The Navigating Veganism Column
Are you interested in the future of animal rights, environmentalism and the politics of veganism? Whether you’re looking for the best plant-based milk or your local animal rights activist group, this column has you covered. Join me, as I unpack the philosophy of veganism, from wholefood cooking to the politics of the animal liberation movement.
“It’s troubling when people get upset with vegans for pointing out the suffering, rather than getting upset with themselves for causing it.” ~ Jo Tyler
First off, before I delve into the disagreements between vegans and farmers, it’s important that I clear something up. I can confidently speak for all vegans and animal rights activists when I say, we do not hate farmers. Vegans live exclusively on plants. Which, of course, are grown by farmers. It is a common misconception, pushed by some deceitful media outlets, that vegans are waging a war against farmers. Of course, to survive like every other human on this planet, we need farmers and their produce to sustain our existence. It’s as simple as that. However, we don’t want animals to be exploited or plundered for their secretions, flesh or body parts. We don’t see animals as food, nor something to be ‘farmed’. Just like humans, non-human animals are deeply complex and sentient beings, which makes them evidently worthy of respect. Vegans want to work with meat and dairy farmers, by helping them transition to producing plant-based alternatives. So why is there so much controversy? I regard animal rights activism as the new frontier of civil rights. In all civil rights movements, people find it hard to accept necessary change. The animal rights movement is no different. As we continue to strive for change, people who support the consumption of non-human animals will inevitably feel threatened.
Farmers: Februdairy Campaign
In light of the increasing number of plant-based alternatives and the declining dairy industry, farmers are pushing back against vegan activism. For the third consecutive year running, the ‘Februdairy’ campaign is back once again. In 2017, it was launched by Dr Jude Capper, who opposed the Veganuary campaign. She is a livestock sustainability consultant, animal scientist and won the Dairy Industry Woman of the Year award in 2017. I don’t even know to start with the irony of that award, so let’s quickly move on. She’s head of the campaign and prides herself on being a self-proclaimed myth buster for ‘vegan propaganda’ (cue internal eye roll). Februdairy in a nutshell, is a campaign wholly dedicated to celebrating British dairy farmers and dairy milk. At the moment, the campaign exists mainly on Twitter (@Februdairy and #Februdairy) which currently has 2,700 followers. On Instagram, farmers are sharing pictures of their milk and cows, in a bid to promote their produce. In their pictures, posts and videos, they promote the nutritional benefits of consuming milk, sustainable dairy farming and ‘animal welfare methods’.
Vegans: Animal Equality, United Kingdom
In retaliation against the ‘Februdairy’ campaign, Animal Equality UK have launched their own campaign to undermine and debunk the claims made by these dairy farmers. They have launched billboards across the UK exposing the dairy industry, for what it actually is. They argue, that ‘the dairy industry would have us believe that cows live happy lives; that they spend their days basking in the sunshine and roaming around in the grass with their young. But the reality is a different, far darker story.’ I encourage all of you to visit: dairysdarksecrets.co.uk, to discover more about the horrors that occur in the dairy industry.
As a TL;DR, the Animal Equality UK movement elucidates that:
- ‘In the UK nearly 2 million cows are used and killed every year for their dairy’
- ‘Just like humans, cows only produce milk once they’ve given birth, so the dairy industry artificially inseminates them every year for around 3 years. At this point they are usually considered ‘spent’ and are slaughtered for beef, gelatine or leather’
- ‘The dairy industry routinely separates cows from their calves, often just days or even hours after birth, so the milk can be sold for human consumption’
- ‘Unwanted by the animal agriculture industry, many male calves are shot within hours of being born. Some are raised for beef or rosé veal and may be sold for live export… veal is meat from a baby calf, usually killed at just 6-8 months old’
- ‘A thousand litres of water are needed to produce one litre of milk and a glass of dairy milk produces nearly three times more greenhouse gas emissions than any plant-based milk on the market’
Joey Carbstrong: ‘FebruSCARY’
Similarly, Joey Armstrong, or better known as Joey Carbstrong, an Australian animal rights activist and Youtuber, has launched his own campaign against ‘Februdairy’. In a series of videos, which can be found on all major social media outlets, he ‘seeks to expose the sexual violation and abuse of animals that are used as breeding slaves for the meat, dairy and egg industries’. He has labelled his campaign as ‘FebruSCARY’ to push back against ‘animal harmers desperate attempts to spread humane dairy propaganda, via the hashtag #februdairy’. His campaign ‘uncovers the shameful ways humans sexually exploit female and male animals in order to breed them to meet consumer demand for their body parts and by products’. In these videos, he discusses the sexual exploitation of a range of animals, including pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys etc.
I highly recommend these videos and his YouTube channel, which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG6usHVNuRbexyisxE27nDw
Both images, from @joey_carbstrong on Instagram
Where will these disputes end?
If veganism continues to grow at the rate it is presently, the meat, dairy, fish and egg industries will inevitably decline. Just two weeks ago, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) uncovered research which found the UK is drinking 50% less milk than it did in 1974. I don’t blame farmers for feeling threatened or angry, as their livelihoods are presently at stake. But, it’s important to note that vegans and farmers sit on opposite ends of a spectrum. It’s highly unlikely that, collectively, they can find a middle ground or compromise.
If we want these disputes to come to an end, we have to look towards the power of the consumer. Undeniably, consumers are the prime component of industry success. This includes, but is not limited to, the animal agricultural industry. If we stop demanding animal products, then farmers will stop producing them. In my opinion, this is the only way forward to end these disputes. It has been proven, countless times, that consuming products is not only detrimental to the lives of animals but our environment. The animal agricultural industry is not sustainable. If we want a future free from eco anxiety, ditching animal products is the only way forward. If we stop demanding meat, milk, cheese, eggs etc. farmers will have to produce new alternatives, which can only better the planet and sentient beings. In turn, I believe farmers and vegans will be able to find a middle ground and work with one another. As consumers, it’s time we align our morals with our actions and push for the change we wish to see.
CUB’s Lucy Sproat is a QM historian, ecofeminist and animal rights activist who campaigns for the liberation of all sentient beings. Inspired by The Smiths ‘Meat is Murder’, Lucy gave up meat at sixteen and transitioned to a fully vegan diet and lifestyle two years ago. In her spare time, she enjoys playing drums, collecting vintage garms and writing poetry.