Exactly a month ago, I received an email from the friendly people from Elated, for whom I had given up eating pigs, lambs and fish for a week. (It wasn’t that hard, actually, the price of meat being what it is.)
It was called “Letter from a Vegan World” and had been written by the animal-loving owners of the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, who run “a safe haven for rescued farm animals who have been given a second chance at life”. If you too are contemplating changing your diet into a more animal-friendly one, this is definitely a letter worth reading.
Why this letter affected me is, quite simply, this uncomfortable realisation:
Even if we as conscientious and so-called ‘compassionate’ consumers go out of our way (and pay through the nose) to buy products that carry the label ‘organic’ (sadly much abused by unscrupulous profit-seekers), such as ‘organically farmed beef’, ‘free-range chicken’, ‘grain-fed chickens’, ‘free-range eggs’, ‘hormone-free dairy products’, etc., we are still supporting an industry that is based on killing animals for human consumption.
In some ways it’s easy for us city-folk, because it all happens ‘out there in the countryside’. But if we had to go out into the Karoo to catch and slaughter the lamb we wanted to braai on the spit, I’m sure we might think twice. Or if we had to go into a pigsty and take the little pink piglets away from their mother, so that we can have bacon sizzling in the pan on a Sunday morning, we would probably choose a different menu.
Regardless of the nice-sounding terms in which we couch this, taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of sentient beings every day across the world is surely not an acceptable or compassionate thing to do.
My main problem with the vegan dishes described in so cookery books is their heavy reliance on soya. Personally, I dislike soya and tofu intensely. I don’t like their smell, taste or texture. I hate the fact that soya is genetically engineered, and that some money-grubbing multinational company is screwing with my genes. And above all, I detest the fact that it’s included in some form or other in almost every single item of food I buy. So soya and tofu are just not acceptable alternatives in my household.
The question for me is whether I feel strongly enough to give up animal products as much as possible. Being really strict and fundamentalist about this is just not practical, given that manufacturers sneak these into so many things we eat. So phasing out all forms of animal products is going to be a slow process.
But if I imagine that the beef patty, or the slice of bacon, or the soft-boiled egg come from a real, live animal with its own personality and its own life history (even if rather short and brutal), then perhaps it will become easier.