Health

The coronavirus vaccine goes against my vegan beliefs – but I’m still taking it


To end the pandemic that has blighted our lives for the past year, a nationwide taking of the vaccine is vital (Picture: Cerys Turner)

When my vegan mum told me she won’t be taking the coronavirus vaccine because it was tested on animals, I was understandably shocked.

Besides health fears and government conspiracies, I hadn’t realised that the fact it was trialled on animals would be enough to convince some not to have the jab.

She argued that without enough of us standing up against animal exploitation, testing will sadly continue. It’s upsetting to hear my mum say that she won’t be taking the vaccine because coronavirus has already taken over 100,000 lives in the UK and I would never want my mum to become part of those figures by choosing not to have the shot.

As a vegan myself, I completely understand her point but I’ve decided that I will get immunised.

Although I am statistically less at risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, having the dose will help prevent me from endangering those who are. Plus, as a university student, my life has been completely turned upside down by national restrictions: the vaccine offers a way out.

When I first became a vegan, it wasn’t easy giving up milk chocolate and halloumi fries, however, the minor inconveniences of not having dairy and meat products were overcome by the benefits of adopting a plant-based lifestyle.

Not only does it decrease your risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, but it is also the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact.

When the first successful trials for a coronavirus jab were announced in November last year, I didn’t question whether the vaccine had been tested on animals. Sadly, I automatically knew that to be the case.

Despite the fact it went against my beliefs to not contribute to animal suffering, I was immediately confident in my decision to have the jab because it was the safest and most promising path back to normality.

Although there’s been extensive developments in recent years in vegan-friendly products and an additional 40% increase of Brits adopting plant-based diets in the past 12 months according to Finder UK, modern medicine is yet to catch up.

Animal testing is still one of the first points of call in biomedical research and in such a global crisis as the coronavirus pandemic, I knew the moral conundrum of animal testing was probably the last thing on scientists’ minds.

Even though I have a firm objection to animal experimentation, I have always been resolute in my decision to have the jab. I recognise that, to end the pandemic that has blighted our lives for the past year, a nationwide taking of the vaccine is vital.

However, this doesn’t mean it was a decision I made lightly. Animal testing has always been a controversial subject.

The UK has strict laws that require potential new medicines to be tested on animals before they can be safely trialled on human volunteers. Regulations – such as those enforced by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 – are also in place to promote more humane testing on animals, including specific training for researchers and safeguarding protected animals.

We don’t need to look far into the future to envision an alternative to animal testing (Picture: Cerys Turner)

But what does humane actually mean? In 2019, over 3.4million mice, dogs, monkeys, and other animals were experimented on, according to the latest Government figures. That number is likely to be even higher once statistics for the coronavirus vaccine trials have been published.

Specifically, the animal trials for the coronavirus vaccine use mice, monkeys and ferrets – with some of the testing involving keeping the animals in labs and injecting them with the virus to observe the course of the disease.

These animals have been bred – and in the case of the mice, genetically engineered – for the purpose of scientific research, and can live their short lives in the confines of a laboratory cage – living in unfamiliar and stressful environments, transported between buildings, and sometimes living in unclean conditions.

This is one of the main arguments against animal testing – treating animals as commodities to use and dispose of at our wish, rather than as sentient creatures who have a right to freedom.

So while I may be taking the vaccine, I can empathise with those vegans – like my mum – opting not to.

But in my opinion, while taking the vaccine is rightfully a choice, we must weigh up the potential consequences that not taking the jab may have. Not only will you be at an increased risk of catching and spreading the virus, but the impact that your illness would have on your loved ones is incomparable.

Although vegans believe in causing the least harm possible through their lifestyle choices, unfortunately, no one can lead a completely innocent life.

The decision to not take the jab may also lead to many people becoming seriously ill and dying from the virus. Peta has also stated that refusing to take the vaccine will not prevent any animals from being harmed in medical testing. 

According to The Vegan Society, over 500,000 people signed up for Veganuary this January, and that number is likely only to increase in the years to come as we become more aware of the impact our diet has on both our health and the environment.

With this, more people will be exposed to the awful reality behind animal testing, and just like how support for the fur trade has dropped due to exposure of its cruel practices, perhaps we will see the tide turn in favour of a more ethical substitute to using animals in medical research too.

We don’t need to look far into the future to envision an alternative to animal testing.

Despite the common perception, there are already many options beginning to grow in prominence: computer modelling, trials on human volunteers and in vitro – human cells grown in a state-of-the-art system – are just a few examples.

The government made a commitment in 2010 to reduce the amount of animals used in scientific research – a decision that suggests that they recognise that animal testing is not only inhumane but also capable of substitution. However, over 10 years on, the UK remains one of the highest lab animal users in Europe.

It is sad that so many of us are forced to sacrifice our beliefs to continue this archaic practice.

However, we need to see the bigger picture: as a vegan, choosing not to take the vaccine will have a far more significant impact on your loved ones and those around you than it will on the medical community.

If you are a vegan questioning whether or not take the jab, remember – there is no such thing as being a ‘bad vegan’. Your health comes first.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing james.besanvalle@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.


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