Category Archives: Violence

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”.

fear-002

If you’re “afraid” to be direct and honest about veganism, I challenge you to move through the fear and do what you know is right.  After all, your “fear” is nothing compared to the real fears being felt right now by the animals we all want to save.  To operate from fear in this light is to operate from pure selfishness and ego, and that helps no one.  In fact, it only serves to allow more injustice, unnecessary suffering and death to all involved.

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.] 

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

Giving Thanks for Truth

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]

Gimme Some Truth

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

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

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

And for those non-vegans who are bothered by the notion of animal “cruelty“, such euphemistic labeling allows them to continue consuming animals while under the comforting yet erroneous belief that they are discharging their moral responsibility toward non-human individuals by only choosing the ones who weren’t overtly brutalized before being butchered.

This is why I define marketing as “lies designed to separate people from their money and their morals“.

I submit the following from the above photo of packaged animal parts for your consideration:

“Grateful Harvest” – the decapitated, de-feathered, disemboweled remains of an exploited individual is nothing for anyone to be grateful about.  This is not a harvest – it is a life cut short for no justifiable reason, as is the life of any sentient individual taken for palate pleasure or other selfish human conveniences.

“Organic” – seriously, who cares?  Dead is dead, and decomposition of flesh begins immediately upon death.  Does it really matter if the corpse one is putting in one’s mouth is “organic”?

“Raised without antibiotics… added hormones or steroids” – what’s not mentioned here is “killed with a sharp knife across the throat while struggling for her life after having endured unimaginable torment and misery from birth to blade” which, while accurate, would probably be frowned upon from a marketing perspective.  The truth usually is.

“Fed no animal by-product” – well that’s a relief, ‘cos no one wants to eat an animal who’s eaten an animal… right?  It’s always ironic that so many humans, who as a species are biologically and physiologically herbivores, choose mostly to consume members of other herbivorous species in a misguided effort to meet their nutritional needs by eating animals who we feed plants… rather than just eating the plants directly and leaving the animals to live their lives autonomously and free from exploitation and premature death.  A whole foods, plants-only diet is a win-win for everyone – we get our nutrients directly from the source with optimum bioavailability (as they’re not filtered through another animal’s digestive system, which is like asking someone to eat and digest your food for you and then killing and eating them so you can eat and digest the food you asked them to eat and digest for you.  Does that make any sense at all?  If you answered “no”, then ask yourself why, if you consume animals, you’re doing exactly that) and no individual is condemned to death and dismemberment to become someone else’s food.

“No preservatives” – again, who cares?  This is a corpse; it’s only slightly removed from roadkill.  I would think that eating rotting flesh ought to be considered far less appetizing than consuming “preservatives”.

“Free-range” – if whatever passes for that “range” (usually a giant warehouse crammed wall-to-wall with thousands of turkeys awaiting execution – just Google “free range facility” to put that myth to rest) was truly free, this turkey and his/her relatives would still be intact, alive and enjoying their freedom.

Bottom line – no matter how much one polishes a turd, it’s still gonna stink like shit.  In this age of readily-available information, there is no excuse for believing this kind of shit.  To paraphrase a line from Steve Martin’s brilliant L.A. Story, one of my favorite films:

Free your mind and your body will follow.

This Thanksgiving – and every day – please stop pretending there’s nothing morally repugnant about having an autopsy on your dinner table… and ask yourself whether you’d so willingly accept that if the victim on the plate were human instead of non-human.

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

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:
 

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

Because we wear pants, obviously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]

Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

***A note from Keith and Elena – before you go, please consider making a safe, secure tax-deductible donation via our YouCaring page (<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) to support South Florida Vegan Education Group’s advocacy efforts.  Contributions of any amount are received with equal gratitude and go directly to fund our vegan public education work.  And whether or not you can contribute, please share our fundraising campaign with friends and associates!  Thank you!

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

BeFairBeVegan.com

The legal stuff:

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

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

“Speciesism is wrong, but…”

speciesism cow barbed wire dog SFVEG poster

“Yeah, but…”

Consider the following statements:

“I agree that racism is wrong, but…”

“I agree that sexism is wrong, but…”

“I agree that heterosexism is wrong, but…”

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

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

Now consider this statement:

“I agree that speciesism is wrong, but…”

Speciesism can be defined as a double standard created by humans placing higher moral value on some individual animals over other individual animals, based solely on the morally irrelevant criterion of species membership.  To disagree with speciesism is to agree with veganism, which is defined as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.  In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” – Vegan Society 1979

speciesism-008-author-unknown-002

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

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

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

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

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

ethical-position-002-bfbv

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

One final statement to consider:

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

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

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]

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

 

Briefly – Meatless Monday Addendum & The Speciesist Comment of the Day

speciesism banner

[This is an addendum to my essay, Why Meatless Monday is Meaningless, published 6/5/17]

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, Meatless Meaningless 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-founder The Good Food Institute, tells Bustle.  “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.”
 
Of course, Mr. Cooney fails to point out (as usual) that plant-based eating” does not equate to living vegan.  A 100% plant-based diet is only one component of a way of living that seeks to exclude all forms of animal exploitation/use.
 

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.

speciesism-006

[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.]

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

Why Meatless Monday Does More Harm Than Good

In addition to new content, this essay contains previously published material in examining a controversial animal welfare single-issue campaign I see promoted weekly and exploring the speciesism behind it:

Meatless Monday

vegan-use-not-abuse

The problem is not how we exploit animals – the problem is that we 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 supremacy that 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.

Meatless Monday tries to be clever
There is nothing funny about the killing of vulnerable individuals… except if you’re MeatlessMonday.com, that is. The text reads: “Do you have the day off from work tomorrow? You’re not the only one… ~wink~ “.

Even though it’s clear that the Meatless Monday campaign has nothing to do with helping to bring an end to the exploitation of non-human animals (even though some people claim every meatless meal “saves” X-number of animals, as if skipping a hamburger results in, somewhere, a cow being magically transported from a slaughterhouse to a sanctuary), many vegans – including high-profile celebrity “vegans” – lend their names to and continue to support this campaign, rationalizing that it is “part of a journey” toward veganism – even though it promotes a version of vegetarianism rather than veganism.  Some seem to believe it’s necessary to encourage non-vegans to take “baby steps” and that “every little bit helps”.

Eating plants won’t save animals.  Dismantling speciesism to abolish animal use will save animals.

baby-steps-001

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

Below in red is an excerpt from my essay Compassion Over Killing and Their Timeshare Approach to Animal Rights:

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 about eggs 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.]

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

 

Trish Roberts, Steve Grumbine and Keith Berger Discuss Veganism on Real Progressives

Here is the audio and video of the Real Progressives livestream on Facebook that took place on 5/26/17.   Please listen and share!

 

Thank you to Steve Grumbine of Real Progressives for inviting me and Trish Roberts of HowToGoVegan.org and VeganTrove.com for a lively discussion on veganism with particular focus on its ethical implications.

Please note that, during the show, I lost my Internet connection for roughly ten minutes around the 38-minute mark but was able to return before the close of the program.

We hope to be invited back again for more opportunities to speak with Steve and further discuss veganism on Real Progressives!

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.]

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

Briefly – “Don’t You Miss…?”

 

vegan sacrifice edited 003

I frequently hear some version of the question, “Since you’re vegan, don’t you miss meat/cheese/eggs/milk/honey/leather/wool (or other products of animal exploitation)?”

No, I don’t.  Once I knew how those products were obtained and what my part was in making that happen, my decision to cease my complicity in that violent and deadly system was immediate and unwavering.  My only choice was to start living vegan.
 

The way I understand it, there’s nothing to “miss” about causing unnecessary harm and death to innocent, vulnerable individuals.

ethical-position-002-bfbv 
Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how: