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On Rebecca Francis, Hunting, and Being an Animal Lover

17/04/2015 17:29 BST | Updated 17/06/2015 10:59 BST

Hunters huh? What must have happened to them in their lives to make them want to kill a beautiful animal then photograph themselves next to him, smiling? This is the question being repeated by animal lovers across the world this week.

The reason? One of the UK's favourite animal lovers, Ricky Gervais, asked that very question whilst sharing a rather emotive picture of hunter, Rebecca Francis, lying next to a giraffe she had just killed.

What must've happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal and then lie next to it smiling?

Posted by Ricky Gervais on Monday, 13 April 2015

Now, I've long considered myself an animal lover, and for as long as I can remember I've abhorred hunting. It has always troubled me as to how anyone could willingly take the life of a living being just for pleasure. I could never see myself being anything like people who do that kind of thing. I'd always seen myself as somebody who held the view that it's wrong to unnecessarily harm or kill animals. Or at least that's what I used to believe.

However there came a point, several years ago, when my views began to change. Something happened to me: I came to realise that animals being killed wasn't just something that was caused by other people. It was something that I was responsible for too. Of course I knew where my food came from; I wasn't that naive. But looking back, I realise there's knowing, and there's knowing.

Pretty much every day, in one way or another, I was responsible for animals being killed. Ordering at restaurants. Tucking into my 'free-range' bacon and eggs at the weekend. Making myself a milky cup of tea. Sitting on my leather sofa. Shopping for the latest season's shoes or bag. Buying cleaning products. Washing my hair. Putting make-up on my face.

All these things I did with items containing one or more ingredients that had either come from the bodies of animals who had been killed, or had been tested on animals who were subsequently killed. I paid for these items, and in doing so; I was paying for animals to be killed. I, an animal lover, was directly responsible for people killing animals.

How could I say I love animals whilst paying for them to be killed? What had happened to me in my life, to want to pay people to kill beautiful animals and then sit in front of pieces of their bodies, smiling, before eating them?

The truth is, nothing unusual happened to make me do these things. I was simply doing what everyone around me was doing, as I had always known to do. It began to dawn on me that I wasn't so different from people like Rebecca Francis. Like her, and like pretty much everyone else around me, I grew up thinking that what I was doing is just part of the 'circle of life', just the way things are.

But then something happened to me. I had just seen a video of two cows awaiting slaughter. It wasn't particularly graphic, and I had seen worse videos before. However, for some reason, that particular video, on that particular day I wasn't able to rationalise away as I had done previously.

That the video wasn't particularly graphic was possibly partly why it got to me so much. I had managed to convince myself, up until that point, that so long as an animal had a quick and 'humane' death, that it was ok to kill them - because we need to eat, and so it must just be a necessary evil.

Not quite. Something dawned on me whilst watching this video: That it doesn't matter how we go about the process, there is no kind way to take the life of an individual who does not wish to die. It was clear from these cows' beautiful but terrified faces, their panicked movements, they did not want to die.

I suddenly realised in a way that I hadn't before, that if I really loved animals, I shouldn't be paying people to kill them for me. Not in this age where we are surrounded with supermarkets, stocked to the brim with all manner of delicious plant-based foods, shopping centres with stacks of cruelty-free alternatives for everything we could possibly want. Sure, these alternatives don't always look, taste, or feel the same. But is the way something tastes, looks, or feels really a good enough reason to kill somebody who does not wish to die?

The answer of course is no, it's not ok. It's never ok to kill when we have no need to, just for pleasure. As uncomfortable as it may be to think about it - whether it's trophy hunting or tucking into a familiarly favoured animal-based food, we do so not out of necessity, but because it's easy, because it's the way we've always done it, and we do it because we enjoy it.

How we go about it makes no difference. Whether we hide behind a bush with a crossbow in our hands all day, or pay somebody else to do the deed for us, it makes little difference to the individuals who are killed. They still die. They're still deprived of the life they wanted to keep.

And so, if we really are a nation of animal lovers, we should ask ourselves this: If we really love animals, if we really believe it's wrong to unnecessarily harm and kill them, why do we still do it? The truth is, if like me, you're an animal lover, if you believe it's wrong to harm or kill animals when there is no need, then you already believe in veganism.