Tag Archives: convenience

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR VEGAN EDUCATION EFFORTS WITH A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE CONTRIBUTION

Hello, friends!

If you’re like us at South Florida Vegan Education Group (SFVEG) – eager to see true change in the world and help shift the current paradigm that allows and demands the use of non-human animals as disposable, replaceable commodities to serve and satisfy human pleasures and conveniences – then we ask that you please consider making a safe, secure tax-deductible donation via our YouCaring page (<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) to further our vegan education efforts.  All donations are tax deductible and are used to cover ongoing printing, travel and entry costs for participation in upcoming events which will help us provide important education to people across Florida and beyond.

***To understand how contributions are allocated, please see list of upcoming events and breakdown of costs below

We feel it is crucial at events such as these that there be a clear, consistent abolitionist vegan message that all animal use is morally unjustifiable and find that such a message is rarely, if ever, presented amidst the cacophony of animal welfare groups and their pleas of reducing animal “cruelty” and “suffering” (rather than ending animal use) and other unclear, confusing and often confrontational “harm reduction” rhetoric.  By directly engaging with the public in an educative fashion, our group provides a true vegan message in an unequivocal, straightforward and non-threatening manner.

SFVEG cover3

We are passionate about empowering individuals with the knowledge that veganism is the primary means of dismantling speciesism and achieving the abolition of animal enslavement, exploitation and execution for human pleasure and convenience, and we do this in a unique way that challenges the status quo of the animal “welfare” movement (and the animal exploiters with whom they purposely partner) as it continues to focus on everything but veganism in order to maximize each other’s profits and keep the wheels of animal agriculture turning.

We are eager to bring our Vegan Education Station everywhere we can and are asking for your support in making that happen.   Please donate if you are able and also share our campaign (<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) far and wide to give others the opportunity to join our support network!

As of today, here are the upcoming local events in which we plan to participate (in addition to ongoing tabling and other advocacy efforts):

September 9, 2017
Organic Beauty & Wellness Fest
– nonprofit vendor participation fee = $350.00

October 29, 2017
Palm Beach Vegfest at Meyer Amphitheatre – nonprofit vendor participation fee = $250.00

January 20, 2018
Palm Beach Vegfest at MiznerAmphitheatre – nonprofit vendor participation fee = $250.00

Vendor fees = $850.00
Printing costs (Embracing Veganism, SFVEG Starter Guide to Veganism, recipes and information on identifying and avoiding animal ingredients ) = $550.00
Travel, gas, food = $65.00

Total costs for 3 events = $1465.00

With gratitude,

Peacelovevegan,

Keith Berger & Elena Brodskaya
Co-founders, SFVEG

[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.
 
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BeFairBeVegan.com

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

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

6/16/17 – Trish Roberts and Keith Berger Discuss Veganism on Real Progressives Livestream

Despite some technical difficulties with the audio, on Friday 6/16/17, Trish Roberts of HowToGoVegan.org and VeganTrove.com and I discussed several aspects of veganism and its relation to other social justice issues.  Here is the link to the video of the livestream:

Trish Roberts and Keith Berger Discuss Veganism on Real Progressives Livestream

Thank you to Steve Grumbine of Real Progressives for allowing us space to engage in discussions about veganism with a particular focus on its ethical implications.

Please join Trish and I as we welcome Elena Brodskaya, co-founder and President of SFVEG on our next livestream Wednesday 6/21/17 at 9:15 pm EDT… and stay tuned for future episodes!

[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:
 

 

Why Meatless Monday is Meaningless

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”.

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:
 

 

On Rationalizations and Awareness

babies
If we are appalled at the idea of eating human babies but accepting of the idea of eating non-human babies, then we need to examine our speciesism.

Rational Lies Cause Mythunderstandings

When it comes to the use and exploitation of animals for reasons of palate pleasure, comfort and convenience, I’m not proud of how I used to think, but it’s part of my story and may be relatable to others who live in a society where speciesism is currently the norm.

In my denial, I used to rationalize that it’s a good thing we kill “food” animals when they’re young so they don’t endure prolonged suffering (slaughter age for most non-human animals used for food is between 1-6 months.  If you’re not yet vegan, take a moment to consider that those are babies on your plate and that the age of the victim is, in the end, irrelevant…).

baby oven

Through my own extravagant mental gymnastics, I found ways to justify my use of animals and had crafted a comforting myth for myself that went like this:

“Yes, I’m aware that veal calves are traumatically separated from their mothers shortly after birth, confined and chained by their necks in crates, fed a nutrient-poor diet that causes them health problems like anemia and then killed within a few months, but here’s why that’s ok: they’re not really ‘suffering‘ because they’ve never experienced a ‘good’ life and therefore have no frame of reference for what pleasure and comfort feel like.  To them, this is just ‘life’, much as when someone is born without legs, they never ‘miss’ their legs since they don’t know what it is to have legs.  They just adapt and deal with life as they know it.  And, if by some chance I’m wrong and the calves actually are suffering, it’s certainly better to kill them and put them out of their misery as soon as possible.  Either way, there’s no problem that I can see.”

Yes, I actually said that.  More than once.  To anyone who’d listen.

I must have believed, in some misguided utilitarian fantasy, that we were being “humane“, merciful and doing non-human individuals a favor by slaughtering them to avoid prolonging their miserable lives.  I conveniently overlooked the obvious fact that we are the ones causing their misery in the first place by forcibly breeding them into existence for the express purpose of killing them and that the only way to stop all of what’s deemed as “misery”, “abuse”, “suffering” and “cruelty” is to stop behaving as if non-human individuals are objects, things and replaceable, disposable resources to be used to satisfy our trivial desires.  

In short, when we understand that it’s wrong to hurt and kill innocent, vulnerable individuals irrespective of species membership, age, gender identity, class, race or any other arbitrary criterion, we have a moral obligation to live vegan.

Rational Eyes See the Truth

I’m glad that when my mind and heart woke up to reality and I became aware of the consequences of my behavior, I began living vegan that same day.

The best amends I can make for the horrific and irreparable damage I used to cause non-human individuals by supporting a system that demands their enslavement, exploitation and execution is to live differently, to live ethically, to live vegan… and to carry a clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan message to others.

I’m asking you to do the same, starting today.  Live vegan and advocate veganism.  It’s a choice you will never regret.

[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:
 

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:
 

On Honesty and Consistency In Vegan Advocacy

reduction of cruelty SFVEG poster 001

If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No”

When we as vegan advocates dilute what veganism is by wrongly conflating it with vegetarianism, we are a) being dishonest, b) misleading the public in a way that costs the lives of non-human individuals and c) missing a key opportunity to educate people about the ethical and moral reasons to live vegan and end their participation in the fundamental injustice of animal use.

Here is a widely accepted definition (arguably, it’s the definition) of veganism:

  • “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

But isn’t vegetarianism a good thing?

I’ve observed many people and groups extolling the virtues of vegetarianism, calling it an “ethical” and “compassionate” choice that “reduces cruelty”, however when one applies a modicum of critical thinking and takes a closer look, one quickly arrives at a far different conclusion.  An excerpt from What Is Wrong With Vegetarianism? from UVE Archives (I encourage everyone to read the entire essay linked above):

“The Moral Problems with Vegetarianism

Many people are vegetarians for ethical reasons.  They object to either the treatment of animals in animal agriculture or the intentional killing of animals, or both.  Paradoxically, despite their objections to the treatment or intentional killing of animals, they continue to consume dairy products and eggs, which… certainly contribute more to the suffering and arguably as much to the intentional killing of animals than the consumption of meat products.  In fact, to the extent that a vegetarian replaces calories from flesh with calories from dairy and egg products, the vegetarian has increased his or her contribution to animal suffering.”

It is important to note here that “cruelty”, “abuse” and “suffering” are merely symptoms of the problem  – animal use – and even if the non-consensual uses of vulnerable individuals in question were devoid of discomfort and injury, they remain unjust.  When we focus on specific cruelties and treatment, this leads to more ineffective and counterproductive campaigns for animal welfare rather than the abolition of animal use and a call to justice.

An excerpt from Vegetarianism – a step in the wrong direction for me from There’s An Elephant In The Room (again, I encourage everyone to read the entire essay linked above):

“Potential confusion is not in any way helped when so many groups and organisations conflate the words ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’, implying that they are similar. The standard definition has become so accepted here in the UK that the supermarkets all stock huge ranges of products defined as ‘vegetarian’, all supported by skilful marketing strategies that promote them as everything from ‘healthy’ to ‘humane’ with few exceptions, each of which contains animal milk in some form – frequently as cheese – and eggs which are often described as ‘free range’.

Many of us – and I was one – mistakenly assume that ‘vegetarian’ is synonymous with ‘cruelty free’ when nothing could possibly be further from the truth. Yes, I had stopped eating the obvious slabs of bloodied flesh. But what I did not realise was that my dietary consumption was continuing to supply the market with dead flesh, even though I did not consume it directly. And as for my non-food choices…”

I was once under the erroneous impression that vegans were simply vegetarians whose diet also excluded dairy, eggs and honey.  This seemed to me to be an extreme position to take, but then, so did vegetarianism as I was indoctrinated to fall in line with the common societal belief that humans need to eat (and otherwise use) animals to survive.  I believed vegetarianism and veganism to be aberrant dietary choices and had no real understanding of either as having any sort of ethical underpinnings.  I do recall being aware of certain animal “rights” groups promoting vegetarian diets but I wrote those groups off as “extremists” and paid no attention to their antics and promotions (which, ironically, I would later take part in myself for a regrettable decade).

On the evening that veganism was explained to me in a calm and rational manner, I understood that it went far beyond mere dietary choices and found that what is truly “extreme” is the injustice of enslaving, exploiting and executing innocent, vulnerable sentient beings to satisfy human pleasure, comfort and convenience.  In that moment, I experienced a fundamental internal shift and made the decision to bring my morals and actions into congruence by living vegan.

ethical-position-002-bfbv

If we, as vegan individuals and groups, are afraid to commit to a 100% effort toward clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education because “vegetarian sounds better” and is “more marketable” (as I was told by a representative of a speciesist animal welfare group), how do we expect non-vegans to commit to a 100% vegan life when we’re afraid to say what we really mean and ask for what we really want?

If you want less than veganism, then ask for it and that’s what you’ll get.  After all, it doesn’t require any real change to move from one form of non-veganism to another, and make no mistake that “vegetarian” in all its guises and with all its prefixes and hyphenations is anything other than animal exploitation.  Each new permutation is just a new coat of blood-red paint on the same old abattoir.

lacto-ovo-tarianConversely, if you want people to take a firm stand against injustice and oppression toward vulnerable sentient beings by first ending their participation in it, educate them about veganism as our minimum moral obligation toward the non-humans with whom we share this planet.  In this way, we move closer to dismantling speciesism, which 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“.  The fundamental injustice of speciesism begets all other forms of oppression toward vulnerable individuals and groups that we see running rampant on our planet today.  We believe the dismantling and abolition of speciesism are integral in starting the chain of conscious evolution that will lead to the end of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and the like.

vegan-trove-vegan-planet-poster-002

Doesn’t that sound like the kind of world in which you’d like to live?  Let’s make it happen, one new vegan at a time!

[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:
 

 

 

Vegan Education – Creating Opportunities Vol. 2

Do It Again

In a recent essay, I shared a story of how I’ve been inspired by my friend and fellow vegan educator Colin Wright to try redirecting phone conversations with strangers* into vegan education opportunities whenever possible.  More recently, I was able to create a similar opportunity during a live online chat with a customer service representative.

[*it’s entirely possible that my mother Joni Ray told me never to talk to strangers (though she may have encouraged such behavior… who knows?), however since she’s vegan herself, I imagine she’ll approve in these instances 😉 ]

Nike chat - vegan education edited 002

I’d been searching all over for non-leather tennis shoes and had been having a tough time locating them, so I decided to reach out to Nike via their website and ask for assistance.  I was able to get some direction from a representative named Kimberly who really took the time to help, even though some of the information she provided at first was incorrect.  As our conversation was coming to an end, I thanked her for her assistance, told her my reasons for seeking non-leather shoes (see image above) and asked her one question:

“Would you agree that it is wrong to hurt animals?”

Kimberly’s reply was, “I totally agree with you!  That is what I thought so earlier (sic).  I really admire you for doing this, you are awesome!”

Knowing that she wouldn’t be able to linger much longer in our chat now that her actual work was done, I followed up by telling her that, “…since you agree that it’s wrong to hurt animals, it becomes our moral obligation to live vegan” and gave her links to the excellent How To Go Vegan podcast and VeganEducationGroup.com

Kimberly thanked me and said she’d check out the information and, with that, our vegan education session came to a close.

Doing My Duty

Bhagavad Gita - Tunnel View- Yosemite

Is it possible to determine what effect, if any, our conversation will have on her attitude toward the use of non-human individuals for human pleasure, comfort and convenience?  Unless she contacts me with feedback, the answer is no.  However, if I had chosen not to engage her in that portion of the conversation, odds are she would not have been challenged to think about this issue at all on that particular day.  For me, it was worth the effort to raise the issue and get her thinking, at least for those few minutes, about our moral obligation to innocent, vulnerable non-human individuals.

The “V” Word Revisited

Please remember – there’s nothing “scary” or “off-putting” about the word vegan or the idea of veganism, despite what some large animal welfare corporations would want people to believe (and they propagate that myth to further their own ends and increase their profitability at the expense of the animals they purport to be “helping”).  When presented in a calm, rational and respectful manner, there is nothing about veganism that drives people away.  On the contrary, these ideas of nonviolence, fairness and true justice for all resonate deeply with those who hear them and frequently foster internal and external changes that can and will shift the current speciesist paradigm that demands the enslavement, exploitation and execution of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals.

If you won’t say the word, you won’t change the world.

[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 – “But If The Whole World Went Vegan…”

“…what would happen to all the farmed animals?  Wouldn’t they overrun the planet and cause havoc???”

Although the scenario of all humanity becoming vegan overnight does not seem feasible, even if that were to happen, is the answer to a potential animal overpopulation problem to continue forcibly breeding them into existence for the sole purpose of killing them for human pleasure, comfort and convenience?  It takes some serious, Olympic-gold-medal-worthy mental and ethical gymnastics to get to “Yes” as the answer to that question and to use it as justification for continuing animal exploitation and slaughter.

smartphone-addiction-apps-featured-2

Our Own Devices

Considering I have a device I’m able to carry in my pocket that can, with the flick of a finger, connect me to the entire repository of human knowledge, allow me to speak with friends who are 9,600 miles away as if we were in the same room (hello Tasmania!) AND help me locate the nearest public toilet (quite possibly the most important app ever invented… but I digress), I’m fairly certain that with a minimally concerted effort across humanity we can find a suitable, nonviolent solution to where all the cows, pigs, chickens, fish and other non-human refugees of animal agriculture will go once they’re no longer seen and treated as mere commodities and are finally afforded the one basic, fundamental right that ought never be withheld from any sentient being – the right not to be used as the property of more powerful others.

important-to-you

Excuses, Excuses

The simplest and most immediate action one can take to stop the violent oppression and exploitation of billions of innocent, vulnerable individuals is to start living vegan.  There are no valid reasons not to; there are only morally unjustifiable excuses to hide behind.

vegan argument new 11.13.16

[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:
 

 

(Twelve?) Stepping into Veganism

vegan-journey-002
For many, the “journey” may take several decades…

It was recently suggested to me, once again, that vegans ought to “encourage and support incremental changes made by non-vegans on their journey to becoming vegan”.  In something of a new slant on the idea, this individual likened the situation to alcoholics becoming and hopefully remaining sober in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and finding support from other AA members during that process.  They said, “AA has Twelve Steps and that’s ok, so why should it be different with non-vegans?”

It was immediately clear that this individual had little if any understanding of how 12-Step support groups function, nor much understanding of just how far short their “non-veganism-is-like-alcoholism” analogy fell.

[This essay briefly discusses correlations between defense mechanisms used by addicts to protect their maladaptive behaviors and those used by non-vegans to protect their use of products of animal exploitation.  From that perspective, non-veganism can be compared with alcoholism.]

Having had over two decades of experience both professionally and personally with many facets of substance abuse recovery, I have come to understand that the 12-Step process in AA and similar recovery fellowships doesn’t lead to sobriety as an end goal to be achieved, but rather presents sobriety (or at least abstinence from addictive mood-and-mind altering chemicals) as a starting point on a path of recovery that will hopefully last a lifetime.  In order to fully benefit from and move through the Steps, one must cease the maladaptive, self-destructive behavior of substance abuse at the onset of the 12-Step journey of honest introspection, internal moral inventory, spiritual housecleaning and daily behavior maintenance.  Otherwise, if one continues their chemical use, one’s chances of growing, healing and recovering from the damage done by one’s addiction(s) diminish by the day.  As it says in the Alcoholics Anonymous basic text (commonly known as the Big Book), “Half measures availed us nothing.”

I’m not opposed to encouraging and supporting any individual who wishes to stop abusing themselves no matter how quickly or slowly they cease their self-destructive behaviors nor how many times they relapse and resume damaging themselves.  I’m firmly in support of self-improvement.  However, here is a key distinction between alcoholism (and other manifestations of addiction) and the consumption of animal products – alcoholics who drink (and addicts who use) primarily victimize themselves* through engaging in active addiction while non-vegans primarily victimize innocent, vulnerable individuals through the consumption and use of products of animal exploitation to satisfy their pleasure, comfort and convenience.  Of course, mountains of scientific evidence make it abundantly clear that non-vegans also compromise their own health by consuming animal flesh and secretions, so they can also be counted among their own victims.

[*it should not be discounted that alcoholics and other addicts do harm others, including but not limited to family members, loved ones, employers/employees, co-workers and friends, both directly and indirectly through their self-destructive behaviors, however those others, in many cases, have choices as to how much abuse they are willing to take and have the ability to set boundaries to limit their exposure to the damaging behaviors of the alcoholic/addict in their lives.  Conversely, the animals who are unnecessarily harmed and killed for use by non-vegans have absolutely no choice nor ability to take action to seek safety on their own behalf.  They are, in the purest sense, defenseless innocent victims who are powerless over our relentless oppression.]

Encouraging and supporting people as they strive to stop hurting themselves and become physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy is appropriate and acceptable.  Encouraging and supporting people to take their time (sometimes for decades) in ceasing their complicity in the morally unjustifiable exploitation, enslavement and execution of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – is inappropriate and unacceptable.  The transition timeline for anyone to embrace veganism is up to each individual who moves in that direction (for many of us, the transition was instantaneous once we understood the fundamental injustices in which we were participating and knew immediately we had to stop).  What is up to us, as vegan advocates, is to present a clear and morally consistent message that anything less than veganism means a person is still engaging in violent, unacceptable, oppressive exploitation of the vulnerable and to encourage the fastest transition possible.  To think and behave otherwise is to engage in and reinforce the current cultural paradigm of speciesism, as one would never take such a laissez-faire position if the victims of any oppressive situation were human.

journey lao tzu

Is Veganism “Difficult”?

When we clearly define an idea or concept, especially one that is routinely misunderstood, misinterpreted and mischaracterized, it becomes easier to understand and identify whether it is something with which one resonates ethically.  Veganism is:

“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

There is a difference between something being “difficult” and something being “inconvenient”.  To many, the prospect of living vegan can seem daunting at first, as it is a way of living that goes far beyond mere dietary choices and extends into most aspects of life and the choices we make on a daily basis (clothing, cosmetics, body care products, home cleaning products, furniture, automobile upholstery, etc.).  I have found, as have many other vegans with whom I’ve spoken, that the changes I once may have thought of as “difficulties” turned out to be “inconveniences”.  For example, it was never actually “difficult” to reach ten inches past the cow’s milk to pick up the almond milk – it was merely inconvenient.  In reality, any perceived inconveniences I have ever faced in living vegan pale in comparison to the actual difficulties (which is far too weak a word to adequately describe a lifetime of horrific and perverse agonies) suffered by every animal used to satisfy human pleasure.

Hi.  My Name is Keith, I’m a Recovering Non-Vegan

Does making the commitment to live vegan require a Twelve Step process?  No.  The only Twelve Steps I know that relate to veganism are the twelve steps it takes to walk past the meat/dairy department to the produce department in my local supermarket, and I find those are twelve incredibly easy steps to take!

Here are the Two Steps we suggest when it comes to veganism:

  1.  Live vegan.
  2.  Educate others about veganism as our minimum moral obligation to individuals of other species.

Why waste time – and continue causing unnecessary suffering and death to others – by intentionally putting roadblocks in our own way?  Perhaps it’s better to heed AA’s popular slogan, “Keep It Simple”.

If you are already vegan, please educate others about veganism.  If you are not vegan and believe that animals matter morally at all, please consider living vegan as it is the choice that matches your morals.

Here are some excellent places to start:

www.BeFairBeVegan.com

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

On Vegan Advocacy and The Socratic Method

 

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Tabling at the SFVEG Vegan Education Station – Tamarac FL, Earth Day event 4/24/2016

I recently shared the following experience on Facebook:

Vegan Education Moment of the Day

Whole Foods Checkout Person (WFCP) seeing my purchases: Are you vegetarian… or are you vegan?
Me: Vegan.
WFCP: How long?
Me: 12 years-ish.
WFCP: Why did you go vegan?
Me: Ethical reasons. I don’t believe my life is more important than someone else’s and won’t participate in the enslavement, exploitation and execution of innocent beings just to satisfy my pleasure.  Are you vegan?
WFCP: No…  I was pescetarian, then I was vegetarian.  I was almost vegan, but then one Thanksgiving…
Me: You decided that it was ok to have others die for you  ?
WFCP: Kind of.  I feel guilty a lot of the time.
Me: Of course you do.  If you want to stop feeling guilty, you can make different choices and choose to live vegan.

There wasn’t any more time to talk in the checkout line, but I went to the car and brought her back an Embracing Veganism, our business card and a Respecting Animals brochure from International Vegan Association and told her that we’re available to answer any questions and offer her any support she needs in living vegan.

Considering the short amount of time allowed in this situation, I felt this was a good way to answer her question and give her information.  Shortly afterward, however, a sense of dissatisfaction began to creep in at how I handle such interactions generally and I began asking myself how I might better answer the often-asked question, “Why did you go vegan?”  My usual impulse has been to make some grand proclamation and hope that it will somehow be relatable and make an impact on my interlocutor… but I’m rethinking this strategy.

Since I’m finding it very effective lately to use a version of the Socratic method (a dialogue technique that “uses creative questioning to dismantle and discard preexisting ideas and thereby allows the respondent to rethink the primary question under discussion”) in some areas of my vegan advocacy, I asked myself whether the same method might be equally effective here.  The answer seems to be, it would.  After all, human nature seems to dictate that people will believe the words coming out of their own mouths before trusting and believing information presented by strangers, especially when that information appears on the surface to run counter to their established beliefs.  Consider this encounter I had a while back with a non-vegan who expressed all-too-familiar protein “concerns”:

Non-vegan: I could never be vegan – I need protein.
Me: Where do you think you get your protein now?
Non-vegan: [hesitatingly] Animals…
Me: Right!!!  Now, considering that the animals humans eat for protein are largely herbivores and exclusively eat plants, where do they get their protein?
Non-vegan: [hesitatingly] Plants…?
Me: Right!!!   Soooooo…
Non-vegan: I… could just eat… plants
Me: Right!!!  You get your needs met and the best part is, no one has to die!

In the past, I would have heard the protein question and took it as an invitation to leap into a verbal dissertation involving everything I know about protein, amino acids and human health, which might serve to either educate or confuse the listener or, worse, trigger a defensive cognitive dissonance response since the barrage of information I’d be presenting would most likely fly in the face of everything they’d been taught by people and organizations they trust.  In this case, instead, I chose to ask the questions that led my interlocutor to draw her own conclusions and find her own answers (which were, of course, the ones I’d hoped she’d come to!) and, once that had happened, I gave a brief Protein 101 discourse just to reinforce matters.  As I strongly believe should be the case with every discussion about veganism, I brought the idea of ethics into the conversation to avoid reinforcing the erroneous idea that veganism is merely a diet as opposed to a fundamental matter of justice.

ethical-position-002-bfbv

 

What If…?

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite comic book series was called “What If?”  Each issue would present “…an event in the mainstream Marvel Universe, then introducing a point of divergence in that event and then describing the consequences of the divergence.”  So, imagine if my interaction with the Whole Foods Checkout Person had gone like this:

WFCP: Why did you go vegan?
Me: Great question!  To best answer it, let me ask you three questions: do you believe it’s wrong to cause unnecessary harm and death to animals?
WFCP: [likely response] Yes.*
Me: Great!  So do I.  Did you know that eating and otherwise using animals and animal products causes unnecessary harm and death to animals?
WFCP: I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes, that makes sense.*
Me: And that’s why I’m vegan – because it’s wrong to enslave, exploit and execute vulnerable individuals, regardless of species membership, race, gender, age or any other arbitrary criterion, to satisfy human pleasure, comfort and convenience and all of that involves unnecessary harm.
WFCP: Thanks!  So, what’s the third question?
Me: Glad you asked!  Did you know that the answer you gave to the first question indicates you already agree with the principles of veganism?
WFCP: Huh.  I guess I do!
*

*Of course, this is an oversimplified example showing the best possible responses to our questions and will not always be the ones given since people tend to want to debate these issues due to deeply held beliefs born of a lifetime of cultural indoctrination into speciesism.  Vegan advocates should always be prepared to explore related topics that arise in conversation such as “How do you define ‘unnecessary‘?” and “What constitutes ‘harm‘?”.  There are excellent and informative abolitionist vegan websites listed at the end of this essay (more can be found in the Online Vegan Resources section of our main website at www.VeganEducationGroup.com) that can help us educate ourselves and to which we can direct both non-vegans and vegans for solid, unequivocal vegan information.

(the questions in the above scenario were adapted from vegan advocate Chris Petty’s questionnaire shown below)

Vegan questionnaire courtesy of Chris Petty

By going this route and asking specific questions, the non-vegans with whom I speak (and this includes vegetarians and other fill-in-the-blank-atarians) not only hear my reasoning for why I live vegan, but in the process also explore their own beliefs and come to understand that they, too, tend to agree with the ethical and moral principles of veganism.  The idea that they are curious enough to ask such a question indicates a willingness to learn, at the very least, one person’s reason(s) for living vegan and, better yet, may indicate their own willingness to explore these ideas further and hopefully incorporate them into their lives by making the choice to live vegan.

Sadly, there is a plethora of individuals and groups that, intentionally or not, dilute and confuse the meaning of veganism to the point that it is often mistaken for a diet, a fad, a lifestyle or a trend.  For those of us who take unequivocal vegan advocacy and education seriously, it is imperative that we properly define veganism for those who don’t understand what it is, and it makes sense to keep questioning our advocacy methods and adapting where necessary to steadily evolve into the most effective agents of change we are capable of being.

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  The podcasts and essays connected to those links will help to expand on the ideas presented here.]

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

www.HowToGoVegan.org
www.VeganEducationGroup.com
www.BeFairBeVegan.com