VEGAN VIGNETTES: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

Today is my 12th anniversary as a vegan and thus, a little literary treat is due here, from me to you. A plethora of musings is still cooking and brewing in my mind from this decade+ of actively pursuing the path of least harm, but this is an idea I only started delving into a few months ago, after reading a couple of enlightening posts on our relationship to non-human animals.

I had mostly ascribed to the thinking that people kill non-human animals for two simple reasons: pleasure and profit. In other words, the majority of people (pay to) kill animals because they like meat, and not the other way around (i.e. like meat because they kill animals for it). While this is certainly true for some members of mankind, it still doesn’t account for the amount and level of violence and depravity inflicted by us on our fellow Earthlings.

In a post titled „Why Animal Oppression is a Form of Hatred“, George Martin / Carnism Debunked writes: „While profit is indeed one of the driving factors in the oppression of non-human animals, we cannot ignore that there is a deep-seated yet seemingly subconscious hatred for non-human animals that allows this to happen – this is shown in how people react when the oppression of a human group is mentioned by vegans in the same breath as the Animal Holocaust (‘are you comparing Jews to pigs?!’ /are you comparing a black person’s experience to that of a fucking cow?!’). To deem it as some kind of ‘insult’ for one to be mentioned in the same breath as the world’s most marginalised group absolutely is a form of hatred, though the person taking offence might not realise it.“ He also points to the fact that only a minority of people actually profit off the enslavement and exploitation of animals (that is, the oppressors, such as slaughterhouse workers, are not profiting at all), and that, when we want to insult someone, we almost always resort to animal terms such as „disgusting pig“, „filthy rats“, „stupid cow“ and the like. Hatred, he concludes, actually is more of a driving force in animal oppression that profit.

Humans hate animals. The reasons we hate animals are manifold, but all come down to one. See, we like to weave a story out of our evolution that conveniently positions us at the highest ring of the ladder, as if we’ve been purposefully made and given all the best abilities to succeed and rule over this planet. Sort of a proof of our divine heritage, shall we say? We think we are the only ones who have created languages – our temples are of Babylon origin. We conquer and make things that flash and make noise. We revel in our own false perfection, destroying wilderness around us one cement block per second, building concrete fortresses and laughing when a bird is caught in a maze of glass and metal. And yet, without the embrace of steel, fabric and technology, we are the most fragile creatures out there. Our offsprings cannot fend for themselves until they are at least several years of age. They are furless, weak little things, susceptible to cold and fever, wounds and diseases. Even as adults, we are no different. We are powerless in the face of our true, natural surroundings. We are weak.

Not only are we weak, but we have been gifted with far less than our fellow Earthlings. As Stuart Wilde writes: „We tend to think animals are lower than us, but all the scientists in the world couldn’t design and operate a bumblebee’s wing. We can’t jump or run very fast, and we can’t carry vast weights like an ant can. We can’t see in the dark and we can’t fly except crammed in a noisy tube like sardines, which doesn’t count. Humans compared to animals are almost totally deaf […] We are finite and separate, and neurotic, while the consciousness of an animal is at peace and eternal.“

So we see animals and all that they are and what they can do with grace and ease, in a harmonious existence with nature… and a primordial rage awakens in us. Why have they been bestowed with such abilities, such gifts, and not us? Why are we so cold unless we make fire? Why can’t we read nature’s signs and find water? Why are we blind in the dark? Where is our instinct? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who are the end goal of all this evolution? The epitome of God’s final and complete design? The questions come, but no answers arise.

And so we seethe, enraged by weakness. Envy of other creatures consumes us. Why are they so beautiful and whole and we are but scattered parts of cold and thirst and pain in the stomach? Why do they have it all, and not us? The shame becomes the urge for supremacy. „It is we who are supposed to be the rulers of this planet, not them. We are the next step in evolution, not just a dangerous derailment. Someone else is badly designed, not us.“

And we have told this fairy tale to ourselves until it became a foundation of superiority we desperately want. If there is one thing we know how to do, it’s to believe in lies we tell enough times to carve it into our minds and belief systems. We laugh at animals when they try to escape the hell we make for them. We denounce their language and screams because we are the ones who do not understand them, nor do we wish to. We destroy their homes and call them vermin, yet our propagation on this planet and its continuous destruction by us is verminous behavior, as succintly put by a movie character not so long ago. If they are especially esthetically pleasing, we steal their feathers and skin, leaving a pile of bones in our wake. If they are meek, we exploit them for their very flesh, hiding the violence behind grey doors of a slaughterhouse because it might seem too disturbing. It just might wake us from the slumber of lies. We invent a thousand ways to torture them and hack them to pieces because no matter what we do, we cannot steal their gifts. And that, again, is proof of our inferiority. We are weak and the subconscious knowledge of it is the ground for our hatred. We hate animals because in their very existence, we see how utterly imperfect we are.

Some might say it also shows how much hatred we harbor for our own design, but that is not completely true. Our hatred of animals does not point inwardly. If we look at it from a spiritual or even mildly religious point of view, the almost universal hatred of animals across cultures, races, and other human characteristics is based on the fact that they are the ones over whom we can universally dominate. We do not have the right to do that, but we do it nevertheless. We are inferior to God. Celestial beings have abilities we don’t. Celestial bodies, too. Weather – we cannot control it either. Each other? Other races, genders, religion, sexual preferences, choice of clothing? Attempts at those are constant and continuous, but there are thoughts that evolve and paint our efforts in a bad light. So, what is left? Who is left for us to bully? We can’t be the last ones overpowered by everyone and everything else, can we? We must subjugate someone at least, show that we are not the weakest in all of existence.

Other species. The one group of individuals that we perceive to surely be „under“ us all. And there, in this false cycle of supremacy, we find our spot. We resort to evil towards other animals, driven to madness to feel significant, to feel in control. We separate mothers from their babies and laugh while we bludgeon them to death, only to drink the mothers’ milk. We pluck their eyes out, we drill holes in them while they are still alive, we take photos with their corpses. We erect statues to each other to prove to someone somewhere how big we are. We wrestle animals we perceive as strong and tackle them to the ground, showing a knife in their throats. We desperately want to show just how strong and important we are, but deep down, we know that none of our „victories“ over others matter. To weave another thought by Wilde here: „We can make a bomb or carve a statue but it’s a statue to our importance, a power trip, none of it serves any real purpose.“

Animals do not only have consciousness – they have a soul. A very pristine one, as put by Wilde. And no matter what evil we do to them, we can never steal it, for it is at the core of their hearts and minds. Blind and succumbent to hate, we continue to perpetrate the Animal Holocaust, which drives us further and further away from finding our own consciousness, our own soul. All for the sake of dominion. All for the sake of hatred.

This World Vegan day, I invite you to reach for the one idea that can truly make our slaves, and us, free: the tenet of doing good. Of respecting the basic rights of all beings. Of rejecting the anthropocentric evil we do every single day.

Instead of evil, choose veganism.

/cover image: public domain
images below: courtesy of prijatelji-zivotinja.hr/

VEGAN VIGNETTES: WORDS AND MEANING

In my last post (and also the first official Vegan Vignette), I used the term „vegans” seen through a diet, in the sense of an animal-free plant-based diet, and to an extent, a whole-foods, animal-free plant-based diet to support the argument which I elaborated on there. However, I didn’t refer to it as “plant-based” and in that sense, it would seem that veganism is “just” a diet. I’d like to clarify something here: Veganism is NOT simply an abstinence from meat, dairy, eggs and other animal „products“. It is an ethical stance against animal abuse, mutilation, rape and slaughter of trillions upon trillions of animals around the globe. That includes experimentation on animals, hunting, circuses, bullfighting, horse riding, and all other aspects of human activities that include animals apart from saving and taking care of them without wanting anything in return, and leaving them alone. Animals are not here for us, but with us, and have the same rights as we do.


/Vegan orders & homemade meals/

However, the animal abuse spin machine has certainly been trying hard to hijack the term „plant-based“ to dillute it and make the message seem less clear. This is true for all countries, regardless of their level of development. Part of the success relies on the innate lack of clarity of the term. In countries like my native land of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the term „plant-based“ is usually translated as „bazirano na biljkama“ or „biljna prehrana“ (plant diet), but the term „based“ or „bazirano“ is in itself non-exclusive to other things and actually implies simply a foundation, upon which it is not unusual or it’s even expected to have something else in it.

The same can be said for English and other languages. In Cambridge Dictionary, the term “plant-based” is defined as the following: “consisting or made completely of plants, or mainly of plants“. Rule vs usage? Not really in this case. Take for example the phrase „based on a true story“ at the beginning of many famous Hollywood films. Does it mean the film is the truth, the only truth and nothing but the truth of what happened? Not at all. The linguistic foundation of this term is faulty because it can be understood in terms of percentages, and that’s not what an ethical stance is. For example, you cannot say that child well-being is also good even if it’s partial, meaning, say, abusing a child just in the evening, instead of the whole day. Due to this muddleness*, it can be perceived that a lot of other, animal „products“ can be seen as acceptable and as such easily added into a „plant-based“ meal. In addition, words like „mostly“ and „predominantly“ are being thrown around a lot around this term, and I don’t think it’s doing any good in terms of clarity of the anti-speciest message. This lack is easily used by non-vegans to try to undermine the tenets of veganism.

In highly developed countries, the animal abuse lobby efforts go along the same lines. The food giant Tyson even had a „plant-based“ range that was advertised to all people (read: vegans) receptive to the message, but wasn’t vegan at all! Fellow vegans, we know that a title means nothing, because we still need to check the label for ingredients. Certain sources (here, here and here, among others) make a clear distinction between a vegan and a plant-based diet, and my guess is that this dillution of the term is additionally supported by medical texts that view a plant-based diet along the same lines as the paragraph above. There are many of them out there, and for most medical researchers, the term „vegan diet“ is the only one understood in ethical terms. We’ve seen a heightened interest of mainstream audience in the health consequences of a classic diet, rising exponentially after the influential WHO report on processed meat and red meat as carcinogens, and the spillage of confusing terminology and dillution of the vegan message in terms of “plant-based” probably began globally at the same time. This was also around the same time that I started understanding the difference between the term „plant-based“ and “vegan”, because unfortunately, the first was being perceived and deliberately used incorrectly more and more by people and companies unperturbed by ethics. As a linguist, I am constantly trying to analyze my linguistic output to be as clear as possible and correct, in particular with animal rights activism, and this is no different. We need to be aware of this.

That being said, I understand the concerns about conflating veganism with just a diet. However, it is certainly the biggest fight and the threshold of veganism, because, for many other forms of abuse, mutilation, torture and slaughter, there are far less people supporting it (take for example, the issue of bullfighting, or eating dogs and cats in certain parts of Asia – there are many people in the Western world who are actively against it, while still not being vegans themselves). The definition of a correct, ethical diet should therefore be undeniably clear. Perhaps we could reinforce the term “plant-based” with the adjective „anti-speciest“? “Completely”? We will see. What is certain, however, is that what we put into our bodies needs to be completely animal-free, because that is the only right thing to do. Animals are sentient beings and it is morally and ethically wrong to do anything to them that causes pain, suffering, anguish, disease, and unease. Go vegan – and be on the right side of history.




/Images courtesy of WeAnimalsMedia.org from various farms/

*We see deliberate efforts in sowing confusion in other areas – for example, we have to pay attention to the terms „vegan“ and „cruelty-free“ in cosmetic and sanitary products, because, even though logic dictates they are the same, the first means „no animal substances“ and the second „not tested on animals“.

VEGAN VIGNETTES: YOUR LIFE

I was talking with my husband earlier tonight and upon touching the inevitable topic of vegan meals during holidays with one’s family, I finally articulated something that has been swimming in my thoughts for some time now. A thought that is both of spiritual and compassionate nature.

When you have children, it’s sort of usual to expect that you will be there for them until an old age, so we feel that our physical fitness for longevity is pretty much given (even though it, of course, isn’t). But, when it comes to grandparents, we don’t have the same expectation because we have been inclined to think, and it has been culturally imprinted on us, that their health is something that we can’t really negotiate, and that whatever years they have with their grandkids, our offspring, are just like a gift. High blood pressure creeps in. First heart attacks start to appear (I’ve put it in plural if one is lucky enough to live through the very first one); a stroke might be mild but still impairs you. Obesity, high cholesterol levels, diabetes type 2, arthritis, back pain, cancer. A plethora of things that are caused by food and stress. Genetics don’t play that big of a role as society would like us to think – it only accounts for about 5 to 10% of your overall health inclinations. But when you give up your ability to decide and just shrug thinking „I can’t fight with issues I inherited“, you basically just continue living the way you got used to, placing your fate below your taste buds and habits – turning you into a perfect victim for, well, mainstream consumerism. A voluntary victim. In addition to that, aren’t bad genetics, even if it actually had possessed a major influence on your life, precisely the reason why you should take your health into your own hands? Fight the DNA and let the bad genes starve? For example, women who inherit the BRCA gene for breast cancer should be especially mindful of what they put into their bodies, right? Sort of like putting that new-age proverb about the wolf you feed in the food and health context.

But, that’s not even what I wanted to say here. The crux of the matter is this: when you continue to eat animals, sentient individuals who are capable of a variety of emotions just like us, and who never want to be violently slaughtered, you deny yourself the opportunity to not only truly marvel at the longevity that our bodies can give us, but you also deny your loved ones of the thousands of hours you could have spent together. Enjoying a wonderful plant-based meal on a Sunday with your kids, grandkids and their kids, friends, neighbors, a kind stranger. A house full of love for decades which lights up magnificently on holidays. Teaching your granddaughter how to be harness her woman power in life. Giving your grandson a first lesson in cooking. Being there on their graduation days, basking in pride and love for your line continuing well beyond what you can imagine. The impact that they will have in the world, and you actually being there to see it, fully capable and vital in your body. Their first award speech when they mention you. Dancing on their wedding day. Feeling the affection, attention and care from them when your life starts to become slower and more contemplative. Entering your ninth or tenth decade with a smile and a birthday cake that your grand-grandkid just put his little hand on and snatched that candle from the top. You deny yourself your immortality.

For what is living if not leaving something of yourself vividly in the memories and life your loved ones create with you? You could go on and on as that wise grandparent who took the advice, went vegan, and lived to see the family for generations ahead. The one who stopped being a bystander and did everything you could to be there to support those who matter to you the most. For those who need you in their life. That is your responsibility. Isn’t it utterly absurd and downright immoral of you to deny them your experiences, your wisdom, care and love? Do you really want to die before you even set eyes on your first grandkid? Hell, for some, even your own kid? Or your sister’s kid? Your best friend’s child with those big soft eyes just begging you to tell them you love them the most? Doesn’t it hurt when your disease puts you in a hospital bed and, instead of love and joy, you give your loved ones grief and suffering? Simply by ingesting the grief and suffering of animals? Doesn’t that cycle have to end?

Your deny yourself your immortality. For the trees you plant, the leaves you give sunrays to, the flowers that bloom only in your presence are more important than what you eat now. You live forever through them. Your essence is never lost when you leave your family, your art, all your creations on this Earth after doing all that your spirit was intended to do, in its totality.
I urge you to give your life true meaning, and give yourself the gift of spiritual immortality. There are plenty of things we cannot control, but this is the one thing where we have all the power to improve the quality and quantity of our existence. Your spirit will thank you well into Beyond. As well as the thousands of animals on your plate now.

Your vegan friend always,
Ilhana

ATTENTION: NEW BLOG!

Hi, everyone! I felt inspired to write my thoughts on veganism in a new blog called „Vegan Vignettes“! I hope you will go on this journey with me and share my thoughts on the spiritual, mental and physical aspect of this ethical stance – the most important one for me and many people around the world. Even though veganism is first and foremost about respecting the fundamental rights of our fellow Earthlings, four elements and guidelines will determine the theme and subthemes of the posts: animals, planet/environment, health and humanitarian rights. So, in the future, the blog will be distinguished from other writing by the title, and you can also find it with relevant hashtags. The first post is already up. Happy reading!