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The image, a logo if you like, that accompanies this note represents an ethical philosophy made manifest in the visual form, and is something newly made from a design on a t-shirt promoted by a pop band way back in the day, way back in the late 1980s. That design pictured a cow with the slogan above it reading “cool as f**k”. At the time, people thought that it was a cool t-shirt, lots of people liked it, and lots and lots of people were wearing that t-shirt way back in those days.
This image creates something new from that design. It is a “readymade”, in the conception of Monsieur M Duchamp, which is why I have “signed” it R Nott, because we (the collective “I”) are not “copying” something, but creating something new; this is transformative, emblematic of the power of art to convert by subversion one thing into something else; it is new because I say it is.
And this image is created to be deliberately provocative. It can be seen as being quite offensive, casually swearing like that. So why do it, and what on earth does “vegan as f**k” mean anyway?
It is for both vegans and non-vegans to see. But let’s deal firstly with the non-vegans.
It’s a deliberately challenging statement, it’s supposed to be a bit in-your-face, and in a very real way, I really do not mind if it is seen to be offensive, I am content to offend non-vegans with it.
Why? Well, it’s only words, it’s just a phrase, it’s merely a logo, simply an image, and if people can be offended by that, then why are they not offended by all of the cruelty, bloodshed and killing done to non-human animals in their name every moment of every day of every year?
If someone is not a vegan (and the desperate truth alas is that the sheer, overwhelming majority in society are not vegans), then these people are the consumers of the products that I despise so much, they are the supporters of the practices that make my blood boil so intensely, and it is they who provide profit to those companies and individuals who directly commit the acts that shatter my sensibilities so comprehensively.
If someone is not a vegan then that person is for the violence in the slaughterhouses, for the brutality of the dairy industry, for the horrors of the poultry industry, for the ferocious violence of the factory farms,for the devastation of the seas and the emptying of the oceans, they are for the destruction of the rainforests, for the filthing and pollution of the land and marine environments and they are for the appalling waste of scarce water and food when a billion people are profoundly parched and malnourished, on the brink of starvation… and, finally, they are for the vicious killing of billions upon billions of suffering, pained and fearful individuals year after year.
Now that is something that I find offensive.
When I walk down the aisle of a supermarket and I see the serried rows of freshly packed sliced dead flesh, knowing full well the horror and the misery, the fear and the pain endured by those animals in their deliberately foreshortened lives and violent deaths, and I see people absent-mindedly browsing the tidy packaging, casually, indifferently, selecting their cuts of “meat”, then I find that offensive.
When I go to my local tube station on the London Underground first thing in the morning on my way to work and I see the local shop selling sandwiches listed as ham, cheese, ham and cheese, chicken, turkey, and prawn, and the bored commuters lazily making their casual purchases of bits of the dead and their drained fluids, then I find that offensive.
When I read in the morning paper that all of this damned nation’s five favourite sandwiches contain “chicken” as an ingredient, then I find that offensive.
And because I have allowed myself to know the staggering cruelty behind all of these simply packaged products, so ubiquitous, so easily and readily accessible and available, with their names (“ham”, “pork”, “cheese”, “lamb”, “beef”, “veal”) and pictures so nonchalantly displayed everywhere I turn, everywhere I look, shops, newspapers, television, and I see and I watch so many buying into it, perpetuating – by their very and every purchase – that shattering cruelty against those defenceless animals, then I find that offensive.
So really, I’m quite happy to go on the “offensive”, and to be deliberately provocative; I really do not mind if non-vegans are offended by the wording on this image… I am tired of having to tip-toe oh so delicately around the issues, to be all quiet and meek and mild about why I am a vegan and must instead be careful to protect and not offend the soft sensibilities of the meat-eater; and I am tired of having to be apologetic about it, a “mistake” of mine, apparently, a bit “weird”, this being a vegan. But I’m having none of it. No more. The abuse, torture and killing of billions of non-human animals is a horror of searing proportions; it’s disgusting, it’s sickening, and I’m frankly appalled that so many people can be so damned casual about it, can act like it’s no big deal at all, and don’t seem to be offended by it, at all, not a bit of it, at all.
And so. By mixing the word vegan with the word f**k, I want to shock people, I want to shake them out of their slumbering complacency, to rouse them from their idle docility.
I know that for people to be so unmoved by the intense horror, savagery and waste of the so-called “animal product industry” should not surprise me and it does not surprise me; too often too many have behaved in this way. In a very different situation, but for very similar reasons, Wilfred Owen, the great poet of the first World War, was compelled to write:
“But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones.
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever mourns in man”
(Wilfred Owen, Insensibility, 1918)
He was compelled to write that because he was shocked and deeply morally affronted that people “back home” in the UK were utterly unmoved by the carnage, the horror, and the waste of the war on the Western Front… this jarring fact that many were left untroubled, untouched and indifferent to the torment, the violence, and the hell endured by men in those trenches was for Mr Owen nothing less than the complete debasement of humanity.
And now, in a very different situation but for a very similar reason must I state the stark, bloody fact that, by choice, the non-vegans in our society have made themselves immune to all of the extreme, vile violence done daily to millions of non-humans in the name of profit, of pleasure (“I love a bit of steak!”) and the alleged pursuit of knowledge (in the barbarity of our “bio-medical research” institutions). To satisfy the desire for a bite to eat, for a new pair of shoes or a coat, or a new version of an old pill, people choose to remain as dullards, as stones, in the face of the cry of agony – they have no pity.
I do not understand the value systems of those who remain immune to the suffering of the innocent, the defenceless, those animals who are utterly at our mercy and are shown no mercy but instead get a kick in the face and a knife in the throat. I do not understand how those people can sanction and be satisfied with such horror. So: if anyone were to see this image and be offended, I seriously could care less.
But this is also there for vegans to see too. What message does it convey to vegans?
What I hope is that it serves as to signify who vegans are, and what we can and do represent. For too long the media image of the vegan, and the stereotype that most carry around in their heads, is of someone who’s a bit scatty, possibly terribly middle class or a tad “alt” with black clothes and dyed hair, someone with too much time on their hands so that they meddle their minds and fiddle their fingers with twee little things like a thousand and one recipes for lentil soup.
As far as society in general is concerned, vegans are bit daft; a bit weird, best left alone, too odd and dull for company, people who spend too much time thinking about little fluffy rabbits, who would be tedious killjoys at parties and would drink only carrot or orange juice whilst stood in the corner flowering the wall, smiling weakly and dreaming wistfully of hemp clothing.
But they’ve got it all wrong. We’re cooler than that. We’re far, far cooler than that.
We don’t go around supporting and lapping up the spilling of blood on a global scale, the violent confinement and beating, punching and kicking of the innocent, we don’t accept and nod our heads at the slashing and stabbing of throats, the boiling and grinding up alive of conscious, sentient, pain-sensitive beings. We’re too cool to go along with crap like that.
We don’t sit back and let ourselves be pacified by a foul pack of lies about how farming is now so good for animals, or swallow wholesale the mind-vomit alleging that organic farming is so welfare-centred and the animals are so happy; we’re not taken in by corporate lies and the lies of food industry lobbyists about how we should all be eating so much fish or other “meats”, and drinking so much milk and gobble up so many eggs, because it’s all apparently so good for us, whilst those who tell us to do so line their pockets with money as people line their hearts with cholesterol. We don’t fall for a word of it because we’re not that stupid.
We don’t stuff our faces and over-fill our bellies with the foods that we know are the single biggest cause of climate change and are the number one reason why we’re tearing down the rainforests and burning them and all who live within them into oblivion; we don’t obsess at the desire to rip up the ocean floor to grab every living thing that swims and crawls below the waves, leaving only a desert bereft utterly of the abundance and magnificence of life that once thrived there and survives no more either there or anywhere. We’re far too smart to trash the only planet that we have.
We don’t slop and slurp at the lactation fluid of ruminants, salivating over milk designed for a new-born whilst that new born is slashed and slaughtered for cheap meat and the grieving mother is impregnated yet again in an unending cycle of reproductive misery that all too quickly crushes the life from her, done to death for the sake of a splash of liquid in a bowl of cereal or a cup of tea. We don’t do that because we’re just not that heartless and cruel – to steal the life-food of infants and tear the young from their mothers, and the mothers from their new-born young.
We don’t believe for one minute the outrageous untruths peddled by the medical and pharmaceutical industries, who’ve got billions of pounds in profits riding on perpetuating the old lies about how useful to human health are those millions of animal experiments whilst at the same time, despite those millions of animal experiments, the fourth biggest killer in the country is people dying from popping animal-tested pills. Sorry, but no: we’ve read the research, we’ve analysed the data, we’ve counted the staggering number of animal and human corpses, and we can work out the truth for ourselves.
We’re too smart, too independently minded, too aware, too ethical, too moral, too caring, too compassionate, too decent, too radical, too revolutionary, too damned cool to be suckered into any of that crap. We’re vegan, and we’re vegan for literally bloody good reasons. We’re vegan and we’re vegan as fuck.