'Vegan' food...?

We are so fortunate in the UK and other economically advantaged countries to have supermarkets full of "vegan-friendly" products. Eating plant-based, with a plethora of off-the-shelf alternatives to most of our favourite dishes, has never been so easy. The market for "vegan" foods has grown at a phenomenal rate in a few very short years, and that market shows signs of massive continuing growth. This "trend" has not escaped the notice of the biggest food producers in the world, who have been quick to jump onto the money-train, creating some amazing plant-based food options alongside their existing, animal-based products.

But please don't think that those aisles of pretty packets mean that less animals are stuck in our vile system of exploitation. The numbers of animals killed worldwide for human consumption is still increasing, standing at around 80 billion per year at last count. The number is almost impossible to comprehend, yet it is crucial to recognise that each single number represents an individual, who suffered a short life of incarceration to then have that life taken from them. Try to imagine 80 billion land animals forcibly brought into the world only to end their days fighting for their life. 80 billion screams, 80 billion pairs of eyes helplessly watching their companions die violently next to them, knowing they are next. And this number shockingly does not even include the billions of day old birds killed as waste products nor the uncounted trillions of water-dwelling animals we carelessly name "seafood".

Using plant based products in our diets is great, but to view them as replacements for the body parts of exploited beings, or as heralding the end of those exploitation industries, is wrong. They are just another option, dangled temptingly under our noses by capitalism, symbolic of a society already overwhelmed with an unnecessary amount of materialist choice. Almost all of the items labelled "vegan" in our supermarkets are owned by companies who also profit from the commodification and killing of other animals, and they are not making these extra products for anything other than more profit.

This time of year the reality weighs most heavy, and my heart is bursting with grief. Slaughterhouses will have been killing to the fullest of their capacity this month, driven to supply tired old traditions at a time of year supposedly all about peace and goodwill. Despite all the time we have had in this challenging year to contemplate our troubled world, in the face of dire climate change and a pandemic brought about by the exploitation of other animals, nothing seems to have changed.

We need urgently to address the grave issue of the widespread belief that other animals are less than us, and here for us, and no amount of vegan-friendly meals will do that.

(The reason I put the term “vegan food” in quote marks is that VEGANISM IS NOT A DIET. It is the opposition of the exploitation of all sentient life. Food, it follows, of itself cannot be termed vegan.)

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