Tag Archives: injustice

On Two Sides of Selfishness

It’s All About Me

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

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

No.

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

Wait – It’s Not All About Me??

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

Used To Be = Never Was

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

Lives depend on it.

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

Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

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

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

BeFairBeVegan.com

The legal stuff:

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

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.

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:
 

 

On Denying Reality and Our Speciesist Society

speciesism magazines - animal mind - grilling

Images Everything

I took this picture of two adjacent magazines yesterday in the Whole Foods checkout line.  For those who may have been paying attention, this was the message:

“The Animal Mind: How they think.  How they feel.  How to understand them… and how to dominate them, exploit them and grill them once we’ve killed them”.

(far in the background, a “Real Food” poster depicting fruit hangs virtually unnoticed)

The Time Magazine cover story does not question whether animals think and feel, but rather it plainly indicates that non-human individuals think, feel and can be understood.  In a word, they are sentient, and when it comes to inclusion in the moral community, sentience is all that matters.  Unfortunately, by choosing a photo of “man’s best friend” as the animals’ representative rather than an individual from a species not commonly held in high regard, fetishized and one of the chosen groups with whom humans often share their homes and lives, Time subtly reinforces the otherization of those animals not fortunate enough to have been deemed by humans to be “pets” and companions.

If It’s “Invisible”, Why Do We See It Everywhere We Look?

Contrary to what a certain “vegan” author – one who promotes reducetarianism and “reducing harm” rather than advocating unequivocal veganism – might suggest, I contend that there is no “invisible belief system” compelling humans to use and eat animals (the concept of “carnism” has certainly sold a lot of books, but so has Dianetics…).  The speciesism that underlies and fuels our global society’s deadly disconnect where non-humans are concerned, and its manifestations, could not be more stark, overt and obvious… and it looks like this:

Love, cherish and protect these animals.  Enslave, exploit and execute these animals.

Is there a morally significant difference between the two groups?

No.  The only difference is the one arbitrarily assigned by non-vegans based on how humans can most benefit from objectifying non-humans and using them as “things” to satisfy our fleeting pleasures.  When humans victimize other humans in that way, there is an almost universal outcry against what is rightly understood to be oppression and a vociferous demand that it stop at once.  Conversely, when humans victimize non-humans in that way, they begin fabricating easily refutable excuses, rationalizations and justifications to make the unacceptable acceptable.  We find “right” ways to do wrong things.  We justify killing for pleasure, comfort and convenience.

This is speciesism, and it is unacceptable.

If one agrees that it is wrong to harm and kill unnecessarily, then since there is no human need to consume animal flesh or secretions or to use animals for any other reasons, animal use is therefore unnecessary and it becomes one’s moral obligation to live vegan.

Denial of reality does not change reality, it merely provides a temporary escape from emotional discomfort and cognitive dissonance.  It’s time to stop pretending that the obvious is hidden and work under the premise that fits reality – there are things in this world that are easy to see but difficult to look at.  When we agree to look at them together, we can start living in the solution and end the problem for good.

vegan argument new 11.13.16

Those who argue against veganism are, knowingly or not, arguing in favor of exploitation, oppression, enslavement, bullying, theft and needless death.  Once non-vegans are educated and come to understand these stark realities, changes happen.  Lives are transformed.

A vegan world is within our reach.

vegan-trove-vegan-planet-poster-002

[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:
 

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:
 

 

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:
 

Briefly – Knowing Right(s) From Wrong(s)

 

lacto-ovo-tarian

In my brief stint as a “vegetarian“, I puffed up my chest and very loudly proclaimed that I was “reserving my right to eat cheese, eggs and fish if I need to”.

I’m not sure what I thought I’d “need” them for but I eventually realized that when the “right” I’m reserving takes away the rights of others to live and continue their lives free from exploitation and oppression, it’s not a “right” at all.

It’s a wrong.

I’ve been living vegan ever since.

Veganism represents a return to living according to our almost universally shared belief that harming – and killing – others for no good reason is wrong.  Irrespective of species membership, “But their bodies taste good!” is as morally unjustifiable a reason for taking a life as “But their bodies feel good!” is for sexually violating another individual.  Each represents a terrible injustice that serves only to satisfy the pleasure of the perpetrators while causing irreparable and wholly unnecessary damage to their victims.

The analogies intersect further when one considers the fact that female non-human animals are routinely sexually violated, often under the licentious euphemism of “animal husbandry”, in order to be forcibly impregnated to produce milk and offspring for human consumption.

These violations, like all violations forced upon sentient non-human individuals to satisfy human pleasure, comfort and convenience, are unnecessary and therefore morally unjustifiable.  Realizing this, the only rational response is to immediately cease one’s participation in these injustices and begin living vegan.  It is, on every level, the right thing to do.

[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:
 

“Vague-an” Outreach? Never. Abolitionism? Always.

I have come to believe that, when it comes to veganism and animal rights, anything less than clear, consistent abolitionist vegan education fails to carry the message I find more important than any other – that living vegan is the simple action every individual can take right now to take a powerful and unequivocal stand against society’s continued commodification and exploitation of individuals of other species.  To take a welfarist approach – engaging in single-issue campaigns designed to lessen and regulate abuse rather than abolishing use – is, in my opinion, misguided and counter-productive to the achievement of the goal everyone in our “movement” purports to share: the end of animal exploitation.

Now, I know this can be an unpopular position to take amongst vegans and other animal rights activists, but try to bear with me for a few minutes if you will. Since this makes sense to me, it stands to reason it may make sense to some of you as well.
litter-ature-animal-adoption-fair-mfa-fresh
Mercy For Animals litter-ature at an animal adoption event

Prior to having this realization and still firmly believing I was doing what was best for the animals, I engaged in a host of 
animal welfare activities, including but not limited to: creating and signing petitions, attending demonstrations and protests, writing letters to editors, publishing articles and, perhaps most of all, public leafleting (or, as I now think of it, public littering.  As comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying, ‘Here, you throw this away’.”).  
 
I’d like to discuss one particular piece of welfarist litter-ature: 
Compassionate Choices from Veg(etari)an Outreach (to understand why even the title is problematic and misleading, please read Colin Wright’s enlightening essay Why We Need Less Compassion in the Animal Rights Movement And Why Decreasing Cruelty and Suffering Is Not the Point of Veganism).

Lest anyone come under (or continue under) the false belief that this intentionally confusing and speciesist booklet espouses veganism or animal “rights”, please have a look at why that couldn’t be further from the truth. Feel free to read along here: 
http://www.veganoutreach.org/cc.pdf
  • On page 2, the first page of text: “Of course, the choice is up to you. Whether you decide to cut out meat entirely or just cut back, you can make a big difference for the world at every meal.” – presenting people with the “choice” to cut out/cut back on meat reinforces the speciesist ideas that a) exploiting animals is a personal choice (a choice ceases to be personal when said choice involves a victim, and the choice to exploit animals involves countless victims), so whatever one chooses is ok and b) there is a morally relevant difference between meat and other products of animal exploitation, which there is not.
  • Page 3: “When I learned how the animals suffer, I went vegetarian.” – why is “Vegan” Outreach promoting vegetarianism? Either they don’t understand the difference between the two or it’s time for a name change.
  • Page 4 contains a quote from a representative of the Humane Society of the United States, a self-proclaimed animal “protection” organization that sponsors events such as Hoofin’ It, which involved the slaughter and consumption of various species of animals. As the Denver Post reported, “A different hooved (sic) animal will be showcased each evening.”   Yes, this is the same H$U$ that also offered coupons for bacon on their Facebook page:

    hsus-bacon-coupon-2015

  • Page 6: “when people eat less meat, producers raise and kill fewer animals.” – again, they are promoting “less meat”, which is far different than seeking an end to animal exploitation.
  • Page 9: “it became an easy choice for me. If you choose to educate yourself, it’ll be an easy choice for you, too.” (a quote from Ellen DeGeneres, who is not vegan based on her self-reports that she eats secretions from “happy” chickens) – what is this vague “it”? Is “Vegan” Outreach afraid to use the word vegan in its own publication for fear that they may alienate their largely non-vegan donor base and lose their donor dollars (see below for more information on that topic)?
  • Page 10: “eating vegetarian or vegan” – even when they do use the word vegan, it is relegated to a subordinate position behind vegetarian. Perhaps they should rename the booklet “Vegan: The Second Best Choice”.
  • Also on page 10: “Many elite athletes and bodybuilders are vegetarian or vegan.” – again, vegan is the second choice behind vegetarian and offered as one of two dietary options, rather than as a moral obligation.
  • Page 11: “plant-based diet(s)” is mentioned twice, furthering the common misinterpretation of veganism as a dietary choice. Once again, meat is singled out: “…when I stopped eating meat” leaves dairy, eggs, honey and other products of animal exploitation out of the conversation and essentially speaks of a vegetarian diet as opposed to veganism.
  • Page 12: “Ask your server what dishes they could prepare for you without meat”, “Ask to substitute vegetables for meat in your favorite dishes” and “Order a few side dishes if there are no meatless meals” are among the list of restaurant ordering tips. Nowhere are dairy, eggs, honey or other animal products and secretions mentioned.
  • Page 15: The header reads “IT’S YOUR CHOICE” (see previous paragraph discussing page 2 and “choice”).
  • Also on page 15: Promotion of a “gradual transition to eliminating animal products” based on “research” is coupled with the speciesist idea that one should start by eliminating one type of animal (chickens) from one’s diet before eliminating others (cows and pigs) based on the idea that “many more chickens are killed to produce the same amount of meat as from cows and pigs”.  The reasoning behind this – to “prevent more animal suffering”.  This reinforces the notion that we should be concerned primarily about reducing suffering rather than ending the unjust use of non-human animals entirely, missing the point that veganism is about ending animal use, not reducing animal abuse.  Having met many people who have been “vegetarian” (by their own widely varying definitions) for anywhere from 20 to 40 years, it would seem that a “gradual transition” might keep one complicit in animal exploitation – and therefore directly responsible for continued animal suffering and death – for up to 4 decades, whereas a person who starts living vegan ends their complicity that day.

It is shameful that an organization calling itself “Vegan” Outreach would shy away from asking people to live vegan in a clear and coherent manner.  Instead, their literature reinforces the ideas that eating vegetarian is enough and that slavery is a personal choice.  If one’s goal is to convince people to take a strong and unyielding moral stance against the exploitation of vulnerable sentient individuals, it’s hardly a good idea to cater to and enable the inherent laziness and selfishness of the general public in an effort to achieve that goal.  Such a strategy is in itself lazy and disingenuous and simply will not work.  Conversely, if one’s goal is to maintain the status quo so the donor dollars keep rolling in, this strategy should be wildly successful – and it is: according to the most recent data available on Pro Publica’s Nonprofit Explorer, Vegan Outreach received contributions of $891,216 in 2013.  That’s nearly a million dollars that could have been used to engage the public in unequivocal vegan education… but was not.
In total, the word “vegetarian” appears 6 times in Compassionate Choices while “vegan” appears 11 times – twice as subordinate to vegetarian, four times on its own and five times simply in the name of the organization and a website they run (this is Marketing 101).  As a committed abolitionist vegan, not only will I never hand a Compassionate Choices (or other Vague-an Outreach) booklet to another human being again in my life, but I would rather not hold such a piece of purposeful disinformation in my own hand ever again… unless on my way to a shredder.
The literature I believe in and give to others today when I engage with them in one-on-one vegan education carries an unequivocal vegan message and can be found here:
 
If you are not vegan, please consider going vegan and staying there.  It is the single best decision I ever made in my life, and my only regret is that I didn’t understand enough to make that decision sooner.  If you are vegan, please eschew participation with and support for animal welfare organizations and campaigns that profess to have the best interest of animals in mind, yet in reality exist to serve their own ends through self-promotion, donation solicitation and putting out small fires while ignoring the larger source of the fire.  Instead, please engage in clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education that promotes veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species.
As always, thank you for listening.
Peacelovevegan,
Keith Berger

[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 Cognitive Dissonance, Denial and Selfishness

Would those who argue against veganism (and therefore, by default, in favor of speciesism) be just as quick to argue in favor of racism, sexism, heterosexism or some other form of oppressive injustice involving human victims if perpetuating that particular form of injustice personally benefited them in some way, as does continuing to consume products of animal exploitation?

Fighting against any moral and ethical stance that works toward ending the exploitation of a group, the abolition of which threatens one’s personal pleasure, comfort and convenience (and always at the expense of the exploited group), exposes a perverse form of selfishness on the part of the defender(s) of the exploitation.

vegan-compartmentalizationCognitive dissonance (the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual when confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values) can make it difficult to accept certain truths, but denial of reality never actually changes reality.  Rather, it creates a false premise upon which to predicate one’s behavior and takes one further from the truth of a situation, always with deleterious effects to oneself and others.

Personally, when I was presented with overwhelming evidence that my behavior as a non-vegan was directly contributing to a system of animal slavery, exploitation and needless death (in essence, an animal holocaust claiming billions, and possibly trillions, of sentient beings every year), I took an immediate and unequivocal stand against this injustice and started living vegan within the hour.  It was the only direction that made sense to me, the only way of living I could live with and the single best decision I’ve ever made in my life.  The “transition” was fairly simple and living vegan quickly became, as vegan educator Elena Brodskaya put it, “…not second or third nature, but just Nature”.

It would save an abundance of time and energy – as well as countless lives – if those who oppose veganism would cease their mental and ethical gymnastics, stop trying to find, in the words of the Roman philosopher Seneca, “a right way to do the wrong thing” and just start living vegan.

[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.

Cultured Meat Club (Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?)

cultured meat 005 question mark

A friend recently suggested I might like a Facebook page devoted to an organization whose goal is to create lab-grown, or cultured, meat.  That friend was wrong.

Because I do not support this idea, I won’t link to that page lest anyone think I’m in favor of it (there are several players in that market – my opposition is not to any specific organization but to the idea itself as I will make clear in this essay).  However, I would like to share my thoughts on lab-grown/cultured/“clean” meat and welcome comments and conversation on the subject.  For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to this product throughout as “cultured meat”.

I see the cultured meat endeavor as problematic in several ways (this is not a comprehensive list by any means).

  1. The current process for creating cultured meat involves the use of fetal calf serum, a product obtained by sticking a needle in the still-beating heart of calf fetuses removed from cows who were pregnant at slaughter (though one potential manufacturer says they’re seeking plant-based alternatives to this gruesomeness).  Therefore, this is just another by-product of the exploitative dairy industry and not something I would remotely support.  Also, if some companies eventually use plant-based sources but others continue using fetal calf serum, there’s really no telling which cultured meat is ending up on the consumer’s plate.
  2. While it’s true that cultured meat could become an available alternative to the traditional consumption of animal corpses (once it passes the point of being a mere novelty item, if that even happens), this a) does nothing to educate the public that meat and all other animal flesh and secretions are an unnecessary inclusion in human diets and b) helps maintain the status quo and reinforces the paradigm that sees non-human individuals as “things” (objectification) and demands they be enslaved and used as human resources for their bodies and secretions.
  3. The availability of cultured meat does not mean that people will automatically choose to consume it and eschew traditionally-obtained meat just because it’s there.  Non-vegans already look askance at vegan food – fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, legumes – and think what we eat is weird even though it’s the most natural stuff in the world.  Do we really think these same people who handle tofu like they’re trying to defuse a bomb are going to embrace “meat” made in a laboratory or some other industrial setting?  As far back as 2013, the animal agriculture industry was already coming up with propaganda designed to shame “real men” into continuing to eat yummy slaughtered animals and not something grown in a Petri dish (the linked article contains the first use I’ve ever seen of the euphemism “live beef animal”.  They could’ve saved keystrokes and some of my brain cells by simply saying “cow”.  Talk about the language of denial…).
  4. For those non-vegan consumers who do decide they enjoy cultured meat because its texture and taste are similar to traditional meat, what happens when they go shopping or out to eat and the establishments are fresh out of cultured meat, as is bound to frequently happen?  Do you think they’re going to order a nice vegan entree instead… or will they opt for a traditional hamburger, steak, pork chop or chicken breast since this is what they’re used to?  Because no one educated them about veganism since organizations were too busy trying to make the unacceptable acceptable by creating meat-that-isn’t-meat-but-is-really-meat-but-sorta-isn’t-really-meat-but-is-just-like-meat-but-oh-I-give-up, these consumers will continue purchasing someone’s slaughtered remains and again create demand for the continued exploitation and execution of vulnerable individuals of other species.

cultured meat 004

The image above illustrates two problems with cultured meat.  One is that without a change in the public mindset and attitude toward the use of non-human individuals as “things” to satisfy their desires (said change can be achieved through vegan education), cultured meat will often be passed up in favor of society’s traditional consumption of animal flesh.  Another is evident in the “How It Works” diagram in which we see that “Tissue is taken from animal’s muscle”, reinforcing the idea yet again that it is morally acceptable to take that which does not belong to us, in this case a part (size notwithstanding) of a nonconsenting individual’s body to serve our own purposes.  Even young children understand intuitively that when something of theirs is taken without their consent, something unfair has happened.  It is a sad indictment of our society that when the majority of these children become adults, they will not only accept larger injustices but promote, condone and profit from them despite intuitively knowing that such actions are morally unjustifiable.

In a sense, cultured meat is to traditional meat what methadone is to heroin – a healthier-seeming (on the surface, anyway) alternative promoted as a harm-reduction solution while in reality just creating its own new set of problems.  As anyone who’s detoxed from both heroin and methadone will attest, methadone is harder to kick by far (with nearly 40 known withdrawal symptoms that last… and last… and last…) and just another substance on which to form a dependency.  Doesn’t it seem logical to avoid the potential negative consequences of both by not using either when there’s absolutely no reason to have them in one’s body in the first place?

There is one particular organization promoting cultured meat (again, I refuse to post a link here and risk even inadvertently promoting such a thing, but feel free to contact me for details if you’d like) co-founded by silver-tongued, supposedly “vegan” hucksters whose combined resumes offer a road map through the very heart of Animal Welfareland, if such organizations even have hearts.  These individuals are standing on the ground floor of what may end up being a very lucrative venture, one that will at best do absolutely nothing to further the cause of justice for non-human animals and at worst set the cause back immeasurably.  Where it will be productive  is in lining their pockets, as they seem to have found a way to become rich(er) at the expense of the animals they purport to want to help.  Here’s what one of the co-founders had to say on the subject:

“…we don’t necessarily need to convince people to make decisions based on ethics if we can simply make products that taste as good, cost less, and are equally convenient.”

Uh… I’m sorry… what???  Are you saying we need to put ethics last behind trivial desires like palate pleasure, personal finances and convenience?  Why, that sounds a lot like the reasons people choose to consume products of animal exploitation in the first place!  And if you believe that people are going to start living vegan simply because you provide them with great tasting alternatives, you’re in denial so deep you’re drowning in it.  So, where do the animals figure into this agenda of yours?

“…making a positive difference for the environment, their own health, and animals.” “…a big win for consumers, for our planet, and for animals.” “…people who are devoting their entire lives to alleviating global poverty or saving the world from the effects of climate change or helping animals.”

Ah, I see – the animals come last, as I would expect from someone whose behavior has reeked of speciesism for as long as I can remember.  Tell me – since you’ve spent decades working for organizations that are supposedly devoted to animal rights, wouldn’t you agree that the animals’ need for justice is of paramount importance and the rewards we receive by abstaining from animal exploitation are simply positive side effects of finally doing the right thing and not a goal in and of themselves?

“…if we don’t eat animals, we’re likely to live longer and better lives…” “…not eating animals, which is good for their health, will have an immediate and positive effect on our health, too.”

Hmm, guess not. That’s an amazing piece of understatement, by the way, that “…not eating animals… is good for their health”.  If anything ever went without saying, it would be that.  Alright then, what exactly is your focus?

“The [organization] is focused on using markets and technology to compete with animal-based meat, dairy, and eggs.”
“Perhaps most critically, I believe that compassion for other animals, which is perhaps best exhibited by refusing to consume them, will lead to a deeper spiritual health and a clearer conscience, which will also improve our mental and emotional health.”

“Perhaps” twice in the same sentence?  That’s equivocation followed by equivocation.  If you were on trial and refused to take a stand twice, I believe you’d be held in contempt of court.  As for the “clearer conscience”, I have to wonder how clear one’s conscience could be when one purposely chooses personal profit over ethics.  I do understand how you, as a career speciesist, would mistake injustice for a lack of compassion and how that would leave you confused as to what a refusal to consume animals (and their secretions, which you seem to have overlooked) signifies.  The welfarist statement you’ve made that “compassion for other animals… is perhaps best exhibited by refusing to consume them” would indicate that you believe there is a spectrum of other, not-quite-best-but-still-acceptable methods of showing “compassion”, such as increasing the size of cages in which non-human individuals are confined against their wills, more “humane” slaughter techniques and other “improvements” (alterations, really) in animal slavery that simultaneously help maximize profits for suppliers and maximize donations for animal welfare groups.  Not unexpectedly, these are the types of campaigns in which the groups for whom you’ve worked specialize.  Statements like this clearly identify the problem with focusing on compassion” and animal abuse rather than justice and animal use, and equivocation naturally follows.  What also naturally follows is that individuals with such attitudes would gravitate toward, work for and create organizations that reflect a similar misunderstanding of the problem and its solution.  After all, water seeks its own level and like attracts like.

It’s well past time we stopped looking for every way in the world to get people to stop exploiting non-human animals a little bit at a time (a position and strategy that would rightly be seen as completely unacceptable if the exploited victims were human) and discounting the one that’s actually most effective – clear, consistent, non-violent vegan education.  It works.

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.

Here are links to a two-part podcast (approximate duration 23 minutes) and one other from Vegan Trove that delves deeper into the problems with this idea:

 Clean Meat” Part 1: Some Ethical Considerations

Clean Meat” Part 2: Some Practical Implications and Unforeseen Outcomes

The Science of “SuperMeat” : If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is | Vegan Trove

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

HowToGoVegan.org