Vegetarian is NOT enough!

Courtesy of VEGAN FREAK – Being Vegan in a Non Vegan World

Why Vegetarianism Isn’t Enough

by BOB on FEBRUARY 14, 2009

The following is an excerpt from the 2nd. edition of our book, due out in September 2009 from PM Press. We wrote the following for those of you who might still be sitting on the ovo-lacto vegetarian fence, wondering if you should take the leap to veganism. Hint: you should! But read ahead if you want to be convinced.

Even though you may agree with the ideas behind ethical veganism on a philosophical level, more than a few of you out there may have the idea that veganism is just too far out there, too much work, and too damn annoying to deal with. As a compromise, you may be either deciding to go or stay vegetarian, because, really, that just seems so much more reasonable a solution. Plus, you could never imagine giving up cheese, or cream in your coffee, or scrambled eggs, or whatever other animal product you regularly crave.

We get where you’re at, but we fervently believe that you need to move beyond this if you truly care about animals. While vegetarianism may be a comfortable place for you to land for animal rights reasons, vegetarianism involves habits of consumption that create conditions of extreme discomfort and death for the animals that you claim to care about. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger: we spent so much time as smug, self-assured “ethical” ovo-lacto vegetarians that we understand the mindset particularly well. We thought we were doing something good with our vegetarianism, but it turns out, we were just part of the problem, and if you’re a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy and other animal products, you’re part of the problem, too.

Yeah, that’s a bit blunt, but before you throw down the book and get all angry at us for being radical vegan assholes, give some consideration to these two huge reasons why vegetarianism is a poor response to the problem of animal exploitation.

Huge reason #1: Whereas eating meat directly involves the death of the animal to get the flesh, many vegetarians assume that consuming eggs and dairy doesn’t kill any animals. Thus, the reasoning goes, eating those products is not a moral wrong because no lives are taken. This approach is deeply flawed because it does not take into consideration the operation of modern, intensive agricultural production. The one thing that you should never forget is that animal agriculture is a globalized business that strives to maximize profits on the backs of animals and to achieve the greatest possible efficiencies. With very slim profit margins throughout the industry, producers cannot afford to waste anything, and you can bet that they will not keep animals around that are non-productive. So, first and foremost, this means that the chickens who lay eggs are inevitably slaughtered when their productivity declines beyond a certain point. The industry has insidious ways of disposing of so-called “spent hens” that range from miniature gas chambers to electrocution to neck-breaking. In a similar way, the cows who are producing milk meet their end when they fail to “yield” the right averages for the herd; this can be brought on by their age, or even by an infection or other illness. Most dairy cows who have arrived at the end of their so-called “useful” lifespan end up slaughtered many, many years before they would die naturally, after which they are rendered into ground beef and other constituent parts.

The other obvious issue that no one is ever encouraged to think about is the case of the males involved in this whole process. Egg-laying hens and dairy cows are both female. Since animals roughly tend to give birth to females and males in a 50-50 ratio, where do the approximately 50% of males end up? In the case of egg-laying hens, the males are absolutely worthless to the producer. If they can’t lay eggs, and they’re not good for meat,

to raise them would simply be a waste of money, and no egg producer – free range, or not, organic or not – is in this business to lose money by being a farm sanctuary for non-productive animals. Thus, the male chicks are often discarded at birth by being ground up alive and used for “raw protein,” or thrown in dumpsters to starve and suffocate slowly – an act of unimaginable cruelty.

For dairy cows, the male calves face a similar end. Males cannot produce milk, and so are worthless for the dairy farmer, who, like the egg producer, does not want unprofitable mouths to feed around his farm. Male calves, then, are usually forcibly separated from their mothers and sold at auction within days after they are born, often ending up as veal calves. Deeply confused and likely terrified by the absence of their mothers, these newborns with a herd instinct scarcely have a chance to understand the world before they are chained by the neck, all alone, inside tiny crates where they can barely move, lest their muscles grow too much. Because veal with a pinkish hue fetches the best prices at market, these horribly unfortunate animals – animals who are clearly sentient, who clearly feel and comprehend the world around them – will spend their entire short lives this way, suffering and confused, sentenced to what is demonstrably a hell on earth, all because of that supposedly “harmless” system of dairy production that provides milk to ovo-lacto vegetarians. As you can see, harmless eggs and harmless milk are a fantasy, and if you’re a vegetarian, now is the time to own up and stop living the lie. You might soothe yourself with excuses for why you cannot change, but ultimately, those excuses do nothing to help the animals that you, as a so-called “animal rights vegetarian” claim to care about.

Huge reason #2: The other big reason that so-called “animal rights” ovo-lacto vegetarianism is pointless has to do with the essential problem of the relationship of dominance that humans assert over animals. Veganism as a social movement – and if we’re going to get serious about veganism, we have to begin building a movement that goes beyond mere consumption – seeks to redefine the ways in which humans relate to animals. To be vegan is to demand that animals are accorded rights that cannot be violated for mere reasons of convenience, taste, or tradition. Many of the basic rights that abolitionist vegans push for are rights would look pretty similar to the ones that we all cherish, including the right not to be the property of another, the right of bodily integrity and safety, and the right not to be used solely as the means to another’s ends (we treat these rights at great length in the next chapter). Put most simply, we are looking to abolish animal slavery by according animals a set of inalienable rights.

Thus, even if it were somehow possible to produce dairy and eggs that did not result in the death of billions of animals a year, a producer still must confine and control animals to produce these commodities for consumers – consumers which clearly include legions of ovo-lacto vegetarians. Fully the property of their owners, the animals involved in these forms of production are little more to their owners than living machines for profit, slaves who day in and day out for every single day of their lives suffer solely to fulfill demands extraneous to their own desires and needs. Though the particulars of confinement and slavery may differ slightly by setting, the same basic and underlying dynamic holds whether the products in question are the typical ones in your grocery store, or whether they are labelled “cage-free,” “local,” “organic,” or even “free-range.” The myth of a compassionate animal product is just that: a myth.

As people who care about animals, we have a heavy burden to bear, one that deserves our utmost attention and our greatest effort. The enormity of the task is overwhelming, but we can all begin to make a change if we work at it together. The good news is that you are in a position to do something about it, and to make positive changes in your life that recognize the inherent worth of animals as fellow beings. The bad news is that as billions – yes, billions – of animals die each year, we can no longer afford self-indulgent half-measures and wishy-washy excuses that damn more and more animals to lives and deaths of total misery. Instead of looking for the path of least resistance, we have to seize our lives and live as examples. We have to work constantly to redefine and rethink the relationship between humans and animals, and to model changes in this relationship in our daily lives to those around us. We owe at least this much to those that we purport to care about, those who cannot speak for themselves. It comes down to this: If you care about the well-being of animals, and you object to their needless suffering and death, you must stop remaking the dynamics that exploit animals in the first place. As a lived form of protest, veganism is the expression of this desire for justice, a visceral and logical reaction to the horrors visited on others in our name. It is time to give up the quaint relic that is vegetarianism, and take the first and most essential step in combatting a system that treats animals not as creatures who can feel and love and think, but instead as mere engines for the production of profit. It is time to take that step and go vegan.

The following is from a speech given by Louise Wallis at the national ‘March for Farmed Animals’ on 2nd October 2010 (World Farm Animals Day) in London.

The single most effective thing we can do to stop the suffering of farm animals is to go vegan. Being vegetarian is not enough, because you are still relying on farm animals for food. Farmed animals will only be free when we stop using them for food – of any kind.

Sadly, veganism still suffers from a poor image. Vegans are seen as self-sacrificing, hair-shirt-wearing idealists who lead deprived, difficult and miserable lives.

People say things like: “Oh I don’t know how you do it, I could never be vegan”. This drives me nuts, and makes me laugh – as it could not be further from the truth. I have been vegan for 28 years and I can honestly say it’s the best thing I ever did. I went vegan out of concern for animals, but I quickly realised that being vegan was good for me too!

I feel happier, healthier, and I enjoy my food far more than I did before going vegan. We need to turn on its head the idea that vegans are deprived or missing out. On the contrary, it enhances your life, and makes it better, not worse!

It certainly makes life less complicated. As a vegetarian you could drive yourself mad trying to ensure you only ate free range eggs, or vegetarian cheese – as few food manufacturers or restaurants bother using these.

For this reason, vegetarians relax their standards and eat ordinary cheese – the stuff you find in supermarkets, restaurants, takeaways – despite the fact that dead calves are [often] used to make it. The rennet used to make cheese is obtained from their stomachs. Which makes you sick to the stomach when you think about it.

Go vegan I say, it’s A LOT simpler!

I think it’s high time we reclaimed the word vegan too. I’ve noticed that many groups promote vegetarianism rather than veganism, because they worry that it will alienate supporters. I disagree. The more we use the word vegan, the more appealing it will become. All we are doing when we avoid using the word vegan is internalising the negative messages and stereotyping that our critics invent to discredit us. We should never be ashamed of who we are, and what we stand for: non-violence.

Vegetarianism is a red herring. People go vegetarian in the belief that milk and eggs are ‘freely given’ or “humanely produced’, but we know that this isa lie.

We all want people to go vegan, it’s a damn sight easier being vegan than it is trying to be an ethical vegetarian, so let’s not be afraid to say: “look, do yourself a favour and don’t bother with vegetarianism – go vegan.”

If we consume dairy and eggs, wear the skin of animals, use products tested on animals, we are torturers and murderers.  We are actively supporting and participating in the obscene and perverted treatment of non human animals.  If we have any compassion for animals whatsoever, we must stop being hypocrites and collaborators in their torture and murder,

Wear Your OWN Skin!

Traditionally, leather products are made from the skins of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. The majority of these animals suffer the horrors of factory farming, including extreme crowding and confinement, deprivation, un-anaesthetized castration, branding, tail-docking, dehorning, generally without pain killers, and cruel treatment during transport, before being slaughtered. Many consumers, including people who do not eat meat, think it is acceptable to buy leather products because they are a necessary by product of the food industry and thus, since the animals were killed anyway, it is preferable to use the products rather then let them go to waste. This reasoning, unfortunately, does not take in to account the fact that leather and suede are not just by-products of the meat industry. The skin actually represents about 10% of the animal’s total value. Selling off every bit of the carcass is what makes killing animals profitable, and skin is the most economically important by-product of the meat-packing industry (1). Thus, buying leather directly supports factory farms and slaughterhouses. In addition, calfskin, a very soft leather, is often taken from calves who are the ‘surplus’ offspring of dairy cows, ripped from their slaughtered mother’s womb. Thus, the economic success of the dairy farms is also directly linked to the sale of leather goods.Much of the leather sold nowadays in North America and Europe does not come from North American slaughterhouses but from China and India.  China is the world’s leading exporter of leather.  In addition to the cattle, sheep, and other animals who are turned into leather in China, an estimated 2 million cats and dogs are killed for their skins each year.  Confined to wire cages in which they can barely move, these animals are routinely skinned alive and hacked apart, piece by piece, until they bleed to death.  Other Asian countries also contribute to the dog and cat skin trade.  In the Philippines and Thailand, cats are collected and hanged, while dogs are snared, slashed, and then bled to death.  The animals are frequently still alive during the skinning process.  Their hides are commonly used for drumheads, gloves, handbags, shoes, slippers, dolls, orthopedic products, wraps for arthritis, and chewy dog toys.  The fact that some leather comes from the skins of cats and dogs is little known by consumers, and the products are often intentionally mislabeled and do not accurately indicate their origin (2).  It is important to remember, though, that all other animals whose lives are taken away by the leather industry endure similar suffering, and should have the same right to life and protection from cruelty as cats and dogs.In India, the other large exporter of leather (3), thousands of cows are slaughtered each week for their skins, purchased from poor rural families.  Cows are supposed to be sacred in India, yet they are often marched for days between trucking points through the heat and dust without food or water.  This occurs, in direct violation of theConstitution of India, to relocate the animals to a state where they can legally be killed, since cattle slaughter is forbidden in most of India.  As a consequence, many cows collapse from exhaustion.  In an effort to get them back up on their feet, chili peppers and tobacco are routinely rubbed directly into their eyes, and their tails broken by repeatedly pinching them in several areas.To keep them moving, handlers pull them by nose ropes, twist their necks, horns or tails.  They force the cows down steep embankments and in and out of trucks with no ramps, causing injuries like broken pelvises, legs, ribs and horns.  Crammed into extremely crowded illegal transport trucks for the long journey to slaughter, many are trampled or gored during the ride.  After one or two days inside the truck without food or water, the animals are desperately thirsty and hungry, especially since it is normal for such cows to eat frequently throughout the day.  Many of the animals get so sick and injured by the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse that they must be dragged inside.  At slaughterhouses, their throats are cut open, often through hacking and sawing with a dull blade, in front of one another.  The cows routinely are dismembered wile they are still conscious.  The documentary Earthlings ( is a must see to fully understand the suffering involved for these animals.A great premium is set on leather from unusual sources.  Therefore, hunters, fishermen, and poachers target wild boars, kangaroos, elephants, seals, sharks, dolphins, zebra, eels, walruses, frogs, turtles, crocodiles, ostriches, snakes etc.  Other wildlife species like deer, buffaloes, ostriches and alligators are farmed specifically for their skins.  In any case, what is mistakenly considered to be the extravagant end of the leather market is certainly not glamorous for the animals involved. Snakes and lizards are often skinned alive because of the belief that live flaying imparts suppleness to the finished leather.  British reptile biologist Clifford Warwick, who watched reptiles skinned alive on Asian snake farms, reports that some animals are drowned, others decapitated, others gutted, and that it typically takes an hour for a snake whose head has been taken off to die.

Alligators on factory farms are packed into half-sunken tin-sided structures of cinder blocks on concrete slabs, immersed in filthy stagnant water rife with their own waste and the stench of rancid meat (4).  As many as 600 young alligators may inhabit one building.  Although alligators may naturally live 40 to 60 years, on farms they are usually butchered before their fourth birthday (5,6,7).  They may be beaten to death with hammers and axes, sometime remaining conscious and in agony for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (8). Crocodiles are often caught in the wild with huge hooks and wires and reeled in when they become weakened from blood loss or drown.

Many animals are skinned when they are still alive, sometimes remaining conscious and in agony for up to two hours and then beaten with hammers, axes, and aluminum baseball bats.  Ostriches may be stripped of their feathers before slaughtering by farmers pulling them from their sockets with pliers, or shaving them of with electric shears.  The “New York Times”  reported that a slaughterer in California said it took him “two hours of violent struggle to kill a single ostrich.”

Millions of kangaroos (4.4 million in 2004) are slaughtered every year in Australia for their hides, the resulting products often being labeled “K leather” or “RK” (rubberized kangaroo technology). Typically, kangaroos are shot at night in the vast outback, under spotlights, by hunters aiming at their heads.  Frequently, the animals are shot in the throat, the neck, or have their jaw blown off.  Many wounded kangaroos escape and die slowly and painfully.  Orphaned joeys and wounded kangaroos are considered collateral damage and the government mandates that they be decapitated or hit sharply on the head “to destroy the brain” (9). In reality, tiny joeys are pulled from their dead mothers’ pouches and stamped on, clubbed, beaten to death with a pipe or simply left to die.  Older joeys hop away into the night invariably to die of starvation, predation, cold or neglect (10).  Kangaroo hide is popular for sporting equipment like golf bags and shoes, especially sneakers made by Italian and American manufacturers (11,12).  With demand for kangaroo products so high and the constraints on harvesting the animals so few, many people are afraid that the species will be in danger of extinction.

In Canada, seals are brutally killed for their skins, in many cases skinned while still alive or left to agonize in their own blood.  Along the coasts of the South China sea and the Bay of Thailand, poachers illegally capture and violently kill sea turtles for their shells, their flesh, and for the leather produced from their necks and flippers.  It is estimated that 25-30 percent of imported crocodile shoe leather and other wildlife items are made from endangered, illegally poached animals.

The export of processed leather by itself is a 60 billion dollar international industry derived from factory farming, hunting, trapping, fishing and poaching of endangered species, rounding up of stray domestic animals, stealing pets and collecting animals drowned in transport or illness.  With so much value built in, the leather market effectively underwrites associated businesses, from slaughterhouses to tanneries to manufacturers, in a vast supply chain.  All of this is fueled by consumer choice that is tradition bound and fashion driven, perpetuating inherent cruelty.  The reality of the leather trade is that more then a billion animals are killed per year, and that all die feeling terror and great pain.


Be aware that leather is everywhere.  It could be what makes your watchband (snakeskin from India), your new pair of Adidas (kangaroo hide from Australia), your cordovan loafers (horsehide from Belgium), the cover of a book on your desk (sheepskin from England), the wallet in your purse (ostrich hide from South Africa), the cigar case on your desk (sharkskin from Panama), and the upholstery on your easy chair (cowhide from India).

Instead of buying leather, opt for the many alternatives that exist: cotton, linen, rubber, ramie, canvas, and synthetics.  To find out more information on substitute products and listings, please check out our “Vegan Shopping” listings.

Educate your family, friends and co-workers about the plight of farmed and wildlife animals used in the leather industry, as well as the human (a) and environmental (b) cost of leather.

(a)  Leather is dead flesh, and as such would literally rot on your feet or back if not treated with dangerous chemicals like, mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, cyanide-based oils and dyes, chromium and other toxins. In addition to the release of these toxins in the environment, leather also shares the environmental destruction of the meat industry.

(b)  People who have worked and lived near tanneries are dying of cancer caused by the exposure to the toxic chemicals used to preserve and dye the leather.

References: (1) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Slaughtered/Production Animals 2002, FAOSTAT database. (2) John Lichfield, “20,000 French Cats Stolen by Rustlers,” The Independent goods. (3) Kadekodi, J.K, Trade and Environment:Conflict and Prospects: A Case Study of Leather Goods.(4) Michael P. Masser, “Alligator Production”, Southern Regional Aquaculture, May 1993. (5) Edith Stanley, “Chicken Again?” These Gators Get a Steady Diet of Dead Foul”, Los Angeles Time, Jun 10 2001. (6) “Alligator and Crocodile”, Animal Bytes, San Diego, 2003. (7)  Michael P. Masser, “Alligator Production”, Southern Regional Aquaculture, May 1993 (8) Sue Reid, “Getting Under Their Skin”, The Sunday Times (London) (9) Department for Environment and Heritage, “The Macropod Conservation and Management Plan for”’ Nov 2002.: 49. (10) Gellatley, J. 2004. Under Fire. Viva!. (11) Environment Australia, “Commercial Kangaroo Harvest Quotas—2003”, Wild Harvest of Native Species—Kangaroos. (12) “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport”, The Sports Factor, narr. Amanda Smith, Radio National, Australia.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s