright supremacists are again rising to power. Under the motto of, ‘if a lie is said enough times it must be true’, it becomes impossible to change the minds of those ‘fearful’ citizens with facts, figures or compassion. There are Christians under the banner of the Lords Resistance Army slaughtering whole villages and from the ashes of their burnt out homes, surrounded by the corpses of their parents and siblings, children are round up and forced in to the life of a child soldier. Then there is of course the scandal of paedophilia within the Catholic Church where thousands of children were abused by those most trusted within their local community. Furthermore, for years there have been fierce clashes between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland, it is a conflict many of us know little about, yet almost 4000 people have been killed in it. And lastly, need I mention Anders Breivik? These are just a few examples of atrocities not committed by Muslims, yet think for a moment of the differences in how they've been discussed and remembered in comparison to those enacted by Muslim terrorists. No one ever holds all Christians accountable for the aforementioned atrocities. No one ever expects an apology or an explanation from the Christian community. Nor should they. To those who like to throw all 1.6 billion Muslims in the same pot as the Taliban or Daesh however, all these points are irrelevant. Leaving an ideology behind, more to the point, leaving ‘our group’ is something too painful for most people to consider. Especially if the ideology is one based on hate and the concept of an enemy. This kind of ideology is comforting in that all of the world’s problems, or at least ‘our’ problems can be explained. The enemy is to blame. It’s something that’s easy to understand, we don’t have to get our head around complicated intertwined history, geo-politics and philosophy, we don’t have to be open minded and confront ourselves with new, possibly uncomfortable situations or ideas. No, we can stay with ‘our people’ and complain about ‘the others’. 

Most recently we have seen this play out in the so called ‘Brexit’ debate. There are of course problems regarding accountability within the EU and that many people are critical of it as an organisation is more than understandable. Unfortunately though, the debate turned sour a long time ago. Built on fear, rumour, prejudice and basically one subject, immigration, the debate has turned in to a race to the bottom, a contest of who can sink lower, who can insult the most people and get away with it. The victors have been lowest common dominator politics,  and the right-wing populists. The method? A politics of division, a politics of oversimplification. Their message is simple, their message is clear. Everything will be alright if we just get out of the EU, all our problems will be solved if we just get rid of the foreigners. Point out the economic benefits of migrants, point out that there were plenty of social problems before the EU, that Britain was in fact bursting at the seams with social unease long before the EU and all that is offered as a response is the tired, programmed mantra… “make Britain great again”. In Britain and indeed worldwide, at least in the so called ‘western’ world, nationalism, patriotism and a hysterical fear of ‘the others’, is tragically surging again towards a triumphant hold of power. Hearts and minds are being won by turning both to stone. These are frightening times and one can only hope that the tragedies of the past are not repeated. Are we not after all, supposed to learn from history?  The so called Golden Rule of “Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself”, is a philosophical message seen in spiritual teachings and religious works all over the world and if we can work to really live by this rule every day of our lives then maybe, just maybe, we will see a chance of peace one day on this planet. I will be following the Brexit referendum results and the consequences intensively, but whatever happens, amid the scaremongering and the daily talk of crisis, I still hold great belief in the power we as individuals have in our day-to-day lives. A world of peace starts with us. If we wish to see a tolerant, kind, compassionate and just society, then we have to embody that in our lives and in our relationships. It is no good to say, “when there is no hate, then I will stop hating”. We have the power every moment of our lives to be kind, forgiving and patient, we have the power to change the world. If we would only be so brave.

 

Written by Declan Galbraith

All rights reserved

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Jeremy Corbyn And The Scandal Of The National Anthem

There was recently a scandal in Britain that for a few days at least, seemed the British media would just not be able to get over. Was it the ongoing levels of poverty in the world? The huge numbers of youth unemployment throughout Europe? Recent ‘anti-union’ legislation brought in by the Conservative Party? Or was the scandal and the uproar all about the new ‘gag’ law in Spain? A law restricting social movements and protests heavily, especially those demonstrating near the parliament, senate and regional parliaments, with fines of up to €600,000. Was this the cause for the media frenzy? No. It was in actual fact all because Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, ‘refused’ as the media put it, to sing the National Anthem when attending a recent Battle of Britain memorial. In a series of slightly awkward confrontations on the matter, where he was even asked the question, “Do you love the country?”, the Labour leader stated in his defence that he didn’t sing the anthem because he was deep in thought, reflecting on his “mum and dad” and their service during the Second World War. His mother as an air raid warden, his father as part of the home guard. 

While I’m sure he was thinking of his parents, his position on the subject of the monarchy is quite well known and it’s very likely that he also made a decision, even if not a particularly conscious one, that he would out of principle not sing the anthem. He is after all, a long standing republican and anti-war campaigner. If he therefore made the decision to stand by his beliefs and not sing a national anthem worshiping the Queen and British imperialism, then I find it a sad state of affairs that he be hounded for this, when he should in fact be applauded.  

We live in a world where according to UNICEF approximately 21 children die every minute, yet Jeremy Corbyn not singing the National Anthem is the kind of thing the majority of the UK media is most interested in. Those children are dying overwhelmingly because of their environment and the economic situations of the countries they were born in; for which British imperialism and if not the current monarchy then that of the past, bear a great deal of responsibility. Patriotism and love for one’s nation is something I just don’t understand. How can you be proud to be born in a certain country? Something you’ve had nothing to do with. You can’t be praised or commended for that. It’s not an achievement. It baffles me how one can be proud to be of a certain nationality. A man-made concept that along with borders seems unimaginable and absurd when Earth is viewed from space.  Patriotism and blind irrational love for the colour of your skin or the land in which you were born, is one of the most destructive things in the world. It constantly for thousands of years has separated human beings. It drives a wedge between people and it is a poison to any chance we have of peaceful development and social evolution. 

If we are to grow and move forward as a society, we really can’t have a monarchy. It’s a matter of principle. In May this year the Queen held a speech on the newly elected government’s legislative programme. I was stunned to hear her talk of how the nation needs to learn to live within its means, while she sat on a golden throne draped in jewels. Some say the monarchy is beneficial, good value and a necessary tourist attraction. I say this is nonsense. No one is suggesting Buckingham Palace be knocked down, we can have all the tourist benefits without a monarchy. Once again it’s a matter of principle. All the while they have not had to work even one day to put food on the table, they do not have the right to tell us we need to learn to “live within our means”. Here’s just a few of the benefits that come with being the Queen (apart from being paid millions each year by the tax payer):

  • She is immune from prosecution (have a good think about that).
  • She doesn’t require a drivers license nor license plates.
  • She doesn’t have to pay tax (apparently she does but I guess we’ll just have to trust her and ‘Her Majesty's’ Revenue And Customs on that).
  • And though we are often told she has no political power, the reality is senior Royals have the power to veto new laws and have exercised this power on many occasions. It can not be right in 2015 that an unelected official have such huge power and wealth simply because he or she was born into the ‘right’ family.

Some say it is “the way things are”, the “British way” and Jeremy Corbyn must accept this as leader of the opposition. Again this is a senseless argument. With that view there would never be any change in anything and we would still be living in caves. It’s “the way things are” is not an argument that anyone looking to bring about change accepts or respects. 

  Buckingham Palace -  Just one of many places her Majesty can call home  

 

Buckingham Palace -  Just one of many places her Majesty can call home

 

And exactly this is what people want in politics. Only the establishment is fearful of it. They have the most to lose from change. The general public want a multitude of opinions, we want people with vision and passion and at least the chance for change and not simply empty promises, distractions and illusions. 

Down with the monarchy, by far the country’s biggest benefit scroungers and with the money saved, build homes for the homeless. I’m sure someone will tell us however, that this is madness and that it’s not right to give money to the poor. Yes, I forgot, the receiving of ‘handouts’ and the theft of other people’s wealth is a pastime reserved for the already rich and elite.  The ‘riff-raff’ and the poor should be stolen from, speak when spoken to and otherwise, stay unseen and die silently. The anthem has us singing, “Long to reign over us, God save the Queen. Thy choicest gifts in store, On her be pleased to pour…God save the Queen.” but I’m not so sure she needs much help from God. She seems to be doing alright. Where is the anthem for the 21 Children dying every minute? That’s what I’d like to know.

 

 

Written by Declan Galbraith

All Rights Reserved

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