Except you won’t hear me roar.
I don’t really talk about it much. When we first meet, I won’t mention it. If it’s not relevant to our second conversation you won’t hear about it then either.
There are many reasons for this. The main one is that it just doesn’t occur to me a lot of the time. I’ve been aspiring to a vegan ideal for over ten years and it’s second nature. It’s also not usually relevant to my business – which is the way I meet most new people – so I’m not really going to go into great detail about how my compassion for animals will make me write better music (though it does ).
It also tends to either (a) piss people off (b) make people defensive or (c) confuse people. It’s a very tiny minority who are curious and want to know more. This is because what I’m doing seems to be a direct comment on how you live your life. It’s not, but if you want to take it that way, that’s cool, and you’re free to do it. I do it because it’s right for me, not to make you feel bad. Some of my best friends are omnivores. It’s not about you. It’s about the animals.
I do it because, personally, I don’t want to abuse, kill and then eat an animal. The level of suffering involved in the factory farming system is abhorrent to me, for both animals and humans, and it is unnecessary. That’s the kicker – it’s unnecessary. The methods used to kill an animal in this system are equally cruel. If slaughterhouses had glass walls… well, you know the rest.
I do it because, personally, I disagree with killing a calf in order that I might drink milk in my coffee (there are other equally valid reasons but this is the main one for me). I drink it black or with a dash of rice milk, if you must know.
I do it because, personally, I disagree with gassing or mincing newborn baby male chicks because they don’t lay eggs, and that 99% of the rest of the chicks grow up to live short, painful lives, so that I can eat an egg in my omelette. The 1% that have ‘happy’ lives in appropriate environments still have those lives cut short when their level of egg production reduces.
I don’t wear leather, wool or silk (just for the sake of clarity, as I do get asked this a lot). I don’t eat honey, gelatin, cochineal or shellac, and I err on the side of caution if I’m unsure of the source of an ingredient such as glycerin or some other E numbers. I don’t have feather pillows (allergic to them anyway, so that’s a win-win). I buy wall paint that doesn’t have any slaughter-house by-products, likewise candles too, and washing powder, shampoo, glue, makeup… It probably also goes without saying that animal testing is not exactly my cup of tea.
Wine and other alcohol is sometimes filtered with animal products. I figure I’ve got a 50-50 chance if I don’t recognise the wine on offe and, say, it’s free, like at a networking event, or if I’m on holiday and don’t speak the lingo so well. So I may play the odds. But that’s fine for me, and it’s good for you to see that I’m not suffering for my ideals (because I’m not, I rather enjoy being vegan).
I’ll take an anti-histamine and a puff on an inhaler if my allergies (pollen and cats are my nemises! nemesii?) are stopping me from working… because I’m not down with suffering, mine included (although I have recently discovered that all the coffee – usually fairtrade/rainforest alliance approved/etc, before I get shot down – I drink is keeping the old asthma at bay – FTW!)
There are other levels I do try to aspire to – buying clothes made of recycled or organic materials, trying to find fashion that doesn’t exploit people in developing countries. Conflict minerals in electronics is a recent find that has stuck in my craw – as this one seems to be a dead-end as regards getting an ethical or moral solution at the consumer level. The story of Suicides at an iPad factory in China in 2010 is but a tiny illustration of a worldwide endemic lack of compassion for the suffering, both animal and human (yes, surprisingly, I do care about the fate of humans too), that the less fortunate have to endure for the thirst for consumerist status symbols and luxury goods that the rest of us has. Massively depressing.
Again, for the sake of clarity, just because I’m uncomfortable with it, doesn’t mean you should be to. Honestly, really what I want is for you to find your own ethical standpoint, that makes you happy, that hasn’t just been handed to you and that you’ve accepted blindly without finding out for yourself if you actually agree with it or not. Take personal responsibility for your life, your fate and your actions and be proud of it.
And it is for this reason that I probably don’t shout about being vegan. The more I learn, the more I realise the grey area of ‘what is unnecessary suffering’ and ‘what is compassionate’ expands. Where you and I draw the line is a personal choice, and if I disagree with where you draw the line, there will always be someone who will disagree with where I draw it too, that I don’t do enough, that by using electronics, consuming coffee, chocolate, wine I’m not sure about, taking medication, not giving all my spare money to charity, playing the violin, driving a car, not shouting from the rooftops about animal advocacy… that I’m letting the side down.
That’s ok. Because I don’t do it for them. I don’t do it for you. I do it because it because I love doing it – I do it because it’s right for me.
And that’s the last you’ll (probably) hear about this from me. Unless you ask me about it, in which case we could be here for some time…