Tag Archives: animals

Pearl barley and quinoa

I wish I hadn’t watched that video. I wish I could roll back time and forget this moment of enlightenment. Why do we treat animals so badly? Why do we mass produce living beings just so we can eat at McDonalds? I’ll never be able to enjoy a burger again, or a flat white. Even honey is off limits.

Vegan. That’s the dirty word, that’s the descriptor I never thought would define me. I’m normal, I’m just like everyone else, and “I’ll eat whatever you’re having!” Except I won’t. Because I can’t unsee those images. I can’t pretend that it’s fine to stick my hand inside a dead decapitated chicken and fill it up with lemons and garlic. I can’t fry a steak, or wear a leather belt, because I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of other living things.

So my transition starts. My girlfriend watches on disapprovingly as our fridge loses all meat and dairy, and hemp milk, oat milk and almond milk take up increasing amounts of space. She’s even less impressed when I proudly state: “The cat ate smashed avocado on toast for breakfast today.” I’m turning that carnivore vegan; she gets special cat food delivered in the post now.

All I see are healthy guilt-free alternatives; all my girlfriend can see is boring plain food. I tell her; “It’s for the best, we can radically change the world one meal at a time.” She tells me she’s hungry, and she’d rather stay ignorant. I’m not allowed to show her the evidence of the terrible things done in her name.

Things come to a head at 2am on a Wednesday morning. My girlfriend has been out drinking with her workmates and she staggers in and wakes me up – she’s absolutely smashed. She’s hungry and I follow her into the kitchen and watch as the realities of my veganism wash over her swaying form. Sourdough bread, almond butter, bags of kale, fresh mushrooms, seven packets of lentils (green and red), pearl barley and quinoa – this isn’t the menu for a drunk twenty three year old.

She slams the fridge door shut and decries the “vegan shit” filling up our kitchen. She wants pizza, pie, kebabs, sausages, burgers, but all I can offer her is homemade soup, or a banana smoothie. And I remember the phrase that appears in nearly all vegan media: “See the world through the eyes of the victim.” And I’m torn – who is the victim in this scenario: my drunk girlfriend? Or the animals that die so she can drunkenly sink her teeth into their decaying flesh?

But context is important too. We sit around and stuff our faces and we owe our lives to mass production and deception. We’re sold images of happy animals who die quietly and peacefully (after content little lives) and we buy their dead bodies wholesale.

My drunken girlfriend has bought the lie. She’s drunk so she wants meat (of course), she wants to stuff herself on unhealthy foods because that’s what you do. You drink too much, and then you eat a kebab; and it’s fine, you can be temporarily hedonistic. Until you wake up the next day with a pounding headache and a bad stomach.

We’re all victims. We’re all sucked in by late-night advertisements. We’re enchanted by the kebab shop myth, those late night vendors in brightly lit windows, hawking horse meat at ungodly hours – the moments where people are at their most susceptible.

I realise that we’re all victims of corporations that fill their pockets with our pennies, the tiny pieces of money that we all tithe daily to keep Coca Cola, McDonalds and other global purveyors of repackaged suffering solvent. So I fill up my blender with chickpeas, I dice up a lemon, crush some garlic, and I make houmous, good wholesome Middle Eastern food.

I chop up a cucumber and I hand it to my girlfriend. “It’s finger food,” I tell her. “It’s good.”

She looks at my arrangement with disdain but her belly growls and she starts to eat. She stuffs her face and devours an entire cucumber, all of the houmous, and promptly falls asleep on the sofa with a contented belch.

We don’t have to eat the shit they tell us is good, we can change our perspectives, we can reassess and reconsider the myths we’re sold. I don’t eat anything that had a face, or a mother. I don’t drink cow’s milk, monkey’s milk, elephant’s milk or rat’s milk. I’m a human; I don’t consume animal products.

But it took a massive shift in my reasoning to change my diet, and it’s hard to maintain. I miss cheese, I miss milk and cookies, but I can’t go back. I’ve learned something, a truth that sits uncomfortably inside me, and one that I can’t forget – we don’t need to eat animals (even when we’re drunk).

So in those moments of weakness, in those times where advertisements define your response, take a step back. You can be radically different. You can change the world one mouthful at a time by not accepting the pain and suffering that meat-eating causes.

But don’t try and change your girlfriend’s mind too quickly. Take inspiration from fast food advertising. Wait until she’s drunk and at her most susceptible – then feed her cucumber.

Mad Moose

This election is boring me. Maybe it’s my cynicism or my allergy to buzzwords, but the parties are saying nothing to me as a voter of conscience. I’m pretty far left, but lately I’ve actually started to question the sense of Caroline Lucas for a comment that’s so ridiculous I’m actually enraged.

Every April I put up with the endless jibes of idiots that point at the Grand National and shout ‘cruelty’. Lucas has gone on record asking to ban it and possibly all horseracing as we are watching “horses raced to death”. This is an MP I have previously stood up for and followed, but this statement is a rare lapse into misinformation that has sorely disappointed me.

I know my nags. I grew up in a big racing town and worked in the yards and equine veterinary practices through my youth. I’ve seen handicappers, Derby, Gold Cup and Grand National winners both in training and undergoing treatment. The standard of care given to those horses in training is outstanding – the best food, constant love and attention by their lads every day of the week, frequent checks and scans at the slightest hint of a problem.

Horses are worth too much to be mistreated; would you harm a creature worth millions of pounds? They have clover flown in, solarium lamps to warm their backs, swimming pools and cushioned gallops. Racing vets are the best in the world, developing many procedures later rolled out even to humans (such as stem cell therapy on tendons). Jump horses sustain careers over many years, something that can only be achieved with care.

The races themselves have been made safer with whipping bans, safer ground standards, better jump build. Despite what people think, you cannot force a horse to jump or run. Many child has tried, believe me. The best example of this is the famous Mad Moose – now retired and banned by the British Horseracing Board for…not starting. He just said no. No violence, no danger, he just walked off. He once made it to a fence, slowing to a standstill. Does he jump? He does at home and out drag hunting, just not on racecourses. They tried, he said no, and now he’s retired and enjoying life (with a huge fanclub).

So where exactly is the cruelty? Sadly horses do die, but if Lucas looked at the facts it is far worse in the leisure industry where stupidity kills many horses. The worst cases I have ever seen of cruelty are by nameless individuals who starve, overfeed, overwork and even violently attack horses. I’ve been to too many riding schools which beat and overwork their animals, conning the authorities who discourage complaints.

Then there is the meat trade. Most abattoirs do not have CCTV to prove their treatment of all animals is humane, and horses fall through the gaps of the livestock laws. They are packed into trucks where many fall and are trampled to death; the volume of deaths through dehydration is staggering. This is cruelty at its most disgusting.

The real issue with horseracing is not the racing itself – that is after all what they are bred for. It is what happens after their career ends. Then they fall into the hands of arseholes who have no idea how to retrain a beast that knows mainly how to run, that has been treated as a god in a comfortable stable with little interaction with traffic. There are also many horses bred only for speed, with no consideration for temperament or a future career.  Only the economy reduces the amount of (sadly) shit horses being bred. A lot fall into the meat trade, as I’ve said a deplorable and grotesquely unlegislated area for the equine.

So where exactly is the fucking cruelty? I was the first to shed a tear when Balthazar King fell this year, choked up that he might die. Thankfully he is still alive, and being treated incredibly well by top vets in Liverpool. His fall was a mistake, and another horse hitting him a freak accident.

It is horrible, but falls happen. I’ve been fallen on by a small, fat, hairy Welsh pony before – every rider has at some point. Jumping a big fence makes it more likely. If you compare the amount of injuries or deaths in runs against the number of deaths happening daily among normal horse owners maybe it would put this into perspective. Lucas should speak with all the information at hand, spending time in a racing yard and seeing for herself how the sport and industry is run, not spouting vote-courting buzz-phrases.

Save it for Newsnight

It’s a special kind of privilege that allows you to announce that your most hated aspect of modern society is something genuinely trivial. I am aware of this and of the air of twattishness that it confers upon me and, frankly, I don’t care.

Not caring is what got me in this position in the first place. It is an excellent position to be in and I hope people join me in it. For the record, by choosing to not be annoyed by homophobia, sexism, racism and the rest of the gamut of hate, I am not saying that they aren’t shit things. They are shit, all of them, and you won’t hear me saying otherwise. It’s just that they’re huge problems and, frankly, I don’t have much faith in my ability to do anything about them.

I’m generally of the opinion that if you ignore differences they’ll probably stop being issues and as an example I am a shit feminist for precisely this reason. I’d rather we stopped empowering women in particular and started just generally being evenly tolerant and fair to all people, both twats and people with them, because it has the same result and means I don’t have to burn any bras, which are expensive and necessary.

Anyway, the end result of this even-handed apathy is that I have a lot of hate-time left over for unimportant stuff. Anyone who likes a good argument will tell you that it is far more enjoyable to debate this pointless shit than, say, the effect of discrepancies between the recycling policies of neighbouring councils on overall waste targets. Save it for Newsnight. If you’re anything like me you’ll have realised this at school, when the thought finally occurred that the day of the exam is not the day to worry about the exam, and that a handed-in essay is very literally out of your hands – don’t worry about things you can’t change, basically, when there’s some day-to-day stuff out there that’s really annoying.

So: my bête noire, my chief bugbear, the bane of my existence. I will illustrate it with an exchange typical of the sort that pisses me off:

‘Friend’: My dog just died.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry.
‘Friend’: Don’t be, not your fault.

There. Do you see? He deserves a dead dog. The dog probably died of exasperation. My ‘Friend’ has interpreted my ‘Oh, I’m sorry’ as an expression of guilt rather than sympathy, and is telling me that he’s aware that I’m not directly to blame for the demise of his pet.

Think about this – as far as the friend is apparently concerned, I have admitted that I murdered his canine. He dismisses this instantly, and says so. Who does that? Who has so much of a persecution complex and so little in the way of a brain-mouth barrier that he doesn’t rethink what I’d just said, consider that he’s aware that little Rex died of cancer and not at my hands, and accept what is obviously an attempt at compassion?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a shit about his dog. I’ve never met it and I don’t like them and anyway I made it up for this example. But is it not blindingly obvious that I’m not taking the fall here? Social convention says I express some kind of sympathetic bullshit at that point in the conversation. It says I don’t ask what gruesome end was involved, don’t consider whether or not ‘Friend’ is actually a bit of a knob and deserving of comfort at all, and just mutter three very comprehensible words that means my end of the conversation is kept up and we can move on to less depressing things.

The struggle is real, and the problem is rife. Listen for it, don’t do it yourself, and smile politely at those who fob your grief off in the same way. Moreover, accept your platitude with good grace and I’ll have one less entry on my hitlist. You being less of a twat means I’ll eventually get around to being motivated to be annoyed about genocide. Sort it out. You’ll be sorry if you don’t, and this time there’ll actually be blame involved.

Pin Scruffy to the tree

Oh look, another tree is crying (barking seems too obvious here) that another dog is missing.

Your dog has left you, Helen – accept it and move on. Just like how you have applied human adjectives to his being, Scruffy doesn’t think that you possess enough of his canine qualities – you don’t sniff his bottom or chase him enough, you don’t join him with the howling at Patch the kitty across the road, and he’s left you. There’s just not enough common ground to build upon for this relationship to continue.

I know it’s hard, we’ve all been tempted to pin a poster to a tree, calling out for the object of our unrequited love. But be strong, cut the communication. And that includes the poster making. Time really is a healer – soon these feelings will become rage and soon you will want to pin Scruffy to the tree instead.

Why on earth do you think that anyone who passes this tree will care about the fact that your one true love has left you? Why do you assume that someone will walk past this tree and think ‘Oh yes, I saw a very friendly dog who answers to the name of Scruffy walk past me the other day, because I’m regularly shouting out SCRUFFY at any given chance. Yes, the first thing I noticed was that distinctive tear-shaped marking on his stomach and that mischievous glint in his eye.’

Because nobody cares, Helen. Move on. Okay, fair enough, unless you’re on holiday the sight of a stray dog is a rare and wonderful thing and maybe Helen will one day be reunited with Scruffy…

…but a cat? How on earth do you expect anyone, apart from the deranged, to monitor all the cats in this area in order to keep tabs on the whereabouts of little Patch, Peter? I know you’re missing her, but how do you expect a passer-by to remember all the cats they’ve ever passed on their walk and to connect the sighting of that black cat over there with your poster they saw on a tree three days ago? Do you really think that anyone has that little going on in their lives they’re able to designate a special place in their mind to store all the missing posters they’ve seen?

Maybe you’ll be the lucky one; maybe a weirdo has already created a FOUND poster for Patch. Because there are those weirdos out there, rumour has it.

The RSPCA has recently reported that there has been a worrying social media-influenced increase in owners throwing out their black cats. Black cats don’t look as ‘gawjus’ in a selfie as their lighter-coloured counterparts, because black cats’ features don’t show up in photos, apparently.

So with all of these discarded black cats wandering the streets, there will be a disturbingly drastic surge of FOUND posters appearing on trees nationwide. How many trees will be lost to keep up with both paper demand to produce these posters and space demand in order to display these posters? It’s a scary thought.

But really, who actually takes the time to create a FOUND poster? Who thinks that they have the authority to create a FOUND poster? Who spots a cat, decides it’s walking in a ‘missing’ manner, picks it up, takes it home and sits it at their feet whilst they open Microsoft Publisher to create their dramatic announcement: ‘FOUND – Black cat, seems friendly enough, (no photo I’m afraid, he doesn’t photograph well). Call me.’

That cat you’ve just stolen from the streets was just enjoying an afternoon stroll. Yes, he hasn’t been seen in these parts before, but he just felt like a change of scenery.  But now you’ve snatched him from the streets and made him the star of your FOUND poster and subsequently he is now MISSING.

Or what if that cat was just one of those cats not deemed good enough for a selfie? Thrown out in a fit of rage after the selfie only received one lonely Facebook Like from a great, great aunt.  How long do you intend on keeping the cat for? Because nobody’s going to make a claim for that cat, so now what? Is the cat now your new pet or will you throw it back onto the streets after a period of time with no responses? Ready for someone else to start the horrendous FOUND poster process all over again.

Or what if, like Scruffy the dog, the cat walked out of the cat flap after deciding that he’s just not compatible with the owner – we want different things in life, there’s no point continuing, it’s not you, it’s me. Why are you now holding this cat hostage and forcing a reunion? What if that’s not what the cat wants?

Or what if the cat has voluntarily run away and, like that homeless man sat outside Sainsbury’s, he doesn’t want to be found. He’s run away after alienating everyone around him, following his slow descent into substance abuse. When you walk past a homeless person on the street, do you immediately pick him up and create a FOUND poster? ‘FOUND – Ginger male, friendly, yet distant, will answer to name of ‘Scruffy’.’ No, I’m quite sure you don’t. But you probably should.