A Matter of Life and Death | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

A Matter of Life and Death



Juliet Gellatley is the founder and director of Viva! and the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation. She has a degree in zoology. Over the years, she has launched many successful campaigns, including Convert-a-Parent and Going for the KillPig In HellDucks out of Water and Under Fire – a campaign that stopped the nationwide sale of ‘exotic’ meats. Juliet created National Vegetarian Week and produced the award-winning teenage videos, Food Without Fear and Food for Life. She has given hundreds of talks on vegetarianism and is frequently interviewed on radio and TV. Juliet is author of the books Born to be WildThe Livewire Guide to Going, Being and Staying Veggie, and the classic book on vegetarian issues – The Silent Ark. Acknowledgements include: the Linda McCartney Award for Animal Welfare (Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards); the Australian Wildlife Council Award; the Vegetarian Society Special Achievement Award; and the Ahimsa Award for Education (Young Indian Vegetarians).

Imagine you have just landed on planet Earth and are keen to find out just what the human race eats. Your interplanetary web briefing tells you that people who eat animals run a much greater risk of dying from heart disease and many cancers; they are more likely to suffer from gallstones, obesity, diabetes, kidney stones, strokes and food poisoning and even constipation; and you know they might be at much greater risk of dementia!

Your Stellar Visitor’s Guide to Ancient Customs reveals that livestock farming was a hopelessly inefficient way of feeding people that caused pollution and environmental damage on a staggering scale and was abandoned aeons ago in the rest of the known universe. The guide also stresses that imprisoning and killing animals simply so they could be eaten caused great pain and suffering.

Of course, coming from an advanced planet where wisdom and compassion light the way, you feel certain that this barbarity must all be in the past here also and expect to find that most people on earth are vegetarians and vegans.

You have chosen to land in Britain because it is listed in the Rough Guide to the Planets as an ancient civilisation. As your landing craft touches down you are amazed to discover that most people are still ardent carnivores who devour something from an animal at almost every meal. A quick calculation on your remote wrist computer tells you that most British people consume more than their own weight in animal flesh every year.  Over the period of one person’s  lifetime it amounts to:

6,182   Fish
3,593 Shellfish
1,158 Chickens
39 Turkeys
28 Ducks
23 Sheep & Lambs
18 Pigs
4 Cattle
1 Rabbit
1 Goose

You believe there must be a short circuit when it produces the shocking figure that this amounts to over seven billion animals. So you ask for confirmation from your on-board main frame and up comes the breakdown for the number of animals killed in the UK in 2004:

4.5 billion Fish
2.6 billion Shellfish
843 million Chickens
21 million Turkeys
18 million Ducks
15 million Sheep & Lambs
9 million Pigs
2.3 million Cattle
600,000 Geese
88,000 Goats
85,000 Deer
23,000 Rabbits

(1)  (1a) (1b)

Are these animals still farmed in the old, cruel way? You can’t believe they are and feel sure that a country which produced great artists, writers, musicians, engineers and scientists and claims it adheres to the teachings of a compassionate God, a God of peace and forgiveness, will have developed some respect for its relations – the creatures with whom it shares the Earth. You shake your two heads in disbelief when you discover that the opposite has happened.

The following pages show what our incredulous Martian or Kryptonian would find...