Standing between the aisles of a supermarket, empty basket in hand, you spend 10 minutes deciding on cookies. Full cream milk powder? Aroma? A series of 621, 352 and other random numbers… which contain NO animal products to satisfy your vegan label? Does ‘May contain traces of milk.’ count?
A little further up you take as long debating on chocolate. Is vegan regular chocolate better than non-vegan fairtrade, or is poorly paid labour as ethically wrong as any milk content?
Scanning the ingredients of ever item, you’ve quickly learned the German, Dutch and French words for milk, cheese and egg. But aside from improving your linguistic skills, what is the point of all this?
My reasons for veganism may not be the traditional ones, but in a world so full of animal consumer goods, I feel the need to justify them.
Being Vegetarian, with the now somewhat understood evils of factory farming, has become almost accepted. An increase in documentaries like ‘Our Daily Bread’ and ‘Meat the Truth’ have done a lot to expose animal cruelty, but for me, the ethics of what I eat doesn’t stop there. With my understanding of the production chain, sitting down to scrambled eggs, let alone a steak, doesn’t seem justifiable.
The amount of land that was cleared to allow for grazing, the water plowed through to grow those non-native crops, and the total energy consumed to impregnate, fatten, then slaughter that animal, just can’t be worth it. If I’m going to be so concerned about which lightbulbs I use, then i ought to question what energizes my body too.
Which means not stopping at flesh. Not eating meat for ethical reasons makes a hypocracy out of accepting any animal product. A dairy farmer is driven by the same profit motive as a cattle farmer, and often has the same practices. When more yield in less space equals more money, ethics get left way behind… everytime.
A milk cow lives just as short a life as a beef one. She is there to produce, produce, produce and when her prime is over, so is she. The potential of the energy she used gets lost too, when she doesn’t reach maturity.
Even organic or free range options have constraints. Often organic measures just means 80cms of space instead of 70, or only slightly better conditions than their factory counterparts. There are no free range egg classifications in Europe, the United States or Australia that prohibit the cutting of beaks on chickens. If they want to have that many fowl living together in one space, preventing pecking is the only way to generate that precious profit.
That carton of a dozen eggs I was looking at may have a smiley free range logo on it, but unless I see the farm myself, I have no guarantee of making an ethical choice. Those hens may only be let out of their close cages for a few hours a day, allowing then to be labeled ‘free’. How much is that omelette really worth?
These options are certainly a step in the right direction, but we need to bring power back to the consumer. How much do you know about the food you eat? How sure can you be that it is sustainable? Trusting a label has never been enough and corporate companies are not going to make the right decisions for us or our planet.
For me, being vegan is about eliminating the margins for error. Until I can guarrantee that what I consume has neither harmed the earth nor it’s animals, as far as I’m concerned… It’s not fit to eat.