If you’re like us at South Florida Vegan Education Group (SFVEG) – eager to see true change in the world and help shift the current paradigm that allows and demands the use of non-human animals as disposable, replaceable commodities to serve and satisfy human pleasures and conveniences – then we ask that you please consider making a safe, secure tax-deductible donation via our YouCaring page(<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) to further our vegan education efforts. All donations are tax deductible and are used to cover ongoing printing, travel and entry costs for participation in upcoming events which will help us provide important education to people across Florida and beyond.
***To understand how contributions are allocated, please see list of upcoming events and breakdown of costs below
We feel it is crucial at events such as these that there be a clear, consistentabolitionistvegan message that allanimal use is morally unjustifiable and find that such a message is rarely, if ever, presented amidst the cacophony of animal welfare groups and their pleas of reducing animal “cruelty” and “suffering” (rather than ending animal use) and other unclear, confusing and often confrontational “harm reduction” rhetoric. By directly engaging with the public in an educative fashion, our group provides a true vegan message in an unequivocal, straightforward and non-threatening manner.
We are passionate about empowering individuals with the knowledge that veganism is the primary means of dismantling speciesismand achieving the abolition of animal enslavement, exploitation and execution for human pleasure and convenience, and we do this in a unique way that challenges the status quo of the animal “welfare” movement (and the animal exploiters with whom they purposely partner) as it continues to focus on everything but veganism in order to maximize each other’s profits and keep the wheels of animal agriculture turning.
We are eager to bring our Vegan Education Station everywhere we can and are asking for your support in making that happen. Please donate if you are able and also share our campaign (<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) far and wide to give others the opportunity to join our support network!
As of today, here are the upcoming local events in which we plan to participate (in addition to ongoing tabling and other advocacy efforts):
[I encourage all readers to click theblue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]
South Florida Vegan Education Group is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax-deductible.
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.
Despite some technical difficulties with the audio, on Friday 6/16/17, Trish Roberts of HowToGoVegan.org and VeganTrove.comand I discussed several aspects of veganism and its relation to other social justice issues. Here is the link to the video of the livestream:
Speciesism, analogous with racism and sexism, can be defined as an unjust double standard created by humans placing higher moral value on some individual animals over other individual animals, based solely on the morally irrelevant criterion of species membership.
Speciesist Comment of the Day
Here’s a statement from one of the “superstars” of the animal welfare movement in an article promoting, among other welfarist strategies, MeatlessMeaningless Monday:
“It’s not about being perfect, it’s about moving in the right direction,” Nick Cooney, Executive Vice President of the non-profit animal advocacy organization Mercy for Animals and co-founderThe Good Food Institute, tellsBustle. “Keep in mind no one is perfect and change takes time. If you don’t think you can resist the craving [to eat animal flesh and secretions] right now, it’s much better to have a burger once a week than to give up entirely on your desire to move toward plant-based eating.”
[It should be noted that while MFA – and other large animal welfare corporations – lack moral consistency by promoting speciesism on a daily basis, they do maintain consistency in their messaging as versions of Mr. Cooney’s statement can be found in other MFA publications. This striking similarity in strategy to certain political organizations and individual politicians should not go unnoticed.]
Consider how such a statement would sound if the victims of injustice were human rather than non-human. For example, what if the issue at hand (no pun intended) were spousal abuse? It would sound like this:
“If you don’t think you can r̶e̶s̶i̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶r̶a̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ resist the urge to beat your spouse right now, it’s much better to h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶u̶r̶g̶e̶r̶ beat your spouse once a week than to give up entirely on your desire to move toward p̶l̶a̶n̶t̶-̶b̶a̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶e̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ not beating your spouse altogether.”
When the innocent, vulnerable victims of violent injustices are human, advocates call for an immediate end to said injustices, rather than a gradual shift in a nonviolent direction. When the victims are non-human, advocates often take a much more relaxed, “take your time” approach.
Using one set of standards for human victims of injustice and another for non-human victims of injustice is an inherently speciesist position and is fundamentally unjust itself, as it would be if the sets of victims were not of different species but of different races, gender identities, sexual orientations, classes, etc. One cannot hope to effectively advocate against injustice while participating in injustice.
[I encourage all readers to click theblue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites.]
The problem is not how we exploit animals – the problem is thatwe exploit animals in the first place, so the solution is not to reduce animal abuse; it’s to eliminate animal use… and that solution lies in educating people to live vegan.
If you’re a bank robber and one day realize that robbing banks is morally wrong, you don’t seek better ways to rob banks – you just stop robbing them (unless you’re determined to be a criminal and are willing to pay the consequences if caught, or a sociopath and can’t determine right from wrong). To paraphrase the Roman philosopher Seneca’s wise words, there’s no point in trying to find the right way to do a wrong thing.
Meatless Monday – A Toothless Campaign
According to my research, the idea of Meatless Monday began nearly 100 years in the United States as a way to ration food to help with the war effort. It was revived in 2003, according to www.meatlessmonday.com, as a “public health awareness campaign” in order to address “…the prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption.” On their “Why Meatless?” page, in 11 paragraphs and 796 words, there is nothing that speaks about the suffering, confinement, enslavement and slaughter of the non-human animals the campaign is suggesting people abstain from eating one day a week. This campaign is clearly not part of any social justice movement intended to help abolish the property status of animals, nor to help any animal in any way – unless that animal is of the human variety and wants to optimize her/his health, as its stated aim is to help humans lower their risk of contracting preventable chronic diseases linked with the consumption of animal products (heart disease, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, to name a few). In short, Meatless Monday is rooted in the same self-centered egotism, speciesism and myth of human supremacythat allows humans the self-proclaimed “right” to destroy the lives of non-human animals wantonly and with no regard for their well-being, feelings or right to live autonomous lives without human interference.
Even though it’s clear that the Meatless Monday campaign has nothing to do with helping to bring an end to the exploitation of non-human animals (even though some people claim every meatless meal “saves” X-number of animals, as if skipping a hamburger results in, somewhere, a cow being magically transported from a slaughterhouse to a sanctuary), many vegans – including high-profile celebrity “vegans” – lend their names to and continue to support this campaign, rationalizing that it is “part of a journey” toward veganism –even though it promotes a version of vegetarianism rather than veganism. Some seem to believe it’s necessary to encourage non-vegans to take “baby steps” and that “every little bit helps”.
It’s my contention that one does not encourage people to practice ethical behavior only when personally convenient or in accordance with some arbitrary set of rules. Coddling those who continue to exploit others when they are well aware that their choices and behaviors condemn individuals to miserable lives and horrific, unnecessary deaths is simply unacceptable. We would never suggest that serial killers take “baby steps” and observe Murder-Free Mondays, would we? Of course not. We would explain to them why their behavior is wrong (assuming they didn’t already know) and demand they stop at once or face dire consequences. What consequences do we impose on those who pay others to do their killing for them so they can dine on the carcasses of vulnerable animals? None… but Nature does (see preventable chronic diseases listed above).
“Meatless” Does More Harm Than Good – From the Industry’s Own Mouth
Further, asking non-vegans to go “meat-free” may do more harm than good as it has been shown that people who give up meat for a short time tend to increase their consumption of animal secretions such as dairy and eggs to offset their deprivation of meat through that time period. Here is a quote connecting “meatless” campaigns and rises in egg demand and consumption from a 2015 interview on the Diane Rehm show (the specific audio clip comes at about 43:23, a courtesy for those who don’t want to sit through listening to rationalizations and justifications abouteggs and “welfare”):
“Just back to that other question about the ‘Meatless’. One of the reasons why the egg industry and demand is (sic) going up is because a lot of the families, like one day a week, are having meatless dinners and they’re substituting eggs for that meatless meal, so that’s another good reason why the egg consumption is going up in this country.” – Paul Sauder, president of Sauder Eggs, chairman of the American Egg Board and a board member of United Egg Producers
Interestingly, if that’s the effect of only one meatless meal per week, the net effect of an entire meatless day (3-5 meals?) such as on Meatless Monday or an entire meatless week would be to cause an even greater increase in egg consumption.
By encouraging non-vegans to take just one day off per week from a particular form of animal use, tacit permission and support are given for them to continue their use unabated the rest of the week. Is that really the message we want to give, whether directly or indirectly? Supporting animal exploitation 6 days a week instead of 7 is like supporting spousal abuse 85% of the time instead of 100%. Who does that?? Answer:
Perpetrators who want to get away with what they can whenever they can, that’s who.
There are those who support the baby-step “journeys” of non-vegans to become vegan – some of which take 2-3 decades or longer – and suggest we should “give them a break, they will eventually arrive”. While I understand that not every person will go vegan overnight (though many of us have), we vegans must remain clear that this is their choice and not our suggestion, remaining unequivocal that anything less than embracing veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species is to continue being complicit in animal exploitation and needless death. For the billions of non-human animals who suffer and die waiting for “eventually” to happen, “eventually” is unacceptable and arrives much too late. If we see a woman being raped, we don’t go help her “eventually”, nor do we wait for the rapist to complete his “journey” to living a rape-free life, asking him to maybe rape a little less every day and applauding him when he goes a whole day without raping anyone.
What drives some people to accept such an unacceptable double-standard when the victims are non-human animals? The answer is speciesism, the most egregious and deadly form of oppression in existence on our planet today.
Veganism should be the starting point on a journey to live as ethically as possible, not some future goal to attain when one is finally ready to live nonviolently.
Some ask why this same debate repeats every “Meatless” Monday, so here’s why:
Every Monday, some people take a mere 16 hours off from participating in an endless worldwide animal holocaust and actually seem to believe this is somehow commendable and effective. During the Holocaust, I’m sure all the Nazis took naps now and then. That didn’t help their victims at all because, after nap time was over, the terrorism and killing continued. The sad reality of this ineffectual campaign is that every Meatless Meaningless Monday is immediately followed by Return to Terrorism Tuesday and We Keep Killing Wednesday (and on through the week). Imagine if there were campaigns for Rape-Free Fridays or Child Abuse-Free Thursdays – would we applaud those well-intentioned baby steps too? Isn’t it a better use of our limited time, energy and resources to work on creating Exploitation-Free EveryDay by consistently promoting veganism?
If we as vegans refuse to commit to a 100% effort toward clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education, how can we expect non-vegans to commit to a 100% vegan life when, by engaging in and promoting speciesist single-issue campaigns, we’re essentially giving them permission to exploit animals most, but not all, of the time?
Baby steps are for babies. I challenge my fellow vegans to be the adults we are and stop promoting reduction over abolition, which only makes the unacceptable seem acceptable and maintains the speciesist status quo. This behavior is known as enabling and, the sooner it stops, the sooner real change begins.
If you’re already vegan, please stop making it OK for others to continue destroying the lives of non-human animals by lending your support to half-measures like Meatless Meaningless Monday and the other useless, ineffective and counter-productive single-issue campaigns promoted by animal welfare organizations that treat “vegan” like a dirty word. Instead, let’s focus our efforts on clear, consistent vegan education wherever and whenever we can, being unequivocal about the idea of veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of the animals with whom we share this small planet.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites.]
I received a call today about participating in a marketing focus group on auto care and the caller asked me as part of the questionnaire, “If money wasn’t an object, what would you love to spend your life doing?” I immediately replied, “Educating people about a social justice issue near to my heart – veganism.”
My friend and fellow vegan educator Colin Wright wrote an essay about engaging in vegan advocacy over the phone and I thought about his ideas at the moment I decided to shift the conversation into a potential vegan education experience (please read Colin’s excellent essay hereand consider perusing the rest of his site for more information and ideas).
The caller (a 51-year-old gentleman named John) and I ended up talking for over 20 minutes and, in that time, he asked and I answered questions about plant-based nutrition – protein, B12… the usual – and I explained the ethical reasons for veganism to him, to which he said he agreed. His questions were insightful and he seemed interested in and agreeable to the answers I provided. It turns out he’d had a couple of close relationships with vegans in the past, so he wasn’t a total stranger to what I was presenting. I was sure to direct him to VeganEducationGroup.com and HowToGoVegan.org as resources for further information.
When the call was coming to an end, I thanked him for taking the time to speak with me and to ask me the questions he didn’t have to ask, as well as for listening thoughtfully to the answers. I ended by stating, “If you believe that causing unnecessary harm and death to innocent, vulnerable beings is wrong, then you stop engaging in behaviors that bring those results. To do that, you begin by living vegan.” He said, “I agree!” and thanked me for the conversation.
Slightly tangential note: There’s nothing “scary” or “off-putting” about the word vegan or the idea of veganism, despite what some large animal welfare corporations would want people to believe (and they propagate that myth to further their own ends and increase their profitability at the expense of the animals they purport to be “helping”). When presented in a calm, rational and respectful manner, there is nothing about veganism that drives people away. On the contrary, these ideas of nonviolence, fairness and true justice for all resonate deeply with those who hear them and frequently foster internal and external changes that can and will shift the current speciesist paradigm that demands the enslavement, exploitation and execution of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals.
[I encourage all readers to click theblue linksembedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.]
Although the scenario of all humanity becoming vegan overnight does not seem feasible, even if that were to happen, is the answer to a potential animal overpopulation problem to continue forcibly breeding them into existence for the sole purpose of killing them for human pleasure, comfort and convenience? It takes some serious, Olympic-gold-medal-worthy mental and ethical gymnastics to get to “Yes” as the answer to that question and to use it as justification for continuing animal exploitation and slaughter.
Our Own Devices
Considering I have a device I’m able to carry in my pocket that can, with the flick of a finger, connect me to the entire repository of human knowledge, allow me to speak with friends who are 9,600 miles away as if we were in the same room (hello Tasmania!) AND help me locate the nearest public toilet (quite possibly the most important app ever invented… but I digress), I’m fairly certain that with a minimally concerted effort across humanity we can find a suitable, nonviolent solution to where all the cows, pigs, chickens, fish and other non-human refugees of animal agriculture will go once they’re no longer seen and treated as mere commodities and are finally afforded the one basic, fundamental right that ought never be withheld from any sentient being – the right not to be used as the property of more powerful others.
The simplest and most immediate action one can take to stop the violent oppression and exploitation of billions of innocent, vulnerable individuals is to start living vegan. There are no valid reasons not to; there are only morally unjustifiable excuses to hide behind.
[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.]
[Author’s note – I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites. The podcasts and essays connected to those links will help to expand on the ideas presented here.]
Imagine you’re on a crowded bus and it’s your stop. As you exit, you pass the driver whom you know from previous trips and, as usual, wish him a nice day. As he replies, you clearly smell alcohol on his breath and notice his eyes are red and glassy. What do you do?
Do you leave the bus and go about your day, hoping the driver won’t crash the bus and injure or kill himself, the other passengers and possibly some pedestrians and other drivers? Or do you exit and say a little prayer for them all, sending positive energy their way (“Nama-stay-in-your-lane, Mr. Bus Driver!”)? Do you dive into denial and tell yourself you didn’t see what you saw or smell what you smelled, convincing yourself that it’s just your imagination because, after all, you respect this bus driver and he’s a professional? Do you leave the bus and call the bus company to report the driver? Or do you confront him, alert the other passengers to the situation and call 911?
I hope I’m never in such a situation but, if I am, I hope I’d take the kind of action airport security screeners took in Miami on July 1, 2002 when they smelled alcohol on two America West pilots’ breath – they took a stand and did the right thing by calling TSA, who then called the police and (barely) stopped the plane from taking off for Phoenix with 127 passengers and 3 other crew members on board.
What’s this got to do with veganism?
Imagine you’re vegan and you become aware, as I and many others have, that the animal welfare/protection groups you and others trust to carry an anti-speciesist vegan message and work for animal rights are actually doing quite the opposite. What do you do?
Do you continue to support such organizations, either financially or otherwise, and promote them because “at least they’re doing some good work, right?” while ignoring the moral inconsistency of their campaignsthat a) ask for an end or, more often, only a reduction to some forms of violent oppression toward non-human individuals while doing nothing to stop other forms, all of which are equally unjust and morally unacceptable, b) engage in blatant speciesism by advocating for specific favored species rather than working to end all animal use by promoting veganism through vegan education and c) help animal exploiters streamline their productivity and become more profitable? [the list of ways such organizations betray and fail the animals they purport to help is quite long – these were the first three that came to mind]
Do you “hope” that through the promotion of such ideas as vegetarianism, reducetarianism, “ditching meat”, “ditching fur”, eating “cage-free”, “humanely-raised” or “local” animals and their secretions and the myriad other non-vegan dietary and fashion options offered by these organizations, consumers of animal products will somehow “make the connection” – a common phrase among those who promote welfare – stumble into the decision to live vegan (hopefully within a decade or three…) and embrace the ethical stance that lies at the heart of veganism – despite the intentional absence of a clear, consistent vegan message coming from these organizations (I will provide an example of one such organization’s current campaign below)?
Or do you take a stand for justice by removing your support from such organizations and making public their betrayal of animals while focusing your limited time, energy and other resources on engaging in clear, consistent grassroots vegan education that truly addresses the underlying cause of animal exploitation – the fallacy of human supremacy that has created and fostered a paradigm of globalspeciesism claiming the lives of billions of vulnerable individuals every year?
Here’s an example of one such organization and their unwillingness to provide a vegan message at the risk of losing donations and other funding:
I watched a recent video by The Humane League advertising their new chicken-specific 88% Campaign aimed to “reduce their immense suffering” by campaigning “for companies to make meaningful changes”, “address health issues” of birds who will still be killed, “improve living conditions” of birds who will still be killed and “replace slaughter methods”. They purport that “things are starting to change” (this alleged “start” comes after 200+ years of similar animal welfare campaigns – after a solid two centuries, are we to believe that The Humane League has finally cracked the code and is making substantive change with their repackaging of the same methods that have yet to achieve such change? That’s called branding and marketing) and trumpet “some major victories for chickens”, showing a Huffington Post headline stating “There’s A Major New Effort To Help The Billions Of Chickens We Eat Every Year” and “New protections for farm animals in 2017” from the San Francisco Chronicle. Those are feel-good ideas, but the truth behind them is that the so-called “protections” don’t protect these individuals from being killed nor “help” them in any significant way considering they are still destined to be eaten by the billions every year by a largely non-vegan human population. THL goes on to ask that donors “support the movement to reduce the suffering of billions of chickens” (a focus on abuse rather than use, which is at the core of the welfare movement) and that “Together, we can create the change” (accompanied by footage of a chicken gasping for her last breaths). There is, of course, no definition of what “the change” is, so that is left open to interpretation by the viewer who has now seen images of animals being neglected and abused and will likely take away the idea that animal abuse, rather than use, is the problem that needs addressing. When The Humane League’s logo appears seconds later, the deal is sealed – here the viewer is (mis)led to believe THL is diligently working to make “the change”, whatever that is. With three seconds to go in this one minute and forty-one second video, a tiny message appears:
I’ll enlarge the intentionally minuscule message here:
REMEMBER: THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO REDUCE THE SUFFERING OF FARM ANIMAL IS TO ELIMINATE MEAT, DAIRY AND EGGS FROM YOUR DIET.
How is the viewer supposed to “remember” information that has at no point previously been provided to them? Up until that moment, there is no imagery or verbiage in the video to support or even hint at the information in that statement – it’s all about the suffering of chickens. Moreover, that statement would be easily missed as it appears in tiny font at the bottom of the screen after The Humane League’s logo has disappeared and the screen has faded to black. As the video boasts high production values, it isn’t a stretch to say that this sizing, placement and timing is quite intentional. It’s also not a vegan message by any definition, as it excludes any mention of the myriad non-food-related uses of animals and, interestingly, overlooks honey in its menu of dietary items.
In reading the 88% Campaign White Paper, I was not surprised to find the following passages lamenting how the quality of modern chicken meat has been reduced, discussing how to “improve” slaughter conditions and explaining how the implementation of THL’s recommendations for chicken welfare would help the animal agriculture corporations and the consumers of animal products simultaneously:
“The quality of chicken meat is also substantially affected too (sic), with white striping and wooden breast impacting the texture, fat content and nutritional value”. “Meat that comes from birds suffering from woody breast or from those with both conditions are found to have a harder texture, impaired ability to hold water, and poorer nutritional value… White striping by itself also impacts the general appearance of the breast meat… These conditions are forcing the downgrading of meat due to the lack of aesthetic appeal… There is an alternative; breeds exist that can alleviate many of the negative predispositions we see with the current typical fast-growing breeds. By utilising these higher welfare breeds and giving birds more space, enriching the environment, and improving slaughtering conditions using CAK or LAPS, the industry would see an improvement in meat quality [italics added] and, most importantly, an improved level of welfare for the billions of chickens farmed for meat production every year.”
“Slaughter conditions are improved by the use of controlled atmosphere stunning or killing (CAK) which involves transferring the birds to a controlled atmosphere chamber with gases or gas mixtures (gases permitted are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and inert gases such as argon and nitrogen)… Low atmospheric stunning may also provide a more humane method of slaughter… The birds are thus stunned or killed, depending on the length of exposure to the gases or low pressure. Both methods eliminate the need for live handling, shackling and inversion of conscious chickens, and should ensure chickens are fully unconscious at neck cutting and dead by the time they reach the scald tank.”
This is from a corporation claiming to help animals, yet it sounds eerily like something one would expect to read in an animal agriculture insider publication.
From the SF Chronicle article comes a disturbing quote from THL’s executive director, David Coman-Hidy: “We’re [italics added] looking to raise birds that are not just bred to suffer, that are bred with some consideration to the quality of their lives”. “We’re”?? Does this indicate that The Humane League is now in the business of raising chickens? One has to wonder whether Mr. Coman-Hidy has lost sight of the blurry boundary where his multi-million-dollar corporation and the multi-million-dollar animal agriculture corporations begin and end, or whether he’s simply acknowledging that the two are truly partners in profit. Either way, the quote could just as easily have come from the mouth of any duplicitous farmer seeking to placate animal welfare proponents. I shudder to hear the head of an organization that purports to have the best interests of animals in mind make such a statement.
Sadly, campaigns like this from The Humane League don’t aim to end the use of chickens (or other non-human individuals) for food and other purposes. They simply aim to alter or, to use their marketing terminology, “improve” conditions for chickens that will still be killed for human consumption (their slaughter method improvement recommendations take a page out of PeTA’s book) and, in so doing, increase THL donations, create better and more profitable conditions for the animal suppliers and assure consumers that they can have “higher-welfare” animal products. The one group that loses every time and pays with their lives is the chickens. If this is a “victory”, then it is a victory under some new definition of which I am not aware.
Playing nicely in the sandbox
More often than not, those of us who make the choice to live vegan upon coming to understand, abhor and eschew participation in the injustices being done to non-human individuals tend to speak out against those and other injustices. We carry the message that living vegan is the clearest path toward dismantling speciesism and creating a world in which all sentient beings are given the right to live autonomous lives free from being used without their consent to satisfy the pleasures and conveniences of more powerful others.
When one engages in critical thinking, which is different than being critical and which I believe every social justice advocate ought to do, one can quickly see past the marketing propaganda of the animal welfare corporations (which is similar in form and function to the marketing techniques of the animal exploiters they purport to oppose) and begin to understand just how dishonest they truly are.
I find it interesting and disturbing that, when some of us challenge and call attention to individuals and groups when we see them engaging in intentional deception and manipulation to further their own ends (said deceptions and manipulations resulting in the continued exploitation and needless deaths of animals and increased profits for themselves and animal exploiters), we are told we’re being “divisive” and are rebuked for “not playing well with others”. It’s important to remember that being vegan doesn’t mean one is above reproach nor that one is incapable of being as dishonest, calculating, manipulative and lacking in integrity as any other person, vegan or not. I have observed some of the most “highly regarded” animal advocates engaging in blatantly disingenuous efforts, claiming to be working in the best interests of animals while in reality fostering speciesism and working to advance their careers and make a profit. Examples of this abound in animal welfare corporations and I seem to see more of them by the day. I can think of no reason why I would want to “play” or work with anyone who would choose to behave in such a way, either in vegan advocacy or anywhere else. Boundaries keep individuals and organizations healthy; engaging with toxic individuals and organizations is damaging on many levels.
I recently had the privilege of having a conversation with a paid employee of a multi-million dollar animal welfare organization, though I will not identify that individual or their organization here as I did not ask their permission to do so (it wasn’t my intention to do an interview and exposé) and respect their right to anonymity. Here are the salient points from that discussion:
Despite our obvious philosophical differences when it comes to animal advocacy methodologies (abolitionism vs. utilitarian welfarism), we both agreed that animal exploiters are not the problem and that the real solution lies with educating animal product consumers about veganism. They stated their organization “targets” animal suppliers “but always talks about going veg in our presentations”, and I asked that “veg” be defined, as I found it unclear. They told me “It means vegan”, so I asked why they don’t just say “vegan” if that’s truly what they mean and if it’s because it’s not a “marketable” word, and I was informed that “studies show people respond better to words like veg and vegetarian” (I personally find that approach dishonest – say what you mean and mean what you say – and believe that an organization that asks for one thing when they mean another lacks integrity. I also believe the studies cited are inherently biased and flawed). I asked whether they would agree that, since we as individuals and groups have “limited resources” (their term with which I wholeheartedly agree), a better use of those resources might be to engage the public in clear, consistent vegan education to strike at the root of the problem rather than flailing at the branches that only grow back stronger once they’re pruned. Their answer was a simple “No”.
It was brought to my attention later that this is the only answer one could give to such a question when one’s career depends on a steady stream of income through a steady stream of donations brought in by a steady stream of single-issue campaigns that avoid a clear vegan message in order not to disrupt the status quo of animal use in any meaningful way. After all, the reality is that if animal welfare corporations truly focused their efforts and resources (and hundreds of millions of combined dollars) on getting people to live vegan and brought an end to animal exploitation, they would have to shutter up their businesses and go find other work… and that’s just not something careerists are interested in doing when they’ve carved out a comfortable niche for themselves.
With the current animal welfare movement heading in no discernible direction (backward seems to be the most likely choice), abolitionist vegans face an uphill battle that’s twofold – 1) educate the non-vegan public about veganism and 2) educate fellow vegans about the inherent and systemic hypocrisy of the animal welfare corporations and the single-issue marketing campaigns they frequently design and implement (and recycle and repeat) in order to keep the donor dollars rolling in. If we truly want to create “the change” – changing the animals-as-property paradigm that that allows for and demands the morally unjustifiable enslavement, exploitation and execution of billions of non-human individuals every year for no better reason than to satisfy the fleeting pleasures, comforts and conveniences of humans – this is how we do it:
Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how:
1) If you saw an obviously distressed barking dog locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do? Would you look away and walk by as if nothing was happening? Perhaps. Or would you try the doors to see if you could open one and help the dog? Would you look around for the owner of the car, perhaps going inside nearby stores and asking for help? Or would you think about or even go as far as breaking a window to get the dog to safety? After all, there’s a life at stake and you have the ability to save that life.
2) If you saw an obviously distressed squealing pig locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do? Would you think, “Mmm! Bacon!” and wait for him or her to cook to death, hoping the owner might share some of their carcass with you? Would you look away and walk by as if nothing was happening? Perhaps. Or would you try the doors to see if you could open one and help the pig? Would you look around for the owner of the car, perhaps going inside nearby stores and asking for help? Or would you think about or even go as far as breaking a window to get the pig to safety? After all, there’s a life at stake and you have the ability to save that life.
Pigs are not “bacon” any more than calves are “veal” or chickens are “drumsticks” or any other animal is only the parts humans deem useful – they are sentient beings and that fact does not change simply because some want to believe and behave as if the converse were true. When societal “norms” allow for the devaluing of non-human animals to the point of no longer being viewed, treated and respected as living, breathing, feeling individuals deserving of autonomous lives free from being used as “things” merely to satisfy the fleeting pleasures of humans, an injustice is being perpetrated.
By analogy, women are not “pieces of ass” – they are individuals and that fact does not change simply because some want to believe and behave as if the converse were true. When societal “norms” allow for the devaluing of women to the point of no longer being viewed, treated and respected as living, breathing, feeling individuals deserving of autonomous lives free from being used merely to satisfy the fleeting pleasures of men, an injustice is being perpetrated.
If you agree that it is sexist and therefore wrong to objectify women (or children, or any humans) by using their bodies for one’s own purposes and find such behavior distasteful and unacceptable, then it only makes sense to agree that it is speciesist and therefore wrong to objectify non-humans by using their bodies, secretions and offspring for one’s own purposes and to find such behavior distasteful and unacceptable. The fact that there is a difference in speciesdoes not indicate a difference in moral value between the two groups as they both share (at least) the common trait of sentience.
If one opposes at least one form of violent oppression because it is morally wrong, then to live in integrity requires opposing all forms of violent oppression because they are all morally wrong no matter who the victim is, regardless of (in no particular order) race, gender identity, species, sexual preference, age, physical ability or any other arbitrary criterion.
Another Scenario – What Would You Do?
If you saw an obviously distressed screaming human baby locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do? For most (if not all) people, there is only one answer – you do anything you’re able to do to help. If your answer was not as clear and immediate in those scenarios in which the species of the trapped individual was other than human, perhaps it’s time to deeply explore how you have been indoctrinated into a society built on speciesism, blinded, misguided and conditioned by a lifetime of daily exposure to a multi-billion dollar propaganda machine that would have humans believe all other species are subordinate to our own and exist merely to satisfy our pleasure, comfort and convenience… and then explore how living vegan dismantles speciesism, realigns your morals and behaviors and restores your personal integrity.
One Final Scenario – What WILL You Do?
Knowing that living non-vegan means you are directly complicit in the violent oppression, enslavement, exploitation and execution of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human animals – and that living vegan is the simplest and most immediate action you can take to end that oppression (and your part in it)… what will you do?
Here is what I hope you will do –
Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how:
[NOTE: I plan to update this essay from time to time to include more feedback from individuals who have responded positively to South Florida Vegan Education Group’s (SFVEG) ongoing public education efforts. Stay tuned – it’ll be worth it! 🙂 ]
After ten years of engaging in single-issue animal welfare campaigns, I have zero evidence to suggest that any action I took in that time helped influence a single person to begin living vegan. One reason is that most, if not all, of those campaigns are organized by large donation-based animal welfare charities (you’ve heard of them even if you’re not vegan – their expensive marketing budgets have seen to that) whose primary agenda is notto influence people to live vegan but rather to ensure the continuation of a steady stream of donor dollars from their largely non-vegan donor base by being careful not to alienate them. This is achieved by actively avoiding using the word “vegan” (or downplaying it, or being vague about its meaning and importance) and certainly not presenting veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species.
Since I refocused my advocacy and, with co-founder Elena Brodskaya, that of South Florida Vegan Education Group (SFVEG) and committed to engaging in clear, consistent, unequiVOCAL abolitionist vegan education, we keep receiving feedback that people are committing to living vegan as a direct result of our conversations, presentations and associated work. I don’t have the words to express how gratifying and humbling it feels to know that what we do actually makes a positive and meaningful difference in the world.
Here are some examples we’ve compiled of feedback we’ve received:
Thank you to all who support me and our group in these endeavors, and a special thanks to my friends Ramona Reichert for gently (ok, not so gently 😉 ) shaming me into opening my vegan mouth on Facebook and to Colin Wright for gently (ok, not so gently 😉 ) nudging me out of the black hole of welfarism and being the first to point me toward abolitionism. I am deeply indebted to you both.
Lastly, but mostly, thank you to my love, Elena Brodskaya, for walking this path hand-in-hand with me and for being my greatest influence and inspiration, my constant sounding board and for gently (yes, so very gently <3 ) letting me know when I need to come back from some tangent I’m on and get back on the path.
If you’re not vegan: please ask yourself why and then ask yourself whether your answer(s) would hold up and be justified if the helpless victims from whom you receive palate pleasure and other benefits were human. If you feel they would, let’s talk about that. If you feel they wouldn’t, let’s talk about that, too. Either way, I’m truly interested to hear your thoughts and have a discussion. Really. For realz. No kiddin’ around. Mean it.
If you are vegan, I’ll leave you with this: clear, consistent, unequivocal abolitionist vegan education works, and it’s far more effective than engaging in campaigns that profess to have the best interest of animals in mind, yet in reality exist to serve their own ends through endless self-promotion, donation solicitation and putting out small fires while ignoring the larger source of the blaze that’s been burning the world to the ground for centuries. Sadly, when we work to reduce – but not eliminate – animal suffering (as is the hallmark of the welfarist organizations), there’s an unintended consequence — non-vegans keep eating animals, only now with a clearer conscience and no reason nor desire to ever stop. 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 helps no one. In fact, as a form of enabling, it only serves to cause more unnecessary suffering to all involved.
From my heart to yours, thank you for listening.
Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how: