The Discovery of Systemised Cruelty
Like many who have made the journey before me, the discovery of systemised torture and cruelty within our modern society left me horrified.
My journey into veganism arose out of my eyes being suddenly opened to the large scale abuse of animals in our industrial system. It was almost impossible to take in, and probably one of the most painful things I have ever experienced.
The realisation that approximately 150 billion animals per year are killed for a mere 7.5 billion humans was appalling. These animals are merely cogs in the machinery of business who consider them no more than units of production and profit.
The reality I faced was indeed a dystopia, namely; “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one” (Wikipedia). However, as far as the industrial abuse of animals, this wasn’t an imagined place or state. It was reality, and yet the majority of people were colluding with this dystopia through their everyday consumer choices.
The more I searched, the more despairing I became. Within this was the other reality that encouraging people not to collude with the exploitation of animals was often met with ridicule, resistance, criticism or indifference.
Cries of “It’s my choice to eat what I want!” made my heart sink, realising that those who said this were in a trance-like state at the enormity of what they were a part of. I couldn’t escape the frequent reminders of this speciesism as I saw others eat animals or their secretions, wear animals, sit on furniture made of animal skins, use cosmetics and household products that contained animal products or were tested on them.
This collective collusion with the abuse was so startling that I felt there was no escape. It wasn’t as if the collusion with the pursuit of profit at any cost could be avoided by visiting or purchasing elsewhere. Even if I chose to purchase and act differently, others around me were continuing to support this dystopia. It was right in-front of my eyes and they were seemingly unaware of the depth of the deception.
The Existential Angst of a Vegan
Others who have made this discovery might relate to this level of existential angst. My background as an existential psychotherapist and psychologist had already given me a deep understanding of life choices, and their effect on the human psyche.
However, unlike that very personal journey we are all on of discovering our meaning, I came to realise that the vegan can’t escape this angst through distraction or meaning-making. I believe this is because they can’t escape the everyday reminder of the dystopia and the non-vegan’s unwitting collusion with animal cruelty.
Non-vegans are unwittingly colluding with the cruelty, until the vegan advises them of it. The vegan who then talks to someone about these issues, who subsequently doesn’t become vegan, believes that that person either agrees with the cruelty, disbelieves what goes on or is indifferent to it. Either way, the vegan knows that the non-vegan now has the knowledge but chooses to continue with the collusion. Therefore, they say that their friends or family don’t understand them. They might believe the non-vegan is demonstrating that:
- Cruelty and animal exploitation is acceptable.
- They do not wish or are unable to empathise with the vegan’s trauma or
- They do not believe that animal cruelty is as far-reaching as the vegan reports.
The existential angst for the vegan is something I call vystopia, the “existential crisis experienced by vegans which arises out of an awareness of the trance-like collusion with a dystopian world. It’s the awareness of the greed, ubiquitous animal exploitation and speciesism in a modern dystopia”.
If you have following symptoms, you too are likely to be suffering from vystopia:
- Intense grief at the enormity of the ubiquitous animal abuse
- Frustration at being unable to wake people up from the trance
- Feelings of alienation from non-vegans
- Loneliness within groups you previously felt part of
- Despair and hopelessness that things will never change
- Powerlessness to effect change on a global level
Is there a cure for vystopia?
The cure for vystopia is a vegan world that extends beyond the non-exploitation of animals to encompass the non-exploitation of humans.
Exploitation of humans will always exist whilst we are part of a machinery that maintains us in a state of trance where we don’t even question the abuse. This may sound like an unachievable Utopia. However, all positive steps in human history arise out of people coming together and holding a vision which is very different from their current reality.
It takes leaders to share this vision and ‘walk the talk” of their conviction so others say, “We can indeed do better than this and we will!” Vegans are the new leaders in creation of this brave new world and each of us must rise to the challenge and be on the right side of history. Together we can create a world in which we all wish to belong and in which all sentient creatures are respected and honoured.