Category Archives: Vegan

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:
 

On Magical Thinking and Why Food Is Not the Solution to Speciesism

“Education is key. You give a person a vegan meal and they’ll eat vegan for a day. You educate them and give them inspiration to go vegan, they’ll be vegan for life.” – Elena Brodskaya

From an actual conversation:

Long-time vegan: “Do you know the best way to get someone to go vegan?” [smile]
Me: “No, what is it?!?”
Long-time vegan: “Cook them a delicious vegan meal!” [BIG smile]
Me: [blink…… blink…… blink……]

I find myself in disbelief each time vegans tell me they think they can convince people to truly live veganmeaning to embrace 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 – by merely showing them how delicious 100% plant-based meals can be and how easy they are to prepare.  Yes, plant foods are delectable, satisfying and meet our nutritional needs (just some of the wonderful ancillary benefits of living vegan), however most people have prepared, eaten, and continue to eat tasty and satisfying foods that are not derived from animals – and yet 98% of the population continues to indulge in the consumption of animal flesh and secretions right alongside, below, atop, within and around those delicious vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes that comprise a plants-only diet.  A “hot dog with everything”, for example, is literally surrounded on all sides by mouthwatering plant foods, but I’ve yet to hear of anyone swear off hot dogs because they became enraptured with relish.  As Elena Brodskaya has said many times, veganism is not a diet and without a morally compelling reason to stop consuming products of animal exploitation, plant-based cuisine exists as just another option among many and not a replacement for any:

“What do you feel like eating tonight?  Italian, Mexican, Asian…  Vegan?”

We’ve had family and friends prepare us countless meals suitable for vegans (I try not to use the phrase “vegan food” because it reinforces the mistaken idea that “vegan” represents a food category rather than an ethical stance against violence and injustice) that they themselves partook of, so they knew without a shadow of a doubt the simplicity of preparation and the delightful tastiness of the food they were serving and not once did any of them exclaim, “That’s it – this food is so good, I’m going vegan!”  I’ve had many enjoyable meals in restaurants of various ethnicities and can say that I’ve never felt an overwhelming desire to suddenly embrace every aspect of another culture because their food is yummy.

When a person is unaware that, through behaviors they’ve been indoctrinated to believe all their lives are appropriate, acceptable and necessary, they are complicit in the victimization of vulnerable individuals, it is crucial to not just offer them an alternative option to those behaviors but to take the time to educate them as to why those behaviors are morally unjustifiable in the first place.  Imagine a scenario in which you know your friend is a spousal abuser and, rather than having a frank and honest discussion about why spousal abuse is fundamentally unjust and that he should stop this at once, you suggest instead that he might consider joining a bowling league as a way to “blow off some steam” on the weekends since it’s fun, communal and gives him something more productive to do with his hands.  While bowling might present a distraction and perhaps interfere temporarily with the pattern of abuse, it fails to address the underlying problem, offers no real solution and is far from a guarantee that the abuse at home will cease or even diminish.

Now consider a scenario in which a vegan serves a non-vegan a plate of spaghetti and meatless meatballs and says, “Isn’t this vegan alternative to meatballs delicious?  Now you never have to eat ‘real’ meatballs again, right???”

Without making a compelling case for why it’s wrong to continue consuming products of animal exploitation (because it represents one’s support of and engagement in the bullying, victimization and slaughter of the most vulnerable group of beings on the planet and is  therefore antithetical to most people’s morals), all that’s been accomplished here is that another option has been added to an existing list of menu items.  Nothing in the non-vegan’s belief system has been challenged, so nothing has changed.  And when nothing changes, nothing changes.

Again, the common misconception that “vegan = diet”, bolstered by celebrities like Dr. Oz (only one among countless others) who blithely promote that erroneous message, moves the focus from where it needs to be: ethics.

If one believes that non-human individuals matter morally and that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on them, then the only logical response is to start living vegan immediately.

Magical Tragical Thinking

It’s not food that truly convinces people to live vegan, nor does eating a salad or choosing a meal free of animal flesh and secretions “save lives” or “spare animals”, despite what large, self-serving animal “welfare” groups – who work in concert with animal agriculture to find more economically efficient ways to exploit animals – would suggest in most of their litter-ature and manipulative marketing materials.  There is no evidence to suggest that skipping a hamburger or saying no to a steak results in, somewhere, a cow being magically transported from a slaughterhouse to a sanctuary.  Consider this from a previous essay:

“Does [anyone] believe that asking non-vegans to go ‘meat-free’ seven days out of the year (which tacitly condones the consumption of animal flesh the other 358 days per year) is bringing us closer to the abolition of animal exploitation?  It’s not as if the animals currently confined and scheduled for execution so that their bodies can be disemboweled, dismembered and distributed for sale in neat packages will be spared that fate when some unknown number of people take a one-week meat vacation…  The results will be the same as if it never happened – all those animals will die and be eaten soon enough (and then be replaced by other animals forcibly bred into existence for commodification and consumption), and most likely by the same people who didn’t eat them that week.  To believe otherwise is to employ a form of magical thinking that is counterproductive to the cause of eliminating the violent oppression of non-human animals.”

Don’t Just “Go” Vegan – Live Vegan

Again from a previous essay:

“When you ‘go’ someplace (to the store, to the movies, to work, on vacation), more often than not you come back to the very same place you came from, and that’s usually the place where you live.  Conversely, when you live a particular way, you embody your ethics and take them with you wherever you happen to find yourself (just as you would in opposing racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and any other form of oppression, all of which are analogous to speciesism).

What convinces people to live vegan, as opposed to go vegan, is the internalization of the idea that when we know it’s wrong to unnecessarily hurt and kill innocent sentient beings for our personal benefit (usually palate pleasure, comfort, convenience and entertainment) and continue to engage in this injustice, we are living in opposition to our own morals and ethics.

When it comes to living vegan, it’s not the taste on our tongue but the voice of our conscience that effects meaningful, lasting change.

[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”.

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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 Guns and False Bravado

john-goodman

[I am republishing this essay in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas on 10/1/2017 that has claimed nearly 60 lives, injured over 500 others and will have repercussions far beyond those numbers.]

I am deeply saddened by all the recent loss of life our society has experienced this year and, like so many others, am struggling to find answers to very difficult questions.  I want to share my thoughts on one concept that has me puzzled.

I’m trying to understand how this “everyone should carry a gun so we’ll all be safe from people with guns” thing works or, specifically, might have worked in the horrendously tragic Orlando incident on 6/12/16 (or similar incidents) and it simply doesn’t make sense to me.  Here’s how I think it could have played out had the majority of patrons at the Pulse Nightclub been armed:

Mass murderer walks into a nightclub with a Sig Sauer MCX rifle (apparently it wasn’t an AR-15, as originally reported), hellbent on doing as much lethal damage as possible.

People are dancing, clubbing, whatevering – safe to assume lots of alcohol and other drugs on board, flashing lights, possible smoke in the air and loud music (not an environment conducive to making quick, clear, life-and-death decisions) – but certainly not standing around with guns drawn anticipating the arrival of a mass murderer they’ll have to heroically stop with a perfectly placed kill shot.

Mass murderer starts shooting.  Panic ensues.  Lights and music continue for a time.

Those with guns (at least the ones who aren’t already wounded, in a blind panic, running for their lives or being pushed and trampled by others running for their lives) draw guns and see, guess what, lots of other people with guns frantically looking around, ducking and covering, trying to figure out who’s shooting and who to shoot.

At this point in the scenario, ANYONE with a gun is a potential target for anyone else with a gun, because nothing is clear and obvious (murderers don’t conveniently wear Kiss the Shooter aprons or black hats like bad cowboys used to, and this isn’t the movies where the lights and camera focus on the shooter so we can all identify him or her) and just carrying a gun does not automatically imbue someone with the skill set of James Bond, John McClane or a Navy SEAL.  You’re still you, the person who does office work at a desk 8 hours a day or bags groceries or drives for Uber – like it or not, that’s your primary skill set – only with a lethal weapon on your person.  Those paper targets you shoot at don’t move or shoot back, and you’re probably not sweating and shaking from adrenaline in fear for your life out there on the gun range.  In this scenario, people with guns are gonna shoot other people with guns (right after shitting their pants and pissing down their legs – that’s how false bravado leaves the body, by the way), which is going to start a chain reaction of people shooting at those who are shooting at those who are shooting, not to mention those scurrying in all directions who will be caught in the crossfire…  it’ll quite literally be a shit show, and the murderer will most likely target those with guns first as a means of damage control and self-preservation, because he’s in control of the situation and knows where to look.

I don’t see this scenario ending well or even much better than the actual terrible event.

Now, some who read this may think, “Oh, great… here we go.  Another peace-loving, tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal hippie who’s never even fired a gun in his life.  He just doesn’t know how the world works, and now he wants all our guns taken away!”  Please allow me to offer some perspective:

Since 2004, I have been living vegan and doing the best I can to carry the vegan message of nonviolence and justice, but that wasn’t always the case.  As a child, adolescent and young adult, I was OBSESSED with guns and collected other weapons with which I became proficient due to my perception of the world as a dangerous and hostile place: knives, bows and arrows, nunchakus and various homemade weapons.  But it was always guns that were the most alluring and seemed to have the most power.  I owned countless toy guns of all varieties, then graduated to BB and pellet guns.  I would read gun magazines, collect shell casings, draw pictures of guns, fantasize about guns, warfare, sniping and sleep with actual weapons next to my bed and under my pillow.  At various times, I’ve handled and fired shotguns, rifles and handguns.  I was an excellent marksman back when I was shooting and once, on a dare, took the life of an innocent non-human individual, an action of which I am not proud and one which I am glad I never repeated.  Killing once is horrible enough, and I will always regret that awful choice and live with the sadness it brings.

I’ve also had loaded guns pointed at my face twice in my life, once as a young child and again as an adult, and could easily have died either time had things gone differently – one move from me or the potential shooter and I’m not here.  I have been on both ends of the barrel of a gun, and I am uncomfortable on either end.

The last time I fired a gun (and the last time I will ever willingly handle or fire a gun) was, outwardly, quite a neutral experience.  I was at a shooting range with a gun owner who let me shoot targets with their Taurus 9mm pistol.  I shot well and followed all the necessary safety precautions… but at some point, I realized I felt incredibly uneasy holding that gun in my hand.  I could feel the power it seemed to exude – to me, it was all but glowing – and knew it had the potential to turn life to death in an instant.  To me, it felt like it wanted to do things – dangerous, deadly things – all by itself.  I placed it safely on the stand, walked away and I was done with guns.  To reiterate, I was a gun fanatic, so this revelation or awakening or whatever it was came as a complete surprise to me… but that’s what happened and here I am.

As for the other points in the imaginary argument I’m having with the imaginary gun-loving readers:

Am I peace-loving?  Absolutely.  Am I a tree-hugger?  Nope. I’m a tree-humper, ‘cos trees are SEXY!  Am I liberal?  I guess so, though the more appropriate term is probably progressive.  Am I a hippie?  Technically no, however I’m the child of the most awesome hippie I know (that’s you, Joni Ray!).  If loving peace is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.  Today I exercise the choice to live from love rather than fear.

I may not have an elegant solution to offer (other than to create peace right where each of us stands by choosing to live a non-violent vegan life), but I just don’t believe the answer to gun violence is to arm everyone and just hope society doesn’t devolve into Deadwood or a Tarantino film.

[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:
 

Language Matters Vol. 1 – Vegan / Non-Vegan

Courtesy: Colin Wright https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/

“There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and…” 😉

Language Matters

Although there seem to be countless, ever-increasing variations on the theme of what to call those who intentionally support, promote and personally benefit from animal use and exploitation to satisfy their personal pleasure, comfort and convenience, please consider the following:

When it comes to humans, there are those who live vegan and those who do not, hence there are only vegans and non-vegans.

Veganism is NOT a Diet

While there is certainly a dietary component to living vegan, this nonviolent, justice-focused way of living goes far beyond the end of one’s fork.

Image courtesy of Vegan Musings @ https://www.facebook.com/ThoughtsPicturesPoems/

Since veganism is not defined by simple abstinence from eating animals and their secretions but rather follows the ethical principle of eschewing any use/exploitation of non-human individuals wherever possible and practicable, terms like “omni”, “omnivore”, “carnivore”, “necrovore”, “flesh-eater”, “carnist”, “corpse-muncher”, etc. are problematic in multiple ways, some of which are discussed below.

First, these terms are inherently speciesist in that they put the focus on “meat” (animal flesh) and fail to take into account the consumption of animal secretions such as milk, eggs and honey.  Further, they overlook the myriad uses of non-human animals for other than dietary reasons which unfortunately causes confusion as to what veganism truly means.  The animal agriculture industry and their supporters are doing a fine job of purposefully muddying those waters already – I implore vegans not to unwittingly aid animal ag in their subversion of our efforts to dismantle speciesism and bring an end to animal exploitation by engaging in speciesism themselves.

Antagonism –> Alienation

Next, many of the aforementioned terms and others like them are frequently used pejoratively, hence they have a high potential to trigger defensive reactions from those we might otherwise engage and educate about veganism, thereby limiting our advocacy opportunities by turning conversations into confrontations.

Antagonism is a form of violence and, since veganism represents a commitment to living nonviolently, it is counterproductive to engage in a behavior we are trying to end.  If our goal is to continue making progress in shifting the current speciesist paradigm that not only allows but demands the enslavement, exploitation and execution of billions of non-human individuals each year to satisfy human gluttony, it’s important to remember that it’s always better to educate than to alienate.

Image courtesy of https://veganismisnonviolence.com/

While some may grow tired of the same old phrasing and wish to spice things up with new and clever variations – especially ones that sell lots of books but are ultimately misleading and based on false premises – it is preferable to avoid unnecessary confusion by keeping things simple and remaining consistent in the language we use.  It is also important to not engage in the same forms of oppression one is working to end.

Remember – there are vegans and there are non-vegans.  This wheel does not need reinventing.

[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:
 

BeFairBeVegan.com

Please enjoy this related essay:

On Defining Veganism

On Two Sides of Selfishness

It’s All About Me

It can be argued that those who “go vegan” for their own health and personal betterment – which really translates to adopting a plant-based diet, the definition of which is anybody’s guess these days – are essentially acting from the same place of selfishness that had them eating animals and their secretions to satisfy their own pleasure in the first place.  When that’s the case, there’s little to stop them from reverting back to their original selfish position of consuming products of animal exploitation (one supported and encouraged by mainstream speciesist society) and resuming their complicity in the violent oppression of non-human individuals, and this happens far too often.  Other than an alteration in diet, nothing’s changed for them in any meaningful and fundamental way.  There’s been no move from selfishness to selflessness, no firm and unwavering commitment to eschew participation in all forms of animal use and no realization that all of these constitute injustice.  Everything is still all about them, and the animal victims of human selfishness remain sadly overlooked.

I’m never surprised when this recidivism happens, and it’s no longer a disappointment.  At this point, it’s expected.  What I do find disappointing is that more vegans don’t see it coming like a slow-moving freight train and continue to celebrate each time some public figure decides to temporarily (and not always exclusively) eat plants: “Ohhh, look! Blahblahblah-celebrity ‘went’ vegan!!!  Isn’t that AMAZING???”

No.

What would be amazing is if that person began truly living a life of moral consistency and started living vegan rather than “going” vegan, ‘cos when you “go” someplace (to the store, to the movies, to work, on vacation), more often than not you come back to the very same place you came from, and that’s usually the place where you live.  Conversely, when you live a particular way, you embody your ethics and take them with you wherever you happen to find yourself (just as you would in opposing racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and any other form of oppression, all of which are analogous to speciesism).  When I found myself, I began living vegan.  It’s not only how I live, it’s where I live.

Wait – It’s Not All About Me??

It’s crucial to remember that veganism isn’t primarily about us and how we can benefit from ceasing to participate in the non-consensual use of animals.  Personal health and environmental improvements are side benefits of living vegan, and vegan advocates and educators ought to be careful not to erroneously frame them as the goals or primary motivations.  Veganism is an ethical position that represents a return to living according to our almost universally shared belief that harming – and killing – others for no good reason is always wrong.  “But their bodies taste good!” is as morally unjustifiable a reason for taking a life as “But their bodies feel good!” is for sexually violating another individual.  Each represents a terrible injustice that serves only to satisfy the pleasure of the perpetrator to the extreme detriment of the victim.

Used To Be = Never Was

Each time I hear that someone “used to be vegan”, I can be sure they never internalized the ethical position and have to wonder where they got the fallacious information that simply eating an exclusively plant-based diet equates to living vegan.  I implore vegan advocates and educators to always be clear, consistent and unequivocal about the meaning, importance and ethics of veganism.

Lives depend on 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.]

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.

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