Imagine you and your family are traveling in a foreign country that considers people from your country to be of an inferior race, and that the country’s economy is based on capturing, enslaving and ultimately murdering citizens of your country once they’re no longer useful with no serious legal repercussions other than an economic inconvenience here and there and a couple of low-level patsies losing their jobs after some undercover video evidence of “horrific practices” is leaked (but soon finding jobs in similar situations), mostly slap-on-the-wrist stuff leading to promises to “be more humane” and assurances that “We had no idea about these isolated incidences, we are appalled!”.
Imagine you’re all taken hostage and your captors’ stated intentions are that the males in your family are to be put to hard labor, tortured and then executed and the females kept alive to be tortured, raped and forced to produce more offspring for enslavement (again, eventually everyone’s executed once their “productivity” wanes) and keep the cycle going for generations, as has been their common practice for years. Now, as one of the hostages (pick a gender), would you want, need or be in any way satisfied with advocates working to get you “improvements” such as a better view while you wait to die, a smaller blowtorch with which to be tortured or a more comfortable bed on which to be repeatedly raped? Doubtful. If those are the goals for which they advocate, they might as well help sharpen the killing blade while they’re at it to make your death as painless as possible (another “improvement”, some might say) because, inevitably, death is what’s coming.
If I and my family were taken hostage in such a scenario, our instincts for survival and sense of self-interest would dictate that we would want someone to come to the rescue and get us the hell out of there as quickly as possible. While that would provide immediate relief to us, it would create a vacancy soon to be filled by others (the repercussions of which will be discussed two paragraphs from now). And what becomes of those held hostage alongside us and those who will find themselves in the same situation in the months, years and decades to come? While rescue has its benefits to those being rescued, it would be much more important to educate these people (and the world) that this behavior is morally unacceptable on every conceivable level and that my race deserves equal consideration as their race – which means the right not to be used and abused by anyone as their property – thus shifting the paradigm to bring an end to this cycle of ritualistic, systematic, psychopathic abuse and needless, unjustifiable killing.
But the scenario I’ve just described isn’t a simple hostage situation and this isn’t happening to us – it’s happening to animals.
What I’ve described is what humans do to individuals of other species by the billionsevery year across the world. And what we would NEVER knowingly or willingly allow to happen to humans for any preventable length of time, we keep allowing to happen to animals. In fact, we demand it with our dollars. “But we’re really trying“, say those who, with all good intentions, implement, support and engage in single-issue, welfarist campaigns designed to minimize – as oppose to end – the injustices we regularly impose on non-human animals (there’s a saying in certain circles that “trying is lying”). Our current laws consider animals our “property”, which gives them no real rights ever and essentially gives permission for humans to do as they please to non-humans. There is no “negotiation” to gain freedom for these individuals, as they are someone’s property and there’s nothing illegal about confining them against their will, as there is with kidnapping humans. In fact, if one rescues an animal from such a situation, the “rescuer” is the one who has broken the law. Since changes in law follow social change rather than the reverse being true, when we advocate for anything less than living vegan we engender, foster and support speciesism, a double standard (analogous with racism and sexism) 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. It would logically follow that those who do not support racism and sexism would havea moral obligation not to support speciesism, and yet, people of seemingly good moral character continue to do just that, offering no better reasons than palate pleasure, comfort, convenience, entertainment and habit – in short, selfishness.
The Repercussions of Open Rescue
There is another factor that should be considered in scenarios where animals are removed from facilities that confine and use them for profit, a form of direct action “activism” that has again become fashionable – and financially lucrative – under the designation “open rescue” as coordinated by various animal “welfare” corporations who intentionally do not focus on unequivocal vegan education but rather take a scattershot, every-little-bit-helps approach to “saving the animals”. As long as non-human animals are considered property/things and disposable, replaceable economic units, then every animal “rescued” from such facilities will be replaced by at least one other individual in order to restock the shelves and keep the system rolling along and profitable. In order to bring in the replacement(s) for the one(s) rescued, someone needs to be held captive and forcibly impregnated with sperm forcibly obtained by someone else held captive (which is, without argument, interspecies sexual abuse) and another someone needs to be born and forcibly removed from their mother to be used to fill that newly empty space in the facility. So, sadly, while one individual has been granted some sort of freedom (and hopefully brought to a sanctuary, though that’s never a guarantee), at least three more will have been exploited and nothing will have changed in terms of shifting the current paradigm of animals-as-property.
Although they tug at one’s heartstrings, the reality is that the net result of “open rescues” is more exploitation and more death, rather than less, which would indicate that these forms of “activism” are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.
They do, however, successfully tug at purse strings and result in an uptick in popularity and donations for the animal welfare organizations that coordinate these counterproductive activities:
Please read this essay from Legacy of Pythagoras that examines Direct Action Everywhere’s (DxE) misguided philosophy and strategy:
The solution to the problem of animal use is to dismantle speciesism through clear, consistent vegan education.
For those who are afraid of “driving people away” by unequivocally advocating veganism, I find this fear to be unfounded and without merit. If anything about vegan advocacy “drives people away”, it isn’t the idea of veganism; it’s likely the method by which some individuals aggressively and abrasively present the simple, gentle, logical idea of living a nonviolent vegan life. Isn’t it time we stopped operating from fear and just did what we know is right according to our own morals and ethics? Fear is the driving force behind every atrocity the world has ever known, including the animal holocaust we’re dealing with here. Einstein (by all accounts, a pretty bright fella) is quoted as saying, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
If you’re “afraid” to be direct and honest about veganism, I challenge you to move through the fear and do what you know is right. After all, your “fear” is nothing compared to the real fears being felt right now by the animals we all want to save. To operate from fear in this light is to operate from pure selfishness and ego, and that helps no one. In fact, it only serves to allow more injustice, unnecessary suffering and death to all involved.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue linksembedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimerregarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimerregarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
Gimme Some Truth
Someone asked me recently whether Thanksgiving will be “hard” for me, considering “all the turkeys that are killed”.
And for those non-vegans who are bothered by the notion of animal “cruelty“, such euphemistic labeling allows them to continue consuming animals while under the comforting yet erroneous belief that they are discharging their moral responsibility toward non-human individuals by only choosing the ones who weren’t overtly brutalized before being butchered.
This is why I define marketing as“lies designed to separate people from their money and their morals“.
I submit the following from the above photo of packaged animal parts for your consideration:
“Grateful Harvest” – the decapitated, de-feathered, disemboweled remains of an exploited individual is nothing for anyone to be grateful about. This is not a harvest – it is a life cut short for no justifiable reason, as is the life of any sentient individual taken for palate pleasure or other selfish human conveniences.
“Organic” – seriously, who cares? Dead is dead, and decomposition of flesh begins immediately upon death. Does it really matter if the corpse one is putting in one’s mouth is “organic”?
“Raised without antibiotics… added hormones or steroids” – what’s not mentioned here is “killed with a sharp knife across the throat while struggling for her life after having endured unimaginable torment and misery from birth to blade” which, while accurate, would probably be frowned upon from a marketing perspective. The truth usually is.
“Fed no animal by-product” – well that’s a relief, ‘cos no one wants to eat an animal who’s eaten an animal… right? It’s always ironic that so many humans, who as a species are biologically and physiologically herbivores, choose mostly to consume members of other herbivorous species in a misguided effort to meet their nutritional needs by eating animals who we feed plants… rather than just eating the plants directly and leaving the animals to live their lives autonomously and free from exploitation and premature death. A whole foods, plants-only diet is a win-win for everyone – we get our nutrients directly from the source with optimum bioavailability (as they’re not filtered through another animal’s digestive system, which is like asking someone to eat and digest your food for you and then killing and eating them so you can eat and digest the food you asked them to eat and digest for you. Does that make any sense at all? If you answered “no”, then ask yourself why, if you consume animals, you’re doing exactly that) and no individual is condemned to death and dismemberment to become someone else’s food.
“No preservatives”– again, who cares? This is a corpse; it’s only slightly removed from roadkill. I would think that eating rotting flesh ought to be considered far less appetizing than consuming “preservatives”.
“Free-range” – if whatever passes for that “range” (usually a giant warehouse crammed wall-to-wall with thousands of turkeys awaiting execution – just Google “free range facility” to put that myth to rest) was truly free, this turkey and his/her relatives would still be intact, alive and enjoying their freedom.
Bottom line – no matter how much one polishes a turd, it’s still gonna stink like shit. In this age of readily-available information, there is no excuse for believing this kind of shit. To paraphrase a line from Steve Martin’s brilliant L.A. Story, one of my favorite films:
Free your mind and your body will follow.
This Thanksgiving – and every day – please stop pretending there’s nothing morally repugnant about having an autopsy on your dinner table… and ask yourself whether you’d so willingly accept that if the victim on the plate were human instead of non-human.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimerregarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
Co-written by Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya
Wednesday Morning at 7 o’clock As the Day Begins
On Wednesday 11/8/2017 over an 8-hour span, I once again received back-to-back emails from not one, not two, not three, not four… ok, four of the major animal welfare (not rights, mind you – welfare) organizations with similarly-themed messages of how to be more “compassionate” around the upcoming holidays. In fact, two of the emails had the word “compassion” and “compassionate” in the subject line:
Receipt of such emails all in one day is a common occurrence for me, and it’s no coincidence such email solicitations always arrive just before payday – I’m sure there are studies proving this is the optimal time to send donation requests – as handy reminders of the stellar work they’re doing that only their dedicated and knowledgeable staff and volunteers can do (undercover “cruelty” investigations, “pressuring” non-vegan restaurant chains to add plant-based options, throwing self-congratulatory parties)… and only with my donations. I’ll offer a brief look at the content of the emails.
What’d I Say?
Mercy for Animals (MFA) informed me that “Animal torture has been exposed inside yet another government-owned slaughterhouse…” and that “unthinkable cruelty” was happening before slaughterhouse workers were “…stringing [pigs] upside down and cutting open their throats” which, if I’m not mistaken, is how they’re generally slaughtered. The assured me that I can “make a difference” by “making a special donation today as part of the Million-Dollar Challenge” and by taking the “Veg Pledge”… which unfortunately does not equate to living vegan. In fact, they make a vague suggestion (see below) to “choose compassionate vegan alternatives” (which, I suppose, could be added to any meal right alongside the animal flesh and secretions that might already be there. That may make it different, but it certainly doesn’t “make a difference”) while offering a VEGETARIAN Starter Guide, furthering the time-honored animal welfare tradition of conflating vegan and vegetarian as if there are one and the same.
“The best way to help cows, pigs, and other farmed animals is simply to choose compassionate vegan alternatives. Sign up here to get your free VegetarianStarter Guide, meat-free recipes, news, and tips.”
Compassion Over Killing (COK) invited me to “celebrate compassion!” at their event costing $100-150 per ticket, which I wouldn’t be interested in doing even if it were free and happening next door to my house (since they’re actually just celebrating themselves as a corporation). When they start talking about justice, I’ll start celebrating, albeit warily as I try to figure out what their angle is. Much like MFA, they did offer me another opportunity to “…still lend your support to help us continue our life-saving work for animals in the year ahead. Please donate now! All donations through December 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar!”
Vegan Outreachasked me to sign a petition asking a non-vegan pizza company to add “a delicious vegan cheese pizza” to their menu and “Heck—throwing in a few toppings like meatless pepperoni or savory sausage crumbles would be even better!” They also reminded me that they’re “…working to expose and end cruelty to animals through the widespread distribution of our booklets promoting plant-based eating and compassion for animals” (again with the compassion…). Rather than promoting “plant-based eating”, a concept so vague that it’s anybody’s guess as to what it means and can actually be defined as eating salads with animal flesh and secretions on top (“Well, it is plant-based…”), is it unreasonable to expect that a corporation called Vegan Outreach might promote, say, veganism?
Lastly, before offering a Meatout Monday recipe, Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) reminded me that Thanksgiving is “the perfect opportunity to share a compassionate meal with friends and family” (more compassion – yay!!!). They suggested I “invite others to experience how amazing a vegan meal is for your health, the environment, and of course for the animals!” In the spirit of consistently putting animals last on the list of reasons not to eat animals, they go on: “Whether you’re looking to improve your health, are environmentally-conscious, or truly care about the animals*, the holidays are the perfect time to celebrate life together over a delicious, plant-based meal” (ah, plant-based!). They also offer a pledge to “go vegan for Thanksgiving”, as if abstaining from products of animal exploitation for one meal or even one entire day equates to embracing veganism. Once again, a major animal welfare corporation muddies the waters and erroneously equates eating one plants-only meal with living vegan.
Who’s to Blame?
I want to be clear that I find no fault with those who operate at the volunteer levels of these MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing-Manipulation)-style welfare corporations, as I am sure that they, just like me, join the ranks in hopes of making real change for animals with a corporation that purports to be doing exactly that, since the idea of taking on such tasks individually seems overwhelmingly daunting and often leads to feelings of despair and hopelessness. Enter the smooth and seductive siren song of the large animal welfare corporation(s) to offer comfort, community and a cure – “Join us and help the animals! Be a voice for the voiceless and stand with like-minded people who are already working to solve the problem of animal cruelty/abuse!”. I know that I was once brainwashed and beguiled by the manipulative messaging of MFA, COK, PeTA, H$U$ and the like and would have continued engaging with, supporting and promoting them and their single-issue campaigns had I not been shown the hypocrisy, ineffectiveness and counterproductiveness of their methods and messaging. Just as with other multi-level marketing or pyramid scheme models, eager volunteers are recruited by those in higher positions or at the same level but with time in the organization and used to bring in more recruits and/or solicit donations, in this case through handing out free organization literature and/or convincing people to join email lists, both of which do provide information about the plight of animals and welfare reforms but are ultimately mechanisms for bringing in donor dollars.
Essentially, these very organizations operating under the pretense of working to stop the exploitation of non-humans are engaging in the exploitation of the humans they enlist to perform for low or no pay in the service of increasing the organization’s financial bottom line. Volunteers and low-level employees are used for their time, energy and effort in such areas as fundraising, undercover investigations and member recruitment while being inculcated with the false belief that the corporation they serve is working to create a better world for animals. Meanwhile, millions in donor dollars and grants roll in each year, salaries are paid to those in higher positions, careers are solidified, agendas are furthered… and animals remain property to be used, discarded and replaced despite all the “critical”, “eye-opening”, “groundbreaking”, “life-saving” work supposedly being done on their behalf.
I observed this phenomenon in action during set-up at a South Florida “veg” fest in fall 2016. While strolling past the Mercy for Animals table, I observed the MFA coordinator (someone I know and with whom I have interacted – a sort of local animal welfare “star” – but whose identity I will not reveal) pointedly instructing the lower-level volunteers that they need to focus on getting people to join the MFA email list: “Sign-ups, sign-ups, sign-ups!!! At an event like this, we should be able to get at least [inaudible something-hundred number] new sign-ups.” Since fall is the season for year-end fundraising, dollar-for-dollar matching and million-dollar challenges, the push to focus on email “sign-ups” rather than engaging with and educating the public was not surprising. The coordinator’s forceful tone of voice seemed to indicate that obedience to this directive was not open for debate.
In the eyes of the animal welfare corporations, every person is a potential donor, and the more people who are reached by email, snail mail, street “activism”, college leafleting, social media and other methods, the deeper the potential donor pool. Slick and glossy publications, videos and emails are carefully crafted to tug at both heartstrings and purse strings. Note the use of evocative and melodramatic language in this email donation plea received 11/9/2017. One can almost hear the minor-key string section playing in the background while the somber narrator intones:
“Suffering animals—like Clara and Max—need you to act now.
When our brave undercover investigator met Clara at a Hormel pork supplier earlier this year, the gentle and intelligent pig was pregnant and forced to live in a gestation crate so small she couldn’t even turn around. Once Clara gave birth, all her babies, including little Max, were taken away from her and mutilated without painkillers.
Your compassion enables MFA to continue speaking out for defenseless animals and put an end to cruel practices like tail docking, castration, and cramming animals into tiny cages.
With you by our side, we’ll conduct even more eye-opening undercover investigations like the just-released footage captured at a Mexican slaughterhouse. We’ll also pressure more of the largest food companies to end the worst forms of abuse in their supply chains, and we’ll inspire millions of people to leave animals like Max and Clara off their plates for good.
I know that it breaks your heart to see and hear about such horrific animal abuse. That’s why I’m asking you to please help MFA make 2018 our most impactful year yet. Together, we can end this cruelty and create a kinder world for all animals.”
Nathan Runkle President
In the Multi-Level-Manipulation world of animal welfare corporations, low-level employees and volunteers are manipulated into reaching out to the public who are in turn manipulated by the materials to which they are exposed, and the money flows steadily in. Employees and volunteers believe they are helping the public learn that animal abuse exists (as if they didn’t already know this) and the donating public come to believe that by “doing something” and donating to animal welfare organizations, they are discharging their moral responsibility toward animals, and this idea is cosigned by the organization’s literature that suggests they shouldn’t take “drastic” steps like, for example, living vegan.
If the animal welfare corporations were to stop their single-issue campaigns and put their formidable resources into unequivocally educating the public about veganism as our moral obligation toward non-human individuals and providing support for new vegans, we would move quickly toward abolishing the property status of animals, demand for products of animal exploitation would dramatically decrease… and they would soon find themselves out of work as the paradigm shifted and the status quo changed, leaving them with no “horrific” cruelty to reduce or “worst” abuses to end, making it nearly impossible to make convincingly dramatic pleas for continued donations. For this reason, it has neverbeen in the best interest of animal welfare organizations to work in the true best interests of animals, but rather in what they tell us are the best interests of animals. For this reason, they will continue to partner with animal exploiters to ensure there is a steady supply of cruelty to reduce, abuses to end and single-issue campaigns to wage as mechanisms for soliciting a steady supply of donor dollars to keep themselves salaried and in business.
I keep myself on several animal welfare email lists (though not PeTA or The Humane League– I do have standards…) so I can see what Big Welfare’s latest shenanigans are and to watch with mild amusement as they continue to pretend they’re all separate organizations rather than one large vomitous mass corporation, dividing up single-issue campaigns based on which seems to fit which brand and will result in the largest number of donor dollars, tremendous grantsand the furthering of careers for those at the highest levels of each corporate entity.
Who’s Down With OPP?
On the subject of grants, I am mortified as I look at this page I inadvertently found detailing the sheer numbers of dollars (roughly $16 million per year in 2016 and 2017) being lavished by the Open Philanthropy Project upon organizations under the rather vague heading of “Farm Animal Welfare”, about which OPP states:
“Billions of animals each year are treated cruelly on factory farms. We believe that raising awareness of current practices and pushing for reform could reduce animal suffering by enormous amounts, yet we see relatively little attention on this issue from major animal welfare groups.”
“Relatively little attention… from major animal welfare groups”? Relative to what??? That’s essentially the entire focus, theme song, parade route and lifeblood of every major animal welfare group, and it goes like this – farmed animals endure horrific, torturous crueltyevery day of their short lives en route to being slaughtered for human consumption [TRUE], so we need to do something/anything – usually involving “compassion” and/or some sort of weak legislation making a horrible situation slightly less horrible – to reduce the cruelty/suffering/abuse and ensure they’re treated humanelybefore they’re killed [FALSE].
Why, if the stated problem is true, do I contend the proposed solution is false?
Because the idea – and the entire animal welfare philosophy dating back over 200 years – is predicated on a false premise. That false premise rests on the notion that non-human individuals are destined to die to satisfy human pleasure, comfort and convenience no matter what we do, therefore the best we can ever hope to do is to make conditions better (more “humane”/less “cruel”) for them along the way. If we believe that to be the truth, then we can only keep trying to make the inhumane a little more humane for these pathetic, hopeless, condemned beings… and, if that’s our position, then why bother living vegan by taking the moral stance of refusing to participate in any and all forms of animal use wherever possible and practicable? Doesn’t it now become permissible to eat, wear and otherwise use non-humans now and then (or why not all the time?) since we’re all working to ensure that these things happen in the nicest ways possible? I mean, as long as they’re treated well and killed humanely…
So if the problem is true, what then is the solution and how is it being achieved?
The solution is to change the current paradigm that allows for and demands that animals be considered propertyand be objectified and commodified for use as disposable, replaceable human resources. This is being achieved through dismantling speciesism, and the method by which that’s occurring is twofold:
If we believe, as any non-psychopath does, that it’s morally unjustifiable to hurt and kill vulnerable individuals to satisfy our personal pleasures and desires, and we come to understand that the most vulnerable members of our global society are, without exception, the non-human individuals we call animals, then our only reasonable response is to immediatelystop participating in and benefitting from systems of oppression that result in the unnecessary harm and death of these sentientbeings. We stop paying others to do what we know is wrong, and we stop doing it ourselves. In short, we start living vegan.
We make a point of educating others to live vegan, and we do this by engaging in clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education advocacy at every available opportunity, whether one-on-one, in groups, in person, online, over the phone or through any other creative means at our disposal. This does not mean simply handing a brochure, pamphlet or flyer containing vegan information to every passerby (coupled with a cheery “Go vegan!”) and hoping they a) read the material, b) are moved by it and c) decide to start living vegan and have some understanding as to how to do that. We would no sooner expect this to be an effective form of vegan advocacy as we would expect that, by handing astrophysics textbooks to random strangers and saying “Go astrophysicist!”, they will go home and become astrophysicists… and yet, this is a stock in trade method used by most animal welfare groups. Rather, this means taking whatever time one can to engage others in calm, rational, educational conversations, asking effective questions and answering those we are asked to the best of our abilities. It also means directing non-vegans to solid, unequivocal vegan resources online and in print (please see our Downloadable Vegan Content, Online Vegan Resources and Recommended Reading sections for excellent information).
While single-issue campaigns and the welfare corporations behind them may seem attractive on the surface, all one needs to do is apply a bit of critical thinking to conclude that they are speciesistin nature and ultimately counterproductive to the cause of abolishing animal use, and there is nothing attractive about that or about engaging in the exact form of oppression one claims to be working to eradicate.
[*a quick note on language and perception – when we talk about “the animals” as opposed to “animals”, we are defining non-humans as groups (i.e.; herds, flocks, schools) devoid of personalities or other markers of individuality rather than framing them as the individuals they truly are. This results in devaluation and depersonalization, making true empathy for them as individuals that much more difficult to achieve in the minds and hearts of those who have long been trained to view and treat them as mere objects to be used, discarded and replaced. This can make our vegan advocacy even more challenging, so once again it behooves us to be mindful of the words we choose and the language we use.]