Category Archives: Animal Rights

On Responsibility, Rationalization… and Reptiles

Hey South Florida, your speciesism is showing.

A recent bout of cold weather in South Florida had the disturbing effect of causing iguanas, a non-native species introduced to the area by humans, to become immobilized and fall out of trees where they generally sleep.  Even more disturbing were the ensuing discussions and news reports about what to do with them where conversations ranged from moving the iguanas to where they could get warm and recover from this cold-induced condition (that would be my choice, and I confirmed with a wildlife rehabilitation expert that they can and often do fully recover when assisted and given the opportunity to do so) to calls for “humane euthanasia” (a euphemistic rationalization for opportunistic killing) and even suggestions that they be butchered and eaten.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the loudest, most fervent voices seemed to be the ones advocating for either killing these sentient individuals or just letting them die, with these lethal options often being framed as a “favor” to the local environment the “problem” reptiles are accused of destroying.

The underlying issue  here is this:

Humans create “problems” like this all the time through actions that include unnecessary introduction into the local environment of non-native species brought in as pets/property, forced overbreeding of companion, farmed and “wild” animals, urban/suburban sprawl, overuse of resources causing displacement and starvation of native non-humans – to name a few – while seeming to have no workable long-range strategy in place for dealing with the consequences.  The default “management” plan often ends up being the violent extermination of innocent, vulnerable individuals and groups who wouldn’t be here in the first place had it not been for human interference by bringing them in and throwing the ecosystem out of balance.

I often wonder how long it’ll be before the idea that humans occupy special protected status erodes to the point that the “cure” for human homelessness is to start “humanely” dispatching those nuisance layabouts whenever possible.

If anyone can combine speciesist proverbs and cannibalism, it’s Ray Bradbury… 😉

Response Ability

Historically, our specieswide refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions, combined with our socially accepted laziness in seeking morally justifiable solutions for the problems we’ve created yet refuse to own, results time and again in our resorting to the use of unnecessary violence and killing as a brute “solution”.

We cause unmanageable situations and later position ourselves as victims of circumstance when inconvenient consequences arise and grow beyond our control.  Our irresponsibility creates true victims – in this case, the iguanas we thought would make such cute and interesting pets who couldn’t possibly end up outside their enclosures and alter the ecosystem – and we justify killing those victims (and others such as pythons and other non-native species again imported as pets/property, then discarded into an unsuitable environment and left to fight for their survival) by hiding behind the rationalization that we are merely defending ourselves and being protectors of the environment.

It’s a tragic narrative worthy of Mary Shelley:

“I brought you here and created an unexpected condition.  I don’t like the consequences.  I’ll have to kill you now.  Sorry, it’s for the best.”

As a species and as individuals, we can do much better than this.  It’s time we start.

“I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest…”

Victim Eyes

When our actions create victims, it’s time to change our behaviors.

Our action of living non-vegan creates trillions of victims every year through our consumption and use of land-dwelling and aquatic non-human sentient beings whose vulnerable bodies we thoughtlessly exploit in order to satisfy our personal pleasure, comfort, convenience and entertainment.  But it’s not about abstract numbers, as this excerpt from a previous essay explains.  It’s about individuals:

In truth, it wasn’t the sheer numbers that affected me – it was the individuals.  I can’t imagine what six million or ten billion of anything actually looks like, but looking into the terrified eyes of one calf being torn away forever from her mother, one pig in the slaughter line watching his companions hung by their feet and having their throats slit, one baby chick having her beak seared off with a hot blade, one dog being skinned – ALIVE – and thrown in a pile of dying, mutilated dogs, one cow struggling valiantly to evade the man trying to shoot her in the head with the captive bolt gun… that’s what haunted me.  The eyes.

cow-eye

Eyes like yours and mine.  Eyes that rolled in their sockets in pain and anguish.  Eyes that screamed and cried and pleaded.  Eyes that, if they could speak in words, would say, “Why are you doing this to me?  What have I done?  I don’t understand.  Please stop.  You don’t have to do this”.  And though there were no words, I understood the language conveyed by those eyes and I could not pretend to not understand.  I saw the pain, I saw the fear, I saw the misery, I saw the hope and the life drain from those eyes, I saw defeat… and I was affected.

The Simple Solution

Consider if the iguana situation described above had instead involved kittens, puppies, rabbits, horses or other non-humans who are generally looked upon as “cute” (but still have the potential to wreak havoc on the environment).  More than likely, people would fall all over themselves organizing efforts to rescue and re-home these unfortunate individuals, however this clearly was not the case for the iguanas and this difference in attitudes, approaches and behaviors based solely on species membership points to the glaring speciesism that pervades our largely non-vegan society.

As individuals, when we make the commitment to live vegan by abstaining from the exploitation of other vulnerable individuals for our selfish benefit (as we generally tend to do without hesitation when those potential victims are human), we live in integrity with our values, aid in the dismantling of the violent form of oppression known as speciesism and help create a peaceful, fair and just world for all beings regardless of species.

Live vegan – there’s nothing to it but to do it.

[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.]

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

13 Years a Vegan (and counting)

2018 is quickly approaching and with it, my thirteenth veganniversary. 🙂

Living vegan was never something I had thought about, planned for or aspired to but, from the moment I understood that animals are individuals and not objects to be used for pleasure and experienced a seismic shift in my attitude toward individuals of other species that instantly led me to veganism, I knew that returning to living a non-vegan life was not an option.

how-long-vegan-sfveg-poster

Before going further, at the risk of offending those who self-identify as some version of “vegetarian” — Pescatarian, Flexitarian, Reducetarian, LactoOvo-Bilbo-Frodo-Groucho-Chico-Harpo-Zeppo-Marco-Polo-I-Dunno-No-tarian — it needs to be understood that when one is vegetarian (i.e., still consumes some animal parts or secretions), one continues to directly participate in animal exploitation.  Arbitrarily excluding certain products of animal exploitation, like veal or other “meats”, from one’s diet does nothing to reduce animal suffering or help change the current paradigm that allows and demands that non-human individuals to be used as disposable, replaceable human resources/property.  Vegetarianism may seem on the surface to be helpful, but one need only look a little deeper to realize that, sadly, this is simply not the case.  The tacit message of vegetarianism is that “some violence and exploitation is not ok, but some is ok”.  When put in a human context (child or spousal abuse, for example), we clearly see the problem and immediately take appropriate action to a) cease our complicity in such morally unjustifiable activities and b) advocate for a full stop to all such activities.  If you identify as “vegetarian”, please consider this information and commit to living vegan as quickly as possible.  See the links at the end of the essay for valuable resources!

Solving a Mystery – When Did I Start Living Vegan?

For years I’ve wondered exactly when it was that I made the ethical decision to live vegan, as opposed to the mostly arbitrary decision I’d made some months earlier to “become a vegetarian”.

I mean, I knew it was late in 2004 and certainly know the circumstances (I’ll never forget…) but I couldn’t recall the date and always wished I could.  Earlier this year, I was leafing through an old journal (from back in the days when people actually wrote privately in journals rather than blogging, tweeting and Facebooking every thought in their head, a behavior of which I’m certainly guilty) and was excited to find some entries that have essentially solved the mystery for me.

From what I can deduce from the third entry below, it was within a few days of New Year’s Eve 2004 while my cousin Scott and his future wife Laura were visiting Florida on vacation.

Entry 1 is the first indication that I had gone vegetarian, which we can see was not based on any ethical considerations; it was all about me.  I had simply eaten so much meat over one particular weekend that I felt I’d “eaten all the meat I’ll ever need to eat” (I actually said something very similar at the time):

[Keith's Journal Entry #1] 8/21/04 - I haven’t checked in here in quite a while.  I’ve decided to become a vegetarian and have been eating strictly veg (OK, lacto-ovo veg, as this morning’s omelette would suggest) since March 19th (2004), immediately following the Grilled Meat-Fest at Rudy’s [my now ex-father-in-law].  Don’t worry Rudy - it’s not you, it’s me.

Note my use of the term “veg” (above) which is pretty meaningless as it lacks any real definition.  That morning, “veg” included eggs (and very likely cheese) which are not, to my knowledge, “veg”etables.

Entry 2, paragraph 1 shows a glimmer of awareness – albeit wrapped in self-righteousness – that laziness and selfishness are two qualities inherent in (most? all?) humans that can make it challenging for one to take a stand against any societal norm, even when that norm requires the egregious and morally indefensible enslavement, exploitation and execution of trillions of innocent non-human individuals every year for no better reason than “they taste good”.

[Keith's Journal Entry #2] 12/8/04 - [in an Asian-fusion restaurant] - The college-age kid seated to my right commented to his dinner date that, “I think I could be vegetarian”.  My first thought was to tell him he’s right and just how easily he could make that transition [but] simply put, vegetarianism is NOT the easier, softer way.  Culturally, in this country, meat is easier.  You don’t have to look deep into a menu to find chicken and burgers and steak.  But a vegetarian dish that’s more than just a side of something?  Often, this requires effort, and Americans don’t want to put in effort.  After all, this is the society that invented fast food and the drive-thru.  

I love when non-vegetarians (y’know - flesh-eaters) find out I’m vegetarian!  The #1 question - right out of the box, within seconds - is “How do you get your protein?”  I have to remember to write up some index cards to carry around explaining how it’s done and debunking the protein myth.  I could just go with, “Well, I still eat human flesh.  I don’t think that counts as meat... Human is a vegetable, right”?

Paragraph 2 (above) shows – once again wrapped in self-righteousness – the spark of my desire to educate others (or just be a pain in their ass).  Unformed and without direction, it was there nonetheless.  Entry 3 shows me what I wanted to see.  A fundamental, life-altering shift had occurred – I was leaving my non-vegan life behind and moving forward with a commitment to no longer participate in animal exploitation.

Entry 3 shows me what I wanted to see – a fundamental, life-altering shift had occurred.  I was leaving my non-vegan life behind and moving forward with a commitment to no longer participate in animal exploitation.

[Keith's Journal Entry #3] 1/7/05 - I’m at Sublime [vegan restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, FL], waiting for a table.  I was here New Year’s Eve with Cousin Scott and his girlfriend Laura.  They’re both vegan and just wonderful, spiritual people.  They didn’t give me the vegan hard-sell, but I’ve decided to go that direction.  I’ve already bought two belts made from man-made-materials to replace my leather ones.  I’ve gone online in search of non-leather shoes, sneakers and wallets as well.  I’ll need to get past my sentimental attachments to my leather stuff because I really don’t like the idea that someone died and, prior to that, lived miserably to produce them.  I watched Peaceable Kingdom with Scott and Laura and saw the unbelievably wretched conditions food animals “live” in.  I came away feeling... haunted.  It was like watching footage of Nazi concentration camps.  There should be an animal holocaust museum.

After seeing how dairy cows are mistreated, I’ve realized they are nothing more than slaves.  I don’t want to be a part of the slave ‘n slaughter culture anymore.  Scott and Laura simply refer to all animal products as “death”.  Couldn’t be more accurate.  My death-free entree has arrived - seitan with mashed potatoes and veggies.  It’s one of the best things I’ve EVER tasted. 

I find it notable that my earlier entry stating I’d “decided to become a vegetarian” went no further or deeper, except to show just how non-committal I really was about the whole thing.  I was even jokey about it.  Going “veg” was no more significant a life choice than, say, making the decision to wear khakis more often or take up cross-country skiing or mahjongg (or cross-country mahjongg while wearing khakis… whatever).  It was just another thing to do, a whim subject to change at a moment’s notice.  I recall that, along with that decision, I also very loudly “reserved my right” to eat fish and eggs “if I need to”.  I’ve since learned that a) no human “needs” to eat fish or eggs for any reason and b) when the “right” I’m reserving denies another sentient being his or her right to live freely, it’s not a right I’m reserving – it’s a morally unjustifiable wrong.

By contrast, in discussing my decision to start living vegan in Entry #3, I included some of my feelings and reasoning for making that decision (including identifying animal use as slavery, a fundamental injustice I oppose, which was the catalyst for my decision to live vegan), action I’d taken and plans for further action in the same direction.  Put another way, this was not some spur of the moment whim.  I was serious.

ethical-position-002-bfbv

When it comes to veganism and animal rights, I’m still serious and that’s how I’ll remain.  It’s no laughing matter that trillions of land and sea animals – non-human individuals who think, feel and have the same basic right as any human animal to live life freely and autonomously – are killed every year for human pleasure, entertainment and convenience.  It’s the shame of our species that the majority of us continue to support, condone, promote and actively engage in such horrific and barbaric practices.  Living vegan is the very least we can do for the animals and, secondarily, for ourselves and this small planet we all share.

Veganism should be our global society’s moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species and fortunately, for many of us and more every day, it already is.  Is it yours?  If not, why not?

property-001

[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.]

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

Integrity Revisited

Our Perspective is Our Reality

Lately, I’ve been questioning whether there is a fundamental flaw in my thinking.

I tend to operate under the assumption that, when given the option, people would prefer to live with moral integrity.  When asked whether they think it’s wrong to hurt and kill the vulnerable for pleasure, most (if not all) of the people I meet say “yes”.  Much as I and others work to provide them with incontrovertible evidence that, if one believes it’s wrong to unnecessarily harm and kill innocent, vulnerable sentient beings to satisfy one’s pleasure, comfort or convenience, the only logical response is to start living vegan as soon as possible, many resist and make the choice to continue benefitting from the injustices inherent in animal use – thereby living in direct opposition to the moral standards they profess to hold.

Could the problem be that the people I meet have no true desire to live up to their own standards in instances when to do so would prevent them from getting what they want, preferring instead to violate their own moral boundaries in an ongoing quest for self-satisfaction?  For example, for those of us who understand that robbing a bank is wrong because taking that which does not belong to us is fundamentally unjust, would we do it anyway if no one was looking and we wouldn’t get caught?

“I knew I was ‘hitting bottom’ when I was violating my standards faster than I could lower them” – Recovering member of Alcoholics Anonymous

This excerpt from a previous essay helps explain why this phenomenon occurs:

…the innate human characteristics of selfishness (“What’s in it for me?”), laziness (“How much energy am I going to have to spend on this?”) and a desire to be right at all costs (“I’m right, you’re wrong… and I’m also right!”) set up stumbling blocks to accepting new and vital information.  The result is defensiveness born of cognitive dissonance (“If what you’re telling me is true, that means my firmly-held beliefs are wrong and I’ll need to make significant changes… and that can’t be simply because it can’t be, so clearly you’re wrong and I’m right because I believe I’m right!”) and an almost impenetrable wall of denial is immediately constructed.

Or perhaps the problem is that the people I meet just don’t have a clear understanding of what values make up their moral compasses, so they follow the crowd and rarely, if ever, question the speciesist societal indoctrination they’ve been exposed to since birth that tells them non-human animals are exempt from the moral community, have no real rights and therefore can be used and exploited for the benefit of humans.

When applied to vegan advocacy, the Socratic method is an invaluable tool for helping non-vegans quickly understand what their morals are where animals are concerned and how veganism is in line with the values in which they already believe.

Here’s an example of Socratic questioning in a vegan advocacy setting:

Questions adapted from vegan advocate Chris Petty’s questionnaire

Being Conscious of Our Conscience

I do my best to live in accordance with my moral compass and am sure that I fail to live up to my own standards almost daily in some aspect of my life or another, but I am far from claiming to be perfect in any way.  I just do the best I can with what I have and, when I realize I’ve done less than my best and violated a boundary, I admit my transgression as promptly as I’m able and amend my behavior so I can do better the next time and recover my serenity in the process.

Prior to embracing 12-step recovery to heal from the traumatic effects of having lived in close proximity to others’ active addictions, I used to believe that I didn’t have a conscience.  To the casual observer, based on many of my choices and behaviors the first 26 years of my life, this might have appeared to be the case.  One day I mentioned this to another recovering person who gently suggested to me, “You always had a conscience – you just didn’t listen to it.”

And with that, the atomic bomb of truth landed right in my lap.

BOOM.

Once again, our perspective is our reality.

Over the past 23 years, I have come to understand and incorporate the Twelve Steps as guidelines for living an emotionally healthy life, and part of my process in “working” the Steps involved making a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of myself.  Much has been written and shared about this particular step on the recovery path that many seem to find daunting and too tall an order to complete (it’s often said that the Twelve Steps are a “simple program for complicated people”), but a friend broke it down to its essence for me by saying, “Dude, I inventoried my morals” and it suddenly sounded manageable.  I came to realize that I didn’t really know what my morals were – what were the values I held dear and believed in to the core of my being?  What were my basic beliefs about right and wrong?  Did I have my own moral code or was I only watching others and taking my cues from them?

Prior to making my own moral inventory, I could only guess at the answers to such questions and finally wanted to know, so with the guidance of a trusted friend I dove in and did the work.

Consider this passage from an Al-Anon publication:

“My Fourth Step inventory helped me discover who I am, what my values are, the behavior I’d like to keep, and the things I’d like to change.  With this in mind, I am working to establish new behavior that reflects my integrity and expresses my true values.  Where in the past I have accepted unacceptable behavior [from myself and others – Editor], I now can choose a different response.  I must consistently do what I say I’m going to do.  Today I have the courage and faith to be true to myself, whether or not others like or agree with me.” – Courage to Change, Al-Anon Family Groups, p. 345

Once I’d done a good deal of introspective self-examination and completed my moral inventory, I had a much clearer understanding of what I believe in/what I don’t believe in, which behaviors of mine are acceptable/unacceptable to me, what my core values are and who I truly want to be as a person.  In short, I came to know – and embrace – who I am.  I became able to identify and enumerate those values that comprise my moral compass and began setting internal boundaries for my behaviors.  I began living and behaving in ways that were in line with my values and I became more and more comfortable with myself.  It became clear that the more I listened to my conscience, the less anxiety I created for myself and I found that each time I transgressed my own boundaries and stepped out of integrity with my morals by choosing not to listen to my conscience yet again, I felt a familiar sense of shame.  This was the same feeling that had haunted me all those years I’d lived contrary to who I really was, acting out unhealthily in reaction to the toxic cloud of other peoples’ addictions that was everpresent in my life.  It was this feeling that kept me believing I was unworthy of everything – love, acceptance, friendship, family, happiness, success… oxygen – and I knew I no longer wanted to willingly engage in behaviors that would invite my shame to return like a vampire to suck the blood from my soul and leave me cold, empty and nearly lifeless again… and again… and again.

A Literal Moment of Truth

On that night nearly thirteen years ago when I was suddenly confronted with evidence that, by living non-vegan, I was undeniably complicit in, supporting and promoting a worldwide system of enslavement, exploitation and execution of vulnerable sentient beings, I had a choice to make:

Knowing the truth of the consequences of my choices, do I continue to fund and personally benefit from these injustices… or do I do the right thing and cease my complicity in them immediately by living vegan?

I knew almost instantly that my only acceptable course of action was to begin living vegan right then and there, and here’s why:

I understood from my Fourth Step inventory that I place a high value on justice, fairness, honesty and integrity, so I do my best each day to live in a way that honors those values.  When I fall short, there is another part of the Twelve Step process that is extremely beneficial in helping me get back on track, and that’s the Tenth Step.

Step Ten – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Until I was shown the truth about animal exploitation that night in 2004, ten years after my recovery journey began, I was ignorant – and on some level, willfully so – as to the part I was playing in it and once I knew, I couldn’t un-know.  My mind, my gut and the tears streaming down my cheeks all told one story – all animal use is unjust and I won’t be a part of it any longer.

Simply put, I was wrong.  I admitted it.  I amended my behavior.

In that moment, I was faced with a moral dilemma.  Do I choose to take the selfish route and continue doing what I was doing by rationalizing, justifying, minimizing, intellectualizing, blaming, shaming, deflecting, avoiding and otherwise denying that living non-vegan runs in direct opposition to my core values or do I make one selfless decision to stop victimizing others?  Each choice presented its share of consequences, but I knew the consequences of the selfish choice – shame and self-loathing – weren’t ones I was willing to face again, so I made the selfless choice.

My vegan life began that night.

Quote by Michele McCowan

“Humility will help us see ourselves in true perspective and keep our minds open to the truth.” – Al-Anon’s Courage to Change

I make no claims that I take or have taken morally higher ground than others nor that mine is necessarily an example to follow.  I only wonder whether my Twelve Step way of living, the moral inventory it suggested I make and the suggestion to take ongoing accountability for my behavior made me somehow more receptive, open and willing, at least in that moment of truth, to making a hard and fast commitment to living vegan than many of the people I meet.  I am certainly not suggesting that embracing the Twelve Step philosophy is a prerequisite for embracing veganism nor that it’s some sort of universal missing piece of the puzzle, as I know others in recovery who have been exposed to the truth about animal exploitation and continue to personally benefit from those injustices, however I do believe that immersion in some sort of moral inventory process is crucial if one is to have any chance of fully understanding one’s own moral compass and living in integrity.

My feeling is that my moral inventory was a critical piece for me since I would almost certainly not be living vegan today had it not been for the Step work I did that led me first to define my morals and then commit to living by them as best as I’m able one day at a time.

[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.]

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

Reexamining Reality: The Repercussions of “Open Rescue”

There’s Something Happening Here…

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.
speciesism-006
All forms of exploitation are morally unjustifiable and have their roots in the myth of human supremacy

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 billions every 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 have a 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:

“I know you’ve been moved by our breathtaking rescues… We’re hoping to raise $100,000… Wayne”

Please read this essay from Legacy of Pythagoras that examines Direct Action Everywhere’s (DxE) misguided philosophy and strategy:

What DxE Doesn’t Understand (or doesn’t want to) About “Baselines”

 

“But The V-word Scares People Away”

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”.

fear-002

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 links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.] 

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.  Start now, here’s how:

Giving Thanks for Truth

[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.]

Gimme Some Truth

Someone asked me recently whether Thanksgiving will be “hard” for me, considering “all the turkeys that are killed”.

I replied that Thanksgiving is no “harder” than or different from any other day as billions of innocent non-human lives are brutally taken every year (six million per hour each day in the US alone) for no more substantial reason than the satisfaction of personal pleasure.

When people advocate for animal welfare (bigger cages, better treatment, more “humane” slaughter, whatever that is) rather than educating the public unequivocally about why veganism is the absolute least we can do for non-human sentient beings, this is what we get: ever-increasing numbers of dead animals sold for human consumption under the banner of all sorts of misleading, feel-good marketing terms that amount to nothing more than ways for consumers to continue being complicit in unspeakable atrocities they would likely find completely unacceptable were they simply told the truth.

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.

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

Multi-Level-Manipulation on Welfare Wednesday!

[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.]

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 Vegetarian Starter 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 Outreach asked 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
 
Sincerely,
Nathan Runkle 
President
Max!!! Clara…?

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 never been 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.

Why in the World…?

Now, in case anyone’s wondering why I’m still getting emails from groups like this long after putting my welfare days behind me,  please allow me to explain:

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 grants and 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 cruelty every 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 humanely before 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 property and 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:

  1. 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 immediately stop participating in and benefitting from systems of oppression that result in the unnecessary harm and death of these sentient beings.  We stop paying others to do what we know is wrong, and we stop doing it ourselves.  In short, we start living vegan.

  2. 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 speciesist in 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.]

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

On the Idea of “Humans First, Everyone Else Later”

Because we wear pants, obviously.

Overheard: “How about taking a stand against the murder of unborn children through abortion?  When I see you joining that cause perhaps I will listen to the rest of your moral outrage and the weeping for sheep…”

The above is an actual quote I saw recently from a pastor in response to a conversation about veganism.  [Please note that this essay does not attempt to make a correlation between abortion and animal rights.  The example used by the pastor might well have involved any human rights issue or plight – natural disaster, genocide, famine, etc. – involving humans]

It’s important to remember that veganism is not about humans – it’s about abstaining from any and all uses of non-human individuals for human pleasure, comfort and convenience.

Yes, people say things like this.  It’s a version of one of the archetypical arguments against veganism that usually goes like this: “Humans come first. Once we get human problems sorted out, then I’ll worry about non-humans “.

Let’s apply a bit of critical thinking to these ideas by putting them in the Reality Machine.

Aside from being a blatantly speciesist position (simply substitute the words “non-human” and “human” with different human races or genders and the unjust bias is immediately clear), this justification for continuing to engage in the exploitation of vulnerable individuals hasn’t a leg to stand on, and here’s why:

Living vegan (eschewing the use of all products and forms of animal exploitation wherever possible and practicable) takes zero energy, resources, time or effort away from advocating for any other cause, whether human rights-related or otherwise.  One can live vegan and still engage in any activity one chooses, probably with even more energy than when living non-vegan!

To further examine the fallaciousness of the argument, the idea that there will come a day when humanity’s myriad problems are finally put to rest is, in a word, preposterous.  Therefore, to claim that one will gladly engage in working for animal rights once all human rights have been permanently secured is nothing more than a lie based on an impossible premise designed to derail the animal rights conversation and justify one’s continued use of products of animal exploitation.  It is a disingenuous position designed to obfuscate the underlying selfishness motivating the argument, and it by no means presupposes that one is spending one’s days and nights engaged in any form of advocacy or activism whatsoever.  It’s a bluff that is easily called and checkmate is soon to follow.

“Giraffes probably think ‘Giraffes first’, so what’s the problem??”

In and of itself, veganism is passive – it doesn’t require one to do anything but rather to not do certain things (i.e., not eat, wear or otherwise use and/or objectify non-human animals for one’s personal benefit).  From there, if one chooses to spend one’s time, energy and resources engaging in animal rights advocacy through clear, consistent vegan education, that is one’s choice (and one we highly recommend) but again not a requirement.

Armed with the knowledge that one can live vegan and continue to participate passionately in whatever activities or advocacy one feels compelled to participate in, why – other than for purely selfish reasons of pleasure, comfort and convenience – would anyone not choose to do so?

[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.]

Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

***A note from Keith and Elena – before you go, 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 support South Florida Vegan Education Group’s advocacy efforts.  Contributions of any amount are received with equal gratitude and go directly to fund our vegan public education work.  And whether or not you can contribute, please share our fundraising campaign with friends and associates!  Thank you!

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

BeFairBeVegan.com

The legal stuff:

South Florida Vegan Education Group is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  All donations are tax-deductible.

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER SERVICES REGISTRATION # CH47564.  A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.  REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

“It’s Vegan… No, Wait – It’s Vegetarian… No, Wait – It’s Vegan… No, Wait…”

vegan vegetarian peace
Who with the what now?!?

What’s In a Name?

I watched a man giving away food samples yesterday and was struck by his verbal sleight-of-hand.  See if you can spot the trick.

Observation

The gentleman in front of Maoz Vegetarian restaurant is offering free falafel to passersby.  He approaches me with a tray of food and says, “Falafel!  All VEGAN, all homemade, all gluten free, all good for you!” (I’m uncharacteristically not wearing a vegan t-shirt, but he’s the owner and likely remembers having chatted with me once before while in my usual uniform).  Seconds later, he approaches the next person and says, “Falafel!  All VEGETARIAN, all homemade, all gluten free, all good for you!”  He switches it up constantly, like a street corner shell game hustler.  His patter is smooth and effortless.

Does the falafel formulation magically shift from vegan to vegetarian and back to vegan again from minute to minute?  Obviously not, but his description of it does – the wording in his presentation is deliberate, based on his perception of his ever-changing audience and what he feels will get people to try his product and drive the most business to his store.  It’s the sign of a good businessperson.

“Tell Mike it was only business”

"I always liked him."
“I always liked him.”

Conclusion

This gentleman’s business approach is no different from all large, morally-challenged animal welfare corporations that conflate vegan and vegetarian all day long, playing to their audience in order to separate them from their money and their morals and maximize profits while selling out the animals they purport to be “sparing” from “suffering” through “spreading compassion”.  I’m not faulting the Maoz owner for this, as his intention is to sell food (quite a bit of it is 100% plant-based), not to end animal use.  My intention is merely to point out the glaring similarity between his sales approach and that of the animal welfare corporate business model.

Thanks to deliberately vague and misleading information disseminated by animal welfare corporations and the mass media, there are those who think vegan and vegetarian are one in the same.  I spoke with SFVEG co-founder and President Elena Brodskaya who shared her personal story with me as it relates to these ideas:

“When I first decided to be vegetarian, I also researched what ‘vegan’ meant and kept finding it linked with ‘vegetarian’, especially in literature produced by PeTA and other welfare groups.  It seemed that everywhere I looked, I saw ‘vegan/vegetarian’ and ‘vegetarian/vegan’ until I erroneously concluded that ‘vegan’ must simply be an abbreviated form of the word ‘vegetarian’.  The literature from the various welfare groups was confusing at best and deceiving at worst.  It took longer than I would have liked to finally find some clear information about veganism and, once I realized the ethical implications of remaining vegetarian, I began living vegan immediately.  I’ve since come to understand that corporations like PeTA intentionally misinform the public about the true meaning of veganism and its critical importance as the only path toward dismantling speciesism and abolishing animal use.  Sadly, they do this to further their own self-interests and prosperity while betraying the animals on whose behalf they pretend to be working.”

Clearly, the gentleman from Maoz knows there is a difference between vegan and vegetarian (although I would be interested to ask him what he believes that difference is and may do so when he’s not so busy), however I would guess that his interests lie in making a profit and not in educating anyone about that difference – that’s the purview, the passion and the purpose of those of us who work tirelessly to educate the public about veganism as we move ever closer to abolishing the property status of non-human animals and truly achieving justice for all.

Unfortunately, outside Maoz, the confusion continues…

[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.]

Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

***A note from Keith and Elena – before you go, 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 support South Florida Vegan Education Group’s advocacy efforts.  Contributions of any amount are received with equal gratitude and go directly to fund our vegan public education work.  And please share our fundraising campaign with friends and associates!  Thank you!

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

BeFairBeVegan.com

South Florida Vegan Education Group is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  All donations are tax-deductible.

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER SERVICES REGISTRATION # CH47564.  A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.  REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

“Speciesism is wrong, but…”

speciesism cow barbed wire dog SFVEG poster

“Yeah, but…”

Consider the following statements:

“I agree that racism is wrong, but…”

“I agree that sexism is wrong, but…”

“I agree that heterosexism is wrong, but…”

What could possibly follow “but” in any of the above statements that would morally justify making an exception to the ideas as presented?  The answer is simple: nothing.

Imagine hearing someone say, “I agree that racism is wrong, but the Ku Klux Klan is having a bake sale fundraiser this weekend and they make delicious cupcakes, so I’ll be buying some!”  The moral inconsistency in such a situation would be glaring, and yet people routinely say they disagree with specific injustices while participating in and supporting, sometimes without realizing it, those same injustices.

Now consider this statement:

“I agree that speciesism is wrong, but…”

Speciesism can be defined as a 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.  To disagree with speciesism is to agree with veganism, which is defined as “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

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I’ve had countless conversations with people who said they agreed it’s wrong to hurt and kill animals unnecessarily… and then the “but”s came – “But I love eating my meat/chicken/fish/steak/bacon”, “But I could never give up my dairy/eggs/cheese/honey”, “But I need my protein”, “But my leather shoes are so comfortable”, “But I don’t eat much red meat” and on and on.  It should be noted that referring to “my meat”, “my dairy”, “my leather”, etc. (which seems to happen more often than not) overlooks and negates the fact that these “products” were once the bodies, skins and secretions of autonomous individuals and are therefore stolen property.  It exposes the underlying selfishness that drives speciesist behavior.  When framed in this way, might those same people counter with, “I agree that stealing is wrong, but…”?

Interestingly, the problem in examples like this doesn’t lie after the “but”.

In all of the example statements above, the reality is that everything before the “but” is an untruth.  Here is what’s really being said:

“I agree that [fill-in-the-blank form of oppression] is wrong, but since I’m personally benefitting from it in some way, I’ll just look the other way and pretend nothing’s happening and that I’m not participating in something I say I find morally reprehensible even though my actions tell an entirely different story.”

When one truly agrees that a form of oppression is fundamentally wrong, one does not equivocate or make exceptions in order to satisfy one’s desires for personal pleasure, comfort and convenience.  Being morally consistent means not engaging in, supporting and/or promoting racism, sexism, heterosexism, speciesism or other forms of oppression because one finds it inconvenient not to.  One simply stands in one’s truth and follows where one’s moral compass points, making course corrections along the way wherever necessary.

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Since most people believe it’s wrong to hurt and kill vulnerable sentient beings for no justifiable reason, living vegan gives every individual the opportunity to be true to themselves, to live honestly and to live in congruence with their moral values and in harmony with their fellow travelers on this planet we all share.

One final statement to consider:

I agree that the simplest and most immediate action one can take to stop the violent oppression and exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – is to start living vegan.  There are no valid reasons not to; there are only morally unjustifiable excuses to hide behind.

There is no “but” here.  There is only truth.

[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.]

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

 

On Denying Reality and Our Speciesist Society

speciesism magazines - animal mind - grilling

Images Everything

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.

This is speciesism, and it is unacceptable.

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.

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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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[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.]

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how: