“As for the cages themselves, an ordinary citizen who kept dogs in similar conditions for their entire lives would risk prosecution for cruelty. A pig producer who keeps an animal of comparable intelligence in this manner, however, is more likely to be rewarded with a tax concession or, in some countries, a direct government subsidy.”
― Peter Singer, Animal Liberation
I never thought I would be vegan five years ago. I purposely selected meat on any dish possible due to the untrue message that animal protein is the only path to a satisfying meal. It also seemed practical and that’s how I was used to preparing food. Most people eat it, so why not? I wasn’t confronted about it in any meaningful way. However, my mindset changed while I was reevaluating zoosexuality shortly after accepting my orientation.
Likewise, others seem to be in a similar situation. The question of ‘Can I even call myself a zoo if I partake in consuming animal products?’ has been discussed here and there. Of course, you do not need to be vegan to find romantic or sexual attraction to non-humans, but the space in which we discuss and strive to protect and understand animals naturally brings up such topics. Conversations with the animal placed as the center focus will lead to some manifestation of the ZETA principles.
To reiterate, the ZETA principles:
- Consider the well being of an animal companion as important as ones own.
- Place the animal’s will and well being ahead of one’s desires for sexual gratification.
- Teach those who seek knowledge about zoophilia and bestiality without promoting it.
- Discourage the practice of bestiality in the presence of fetish seekers. (Note: this should be read as discouragement of objectification of the animal. It does not criticize non-romantic consensual sexual interactions which are perfectly fine).
- Censure sexual exploitation of animals for the purpose of financial gain.
- Censure those who practice and promote animal sexual abuse.
If you believe the ZETA principles to be true, it is our duty to challenge the status quo. Growing and learning with an animal companion creates a deeper understanding of non-verbal language and non-human emotions. The shared philosophy that animals are individual beings worthy of life and partnership is an undeniable truth. At the core of it, seeking to reduce any pain and suffering is the absolute aim, which will inevitably lead to evaluating veganism.
To be clear, no one expects every individual zoo to be vegan due to societal pressures. People are born with an attraction at birth that can not be cleanly prayed away, while eating animal products is a constant and accepted occurrence. The economic system is built on exploitation and encourages these dietary behaviors, and by design, propels a consumerist society finding comfort in tradition via food. Some are stuck with absence of freedom, energy that can not be expended to navigate a deliberately complicated life, and it is easy to ignore an animal that does not speak a common verbal language. It is constructed as another thing to worry about instead of another life. Likely some zoos that are not vegan do not feel they have the resources and are already defeated by other life stressors.
However, this can not be every individual’s excuse but rather the easiest path to survive. To accept the cruelties in slaughterhouses or fishing boats takes strength, when it is an easy and convenient way to live otherwise, given you have access to foods that allow you to change your habits. It is a matter of understanding that fish visibly can suffer, not intelligence based on the human condition and allowing those views to propel action. A learning curve for alternative selection is vital.
While changing one’s behavior, other questions and epiphanies soon follow. The fact that a cow is no different than the dog you fell in love with is a sobering realization. A chicken is no less than the cat that was by your side through life’s biggest tragedies. A pig could potentially make a fine and fulfilling friendship to the usual domestic companion. Animals are not ingredients, and deserve a happy, full existence devoid of the threat of becoming a meal.
“Humane” slaughter is still the death of an individual that didn’t want to die. It should be considered that terms such as cage-free are put on products to placate guilt and fears about animal mistreatment. Animals will always be treated like food in the meat and dairy industries, and therefore objects, meaning the bottom line of profit is the most defining factor. Therefore, selecting products that facilitate veganism is the most important decision to direct social change.
As zoos, we have the advantage of seeing non-humans as equals and their beauty and individuality. It is in our best interest to protect animals and defy indifference the modern world casts on them due to their inability to advocate for themselves. This is another reason to consider besides the fact that these animals suffer systematically for taste and habit in this modern age. ZETA teaches us to put non-human’s needs and lives above our own, and that should include rejecting animal products for the sake of taste. It is exploitation and to participate in consuming animals is a lack of responsibility.
Any change is a path forward. To correct attitudes and personal choices one day at a time can be a slow process, possibly full of failures and an accidental snack with hidden milk powder. Perfection is not a given, and if you have not been exposed to alternative ingredients, research and time will be necessary. There are a wide variety of programs aimed at exploring and guiding you through the process and I encourage you to use this to your advantage. Swapping out one ingredient at a time is progress that you should be proud of and a more ethical direction.
Veganism aims to reduce animal products wherever possible and practicable, so certain situations such as location and availability can cause it to be more difficult than others. Absolute stringent policies that are served as anti-veganism propaganda will tell you otherwise. It is not a battle to find the most vegan lifestyle because it is not a diet competition, it is a philosophy. It is also important to realize people are passionate about sentient life, and those that abstain from animal products should not be mocked for choosing to not participate in suffering. Debates are similar to human rights, where we are discussing wellness for beings that think, feel, and ultimately want to continue living.
Veganism takes commitment, though it is well worth the effort. We have the ability to practice compassion first hand. Though changing your diet and perspective may only be a small step, they’re just the first of many more in this movement to leave the world a better place for those to come.
Article written by Gin Fossa June 2022
Find them at https://twitter.com/ginfossa