Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
When vegans make claims about the world moving closer to becoming vegan, and the ease of veganism, I wonder if we consider people in countries like Afghanistan, and the struggles they face just to stay alive, and protect their family. These and similar problems are being faced by millions of humans today, and every day. How do we address veganism under these circumstances, and are we being realistic to believe that we should, from the relative luxury of being in a position where our options are not only grow opium, sell your children into sex-slavery, or be killed?
Would you hand over your daughter to pay a debt; or even to save your own life? That's the position faced by many farmers in Afghanistan - a country where women and young girls are seen as tradable goods. While the world has been horrified to see an Afghan woman executed for alleged adultery, it's now clear that Afghanistan Government policies, supported by NATO and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), are fuelling the trade in children.
It starts in the poppy fields of eastern Afghanistan. For many farmers, growing and selling opium to smugglers is the only way to alleviate poverty. The opium they grow, refined into heroin, is then sold illegally on the streets of cities across the world, with devastating results.
Over the past few years the Afghan Government, encouraged by NATO and ISAF, has embarked on a massive eradication program to destroy poppy fields in the most popular growing areas. They tell farmers to grow other crops like maize and wheat.
The strategy is well intentioned, but it creates a major problem for farming families, who in their desperation have borrowed money from traffickers to grow their crops. When crops are destroyed the farmers can't pay back the loans. As a result the traffickers seek compensation, telling farmers: "give us your daughters or we will kill you". Girls as young as six and young boys are sold into sex-slavery, to save their fathers.
Multi-award-winning reporter Najibullah Quraishi journeyed deep into the Afghan countryside to reveal the personal and social devastation the eradication program is causing. He shows how the Taliban protects and encourages heroin smugglers to finance opium growing, in return for a cut of the profits. He meets the families whose children have been stolen and those who are under threat from the drug lords. What we see is the deadly bargain local farmers are being forced to make in order to save their own lives.
Opium Brides follows the stories of four families under threat and on the run from traffickers. By the end, only two girls remain free, forced into hiding from the opium smugglers. As one 11-year-old girl tells us:
"If they take me, I'll have to kill myself. Death is better than sorrow and sadness."
"Opium Brides" - reported by Najibullah Quraishi, produced by Jamie Doran and presented by Kerry O'Brien - went to air on Monday 16thJuly at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 17th July at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm or on ABC iview.
Vegan is love, and love is the only thing that is going to stop insanity such as this. If governments are torching the poppy fields, and expect farmers to grow wheat or maize, then they need to subsidize the transition, not destroy the farmers. If the NATO and ISAF are aware of the complexity of this issue, this is the real crime, and they need to stop this failed approach they are taking. This seems pretty clear from here, the people in NATO are better educated than I am, and corrupt governments need to be dealt with.