The Fellowship of Life
"Don't Eat Them"
by Derek Neville
From the Jan-Mar 1970 edition of World Forum:
Quite a large percentage of my mail consists of pamphlets, magazines and literature aimed at making the world a better place to live in. Many of the writers are exactly like demonstrators in Trafalgar Square. Instead of protest marchers, we have protest posters. And a good thing, of course, for if it were not for the protesters throughout history, the world would be way behind even its present rate of progress.
This printed literature ranges over a wide variety of human activity. Here and there some would-be new religion peeps out, some new private Messiah is announced. We are all asked to join in meditation at 9pm or alternatively at 11am. Here is an intercession that we are asked to repeat. Somebody is being cruel to horses in Spain or Algeria. Battery hens, vivisection, factory farming, homeless cats, bull fighting, Selective Employment Tax - abolish the lot, says my post. Why join the Common Market? Do you know about Veal? Crusade against all cruelty to animals. World Healing Crusade. How to balance the Budget. Don't let them tamper with your Water. So it goes on and on. And so it should. For as soon as human beings give up protesting, they may as well give up altogether.
All the same, I have noticed one thing above all others during the many years that I have been receiving such an assortment of mail, and I feel that it is, perhaps, time for me to make my small protest - though I hope it will prove to be a constructive one.
A large percentage of this printed literature deals with animal welfare. Apart from religion, there is perhaps nothing that excites well meaning people more than cruelty to animals. But how astonishing it is to discover that so many of those who are interested in animal welfare nevertheless eat animals!
In fact, that is my protest! My banner is a simple one. I wish it could be carried at the head of every protest march. I wish it could be displayed at every anti-vivisection meeting. I wish it could be printed on every page of every magazine that deals with animal welfare. Simply - DON'T EAT THEM!
Now I want to be as honest as possible about this matter. I have no desire to invest myself with a self-made halo which certainly would not fit me. I am far from guiltless. To begin with, I am not vegan. I drink milk. I eat cheese and eggs. I even wear leather shoes. I compromise far more than perhaps I ought to. Part of this compromise is a desire to be practical. Part of it is sheer laziness.
Taking the latter point first, I am sure that I would be just as comfortable if I wore shoes that were not made of leather. But I am not very interested in clothes. I visit our nearest City as seldom as possible and when I do it is usually in rather a rush. I do not know of any particular shop there that sells fibre-made shoes and I am too lazy to find out! Milk, cheese and eggs...(I can almost anticipate the indignation of Vegans at the admission that I indulge in these things and, at the same time, venture to tell others what they should do! But hear me out, at least!)
It would not bother me very much if I stopped eating eggs. Milk I might miss - but I'd be very happy to miss it if it meant the welfare of the creatures. I have tried Plant Milk. We have, in fact, sold it at Itteringham Mill, and I am sure I could quickly get used to it. I am rather fond of butter. As to cheese, I already have an enquiry in hand about a cheese that might very well prove a substitute for the cheddar that we now use.
But if our Guest House had gone Vegan, we should have been out of business during the first year of our existence here. As it is, we have been here sixteen years. During this time we have been able to bring vegetarianism to the notice of very many people who were completely unaware of what it meant. Last year alone over seventeen thousand people visited our premises.
Moreover, (and perhaps it is this point that the Vegans should consider carefully before they slay me!) even if I were to refrain from partaking of any animal product, I would still be personally involved. I would be without a Guest House, without a very good means of influencing a large number of people, and I would still be compromising. For as long as I paid my taxes, I would be helping to subsidise British Agriculture and all that this implies.
The long and the short of it is that we, none of us, are guiltless, nor can we be unless we cut ourselves off from the society in which we live - and in that case it is unlikely that we should be able to press the case for animal welfare at all.
But there it is, of course, another point that is all important. My slogan, if followed - even as far as I have followed it myself for most of my life - DON'T EAT THEM! - would result in the abolition of the great tide of cruelty to the creatures. Leather shoes would be impossible to buy. Milk would be impossible to obtain. Cheese made with rennet would be off the market altogether. Eggs would disappear like magic when the carcases of the hens were not for sale.
It seems to me that the one important thing that all of us must do for the creatures is not to eat them. This is the first commandment on which hangs all the rest. I cannot really defend my own laziness in that part of my compromise which is needless. But it does not bother me very much, for I know that I would still have to compromise somewhere along the line.
The fact is that people know where I stand. When enough of us come to see that the kindest thing we can do for animals is not to eat them - in that moment the profit motive will disappear from Man's dealings with the creatures. The great tide of abomination will have been stopped at its source and the little by-products will disappear with them . As a shoe manufacturer once told me - it would not be profitable to rear cattle merely for their skins.
So DON'T EAT THEM! Whatever part of animal welfare work you may be engaged in - let that be your first commandment and the one that you stand by as far as possible in your life.
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