Wendy A.M. Prosser, a British writer on the rights of animals and veganism
She recently released a follow-up to The Vegan Cat-Lover 2 which contains eight more short essays on veganism, speciesism and feline friends. She’s also working on a novel and other fiction projects
Wendy A.M. Prosser lives in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK with one husband, three and a half feline friends and two Giant African Land Snails. She studied in St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. She is science editor and freelance writer.
By: Alberto Berenguer Twitter: @tukoberenguer
What do you offer to the reader on your website?
My website, Scribblings, is essentially an online journal – a place for me to muse about life, the Universe and everything (but especially cats and quirky ideas) – though in the last year I have focused on my writing journey: how I went from a frustrated scribbler with a yearning to write, to a self-published author with two ebooks on Amazon and others to come. I don’t offer profound insights (usually), but I do hope to encourage, entertain or even inspire other writers who, like me, are starting out in self-publishing.
How did The Vegan Cat-Lover arise?
The Vegan Cat-Lover was originally a blog on veganism and speciesism that I ran alongside Scribblings. It actually did better than Scribblings in terms of subscribers, but I found it quite a strain writing regularly for both, and as I intended Scribblings to become my main author platform, my posts on The Vegan Cat-Lover became very infrequent. I considered closing it down, though that seemed a shame after all the work I’d put in.
Then I came across Turn Your Blog Posts into Ebooks by Suzanna Stinnett – no need to explain what this book is about! Suffice to say, I was inspired. Following Suzanna’s advice, I picked out my best posts, the ones I believed deserved a wider readership, and from these The Vegan Cat-Lover ebook was born.
How long did you take to write the book?
Because the content of The Vegan Cat-Lover is based on blog posts, I had already done most of the hard work when I decided to publish the ebook. I simply needed to re-edit and polish each essay, check that my reference links were still live, and write an introduction – maybe ten hours’ work in total. Of course, writing the original posts took longer than that!
On the cover of your book, have you participated in its preparation?
I prepared the cover myself, incorporating the cat’s eye image that I was already using as a logo for the blog and ideas I got from studying the covers of similar books on Amazon. The image came from an online library of royalty-free photographs and I used free graphics software to create the cover; all I had to do then was play with the colours, typefaces and so on until I came up with something I liked.
What can readers find in this book?
The Vegan Cat-Lover contains six short essays on topics relating to veganism and speciesism, ranging from the difference between animal rights and animal welfare, to in vitro meat and “Freedom Food”, to sentience in cats. They are my personal opinions, based on my own experiences and research. I don’t claim to be an expert in veganism and I wasn‘t always a cat-lover, though writing the blog and preparing the ebook has taught me a lot about both, which I aim to pass on to other people.
People always say that man’s best friend is the dog, why have you a special relationship with cats?
Man’s best friend may be the dog, but perhaps cats are woman’s best friend! I find cats fascinating. They are beautiful, for starters, and their behaviours are so similar to those of their big-cat relatives – I love that that dash of wildness. Cats really do choose their humans; when a cat shares your life, it’s because he wants to –if he didn’t, he could easily find another home. But cats are not as aloof as people often believe. In my experience, even the most independent would-be tiger enjoys a cuddle on the sofa in the evening.
Veganism is a philosophy and a way of life based on respect for animals with a capacity to feel, what your main goal with the publication of The Vegan Cat-Lover?
I hope anyone with an interest in animal rights will enjoy reading The Vegan Cat-Lover , though my principal aim, as with the blog, is to reach out to new vegans and people who are considering veganism. My goal is to help explain the principles of and issues surrounding veganism and speciesism to those who may have the most questions. I also hope my musings will be a small voice for non-human animals – those sentient beings we Homo sapiens so often regard as “lower life forms” fit only for use, abuse and exploitation.
Is the veganism part of animal movement or the ecologist?
Both! The benefits of veganism to animals are obvious, and it is increasingly acknowledged that reducing (or better, eliminating) our consumption of animal products worldwide would benefit the environment, too. For instance, stock-free farming (growing plants for humans to eat) uses far fewer resources than growing plants to feed to animals and then feeding those animals to humans. And only recently, we were warned that a world water crisis is imminent if humans do not reduce or give up their reliance on animal products. If humans are to have a future on this planet, veganism must be part of it.
What are the rights of animals?
Animal rights are based on the notion that non-humans have the same interest in staying alive, and living their lives as they choose, as humans. Accordingly, animals should not be regarded as property to be treated however humans wish, even if that treatment is considered “humane”. As sentient beings, non-humans should be viewed as “persons” under the law, and have a right not be exploited for food, clothing, experimentation or entertainment.
What is the difference between animal welfare and animal rights?
By its nature, animal welfare does not oppose animal use; people who promote animal welfare are interested only in changing the way they are used. They seek small reforms – like a slight increase in cage size for battery hens, or banning foie gras. For example, animal welfare promotes the idea that it’s OK to eat meat if we know where it came from and that the animal was treated well before he or she was killed. By contrast, animal rights advocates the abolition of all animal use, and seeks the basic rights for non-humans that I described above.
And continuing with the premise of feelings, do you consider that plants do not have rights? Do you think that the phototropism in plants is not a way of perceiving a feeling?
Phototropism (when a plant grows towards a light source) is an unconscious reaction to a stimulus, not a conscious perception or “feeling”. Plants do not feel because they do not have nervous systems, which is why I don’t consider them capable of self-awareness as we understand the term. I don’t believe that plants are in any way sentient. The same goes for fungi, bacteria and viruses – and rocks, water and air, for that matter.
The human being is considered omnivorous animal that is to say that It likes everything. In addition, the human body needs various basic elements to live a healthy life. Why do you think that the intake of meat is unnatural in people?
I accept that early humans ate a mixed diet including both plants and the flesh of other animals. However, it’s likely that meat comprised only a small proportion of their food, as is the case in, for instance, chimpanzees.
I don’t think it’s natural for humans to eat the large amounts of meat that are consumed today (in Western societies, at least). The links between meat consumption and health problems such as heart disease and cancer illustrate this, and you might have heard the saying “lactose intolerance is nature’s way of telling us we shouldn‘t drink milk”. Humans are the only mammals that continue to drink milk into adulthood and the only ones that drink the milk of other species – that’s unnatural!
If you found in an extreme situation of life and death where would have to eat meat, would you change your idea?
An interesting question! I consider all sentient beings to be equal, so this no different to asking me “Would you eat a human?” People are squeamish at the mere thought of consuming human flesh and most, I suspect, would be horrified by the suggestion that, if hungry enough, they might intentionally kill someone to eat him or her. I feel the same way about non-humans. So what would I eat, if I were starving? I believe I could never kill, for food or anything else, but if there were meat just lying around me – already prepared – perhaps I would eat it, if the alternative would be my death. Of course, one can never really predict how one might react in an extreme situation like that.
If there were live animals around, however – and returning to my earlier point about stock-free farming – it would make far more sense for me to let them alone and eat the plants that surely must also be present. I would rather survive at the bottom of the food chain than become a top predator.
You are aware that it is a controversial topic, have you received the opinion of the readers?
Vegans are used to being viewed as eccentric at best or figures of fun at worst. I find it strange how many omnivores react aggressively to those of us who reject violence towards and exploitation of other sentient beings. However, I think most readers of my book will be sympathetic towards the subject, if not vegans already. If any omnis do wish to read and comment, I am happy to respond!
And now, are you working on a new literary project?
I recently released a follow-up to The Vegan Cat-Lover called (not very originally!) The Vegan Cat-Lover 2. This contains eight more short essays on veganism, speciesism and feline friends. I’m also working on a novel and other fiction projects, and hope to write more vegan-related books in the future.
What book would you recommend to fans De lectura Obligada?
For an accessible introduction to the concept of animal rights, I would recommend Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation by Gary L. Francione. Francione is a Law Professor in the United States and a philosopher specializing in animal rights theory; in this book he challenges the current status of non-human animals as property and promotes veganism as the baseline moral position. An illuminating read for the uninitiated.