The trend of veganism has taken the food and health industry by storm, with studies showing that the plant-based lifestyle has grown 500% since 2014.
We cannot deny that there are many benefits to a vegan diet. 80% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to livestock production, and eating too much red meat is also linked to health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, not to mention the cruelty to animals in the farming industry. But still even after we know all this, most meat eaters like me, still continue to turn a blind eye and ignore the evidence.
Virtual reality has been used as a powerful tool for quite some time, with charities using it to immerse people into the lives and environment of those less fortunate. When you are sitting in a virtual world with a starving child in front of you first hand, it is difficult to feel anything but empathy. Now vegan activists from the group Animal Equality, an international animal protection group, are using the technology for a similar use, to show meat eaters the horrors that we usually choose to ignore. As the joke goes, ‘How do you know someone is a vegan? Don’t worry they will tell you’. In this case, they will not only tell you, but they will also show you.
The short film, ‘iAnimal: The dairy industry in 360-degrees’ will be shown in ethical and animal cruelty-free Lush cosmetics shop in Oxford’s Westgate Shopping Centre, using virtual reality headsets. The film shows a first-person view of the life and death of cows from birth to slaughter. The idea behind the film is that virtual reality is giving the public first-hand access to an unseen secretive world of the slaughterhouse. The footage includes graphic scenes of a cow’s throat being slit and the cruelty calves go through, and is meant to help viewers make more informed choices about the food that they eat.
As a meat eater with a vegan best friend, I am entirely aware of the benefits of not eating meat. I know the cruelty and environmental issues caused by meat consumption. I know that I should eat less of it, and yet I still continue to eat it. Is it because it tastes nice? Or because it’s a lifelong habit? Or is it because the meat we eat is often packaged in a box on a shiny supermarket shelf, in a way that allows us to ignore that fact that it actually comes from a cute animal? Maybe immersing my head into a set to see a cow being slaughtered may make me think twice about absentmindedly eating a Mcdonald’s burger without a thought to the animal it is made out of.
Paul McCartney once famously said ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians’. So maybe virtual reality will be the glass wall to open the eyes of many meat eaters, into facing the food that we eat.