Keeping Matilda's Promise
An Animal Rights Article from


Sandra Higgins, Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary
October 2014

Matilda farm sanctuaryMatilda died on this day three years ago. No one who met Matilda will ever forget her, least of all me who adored her. [Read Matilda, 2009-2011]

On the night she died I made a promise to her that I would spend the rest of my life telling the world about the beautiful natures of people like her, about how our unthinking lives harm them so horribly, and about our ethical obligations to be vegan and to stop harming them.

Recently, I have been waking up at night, struggling to think how I can do more to keep that promise. It often seems disheartening to spend so much time and effort for what seems to be so little result in terms of alleviating the exploitation of other animals.

Every day brings opportunities for animal rights and vegan education.

Some of the best opportunities are afforded when there is discussion in a public forum that has implications for other animals. There is only a small window within which to grasp those opportunities amidst the many other activities that are equally demanding of, and deserving of, our attention. I spend many hours at my computer, in between the time I spend outside at the sanctuary, writing articles and letters in an attempt to use these opportunities to educate with a view towards alleviating the suffering of other animals. Few of them are published.

Last week there was an article in the Irish Times on 'veganism' by Paula Mee, RD. Media attention to plant based diets and to veganism are rare enough in Ireland. Articles written by qualified professionals are even rarer. Paula Mee is highly regarded in her professional field. She has a high media profile, runs a clinical practice and is also a consultant to the food industry, having served, in the past, as a senior nutritionist to the National Dairy Council. It is always regrettable to see someone use the opportunity to speak about the plant-based dietary aspects of veganism in less than encouraging terms. It is also regrettable to see veganism reduced to a diet in any media context, especially in a high profile Irish context such as The Irish Times.

So, it was heartening, for a change, to see that my letter of reflection on Ms Mee's article has been published today. A fitting day for keeping my promise to Matilda.

Tough on Veganism, published in letters to the editor, Irish Times, 3rd October 2014

A chara, – Further to “Veganism is tough, but has many benefits” (Health + Family, September 30th), far from being a “strict” regime that is not for the “faint-hearted”, a plant-based diet includes a much wider range of foods than the traditional “meat and two veg” that most omnivores consume. Each meal is a celebration of a different combination of vegetables, grains, pulses, fruits, nuts and seeds. For those who hanker for animal foods, there are plant-based alternatives for burgers, sausages, mince, pies, steak, fish, cheese, eggs, cream, ice cream and confectionery.

A poorly planned plant-based diet can be worth little more to the person consuming it than any junk food diet. However, most responsible people eat responsibly.

Responsible vegans are usually better informed about nutritional needs than most of the omnivorous population. They eat a well-balanced diet that includes fortified foods or supplements because it is in the interests of ethical living and consideration for other animals that vegans consume a diet that is sustainable in terms of personal health and wellbeing.

Consuming a plant-based diet does not make one vegan. Veganism is a non-violent philosophy that avoids inflicting intentional harm on anyone. It eliminates the harm that an omnivorous lifestyle contributes to the environment. It alleviates the degree to which other humans are impacted by climate change and harmed by their work in animal agriculture, slaughterhouses, and other exploitative food production systems. For ethical vegans, the personal health benefits of a plant-based diet are more of a happy coincidence than the motivating factor. - Is mise,

Slane, Co Meath.

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