Tag Archives: injustice

Multi-Level-Manipulation on Welfare Wednesday!

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

Co-written by Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya

Wednesday Morning at 7 o’clock As the Day Begins

On Wednesday 11/8/2017 over an 8-hour span, I once again received back-to-back emails from not one, not two, not three, not four… ok, four of the major animal welfare (not rights, mind you – welfare) organizations with similarly-themed messages of how to be more “compassionate” around the upcoming holidays.  In fact, two of the emails had the word “compassion” and “compassionate” in the subject line:

Receipt of such emails all in one day is a common occurrence for me, and it’s no coincidence such email solicitations always arrive just before payday – I’m sure there are studies proving this is the optimal time to send donation requests – as handy reminders of the stellar work they’re doing that only their dedicated and knowledgeable staff and volunteers can do (undercover “cruelty” investigations, “pressuring” non-vegan restaurant chains to add plant-based options, throwing self-congratulatory parties)… and only with my donations.  I’ll offer a brief look at the content of the emails.

What’d I Say?

Mercy for Animals (MFA) informed me that “Animal torture has been exposed inside yet another government-owned slaughterhouse…” and that “unthinkable cruelty” was happening before slaughterhouse workers were “…stringing [pigs] upside down and cutting open their throats” which, if I’m not mistaken, is how they’re generally slaughtered.  The assured me that I can “make a difference” by “making a special donation today as part of the Million-Dollar Challenge” and by taking the “Veg Pledge”… which unfortunately does not equate to living vegan.  In fact, they make a vague suggestion (see below) to “choose compassionate vegan alternatives” (which, I suppose, could be added to any meal right alongside the animal flesh and secretions that might already be there.  That may make it different, but it certainly doesn’t “make a difference”) while offering a VEGETARIAN Starter Guide,  furthering the time-honored animal welfare tradition of conflating vegan and vegetarian as if there are one and the same.

“The best way to help cows, pigs, and other farmed animals is simply to choose compassionate vegan alternatives.  Sign up here to get your free Vegetarian Starter Guide, meat-free recipes, news, and tips.”

 

Compassion Over Killing (COK) invited me to “celebrate compassion!” at their event costing $100-150 per ticket, which I wouldn’t be interested in doing even if it were free and happening next door to my house (since they’re actually just celebrating themselves as a corporation).  When they start talking about justice, I’ll start celebrating, albeit warily as I try to figure out what their angle is.  Much like MFA, they did offer me another opportunity to “…still lend your support to help us continue our life-saving work for animals in the year ahead.  Please donate now!  All donations through December 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar!”

Vegan Outreach asked me to sign a petition asking a non-vegan pizza company to add “a delicious vegan cheese pizza” to their menu and “Heck—throwing in a few toppings like meatless pepperoni or savory sausage crumbles would be even better!”  They also reminded me that they’re “…working to expose and end cruelty to animals through the widespread distribution of our booklets promoting plant-based eating and compassion for animals” (again with the compassion…).  Rather than promoting “plant-based eating”, a concept so vague that it’s anybody’s guess as to what it means and can actually be defined as eating salads with animal flesh and secretions on top (“Well, it is plant-based…”), is it unreasonable to expect that a corporation called Vegan Outreach might promote, say, veganism?

Lastly, before offering a Meatout Monday recipe, Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) reminded me that Thanksgiving is “the perfect opportunity to share a compassionate meal with friends and family” (more compassion – yay!!!).  They suggested I “invite others to experience how amazing a vegan meal is for your health, the environment, and of course for the animals!”  In the spirit of consistently putting animals last on the list of reasons not to eat animals, they go on: “Whether you’re looking to improve your health, are environmentally-conscious, or truly care about the animals*, the holidays are the perfect time to celebrate life together over a delicious, plant-based meal” (ah, plant-based!).  They also offer a pledge to “go vegan for Thanksgiving”, as if abstaining from products of animal exploitation for one meal or even one entire day equates to embracing veganism.  Once again, a major animal welfare corporation muddies the waters and erroneously equates eating one plants-only meal with living vegan.

Who’s to Blame?

I want to be clear that I find no fault with those who operate at the volunteer levels of these MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing-Manipulation)-style welfare corporations, as I am sure that they, just like me,  join the ranks in hopes of making real change for animals with a corporation that purports to be doing exactly that, since the idea of taking on such tasks individually seems overwhelmingly daunting and often leads to feelings of despair and hopelessness.  Enter the smooth and seductive siren song of the large animal welfare corporation(s) to offer comfort, community and a cure – “Join us and help the animals!  Be a voice for the voiceless and stand with like-minded people who are already working to solve the problem of animal cruelty/abuse!”.  I know that I was once brainwashed and beguiled by the manipulative messaging of MFA, COK, PeTA, H$U$ and the like and would have continued engaging with, supporting and promoting them and their single-issue campaigns had I not been shown the hypocrisy, ineffectiveness and counterproductiveness of their methods and messaging.  Just as with other multi-level marketing or pyramid scheme models, eager volunteers are recruited by those in higher positions or at the same level but with time in the organization and used to bring in more recruits and/or solicit donations, in this case through handing out free organization literature and/or convincing people to join email lists, both of which do provide information about the plight of animals and welfare reforms but are ultimately mechanisms for bringing in donor dollars.

Essentially, these very organizations operating under the pretense of working to stop the exploitation of non-humans are engaging in the exploitation of the humans they enlist to perform for low or no pay in the service of increasing the organization’s financial bottom line.  Volunteers and low-level employees are used for their time, energy and effort in such areas as fundraising, undercover investigations and member recruitment while being inculcated with the false belief that the corporation they serve is working to create a better world for animals.  Meanwhile, millions in donor dollars and grants roll in each year, salaries are paid to those in higher positions, careers are solidified, agendas are furthered… and animals remain property to be used, discarded and replaced despite all the “critical”,  “eye-opening”, “groundbreaking”, “life-saving” work supposedly being done on their behalf.

I observed this phenomenon in action during set-up at a South Florida “veg” fest in fall 2016.  While strolling past the Mercy for Animals table, I observed the MFA coordinator (someone I know and with whom I have interacted – a sort of local animal welfare “star” – but whose identity I will not reveal) pointedly instructing the lower-level volunteers that they need to focus on getting people to join the MFA email list: “Sign-ups, sign-ups, sign-ups!!!  At an event like this, we should be able to get at least [inaudible something-hundred number] new sign-ups.”  Since fall is the season for year-end fundraising, dollar-for-dollar matching and million-dollar challenges, the push to focus on email “sign-ups” rather than engaging with and educating the public was not surprising.  The coordinator’s forceful tone of voice seemed to indicate that obedience to this directive was not open for debate.

In the eyes of the animal welfare corporations, every person is a potential donor, and the more people who are reached by email, snail mail, street “activism”, college leafleting, social media and other methods, the deeper the potential donor pool.  Slick and glossy publications, videos and emails are carefully crafted to tug at both heartstrings and purse strings.  Note the use of evocative and melodramatic language in this email donation plea received 11/9/2017.  One can almost hear the minor-key string section playing in the background while the somber narrator intones:

“Suffering animals—like Clara and Max—need you to act now.

When our brave undercover investigator met Clara at a Hormel pork supplier earlier this year, the gentle and intelligent pig was pregnant and forced to live in a gestation crate so small she couldn’t even turn around. Once Clara gave birth, all her babies, including little Max, were taken away from her and mutilated without painkillers. 

Your compassion enables MFA to continue speaking out for defenseless animals and put an end to cruel practices like tail docking, castration, and cramming animals into tiny cages. 

With you by our side, we’ll conduct even more eye-opening undercover investigations like the just-released footage captured at a Mexican slaughterhouse. We’ll also pressure more of the largest food companies to end the worst forms of abuse in their supply chains, and we’ll inspire millions of people to leave animals like Max and Clara off their plates for good. 

I know that it breaks your heart to see and hear about such horrific animal abuse. That’s why I’m asking you to please help MFA make 2018 our most impactful year yet.  Together, we can end this cruelty and create a kinder world for all animals.”

 
Nathan Runkle
 
Sincerely,
Nathan Runkle 
President
Max!!! Clara…?

In the Multi-Level-Manipulation world of animal welfare corporations, low-level employees and volunteers are manipulated into reaching out to the public who are in turn manipulated by the materials to which they are exposed, and the money flows steadily in.  Employees and volunteers believe they are helping the public learn that animal abuse exists (as if they didn’t already know this) and the donating public come to believe that by “doing something” and donating to animal welfare organizations, they are discharging their moral responsibility toward animals, and this idea is cosigned by the organization’s literature that suggests they shouldn’t take “drastic” steps like, for example, living vegan.

If the animal welfare corporations were to stop their single-issue campaigns and put their formidable resources into unequivocally educating the public about veganism as our moral obligation toward non-human individuals and providing support for new vegans, we would move quickly toward abolishing the property status of animals, demand for products of animal exploitation would dramatically decrease…  and they would soon find themselves out of work as the paradigm shifted and the status quo changed, leaving them with no “horrific” cruelty to reduce or “worst” abuses to end, making it nearly impossible to make convincingly dramatic pleas for continued donations.  For this reason, it has never been in the best interest of animal welfare organizations to work in the true best interests of animals, but rather in what they tell us are the best interests of animals.  For this reason, they will continue to partner with animal exploiters to ensure there is a steady supply of cruelty to reduce, abuses to end and single-issue campaigns to wage as mechanisms for soliciting a steady supply of donor dollars to keep themselves salaried and in business.

Why in the World…?

Now, in case anyone’s wondering why I’m still getting emails from groups like this long after putting my welfare days behind me,  please allow me to explain:

I keep myself on several animal welfare email lists (though not PeTA or The Humane League – I do have standards…) so I can see what Big Welfare’s latest shenanigans are and to watch with mild amusement as they continue to pretend they’re all separate organizations rather than one large vomitous mass corporation, dividing up single-issue campaigns based on which seems to fit which brand and will result in the largest number of donor dollars, tremendous grants and the furthering of careers for those at the highest levels of each corporate entity.

Who’s Down With OPP?

On the subject of grants, I am mortified as I look at this page I inadvertently found detailing the sheer numbers of dollars (roughly $16 million per year in 2016 and 2017) being lavished by the Open Philanthropy Project upon organizations under the rather vague heading of “Farm Animal Welfare”, about which OPP states:

“Billions of animals each year are treated cruelly on factory farms.  We believe that raising awareness of current practices and pushing for reform could reduce animal suffering by enormous amounts, yet we see relatively little attention on this issue from major animal welfare groups.”

“Relatively little attention… from major animal welfare groups”?  Relative to what???  That’s essentially the entire focus, theme song, parade route and lifeblood of every major animal welfare group, and it goes like this – farmed animals endure horrific, torturous cruelty every day of their short lives en route to being slaughtered for human consumption [TRUE], so we need to do something/anything – usually involving “compassion” and/or some sort of weak legislation making a horrible situation slightly less horrible – to reduce the cruelty/suffering/abuse and ensure they’re treated humanely before they’re killed [FALSE].

Why, if the stated problem is true, do I contend the proposed solution is false?

Because the idea – and the entire animal welfare philosophy dating back over 200 years – is predicated on a false premise.  That false premise rests on the notion that non-human individuals are destined to die to satisfy human pleasure, comfort and convenience no matter what we do, therefore the best we can ever hope to do is to make conditions better (more “humane”/less “cruel”) for them along the way.  If we believe that to be the truth, then we can only keep trying to make the inhumane a little more humane for these pathetic, hopeless, condemned beings… and, if that’s our position, then why bother living vegan by taking the moral stance of refusing to participate in any and all forms of animal use wherever possible and practicable?  Doesn’t it now become permissible to eat, wear and otherwise use non-humans now and then (or why not all the time?) since we’re all working to ensure that these things happen in the nicest ways possible?  I mean, as long as they’re treated well and killed humanely…

So if the problem is true, what then is the solution and how is it being achieved?

The solution is to change the current paradigm that allows for and demands that animals be considered property and be objectified and commodified for use as disposable, replaceable human resources.  This is being achieved through dismantling speciesism, and the method by which that’s occurring is twofold:

  1. If we believe, as any non-psychopath does, that it’s morally unjustifiable to hurt and kill vulnerable individuals to satisfy our personal pleasures and desires, and we come to understand that the most vulnerable members of our global society are, without exception, the non-human individuals we call animals, then our only reasonable response is to immediately stop participating in and benefitting from systems of oppression that result in the unnecessary harm and death of these sentient beings.  We stop paying others to do what we know is wrong, and we stop doing it ourselves.  In short, we start living vegan.

  2. We make a point of educating others to live vegan, and we do this by engaging in clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education advocacy at every available opportunity, whether one-on-one, in groups, in person, online, over the phone or through any other creative means at our disposal.  This does not mean simply handing a brochure, pamphlet or flyer containing vegan information to every passerby (coupled with a cheery “Go vegan!”) and hoping they a) read the material, b) are moved by it and c) decide to start living vegan and have some understanding as to how to do that.  We would no sooner expect this to be an effective form of vegan advocacy as we would expect that, by handing astrophysics textbooks to random strangers and saying “Go astrophysicist!”, they will go home and become astrophysicists… and yet, this is a stock in trade method used by most animal welfare groups.  Rather, this means taking whatever time one can to engage others in calm, rational, educational conversations, asking effective questions and answering those we are asked to the best of our abilities.  It also means directing non-vegans to solid, unequivocal vegan resources online and in print (please see our Downloadable Vegan Content, Online Vegan Resources and Recommended Reading sections for excellent information).

While single-issue campaigns and the welfare corporations behind them may seem attractive on the surface, all one needs to do is apply a bit of critical thinking to conclude that they are speciesist in nature and ultimately counterproductive to the cause of abolishing animal use, and there is nothing attractive about that or about engaging in the exact form of oppression one claims to be working to eradicate.

[*a quick note on language and perception – when we talk about “the animals” as opposed to “animals”, we are defining non-humans as  groups (i.e.; herds, flocks, schools) devoid of personalities or other markers of individuality rather than framing them as the individuals they truly are.  This results in devaluation and depersonalization, making true empathy for them as individuals that much more difficult to achieve in the minds and hearts of those who have long been trained to view and treat them as mere objects to be used, discarded and replaced.  This can make our vegan advocacy even more challenging, so once again it behooves us to be mindful of the words we choose and the language we use.]

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

On Two Sides of Selfishness

It’s All About Me

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

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

No.

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

Wait – It’s Not All About Me??

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

Used To Be = Never Was

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

Lives depend on it.

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

Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

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

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

BeFairBeVegan.com

The legal stuff:

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

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.]

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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.]

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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.]

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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.]

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“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.
 
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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!

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BeFairBeVegan.com

The legal stuff:

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

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