I am probably about to offend a large group of people right now and I sincerely apologise about that but I came across something on Twitter last month and knew I was going to have to write this post. I have been vegetarian my whole life and now eat a vegan diet for a number of reasons including the fact I don’t think that animals should be exploited. So what is my problem with telling people I am vegan?
The answer to that question is simple, other vegans. Not all of them, that would be a vast generalisation but there are a number of vegan groups that I actually think are missing the point when it comes to caring for animals. To explain this better I need to go back to a conversation I had with a vegan over 5 years ago when she told me that animals should not have to work for humans in anyway and that was her reason for not wearing wool.
If this vegan had said to me it is because the will industry has got out of control and to produce a cheap product the sheep are actually treated really badly and suffer at the hands of the farmers I would have been totally on board. What irritated me and made me think veganism was a load of rubbish was this concept that animals should not work.
I know that it might seem like this is a strange thing to condone but by saying animals cannot contribute to our lives actually takes away their importance and the ability for them to enrich our lives and ours theirs. As an example lets consider a dressage horse, they work damn hard and having watched the competition at the Olympics pull of some amazing feats. Should we say that as vegans we do not approve of this? When you think about it these horses form bonds with the riders that are greater than many humans form with each other. They are loved, they are cared for, in fact they have a wonderful life, that is not to mention the fact that you should try getting a horse to do something they don’t want to.
Then think about guide dogs, they are trained from a young age and work for a large part of their lives for which, in general, they are richly rewarded by their owners who could not get about without them.
Where did we get the concept that animals should not work for a living. I have to work as do all the other people I know. Why not animals? It could be said that my pet cat is working for a living in an environment that does not suit him, having been neutered and despite loving me, giving cuddles when he really doesn’t want to.
Who are we to say that animals do not get a sense of pride in the work they do in the same way that you and I do. Surely the issues we should be addressing is where animals are suffering and being abused, increasing the punishments for such abuses in line with the same as those for crimes against children who are as helpless.
When a vegan says to me animals should not work at all, I wince and I want to rant. Often I don’t bother because it falls on deaf ears however what I want to say to all vegans who have this opinion is that you are just as guilty of undervaluing animals as people who use animal products. By holding this opinion you are assuming that animals do not get anything from the work that they do and also that they do not have the ability to choose or even experience things in the way that we do.
I love animals and get so annoyed when people tell me that they don’t feel things the way we do. As more and more research is done on animals it becomes clear they experience more emotions than we realise, they have the ability to reason and to decide. So rather than thinking of animals as useless we should think about ways in which we can work together, understand each other more and both benefit in a way that works for humans and animals alike.