Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels I have not written a blog for some time and this one I wish to dedicate to my Mum who passed away 2 weeks ago. Mum was my number 1 fan and supported everything I did. We lived at opposite ends of Britain so I only saw her once or twice a year but we messaged most days and spoke every week, at least once. Despite neither being vegan or vegetarian, both Mum and my stepfather embraced veganism when I stayed with them as I insisted on cooking! Mum always found it amusing that they both went vegan for the duration of my visit. So, she is now gone and I am lost. Now, however I find myself floundering and wondering if prioritising my animals’ needs at the expense of my own is just too lonely a path to take. Should I instead move south and spend more time with what family I have left? I felt so alone when I came back home which may seem strange as I was alone anyway but Mum was always there on the end of a phone or responding to my messages and I could picture her in her kitchen or elsewhere in the house. There’s no doubt that the path I hare chosen is a lonely one… or is it? What if I practice what I preach and stop differentiating between our different species? If I see all my family as just that; not as humans, sheep, horses, dogs and a hamster but all as family then I realise l am not alone up here. Yes, all my human family are down south but the rest of my family are with me here. 28 Aug 2021 Yes I would like to be able to pop into my sister’s or stepdad’s for a cup of tea but I can pop out and have a cup of tea whilst giving Hope a scratch or just sit in the field with them all and enjoy their quiet company whilst gazing out to sea. So, instead of wishing I was elsewhere and worrying that l am missing out on family time, I will make the most of my time with my whole family up here and down there, and on this, World Day for the end of speciesism, I would just like to say that all my family, both 2 and 4 legged mean the world to me. So, Thank you Mum, not only for making me who I am, your unconditional love and your never ending faith in me, but also for helping me realise the value of family, whatever their species. XXX
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell from Pexels I’ve had about enough of the false marketing  that is the media messages about climate change and how it can be changed.From so called ‘beauty’ product companies with their shampoo bars or their ‘sustainably sourced’ essences, food companies offering vegan options, cleaning products that are ‘90% plant based’ and, my particular favourite; an advert for an electric car showing the heartbreaking footage of an Orangutan trying to ward off the machinery destroying his/her home. I’m sorry but driving an electric car is not going to stop rain forests being destroyed! Rain forests are destroyed for plantations of products such as palm oil,  soya and rubber. Yes, driving an electric car will reduce your emissions but what about the production process, specifically the batteries?  Yes, there is no doubt that shampoo bars are more ecologically friendly as they are not wrapped in plastic but what about the ingredients and manufacturing processes? I could go on and on with numerous examples. I am so fed up of the lip service being paid to climate change and the destruction of our planet. We have Sir David Attenborough issuing numerous warnings and the likes of Chris Packham doing the same and everyone feels sad for 5 minutes and then flicks the channel and orders something they don’t need. As Crowded House said in their song Don’t Dream it’s Over: “…in the paper today, tales of war and of waste but you turn right over to the TV page” The problem is twofold:  The large corporations are doing just enough to convince people that they are doing the right thing whilst still putting profit before planet. People are too willing to believe the media and too unwilling to make large changes to their lifestyle. These warnings only go so far. They stop short of telling people what they need to change to help save the planet, i.e stop consuming animal products, stop flying on holidays and just stop CONSUMING EVERYTHING!!   Why? Because of the potential backlash from farmers and other businesses. In other words: Profit, profit, profit. It comes before everything, even our very survival! The fact is that most people are not doing enough. They think that changing one thing such as switching to an electric car or recycling is ‘doing their bit’. Not enough! So, on Ash Wednesday I almost fell into this trap. I’m not religious at all, in fact, when we are engaging the public on our stall, if someone starts going down the religious argument for eating animals I hastily look for Mark or Rebecca; our resident experts on the bible. However, I always look at Lent as an opportunity to see what else I can live without. Only this year, I thought to myself  ‘I’ve already given up animal products, palm oil, caffeine and processed food so why not give myself a break?’Well, it didn’t take me long to have a word with myself! You see, there is always a little bit more we can do. So I decided to give up single use plastic (SUP) for Lent. To be honest, I don’t use much that is wrapped in single use plastic but the vegan cheese I like and the vegan spread I use comes in SUP. Fortunately, the spread also comes as a solid block so I purchased a beautiful ceramic butter dish and now buy the blocks instead of the tubs. The cheese I have just gone without.  So it now is the Easter weekend and, I can honestly say that, through the whole of lent there was only one moment when I actually wanted to buy something wrapped in SUP: a Basil plant!! Solution? Grow my own!  As I write this I have Hot Cross bun dough proving as I love them but don’t want to buy them as they are wrapped in plastic. Will I go back to buying the few products I used to that are wrapped in SUP? Well, tbh, I am going to buy frozen peas until they are in season in the local farm shop when I can buy a bulk load and freeze them myself. I tried tinned peas…not good! I think I may allow myself one item a month that is encased in plastic, but then again, maybe not. My point is that even though we think we are doing enough and, as vegans we are certainly doing more than most, there is always just a little bit more we can do…. Just a nod to my Mum here who has sent me a plastic free, vegan Easter egg! Thanks Mum!!  Have a lovely vegan Easter everyone! xxx
Wow, March is here, the sun is shining and the birds are singing! It really feels like Spring is here, hurray! Of course, with Spring comes the heartache for us vegans that is fields full of lambs and calves. TV programmes showing life on the farm with farmers insisting that they care about each and every one of their animals and not a ‘livestock’ haulier in sight. Well, I’m sorry but I believe all they care about is the money. Otherwise how can they load their animals onto these lorries, knowing that they are bound for a slaughterhouse? I am happy to report that I have a new addition to my ‘family’; another sheep named Rose. She cost me £90: a small price to pay to save her life but that’s apparently ‘what she’s worth’.  She is so different in character to Hope, it’s been a bit of a shock to both of us!! Hope is so laid back but Rose is very ‘in your face’ and needy. I think Hope is happy to have her around but at a distance, haha! Every day I see how much they trust me and how much they want to be with me. Yesterday, in the glorious sunshine I sat with both of them scratching them (and cuddling Hope because he is so scrumptious!) My snuggle time with them has got me thinking about anthropomorphism and, specifically its use as a derisory term, e.g  ‘stop anthropomorphising those sheep; they don’t feel abandoned/betrayed/afraid’. Don’t they? Really? I can tell you for certain that Hope and Rose enjoy my company. They bleat as soon as they hear me and its not cupboard love. Yes, they do enjoy their cabbage but its more than that. Hope follows me around and loves his scratches. Rose’s eyes half close when I give her a scratch, her head drops and she just seems to love it. So much so that if I stop, she paws at me!  In addition, they are both more settled when I am in the field with them. If Rose is at the other end when I leave she runs at full speed after me. They both seem to love being with me. I believe that my presence offers them security and makes them feel happy. So, my next question is why do we use that term about animals? Is it to justify our treatment of them? When you look up the definition, many references say that it was a word used especially about gods. This is because for centuries, anthropomorphism had referred to angels and Gods of human qualities but then , in a work first published in 1858, George Herbert Lewes extended the use of the word to animals; specifically talking about molluscs but he went on “…we are incessantly at fault in our tendency to anthropomorphise, a tendency which causes us to interpret the actions of animals according to the analogies of human nature.” This coincided with Darwin’s published work ‘On The Origin of Species by Means of natural selection or the Preservation of favoured races in the Struggle for life’ in which he challenges the idea of a hard and fast line between humans and other species. Indeed, 14 years later Darwin published The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals in which he set out to prove that animals and humans share many psychological qualities. I’ve gone down a bit of a rabbit hole with that but, my point, I guess, is that it’s time to consign the term anthropomorphism, specifically when referring to animals, to the history books. It has been proven, time and again, that animals do feel similar emotions to us: fear, joy and, if not love then affection. I would add trust and abandonment to that list too. Certainly I have witnessed all these emotions in my animals: my horses’ fear at fireworks, their joy in being groomed by each other or having a good roll, their trust in me when following me to somewhere new;  Hope’s fear of men (that tells a story), his joy at cabbage time (his little tail waggles furiously) and his affection for me when he brings his little face up to mine and keeps it there gently breathing on my cheek. So, surely it’s time to accept this as fact and end the speciesism that facilitates a word like anthropomorphism.
Ok, yes, it’s almost done but it has definitely been a happy one! In fact, it’s been a record breaking one with 500,000 sign ups! Also, here at VOS we have welcomed 50 new members! Welcome everyone and this blog is for you! I have been so happy to see the increase in number of vegan adverts on TV, during prime time viewing too!The supermarkets have jumped on board Veganuary, Oatly has brought out a brilliant advert titled ‘Help Dad’, the website builder Go Daddy is using a vegan pie shop as their example etc etc. It just feels so hopeful!Unfortunately, we are still unable to hold Outreach events in person but we must, somehow, take advantage of the current wave of change. Here at VOS we are considering different options such as admailing but there are things you can do too. Share truths on social media, next time you have a Zoom meeting with your friends or family suggest holding an eco quiz and come up with questions whose answers open their eyes.Sign up to email lists of vegan activism groups such as PETA and charities such as Animal Aid, VIVA!, One Kind, HSI and sign the petitions they send you. It only takes 2 minutes. They will send you actions that you can take like emails to your MP, already written; you just have to add your name. They make it so easy for you that there is no reason not to.Above all, share with  your friends, family and colleagues how fantastic you feel being vegan! When I first became vegan, 5 years ago, I became very angry at the world and, the more truths I uncovered, the angrier and more despairing I became. But then I realised that being like that turns people away. Just like they don’t want to look at pictures of animals suffering, they don’t want to be made to feel guilty and they don’t want to be lectured. Like a good vegan friend said: ‘the world doesn’t need another angry hippy!’ Much better to lead by example and show them how much happier and healthier they could be. Let them know that you are there to help if they want to change but don’t force yourself on them. I have come to the conclusion, slowly I admit, that people have to want to change, we can’t force them.Yes, we can lobby for change higher up and we should, but at grassroots level, people want to feel encouraged not bullied. Take a couple of my friends for example: one, who I see often, is incredibly supportive of my lifestyle and completely gets it. She has gone vegetarian as a result. She is almost vegan and is so happy about it. Another friend, who lives down in England, has always commented on any Outreach event posts I have put on FB, always saying how proud of me she is. And guess what; she is doing Veganuary! Now it’s my turn to let her know how proud I am of her!You will find that, if and when anyone you know decides to try veganism, they will fall over themselves to tell you about it! Ironic really, the saying goes something like this: ‘how do you know someone is a vegan? Because they’ll tell you.’Well, in my experience, the saying should go: ‘ when someone goes vegan, who’s the first person they will tell? Their vegan friend!’ So I urge you to stay positive, encourage any change your friends or family make, no matter how small, take part in armchair activism; it really does work, and show the world how much happier life is when you boycott the suffering and exploitation of others.If you know anyone that is looking for encouragement and support in adopting a vegan lifetsyle, beyond Veganuary, we can help. They can send an email to and I will be very happy to help. So, a very warm welcome to you all, lets change the world!
Hope… Something beautiful happened in the last fortnight: my heart filled with Hope!Allow me to explain: Hope is a beautiful 2 month old lamb who has not had the best start in life and when he came to me he had many issues. So many in fact that the farmer ‘gifted’ him to me, believing he would not survive. He even offered to pay for the removal of his body when he did die! When the farmer’s wife delivered Hope and I said I would get the vet to look at him, her reply? “oh don’t bother, it’ll cost you a fortune”! These farmer’s love their animals do they?!Well, that was 9 days ago. Hope had weeping, half closed eyes, was very weak in his back end, with his left hind almost useless, had Orf around his mouth and was skin and bone. He had a ‘vacant’ air about him and he absolutely broke my heart.Within a day of nibbling around the garden, he had found some Echinacea and his eyes the following day were wide open and bright.The vet also came out that day and diagnosed past or current joint abscesses and possible joint damage, especially to his left stifle. He delivered a shot of vitamins and an antibiotic/anti inflammatory injection that would last 4 days with another one for me to give for a further 4 days.Well, Hope picked up. He was bright, inquisitive, came to me for scratches and cuddles and seemed more comfortable in his hind legs. On the 8th day, however, he went downhill, as the meds wore off so, having spoken again to the vet, off I went to collect 2 more syringes of anti inflammatory medication to be given 48hrs apart. Hope has filled a hole in my heart and there he will remain as long as I live. That was Friday and he is due his second jab this afternoon.He is certainly not as comfortable as he was on the combination medication but he is coping and he is eating well. He still comes over for cuddles and he seems quite content.My dilemma is what happens after the second jab wears off. I am not going to keep injecting him every other day; it hurts him and it doesn’t seem to be making that much difference. Apparently, there is no oral medication I can give him and, anyway, he is not interested in eating anything other than grass right now.He is heartbreakingly vulnerable but not at all needy; he potters around the garden, quiet and unassuming. He is such a sweet, gentle soul and every time I look at him (which is pretty much every minute of every day!) I am reminded of the millions of gentle souls, just like him who face the terror and agony of the slaughterhouse every single day for no other reason than humans’ lust for their flesh.Hope has filled a hole in my heart and there he will remain as long as I live. He will soon be joined by 2 other gorgeous lambs and I am overjoyed that I am able to save these 3 from the fate that awaits their brethren.I wish I could save them all but, as my little card says, I can only do what I can do and this is what I can do right now.Just being vegan will never be enough for me. I have to do more and giving these little guys a home for life is a start.Tomorrow I shall speak to the vet about a long term solution for his pain and I can guarantee that he will suggest euthanasia but, as a friend once said to me: “where there’s life, there’s hope” and as long as Hope wants to live, I will do all I can to help him live, as comfortably as possible.
Vegan for the Wildlife In the time since my last blog, we have accepted an offer on the house and the sale is progressing. I didn’t want to sell but had no choice since my husband and I have split up and I can’t afford to buy him out. However, I have accepted the fact that I must move on and am very lucky to be moving just along the road to my neighbour’s cute little cottage and, even better, I can take my animals with me, so it’s all good. The trouble is, I worry about the wildlife I am leaving behind. These last couple of weeks I have been watching the second broods fledge; awkwardly flying short distances to be fed by attentive parents. I even spent an hour one evening keeping vigil over a fledgling Wagtail to see that it was being fed! Not that I could have done much if it wasn’t but I had to know! It’s been a stressful time watching over all these babies!I have been watching the bumble bees enjoying the clover flowers in the lawn and the ‘bee friendly’ flowers in my new flower bed and the Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells feasting on the many Buddliea bushes around the garden.There is a wild rabbit that lives under the shed and spends many hours sat with my rescue rabbit, up against his run ( yes I have struggled with the fact that Burt is confined but he is small, black & white and has a deformed foot so I don’t think he would survive in the wild).As vegans, we always think of the farmed animals that we are trying to save but does our veganism have an effect on wildlife, beyond feeding the birds and insects in our gardens? The good news is, apparently yes. The State of Nature report 2019 tells us that human activity is driving huge changes in UK wildlife numbers with 15% of UK species at risk of extinction. It says that the ‘abundance and distribution’ of wildlife in this country has declined since 1970 with that decline having accelerated in the last decade. The report refers to ‘pressures’: factors that have caused the decline and are continuing to have a negative effect. The top 2? As vegans, we always think of the farmed animals that we are trying to save but does our veganism have an effect on wildlife, beyond feeding the birds and insects in our gardens? Industrial farming and Climate change. No surprises there. Of course, we know that these two go hand in hand, with the former being a huge contributor to the latter but, in addition to causing the suffering of billions of farmed animals and being one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, industrial farming is also one of the major contributors to UK wildlife species decline.“This research identified that changing agricultural management had the biggest single impact upon nature in the UK over recent decades, with the great majority of that impact being to drive species’ populations downwards. The second most significant driver was climate change, which is causing range and population change in sensitive species, alongside landscape-scale alteration to vulnerable habitats.”The report lists the  changes in farming that have had the  biggest negative impact and these include; specialisation (arable or ‘livestock’), an increase in the mechanisation and size of farms and the loss of nature-friendly features like hedgerows, woodland, ponds and field margins. (A quick note on field margins; farmers are paid a subsidy for leaving a portion of their land for wildlife but the farmer near me just doesn’t plough it; he makes no effort to plant it for biodiversity!)Intensive production has had a dramatic impact on wildlife that is typically found on farmland with populations of farmland birds having more than halved since 1970!Turtle doves, grey partridges, corn buntings and tree sparrows have all declined by more than 80%!The State of Nature report 2019 also breaks it down to different countries within the UK and in Scotland, 48% of species populations have decreased in the last 10 years!“72% of the UK’s land is managed for agriculture, about one third arable and two thirds pastoral. Half of the arable land is used for cereal crops (mostly to feed ‘livestock’) and the pastoral land is used to raise sheep (over 30 million) and cattle (over 10 million).”As vegans, we already know that boycotting animal agriculture means we cut our emissions and save lives but, it turns out, not just farmed animals. By avoiding animal products we are also not contributing to the destruction of our native wildlife species. So, why am I worried? Well, unfortunately the people that are buying the house are from farming families. I didn’t meet them and I didn’t know this until after the offer had been accepted. Not that I could have refused them because it’s not just mine to sell, but I am horrified that my home  is going to farmers.I have cultivated a lot of hedgerow with native species such as Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Hazel.I have planted trees such as Willow and Silver Birch and I have left plants like thistles and nettles in the field for the wildlife.I have deliberately left the bottom of the field to grow to give homes and cover to small mammals and birds like pheasants. The new owners will probably cut it all.The rabbit and the birds feed on the ‘weeds’ growing in the gravel drive; they will probably spray them with weedkiller.The bees and other pollinators feed on the rich clover in the lawn and I have deliberately left large areas of grass wild; they will probably mow and strim.And the rabbit? Well, I hope he moves away and finds some new friends but the thought of him looking for Burt breaks my heart.On top of this, it is rumoured that they may use the 2.5 acre field for the quick rotation of ‘stock’! I could cry. I am supposed to be doing everything possible to reduce the exploitation and suffering of animals and yet, now I have sold my home to people who contribute to it!I will have to drive past here every day so will bear witness to what they do to my beautiful, wildlife friendly home but it will only strengthen my resolve to do more for the animals, farmed and wild! One day, I will again have somewhere I can turn into a haven for wildlife but, until then, I will do what I can and that includes having as little impact on nature as possible. Header Photo: Corn bunting | RSPB
05 July 2020 We are all used to the advertising campaigns for so called beauty products that claim to reverse or slow the aging process or make our eyelashes look longer or plump up our skin or nourish our hair, etc,etc.  We are also all aware of the well known animal products that these creams and cosmetics contain such as Lanolin (from Sheeps’ wool) and Beeswax or honey. However, there are many other animal ingredients that aren’t so obvious and are certainly not shouted about in the adverts!There is one particular advert on TV right now that has a female ‘celebrity’ extolling the virtues of Hyaluronic Acid in some kind of ‘beauty’ product. So, I decided to delve deeper and find out where this ‘magic’ substance came from. Well, it is apparently found in our bodies, in all tissues and fluids but the Hyaluronic Acid used in cosmetics usually comes from Rooster combs. It can be made from bacteria in a lab but the chances are, the stuff that is in most popular cosmetic products has been extracted from Rooster combs, on an industrial scale. The ‘beauty’ industry in this country alone is worth £27 billion pounds and still profits from the suffering of animals. When did people, I have to say women in particular, become so obsessed with their appearance? I have never bought into the ‘beauty’ industry. In fact, I own one eyeliner which I have had for years and one lipstick; both from The Body Shop before they sold their soul to L’Oreal. Why do women feel the need to pump their skin full of collagen, a product derived from animal tissue, which is also an allergen, funny old thing!Why do they insist on using false eyelashes, many made from animal hair, which, in my opinion, look absolutely ludicrous!!It never ceases to amaze me how gullible people are when it comes to advertising and when you offer them the truth they would rather believe the hype. The ‘beauty’ industry in this country alone is worth £27 billion pounds and still profits from the suffering of animals.The testing of cosmetics on animals may be banned in this country, although many companies still test on animals if they want to sell their products in other countries like China for example, but that does not mean  that animals are no longer suffering in the name of ‘beauty’.Most cosmetic and toiletry products, unless they state they are vegan, contain animal products.Think about it…there are over 66 billion people in the UK, of which, latest figures suggest 600,000 are vegan.That leaves 65,999,400,000 non vegans.  Assuming the non vegans don’t make a point of buying vegan products, that is another huge industry based on animal exploitation and suffering in the UK alone.  Another industry that has become the norm. Another industry that hides the truth from consumers,  who, in blissful ignorance, buy into yet more suffering of innocent and defenceless animals. For what?Vanity. Pure and simple self obsession.I wonder how many women would still use these products if the adverts showed the slaughterhouse skip, full of the ‘offcuts’ of the poor souls they have murdered and told the truth about what that product contained.Of course, the truth is inconvenient and uncomfortable so we have to be clever. I know my family switch off and raise their eyes to the ceiling when I try to educate them so , instead of trying to talk to them about it, I find other ways. I send them vegan toiletries for birthdays, I make up vegan hampers at Christmas full of eco and vegan gifts and I give them books such as ‘Allowed to grow old’ by Isa Leshko. I started my journey for Animal Rights at 12 yrs old, when a girl joined my school and wore badges on her jumper from animal rights organisations. I joined Animal Aid at a time when the big issues were  Fur and Vivisection.Well, we have come along way in both those areas but  the exploitation and suffering in the beauty industry continues.You can find a full list of animal derived products used in the beauty industry here.  
Over the last couple of weeks the news has been full of the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US. The protests have been organised by Black Lives Matter, an international human rights organisation which campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people. The focus then shifted to slavery and statues around the country have been torn down and vandalised because of their links with slavery and/or racism. This all got me thinking about the similarity between slavery and exploitation. The definitions of each word, in the Cambridge dictionary read like this: Slavery: ‘the condition of being legally owned by someone else and forced to work for or obey them’ Exploitation: ‘ the act of using someone unfairly for your own advantage’Aren’t those the same thing? Using someone unfairly. Whether or not they are owned by you seems to me the only difference.So then I’m thinking about all the  exploitation and yes, slavery that goes on, not only legally but acceptably. I am, of course, talking about animal exploitation. We all are only too aware of the exploitation and slavery that is animal agriculture but what about animals ‘owned’  by non-farmers? Specifically I’m thinking of probably the most enslaved animal after farmed animals, horses.Most horse owners purchase a horse or pony to be ridden or driven and maybe competed. Is this not exploitation? With no thought about what’s best for the horse, these people put a saddle or harness on their back and a piece of metal in their mouth to make the animal work for and obey them. Sound familiar? Look again at the definition of slavery. Don’t get me wrong, most of these people would say they love their horses but when the child outgrows  the pony or the horse isn’t as good at the person’s chosen discipline, they just sell them on. Horses are sensitive animals who form lifelong bonds with each other. Changing their home environment and changing their companions affects them emotionally, sometimes for the rest of their life. What about the horse racing industry? Well, they take horses that are little more than foals, put grown men on their backs and force them to race before their vertebrae are even fused! Then, when their bodies break down, they are slaughtered, often no older than 5 years old! Is this not legal slavery? They keep the horses in completely unnatural conditions; confined in a stable for up to 22 hours a day and denied the opportunity to display natural behaviours like grooming each other, play and rolling outside.Up to 90% of racehorses and 60% of competition horses, as well as non-performance horses and even foals have gastric ulcers. These are caused by stress: physical and emotional stress. When I heard that police horses had been attacked by so-called protesters; although I would call them something else, I was sickened and so, so angry. Not just at the thugs who attacked these poor animals: one horse was hit in the face with a brick which broke their nose and others had bicycles thrown at them. I was angry that these peaceful, cooperative animals had been put in this position. These horses are trained to not react in loud and violent situations when their every instinct is telling them to run. All horses, as herd and prey animals avoid conflict and are cooperative by their very nature and everything people do with horses exploits this. Horses aren’t designed to be ridden let alone be in the middle of a violent protest!I have 3 horses. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I bought my first horse to ride but when she tried to tell me that she didn’t enjoy being ridden and that new situations terrified her, fortunately I learnt to listen. My other 2 were unwanted by their owners, for exactly the reasons I stated earlier: child had outgrown one and the other didn’t do what the owner wanted him to do. They are a very happy little herd, with as natural a life as is possible in domestication and I am grateful that I can give them this. All I ask of them is cuddles!As vegans we avoid the exploitation of animals but I wonder how many vegans ride horses….
What’s the point? That is a question that often pops into my head regarding Vegan activism.People just aren’t listening. My hopes that we may emerge from this pandemic to a better, more compassionate world are fading fast when I am already seeing queues at the local KFC drive through, road traffic almost back to pre-pandemic levels, people swarming over beaches and beauty spots leaving their rubbish behind and, politicians promising financial assistance for livestock farmers! Last year, my cousin’s 9 year old daughter was shocked at the condition of some  ex battery hens I had brought home and, when I told her I wished I could rescue them all she said, very wisely that ‘you can only do what you can do.’ She even wrote it down on a piece of card for me to keep in my wallet and read whenever I felt despair. The trouble is, even when we do what we can, it often feels that we are achieving nothing and our efforts are in vain.  I asked my neighbour, who has started farming sheep and had lambs this year, if I could please buy a couple from him. His reply? ‘No because they are too valuable’.  I just wanted to save who I could from the slaughterhouse and I can’t even do that! I have to admit, sometimes I need to take ‘timeout’. Timeout from the heartbreaking images we share on social media of animals suffering; timeout from reading articles documenting the cruelty and exploitation around the world; timeout from wracking my brain trying to come up with new activism ideas that people won’t be able to ignore and timeout from the world in general. I don’t know how the guys that go undercover to document animals’ suffering manage it but they are heroes in my eyes. For me, just knowing about it sometimes becomes too much. I am often overwhelmed by humans’ ability to inflict suffering without batting an eyelid. Many vegans are content with just being vegan, safe in the knowledge that they are saving lives just by avoiding all animal products and I envy them that peace. I wish I could be content with not contributing to any animal’s suffering and be at peace with the world but that’s just not possible. I can not un-know what I know nor un-see the images I have seen.  When it all becomes too much, I have to disengage from the world and retreat into my own bubble for as long as it takes to heal my heart and quiet my mind. I avoid social media, I don’t look at emails and I avoid human company. When I am ready, I take out my little card and read the words written there ‘you can only do what you can do’ and I am ready to do what I can do. To continue speaking up for the millions of voiceless souls that are suffering so much at the hands of humans. So, if I disappear from the radar, you know where I am and I will see you on the other side….
Today I had to have one of my lovely hens put to sleep.  Mavis became unwell a couple of weeks ago and a visit to the vet left us none the wiser as she had no temperature, nor fluid in her abdomen. A course of antibiotics was prescribed and she picked up a little but this morning it was evident she had gone downhill overnight and she was really suffering so I made the heart breaking decision to let her go.I know you’ll forgive me, therefore, if I dedicate this blog to her and all like her.I have been fortunate enough to welcome ex battery hens into my home on 3 separate occasions so far and each time, I bring home a handful of very sorry looking birds who are skin and bone, have few or no feathers, whose beaks have been chopped and  their combs are pale and floppy. Yet, as soon as their overgrown toenails touch the grass they instinctively start scratching for bugs and grubs. I have never had to trim their nails because, within a few weeks, they have shortened them on the ground. Also within a few weeks their feathers return and their combs are a beautiful, brilliant red, standing proudly on their heads.It is so rewarding watching them thrive in their retirement. They are so funny, they are incredibly nosy and always pleased to see me! They chatter away and their favourite thing in the whole world is their own eggs, scrambled and fed back to them! Well, that and the sunshine and dust baths!They are hardly ever still and I think they must cover a couple of miles each day. Their diet changes to a more natural one;  ignoring the layers pellets, preferring to forage whilst also hoovering up the bird seed dropped from the feeders and enjoying my vegan leftovers!Unfortunately, they still lay eggs but the lucky ones cease production and I like to think this prolongs their life by a few months.However, the damage is already done.  Of the 15 girls I have so far given a home, most have succumbed to illness within a year of  being with me; some within a few months.My current little flock has been with me for just over a year and actually, one; Queenie is from the previous flock so she has been here for 2 years but she has a tumour on her vent so it is just a matter of time.It’s worth noting here that the egg industry gets rid of it’s hens when their egg laying REDUCES to one egg a day! This means that they are usually 1yr – 18 months old.If there were death certificates written for each of my girls that have died, they would read ‘natural causes.’ But they are not natural, they are man made.Exploding ovaries, peritonitis caused by eggs transiting into the abdomen because her tubes are so weakened by the over production of eggs, and, the most common in my flocks: organ failure. Organ failure in birds aged 2yrs – 2.5yrs, whose natural lifespan would be around 10 years. These are man made ‘natural causes’ because of man’s incessant greed for eggs. These poor souls are bred and fed to over produce eggs to the detriment of their bodies.‘That’s why I buy free range’ I hear people say. Free range hens are still bred to overproduce eggs so their fate is the same as these ex batts. As vegan activists we often concentrate on the fate of the male chicks in the egg industry, quite rightly, but the cost for the egg laying hens, free range or not, is huge suffering  followed by premature death. There are no references in this blog because I am the reference.I witness how these malnourished, deprived, scared little girls arrive from their concentration camp and blossom into beautiful, confident, curious, happy chickens, each with their own unique character.I witness their premature demise as human demand for their eggs takes its toll on their bodies, and I mourn for each and every one of the millions of them that don’t make it to retirement and, instead, endure a year of incarceration followed by death.We fight against factory farming but egg laying chickens are used as individual factories. How dare we treat other species like this? Who do we think we are?!
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