I took this picture of two adjacent magazines yesterday in the Whole Foods checkout line. For those who may have been paying attention, this was the message:
“The Animal Mind: How they think. How they feel. How to understand them… and how to dominate them, exploit them and grill them once we’ve killed them”.
(far in the background, a “Real Food” poster depicting fruit hangs virtually unnoticed)
The Time Magazine cover story does not question whether animals think and feel, but rather it plainly indicates that non-human individuals think, feel and can be understood. In a word, they are sentient, and when it comes to inclusion in the moral community, sentience is all that matters. Unfortunately, by choosing a photo of “man’s best friend” as the animals’ representative rather than an individual from a species not commonly held in high regard, fetishized and one of the chosen groups with whom humans often share their homes and lives, Time subtly reinforces the otherization of those animals not fortunate enough to have been deemed by humans to be “pets” and companions.
If It’s “Invisible”, Why Do We See It Everywhere We Look?
Contrary to what a certain “vegan” author – one who promotes reducetarianism and “reducing harm” rather than advocating unequivocal veganism – might suggest, I contend that there is no “invisible belief system” compelling humans to use and eat animals (the concept of “carnism” has certainly sold a lot of books, but so has Dianetics…). The speciesism that underlies and fuels our global society’s deadly disconnect where non-humans are concerned, and its manifestations, could not be more stark, overt and obvious… and it looks like this:
Love, cherish and protect these animals. Enslave, exploit and execute these animals.
Is there a morally significant difference between the two groups?
No. The only difference is the one arbitrarily assigned by non-vegans based on how humans can most benefit from objectifying non-humans and using them as “things” to satisfy our fleeting pleasures. When humans victimize other humans in that way, there is an almost universal outcry against what is rightly understood to be oppression and a vociferous demand that it stop at once. Conversely, when humans victimize non-humans in that way, they begin fabricating easily refutable excuses, rationalizations and justifications to make the unacceptable acceptable. We find “right” ways to do wrong things. We justify killing for pleasure, comfort and convenience.
If one agrees that it is wrong to harm and kill unnecessarily, then since there is no human need to consume animal flesh or secretions or to use animals for any other reasons, animal use is therefore unnecessary and it becomes one’s moral obligation to live vegan.
Denial of reality does not change reality, it merely provides a temporary escape from emotional discomfort and cognitive dissonance. It’s time to stop pretending that the obvious is hidden and work under the premise that fits reality – there are things in this world that are easy to see but difficult to look at. When we agree to look at them together, we can start living in the solution and end the problem for good.
Those who argue against veganism are, knowingly or not, arguing in favor of exploitation, oppression, enslavement, bullying, theft and needless death. Once non-vegans are educated and come to understand these stark realities, changes happen. Lives are transformed.
A vegan world is within our reach.
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Beginning and ending with a brief questionnaire, free of graphic or disturbing images and filled with compelling information on abolitionist vegan advocacy, what veganism is, how to live vegan, the problems with vegetarianism, the humane myth and a plant-based nutrition overview, South Florida Vegan Education Group offers the Embracing Veganism pamphlet as an indispensable tool for unequivocal vegan advocacy.
Our Embracing Veganism pamphlet is a great conversation starter, is free to download, share, distribute and use as a comprehensive vegan advocacy tool and is available here at Turbulence of Dreaming under the SFVEG Downloadable Content tab as well as on our website homepage.
Get yours today! If you’re unable to print them yourself, please email us at VeganEducation@outlook.com and let’s talk about getting some to you! 🙂
The purpose of this essay is to apply critical thinking to how one large animal welfare corporation consistently engages in advocacy that is ineffective, purposely disingenuous and ultimately counterproductive to creating the only change for animals (to borrow a vague phrase they often use) that matters – a vegan world in which non-human individuals are not considered the property of humans. If you are vegan and support/promote this or other large animal welfare corporations that employ similar speciesist tactics, I would ask that you research and reconsider whether you agree that we cannot hope to dismantle speciesism (or oppose any form of oppression) while continuing to engage in it. If you agree, then the most sensible next step is to remove your support from such organizations and commit to unequivocal vegan advocacy. A good place to start researching is by reading the informative articles on UVE Archives, many of which have been audio podcasted on How To Go Vegan.
On June 8, 2017, I received an email from Vegan Outreach entitled “You have to hear about Israel!” Interested to see what VO was so eager to tell me, I opened the email and read their heartwarming tale (<–click here to read Israel’s story in its entirety) of a young man named Israel who was so “inspired… to change” by their compelling information that, two years after receiving their leaflet and having distributed 4000(!) leaflets to fellow students…
…he’s STILL not vegan.
Please note – I do not view Israel’s choice to be vegetarian rather than vegan as a failing of any sort on his part. He may well be doing the best he knows to do considering the information he’s been given. After all, who could blame any individual for adopting a vegetarian diet after receiving VO’s blessing right there in their literature? I do, however, see it as indicative of “Vegan” Outreach’s consistent failure to engage in anything that bears more than a passing resemblance to clear, consistent vegan education.
As I explained in detail in my previous essay regarding Vague-an Outreach, their literature* is problematic in that it, among other things, promotes vegetarianism, contains information that misrepresents what veganism is (a “trend”, a diet) and does not promote veganism as what it truly is – our minimum moral obligation to individuals of other species [*the booklet critiqued in that essay, Compassionate Choices, has since been revised and remains speciesist in much the same way as the previous version. I plan to critique the new version in the near future]. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:
It is shameful that an organization calling itself “Vegan” Outreach would shy away from asking people to live vegan in a clear and coherent manner. Instead, their literature reinforces the ideas that eating vegetarian is enough and that the enslavement of non-humans is a personal choice. If one’s goal is to convince people to take a strong and unyielding moral stance against the exploitation of vulnerable sentient individuals, it’s hardly a good idea to cater to and enable the inherent laziness and selfishness of the general public in an effort to achieve that goal. Such a strategy is in itself lazy and disingenuous and simply will not work.
With that in mind, I can’t say I’m surprised to learn that even Israel, their volunteer who helped them set “a new world record” (I’m sure the good people from the Guinness Book were on hand to authenticate that historic moment…) remains non-vegan two years after receiving his first pamphlet and after over 4000 more have passed through his hands.
When a “vegan” organization that brings in nearly a million dollars a year in donations can’t/won’t produce literature with a clear enough message to convince their own star volunteer to live vegan (not to mention the conversations that one would assume have gone on between Israel and other VO personnel over those two years), it’s hard to find faith that their efforts are very successful in convincing other less receptive members of the public to live vegan.
If, as the email says, every dollar donated “has the potential to create another story like this one” which means, in effect, that every dollar donated may result in a failure to educate another non-vegan to live vegan, then such donations only serve to exacerbate the problem of animal exploitation Vegan Outreach and other large, donation-based animal welfare corporations pretend to be working to solve.
When non-vegans aren’t properly educated to make the one commitment that truly matters – to live vegan – then “change for animals” is not “slow”. It’s nonexistent. “Vegan” Outreach knows this, which makes their self-serving pleas for more donations to effect unspecified “change”, speed up “progress” and help reach mysterious and vague “tipping points” both manipulative and hypocritical.
In the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that, while I’ve never come close to setting any leafleting world records, I am guilty of having handed out many pieces of “Vegan” Outreach litter-ature in my first ten years of living vegan and engaging in what I mistakenly believed to be effective vegan advocacy. Once I finally read the material and applied critical thinking to what I’d read, I was appalled at what I’d been foisting on the public and made the following vow:
As a committed abolitionist vegan, not only will I never hand a Compassionate Choices (or other Vague-an Outreach) booklet to another human being again in my life, but I would rather not hold such a piece of purposeful disinformation in my own hand ever again… unless on my way to a shredder.
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” – Vegan Society 1979
If we want people to live vegan, we have to promote veganism clearly and consistently, being careful not to equivocate, give mixed messages or enable the continuation of animal use in any other way. The dismantling of speciesism, through living vegan and educating others to live vegan, gives us a blueprint for treating all individuals as we ourselves wish to be treated – with fairness, justice and the right to live autonomous lives, free from the enslavement of more powerful “others”.
If you oppose at least one form of violent oppression because you recognize it is morally wrong, then to live in integrity requires opposing all forms of violent oppression because they are all morally wrong. Speciesism, simply by virtue of having the largest number of victims and the highest death toll worldwide, is the most egregious form of violent oppression our world has ever known. It’s time to dismantle speciesism, and the way to do that, again, is through living vegan and educating others to live vegan.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
If you’re like us at South Florida Vegan Education Group (SFVEG) – eager to see true change in the world and help shift the current paradigm that allows and demands the use of non-human animals as disposable, replaceable commodities to serve and satisfy human pleasures and conveniences – then we ask that you please consider making a safe, secure tax-deductible donation via our YouCaring page(<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) to further our vegan education efforts. All donations are tax deductible and are used to cover ongoing printing, travel and entry costs for participation in upcoming events which will help us provide important education to people across Florida and beyond.
***To understand how contributions are allocated, please see list of upcoming events and breakdown of costs below
We feel it is crucial at events such as these that there be a clear, consistentabolitionistvegan message that allanimal use is morally unjustifiable and find that such a message is rarely, if ever, presented amidst the cacophony of animal welfare groups and their pleas of reducing animal “cruelty” and “suffering” (rather than ending animal use) and other unclear, confusing and often confrontational “harm reduction” rhetoric. By directly engaging with the public in an educative fashion, our group provides a true vegan message in an unequivocal, straightforward and non-threatening manner.
We are passionate about empowering individuals with the knowledge that veganism is the primary means of dismantling speciesismand achieving the abolition of animal enslavement, exploitation and execution for human pleasure and convenience, and we do this in a unique way that challenges the status quo of the animal “welfare” movement (and the animal exploiters with whom they purposely partner) as it continues to focus on everything but veganism in order to maximize each other’s profits and keep the wheels of animal agriculture turning.
We are eager to bring our Vegan Education Station everywhere we can and are asking for your support in making that happen. Please donate if you are able and also share our campaign (<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) far and wide to give others the opportunity to join our support network!
As of today, here are the upcoming local events in which we plan to participate (in addition to ongoing tabling and other advocacy efforts):
[I encourage all readers to click theblue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
South Florida Vegan Education Group is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax-deductible.
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Despite some technical difficulties with the audio, on Friday 6/16/17, Trish Roberts of HowToGoVegan.org and VeganTrove.comand I discussed several aspects of veganism and its relation to other social justice issues. Here is the link to the video of the livestream:
Speciesism, analogous with racism and sexism, can be defined as an unjust double standard created by humans placing higher moral value on some individual animals over other individual animals, based solely on the morally irrelevant criterion of species membership.
Speciesist Comment of the Day
Here’s a statement from one of the “superstars” of the animal welfare movement in an article promoting, among other welfarist strategies, MeatlessMeaningless Monday:
“It’s not about being perfect, it’s about moving in the right direction,” Nick Cooney, Executive Vice President of the non-profit animal advocacy organization Mercy for Animals and co-founderThe Good Food Institute, tellsBustle. “Keep in mind no one is perfect and change takes time. If you don’t think you can resist the craving [to eat animal flesh and secretions] right now, it’s much better to have a burger once a week than to give up entirely on your desire to move toward plant-based eating.”
[It should be noted that while MFA – and other large animal welfare corporations – lack moral consistency by promoting speciesism on a daily basis, they do maintain consistency in their messaging as versions of Mr. Cooney’s statement can be found in other MFA publications. This striking similarity in strategy to certain political organizations and individual politicians should not go unnoticed.]
Consider how such a statement would sound if the victims of injustice were human rather than non-human. For example, what if the issue at hand (no pun intended) were spousal abuse? It would sound like this:
“If you don’t think you can r̶e̶s̶i̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶r̶a̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ resist the urge to beat your spouse right now, it’s much better to h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶u̶r̶g̶e̶r̶ beat your spouse once a week than to give up entirely on your desire to move toward p̶l̶a̶n̶t̶-̶b̶a̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶e̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ not beating your spouse altogether.”
When the innocent, vulnerable victims of violent injustices are human, advocates call for an immediate end to said injustices, rather than a gradual shift in a nonviolent direction. When the victims are non-human, advocates often take a much more relaxed, “take your time” approach.
Using one set of standards for human victims of injustice and another for non-human victims of injustice is an inherently speciesist position and is fundamentally unjust itself, as it would be if the sets of victims were not of different species but of different races, gender identities, sexual orientations, classes, etc. One cannot hope to effectively advocate against injustice while participating in injustice.
[I encourage all readers to click theblue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites.]
The problem is not how we exploit animals – the problem is thatwe exploit animals in the first place, so the solution is not to reduce animal abuse; it’s to eliminate animal use… and that solution lies in educating people to live vegan.
If you’re a bank robber and one day realize that robbing banks is morally wrong, you don’t seek better ways to rob banks – you just stop robbing them (unless you’re determined to be a criminal and are willing to pay the consequences if caught, or a sociopath and can’t determine right from wrong). To paraphrase the Roman philosopher Seneca’s wise words, there’s no point in trying to find the right way to do a wrong thing.
Meatless Monday – A Toothless Campaign
According to my research, the idea of Meatless Monday began nearly 100 years in the United States as a way to ration food to help with the war effort. It was revived in 2003, according to www.meatlessmonday.com, as a “public health awareness campaign” in order to address “…the prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption.” On their “Why Meatless?” page, in 11 paragraphs and 796 words, there is nothing that speaks about the suffering, confinement, enslavement and slaughter of the non-human animals the campaign is suggesting people abstain from eating one day a week. This campaign is clearly not part of any social justice movement intended to help abolish the property status of animals, nor to help any animal in any way – unless that animal is of the human variety and wants to optimize her/his health, as its stated aim is to help humans lower their risk of contracting preventable chronic diseases linked with the consumption of animal products (heart disease, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, to name a few). In short, Meatless Monday is rooted in the same self-centered egotism, speciesism and myth of human supremacythat allows humans the self-proclaimed “right” to destroy the lives of non-human animals wantonly and with no regard for their well-being, feelings or right to live autonomous lives without human interference.
Even though it’s clear that the Meatless Monday campaign has nothing to do with helping to bring an end to the exploitation of non-human animals (even though some people claim every meatless meal “saves” X-number of animals, as if skipping a hamburger results in, somewhere, a cow being magically transported from a slaughterhouse to a sanctuary), many vegans – including high-profile celebrity “vegans” – lend their names to and continue to support this campaign, rationalizing that it is “part of a journey” toward veganism –even though it promotes a version of vegetarianism rather than veganism. Some seem to believe it’s necessary to encourage non-vegans to take “baby steps” and that “every little bit helps”.
Eating plants won’t save animals. Dismantling speciesism to abolish animal use will save animals.
It’s my contention that one does not encourage people to practice ethical behavior only when personally convenient or in accordance with some arbitrary set of rules. Coddling those who continue to exploit others when they are well aware that their choices and behaviors condemn individuals to miserable lives and horrific, unnecessary deaths is simply unacceptable. We would never suggest that serial killers take “baby steps” and observe Murder-Free Mondays, would we? Of course not. We would explain to them why their behavior is wrong (assuming they didn’t already know) and demand they stop at once or face dire consequences. What consequences do we impose on those who pay others to do their killing for them so they can dine on the carcasses of vulnerable animals? None… but Nature does (see preventable chronic diseases listed above).
“Meatless” Does More Harm Than Good – From the Industry’s Own Mouth
Further, asking non-vegans to go “meat-free” may do more harm than good as it has been shown that people who give up meat for a short time tend to increase their consumption of animal secretions such as dairy and eggs to offset their deprivation of meat through that time period. Here is a quote connecting “meatless” campaigns and rises in egg demand and consumption from a 2015 interview on the Diane Rehm show (the specific audio clip comes at about 43:23, a courtesy for those who don’t want to sit through listening to rationalizations and justifications abouteggs and “welfare”):
“Just back to that other question about the ‘Meatless’. One of the reasons why the egg industry and demand is (sic) going up is because a lot of the families, like one day a week, are having meatless dinners and they’re substituting eggs for that meatless meal, so that’s another good reason why the egg consumption is going up in this country.” – Paul Sauder, president of Sauder Eggs, chairman of the American Egg Board and a board member of United Egg Producers
Interestingly, if that’s the effect of only one meatless meal per week, the net effect of an entire meatless day (3-5 meals?) such as on Meatless Monday or an entire meatless week would be to cause an even greater increase in egg consumption.
By encouraging non-vegans to take just one day off per week from a particular form of animal use, tacit permission and support are given for them to continue their use unabated the rest of the week. Is that really the message we want to give, whether directly or indirectly? Supporting animal exploitation 6 days a week instead of 7 is like supporting spousal abuse 85% of the time instead of 100%. Who does that?? Answer:
Perpetrators who want to get away with what they can whenever they can, that’s who.
There are those who support the baby-step “journeys” of non-vegans to become vegan – some of which take 2-3 decades or longer – and suggest we should “give them a break, they will eventually arrive”. While I understand that not every person will go vegan overnight (though many of us have), we vegans must remain clear that this is their choice and not our suggestion, remaining unequivocal that anything less than embracing veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species is to continue being complicit in animal exploitation and needless death. For the billions of non-human animals who suffer and die waiting for “eventually” to happen, “eventually” is unacceptable and arrives much too late. If we see a woman being raped, we don’t go help her “eventually”, nor do we wait for the rapist to complete his “journey” to living a rape-free life, asking him to maybe rape a little less every day and applauding him when he goes a whole day without raping anyone.
What drives some people to accept such an unacceptable double-standard when the victims are non-human animals? The answer is speciesism, the most egregious and deadly form of oppression in existence on our planet today.
Veganism should be the starting point on a journey to live as ethically as possible, not some future goal to attain when one is finally ready to live nonviolently.
Some ask why this same debate repeats every “Meatless” Monday, so here’s why:
Every Monday, some people take a mere 16 hours off from participating in an endless worldwide animal holocaust and actually seem to believe this is somehow commendable and effective. During the Holocaust, I’m sure all the Nazis took naps now and then. That didn’t help their victims at all because, after nap time was over, the terrorism and killing continued. The sad reality of this ineffectual campaign is that every Meatless Meaningless Monday is immediately followed by Return to Terrorism Tuesday and We Keep Killing Wednesday (and on through the week). Imagine if there were campaigns for Rape-Free Fridays or Child Abuse-Free Thursdays – would we applaud those well-intentioned baby steps too? Isn’t it a better use of our limited time, energy and resources to work on creating Exploitation-Free EveryDay by consistently promoting veganism?
If we as vegans refuse to commit to a 100% effort toward clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education, how can we expect non-vegans to commit to a 100% vegan life when, by engaging in and promoting speciesist single-issue campaigns, we’re essentially giving them permission to exploit animals most, but not all, of the time?
Baby steps are for babies. I challenge my fellow vegans to be the adults we are and stop promoting reduction over abolition, which only makes the unacceptable seem acceptable and maintains the speciesist status quo. This behavior is known as enabling and, the sooner it stops, the sooner real change begins.
If you’re already vegan, please stop making it OK for others to continue destroying the lives of non-human animals by lending your support to half-measures like Meatless Meaningless Monday and the other useless, ineffective and counter-productive single-issue campaigns promoted by animal welfare organizations that treat “vegan” like a dirty word. Instead, let’s focus our efforts on clear, consistent vegan education wherever and whenever we can, being unequivocal about the idea of veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of the animals with whom we share this small planet.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites.]