The AntiCarnist was formed to highlight how corporations, institutions and entire cultures have systematically created the denial necessary for otherwise compassionate people to justify the inexcusable.
With over 100,000 people signing up to Veganuary and counting, veganism is set to start going mainstream in 2018. And with so many new and aspiring vegans out there, I thought I should offer up a few words of advice that helped me in the beginning. There’s also a chance to WIN a huge hamper from Little Shop of Vegans for anyone hoping to inspire others to try veganism (or gain inspiration themselves!).
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
Veganism is not a purity contest. If you slip up, take note and learn from it. If you are unable to find a vegan alternative for something you absolutely need, make sure it is known that there is a demand for it to be veganised. It is not a competition. We are all doing the best we can in a world that hasn’t caught up yet.
Learn the Facts
When you are vegan you are a constant reminder to everyone around you that they support animal exploitation. They will try to do everything they can to discredit you to make themselves feel better, so make sure you know what you’re talking about.Check your sources before sharing anything. Join vegan Facebook groups and don’t hesitate to ask questions. The meat and dairy industries are also notorious for spreading disinformation to discourage the current rapid growth of veganism, so keep up to date with the news and what they’re trying to pull next. Because you WILL be approached about it by people hoping that they have a new excuse to never change. There’s a list of common arguments against veganism on the Anticarnist website here that will absolutely come in handy almost immediately without a doubt.
Find Your KindThe Suffolk Animal Save community
One of the biggest factors for keeping me sane in the beginning was when I started attending the Norwich Vegans monthly meetings. Three years ago I sat with six other people and chatted for hours. It was refreshing and very much needed whilst I was otherwise surrounded by friends and family who either didn’t want to discuss anything I had learned or wanted to shoot it down. Now the meetings have around fifty different people in attendance each month and my friends and family are also much more receptive. Nevertheless, in the beginning, the opportunity to make vegan friends in a non-vegan world was a life saver. If there aren’t any groups in your area, strongly consider creating one. Go out for meals, do various forms of activism, or meet up for a social drink. We’re stronger together.
Everyone Needs B12
One of the hidden bonuses about being vegan is if you’re eating more fruits and vegetables than you were before, you’re not as in need of supplements. Nevertheless, a huge percentage of the world is deficient in B12, so it makes sense to take a B12 supplement at the very least. B12 is the byproduct of a specific bacterial fermentation that used to be much more abundant in soil, but due to modern farming processes and the fact we now wash all our produce for good reason, some people find themselves without enough of it to remain healthy after years of being deficient. Nowadays farmers give B12 supplements to their animals, but fortunately we can easily take these ourselves instead of getting B12 second hand. B12 is also found in fortified plant milks and cereals.
Get StuffedMy Bosh! Mushroom Wellington (click for recipe, you won’t regret it!)
Another little benefit of aligning your actions with your values is that fruits and vegetables are very low in calories compared to meat, dairy and eggs. They’re cheaper too; especially vegan staple foods such as beans and rice. If you focus on a whole foods diet (which isn’t mandatory of course – there are plenty of vegan meats and cheeses in supermarkets these days), you can eat a lot more in terms of volume. So don’t forget to increase your portion sizes accordingly because food is fuel, and you’ll need that fuel to keep fighting for the animals. And the more leafy greens the better.
For a chance to WIN an amazing hamper full of vegan-friendly gifts featured above, see the top pinned post on the Anticarnist Facebook page.
FULL List of prizes in the Little Shop of Vegans Hamper:
Little Shop of Vegans tote bag, designed by Anticarnist All Glamour No Guts ‘Someone Not Something’ notebook, designed by Anticarnist
Soya Free Vegenaise
Nutritional yeast flakes
Box of Chocolates
Anticarnist stickers x4
Anticarnist ‘Respect Existence or Expect Resistance’ beanie
How To Go Vegan book by Veganuary
Terms & conditions
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2.1. The Competition closes Sunday 14th January 2018
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2.4. The Competition is only to those aged 18 or over, excluding anyone professionally connected with the administration of the Competition. Proof of age may be asked for.
3.1. The Prizes for winning the competition are all items included in the Little Shop of Vegans Hamper photo.
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Yesterday marked the third Canada Goose protest at the UK store in London within their first week of opening. Activists stood outside the doors in the rain for most of the day armed with placards, megaphones and laptops depicting the tortures that animals may endure in order to line and stuff ‘designer’ coats. No doubt the store suffered in terms of the profits they would have made on the days of the protests. Members of the public that didn’t realise dog fur is used for hood lining and geese feathers are plucked for coat stuffing were educated on these atrocities as they passed. And those that would have been Canada Goose customers thought better of it.
Meanwhile, Canada Goose claims that “Surge, PETA and other activist groups misrepresent the facts and use sensational tactics to try to illicit a reaction and mislead consumers. They ignore the strict government regulation and standards that are in place, as well as our commitment to ethical sourcing practices and responsible use of fur and down.” but fail to state what these ‘ethical sourcing practices’ are and how they are able to source the fur and feathers from murdered animals ethically.
Protests are happening at the Regent Street store every Saturday, so if you’d like to come along, please check out the Facebook event page here.
It was such an uncharacteristically warm evening for late October that I arrived at Norfolk and Suffolk Animal Save‘s first ‘Candlelit Vigil’ in only a t-shirt. Most of the usual faces I have come to know well over the past year whilst standing outside slaughterhouses were in attendance. Soft music played from a bluetooth speaker on a table beside a moving scene of cards, framed photographs and notes. I placed down a couple of prints of ‘Here With Us’ and ‘No Humane Way’ as my contribution and watched the pubic’s reactions as they curiously peered at the gathering.
I originally had a some reservations about this method of activism. Would passers-by think it was absurd for a strange group of people to publicly hold some kind of funeral for a bunch of pigs and chickens that were processed to become the very food they ate that day? Would this method of getting their attention act as a disservice to the animals if the public wrote off our actions as insane and unrelatable? As with most things, the only way to know is to experience it yourself and the only way to succeed is to try.
The candles and pictures certainly lured them in closer. People bent down to read the notes and activists were on hand to answer any questions from anyone who wished to understand more. I was touched by the respect many people seemed to give for those they may have never considered as individuals beyond their chicken and bacon sandwiches before. All in all, those doing outreach and speaking with people directly were in agreement that it had opened the hearts and minds of those who would have otherwise shuffled home from work or shopping without a thought for who they might be eating that night.
It’s World Vegan Day today and a very important day for me personally. I see it as a day to reflect on the activism from the past year. As always, the memories are bittersweet. As we stood for a two minutes silence at the end of the candlelit vigil, I broke down in tears. Every framed photo, every foam board, every drawing and every image there on the ground in front of us was of a murdered individual. They had hopes and dreams, as well as likes and dislikes as personal as yours and mine. They had personalities and character, yet they were treated like objects grown for their very bodies to be harvested. Their flesh was never their own. I’ve seen so many hundreds of them driven to their deaths – for the sake of money, tradition, habit, taste and greed. To be consumed by the loved ones that surround me that would never hurt an animal with their own hands. But that’s precisely why we need to continue trying. Most people buying into these industries are compassionate and most of us were in their position before we learned how unnecessary the suffering of animals really is. The good news is that we have the truth on our side and that a vegan world is inevitable. We only wish to help it get here as soon as possible.
With World Cube Day on 5th November, my home town of Norwich is set to witness the most effective vegan activism it’s ever seen. Veganism is growing and every year I look back and realise how far we have come even if the fight is far from over.
I was five years old when my teacher told me it was wrong to eat McDonald’s.
I can’t remember what she said word for word, but it was enough for me to go home and tell my mother I didn’t want to eat animals anymore. Knowing what an effort it was to get me to eat vegetables, my mother was not happy and pointed out that if I would no longer eat Turkey Drummers, gammon, Fish Fingers and sausages, all that left me with was essentially carrots, peas and chips. I believe I lasted about a day before I resigned myself to vegetarianism being an unrealistic endeavour.
Me with my cat Spock, 1986.
I grew up considering myself as an ‘animal lover’. I was obsessed with learning about other species. All my time was spent doing something to do with animals. I only enjoyed cartoons with animal characters. I wasn’t very interested in human dolls; instead choosing to play with My Little Pony, Care Bears and Littlest Pet Shop in the 80s and 90s. I endlessly begged my parents for pets of all shapes and sizes and would wake up crying in the night that my fish tank was dirty and that they might be suffering. I was a sensitive child. I tried to nurse injured insects back to health and left the house with handfuls full of sugar to feed to ant colonies.
But whilst I agonised over syringe-feeding orphaned wood mice and rescued injured pigeons from the road, day after day I wouldn’t give it a second thought to then eating an animal for my next meal. It was just something everyone did. It was normal. Necessary.
It was another fifteen years before I would even question it again. The documentary Earthlings was released in 2005, and since I already watched every documentary about animals I could find (namely anything by David Attenborough), it was inevitable that I would see it. Earthlings absolutely changed my worldview beyond all recognition. I had no idea such evil could ever exist on such a systematic scale with up to three trillion animals killed by humans every single year for profit. I learned that animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change, ocean dead zones, deforestation and species extinction. I had been tricked my entire life into supporting the killings of those I claimed to love. I learned that every single health organisation in the world states that having a diet free from animals’ dead bodies or their bodily fluids can be healthy at all stages of life. The only reason we continue, as far as I could see, was for the sake of taste, habit, tradition and convenience. Why did I accept the reality of cows being hung upside down and stabbed in the throat to bleed out for burgers, but considered the thought of the same thing being done to any cat as abhorrent? My lifelong brainwashing was starting to come undone.
It was nine months before I started eating meat again. For nine months I had no idea what I was doing when it came to a vegetarian diet. For some reason, the fact the dairy and egg industries are worse than the meat industry had completely escaped me at the time and I covered most vegetables in melted cheese. I found it easy to revert back to cognitive dissonance at will, eating meat off of friend’s and family’s plates so I could taste flesh without directly supporting murder financially. I didn’t know anyone else who had made any kind of connection as to why we shouldn’t use animals as we pleased. It felt hopeless and I didn’t believe there would ever be any kind of change. I became depressed. It was like waking up in a nightmare and wanting to get back to sleep. Everything was backwards. So I tried to forget.
It was another ten years before I even let my mind revisit the topic. For a decade I described myself as a ‘guilty meat eater’, almost certain that I was happier trying to force myself into ignorance. My school friend Gemma had been having thyroid issues and had been on a plant based diet for a year or two with success. I was amazed that it was not only possible, but that she was healthier for it. The only exposure to veganism up until that point, had been to the reputation of vegans being pale, sickly and weak individuals. Eventually Gemma’s fiance Paul, who some of you may now know as Hench Herbivore, also started a plant based diet. I asked them so many questions. Where do you get your protein? What about iron? Apparently there’s this thing called B12? What do you eat? Aren’t humans omnivores? Don’t we need calcium in cows’ milk? (For the answers to all these frequently asked questions click here). To this day I remember how patient they were with me. Not once did they utter a single hint of frustration and I can’t thank them enough for that.
I never intended on going vegan. I simply thought I would try it out for 22 days and see how I felt. But after two weeks in I knew it was for life. I now had support and knew others that could help with cooking tips and advice, where to shop and and how to make new recipes. What I never realised until I tried it, was how… liberating it is to be able to live in accordance with your own values. My beliefs have never changed, the only difference is that my actions now align with them.
Now I experience so much that I never would have tried otherwise. I love finding new cruelty free cleaning products to use. I visit animal sanctuaries instead of zoos. I celebrate when I discover new cosmetics that aren’t tested on animals. I now experiment with cooking and baking and share treats with friends to promote the realisation that no animals have to die for them.
On Saturday 2nd September people gathered all over the world to march in support of animal rights. An estimated 5000 people showed up to the event in London – double the amount of last year. The atmosphere was electric, the mood was energising and it was an honour to be surrounded by so many beautiful people, all coming together for a common cause. Below are a collection of some of my favourite photos of the hundreds I took that day, along with a few photos of the ‘Earthlings Experience’ that continued outside the Leicester Square Burger King late into the evening. For anyone who missed the march and would love to join us next year, where we hope to double our numbers again, be sure to mark August 25th 2018 in your diaries.
To everyone who has helped support Anticarnist in its first year, I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU! It’s because of you that Anticarnist is able to now place a donation of a whopping £1300 to Hillside Animal Sanctuary. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
As you may have already seen in the news, beef farmer Jay Wilde had been raising cows all his life but could no longer accept making money from them and decided to donate his herd to Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk last month.
Jay grew up working with the family’s cows when he started to realise that there was much more to these animals than we are led to believe. “I began to see that cows recognise each other, and they’ve got very good memories. They also experience a range of emotions – they can be sad, happy, bored, excited. They do also have facial expressions. You can tell what a cow’s thinking by looking at it. I’ve even seen cows cry.”
Jay Wilde with the cows who are now living at Hillside Animal Sanctuary
As time went on, Jay decided to stop eating meat. He explains, “Cows are conscious of what goes on around them – they have personalities and an inner life. They’re not just units of food. Knowing them personally makes it more difficult to think about eating them.”
Despite the herd being worth around £50,000, with the help of the Vegan Society who initially contacted the sanctuary, the 59 cows are able to live out their natural lifespans of around 25 years in permanent sanctuary instead of going to slaughter at 2 to 3 years old.
Hillside Animal Sanctuary is also home to over 3000 animals. Many of which have been rescued from the factory farming industry. They rely on donations from the public in order to house and feed all the horses, donkeys, sheep, cows, pigs and chickens, so please spread the word and consider helping in any way you can. It’s one of my favourite places in the world to visit, so be sure to check out their next open day.
When I saw the headline “10,000 Hens in Norfolk Needing Homes Before 29th June” back in 2009 on the Sky News website I was an avid meat eater. Nevertheless, I read on to discover 29th June was in fact their slaughter date and those that weren’t rehomed as pets would be killed for cheap pies and pet food. These were ‘battery’ hens. Hens that had lived the past eighteen months in tiny cages but had become less ‘productive’ with their egg-laying.
Although I ate chickens and their eggs most days without a thought, I found myself sympathising with these chickens. 10,000 individuals that stood a chance of being rescued from the slaughterhouse. Being only a couple of miles away, I could actually help make it happen for at least a couple of them. I bizarrely believed I could eat animals and love them too without hypocrisy. I had not yet made the connection that I was hoping to save animals from the industries I actively supported with my own money.
Upon collecting the hens my mother cried when she saw them. We were told they had been living in wire cages no bigger than an A4 piece of paper and had never seen sunlight until an hour before our arrival. All of them had the tips of their beaks cut off and most of them had very few feathers left. Beaks are commonly cut at a day old by farmers in an attempt to reduce injuries as they peck and pull at each other’s feathers out of frustration due to their environment. It was a sorry sight, but still we failed to make the connection that we had paid for this to happen to them.
When I got them home, as I watched the three birds peck around the lawn in the sun for the first time, it was almost startling. The bare breasts, legs and wings of whole chickens I’d seen in supermarkets my whole life were literally embodied and wandering around my own garden. I came to fully realise that their featherless, meaty bodies actually contained individual personalities, preferences, fears, quirks and emotions. Something I had never considered before. I ate meat because it was normal, but for the first time I began to question that normality as a justification. I thought of the other 9,997 hens that day and all the others I had consumed in the past. They all had lives, wants and needs, but it was simply outside my realm of comprehension to grasp the true scale of the horror. At that moment I simply vowed to eat free range, organic, high welfare chickens instead – Chickens that spent their whole lives in open fields and ‘only had one bad day’ at the slaughterhouse. Because surely, if the idea of not eating animals products at all was sensible, realistic and healthy then surely I’d know at least one vegan?
Eventually one of my friends gave up meat, dairy and eggs for health reasons and I discovered it was possible and followed suit. It felt great to finally align my values with my actions and my only regret was that I wish I had done it sooner. It was 2015 and I had been rescuing ex-commercial hens for six years by this point, however I continued to consume their eggs. Even the PETA website states: “we would not oppose eating eggs from chickens treated as companions if the birds receive excellent care and are not purchased from hatcheries.” so I felt comfortable in continuing to do so from the hens I had been able to rescue from the industry.
When people buy eggs, whether they’re free range, organic, cage-free, the truth remains that ALL male chicks in the industry are either ground up alive or suffocated. If you know someone local that keeps hens, chances are they obtained them from a hatchery that does the same. Billions of ‘spent’ hens that have slowed down egg production at eighteen months old are also sent to the slaughterhouse, simply because they have become as much of a ‘waste product’ as the males.
However, rescued hens will continue to sporadically lay eggs throughout their lives. So technically, I could personally consume those eggs without any animals being harmed. So why did I stop eating them? What changed my mind?
Well it wasn’t for the reason many vegans would tell you…
“If you leave eggs in the nest, chickens will only lay enough for a clutch and will then stop laying”
This is just not true when it comes to ex-commercial hens. Whether it’s because they’ve been selectively bred to not be as maternal, or because they’ve never had the opportunity to keep their eggs long enough to sit on them, I’m not sure. But in eight years of keeping them, not once have I seen an ex-commercial hen become broody. As soon as the egg is laid they wander off, leaving the egg in the nest and completely ignore them no matter how long the eggs are left. Less commercial breeds do tend to get broody from time to time, and will go without food and water as long as possible in order to sit on unfertile eggs, eventually becoming depressed when they never hatch. I’ve had hens sit on rubber eggs (so as not to leave eggs to rot) for weeks and weeks, so usually the kindest thing to do is to remove the eggs as soon as possible to avoid broodiness starting in the first place. In the wild, jungle fowl (of which modern chickens were selectively bred from) would lay up to a total amount of 15 eggs per year. Chickens today lay around 300. What we have done to them in the name of exploitation has completely destroyed that natural process.
“Eggs are a chicken’s period and it’s gross to eat them”
In one sense this is a valid analogy. Periods are the expulsion of an unfertilised egg, along with the lining of the womb that would have provided it with nutrition – a chicken laying an egg is expelling an unfertilised egg as well. In another sense it is different, as chickens are not mammals, and do not have wombs – the egg is both the egg and the womb in that sense. So it’s not the same reproductive system, and laying an egg doesn’t involve all the bloody parts of menstruation. Either way, it’s normalised in our society to consume eggs so the technicalities of what they actually are didn’t personally affect my decision on continuing eating them or not. What did, was seeing what being bred to lay an egg almost every single day of the year has done to chickens today. Whilst their wild counterparts have be known to live up to twenty years, ex-commercial hens live around around three. Up to six if they’re very lucky. Throughout the years I have seen dozens of hens succumb to reproductive tract complications, egg binding, decomposed eggs, egg yolk peritonitis and eggs rupturing through the oviduct because of how we have exploited their reproductive systems. I have had to insert a gloved hand into the vent of a chicken in order to retrieve broken egg shell. I’ve had to syringe pints and pints of putrid yellow fluid from a chicken’s swollen abdomen. And I’ve seen the results of surgery due to eggs becoming stuck and rotting their insides. I will never forget that smell – rotting eggs coming from a chicken’s vent (chickens only have one hole in which they lay eggs and excrete faeces). Not exactly delicious.
“Eating Eggs Is Unhealthy”
All eggs, regardless of their origin, are high in fat and cholesterol and don’t contain any fibre. In many studies, researchers have found that higher levels of cholesterol are linked to a greater risk of having a heart attack. For every 1 percent increase in the amount of cholesterol in your blood, there is a 2 percent increase in your risk of having a heart attack. Conversely, every 1 percent reduction in your cholesterol level reduces your risk by 2 percent. Elevated cholesterol – anything above 150 – promotes atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol, fat, and cells in the arteries that feed the heart. When these arteries become clogged, a section of this muscle loses its blood supply. This results in a heart attack. But regardless, I still drink alcohol and eat vegan junk food myself. Health has never been a huge motivator for me, and as it turns out, isn’t for most people. It’s a nice added bonus to know what issues you’re dodging when you do give up the eggs you don’t need though.
The real question isn’t, “what’s wrong with cage-free eggs?”, it’s “can I live a happy, healthy life without eggs?”. What it comes down to is whether we want to benefit from the results of their exploitation any longer. There is no biological requirement for us bald apes to be eating the equivalent of a mammalian menstruation from birds, so I don’t eat eggs to show it’s possible. I don’t eat them so that I can discover egg substitutes in baking and to share recipes and foods that astound the sceptics. I don’t eat eggs because I want not eating eggs to be the norm, and because our obsession with them needs to stop.
The chickens I rescue are in retirement from exploitation until the day they die and I get a greater amount of pleasure from letting them eat their own eggs to regain some of the nutrients they’ve lost far more than stealing them for myself.
If we want to lead by example, we need to show how easy it can be to boycott exploitation as far as possible and practicable.
Pinkamena, my oldest ex-battery hen at six years old.