animal welfare

I believe in a clear hierarchy of sentience with us at the top followed by mammals, general vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and then bacteria, and I do my best to keep the suffering I cause for the sake of my own survival as low on that hierarchy as possible, as self-awareness and feelings of pain and terror decrease. What I care about is reducing suffering. Where *you* fall on that hierarchy is not arbitrary if further reducing suffering over time is always your priority.

Should I eat the baboon or should I starve to death? Eat the baboon.

Should I eat the baboon or eat the rat? Eat the rat.

Should I eat the lamb or eat the chicken? Eat the lamb, because lambs have to graze outside before they’re slaughtered and its very unlikely that chicken ever saw daylight.

Should I have the lamb sandwich or the tuna sandwich? Eat the tuna sandwich.

Should I buy the tuna spread or the cheese spread? Buy the cheese spread.

Should I drink cow’s milk or almond milk? Drink the almond milk.

Should I buy the almond milk, which uses up gallons of water to produce, or the milk of my next door neighbour’s pet cow Georgie who I see chilling out in her field and say hello to every day? Drink Georgie’s milk.

Should I buy free range eggs or take the battery hen eggs that I’ve just seen dumped out the back of a supermarket and will otherwise go to waste? Take the battery hen eggs.

Should I make any of these greater ethical choices and feel bad in myself which may in the long-term result in me ultimately abandoning all of my principles about the value of non-human life and just eat factory farmed pork and battery hen eggs because I can’t cope with the guilt so best not to care or think about any of it, or make the lesser ethical choice? Make the lesser ethical choice.

You can argue that any of these choices generate more or less suffering, but if you’re arguing that as a serious precursor to making a purchasing decision, you’ve stepped into the realm of giving a stuff about life other than your own species and creatures that look and behave a bit like your species, and whatever choices you make, they’ll result in less suffering that you would have caused before.

"You want to eat me??"

“You want to eat me??”

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A dead mink stole. Ew.

It wasn’t my flatmates bringing home buckets of chicken from Chicken Cottage and leaving the living room a graveyard that did it. It wasn’t the fact that after eating meat I’d feel ill for hours – the taste was far too good. No, what made me decide that I am never, ever going to eat meat again, was the mink. Last night, a friend of ours, who calls himself a vegetarian got this poor, dead mink out of a bag and announced he was wearing it on his shoulder out to a club night. I was utterly horrified. Someone had taken a living, breathing animal, murdered it, hollowed out its insides, sewn up its mouth and replaced its eyes with glass, and then sold it as a fashion accessory. Its little paws wiggled as my friend waved it around; I hugged it and mentally apologised for what had happened to it. The last time I held a lifeless animal had been when I buried my guinea pig Robbie.

I was somewhat vitriolic on the issue of someone bringing fur to my house. My friend responded by claiming it was ok because it was fifty years old. But wearing fur creates to the impression that is socially acceptable in our society to take an animal, bash it on the head, and then dance around in its carcass for fun. I was more vitriolic. My friend got annoyed and claimed that because I eat meat more than he does I wasn’t qualified to speak on the topic.

Whether I eat meat more than he does I have no idea. My meat consumption has been on the slide for almost two years and is now largely restricted to gelatine in Haribo, a willingness to not try very hard to stick to vegetarianism in wider society, and the occasional overwhelming desire for a kebab. I spent most of last summer vegan when I was living in Ireland and New Mexico for health reasons. But I’ve slipped, little and often – there are so many meat eaters in the world because animals taste so amazingly good: like the old adage has it, “Meat is murder. Really tasty murder”. But as I was staring at this lifeless mink in my arms I realised that however much I may enjoy meat and however easy it is to get hold of a phenomenally wide range of products produced from the suffering of millions of animals a year, I never really paid attention to the first part of that sentence. Meat is murder. And looking at this poor, dead mink, dead not from necessity or survival, but so someone could wear it at parties, I came to the conclusion I didn’t want to be part of that. Not now, not ever.

So I am not eating meat again. I also don’t intend to buy anything new containing fur, silk, leather or wool (though the last because I can’t bear the feel more than anything). It’s hard practically to be vegan outside the house so I’m not going to try too hard on that front, but I’m not bringing home cheese, eggs or milk. My main problem is all those irritating hidden ingredients in things like cochineal (a red dye made from insects commonly used in sweets and deserts) and amino acids derived from animal. But now I am paying attention.

After consulting my flatmates, both vegans given to lapses, we are now instituting a ban on anyone bringing dead animals to our house in any form (except leather clothes, because practically we can’t enforce our friends having to take off their shoes, belts, and in some cases, trousers, at the door. Fur is banned). We will also all be joining the Animal Rights Collective at the Universities of Manchester, which promotes giving up animal products and campaigns against vivisection and animal rights abuses. I can’t stop my friends wearing fur, but I can stop contributing to animal suffering myself. I can save a few animals, even if I can’t save that mink.

If you would like more information on vegetarianism and veganism, you can start here:

Animal Rights Collective:

A mink, alive and well.

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March 9, 2010

Hi Chris, I’m a member of your constituency and a Liberal Democrat Member, and I am seeking your support for an amendment within the current regulations for the European Parliament and the council on the provision of food information to consumers COM(2008) 40. ENV Committee Vice-Chair Carl Schylter MEP has proposed commission amendment (No 362) […]

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Letter to Gerald Kaufman MP re battery hen welfare

January 4, 2010

Dear Mr. Kaufman, As I am sure you are aware, the barren battery cage is due to be banned across the UK and the EU from 2012. This is an excellent move in the right direction for greater laying hen welfare. However, I write to express my concern about the enriched caged system which offers […]

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