Six solid reasons for going veggie.
If we’re going to do this thing – and I am already, and I’m not giving you much say in the matter – we need to go over the reasons for and against. There are lots. And they’re not pretty.
It’s kinder, innit?
The starting point for a lot of people, yer old Zero included, is that eating animals is mean. Hurting and killing cows for beef: Mean. Hurting and killing pigs for pork: Mean. Hurting and killing lambs for lamb: Mean. It’s not a sophisticated argument, but it’s what most of us know to be true and prefer not to think about. If every time you wanted a burger you had to stab a donkey, you’d give it a miss. Animals are cool. We like them. And we forcefully breed them, we mistreat them, we hurt and kill them because we like the way their dead bodies taste. It’s mean.
Industrialised farming is mean. And it’s worse than you think. Take a look round the likes of Veganuary, Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) and PETA, you’ll see horror stories so foul you’ll feel like you need to go veggie twice.
Chickens reared for their flesh are bred and overfed to gain weight as quickly as possible. Their little stick legs can struggle to hold themselves up and can become deformed and sometimes break under their own weight. Most of them are crammed into windowless hangars, tens of thousands of them all squashed together amid shit and piss and filth and infection and dead chickens that didn’t survive the way we farm them.
Chickens reared for their eggs have a lousy time too. Millions of male chicks – those cute things you squee over at Easter – are killed the day they’re born. In the UK they’re gassed like innocent people in Republican states, and in America and Australia they can be shoved – alive – into the kind of horrific mincing machines usually reserved for the third act of Toy Stories. This is not an urban legend or pro-veggie propaganda. This is for realises. Search online, you’ll find footage from undercover workers showing chicks being crushed, drowned, burned, torn apart and shredded, alive, for you and your brunch.
Cows have nothing to brag about. Dairy cows are forcibly inseminated to churn out one calf a year so they can pump out milk for ten months a year. After about three years they’re so clapped out their milk production drops below what’s useful for industrial farms so they’re killed and turned to beef. They’re kept in rancid conditions that turn many of them lame and subject to bacterial infections.
Male calves born to dairy cows do about as well as male chicks. CIWF reckons about six million calves are reared for veal in the EU every year. They’re taken from their mums within hours of their birth and fed an iron-deficient, milk-heavy diet to turn their anaemic flesh the colour people want. And when the time comes for all these cows to be killed, many die or are made lame by the arduous journey to the slaughterhouse, and many are killed painfully and inhumanely. Get Googling slaughterhouse videos again, you’ll see footage of cows trying desperately to escape their killers, and cows beaten and mutilated and electrocuted in botched executions. And all this for a bit of beef. We really are a bag of shits.
It’s about the same for pork-flavoured animals, or “pigs”. CIWF reckons we kill 1.4 billion piggers a year, having crammed them into crates and mutilated them without anaesthetic to reduce the chances of them injuring each other when they go bananas over their living conditions. We torture and kill rabbits – bunnies for fuck’s sake – at the rate of about a billion a year, packing them into wire cages only slightly bigger than they are, the kind of living conditions that would give Donald Rumsfeld a semi. Same kind of thing with fish. Same with bees. Same with pretty much anything we torture to death and eat.
And there’s no heartstring-tugging manipulation here. This isn’t PETA sexing up its dossiers. This is what’s happening. You can see with your own eyes the torture being done on our behalf. It’s mean. Let’s stop it. Let’s stop our part in it.
It’s a morality thing
The thing about meanness is, it’s a morality thing. We can either do harm to things or not. We can do harm to each other or not. We can do harm to minorities and put-upons or not. We can do harm to the environment or not. We can do harm to animals or not.
We can be violent or peaceful, in life in general and in our tum-tums in particular. Veggieness is a bit of gentleness. It’s an extension of pacifism. It says first we will do no harm.
It undoubles a standard
The industrial-scale torture and slaughter of billions of creatures is done on our behalf, even while some of us set our bottom lips a-wobblin’ at the idea of animals being mistreated. If we saw someone throwing cats into a river, or hitting a cow with a stick, or leaving a dog in a hot car we’d phone an animal protection agency and feel good about doing it. And yet we’re okay with hurting and torturing and killing animals as long as it’s on a massive scale and as long as we get to eat their corpses afterwards. That’s ridiculous.
Part of this is just straight-up hypocrisy. Part of it is wilful denial. Part of it is playing favourites with species. We won’t let anyone hurt a puppy but we’ll skin rabbits alive. We’ll Instagram our cats wanting a cuddle but we’ll electrocute cows. We’ll pay vets hundreds of pounds to keep a hamster alive but we’ll mash up newborn chicks in industrial mincers. And part of it is good old fashioned xenophobia and cultural relativity, so we’ll clutch our pearls at foreigners eating dogs and live fish while we malnourish calves for whiter meat, or we’ll consider cows sacred but mutilate pigs, or we’ll swear off pork but gobble up foie gras.
We’re all a big fat bunch of stupid hypocrites with chronically doubled standards. Going veggie clears that shit up.
It might save us from various apocali
Having existed on the earth for more than four minutes, you’ll be aware we are on the path to climate breakdown and an uninhabitable earth. Greenhouse gases are knackering the planet, raising global temperatures, melting ice caps and demolishing us in extreme weather events. Industrial agriculture is doing more than its share towards our suicidal self-annihilation. It gobbles up land, water and fossil fuels, demolishes forests, pumps polluting clag into rivers and seas, and chugs out carbon dioxide and methane in planet-destroying proportions.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) absolutely shat it when they saw how bad industrial agriculture is making things. Research suggests food production and waste are responsible for 26% of all global emissions, and that more than half of those come from animal products. Meat and dairy are doing more harm to the planet than the combined efforts of planes, trains and automobiles. And these aren’t fundamentalist hardcore veggers looking to covert people; they’re climate scientists looking into how we can avoid dying in the coming apocalypse.
If you fret about recycling and swear by reusable carrier bags and never leave home without your aluminium straw, but aren’t doing anything to cut down your meat and dairy consumption, you’re not doing much of anything. Although they didn’t say it outright, the IPCC’s position is clear: Your cheeky Nandos is an existential threat.
It’s maybe better for your health, maybe
I’m not the poster boy for this. My grey, scrawny, chocolate-dependent body looks like I was whacked four days ago and washed up on a beach. Still, people say veggieness is healthy, largely because eating dead animals is so unhealthy.
Heart disease and a bunch of contributing factors – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes– can all be aggravated by chowing down on dead stuff according to a bunch of doctors who know about this kind of thing. The World Health Organisation has linked red meat to cancer. Fucking cancer! The strongest evidence ties to colorectal cancer, with links to pancreatic and prostate cancers. Again, these aren’t a bunch of hunt saboteurs forcing people into an extreme lifestyle choice. They weren’t even recommending going vegetarian, because if you make an arse of veggie nutrition you can give yourself other trouble. What they were doing was pointing out you could get cancer of the arsehole for eating this shit.
It’s manky, innit?
You think the “It’s mean” argument was basic? Try this: Eating meat is manky. Barbecue ribs: Tasty. But also, barbecue ribs: Actual ribs. That’s an actual rib cage you’ve got there, gnawing on an actual bone like a rat. Gnawing at the actual dead, decaying flesh around an actual dead rib bone. That’s your Wednesday night, you manky bastards.
The mank factor is what turns a lot of people veggie. And if not, it builds up the longer you go without meat. It stops looking tasty and starts looking like slabs of dead stuff, people shoving it in their mouths before it rots. That shit is manky. It’s manky. You’re eating dead stuff. You primitive, cave-dwelling hole-shitters. No offence.
I’m already converted, obviously, but these are some solid Why Thoughs. Going veggie separates us from the profound cruelty of industrialised farming and genocidal slaughterhouses. It’s more decent and peaceful and civilised. It does away with the double standard that sees us protecting some animals while torturing and killing others. It gives us a shot at surviving the climate apocalypse, a chance to feed our growing population, and strengthens our health if we’re into that kind of thing. Also it makes us less manky. All good reasons for going veggie before the end of this sentence.
We move now to the case for the defence. Or really the attack, given they’re the ones kicking fuck out of animals…
How a spider spurred my veggie awakening and with it my wider Zero awakening and with it your wider Zero awakening and with it a general saving of animals, humanity and the planet.
Bits of animals are hidden everywhere: in marshmallows, in red food dye, in fake fingernails, even in meat and fish and everything. Swot up on what you need to miss out on.
Because even being ill is an ethical pickle for the self-righteous vegetarian. Between gelatine capsules and mandatory animal testing, you’re best just maintaining perfect health forever.
What should we feed our fellow omnivores? Should we force our morality on other creatures? Will a leopard ever want a bit of tofu? Just three of the questions I’m not all that into but wrote about anyway.
As Veganuary hit and I finished updating the Veggieness section of this here website, I was lightning-bolted by one of my many micro-epiphanies: Ever since Covid demanded I spend less time in the kitchen and more time in bed I’ve become a lousy, lazy vegan.
Veganuary aims to get people trying veganism for a month, drawing them in with time-limited new year faddishness. Last year it had more than half a million sign ups, with about 85% committing to cutting down on meat and dairy thereafter, and a solid 40% aiming to stay vegan for all time. That’s decent, given the most popular new year’s resolution – getting and using an annual gym membership – has a success rate of less than 3% I assume.
As with many hells, the road to veganism is paved with good intentions…
You’ll recall they made a stem cell burger a while back. It was funded by one of the guys from Google taking a break off reading your emails and spying on what you spaff to. He gave a few hundred grand to a couple of mad scientists taking a break off stitching hitchhikers’ mouths to hobos’ bumholes.
As you’ll recall I’ve been terribly ill, mummy’s brave little soldier keeping his chin up through the flu, a chest infection, a spot of whooping cough and very little in the way of blogging. Throughout this charming episode I’ve had a number of very helpful people explain it’s all down to my vegetarianism, there having been no documented cases of illness among meat eaters.
In the days before my epic post-qualifying/pre-job slouchfest, back when I was an overworked and increasingly tetchy student, I bashed out a few new year’s resolutions to fill up a bit of space on what was becoming a seriously neglected blog. However, comeuppances being what they are, I’m now forced to put some effort into doing whatever it was I said I’d do, and all to satisfy an audience of precisely no one. How I hate myself.
As the days count down and 2011 draws to a close I have some unfinished business to attend to, an outstanding resolution yet to be instood. I speak, of course, of Operation Parmesan, the unprecedented assault on the world of cuisine that will make the Hiroshima bombing look like an inappropriate historical event to make reference to.
It’s a hard and trying task, all this Zero business. All this research, all this protesting, all this motivating the troops and doing the groupies. At times I grow weary. People cannot live on self-righteousness alone. It can’t be all hard work and hand wringing and so from time to time I put down my tools, tramp down from the moral high ground to the sewer in which the rest of you live, and have a night off. A couple of nights ago I watched a film. Naturally, I was able to turn it pretty quickly into hard work and handwringing.
You’ll recall how I’ve been writing for my uni’s studentmag. It’s some full on proper do-gooding, converting everyone on campus to my splendid way of life and raising issues usually neglected by right-on students such as Fairtrade, vegetarianism, feminism, environmentalism… Oh. Right.