I’ve signed up to Veganuary. If you’ve never heard of it, or even if you have, it’s a cousin of Dry January, Octsober, and so on. Something where you pledge yourself to do something dietary for a month. In this case, keep to a vegan diet. My diet is largely vegan, so I’m not anticipating big problems with that, but I am a bit taken aback by some of the vegan zealotry out there.
Today I got an email with a list of ingredients to avoid with a warning that veganuary will have you reading labels in supermarkets and shops. So much so normal. I’ve been vegetarian since I was twelve, Mother and Aunt had coeliac disease, and Mother’s Menière’s disease meant we scanned everything. When all three of us went to Sainsbury’s together we would look like keen readers in a library. So I looked at the list and didn’t expect to be surprised. I was wrong. Honey. The differences between vegetarianism and veganism are subtle and political.
Veganism is political. Read the definition of veganism from the Vegan Society website here. I go along with quite a lot of it, but my full conversion to veganism is a long way off, so long it may never happen. When January is over I shall be happy to eat eggs from hens kept as pets whose lives are not curtailed when they slow or cease laying. I number a couple or three beekeepers among my acquaintances, and their love for their bees and their concern for those bees’ wellbeing and welfare is notable.
My big problem is not with eating honey or eggs, but the farming industry; the way we as a society have enslaved animals, have seen them simply as a commodity and treat them as disposable and dispensable. It makes me ashamed and disgusted. If you have a hen and that hen lays eggs, to eat some of those eggs does not seem to me to damage the hen. To see the hen as an egg-laying machine, with no rights of reproduction, and a death sentence the moment laying slows down damages both the hen and me. The damage to the hen is obvious. The damage to me is because it brutalises me, it assumes I am compliant in the exploitation of the bird. So I have sympathies with veganism, but my hope would be to reform farming, so that those calves are not slaughtered so we can drink the milk that would have nourished them. That the cows are not constantly in calf so that they lactate. We don’t need to have milk all the time. If I kept a cow who had a calf, maybe she could spare some milk, and from that milk I might have butter or cheese. But it wouldn’t be a staple, it would be a treat. and industrial farming is not limited to animals. Vegetables and fruit are sprayed with pesticides so strong they damage the health of those workers who grow the crops; people who pick said fruit and vegetables are exploited, living in caravans in disgusting conditions, paid peanuts. I’m struggling to articulate what I think, but an analogy would be seasonal fruits and vegetables. We don’t expect to have runner beans in January in the UK. We can get them, they are flown in from other parts of the world. Personally, I don’t buy them. My father loved runner beans. We called him Bean Man. Every year he grew two rows, one to eat and one to freeze so he could eat his beans all winter. Continue reading