by Juliet Gellatley with Tony Wardle
Juliet Gellatley's hard-hitting personal
story is riveting, perceptive and totally persuasive. She exposes
the political protection, disinformation and PR glitz which prop
up the all-powerful meat industry. It is a journey of discovery
which will disturb and anger you. Its logic is simple - through
the institutionalised abuse of billions of diseased and dejected
animals we are destroying the planet and all that lives on it, impoverishing
the poorest and destroying our health for something we don't even
need. The Silent Ark is the complete and absolute answer to 'why
go vegetarian/vegan?'. Viva!'s No.1 top seller.
This book a available to buy here...
In 1994 people took to the streets all across Britain. They were
determined, passionate and outraged and their actions struck a chord
in the hearts of millions. For the first time in memory, animal
welfare made headline news every day for months.
The reason for the demonstrations, of course, was the transportation
of live animals to Europe ñ sheep to be fattened for a few
days in France or Spain and then killed and labelled ëhome
produced'; calves, little more than a few days old, to be placed
in solitary crates and killed after a few months and sold as veal.
Consistent campaigning had led to P & O Ferries, Stena Sealink
and Brittany Ferries, the main cross-channel ferry operators, dropping
the export of live animals for slaughter and the street demonstrations
were aimed at preventing other, opportunist companies from picking
up the abandoned business. These elusive merchants tried every possible
outlet by air and sea, using the cover of dawn and dusk to move
their fragile cargoes. But everywhere they went, at whatever time
of day, people were there to greet them, to stand in their way,
to lie in the road, to attack their consciences, to prevent their
trade and to thrust the issue into the living-room of every home
in the country.
Those who joined together in outrage defied stereotyping. There
were middle-aged, middle-class women who had never protested publicly
about anything before in their lives, young women in Doc Martens
with rings through their noses, senior citizens, young men in combat
jackets with dogs on pieces of string. What they had in common was
their anger at the denial of even the most fundamental compassion
to living creatures. This unity defied the 16 years of British Government
philosophy which proclaimed there is no such thing as society, only
individuals, which replaced care and concern with greed and profit,
gave legitimacy with exploitation and claimed that only a free market
can answer the world's problems ñ most of which were created
by the free market in the first place.
After years of being told that they shouldn't care, these dedicated
groups were shouting at the tops of their voices that they did care.
Not only did their actions challenge Government cynicism, but they
also did something much more fundamental: they made previously complacent
people confront the intricate relationships between the meat and
dairy industries and what is placed on our dining tables.
After an interview I did for BBC TV's Money Programme at the start
of the demonstrations, the camera operator asked me what was wrong
with drinking milk. Like millions of other people he believed that
cows naturally gave milk like chickens lay eggs. He was clearly
taken aback when I explained that, just like a woman, cows have
to be made pregnant before lactation takes place and their calves
are removed so that we can have their milk.
The camera operator wasn't unique. Most of the population were
ñ and largely still are ñ lacking even the most basic
knowledge of where their food comes from, the circumstances of it's
production and the wider impact it has on the environment and the
impoverished of the world. But the live exports coverage has, I
believe, started a process of enquiry which is irreversible ñ
it is the beginning of a voyage of discovery.
We have to hope that this voyage will be a rapid one because it
is impossible to sustain the anarchy and chaos of a meat-based diet
which is literally devouring the Earth. Vegetarianism/veganism is
not some old hippy concept rooted in a cannabis-induced nirvana
but an idea that as been around for hundreds, even thousands of
years. It lies at the heart of virtually every great philosophy
and religion and what began as a moral stand now has a frighteningly
convincing scientific legitimacy.
Livestock production is at the heart of almost every environmental
catastrophe confronting the earth, from acid rain to global warming,
desertification to deforestation. Soil erosion, loss of habitat
and water depletion are all intricately woven into the fabric of
meat dependency. Meanwhile, two thirds of the world's oceans tremble
on the brink of ecological collapse due almost entirely to commercial
The West has developed a meat culture which reaches it's zenith
in the USA but has also spread throughout Europe and is now infecting
virtually the whole globe. It is a diet which requires almost 40
per cent of the world's grain harvest to be fed to animals, inefficiently
converting 10 kilograms of vegetable protein into only one kilogram
It is a diet which uses four and a half times more land than is
necessary for a strictly plant-based diet ñ two and a quarter
more than for a vegetarian diet.
Because of our complete control over the economies of developing
countries we require them to produce fodder to feed our animals
while their children starve to death. Meat is intimately linked
with famine and starvation. Through the stranglehold of the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund we impose both our philosophy
and our economics on cultures which have survived for centuries,
legitimizing greed and destruction.
There could, perhaps, be some remote justification for all this
if meat were an essential part of our diet and necessary for our
development. But the reverse is true. Much as we might find it difficult
to acknowledge, we are primates, closely related to the great apes.
Like them, our teeth, hands, toes, gut and digestive processes are
those of a fruit eater, a herbivore, designed to cope with nuts,
seeds and plants.
In fact the rapid increase in meat consumption since the Second
World War had seriously damaged out health. Despite all the doom-laden
caution about vegetarianism, vegetarians live longer and suffer
less from a whole range of diseases. Every major survey confirms
this. The major killer in the West is heart disease and vegetarians
are up to 50 per cent less likely to die of it.
Cancer is the second biggest killer and vegetarians stand up to
50 per cent less risk of developing any kind of cancer.
Two of the essential elements recently found to preserve human
health ñ dietary fibre
- are not present in meat.
Meanwhile pigs are tethered in barren stalls, so deprived of stimulation
that they frequently go mad. Calves only days old are separated
from their mothers, transported to crates where they can barely
move and are purposefully made anaemic in solitary confinement.
Chickens, naturally restless, strutting creatures, are crammed five
to a wire cage little bigger than a microwave oven.
It all culminates in the barbarity of slaughter were cruelty is
casually dispensed on an unimaginable scale ñ spinal columns
of conscious sheep severed with the probings of a domestic screwdriver;
paralysed bullocks urged to stand with 70,000 volt shocks to the
testicles; fully conscious lambs slashed across the throat because
time is of the essence. In all, more than 750 million animals are
slaughtered in Britain every year in a production line of destructive
The casual indifference towards the suffering of creatures brutalizes
those who carry it out and those who allow it to happen in their
name. It denies all our claims of being civilised.
Throughout this book I know I am going to be accused of anthropomorphism,
but that's much too easy and not accurate. I do, I admit, adore
animals and the natural world and I am fascinated by the amazing
adaptability of nature, in particular how animals have reached such
perfection in their own sphere. To me it is self-evident that their
lives are equally important to them as ours are to us.
We kid ourselves about the extent of our knowledge, pretending
we have reached a peak of understanding, arrived at through superior
intellect, but the truth is much more prosaic, much less complacent.
The earth has existed for nearly five billion years, during which
time various life forms have developed and evolved. One common thread
runs through this extraordinary phenomenon and that is the ability
of individual species to live within their environment, part of
it and dependent upon it. In evolutionary terms human beings have
been here for little more than a twinkling of light. But already
we have begun to tear and break the individual strands which go
to make up this fine web of existence.
Modern Western teaching, both political and religious, places
us above and beyond the rules by which all animals live, as though
they simply don't apply to us, as though we are not animals ourselves.
As a species we have looked at the world and said that nothing matters
but us and all it's glories are there to be exploited ñ and
if they can't be exploited then they count for very little. We destroy
without knowing the long-term effects of such actions, and even
when we do know, we continue to destroy because today is much more
important than tomorrow. It is by today's achievements, today's
boasts, today's profit margins that we are judged.
As a consequence, Governments look at the problems which surround
us and are frozen into immobility. They must know that the only
effective cure is an approach to life based on co-operation and
concern, on conservation rather than consumption, on real education
rather than exam-passing. But they can do nothing because such a
philosophy threatens the ethos which grants them power, wealth and
influence. The very ethos which has brought the planet teetering
to the edge of environmental destruction is, the same philosophy
which will save us.
So every supposed agreement, whether to limit fishing or to reduce
logging, is quickly ignored in the scramble to make money. When
it comes to a choice between preservation and destruction, if the
short-term interests of multinational corporations are involved
it is invariably the latter which triumphs. We know, for instance,
that smoking is the biggest avoidable killer and yet every high
street is littered with adverts for cigarettes and we even spread
the contamination to the developing countries. We know that a vegetarian
diet is much healthier than a meat-based diet and yet it is the
livestock farmers and the cattle feed farmers who receive most of
the government subsidies. We know that poverty destroys people,
but the gap between rich and poor constantly grows wider. Knowledge
and understanding have ceased to be signposts to the future and
have become minor obstacles to be circumvented in the quest for
As a species we have set ourselves up as the arbiters of the globe
in an act of such breathtaking arrogance that it usurps the role
of gods and creates a monstrous imbalance in the natural order.
We slaughter owls, hawks, crows and magpies so that grouse or pheasants
can be reared in large numbers. We then slaughter them by sending
lead shot ripping through their flesh ñ and call it sport.
We destroy rabbits as vermin and then demonize the foxes which live
on them. We then hunt the foxes. We gas badgers because they might
have TB; we trap and kill rooks because we don't like their habits;
chase hares with dogs for entertainment; do anything we like to
rats and mice; shoot pigeons in their tens of thousands. We determine
which animals we will eat and deny them everything; we determine
which will be vermin and try to annihilate them; we allow others
the comfort of our hearth. Across the globe we chase whales and
harpoon them for cultural reasons. We destroy dolphins and seals
because they dare to eat fish. There is hardly a species which will
not exterminate if their interests and ours collide.
By selective breeding, genetic manipulation and dietary interference
we are producing food animals which are increasingly incapable of
life without our intervention. As factory farming intensifies so
medical intervention with antibiotics and other powerful drugs increases
and alongside the increase goes a resistance to the very drugs vital
to the animals survival. We are producing animals with a tenuous
grip on life and at the same time are destroying the wild gene pool
from which they evolved.
By so cavalierly playing with the fate of other animals we are
risking our own. It seems we are incapable of understanding that
every living creature has its part to play in maintaining the glorious
fabric of our world. None of the animals which we slaughter, even
those we demonize as vermin, pose any threat to the survival of
the planet. It is not they which threaten its existence but us.
The only hope we have is to fundamentally reassess our role and
our attitude to the plant and the living creatures which share it
with us. When a calf is prodded and dragged into the killing pen,
wide-eyed and terrified, with the stench of blood and death in its
nostrils, we are all demeaned. When the captive bolt shatters its
forehead, there is no compassion. When the slaughterer's grabs the
muzzle of the lamb to stifle its bleating and applies the knife
to it's throat, there is no compassion. And without compassion there
is little hope for any of us.
What is the first step? Vegetarianism is one of the few individual
acts you can perform that has an immediate impact. It is the first
step in ending the daily cruelties handed out to farm animals. It
is the first step in allowing the planet to heal itself. But it
is much more than all of these. It is a political act and a clear
expression of a belief in a different way of doing things, a different
kind of world ñ a better world.
One by one we are extinguishing the voices which fill this ark
in space. For we all know it maybe the only ark in space. Those
voices that can still be heard, including the human ones, are increasingly
sounding stressed and tortured. Unless there are dramatic changes
in the way we live our lives, it will become a totally silent ark.
D. Pimentel, Food, Energy and the Future of Society, Wiley, 1979,
p.26 L. R. Brown, ed., State of the World 1990, Worldwatch Institute,
F. Moore Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet, Ballantine Books, 1982,
p.69 C. R. W. Spedding, Food for the 90's: The impact of organic
foods and vegetarianism, 1990, pp.231-41 M. L. Burr and P. M. Sweetnam,
ëVegetarianism, dietary fibre and mortality', The American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 36, 1982, pp.873-7
M. L. Burr and B. K. Butland, Heart disease in British vegetarians,
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 48, 1988, pp.830-2
J. Chang-Claude et al., ëMortality pattern of German vegetarians
after 11 years of follow-up', Epidemiology, 3, 1992, pp.395-401
D. A. Snowdon, R. L. Philips and G. E. Fraser, Meat consumption
and fatal ischaemic heart disease, Preventative Medicine, 13, 1984,
pp.490-500 Chang-Claude, op. cit.
M Thorogood et al., ëRisk of death from cancer and ischaemic
heart disease in meat and non-meat eaters', British Medical Journal,
308, 1994, pp.1667-70 P. Cox, Peter Cox's Guide to Vegetarian Living,
Bloomsbury, 1995 J. Potter, ëHow vegetables fight cancer',
Living Earth and Food Magazine, January-March 1995, pp.8-9 The Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, United Kingdom, Slaughter Statistics,
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