CN: wrong use of ‘colonise’, single-issue vegan focus.
Still, the following is compulsory reflexion if you’re a settler or live on unceded territories.
Disclaimer: I don’t endorse the Vegan Society UK, it does troubling endorsements of long-term oppressive NGOs in Southern Africa. The article, not I, linked to VSocUK.
It sparked the start of a long running debate through the letters column in “The Vegan.”
I believe that the most neglected issue in the animal rights cause is that of population growth, and I propose to put forward what my husband and I feel to be the most important reasons why a vegan, as a representative of the most mindful and unselfish movement dedicated to creating a kinder and fairer world, should not give birth, or be responsible for the birth of a child.
First, and foremost, no-one would dare deny that this planet is groaning under the weight of humans. The world’s urban population alone has tripled since 1950. The environmental costs of hazardous industrial technologies resulting from this huge population are mounting and there are fears that the damage may be irreversible. By the end of the century, with a population of six billion, half the world will be living in urban areas. All this means social troubles such as higher crime rates, ill health, frustration, and a lack of dignity and personal freedom which is entirely due to overcrowding – not to mention increasing unemployment and the monstrous march of concrete across precious open spaces. In the first three months of last year alone, 43,900 new homes were built. Some on the dwellings of wild animals such as badgers and foxes, some on land which could be producing crops, some on beauty spots, some simply where wild flowers have colonized a bomb-site (hiding yet another example of human insanity).
All of us will, inevitably, see a piece of land we knew go from green to grey. I remember a place where once I listened to skylarks and ate wild blackberries. Now it is fenced off, ugly and sterile. Is that what we want to see happening everywhere? Any casual glance at old photographs of familiar places will show the horrific changes caused directly, and only by, the increase in population – making wildlife poorer and the developers richer. Why is that sleepy sepia village nestling down a hedge-lined lane among huge oak trees now a massive noisy town full of roads, factories and tower blocks? Once land has been built on it is almost impossible for the ground to be fertile again for growing cereals, vegetables etc. So where do all you parents and future parents think you and your children’s food will come from? From abroad? Remember, they too are increasing their population at a faster rate than you are, and they all have to live somewhere. It’s not always someone else’s fault.
Secondly, you may use the argument that you will bring your children up to be vegans, so what does it matter, but can you honestly guarantee that any child raised as a vegan will become or remain a vegan adult? Of course, I agree that teaching a child the correct way to relate to other living creatures is essential, but one can argue the morality of imposing our own thoughts onto another’s personality. I certainly deplore the indoctrination of religion and other damaging influences such as racism and sexism, but one does not own a child, and whatever control we have over its actions cannot be permanent.
A lot of people would re-home a
dog with more care than
they plan the future of a baby
The pressures on a child to explore a different way of living as it grows older will be enormous; mixing as it has to with adults and peers who are at best unsympathetic. A vegan child could well be subjected to ridicule and isolation; its parents having thrown it into a mental battlefield at a time when fast food chains beckon with appealing advertising, bright colours, gifts and an atmosphere of cheerful ‘normality’. Is it fair to inflict all this on a being just because you want a baby?
Anyway, why should a vegan parent assume that his or her ethical doctrine will be continued by their children? The vast majority of vegans were brought up to wear leather and eat meat and dairy products. Will a lot of vegan children be as quick to reject our vegan lifestyle as we were to reject that of our parents?
If bringing up a child to be vegan is your only hope of gaining a convert, it’s a very expensive way of doing so. Those fifty odd thousands of pounds could, I feel, be put to better use in either campaigning, or put into practical help for animals such as supporting or running shelters and sanctuaries. In a nutshell, why create need when so much already exists?
Furthermore, a lot of people would rehome a dog with more care than they plan the future of a baby. Humans of all ages need space, clean air, safety and a decent education – to say nothing of an environment which is both emotionally and financially secure. As parents, can any of you promise all or even any of these things during the childhood of your offspring?
To be even more purist, is it really possible to raise a child as a true vegan? Medical complications must be considered, such as vaccinations and hospital treatment. When alternative medicine cannot allay a certain complaint, no-one can honestly disagree that less ethical assistance must be sought if the life or health of the child is at risk.
A basic right?
Many will of course argue that it is the basic urge of a human being, like other creatures, to proliferate. A vegan who is vehemently against the breeding of all domestic animals may fiercely defend his or her personal right, as they see it, to multiply their own chromosomes. But believing you have a right doesn’t make it ethically right. The farmer believes he has the right to manipulate other beings for profit; others believe it is their right to exploit living beings for food, clothing, science, amusement etc. Is it not the duty of a civilized, enlightened person to examine all aspects of their nature and ask themselves whether such so-called ‘rights’ are simply self-serving? A child does not ‘need’ to be born. It is the need of its parents which is gratified.
A child does not ‘need’ to be
born. It is the need of its
parents which is gratified
Our greater priority must surely be to the welfare of the Earth. We chose not to walk with the crowd when we first refused the easy, familiar and more socially acceptable path and became vegan. Procreation, the most fundamental impulse, must also be considered an indulgence of the ego.
Space for compassion
Do I want the human race to die out? Sometimes a lot of us do, if only in a momentary state of desperation when faced with the mindless cruelty perpetrated by humans upon each other and other animals. But no, I feel humans do in fact have an awful lot of good to contribute if they so choose. Among all animals, humans have the greatest capacity for compassion, the highest and possibly most human ethic. But as any wise gardener knows, a tray crammed with as many seeds as possible does not grow the best plants. Yet far fewer seeds, each receiving an adequate amount of room, water, heat and light produce healthier and stronger seedlings. So it is with human beings. In the right conditions, when every child is given the attention it deserves, only then will it reach its full potential. The huge population and subsequent overcrowding denies practically all children (except those of the very wealthy) the optimum conditions for growing a powerful sense of moral spirituality. Given the social conditions a lot of youngsters grow up in, it’s not surprising so few of them can spare little pity for their fellows let alone animals. It needs a kinder climate in which to cultivate the higher feelings of pity and compassion and not the cut-and-thrust way of life in the overcrowded concrete jungle. When children by their very numbers, feel they have little sense of personal worth, they are unlikely to extend value to other remote creatures that they seldom see except as portions wrapped in cellophane on supermarket shelves.
The problem has gone beyond the old argument that a family of two children is only replacing the parents. Too many people are too greedy or ignorant to restrict their family size. If we want to see a reduction in overcrowding, then it is we who must take responsibility for positive action. Adoption is possible for those whose genuine love of children outweighs biological links with them. I and my husband have proved it can and does work.
If you as a vegan choose
to give birth to a child and it
later turns out to be a meat
eater, it renders you own
It must be said that if you, as a vegan, choose to give birth to a child and it later turns out to be a meat eater, it renders your own personal commitment completely invalid.
Finally, what has this world that is so far from being ideal to offer the child you say you love and yet launch into its cold and cruel embrace? The only fact a parent can guarantee his or her child is death. Happiness and fulfilment are rare commodities, and rarer still in the person who has had to recognize the world they were brought into for what it is. One day the vegan parent will have to destroy any vestige of innocence in their son or daughter by explaining the horrors of factory farming and vivisection. We love to see lambs playing in a field, to watch them frisk and delight in the weeks of tender youth. But it is a poignant scene as we contemplate their future, the transience of their joy.
Naturally we, as vegans, although we take great pleasure in the sight of gentle and beautiful farm animals, would far rather they did not exist at all. Vegans have enough love to desire their loved-ones not to feel the pains of this world. Surely they should love their own flesh and blood enough to give up the personal desire for a baby when they have come to realize what the effects of their causes are doing to the Earth?
Please visit The Vegan Society, U.K.