This week I’m posting blogs about something close to my heart – vegetarianism.
I became a vegetarian by accident over 30 years ago. Having left university, but wanting to stay in the area where I had many friends, I ended up in 1985 sharing a house with some vegetarians. It was easy enough to fit in, so I did, but I soon became interested in the reasons people go vegetarian, and then I was converted to the cause.
This week’s posts will cover the various aspects which, for me, are the focus of the issue, under the general heading of: Why Am I A Vegetarian?
- The Ethical Argument
This is probably the main reason I’ve kept to my vegetarianism over thirty years. Factory farming is an inherently cruel process. It is a truism to state that if abattoirs had glass walls there would be far more vegetarians in the world, but because of the way we now live a huge gap has developed between food production and eating, which makes concealing the cruelty of factory farming much easier. And greedy capitalist corporations did not wait to exploit that situation.
I am guilty of supporting such methods, but only for a while, when I was a teenager. My first ever paying job was at a local egg farm, which had thousands of hens in tiny cages. I remember being shocked when I first experienced it, but I was too naïve then to do anything other than earn some money. These days I eat only free range eggs, which, wherever possible, I buy from local producers. If not I choose free range from the dairy aisle. This is just one of many practical ways of reducing the impact of cruelty in farming.
As a vegetarian another important issue is shoes. Here I’m far from perfect. I’ve never had any success wearing ‘vegetarian shoes’ so I have to go for the leather alternative. One way I’ve found of reducing my impact is to have one pair of shoes hand-made by a local shoemaker then have them repaired every few years. This means I buy far fewer shoes than the average person, reducing the repercussions on the world.
Another small issue for me is musical instruments. My hand drums and percussion instruments often have hides. Wherever possible I try to buy from ethical producers. Recently Carolyn Hillyer made me a shamanic drum, and this is what I read on the Seventh Wave Music website about her drum production:
“All the materials for these drums are very carefully sourced and everything is created using old (and sometimes very ancient) techniques; nothing is machine-made or mass-produced. Special attention is given to the integrity with which the animal skins are gathered and prepared. All skins are by-products of seasonal culling and would otherwise be wasted; no animal is ever killed just to provide skin for drums. Dartmoor Red Deer skins are sourced from a family-run smallholding and deer forest. Dartmoor Wild Horse skins are sourced from the wild pony herds that live on these hills.”
One argument put forward by supporters of factory farming is that animals aren’t sentient and we have a right to eat them for food. This is an argument I have a lot of sympathy for, in the sense of thinking that far too many animals are anthropomorphised. It is not however any excuse for cruel practices. Even if only chimps, gorillas, orang utans, whales and dolphins – i.e. the higher order mammals living in social groups – are sentient, all other highly evolved animals feel pain and deserve compassionate treatment. As, indeed, we ourselves do.
Factory farming and all other barbaric use or ill-treatment of animals is a symptom of human callousness and selfishness. This situation must change if the planet’s lifeforms are to be rescued.