On the advice of a helpful reader – I would say a fan but modesty forbids – I’ve been considering a vegan lifestyle. Since a large part of my diet consists of meat, eggs, and dairy from my own farm, becoming vegan will require a great deal of consideration.
To begin my vegan education I turned to the Vegetarian Resource Group, where I learned that, “Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.”
So as a vegan I will need to find new clothing options, as well as a new diet. Gone my leather boots, my wool sweaters, my down parka, my felt boot liners and silk underwear.
OK, I don’t actually have any silk underwear, but I can strike it off the list of future possibilities.
I understand that veganism is not simply a lifestyle choice, it’s a philosophy. As a vegan, I can’t just eschew the use of animal products for myself, I must embrace the belief that the world will be a better place without animals, other than vegan pets.
Farm animals will naturally be the first to go. When no one is eating animal products we will quickly turn the age-old question on its head, asking which became extinct first, the chicken or the egg? What place will there be for pigs in a world without pork? For cattle in a milkless, beefless society? For sheep when no one wants wool?
You might think that wool would be an exception to the proscription on animal products, since it can be taken from a live animal without inflicting injury, other than to the dignity of the sheep. But vegans do not cull, and shepherds must. Every time you breed a ewe, there’s a 50-50 chance you will get a male lamb. Allow them all to grow to maturity and your flock will be about as manageable as a convention of soccer hooligans.
And anyway, the very existence of livestock is unethical, and their extinction will be a great leap forward for vegans. Next to go will be the wildlife, their habitat destroyed in the endless search for petroleum to make nylon, polyester, and polypropylene clothing to replace wool, feathers, silk, felt and fur. Petroleum will be in great demand in a vegan world, not only for clothing, but for the manufacture of fertilizers to replace all that lost manure.
Not all ethical clothing will have to come from oil. Many vegans will turn to cotton. But cotton is grown using vast quantities of chemical fertilizer and pesticides – so back to the oilfields again – and even more water. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, it takes “about 2,720 litres of water to produce one cotton T-shirt, equivalent to what an average person might drink over three years.”
Also according to EJF, “In 2008, 2,890 billion litres of water was used in Pakistan to grow the cotton needed just to make products sold by the homestore Ikea – equivalent to the volume of drinking water consumed in Sweden over 176 years.” Over the past 50 years cotton production has turned the vast teeming Aral Sea into the vast lifeless Aral Desert.
But then of course, in a vegan world, who needs fish? Does seem a shame about the water though.
As a vegan, I’ll have to forego the use of working animals. As the Vegan Society puts it, “Vegans oppose all forms of exploitation of animals.” No more plough horses, carrier pigeons, or guard dogs (though vicious dogs will be protected by law, so long as they only bite in an amateur capacity).
On the plus side, there will be no exploitation of honey bees, which will create millions of jobs hand-pollinating all that vegetation.
As I consider a vegan lifestyle, it is this prohibition on beasts of burden that gives me the greatest pause. You see, my vegetable garden is quite dependant on the exploitation of earthworms. These are not naturally-occurring earthworms, and can in no way be considered pets, or as vegans would say, companion worms.
I introduced them to my garden to work for me. In the fall I bring as many as I can recover indoors for the winter so that I may turn them out and exploit them again next year.
When I stop eating dairy, meat, and eggs I’ll be needing a lot more veggies, and as a conscientious vegan I’ll have to try to grow them without manure, and without exploiting earthworms. Just as I was starting to close in on self-sufficiency, it appears I’ll be back to depending on diesel trucks to supply my food. As a vegan, I’m really going to have to learn to love the tar sands. But of course it will all be worth it if we can save the animals from being unethically exploited, or born, so having given it full consideration, count me in.
Out with the down parka, in with the fleece jacket. Frack the Peel and pass the tofu burgers.
Nobody said ethics come cheap.
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On another note, I would like to thank Rick Tone for his advice in last Friday’s paper on how to write an award-winning column. If I understand him correctly, this is to be achieved by creating a kind of column of the absurd, in which a multi-billion dollar tax giveaway is the opposite of money spent.
To be more worthy of awards, I am to enter a make-believe world in which the Conservatives’ tax cuts to corporations saved the Canadian economy, even though last year Jim Flaherty himself complained that the money was all still sitting in corporate bank accounts achieving nothing. Perhaps in this new world the opposite of spending is squandering.
When I pass through that looking glass, Canada’s deficit will be entirely the fault of stimulus spending, and the fact that Flaherty squandered an amount very similar to the deficit in donations to his corporate cronies’ bank accounts will have no bearing on the matter.
In that enchanted world, when Employment and Social Development Canada says, “in 2012, the percentage of adult Canadians who were holding a job was 61.8 per cent,” the numbers can only be squared by counting babies, retirees, and moose.
Again, a big thanks to Mr. Tone for the advice, and also for proving my point, that Flaherty’s real talent is the ability to con people into believing he knows what he’s doing.
Al Pope won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best columnist in 2013. He also won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.