Kindness or Collusion?

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur on Unsplash

People often lump vegetarians and vegans into the same broad category, as if they are essentially two points on a sliding scale, with vegans as a kind of extreme, hardcore or ‘pure’ version of vegetarians. After all, aren’t both vegans and vegetarians driven to make dietary change in order to reduce animal suffering? Aren’t they both motivated by kindness?

Vegetarians are often seen as gentle, caring individuals who go out of their way to avoid causing unnecessary suffering to animals, simply because they don’t eat meat while vegans are usually viewed as little more than extreme, radical, militant versions of vegetarians.

But is being vegetarian really a kindness… or is it simply collusion with the multi-billion dollar global animal abuse industry? I want to examine the idea that, far from being the benevolent bedfellow of veganism, vegetarianism is the opposite of veganism and is actually much more aligned with carnism (the ideology and practice of eating the flesh of sentient animals) .

This idea that vegans and vegetarians are allies in the fight against the cruel and abusive animal agriculture industry is ludicrous if you stop for just a minute and think about it. Vegans live their lives in such a way as to avoid causing harm to sentient beings as much as practicably possible. We don’t refuse to consume milk, for example, because we are ‘extreme’ but rather because the entire dairy industry is extreme and causes untold, unimaginable suffering to billions of victims every single year.

Both vegetarianism and carnism are two sides of the same coin. Consuming milk and eggs supports the animal agriculture industry just as surely as consuming meat does. You cannot separate the effects of milk and egg production on the animals involved from the effects of meat production. For the victims, the end results are mostly the same.

For one thing, the egg and dairy industries both slaughter millions of innocent young animals every year. Male chicks, for example, are considered useless ‘garbage’ to the egg industry and so are gassed, suffocated or ground up alive shortly after birth. Male calves, similarly, are seen as useless to the dairy industry so they are either slaughtered in the first few days of their lives or they’re sold on to be reared for veal — a cruel, short and miserable life.

Dairy cows are enslaved, raped and then separated from their innocent new-born babies shortly after giving birth. If the farmer doesn’t send their sons off to be raised for veal (an extremely cruel form of meat production in itself) he’ll very often simply bludgeon them to death right away or shoot them on account of male dairy calves often being seen as nothing more than useless biproducts of this industry.

Even the mother cows themselves, once their milk yield drops off and they are no longer profitable, will be slaughtered at an unnaturally young age.

These things happen on a monstrous scale — we are not talking about a few exceptional instances here — we are talking about standard practices throughout an entire industry all around the world.

Similarly, the overwhelming majority of eggs come from chickens kept crammed together in overcrowded sheds rife with disease. These sheds usually contain thousands of female laying hens, each which is without doubt suffering from the stress and anxiety of living shoulder-to-shoulder with so many others, unable to nest, unable to brood their eggs, often injured by pecks from other hens who are equally stressed by their close confinement.

These hens have a short, unnatural life filled with suffering — if they don’t die of disease and neglect first, they are killed at a young age once their egg production declines and replaced with a new flock bought in specially from chicken breeders who breed vast amounts of hens solely for this purpose.

Of course, among the new-born chicks produced by these hatcheries from hell, around half will be male and as such are completely useless to the egg producers. The hatcheries need very, very few cockerels to fertilise the eggs — the overwhelming majority of them, like the male calves in the dairy industry, are seen as completely useless biproducts. As such, they are treated as industrial waste rather than living, breathing, feeling babies. Standard methods of disposal are ‘maceration’ where these male chicks are poured in their thousands into giant ‘blenders’ and minced alive by rotating blades or they are simply bagged up into polythene sacks and thrown into the garbage to suffocate.

Again, we are not talking here about isolated incidents, we are talking about standard industry procedures happening every single day on a mind-bogglingly massive scale… all to produce eggs — little cholesterol bombs that no-one needs in their diet.

How can anyone who cares at all about animal suffering knowingly support such large-scale and systemised cruelty?

To a vegan, the idea of consciously paying people to do these things to defenceless animals, gentle, innocent creatures who just want to live their lives in peace, is one of the most abhorrent acts of cruelty and disregard for life that we could ever imagine. Yet so-called vegetarians base their entire diets on the consumption of milk, cheese, cream, butter, eggs, etc. In the process they fund an animal holocaust so terrible that the mind recoils from even thinking about it.

There is nothing benevolent about the egg or dairy industries. They are inherently abusive and cruel, inextricably bound up with the meat industry and as such should be opposed by every caring, thinking, rational human being on this planet. Those who knowingly continue to support these atrocities are not animal advocates nor are they going out of their way to reduce suffering — they are an integral part of the problem. Vegetarianism and carnism are two sides of the same coin — both forms of animal abuse.

When I’ve posted on social media in the past about vegetarianism being the opposite of veganism, I’ve been criticised for it and told I should be supporting and ‘applauding’ vegetarians for having made positive changes to their lifestyles. But is swapping one product of extreme animal abuse for another product of extreme animal abuse actually a positive change? Does it actually reduce animal suffering or abuse at all?

As an animal advocate looking to fundamentally change society’s treatment of non-humans, I feel it is my moral obligation to point out some of the facts regarding animal agriculture so that people can make an informed decision as to whether they wish to continue contributing to animal abuse or not. I feel I have a responsibility to those animals to shine a spotlight on the abject cruelty inherent in the egg and dairy industries rather than easing the conscience of vegetarians with kind but hollow platitudes.

Just how softly-softly are we supposed to be in our approach to exposing animal abuse and promoting a cruelty-free lifestyle?

People seem to be terrified of triggering the cognitive dissonance within every vegetarian who claims to care about the wellbeing of animals yet at the same time pays for their exploitation, abuse and murder. There’s this strange idea that in order to avoid vegetarians ‘shutting down’ and ‘shutting out’ the arguments for veganism, it’s better not to really mention the issues at all. Better to skirt around these sensitive issues and avoid upsetting the apple cart in the hopes that one day they will spontaneously wake up to the realities of the animal holocaust which is the animal agriculture industry as a whole and go vegan all by themselves.

But that’s not how it works. I went vegan because I was confronted by the absolute and indefensible horrors of animal agriculture, along with other forms of abuse such as vivisection, hunting and the fur trade. I realised that I could not claim to be against these atrocities yet at the same time continue to be a part of them by consuming animal products. I’ve have also sought extensive feedback from other vegans to find out what turned them vegan and overwhelmingly it was being confronted by the unimaginable cruelties that the entire industry tries to hide, whether it be for meat, dairy, eggs or a combination of all three and more.

You cannot expose to people the evils going on day after day on an unimaginable scale and then comfort them with soft words designed to assuage their guilt and tell them it’s really okay after all if they find it uncomfortable to give up the very habits and addictions that are causing this carnage.

Yes, I get that people are not ready to change. I get that people don’t feel able to give up the mental and emotional crutches which eating cheeseburgers and chocolate cake provides, but I’m not going to tell them it’s OK, to not worry about it and to carry on doing what they’ve always done.

I don’t believe that is the way to change things. I don’t believe that is effective advocacy. It’s an insult to the people you’re addressing and it’s a betrayal of the animals for which we fight.

Besides, craving cheeseburgers and chocolate cake are no longer even a poor excuse, since vegan versions of both are widely available. In fact, vegan versions of pretty much every type of food you could imagine are widely available these days so I really cannot see any reason to continue eating animal products once you are aware of the inherent suffering those choices cause, other than laziness and the inescapable fact that you just don’t care enough to make an effort.

I’ll go out of my way to help people change their lifestyle if they are truly committed to reducing the suffering they cause in the world, but I will not go out of my way to avoid making people uncomfortable who just want to carry on in the same selfish way they’ve always done, refusing to look at or address the harm they are causing to others. I will not put the feelings of the abusers before those of their victims. That is not kindness — it’s collusion.

If you really care anything at all about animal suffering, then the only option is to withdraw your funding from the entire animal agriculture industry, not to simply replace one form of animal abuse with another. The only option is to go vegan. If you are ready to make that move, you can find all kinds of help and support. Please, for the sake of the animals, start your vegan journey today.

Finally, if you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to subscribe to Pathless Pilgrim so you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new post.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store