Animal Rights

I have no qualms about being called ‘speciesist‘ other than I think it an ugly coinage. While I’m happy with the idea that animals have rights, I still think that there is something special about being human. We are after all the only species that campaigns for animal rights, and whose future is in doubt because of our own actions.

Nor either am I a vegan, though I’ve no quarrel with those who choose to be so. As a species I think we are omniverous, evolved to exist on a diet that includes vegetables as well as meat. But certainly we eat far too much of it, many more than is good either for us or the planet, and I’ve long reduced my own intake. But while nature is still red in tooth and claw I refuse to feel guilty about my occasional intake of grass-fed meat or free range eggs or dairy products. Being vegan is good for the planet, but everyone being vegan would be a calamity.

Some of my ancestors were farmers, and I think I still have distant relatives who are, though we’ve long lost touch. They kept sheep on Welsh hills and of course geese and chickens and I think the odd cow and pig, mainly for their own consumption. We had chickens too, just down the road at my gran’s, scratting about in her yard, and my father and an uncle were both bee-keepers. The animals were looked after well – they were after all a considerable investment – and of course farm animals only exist because when the time comes they will be killed and eaten. And the English countryside without farm animals would be a very different place.

Back when I was young, even in outer London where I grew up we were far closer to the sources of our food. Our fruit and veg came mainly from our gardens and allotments too and we ate what was in season, along with a few things that came in tins. I’d seen pineapples when I was small but for us it was a fruit that came in rings in tins, though we did have apples, pears, plums, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries, red currants, black currants, blackberries in profusion, along with our annual glut of peaches, far more than ever we could eat or give away from two stones my father had planted years earlier in the back garden.

We were, as the planes going a few feet over our heads reminded us every minute or too, close to Heathrow, in a part of Middlesex which had once been full of orchards and market gardens but is now largely covered in concrete runways and housing estates.

As usual I digress. But as I photographed the various banners and placards, I found myself sometimes a little uneasy about the hectoring tone of some and overstatement of some of them. Meat really isn’t murder and milk isn’t rape and to say so rather insults the victims of these abhorrent crimes. Of course there were many I could sympathise with, against cruel farming practices, the fur trade, hunting… but too many that seemed to be based on thinking that animals are just like us. They aren’t. Animal rights are not human rights. And I couldn’t but wish that we could see some of the evident enthusiasm and activism being directed towards protecting human rights which are abused and under threat both here and around the world.

More pictures at: Thousands March for Animal Rights


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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