Welcome to my brand-new blog. I hope that you’ll enjoy reading my posts and I look forward to your comments.
I study and write about social justice issues and the human condition, psychology in so far as it relates to culturally-shaped attitudes and beliefs. Favourite topics include: bigotry, animal cruelty, human self-harm, religious atrocities, cognitive dissonance, environmental vandalism, violence in society, corporate lies and greed, hegemony, governmental corruption and totalitarianism all the time. I hold a degree in physics, and am working on a masters in integrated studies (psychology, philosophy and sociology). I had a successful career in investment banking in the 1990s and was an aerobatic contest pilot.
Veganism is, for me, the inevitable result of the journey towards cultural emancipation and free-thought. My vegan story began long before I was even aware of the concept of veganism, let alone the word itself.
I was raised in the UK by a meat-eating father who understood that fruit and vegetables were good for you – but was unaware of the health risks associated with the food we take from animals. He bought very little red meat, we never had beef as far as I can remember, I was always enjoined to “eat your vegetables.”
I was raised in a home without cats and dogs. My mother, who ran off leaving my father and I when I was eight years-old, acquired a dog with her new boyfriend. I met the dog a few times during brief encounters with her and remember it as being a lovely animal. Her boyfriend was very devoted to it. She impassionately had it euthanised when dog ownership became inconvenient to her. I don’t think he ever forgave her and it did nothing to elevate my opinion of her. That was my first encounter with disdain for life.
My father, with whom I lived, kept, and was fanatical about, Japanese Koi goldfish but happily served fish for dinner. He built a huge concrete pond in the back garden with a massive underground filtration system. I could see that the Koi were sensitive, friendly and inquisitive. They could learn and obviously were quite intelligent. They knew when they were about to be fed and displayed the ability to have expectations about the future. They played and frolicked and plainly had individual personalities. My father, however, kept serving up fish for dinner – presumably fish that were born, by pure bad luck into a species that didn’t merit our respect and love and care. By the size of the piece of flesh on my plate I could tell that the fish I was eating was at least as large and old as those Koi. Even to a young boy the disconnect between my father’s caring for his pet Koi and his disregard for the poor “other” speciesm of fish was perplexing.
Upon relocating westwards to Canada back in 2011 a month after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I was hit with a large dose of culture shock. Upon arrival I immediately became aware of the ubiquity of religious belief. In the UK and the more industrial and societally progressive parts of Europe people tend not to be religious. In that part of the world religiosity is almost treated with mild condescension and scorn. I guess that even as a thirty-something I just hadn’t understood that people really do believe in it. Clergy, I assumed, went through the motions for the usual remuneration, the flock for social status, tradition and fellowship. I viewed the preservation of religious artifacts (such as old-English churches) and rituals (such as weddings, christenings and funerals) as the conservation of history and tradition. I saw church vicars more as one views a museum curator.
So the realization that religious belief in the first world goes beyond that was quite a shock. I was keen to understand how two people who spoke the same language and who had similar educational backgrounds, similar access to information and similar intelligence could have such opposing approaches to matters of faith and reason. The answer, I was to discover was the influence of cultural immersion from earliest childhood through to adulthood. The word ‘indoctrination’ implies a more pernicious and deliberate effort to distort education and is embodied by the alleged Jesuit gasconade: ‘Give me the child for his first seven years, and I’ll give you the man.’ This statement, I was to ruefully discover in the years to follow, proved to be no idle boast. The discovery of Facebook and the resulting endless, unedifying on-line (and in-person) debates with religious North Americans both shocked and deflated me. Over time I noticed a familiar pattern of repeated pre-scripted responses concerning thorny matters such as evolution and cosmology. For someone with a science background this was simultaneously frustrating and depressing; reason I was to learn, along with science and evidence, are to be mistrusted in favour of those culturally accepted ‘truths.’ I considered myself a ‘freethinker’ and travelled N.America attending free-thought conferences.
And then something happened that would change my life irreversibly…
Like everyone else I knew, I was aware of the origin of the animal flesh I was consuming. I understood that animals had to be bred and killed in order for us to have meat. I knew also, just the vast majority “knows” that we needed meat to thrive and be healthy and strong and that, thus, the killing of animals was a necessary evil.
Then one day a little over three years ago I read ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell and was vigourously divested of that falsehood. We didn’t need any meat at all. Nor did we need milk, cheese, eggs or fish; in fact those things made us sick and led to all of the main killer diseases.
My rationalisation for eating those products of cruelty evaporated right before my eyes. As I continued reading investigating this subject I felt a weight lift from my conscience.
I’d always assumed that the largest industries in terms of profitability in the U.S. (and elsewhere) were the euphemistically named ‘defence’ industries along with petroleum and pharmaceuticals. I knew how political lobbying worked, about how so-called government ‘regulators’ were corrupt, how the masses were oppressed (and oppressed themselves) from the pressing issues in their lives with trivial and cultural distractions but I’d never realised that the food production industry was orders of magnitude larger than the others. How could I have overlooked this glaring fact? After all the one commodity that everyone consumes every day is food. We were, as with everything else we’ve been told about animal “agriculture”, deceived. Milk wasn’t the ‘perfect food,’ (unless you’re a calf), meat causes cancer, heart disease and diabetes are caused by (and reversed by the removal of) animal products in the diet. Eggs are cancer-causing cholesterol bombs.
With slight embarrassment I realised that my previous self-adorned “free-thinker” was optimistic to say the least. I’d fallen for and slavishly adhered to all the marketing lies and culturally promulgated norms regarding animals and our need to eat them.
Now I advocate for a vegan understanding, diet and lifestyle. Removing violence from our daily lives, feeling empathy for others from whom there can never be reciprocation, and living a modest footprint life benefits our health, both physical and just as importantly mental as well as the plight of the hapless animals and environment.
Perhaps the impact of the vegan lifestyle on our personal and collective psyche is vastly underestimated. Peaceful individuals result in a peaceful society. Yes it’s fair to say I’m passionate about this subject.
I occasionally receive messages from well-meaning (non-vegan) friends asking me why I “obsess” about such things, why don’t I “chill and have a beer” or “go outside and enjoy a walk or a bike ride and forget it all”.
Well I do do those things but I can never be truly happy in my life unless I am actively fighting against injustice and raising consciousness about it. The unhappiest moments of my life are when I know I’m ignoring it, when I’m doing nothing constructive. As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss,” well for those who’ve had their eyes opened it seems such bliss is no longer an option, our happiness and fulfilment must be provided by the from the satisfaction which comes from helping to improve the lot of others.
Thanks for reading friends, more posts to follow, and please don’t hesitate to comment – your feedback is appreciated.